Well, it was not the Fourth of July weekend we wanted at the race track. Last weekend at Mid-Ohio, we were able to put down some really fast laps and get some good experience for the next time I race at the track. Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to capitalize on the speed and get the finishes we were hoping for in any of the three races.
The weekend began with a test day on Thursday and we didn’t get much out of it with wet track conditions, red flags, and rain delays limiting us to about 8 laps at speed. Despite this, I still showed good pace in Friday morning’s first official practice and had lots of confidence going into qualifying. I started strong in quals and was P7 at the midpoint after everyone had used their first set of sticker Cooper Tires. I feel like I am now learning how to “turn on” the new tires which, I’m told, is one of the toughest adjustments for rookie drivers. Unfortunately, the strategy of not using a second set of sticker tires during qualifications didn’t work. While the track continued to gain grip, most others put on a second set and put down faster laps toward the end of the session. So, I qualified 16th out of 28 (the largest field for a USF2000 race since 2013!), which was very disappointing considering the pace we had shown early in the session and because this qualification session essentially set the field for all three races.
Mid-Ohio is known for being difficult to pass, and to make matters worse, I had to avoid a crash on the start that put me back in P20. So I did all I could to make up positions, but there were very few overtakes in the race. Ultimately, I was able to make up only two spots to finish P18.
Race 2 and 3 starting spots are determined by either your second-fastest qualifying lap or your best lap in
the previous race- whichever is faster. So for race 2, we decided to sacrifice our finishing position to try and put down a fast lap to improve our race 3 starting spot. So, once I saw that there was no opportunity to move forward at the start, I intentionally dropped back to try to learn the car’s pace in clean air and what it would need to go for a flyer. Then, I pitted halfway through for new Cooper Tires and just focused on putting down fast laps. The strategy worked, and I put down some really good laps, taking the fastest lap of the race. My fastest lap was half a second quicker than the leaders! It was good enough to improve my qualifying time to a P5 starting spot for race 3.
We had an excellent opportunity for a great finish in race 3, but unfortunately, we missed the setup, and I could only hold on and try to keep as many spots as possible. We had the most understeer I’ve ever experienced in a race, and the car just wouldn’t turn. The race had more yellows than normal, and each restart left me with cold tires. I was simply struggling to hold on. I fell back to a frustrating 13th.
It wasn’t the weekend we wanted, but I did get to show that I had the pace in me. With the cancellation of Toronto, USF2000 and the entire Road to Indy will return to Mid-Ohio for the final two rounds to finish the season from Oct. 1st-3rd. Next up is New Jersey Motorsports Park for a triple header the last weekend of August. I can’t wait to try again and measure my progress. This whole season has been about learning the cars and tracks and setting myself up for a run at the championship next year. All of the championship contenders are in their 2nd or 3rd year in USF2000.
Special thanks to new partners Prime 47 Steakhouse in downtown Indy, Chernoff Cosmetic Surgery, and Cox, Beckman, Goss & Company (they now handle our accounting).
Stay tuned for details of Dr. Chernoff’s “Brickyard Prelude benefiting the Survivors of Violence Foundation” charity event on August 12 at Prime 47 in downtown Indianapolis. http://violencesurvivor.org
Thank you to all those who have supported me, and I hope all of you had a great Fourth of July weekend!