We’ve already hit the halfway point of the FRP F1600 championship season. After a rough opening weekend in Pittsburgh that had us barely inside the top 10 in points, the #52 Tnemec/Caldwell Subways RiceRace entry is now 4th and effectively 2nd with drops factored in. And, we’ve got momentum with 2 wins and a pair of runner-ups in the last 4 races. It was nearly 3 wins after missing out by a couple of inches in what had to be one of the closest finishes in any pro race in history!
Rounds 7 through 9 at VIRginia International Raceway saw three of the hottest races of my career so far. Temperatures up to 98 degrees challenged all the drivers and crews to stay focused and push through the conditions. With the help from the rest of the team at RiceRace, I was able to get great results despite the hot conditions.
VIR consists of multiple exceedingly long straights. This means it is particularly important to use the draft of other cars to get the best lap time. While my teammate and I worked well together, it wasn’t quite enough for the front row. The top two had the advantage of a 3-car draft, and my teammate and I only had each other. We still had a good starting sport for race 1 in 3rd.
The long straights at VIR also invite pack racing. With the security of the draft, it is easy to hide mistakes resulting in up to 10-car packs all with a chance to win. I was able to stay in the top two for most of the race, going back and forth for the lead all the way to the last lap. I was in second place coming out of the last corner and had a lot of speed on the leader. I had pulled out to pass and my teammate and I crossed the line dead even. I had then been told that I had won. Timing and scoring had me ahead by .001 of a second (the closest finish in series history). I had gotten all to way past podium celebrations when I was told after freeze-frame video review, I made the pass just past the line and my transponder was a few inches further forward. Congrats to Simon Sikes! Win or not, it’s still one of the coolest pictures I’ll ever be in (I’m the car on the far side in the picture).
Race 2 also saw very close racing. Starting from P5, a rough start pushed me back to 7th early. After a few laps I was able to work my way into the lead. The top 5 continued to fight all the way until the end. By the last lap, I was back in the lead. I was challenged for the lead on the back stretch when two other cars forced 4 wide. There was a little bit of contact and two other drivers ended in the grass. I came out of the last corner in 3rd but was able to get the run I needed and make the pass for second at the line.
In Race 3, I also started P5. Similar to race 1, I worked my way to the lead and traded back and forth for most of the race. By this point in the weekend, I had been paying attention to passes made on the front straight near the finish line and despite the result of race 1, I decided I would still rather be in 2nd out of the last corner instead of leading. This gave me control of when the pass is made. I also had learned something from our friend, Wyatt Foster, who coaches at VIR with Kaizen Autosport and has raced there many times. He gave me a tip related to the track that would get me out of the final corner quicker. So, I felt much more confident in making the pass before the line and decided to not contest a pass for the lead on the back stretch. This put me right where I wanted to be out of the last corner, and I was able to make the pass for the win.
Here is a link to a montage of Race 3:
And, you can find other races at Jackson Lee Racing on YouTube.
The entire team worked hard all weekend in the heat. Thanks to everyone at RiceRace for the work they put in to give me a fast and reliable car. I want to thank Wyatt Foster for the help on Sunday, Mike Land with Tnemec Companies and Indiana Coating Specialists, Don and Jennifer Caldwell with Caldwell Realty and Caldwell Subways of Hobart and Valparaiso, Art Wilmes with Rising Star Racing, Don Weidig of Lake Cable Consulting, Bell Helmets, Cabin Coffee Company of Avon, BSA Lifestructures, Hinchman Racing Uniforms, Performance Tire Service Company, Indy Simulation, PitFit Training and Moeller Printing. All of them allow me to do what I love, and I cannot thank them enough.
We now have some time off before heading to Summit Point Raceway August 21st-23rd – yes, the same weekend now as the rescheduled Indy 500 🙁
Thanks for the support!