|While it feels like the 2021 season just ended, the 2022 season is rapidly approaching. The season opener at the streets of St. Petersburg is just over two months away, and the team and I are in full swing trying to prepare for the year. We have been testing aggressively to get as much seat time as possible in the new cars before the new year. So far this month, I have tested at Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring International Raceway. I was able to show a lot of progress in both the car and myself from start to finish.
Barber was my first time getting behind the wheel of the new Tatuus USF-22, and my first time driving with the halo. And to be honest, I forgot the halo was even there very quickly. You are looking so far forward that your eyes essentially edit out the halo from your vision. Along with that, the new tub allows me to sit much lower and is generally more comfortable to drive. Apart from that, the two cars aren’t that much different. I am super happy with the new car. The progress we have made as a series in safety with the addition of the halo is very promising, and I believe it will bring positive attention and more competition to the series.
The rest of the test at Barber went well. It was colder than normal, so it gave me good practice on building temperature in the tires as quickly as possible. This is crucial for getting a good qualifying lap done, so I’m glad I got the chance to work on it. We were also able to make good progress with learning the car, and I believe we are in a good position and ahead of the game going into the season. I also got the chance to get more laps in the rain. Every chance I get to drive in the rain is good experience.
The following week I got back to work at Sebring. We were able to get up to speed quickly and make great progress in both the car and my driving. I feel I have made big strides and found a driving style that can produce quicker and more consistent lap times. Lap times weren’t published but we believe we had the fastest cars of everyone at the test. But, we don’t know how many sets of tires each team was using and when they were changing and the times were still close with everyone there. So, like always, it looks like there will be plenty of competition in USF2000. Sebring is a rough track that is often used to develop street course cars, so I’m excited to get to St. Pete to put what we’ve learned to the test.
After testing at Sebring was finished, I got a really cool opportunity. Three years ago, I competed in the Lucas Oil School of Racing Karts to Cars Scholarship Shootout. It was there where I won a portion of the following season for free and got my first big break in a formula car. This past week, I got the chance to go back to the shootout as an intern instructor. Working with future Road to Indy drivers was an amazing experience. I had a lot of fun and it was really interesting to look at what drivers can improve on and analyze it from the outside. I have learned that there is a lot of benefit to your own driving by watching others and trying to figure out how they can go faster.
I want to thank Neil Enerson, Gerardo Bonilla, RC Enerson and everyone involved with the Lucas Oil School of Racing for the incredible opportunity to be a part of their scholarship shootout. I still tell every young driver I talk to that their first step in car racing should be the school, followed by the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more coaching with them in the future.
Most likely, we are done testing until late January or early February. So, as the year comes to a close, I want to thank everyone again for their support, starting with my new team owners Dominic and Nicholas Cape.
Along with some success at the race track, we will also be working on some other big opportunities and events in 2022 with our new partners at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and Race for RP.
Thank you to our returning partners, and please consider them for your needs! Browning Chapman Specialty Contractors, Doug Mockett & Company fine architectural hardware, Caldwell Subways in Hobart/Valparaiso and Caldwell Realty in NW Indiana and Indy area, SPRUCE Cold Brew Coffee (you can get 10% off any purchase of two cases or more with the code JACKSONLEE10 at SPRUCE – 12 PACK — Spruce), Prime 47 Steakhouse in downtown Indy, Chernoff Cosmetic Surgery, Cox, Beckman & Goss CPAs and High Alpha. Without you, I would not be able to pursue my dream.
Have a great Holiday and a Happy New Year.