Between the money-shift in March and the rear-end rearranging in May, my 2018 racing season did not get off to a great start. Ever since getting the car fixed, I’ve felt like I was playing a bit of catch-up, trying to re-find the speed I had earned last season. Last weekend, NASA Mid-Atlantic’s final event at VIR for the year, I finally felt like I was back in my groove.
I left work at noon on Friday and pointed my truck south on I-95, taking a few calls from the road while crawling in traffic. Things opened up past Quantico, though, and I was able to make quick progress, pulling in to the paddock around 5:30 on Friday evening. Several of us got unloaded and went up to the Tavern for dinner and some cold beers. As we were waiting on our food, the Madison Motorsports crew showed up. MM is the motorsports club at my alma mater, and the club who is more or less responsible for this wild snowball of an adventure I’ve been on for the last ten years. The club has, historically, worked closely with NASA Mid-Atlantic to help with staffing events, and this weekend was no exception.
The 2018-2019 school year started just weeks ago, but MM was able to recruit a lot of new students this semester – and had a huge group show up to help run OktoberFast! We had students on grid, in timing and scoring, in registration, and helping with general event duties. Throughout the weekend, everyone was able to get as many rides with instructors as they wanted. It was fun for us aluMMni to not only hear their new experiences, but reminisce on all of our “first ride” stories that led to where we are today.
Saturday’s weather could not have been better. We have been hit with so much rain at this year’s events, and this weekend stayed dry as a bone. I qualified well and had my friend Tyler in my ears to call the race that afternoon. We had a good start, although I struggled to pass a Super Touring 3 racer and keep up with the few GTS2 guys that were ahead of me. Almost immediately, double-yellows came out. Turns out, a Spec E46 racer attempted a late-braking challenge/pass at turn 1, and took it mostly in the grass. This went predictably poorly, and another SE46 who was following close behind had nowhere to go when the first car lost control. The unfortunate T-bone took out both cars and left us under caution while it was cleaned up.
The race resumed, but we saw at least one other round of double-yellows when two Mustangs laid down oil and whacked each other near the pit road entrance. It became difficult to try and catch the P1 and P2 of my class, so I focused on staying ahead of the rest of the pack, resulting in a third-place finish on Saturday.
Saturday’s evening festivities were cranked up to 11, and we had quite a good time. Between the awards party (thank you, as always, to OG Racing and Convenience Car Care for helping out), the PRS Guitars “paddock jam band” next to a Bluebird Wanderlodge tow rig, and the BMW X5M hay ride, it was an eventful and fun evening with a lot of good people.
We awoke Sunday to fog. So, so much fog. Unfortunately, it took longer than anticipated to lift, and we could not go green at our anticipated start time – if a corner station cannot see the next station, we can’t run. Finally, around 9:30 AM, Steve threw the first green flag from the start stand. The Lightning and Thunder qualifying sessions were the unfortunate casualties of the delayed start, so we gridded our Sunday race according to Saturday’s race results.
The Sunday race went similar to Saturday, with fewer caution flags (but still, some). I finished fourth on Sunday.
My friend Tom brought his two roommates with him, and the one, Pat, was eager to get a ride in my car. So, he strapped in and I took him out in a HPDE 4 (instructor) session for some hot laps. Tom had taken Pat out earlier in the weekend, and managed a 2:22 lap due to traffic. We ended up with some clean track and I re-discovered the confidence I had spent all season trying to find, running a low 2:17 with Pat in the car. We could have gone even faster, but the checkered flag was thrown on what would have been my best “flyer lap” of the session. Regardless, AIM data showed that final lap as a potential 2:15… which means I am likely back on the pace I had built last year – easy 2:11/2:12 laps with no passenger and race pace. Pat had a blast riding shotgun, and I parked the car for the weekend feeling great about the two days of results and progress.
We’ve got one more race for the season – November 11 & 12 at Summit Point in West Virginia. I had been planning a small surprise, but for the sake of class points, will be bringing the #404 per usual. The event is only an hour from home, and I’m hoping some family, friends, and colleagues can make it down for a fun weekend with traditionally beautiful fall weather!
NASA also announced our 2019 National Championships earlier this week. We’ll be competing in mid-September 2019 at Mid-Ohio, a short 7.5 hour tow from home. Time to start saving for that entry fee and associated fuel/food/hotel/beer/tires/more tires costs!