Rounds 9&10 was a very exciting weekend with many ups and downs. But the ups were amazing! Going into the Laguna Seca weekend of Skip Barber summer series I would be competing in 4 practice sessions, 4 qualifying sessions, and 4 races. In my first session I was just getting up to speed when another driver that had done the lapping session the day before and has been to this track a lot in his career came up on me. I let him by thinking this was a good opportunity to run behind him and find some speed, and that’s just what happened. I was able to run 5 or 6 laps behind him and after the session I was able to shave a second and a half off my time. I was very pleased to have that amount of speed after my first session and having never driven this track. I thought to myself this is a perfect weekend to grab a good bit of point’s sense I was doubling up.
In the first qualifying session of the weekend, I was able to grab my very first pole position. I was so thrilled with that result, but I knew I had to stay focused because I still had 1 more qualifying session and 4 races. I was very nervous going into my first race where I would be leading the pack on to the front straight to the Starter. I was asking everyone I could for some info on what the rules are for when I could accelerate and to make sure I didn’t get jumped on the start.
In race one I was leading for about 4 laps and I just couldn’t get into rhythm and ended up losing the lead and dropping back to p2 to which I ran there for the rest of the race. In race two I was starting second having just missed pole by .005 of a second. (so close!). Going into that race I knew I couldn’t afford to take so long to get into rhythm or the leader would pull away. I was able to focus and settle in to an rhythm and stick right with the leader. I was on his tale for almost the whole race pressuring him and looking for the right opportunity to make a move. As the race was reaching the end I knew I had to make a move. I was flashing everywhere, looked inside than outside making him look in his mirrors, pressuring him looking for him to make a mistake. After about 3 laps of pressuring him I caught him out and he spun around. As I drove on by I had over a 18 second lead. I remember just thinking to myself, “keep this think on the road and bring her home.” And that’s just what I did I was able to bring home my first career win. I was absolutely thrilled as I pumped my hands in the air just thinking to myself “I did it.” In Skip Barber history when you get your first win you come in to the pits and they dump the ice bucket or cooler on you and that’s just what happened. Even though it was freezing cold it felt amazing. Thank you again for all my competitors for coming up and congratulating me. Truly a moment I will never forget.
I wasn’t able to enjoy it for very long, as I had to jump right back in the car for my third race. In this race I would be starting in the back due to being behind schedule I wouldn’t make my flight in time so I had to jump in the earlier race. This race I was able to go from 14th to 4th in just two turns. Another competitor and I began to chase down the leader. About half way in to the race we got up to p1 and p2. I was pushing hard to win another but just didn’t have the speed that race and brought home another p2. I just remember thinking this is the best 3 days of my life! It finally came down to the 4 race as I would be starting p2 again as our gridding positions were based on our fastest race lap of race 1. Thisrace I was running p2 the whole time. I was starting to have car troubles, as every time I went to push the clutch it would stick to the floor. It was making me have to slow up allowing the leader to pull away. When about the half way point in the race rolled around the clutch caught me out and spun me around. I then couldn’t get the car to fire back up and went two laps down to finish 10th.
Even though I was very upset to not finish off the weekend strong I was very pleased with my results at Laguna Seca. As I was driving from the track to the airport I called my dad to let him know how it all went. He was currently at Pocono for the Indy car race. After letting him know how my weekend went my dad let me know about the tragic accident that evolved a very close friend Justin Wilson. I couldn’t believe it, Justin was not only a friend but a best friend, a mentor to me and someone I hope to be some day. Justin was a huge supporter in my career, if it was helping me out with driving gear or taking away family time to spend hours on the sim helping me prep. One thing I will always cherish for the rest of my life is that my dad and just had a quick chat before the race and Justin was able to hear that I was able to win my first race and to me that is so special and bitter sweet. If you didn’t know Justin, he wasn’t only an amazing driver and person but he was an amazing husband and father with his wife Julia and his two daughters, Jane who is 7 and Jessica who is 5. If you would like to support Justin’s girls the there is a link at the bottom as you can donate to the Wilsons Children Fund. I will miss you more than ever but it was so bitter-sweet to hear you knew I got my first win. It is a weekend in my young life that I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life.
Rest in peace Justin “Badass” Wilson