Against my better judgment, that of everyone else who has tried, and especially my wallet, I'm going to try something I would have never imagined possible and something I'm sure most of you would love to do. Go racing……professionally!
I tried to give it a go last year, but a failed engine in a new car put me out of the game for the entire 2014 season. So this year I'm giving it another go and with a healthy ride trying to fulfill a dream of saying that I raced as a pro. The series, The F2000 Championship Series (f2000series.com), the debut, July 4th weekend at Mid-Ohio, the Champion SFAC video contest and your vote my way to help make it happen.
Getting my SCCA Pro License is not something that I had ever strived for and until a year ago not something I had even considered as possible for me. For a better understanding on why let me give you a little bit of my background.
I grew up like most midwest American boys playing stick and ball sports; baseball, football, basketball. Everything I did was competitive and most of my formative years were spent on the baseball diamond, and when I wasn't there you'd find me roaming around the neighborhood looking for kids to play any other sports. It wasn't until I was 15 and got my driving permit that I really discovered cars. I'd had Hot Wheels, and various toy cars as a kid, and occasionally I'd catch a Formula One race on TV, but the world of racing was alien to me. It may as well have been another planet. But the summer I turned 16 I discovered the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a whole new world opened up. Suddenly, I learned that there was an entire industry dedicated to motor racing and that maybe I could be a part of it. I enjoyed math and science in school and discovered that each team has an engineer, so at 18 I enrolled in college to become a mechanical engineer with the hopes of one day becoming a race engineer for a super duper winning race team. During one of my campus visits I'd noticed a small poster in the entry way of the engineering building. It was a small single-seater, Formula SAE as it's better known, and committed to myself that it would be my way in.
It was a cool, dark morning when I hopped into the back seat of the team's truck. Behind it a massive 30 ft trailer with 2 racecars nestled inside. This was it, the first day, the day that would define the path toward my future. Only, I wouldn't fully understand what that really meant until the cars were put away. These two steads were the most beautiful cars I'd ever set eyes on, but they didn't want to stay running. I was new to the team and a freshman, double whammy, I'd be going last, if the cars lasted that l. It was late in the day when I finally got a go in the older of the two cars, but it was the most glorious 5 minutes I could have ever imagined. The sensations thru the pedals, the wheel, my head and my ass were mesmerizing. Being so low to the ground made me feel as though I was the fastest man in the world, let alone the rest of these schmucks…..I was born for this!
I was last. Slowest by whole seconds. But that was all it would take.
Here I was at 18 just discovering competitive driving. An age where most race drivers were reaching the pinnacles of the sport; Formula One, Indy, Le Mans. I wasn't going to be the next Michael Schumacher and I knew that, but I figured I could at least have some fun being an amateur. The next two years were dedicated to learning everything I could about driving. Boy oh boy was it fun and such a rush. I grabbed every opportunity to drive the FSAE cars and in parallel bought a beat up Porsche 944 because it was all I could afford. Maximizing seat time was my goal. In that first year I discovered autocrossing. The next year I discovered trackdays. By the third year I discovered I was getting the hang of it. My instructors were complimenting my car control, I was getting solo'd, I was starting to place in the local autocrosses. Through all these events I'd happened across several people who were competing in club racing, a place where amateurs can turn up and race wheel to wheel. Who knew? I sure didn't, yet it sounded like something I'd like to give a try someday.
By this time I was nearing graduation and I could finally drive the FSAE cars right on the limit. With that I brought back a few trophies from competitions and several FTD's at the local autocrosses. New plan, forget becoming a race engineer, as it turns out they never get to drive anyway. How about become an automotive engineer and get an SCCA club racing license? Work on cars and have time to drive for fun.
It had been five years since that first go around in the Formula SAE car and with a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, a bit of talent and a huge helping of luck I had a full time job and was living in a new city. I did one last trackday that fall and was bored out of my mind. It was time to try my hand at racing.
I was fortunate to move to a location that has a road course less than an hour away. It's a little 1.4 mile road course north of Detroit, but they've got their own racing series and it operates in parallel to the SCCA. It was here that I got my first exposure to club racing, where I earned my amateur road racing license and where I learned how to race wheel to wheel. My first two and a half seasons were in a Formula Vee, then a handful of events in a Formula First, and the next two seasons I made the jump into Formula Continental; a full blown wings and slicks kind of racecar. You may have stumbled across a video of one of my races on the front page before the holidays.
That video was from an event a little over a year ago. It was during that season that I was graced with the opportunity to challenge myself against a handful of hugely talented development drivers and well know professional race drivers in the same equipment and on the same days. 15 year old me would have never comprehended this as possible and 18 year old me would have figured there was no way I could learn to go as fast as the pros. Somehow I managed it and despite all the warnings I want to try my hand at professionally sanctioned motor racing.
I've met a lot of people that get started late in the sport and then realize any hope of being a professional racecar driver is non sense shy of being a millionaire. I know I did.
So I want to do it just to prove that I can, that having a desire to call oneself a pro, even if it is just for a few days, is not as impossible as it sounds. I want to prove that a late start in racing isn't a death sentence for any future racing aspirations. My goal for this season is the July 4th weekend of the F2000 Championship Series at Mid-Ohio as a debut. With your help and a bit of luck from this contest it will allow me to run this event and continue on with a few more of the F2000 Championship Series events later in the summer. Maybe being a pro isn't a one-time deal, maybe it can last a little longer.
Give the video at the top another watch. If you enjoy it and support what I'm trying to achieve please follow the link below and give me a vote.
Furthermore, throughout this season I want to video document what it takes to go from club racing as an amateur to making the leap into a professionally sanctioned series. This group understands the dedication it takes to keep a car running at its peak, the struggle to find tenths of a second, and the hard fought battle for each position so I anticipate you'll be the ones who appreciate the story of how it all unfolds. I won't give away every secret, but I'll honesty show what it takes me to get there along with every stumble along the way.