I was really excited about going to Virginia International Raceway last week. I make the drive from the Charlotte area to VIR so many times throughout the year, but this last weekend it was for one of the really special events – it’s a highlight of the season to be there with the IMSA Continental and TUDOR series.
Early last week I found out I’d be co-driving with Britt Casey, Jr., in the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5. It really fueled my excitement for the weekend because the last time we drove together, we finished second in a team 1-2 victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The day before the event we found out that Liam Dwyer, who co-drives the No. 26 Mazda with Andrew Carbonell, was going to be unable to attend. I knew there was a chance that my weekend was about to get a whole lot busier: sure enough, the team decided that the best bet for team and manufacturer championship points would be to pair Andrew and me together, but of course I had a commitment to co-driving with Britt. So I drove both cars, starting in the No. 26 and finishing in the No. 25, in an effort to give Mazda the best results possible.
We had really fast cars, especially considering other manufacturers had potentially better-suited cars for VIR’s long straights. Teaming up with Britt in qualifying meant we could draft, which allowed us to qualify sixth and seventh. We were really proud of Britt to qualify so well in his first race at VIR, and he stayed right on my tail at my home track! He really continues to impress everyone on the team and at Mazda.
I felt really good about our cars for the race. As the beginning of the race unfolded, the 26 car wound up in the top three for most of the first stint. When the yellow flags flew just over an hour into the race, it was pit stop time. We had rehearsed a potential scenario of me jumping out of one car and into another, so we were able to deal with both cars pitting at once.
I pitted right in front of Britt. When I jumped out of the 26, I had to hop over the wall to satisfy the driver change rules, then I hopped back over right as Britt was exiting the No. 25 so I could get in. The crew gave us flawless pit stops, and I was resetting fuel and tightening belts as we got the go-ahead to exit the pit box. Here we were, just over an hour into the race, and it felt like we were really getting started. I’d had the task of preserving the 26 car for Andrew, but now it was time to charge.
As the race wore on and other cars wore out, our Mazda MX-5s continued to shine and worked through the field. The 26 finished fourth, and the 25 finished sixth. We accomplished our goals of the weekend: to maximize Mazda points and retake the team championship.
During the race, I was able to stay hydrated through the in-car drink system, but still the heat and physical fatigue required a lot of focus in the first half of the race. It was a huge sense of accomplishment at the end when we were able to come home with both cars having met their goals. It was a really fun weekend, and that sense of accomplishment was something great to share with the whole team.