The opening round of the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Series was this past weekend at Circuit of the Americas, with races one and two boasting a full field of 32 MX-5 Cup competitors. I had a new role for the weekend, which was very different from my role with the series the last few seasons.

Rather than private coaching, I acted as the series coach for anybody who needed some advice, data and video review, car setup particulars, track questions and other coaching needs. My other role was being a Driver Steward in Race Control, and it really gave me further appreciation for that job! The Driver Steward weighs in from a driver’s perspective whenever there is an on-track incident or a call that needs to be made.

The tools available in Race Control can seem overwhelming: over 20 TV screens, timing and scoring, communication with corner workers and other officials, and various systems to operate the event. It’s quite a place to be during a race!

I found the Driver Steward experience to be very challenging, yet very rewarding. There was so much going on because of the full field, and there was a lot to look out for. I enjoyed the challenge of learning the process quickly and effectively.

There are old and new competitors in the series, and it was exciting to see extremely competitive racing that resulted in two first-time winners. Bryan Ortiz, who was a full season competitor last year and had multiple podium finishes, came away with his first win. There was an insanely close finish in race two that went to MRT24 winner Selin Rolan. It was incredible to see the Shootout winner from last fall come into the series as a rookie and win in his first weekend. Congratulations to all of the competitors, especially after they put on an incredible display of driving in wet conditions during race two!