USF2000 Winterfest Report

January 17, 2011
I hadn’t been in a car since the Skip Barber Shoot-out in December so running the USF2000 Winterfest seemed like a good way to get some much-needed seat time. With the help of my sponsor, Premier Woodcraft, I was able to enter all five races in this winter series.

Even though I had tested the USF2000 car previously with ArmsUp Motorsports, I had never been in an actual race before. My team wasn’t sure what to expect. The car was much different than the Skip Barber cars since it has wings. That was the most difficult thing for me to get used to.

Race 1 and 2 were held at Sebring International Raceway on January 4 & 5. I must have the greatest parents in the world because they allowed me to have an extended Winter Break just to go racing. I’m also very lucky that my principal and guidance counselors are working hard to allow me to make up whatever work that I miss with no problems. I really appreciate that!

Race 1 saw us qualify P3 and I was having a blast driving the car! When Race 1 began, I fell back to 4th and was trying to work my way back up. This was probably the craziest race I’ve ever been in since both frontrunners experienced mechanical failures which moved me up to P2. Things were going well until, on the restart, I blew out a tire and had to make a pitstop, which moved me back to P4 again! Once I got back on track, I made a pass on the third place driver and finished the race in P2. It was definitely a weird experience.

Unfortunately, Race 2 didn’t go as well. I was unable to make the start because of a mistake I made during Qualifying. At the point that I was on pole, I dropped a wheel coming out of Turn 10 which caused me to spin and hit the outside wall in Turn 11. I was totally bummed. There was a lot of damage on the car. Even though the ArmsUp crew worked their butts off to get the car ready, there just wasn’t enough time. I had to take a DNS. We were all seriously disappointed but all in all, my first USF2000 experience was a good one.

About a week later, we found ourselves back down in Florida, but this time at Homestead-Miami Speedway. There were three races – one on Tuesday and two on Wednesday. I qualified P4 for Race 3 and during the 20 lap race, I gained a position and finished P3. On Thursday, for Race 4, I qualified P3, just missing P2 by .004! It seemed like every time I went out on track, I was improving and learning so much. Race 4 went extremely well, although I fell back to 4th on the start, I fought my way back up to a P2 result! That race also saw us set fast lap, which really pleased my team. For the final race of the series, Race 5, I started P2. I fell back to P3 on the start. The car felt great! I made a pass on lap 2 to take over second place. Unfortunately, the driver that I passed made a mistake and slid into the side of me going into Turn 2. It ended both of our races. Fortunately, we were both ok. But it was a big bummer to our whole team. The car had to be brought in on the hook; however, there wasn’t too much damage. This made my dad kind of relieved because his checkbook is quickly becoming empty. Although disappointed, everyone was glad that I was fine.

I would say that overall, both weeks went pretty well. I learned a ton and had a lot of fun. One of the really cool things about the USF2000 series is the way they do the podium ceremonies. It’s completely professional. You receive your award, get interviewed, and actually get to spray real champagne all over the place! (Of course, Mr. Andersen tells us not to drink it!!!) The USF2000 people, along with Cooper Tires and Mazda, run an excellent series! I can’t wait to give it another try later on this season.

Many thanks to God for keeping me safe, especially during the two incidents that I had. Also, thank you to my parents for all their support and to Gregg & Brent Borland and everyone at Arms Up Motorsports for all their help. I’d also like to thank my engineer, Kent Boyer, who is teaching me SO much about the car. He is amazing!
I also had the opportunity to work with Jonatan Jorge, who is an excellent driving coach. He also taught me so many new things and I am really looking forward to working with him again this season. Thanks, too, to my sponsor, Premier Woodcraft, for making it possible for me to participate in Winterfest 2011.
Thanks again to USF2000, Mazda, Cooper Tires, and Skip Barber for everything they are doing for me!

Now I will turn my focus to the Skip Barber National Series which is coming up in March at Sebring. I can’t wait to drive again!