It’s been a busy past couple of weeks as we kicked off with our ninth and penultimate round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge on September 12-14 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Laguna Seca is incredibly special for me, being the first proper race track I ever had the chance to drive at with a three-day Skip Barber Formula School back in the summer of 2016. Despite being at Laguna a few times for various events earlier in the year, this was the first time actually driving the track since last year’s IMSA weekend when I was racing with the MINI JCW Team. It’s always nice to be able to drive to a race track for once too, instead of spending a day up in the air.
L.A. Honda World was finally back to being a three-car team, with Mat Pombo and Mike Lamarra rejoining for the last two races of the season. That meant that I was out of the red car and back in the yellow #52; this being the first time that car has turned laps since the rebuild from Watkins Glen. I also had a new co-driver for this weekend as Harry Cheung joined for a one-off race.
We spent the majority of Thursday’s test session just sorting out some issues with the car and making sure everything was set up properly. I got a handful of laps at the end; in that short time, our pace proved to be decent.
Moving on to Friday, we were optimistic about finding some more pace through setup, along with getting Harry up to speed. Harry had raced in SRO with the L.A. Honda World team before, but he still was learning to drive the TCR with ABS and Michelin racing tires. We had a good couple of practices. In Practice 1, all three of the team’s TCRs, shared times in the 1:34.0’s, all separated by a few hundredths of a second.
Along with it being my home race, there were some great other things that made the weekend memorable off track. We were joined by over 50 L.A. Honda World employees and DeWalt customers, as DeWalt was one of my partners for the race weekend. It was great to have so much representation from the dealership that supports the team in so many ways. Some of which were working on the crew for the weekend, helping out in various ways in the pits. After practice on Friday, the team had to stay late in order to swap an engine on the #37 car and swap the brake system on the #73 car. This entire crew is one of the best out there. I’m so lucky to have this group of people so dedicated to preparing the cars as best as they can be!
On Saturday, before our race, I had the pleasure of appearing on the Torque Show, hosted by Justin Bell and Tommy Kendall were I was able to talk about my time with the Team USA Scholarship last year and my racing season this year. I really appreciated the opportunity and owe a huge thanks to Tony DiZinno from Michelin for getting me on the show!
Unfortunately, our race performance was a little lackluster. Harry drove a good opening stint for his first race in IMSA, and after our driver change we came out in 10th place. A full course yellow bunched up the field, so I was excited to see if we could work our way towards the front.
When the tires were new, I was able to match the pace of the leaders, but for some odd reason, they fell off dramatically about halfway through my stint compared to everyone else. It felt like something had broken, and at the end of the race, I was turning lap times a full two seconds off of my teammates. It was disheartening in front of the home crowd to not be competitive, especially since we weren’t sure what exactly went wrong. Nonetheless, we moved forward in anticipation of another exciting weekend ahead.
After our race weekend came to a close, we kept the race transporter with the three cars out in my home town of Danville for the week. Every year, the Danville d’Elegance Foundation puts together a weekend based around cars and fundraising for Parkinson’s Research. Both my Uncle and Grandfather are afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, so this is a cause that I am happy to support year after year.
We kicked off the weekend of fundraising on Saturday with the Tour d’Elegance: a drive from the Bay Area through winding roads up to picturesque Napa Valley to the Shadybrook Winery. L.A. Honda World lent me a brand new 2019 Civic Type R for the event, which was incredible. In a sea of Ferraris and Porsches, the Sonic Grey color stood out and turned lots of heads on the drive!
I worked with some of my partners, including HPD, Andretti Autosport, IMSA, and Red Line Oil to get donations for the silent auction and raffle. During lunch at the winery, we auctioned off an IMSA 50th Anniversary Flag along with the IMSA 50th anniversary book, raising $2,500 alone from those donations. We wrapped up Saturday with the Gala, raising even more money for Parkinson’s through a silent auction, live auction, and donation round.
On Sunday, we were up bright and early to get the team’s big rig downtown and unload the #52 Civic Type R TCR. We kept the big rig as a key part of the display, having people come walk through and see what a race weekend is really like. We also had three Honda Civic Type Rs at the event, which was great to display the differences between the race cars and street-cars.
Overall, there were plenty of positives to take in these past two weeks. Our season isn’t over yet with one more TCR race at Road Atlanta, and the final GT4 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, both in just a few weeks. I’m looking forward to having the chance to finish off the season on a high note!