The guys at Turnology took me out for beers and asked me a bit about the last five years.
A big thank you to Tommy Parry and the guys at Turnology.com. Humbled.
The guys at Turnology took me out for beers and asked me a bit about the last five years.
A big thank you to Tommy Parry and the guys at Turnology.com. Humbled.
As I sit here on a Lufthansa flight back to Germany and minutes after finishing an in-flight movie about Enzo Ferrari's drivers from the 50' (Race to Immortality; highly recommended), I can't help but feel a flooding of emotion towards the profession of the 'Racing Driver.'
Perhaps its the scotch I snuck onboard. Or maybe it's the past couple weeks crashing on best friend's couches searching for sponsorship to keep this dream alive, to get to the next race.
I'll be the first to say that all work experiences are relative, challenging, and unique in their own right. But having personal experience with over 15 different types of jobs, this racing driver thing has to take the cake.
Btw all the drivers in that Ferrari movie died. That rarely happens now but when you take a step back, it's a funny thing to be working so hard for.
Racing's one of the few dangerous sports left and gets away with it because history has embraced it. Hemingway had an awesome quote:
'There are only three sports. Bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering. All the rest are merely games.'
And he's damn right. Motorsports should always be sexy - dangerous - and fun.
It's been 5 years since throwing myself at this childhood dream. From highlighting racing books to racing a pro series with a top team on the Nurburgring is pretty surreal. And the more I learn about the sport, the more I hear of greats having once called a friend's couch their second home.
I was pretty hesitant making this post as shit's pretty real now. I am gambling everything on making it. Also because I've been told to attract a sponsor I'd need to act a certain way, to put on an image for the fans. But to be honest, I don't think the public is that stupid, certainly not racing fans. GriffeyDreams was started to document this journey and so that's what I'm going to do.
The goal is to become the best sportscar driver in the world. To work as hard as I can. To do the best I can. All the while having as much fun as I can. No regrets on the deathbed sort of deal. But holy shit I can feel some pressure, as I'm sure many others do too at their jobs.
There was a great interview with Jimmie Johnson, a NASCAR great, that I read a few days ago. The piece of advice that he heard most often early in his career was also what he hated hearing the most: "You have to be patient."
At 31, and just at the start of my professional driving career, I can't help but relate to JJ. As the adage goes, making it in racing requires a combination of hard work, a bit of talent, extreme persistence, and luck. I'd also add to the list great mentors and a strong support network.
The lesson from all this dribble?
Money rules the world but doesn't equate to happiness also getting older sucks but not more so than the societal expectations and norms that have been conditioned into each and everyone of us which may sometimes result in self-doubt and hesitance in doing things that we know deep down to be right. Also being a race car driver is a crazy fucking job and I love it.
My final thought for the evening before I pop a melatonin and pretend I don't feel the kid behind me kicking my seat: When flying Lufthansa, hide your booze well - while kind, the flight attendants have eagle eyes and are total sticklers for the rules (and there's a lot of 'em on Lufthansa).
Germany, I cant wait to see you again. Vielen dank und auf wiedersehen, zur zeit!
Back in the end of March, I competed in VLN Race 1
alongside some of the top international pros in the world
on the longest, most difficult, and dangerous race track in the world -
This was the biggest race of my life as of yet.
The culmination of all the hard work and sacrifice over the last 4 years
-qualified P6, 8th when I hopped in, and brought her home to 7th in class, 67th overall of 160+
-highest finishing American in class
-highest finishing Japanese driver overall, 2nd at P95 - Toyota Gazoo Racing
-finished higher than a 3x Le Mans champion, F1 Junior development driver, Porsche and Lamborghini factory drivers
-total laps completed on the 'Ring prior to first race: 2
After the race, my teammates and mechanics asked me how it went.
I responded as calmly as possible but as soon as I had some privacy,
I ran behind our team's trailers and screamed at the top of my lungs for close to a minute
A mix of emotions from having just completed the race on the world's craziest track
and thoughts about the journey required to get here;
the experience was truly something
Since race 1, after incessant studying,
simulator time, and going over telemetry with my data engineer,
I have now dropped my lap-times considerably
and am now within striking distance to the pace of the leaders
This most recent adventure of being a racing driver in Europe
has offered some incredible highs and incredible lows,
However, the techniques I have learned and the self-confidence I have gained,
knowing that yes, I do belong here racing against some of the best in the world
has proved invaluable and that alone,
has made this trip worthwhile
I have 5 races left.
I am continuing to push like hell with my training
and proving to partners the immense value the medium of Professional Motorsports can provide.
As always, the biggest thank you to all of those
that have lent me their support when I needed it most.
Without all of you, I would be nowhere.
But because of all of you, we are almost there.
It’s with great pleasure to announce that I’ve signed with Team Adrenalin Motorsports, one of Germany’s top BMW teams for tomorrow’s season-opening race at the Nürburgring
Practiced today alongside some of the best professional drivers and teams in the world on the craziest racetrack in the world. So many ‘pinch me’ moments and I learned so much
Was also my first time on the Ring in a racecar. This place is unreal. Last session weather began changing and 7 cars passed me. Of the 7, 3 crashed and were totaled. Talking racecars that are $150-300k+ each, in just one lap
Tomorrow the goal is survival and to keep learning. Team griffeydreams, I cannot thank you guys enough for helping me get to this point. Your support has made the difference. Livestream link for the race below, Car 654 #definitelynotanintegra
Recently came back from Spain to test with a potential team
Landed in Malaga and stayed with my buddy Erik at his spot in the beautiful beach-town of Fuengirola
Headed to Ascari on Saturday
For those unfamiliar with Ascari, it's basically a private motorsports facility/club,
nestled in the beautiful Andalusian mountains of Southern Spain, about 150km from Malaga
My team and I chose to test here because most tracks are still covered in snow in Germany,
and because well, Southern Spain is really, really nice
The car felt solid though the Dunlop slicks felt a little lacking, but I was able to show the team I have pace.
Ascari was also a fun track with 22 corners, various undulations, and mini-representations of famous corners such as Spa's eau rouge
After the test at Ascari, and with this being only my second month total in Europe, I went traveling
Headed to the Rock of Gilbraltar where you can see Africa from the other side, then Cadiz
Spain - passionate and extremely outgoing people, the olive oil, jamon iberico, and its breathtaking beauty
Stopped by Lisbon on the way back
Gorgeous, extremely genuine, and fun-loving people in Lisbon
Hopelessly romantic the Portuguese are as well
Can't count the amount of old couples I saw kissing in the streets
Great 'work vacation' and continuing totrain and work hard to make the dream happen
As always, I appreciate all the support
My first helmet
It's hard to believe that I was an instructor before ever owning my own lid;
a little embarrassing to be honest
Raced karts in Vans and drove with borrowed gear for most of my life
But like most things, the wait only makes it better
Before flying out to Europe, I asked Brent Curran of @89Design, to paint my helmet
Talented artist, father, and fellow racer also fighting hard to keep the dream alive
Was asked if I had a design in mind -
told him I’ve had one for 20 years 🙂
He starts at $400 a lid (for now)
which is a screaming deal if you’re in the know, hit him up:
Thanks Brent, you killed it
It's been a wild week driving all over Germany in my suit, speaking to teams.
One of the teams I visited. A top outfit with a really sweet simulator to boot 👍
Also ate at the Pistenklause Restaurant and Hotel when I visited the Nurburgring for a job interview,
and even saw Sabine Schmitz in-person.
She looked at me, runny nose and Simpson bag in hand, and walked away unimpressed 😁
Though I didn't get a chance to drive the Ring as it was still closed for winter,
I still got a hell of a vibe from the place
Felt like a little historic ski village with pubs, a castle in the background,
and the most intimidating racetrack surrounding it.
I've been to many racetracks, but none have given off a vibe like this place.
SCCA, the organization that I've wanted to race with since childhood,
the organization that's produced legendary drivers such as Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, and Mark Donohue
has just published an article about me. Nuts
So many individuals have been a part of this story
From those that offered me a spot on their couch,
to friends that volunteered their time helping with one of my projects,
to my sponsors that so warmly donated what they could to get me to my next race
'I'm humbled' and 'thank you' doesn't do it justice at all.
It's been 10 days since I sold most of my belongings, packed up my stuff, and moved to Germany.
The plan for 2018 is to race on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife circuit in Germany
i'm 30 years old, a college athlete that's kept up the two workouts a day, and in the best racing form of my life.
Every race i'm improving significantly, my track record proves it
I quit everything 4 years ago and have sacrificed all that i could towards this dream.
But now it's time to test myself among the top German and international pros
No better place to do so than on the longest, most difficult, and dangerous race track in the world: the Nurburgring-Nordschleife
-nicknamed, 'The Green Hell' by Sir Jackie Stewart
-170 corners, 12.9 miles (20.8km)
-nestled in the forest of Nurburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
-a track that Formula 1 used to race on until too many people started losing their lives
The idea is that if I can win here, I should be able to win anywhere
10 scheduled races this year, including the crazy 24 Hours of Nurburgring,
one of the largest spectator races in the world where the Germans party in the forest for a week
oh, and it's my first time ever in Europe
Today marks 10 days in Germany. I have, with so much help from my couchsurfing host, Uwe
have found a place to crash anytime i need, 45 minutes from the Nurburgring,
registered as a German resident
acquired a German bank account, phone number,
health/auto insurance, license plates and vehicle registration
oh, and I also bought a freaking BMW!
everybody say hello to Emma.
1996 BMW 320i E36
inline-6, 150hp/140ft/lb, 5spd with only 103k miles
bone stock, previous owner was an 80yr old man
and one of the cleanest interiors i have ever seen.
thanks to this guy, Rosario Guidara,
who took half off the sticker price because he too was down for the dream. Nuts
But now comes the hardest part: knocking on the doors of teams and potential sponsors.
I came with all the money I had. It's still not enough but I can't give up now 👊
So many special individuals helped me out last year, many my closest friends
then i tried to bounce to Germany without throwing a farewell
got called out for it by the homies of course
so we ended up throwing a pretty good one.
Started the day at Simraceway Performance Driving Center in karts
Huge thanks to my guys Greg Evans, Jerott King, Nyck, Jenn, Renee, and Shawn Jackson for making this happen
And to Dan Forer aka therealbabadook, my crew chief last year and also one of my closest friends, for winning the GD Fastest Lap Cup
The guys at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma came through next. Ate lunch and even invited us up to their special loft. Thanks guys! 👊
Then to Cafe Prague, one of my favorite haunts in a little alleyway in SF
More imbibing on the bus, after parties, etc very quiet night. And yes, that's my crew chief wearing his trophy
thanks guys. next up, Germany
International FIA racing license came.
Took 20 years of dreaming, 4 years of total sacrifice, and a ridiculous amount of so many people's help
Hell of a year it's been. To be honest, it felt like two
Just sold the racecar and bought one-way tickets to Cologne, Germany Jan 10.
Okay we're doing this, we're going racing in Europe
Lining up some dope plans. Stay tuned ✌️
Was recently asked by a team to provide some coaching for their guys, as well as hop in the driver's seat at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
for their end of the year ChumpCar World Series Chumpionship
My buddy Brian was kind enough to let us take his NSX down to Vegas from Auburn
16hr championship race split between two days. 2hrs into day 1, the differential and crankshaft seal went
The guys did an amazing job getting everything replaced and put back together in time for day 2
Unfortunately, soon as I got into the car we lost 3rd gear. I adapted my line and driving style, and even with one gear down we began passing people
2hrs later I handed the car off to another teammate whom retired the car soon after due to some fumes and smoke that had appeared and became intolerable
Regardless of the result, I had a blast down in Vegas with the awesome guys of ZPT Motorsports and want to personally thank them,
as well as the ChumpCar World Series organization for ensuring that grassroots motor sports stays alive in the States and continues to thrive
Laguna Seca, the place I used to bus and steal rides down to just to be around a track
As it is with racing, we finished the engine swap and race-prep only hours before we hit the road for Salinas, CA
My first time driving Laguna with my first impressions being the following:
-DAMN what a track
-totally understand now why it's world-famous
-blind corners, camber, exiting the corkscrew is so much fun, the sand is deep
-a track that rewards the (successful) risk-takers and punishes the rest
Friday was qualifying and amazingly, through the heat, we were able to put it on pole!
Saturday's race was hard-fought. 2/3's of the way in, we found ourselves maintaining the top spot while being able to manage our tires and the gap when suddenly...the power cut OFF
Turns out in the rush of getting the car ready for grid and when switching the car on, we didn't notice a loose ignition switch/toggle cover. While going over a rumble strip with about 6 laps to go, under the rattling and vibration the switch switched itself off and just like that we lost the lead and dropped back to 3rd
After getting the engine restarted, we fought back and were able to finish P2
Not bad but damn, what could've been. Plus, with it being 100+ degrees out during the race and only having one set of tires for the weekend, Saturday's race was probably our best shot to bring home a win
For Sunday's race 2, we were again fortunate enough to place it on pole position and start 1st for our race
Because our tires were shot, we had to pull every trick in the book:
-fuel for only 3 laps (reduce total weight and stress on our fairly worn tires)
-some final tweaks to the balance of the car
-waited till everyone else was out to clean and warm up the track, then went out when there was a good gap and clear traffic
-2 warm up laps and 1 flying lap
On the one flying lap, we clocked a time 1.3 seconds faster than our previous qualifying time. Sweet
For the majority of the race, we led. Then I came across a slower Mustang from a faster car class and he begins blocking real aggressively, forcing me to slow down which allowed 2nd place to catch up
In a pro series, I suspect that the mustang would've gotten bumped after a few corners. (in a Sebastien Vettel voice)..I mean cmon' guys honestly, what are we doing here?! ;)
After a couple frustrating attempts to pass the mustang, an error on my part was made as I mis-judged the apex on Turn 11 sending me off just enough on exit to lose the lead
By Turn 5, I was already back on my competitor's bumper and with my tires already severely dropped off on grip, I made the decision to send it on the inside for a late-braking pass
I came out the winner and held the lead till the checkered flag was waved. Two poles, 1st and 2nd place, on my first time racing at Laguna. Dreams are a crazy thing
The biggest thank you to those below for believing in and supporting GriffeyDreams when many did not:
Hana Japan Steak and Seafood (in Dublin, CA and Berkeley Marina, CA) hanajapan.com
Marin Acura (Marin, Corte Madera, San Francisco) marinacura.com
Cafe Tapioca (Dublin, CA) cafetapioca.com
WORKS Motorsports (Sonoma, CA) store.worksmotorsports.com
Tomas Sport Tuning (Berkeley, CA) tomassporttuning.com
Hoosier Tires hoosiertire.com
Acura/Honda Performance Development hpd.honda.com
Brian @ theautonauts.com
Dan Forer (crew)
And of course another big thank you to all the kind souls who individually lent their support - i know who you are, and you know who you are
Race cars kick ass.
We recently held a free Driving Skills Clinic and Canyon Cruise co-hosted by Cafe Tapioca and GriffeyDreams Racing, called 'Tapioca Canyon Clinics'
People actually showed up, were greeted to some delicious drinks and food courtesy of Cafe Tapioca, and then I got to work trying to explaining some car things
Though I think my friend, Gregory Evans of Simraceway Performance Driving Center, did a much better job than me
After a quick classroom and road brief we were off to some gorgeous, hidden northern california backroads
Some lunch in Davenport, a couple more roads, and off we went on our separate ways. Beautiful weather, huggy roads, cool cars, happy smiles
Chill day, join us on the next one!
As with all my races this season, funding was secured last minute and off we went to try our luck on my 'home track,'
Sonoma Raceway, formerly known as Infineon Raceway and Sears Point
Buddies and fellow racers, Alex and Greg, were kind enough to help out and crew for the weekend
So here's what the weekend looked like:
Practice and Qualifying:
We top the time sheets in Practice. Then in qualifying the engine starts stumbling pretty badly so I come in and we find a broken positive battery terminal. With my pit neighbor's help, we repair the terminal and I go out for the remainder of the session but we're still plagued with a misfire
After a closer look, it turns out the coil pack for cylinder 2 has snapped in half - something we've never seen before. It's replaced with a new one and we hope for better luck on Saturday
Due to the engine issue I think we qualified something like 31st out of 34 cars but we remained optimistic that with the misfire solved, we could cut through some of the pack and at least have some fun
Soon as the race starts the same issue comes up again and I'm forced to retire early
Qualifying and Race 2:
After Saturday's race we swap out all the coil packs with new ones, install a new battery, new spark plugs, reload the tune onto our ECU, and perform other tests. After a short drive around the paddock the car feels and sounds a lot better
In qualifying, we place the #27 GriffeyDreams Racing/Hana Japan/Cafe Tapioca car on Pole Position with a time of 1:54.540, pretty sure a new unofficial track record, and two seconds clear of P2, good enough for 1st in class and 5th overall out of 39 cars
But with about 8 minutes left in qualifying the engine begins to stumble again...damn!
We perform some more tests and the engine again sounds and feels healthy after a short test drive
Come race time, the green flag drops and I maintain the top spot in my class until halfway through the race the engine starts stumbling again
Down on what feels like 50% of my power and after a yellow flag comes out, the lead that I've created vanishes and I get eaten up on the straights,
I drop back 3 places and finish 4th, still with fastest lap of the race
They certainly weren't the results we were hoping for but that's racing.
That said, it was great seeing a bunch of my close friends and supporters make it out and enjoy the races in beautiful Sonoma county.
Again, without the help of so many people none of this would've even been possible. I remain forever indebted
That said, some exciting new plans are in motion and Team GriffeyDreams Racing
will be back in full force and ready to fight real soon - you can bet on it
When NASCAR rolled into Sonoma, I spent a couple days spotting for a coworker of mine, Dave Smith, running in the K&N Pro Series West
A lot of our time was hampered with a broken sway bar, brake failure, among other issues. But come race day, we ran with what we had
Dave started 17th out of 30 cars and battled with a cracked header, suspension issues, and even a shift knob that went flying mid-race
Even without a perfect car, Dave was able to bring the car home safely in 17th position
Watching him all weekend from the spotter tower, what I really saw was a true professional earning his pay. To put it frankly, the car looked like a royal nightmare to drive but to make some passes, finish where he started, and to be able drive both the #30 car and his family safely home was nothing short of inspiring
As with all NASCAR races, the fanfare and entertainment value the show put on was great
You're a hero and the people's champ Dave. Thanks for the great time. On to the next one!
Second Majors race, this time at Buttonwillow Raceway down near Bakersfield, CA - video coming
Funding was secured at the last minute, Tim Tomas of Tomas Sport Tuning in Berkeley let me borrow his trailer, pops and I finished loading at 4am, were filled up and on the highway by 6, at the track by 9am
Friday Test Day
-learn track on way down, nap
-drive, learn track
-set camp, only ones tenting it again :W
-Joey and Brian get in
-Brian and Joey help crew, badasses
-qualified P2, finished P1
Then the drinking happened because a bunch of close friends showed up, and because it was our first big win since this journey began 3 years ago
-qualified p3, finished p2, three-tenths off the track record
-Dad and I stopped by Harris Ranch for celebratory steaks on the way, he told almost every server in there that his son won. awesome
A very big thank you to Tomas Sport Tuning, Hana Japan Steak & Seafood, Cafe Tapioca, Hoosier Tires, Honda Performance Development (HPD), Summit Racing, Brian @theautonauts, and everyone else that's pitched in to help me live out this dream - the list of people just keeps growing. Thank you guys
On to the next one..Sonoma
First off, what an insane week leading up to the race itself, and the post-race glow and exhaustion felt afterwards. Here's a quick recap of how my first race weekend with the new car unfolded:
Race is on Saturday 4/1/17 at Thunderhill Raceway, Willows, CA (2.5 hrs north of SF)
-car is finally off jack-stands, prepped and good-to-go
-need xxxx amount of funds by thursday
-Hana Japan Steak & Seafood, Marin Acura, and Cafe Tapioca, among many other amazing individuals are kind enough to get me most of the way there
-still with no trailer, a same-class competitor says he has one i can borrow for free (incredible), I go to pick it up in american canyon, ca
-long-time friend chris comes out from manteca to help me for the weekend, now it's a team of 2
-finish loading car and packing at 2a
-wake up at 5a, at thunderhill raceway by 8, unload & prep car for 9a practice
-1st session goes well, car feels sorted, started remembering the one other time i've driven the track
-engine issues/no power for sessions 2-6
-then chris starts coming down with flu-like symptoms, he's looking miserable by noon
-drives back home to a bart station in our borrowed tow car
-chris hands the car over to a friend, Tim Tomas and his 14yo son, who said they're down to help out
-Tim and his son Ryan get here and lights are out in the tent by 12a
-we wake up to a sea of motorhomes, beautiful trailer rigs, and we're the only one's camping :?
-at this point we decide to use saturday as a learning tool/prep day for sunday's longer, 35 minute sprint race
-spend 1st half of qualy breaking in my new bf goodrich(r1s) that i got for a deal for sunday's race since they needed a 24hr break-in time
-vtec is still not engaging, it feels a cylinder down
-qualify 6th out of 7 cars in my class, 20+ cars in the whole field
-engine is fixed 20 mins before the race = bad coil - Tim almost gets the coil from our borrowed tow car (MDX), also an Acura, to work but we end up sourcing a spare last minute
-green flag, pass a bunch of cars, battle to 5th, catching up to 4th then DISQUALIFED mid-race for SOUND (!!!)
-hit 107db from my exhuast, 4 over the 103b limit at thunderhill. thought they'd be more lenient on race days, my mistake, rookie call
-was pretty frightening out there anyway on the 'free' tires that were honestly finished from lap 1. OK, now the focus is on tmrw
-best i can find to borrow is a 60 degree angled turn-down pipe for my exhaust to divert the sound from the mic placed next to the track
-qualify 5th, on new tires but not in the right size for my car's setup (205's all around vs 225F, 205R), nor the fastest ones available. But Ken, right now you're poor so suck it up and do the best you can with what you got
-made a decision early on to use all of the tires in the beginning of the race to stay with the leaders, thinking that if i got out in front and then my tires started dying i could at least play strategy and use slower cars as picks to keep them behind me
-started 5th, dropped to 6th, pass for 5th, pass for 4th, now fighting for 3rd, tires are screaming now
-using other driver's reference points, lot of great battles, learning from other drivers' lines, learning the car
-3rd place driver out-brakes himself, using his braking reference point, i knew i was screwed, dropped two wheels into the dirt, caught the drift, slammed it into 2nd gear and got back on track, but dropped back one position to 5th, race ends
It was my first time running the new car and in the SCCA Majors series, the top amateur level in the States, and I finished 5th ending with times faster than 4th and 3rd place. I didn't bin the car, raced hard and clean, made some fun passes, met a lot of great people, and learned an insane amount.
Skating up and down the paddock all weekend, in the ever-constant hustle to get a question answered, to find parts or tools, thank people with beer, but all in the effort to go racing - I knew right then and there that I was finally doing what I should be doing.
Though often the more affordable route, I knew going in, that running your own racing team would be a lot of work. After this weekend, I learned that running your own racing team is a lot of work. fricken hell lol
Full race video with commentary by yours truly explaining sunday's race over some beers to the old housemates in oakland is above. Lastly, another big THANK YOU to Hana Japan Steak & Seafood, Marin Acura, Cafe Tapioca, Chris Conkey, Tim and Ryan Tomas, Dante Galan, and all of the supporters since day one - thank you for believing in this kid's dream. I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life.