Paying My Dues - First Majors Race

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)

Wed 3/29
-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

Thurs
-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

 GriffeyDreams Racing's (GDR) Team Paddock and Pit area. RV not included, but one day?

GriffeyDreams Racing's (GDR) Team Paddock and Pit area. RV not included, but one day?

Fri
-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

 my crew chief, chief mechanic, pit crew, race support & crew - Tim Tomas of Tomas Sport Tuning in Berkeley, CA and Ryan, his 14yo son  photo: Dante Reyes Galan

my crew chief, chief mechanic, pit crew, race support & crew - Tim Tomas of Tomas Sport Tuning in Berkeley, CA and Ryan, his 14yo son
photo: Dante Reyes Galan

sat
-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

 My homie Dante also came out on sunday to support and cheer me on. Also snapped most of these pics, Dante you're incredible and thank you for everything you've done

My homie Dante also came out on sunday to support and cheer me on. Also snapped most of these pics, Dante you're incredible and thank you for everything you've done

sun
-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.

#griffeydreams