News From Britt Casey, Jr.

Season Finale at Road Atlanta

Last weekend, our final race of the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge took place at one of my favorite tracks, Road Atlanta. The Fox Factory 120 was yet another event that the #27 TRUMPF Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 was absolutely on point in terms of setup. From the test day to the race, our car only got faster. We have been fortunate enough to have such a fantastic group of mechanics and engineers supporting all three Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's all year. Confidence was high before the race for my co-driver, Tom Long, as well as myself.  

Road Atlanta is one of the "old school" tracks where the course is truly designed into the landscape rather than being paved with artificial elevation changes. That being said, the hills at Road Atlanta are not comparable to any other circuit that we race on. With the extreme elevation changes at this track, it makes Road Atlanta extremely technical and a place that is known for being high risk due to the close proximity of the walls. Road Atlanta holds an additional significance for Freedom Autosport, Tom Long, and I. In February of 2014, I had my first test at Road Atlanta with Freedom Autosport. This was a day that I will never forget. At the ripe old age of 15, Tom Long took a chance on me and invited me to drive one of the Freedom MX-5's to see how I could perform with a chance to join the ranks of the Freedom Autosport driver line up. Thinking about how far things have come these past four years is nothing short of incredible. Racing for the win last weekend with Tom Long, who has been an integral part of my career as well as my development as a driver and young adult, was an honor and a great way to finish the 2017 season with the same team that has given me so much. 

This weekend, we decided to switch it up and I qualified our #27 TRUMPF Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 to start the race in fifth. My stint consisted almost entirely of some great battling with my teammate Chad McCumbee and another competitor. Our car was never outside of the top five as I was maintaining a strong position while also conserving our car to give to Tom so he could battle for the win at the end. I pitted from third and the Freedom Autosport crew made a flawless pit stop which resulted in Tom cycling to the lead after everyone pitted. 

Consistent with my stint, our car yet again never left the top five with Tom behind the wheel in the final hour of the race. With a late race caution, Tom was sitting in fifth place with approximately five minutes to go in the final race of 2017. An unfortunate incident coming to the green flag caused a pile up collision between our car, our teammate, and a competitor which sadly brought our season to an end five minutes short of the checkered flag. 

While the race didn't get the result we deserved, we came out with our heads high knowing that our cars were capable and had been in contention for the entire race up until the final restart. Our guests from TRUMPF Inc. and Cushman & Wakefield had our backs and talked about how strong we looked during the event as they ventured around to different parts of the track rooting us on. It's fantastic to have the support of these two global brands and I am so fortunate to be able to bring them into the motorsports arena and represent them at every race.

MK5_9132.JPG

This season had ups and downs like every season does. What mattered most was how well we took the downs and converted the struggles into ups. I could not be prouder of the Freedom Autosport team and their efforts this year. The car was consistently fast all year and Jason Hoover and Mark LaVallee can take full responsibility for giving us a car that could battle for the win. Thank you to John Doonan, Kyle Kimball, Jade Gurss, and the rest of Mazda Motorsports for the support you have given me the past four years. It's a privilege to be a part of your program. Thank you to Miami University for your understanding of my attendance, or lack thereof, due to my motorsports commitments. Thank you to my friends for your understanding and support especially when the "can't hang... I'm racing this weekend" text is a more frequent response than you all would probably expect. And finally, thank you to my parents for your guidance and the sacrifices you've made to help me get to this point in my career. None of these experiences I've had would be possible without you two. While most Dad's at the track like to watch their son drive from the comfort of a chair, my Dad has voluntarily thrown on a helmet and grabbed a wheel gun at every race this year as a front tire changer for Freedom Autosport. That being said, Dad, thank you for some damn solid pit stops as well. 

On to 2018!

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: A Special Experience

Now that I am back at school and have caught back up with my classes, I want to share with all of you a recap of our race last weekend in Monterey, CA. The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240 is one of my favorite events. The reason for this is my thorough enjoyment of the track, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. My first podium in the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge occurred here in 2015 and has held a special place in my heart since that race. 

thumbnail.jpeg

Once again, we had a great group of guests from my partners, TRUMPF Inc. and Cushman & Wakefield. While some of the guests were already familiar and passionate about motorsports, I'm glad I was able to spark a new interest in some who had never been to a race. Coincidentally, one of the sales representatives from TRUMPF, Eric, is a former Miami University student and we hit it off immediately. 

Before our race, all of the Mazda drivers were told to go to the front of the fan walk to help present some very special gifts to some even more special people. As a part of the military appreciation theme during the event, Mazda presented a 2017 Mazda CX-7 and CX-9 to two veterans and their families. In addition, another military family became proud new owners of a mortgage free home in Florida. You can read more about this emotional pre-race presentation here: https://www.imsa.com/news/092017/mazda-honors-veterans-homes-heroes-campaign-mazda-raceway

thumbnail-2.jpeg

Our race started out looking like it was going to be another Mazda success story at Mazda's home track as we had no problem pacing with the leaders while we preserved our cars. This was our strategy since the race was four hours instead of the normal two hour race format. My co-driver, Mark Drennan, is a Mazda Raceway native and only lives an hour away from the track. His speed showed during his stint and we pitted from the top five for our pit stop and driver change. Unfortunately, our race came to an end early as a mechanical issue forced me to park the car on the side of the track with about an hour to go. 

While the race didn't go our way, my teammates were able to finish second in the four hour race. Congratulations to Liam and Andrew for keeping the 26 car in the hunt! Even though the race for the #27 TRUMPF Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 did not come to fruition as we had expected, the event was a great time as always. Our guests from TRUMPF Inc. and Cushman & Wakefield were extremely supportive and enjoyed the race thoroughly. With one race to go in the season, next week's race at Road Atlanta will be a very hard push to grab one more successful finish before the season comes to a close. 

Podium Finish at Lime Rock Park

Lime Rock Park treated us well this past weekend. Freedom Autosport finished 1st and 2nd with Stevan McAleer and Chad McCumbee taking the top step of the podium and Matt Fassnacht and I finishing second. It was a great race and we successfully displayed how well our Mazda MX-5 race cars work when the track caters to our strengths.

Before the cars hit the track on Friday, I was able to visit the TRUMPF U.S. Headquarters in Farmington, CT. which is about an hour away from the track. With 100 TRUMPF employees attending the race on Saturday, it was only appropriate that a "pep rally" took place at the office. With the #27 TRUMPF Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 on display, we caught a lot of attention. Meeting and conversing with the people that make TRUMPF the world-class brand that it is and showing them a "behind the scenes" look into motorsports was an extremely rewarding experience. I enjoyed every minute of the visit and loved seeing the genuine interest that the car brought to the TRUMPF campus. 

On Friday, we knew it was going to be a busy day. With two practice sessions and qualifying packed in to a six hour timeframe, making adjustments to the car had to be efficient and effective. Luckily, Jason Hoover and Mark LaVallee put a fantastic baseline setup in the car which allowed us to fine tune rather than make big changes that usually require a significantly larger amount of time. With an unbelievably quick car, the confidence was high going into qualifying. Matt Fassnacht qualified the #27 car and he set a time that placed us in 3rd to start the race. Chad McCumbee in the #25 ModSpace car took his third pole in a row at the track which was very exciting to see!

In the race, our Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's thrived. At a track where handling is overwhelmingly more important than straight-line speed, Lime Rock Park is dominated by the MX-5 platform. For the entire first stint, Chad led the field with the #34 Murillo Racing MX-5 in 2nd and my co-driver Matt Fassnacht in 3rd. The three cars broke away from the rest of the field and this trend carried on for the entirety of the race.

My stint was eventful to say the least. A drive through penalty for an issue during the pitstop caused me to give up 2nd position and also lose considerable time to the cars ahead. Luckily, a full course caution closed up the gap between the leaders and myself. Off the restart, I was able to make the pass for 2nd place and begin to hunt down Stevan in the #25 ModSpace car who had been leading for the entire duration of his stint. Once I caught Stevan and with 20 minutes to go, I started making some passing attempts. With ten minutes to go in the race, I began to feel the pressure and knew that time was running low. When I was following Stevan, I had picked out the areas where I was able to gain on him and kept these locations in mind. While trying to initiate a pass in the uphill by getting a good exit off the corner, I used too much of the apex curbing and began to spin until the #34 Murillo Racing MX-5 made contact with me that was unavoidable, unfortunately. 

This moment sealed the race and Stevan and Chad were able to take the win with Matt Fassnacht and I coming in 2nd. I was ecstatic about the race even though I had made a mistake. The #25 and #27 cars and drivers were fast and our results emulated that perfectly. I was so proud to provide the huge group of TRUMPF guests with such a nail biting and successful finish. This one goes out to you guys! With an excellent car, team, and sponsor, the #27 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 was a car to beat this weekend. Thankfully, the only people who beat us were our teammates! Congratulations to all of us!

Photo: M. Stahlschmidt/Sideline Sports Photography © 2017 - All Rights Reserved.

Sebring: When the Going Gets Rough, Learn From It.

The Visit Sebring 120 at Sebring International Raceway had unique challenges that we were able to overcome and come away with another top ten finish. Jason Hoover and the rest of the #27 TRUMPF, Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 car's crew made awesome gains on our set up for the race. We tried some new unorthodox changes to improve the handling of our car and Robby Foley and I were happy with our race car throughout our stints. Having new ideas and applying them is always interesting as a driver and making small tweaks to see their advantages and disadvantages is a fantastic learning experience for me personally. 

This past weekend we welcomed Cushman & Wakefield to the team as a new partner on the #27 car. I'm extremely proud to be a part of this new and exciting partnership and can not wait to see what we will accomplish together. Cushman & Wakefield is a leading global real estate services firm that helps clients transform the way people work, shop, and live. The firm’s 43,000 employees in more than 60 countries provide deep local and global insights that create significant value for occupiers and investors around the world. To learn more about this fantastic firm, visit cushmanwakefield.com.

During qualifying, Robby was able to lay down a decent lap to start the race in eleventh before the drivetrain incurred a small issue. We knew we could have started in a better position if Robby had more laps but unfortunately it was not in the cards. Luckily his first flier lap was enough to keep us from starting in the back. As I said in Freedom Autosport's post-race interview, it's cliché when drivers talk about the bumps at Sebring. However, it is very much a concern for everyone. Parts and systems that normally hold up during a race seem to fail at this track with the violent nature of racing on seventy year old tarmac, asphalt, and concrete patches at such high speeds. This is what makes Sebring so unique, fun, and challenging all at the same time.

During the race, Robby was able to move up to sixth quickly and raced conservatively knowing that, unfortunately, the lead cars were running a much faster pace than what we could maintain. Once the caution came out around the halfway mark of the two hour race, we performed our pit stop and driver change and I came out of the pits still in the top ten.

During my time in the race, the car felt great and from experience in the past I knew that our race car was going to be fast until the end. About 15 minutes into my stint, "cliché Sebring" struck again and I lost the power steering in the car. This was a new experience for me as I had never raced a car that was designed to utilize power steering and suddenly lose the luxury. Coming from Spec Miata and not having power steering in those cars, this felt similar but with more weight and higher speeds so all the days in the gym came into play big time here. Fighting with the rest of the field with my teammate Andrew Carbonell in the #25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 made for great entertainment for the fans watching and also made for some sore muscles the next morning. 

When the checkered flag waved, I crossed the line in eighth and Andrew finished right ahead of me in seventh. Had we had a couple more laps, I can say confidently that we would have passed two more cars. That being said, both the #25 and #27 cars were close to maximizing their potentials in the race. Overall, we learned a lot over the course of the three days on track. Between new approaches to setting up the car, finding speed as drivers through data and video, and learning how much power steering is taken for granted, it's safe to say that the weekend was a success. We didn't have much to offer the top three or four cars this past weekend and we are hoping that six weeks from now at Circuit of the Americas we can push to get top five finishes for all three of the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's

Daytona: Top 10's Worth Celebrating

The first race of 2017 at Daytona went better than we had all anticipated. With the new race length being 4 hours rather than the normal 2.5 hours, there were a lot of unknowns pertaining to strategy as well as predictions for the outcome of the race.

Daytona in nature is not a track that caters to the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's strengths. Majority of the track is full throttle with two long straightaways that cover roughly 85% of the NASCAR oval. That being said, our Mazda MX-5's are absolutely dominant in all corners beginning with the initial brake application, all the way through the apex, and getting back to throttle. For a track that is focused around top end speed more than handling, we have struggled in the past at Daytona. However, this year's race was going to be different. This race was an hour and a half longer than previous races which meant more pit stops, more wear and tear, and more time to move up in the field. 

For my co-driver, Robby Foley, this race was his IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge debut. Robby is familiar with the MX-5 platform as he is a highly experienced driver in the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup Series. Robby did a great job getting familiarized with all of the procedures on the team and was able to acclimate quickly to the new car and the general driving characteristics of the IMSA CTSCC style MX-5 race car. 

I was able to qualify the car in 13th for the start of the race. Working with my teammate Chad McCumbee in the #25 ModSpace car, we were able to break into the top 10 by using the draft to our benefit. This minimized the time lost on the straightaways since we were able to keep our speed relatively high but still slower than the other cars like the Porsche Cayman or BMW. It was a challenge but also enjoyable setting up passes by getting a good exit off of Turn 6 to stay close and in the draft of a competitor and waiting half a lap to actually initiate the pass into Turn 1 or Turn 3. Robby and I did our driver change at about the halfway mark of the race and in the closing minutes of the race during the final restart, all 3 cars stayed clean and crossed the line in 6th, 9th, and 10th. 

We were all cheering after the checkered flag waved because everyone on the team knew we had done the best job possible given the track's unfriendliness towards our cars and having all three Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's finish in the top ten was something that we had hoped could have happened going into the race but knew that the chances were slim. 

Hats off to all of the Freedom Autosport crew guys who did a total of 10 flawless pitstops over the course of 240 minutes. It was extremely impressive watching them go to work. Also thank you to our spotter and strategist, Chris Long, who is always of great help to the drivers on the radio as well as his ability to call our race strategy quickly and to our benefit. We're already looking forward to Sebring on March 17th where our cars should shine after our humble but fantastic finish at Daytona.

Conclusion of 2016: Reflection

The 2016 season had its high's and low's as every year does. There were lots of successes and great learning experiences that had occurred throughout the year. Every weekend there were always new things to learn and improve on in order to grow as a driver. However, not only did I grow as a competitor, but I grew as a person. For my first full season in professional competition, I had to mature and be able to take the things that didn't go as planned and be able to shrug those moments off in order to keep a positive outlook on the situation. The phrase, "That's racing" was utilized multiple times. Unfortunately, in the season finale at Road Atlanta, engine troubles took us out and the 25 car early in the race. We were heartbroken to see the season come to a close on a low note. However, that is in fact racing

We're all proud to look back at the season and see all of our top 10 finishes. We're proud to look back at weekends like Watkins Glen in July when the car was dropped off at the garage because of the damage it had taken on the first lap and to see the Freedom Autosport crew wrench it back together in a half hour to have it back on the track for the rest of the race. The backbone of Freedom Autosport is the crew. They are always prepared for every scenario and our results show the same. 

From a personal standpoint, I see only positives. I was able to learn how to keep my head high and continue to dig in for the long haul after unfortunate weekends like Watkins Glen. I learned not to dwell on the little things and to continue to improve. These were not only lessons for racing, but lessons for life.

I have been fortunate enough to have partners like TRUMPF, Inc. who have put an enormous amount of commitment into me. And that type of responsibility is something that I am very privileged to have. Without their support along with Mazda and ClothingShopOnline, none of this is feasible. Seeing the TRUMPF guests at race weekends and discussing this crazy business we call "motorsports" lights up their eyes. I'm extremely proud to show these guests what their affiliate company, TRUMPF, Inc., is involved in and that I am their representative driver who is a part of the best team in IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge.  

I want to say a sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone within the TRUMPF, Inc. organization. I am extremely proud to be aligned with such a world class company and group of people. I want to say thank you to Freedom Autosport for their hard work and dedication and Mazda for their continued support of me and my career. I want to thank my family and friends for their understanding and support. I want to thank Barrington High School and Loyola University Chicago for their assistance and flexibility in order to keep me from falling behind in my education while traveling. Most importantly, I want to thank my Dad for his sacrifices and hard work in order to help me continue to move forward in my career and develop into the person that I am today. 

On to 2017.

Circuit of the Americas: A Toasty Weekend

As it has in the past, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX was hot. Temperatures on race day were around 95 degrees and grip level in the track lowered with the added temperature and sunlight. Nevertheless, the TRUMPF, Inc. Freedom Autosport #27 Mazda MX-5 pushed through for a fantastic 4th place finish. 

During qualifying, Danny positioned himself to start the race in 5th. As we had expected, the race had minimal cautions with only one yellow flag due to an incident on lap one. We know the MX-5 platform is great on long green flag runs with our lighter weight and ability to conserve our tires and we were able to exploit that during the two and a half hour race. 

We pitted under green flag for fuel, tires, and driver change around the 50 minute mark. Our car was consistent and I was able to slowly crawl back to 5th with two laps to go. The last two laps consisted of a hard battle to the line with a competitor and we crossed the line to ultimately finish 4th. 

TRUMPF, Inc. Freedom Autosport #27 Mazda MX-5 going through the Carousel during the race.

A little out of breath, I told the team that we had a great car this weekend and we should all be proud. On top of everything, the sister car #25 ModSpace Mazda MX-5 driven by Stevan McAleer and Chad McCumbee came out with the championship points lead going into the final race of the season in two weeks at Road Atlanta. 

Great weekend on multiple levels and once again I was proud to be able to bring the TRUMPF, Inc. group and their guests a top 5 finish. 

Road America Debrief

At my home track of Road America, I was excited to get our TRUMPF, Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 back in action. We knew that the three long straightaways would be difficult for our cars but from Turn 5 to the Kink, our MX-5's would shine bright. This proved to be the case and our cars were competitive enough to qualify 3rd, 7th, and 11th. We were very excited about the race to come and how the race would play out. 

The car was very well set up for the race and Danny rolled off 7th on the grid. After some hard fought battles, I got in at approximately the 50 minute mark and we fortunately caught the rest of the field under yellow flag conditions. I tried to make quick work of the cars ahead of me and found myself in the top 10 with 30 minutes to go. If I was able to draft with some of the other cars with more power, I could stay with them and make a move in the tighter sections of the track in order to be clear by the carousel to build a gap. The Mazda MX-5 was amazing through this section of track and I was pleased to see that the car did not fall off as expected when we usually fight against an oversteer towards the end of the race. A huge thank you to the Freedom Autosport crew for making our cars consistent and durable in the long run. The 25 car finished in an impressive 4th place while the 26 and I finished 5th and 9th. This was an eye opener for us because with three very long straightaways per lap, it was tough to hang with the other cars with more straightline speed. 

Once again, we had a group of TRUMPF, Inc. guests at the track with us. Another great group of people and I'm glad that they enjoyed themselves while getting the inside look at what makes a race team work and how we function at the track. None of them had been this up close and personal with a race team before so I was happy and proud to be able to provide them with that experience with TRUMPF Inc.'s support!

Once again, a very special thank you to Freedom Autosport for the great setup and willingness to never give up even at a track that should not have been as kind to us. Thank you to TRUMPF, Inc., Mazda, Oscar Mike, and the Semper Fi Fund for their continued support and friendship.

On to the next one!

Lime Rock Park Post Race

Round 6 of the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge was an interesting race to say the least. Lime Rock a.k.a. "The Bullring" is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. It requires total focus and commitment while turning lap times around one minute in duration. This track seems to breed Mazda MX-5 success. With the tight twistiness of the track and the fact that we had no cautions in the race, the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's performed well. 

One of five TRUMPF, Inc. buildings on the campus 

Freedom Autosport being shown a bending machine while at TRUMPF, Inc.

Before the weekend even began, a group of Freedom Autosport team members and drivers were invited to visit the TRUMPF, Inc. campus in Farmington, CT. It was about an hour drive from the track and located on its own grounds with a total of 5 buildings. As soon as we walked in the doors of the first building, we were blown away by how clean, organized, and impressive the showroom and machines were presented. Truly, it is a world class facility. Further on in the tour, we were fortunate enough to see a laser in action. As we were all commenting on how quickly and precisely the laser was able to cut the assigned shapes and letters for our demonstration, we were told, "This is our lower tier laser." We all laughed and continued with the tour. 

For the race weekend, over 100 TRUMPF, Inc. guests and their families were in attendance to root us on. The race did not go as smoothly as planned but we rallied back for a very hard fought 12th place finish after contact occurred early on in the race. The car was very strong and so were the other Mazda's, finishing 1, 2, 3 on the podium. A special congratulations to Stevan McAleer and Chad McCumbee on taking the pole and the win 2 years in a row!

 

2 Weeks...2 Races

The summer stretch for the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge began July 4th weekend this year at Watkins Glen. These next two weeks were very busy and I'd never had the opportunity to race at two different tracks on two consecutive weekends. A huge thank you goes out to the Freedom Autosport team for their hard work and commitment. Also these were the last two tracks on the schedule in which I had not visited up until that point. Track notes, video, and data from some fellow Mazda teammates made the tracks much easier to learn. Watkins Glen and Canadian Time Motorsports Park are both notoriously fast and involve some very gutsy corners, specifically Turns 2 and 4 at CTMP. Being a student of the sport, I learned even more valuable skills on getting up to speed faster while also reporting on setup changes needed for the car. This is imperative to success on a race weekend. 

At Watkins Glen, my co-driver Danny Bender qualified a very solid 9th position. Unfortunately, he was caught up in the first lap crash in which multiple cars were damaged and had to report to the garage for repairs. Freedom Autosport being the team that it is, was able to repair two cars in approximately 30 minutes to salvage as many championship points as possible. Not only does our team stand for and represent the greatest military in the world, but we are also the best team in the paddock. Dedication is the only word to describe what I saw in the garage that day. In the end, we finished 18th with a wounded race car. 

Last weekend, the 5th race on the schedule was at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. I once again had never been to this track. The first couple laps were very eye opening to say the least. Going down hill and off camber left at well over 100mph took some getting used to. Track notes, video, and data played an integral part in getting up to speed efficiently. Danny qualified 20th and we were able to finish 14th. 

Looking back, there are a lot of positives to be said about the two tougher weekends the we've had this year. A lot of bragging rights go to the crew for being the hardest working guys in the paddock. I'm very glad that I now have experience at all of the tracks on the schedule and I'm looking forward to getting back to Lime Rock Park next week where we finished 6th last year during my first visit to the iconic Connecticut road course.    

 Photo by Sideline Sports Photography

Photo by Sideline Sports Photography

Sebring Debrief: 18th Birthday

Second race of the 2016 IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge schedule took place at Sebring a little over a week ago. In reflection, the #27 TRUMPF, Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 was strong right off the bat. Minimal tuning on the car was needed so hats off to the Freedom Autosport crew for really getting the car dialed in before it even rolled of the truck.

My co-driver, Danny Bender, and I felt extremely confident going into qualifying along with the #25 and #26 cars. There unfortunately was a small issue with the car during qualifying that was able to be fixed immediately after. However, we did have to start from the back of the field at the drop of the green flag. Danny knew he had a tough job ahead of him trying to make up positions while still conserving the car for me to finish the race. 

In the race, Danny moved through the field quickly and efficiently, leaving me with a great car with which I knew I could contend for a podium finish. Danny turned the car over to me in 9th position in the ST class and the drivers and crew performed a great pitstop/driver change. 

Once I was in the car, we almost immediately got a full course yellow which we were depending on to make it to the end on fuel. This meant that I'd be coming to the restart in 2nd. After the green flag came out, I quickly took the lead of the race and continued to stretch out my lead over the rest of the field. After settling in for awhile, I was soon outpaced by the two Honda's. After making a few mistakes and getting caught out with debris across the track in Turn 10, we finished 12th. 

All things considered, I am proud of the team and drivers for what we accomplished given the situations we were dealt in the race. To take the lead of the race on my 18th birthday with my whole family watching was special to me and something I can cherish for a long time. Yes, it would have been good to bring home a stronger finish. However, we are still very much in the chase for the championship at this moment and I can not wait to go to Mazda's stomping ground at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where the Mazda MX-5's perform extremely well. 

Daytona International Speedway Post Race

Going into the weekend, I was more excited to start off a race season than ever before. Not only was the 2016 IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge about to begin with my co-driver Danny Bender, but we also unveiled our new partner, TRUMPF, Inc. TRUMPF is the largest manufacturer of Fabrication Machinery in the United States and a World Market Leader in Lasers used for Industrial Production Technology. TRUMPF's brand aligns perfectly with motorsports and Mazda. 

My first laps on the track were interesting as I adapted to the extreme 31 degree banking on the NASCAR sections of the track. I had never experienced turns that progressively forced me into the seat as I continued to accelerate. The first time I went through NASCAR 1 and 2, I couldn't help but smile and think, "This is pretty awesome." 

During the race, Danny Bender was able to work his way from last position at the start due to a small issue with the car to mid pack before pitting for a driver change, tires, and fuel. Once I got in, I focused on making no mistakes and slowly gaining ground on the cars ahead. On the final restart, I was able to "meet up" at 130 mph with my teammate, Andrew Carbonell and we used the draft to continue to make up lost time. 

  Sideline Sports Photography © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Sideline Sports Photography © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

All in all, we salvaged a 14th place finish after setting a goal of 15th place or higher for our less powered but more nimble Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5. Danny and I, as well as the team, overcame more than a few obstacles to bring home a very solid finish for TRUMPF, Inc. in their first race as a member of the Mazda Family.

Most importantly, our race was dedicated to the fallen United States Marines who were presumed dead after a helicopter crash off the coast of Oahu on January 14, 2016.

CAPT. BRIAN T. KENNEDY, 31, PHILADELPHIA

CPL. MATTHEW R. DROWN, 23, SPRING, TEXAS.

MAJ. SHAWN M. CAMPBELL, 41, COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS

CPL. THOMAS J. JARDAS, 22, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA

SGT. ADAM C. SCHOELLER, 25, GARDNERS, PENNSYLVANIA

CPL. MATTHEW R. DROWN, 23, SPRING, TEXAS.

CPL. CHRISTOPHER J. ORLANDO, 23, HINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS

SGT. DILLON J. SEMOLINA, 24, CHASKA, MINNESOTA

LANCE CPL. TY L. HART, 21, AUMSVILLE, OREGON

SGT. WILLIAM J. TURNER, 25, FLORALA, ALABAMA

SGT. JEFFREY A. SEMPLER, 22, WOODRUFF, SOUTH CAROLINA

CAPT. KEVIN T. ROCHE, 20, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

 

Thank you for your service and sacrifice. 

 

 

Post Race VIR

Virginia International Raceway (VIR) is one of my favorite tracks. It has a little bit of everything: huge elevation changes, high speed corners, low speed corners, hard braking zones, and long straights. The track provides constant excitement as well as great racing. Our Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's performed flawlessly on this unique course. 

It was also great to team up with Tom Long once again after our race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It's interesting to think that the last time I was at VIR with Tom was when I was 15 during the second test with the team. I actually used the same notes and track map from that outing. 

With Liam not being at the race this past weekend, Tom was doing double duty in both cars. Tom started in the 26 car and then would change to the 25 car to take it to the end. This meant that Tom and I would qualify together. We used each other to our advantages to get optimal laps and it resulted in a qualifying effort of sixth and seventh. 

During the race, I had some incidents which resulted with me having to charge through the field (twice). At the end of my stint, Tom pit from the lead and I entered the pits from seventh. It was fun to watch Tom hop out of the 26 car, jump over the pit wall, and then run over to the 25 car where I was waiting. 

At the end of the very hot and eventful two and a half hour race, the cars took fourth and sixth. Andrew Carbonell is now the championship points leader going into Circuit of the Americas. There were nothing but very sweaty and tired smiles on the walk back to the hauler.

 

Road America Recap

August 8th was the 7th race of the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge at Road America. I was very excited for this race as it is not only a great race track, but it is also my home track. Road America is known for its three very long, high speed straightaways as well as its huge elevation changes. 

This race also marked one year since my series debut. Needless to say, I felt like I had something to prove after the engine failure at Road America in 2014. I went into the weekend the same way I always do; open minded with big ears and a small mouth. There is always something new to learn and I embrace that part of racing every time I go to the track. 

This was also the first professional race for my co-driver Danny Bender. I've known Danny since I started racing Spec Miata in 2010 so getting acquainted was not a problem. I did my best to help Danny learn the in's and out's of driving on a professional team. The best way to help him was to think about what I felt like a year ago in my debut. All the questions that I had last year, I answered for him.

Qualifying was rained out so Danny started the race 21st. Danny had the challenge of moving towards the front of the field while preserving the car (especially brakes) before I could take the car to the end of the race. Before pit stop cycles began, Danny had moved up to 7th position, a perfect spot to pit from. 

Danny brought the car in from first position and we performed a flawless pit stop. The only "slip-up" was when I ran around the car and slipped on an oil patch in the pit box.

Towards the end of the race, I found myself in 9th position on the final restart. However, one mistake in turn six would result in a 10th place finish.  Overall, I am ecstatic about the performance of everyone on the Freedom Autosport team. We did phenomenal considering that Road America isn't the best track for our Mazda MX-5's.

Lime Rock Park Recap: New Challenges

Last weekend was the sixth round of the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge Championship at Lime Rock Park. I had never been to this track before other than on iRacing. Going to a new track was not a new challenge, however Lime Rock Park is not comparable to any track that I've been to. 

Lime Rock has one left hand corner which means the car can be setup to focus on the right hand corners. The track is only a mile and a half long yet it still has a fifth gear straightaway. Not to mention that "West Bend" is the only flat corner. On top of all of that, the lap times are about a minute long. This is a critical part of "solving Lime Rock." The average speed is around 90 mph and mistakes add up quickly.

When I got to the track on Thursday, my co-driver Devin Jones, Tom Long, and I did the track walk. I though to myself, "How could such a little track be so technical?" The banking in the corners meant that we could carry HUGE entry speed. This took some getting used to during practice. 

Devin did an awesome job in qualifying, starting the race 12th. This was a great place to start from as we knew we had a car that would perform in the long run. Devin kept the car perfectly clean for me to take it to the finish. He brought the car in 9th position and I was felt confident in the car.

I fought to seventh position until ST lap traffic came into play. I unfortunately could not get the car to a deserving top five finish. The car came out of the race without a scratch so I think everyone was happy about that. 

This was a challenging weekend because of the new and extremely unique track as well as the fact that this was my first time as a finishing driver. Every race has new challenges and new things to learn. This was especially the case at Lime Rock Park. 

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Recap: A Weekend to Remember

This past weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

During the test day, we had to do some troubleshooting with the ABS system. In result, I only had 2 laps before official practice and qualifying. I have to thank my teammate Andrew Carbonell and co-driver Tom Long for getting me up to speed even though I had minimal track time.

After the ABS issue was solved, I qualified the car P3. My teammate, Liam Dwyer, qualified P8. With both Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's starting in the top 10, we were ecstatic. 

When the green flag waved, I was able to move up to P2 in a close battle with two other MX-5's driven by Justin Piscitell and Steven McAleer. After running in 2nd place and setting the fastest lap of the race, I brought the car in for the driver change and pitstop. The team performed flawlessly and Tom Long hopped in the car to take it to the end.

Driver change after running 2nd. Photo by Sideline Sports Photography 

During Tom's stint, he lead the field until the last lap with two corners to go. The 26 car, driven by Andrew Carbonell, battled through the field and passed Tom in turn 10 for the lead and eventual victory. 

To be a part of this huge victory was an opportunity that I am extremely grateful for. Mazda and Freedom Autosport built an amazing MX-5 that performed above all expectations. The whole team worked late every night to get the cars ready. 

I need to thank all of Mazda, Freedom Autosport, and ClothingShopOnline for their commitment to me. I also need to thank Tom Long and Andrew Carbonell for their assistance in getting me acclimated to this track that I have never been to. Most importantly, I need to thank Liam Dwyer and Aaron Denning for their service to this country. Aaron saved Liam's life when Liam stepped on an IED in Afghanistan. To have Aaron Denning with us this past weekend was amazing. He was just as impressed with us as we were with him. 

Podium. Photo by Sideline Sports Photography 

To answer the question that everyone is wondering... No I am not at all disappointed with a 2nd place finish. This was a team win for Mazda, Freedom Autosport, and the Semper Fi Fund. In my eyes, I consider this a win for both the 25 and 26. Freedom Autosport finished 1st and 2nd and Mazda took 4 out of the top 5 positions at their home track. 

Battery Tender MX-5 Cup at Sebring Recap

As Spring Break comes to a close for all my Barrington High School peers and I, it can be said that this was the most enjoyable Spring Break I have experienced.

I left home March 16th for Sebring International Raceway to compete in the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup series races. My teammates Patrick Gallagher, Kyle Loustauna, and Peter Portante were all wicked fast and helpful with getting me up to speed at this new track. Over the course of the week, I attained more and more advice which resulted in me posting the 3rd fastest lap of the weekend in Race 2.

The biggest learning curve that I had to adjust to was how imperative the first lap was in order to establish myself with the leaders. By the time the pack got down to turn 7, the leader were already working together trying to pull away from the field. This was tough to adjust to due to the fact that I did a lot of endurance racing last year and was not expecting the aggressiveness "right out of the gate." 

Sebring is an amazing facility with a larger focus on history instead of innovation. There are no large grandstands to watch from. Instead, there is 70 year old BUMPY concrete and walls no more than 100 feet away on both sides of the track. For some reason, it appealed to me and I looked forward to every session. 

Overall, another very educational weekend filled with new people, a new car, and a new track. A very special thanks to Randy Pobst, Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Atlanta Motorsports Group for helping me with learning the track and keeping me competitive. 

Photo by Michael Stahlschmidt, Sideline Sports Photography

Road Atlanta Recap

This past weekend was the final race of the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. The schedule was very long so it required me to leave home Monday night. I can't thank my teachers enough for assisting me with giving me the assignments ahead of time. This was the first time this year that I was gone for almost a full school week. 

The test day on Tuesday consisted of minor adjustments to the car with spring changes and shock adjustments. The goal for me was to be able to have a consistent car during the race. I have to thank the whole Freedom Autosport crew for giving Christian Szymczak, who is the reigning MX-5 Cup Champion, and I a "well behaved" car for the race. Also a huge thank you to my teammate Andrew Carbonell for helping me lower my lap times with going through data and video.

I had managed to qualify 18th after I made a few mistakes during qualifying. I knew we had a faster car than what I had qualified so I was very excited to see how the race played out. During my stint, I had a very fun time racing with my teammate Randy Pobst. Later on, it became a very hard fought battle with one of the Bimmerworld cars. The MX-5's are very fast from the braking point to apex while the other cars are stronger off corner down the straightaways. It was very educational to race against a car that made it's speed in a completely different way than I did. After a little bit of confusion with the driver change, Christian brought the car home in 16th. A solid result to another very educational weekend for me.

These past nine months have been life changing for me and my career in racing. I could only dream of having the opportunity that I have if it wasn't for Glenn and Tom Long giving me a chance to prove myself back in March of this year. Freedom Autosport has been fantastic with helping me improve my skills and learn how to drive in a professional series. The car chief of the #27 car, Eric Arms, could not have been more helpful with listening to my diagnosis of the car and teaching me more about car setups every time we talked. 


Next Race: Circuit of the Americas

This week I'll be heading off to Austin, TX for the next round of the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. To say I'm excited is an extreme understatement. I've never been to this track before other than on iRacing at home. It's truly amazing how close a simulator can get to the real thing and I feel like I have a solid foundation to build upon for the weekend. My co driver Matt Fassnacht and I will be racing September 19, at 12:20 pm CT. 

This year has been all about learning and improving myself as a person and as a driver. I have learned an immense amount this year and I'm looking forward to learning another chapter this weekend!

Thank you Clothing Shop Online, Dent Recon, EMCO Gears, Keeley Construction, and of course Freedom Autosport and Mazda

Summer Recap

After a very busy summer of racing, I'm back at school for my junior year. This summer was filled with educational experiences from SCCA races to my professional debut in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge with Freedom Autosport. Not only did I learn more about racing, but I learned more about myself.

During my pro debut weekend at Road America, I met a boy named Kyle. Kyle is the same age as me, 16, and is severely handicapped. When Kyle was at the Freedom Autosport hauler, I knew I had to do something to make his day special. I went to the motorhome and grabbed a "Britt Casey Motorsports" t-shirt and one of my hero cards. Kyle got to sit in one of the MX-5's as well.

About a week ago, I received a thank you letter from Mr. and Mrs. Barone thanking me for Kyle's awesome experience at Road America. I will always remember my professional debut race because of the people I met, the knowledge I gained, but mostly because I learned that everyday is a gift.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that I have in auto racing at 16 years old and my partners: Clothing Shop Online, Dent Recon, Emco Gears, and Keeley Construction have all assisted me greatly to achieve my dream.

I will always remember Kyle; the kid who could not stop smiling when I shook his hand and handed him my hero card. Kyle made my pro debut even more of a special experience for me. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Barone for your support of Britt Casey Motorsports, Freedom Autosport, and Mazda.

"Every day is a gift"