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.
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!