Long Time No See
Hey everyone, long time no see.
Since the last time we caught up, I had just finished my first year in USF2000 and was moving into my second season with a new team, Turn 3 Motorsports. Now, after two full years with T3M and ascending the Road to Indy ladder, I’m moving into INDY NXT (previously Indy Lights).
How mental is that? One step below the NTT INDYCAR series and racing with my idols since I was little: It didn’t come easy though. The last two years have given me some of the hardest challenges I’ve ever had to face in my life. From inter-team issues to mental roadblocks and even just plain bad race weekends, we had it ALL. So here’s some insight.
I stepped into 2021 with Turn 3 Motorsport as a veteran in USF2000. It was their first time running a USF program so there was bound to be some teething pains. That being said, we had a rockstar line-up: Ernie Gonella, one of the best engineers in the Road to the Indy paddock, ran engineering on the two-car team and Richard Lyons and Peter Dempsey headed up the driver development side of things.
I can’t express how thankful I am for having been a part of such a strong group of experienced individuals. I picked up such a mass of information getting to be in the room and hearing the three of them talk through and develop the team throughout the season. But as I mentioned, it didn’t come easy. We struggled to get things right for the better part of half the season, struggling to consistently seat ourselves in the top 5, let alone win. But, after a step back and a deep analysis of how we as a team were functioning, we really started to come into our own. We had one in-season test near the end of the year at NJMP where we put our findings to work. From that test on through the last 5 races, we never finished outside of the top 5 in any competitive session, and we scored our first 2 podiums as well as a win. Our turnaround was truly momentous, and it was only fitting our win came in the final race of the season. On a soaking Mid Ohio, we stormed from sixth on the grid to first in one corner, driving away and controlling four safety car restarts to win.
And what’d we do after that? We came to St.Petersburg and started the new season right where we left off, with a win. In that off-season, I re-signed with Turn 3 Motorsport to move up to IndyPro2000. We had a host of fairly strong tests and felt confident heading into the season opener, but I couldn’t have guessed we would’ve been so strong. I remember coming in after our only practice session (in which we had some car issues) and saying “We were only off by 6 tenths? We’re good” with a smile on my face. I don’t honestly think Peter or Richard agreed with me, but qualifying rolled up and I proved that my feelings were valid by slapping the #3 car on the pole. The next day we backed it up, pulling over a second gap on the race start and maintaining it to win the first race of the season.
The rest of that season had its ups and downs, we had highs like racing to a podium in Lucas Oil and Toronto, and lows like Indy GP (we don’t talk about that). What was most important was that I felt strong. I was putting up the best performances I could every weekend, and even when it didn’t amount to a win or a podium I rarely left the track feeling like there was anything still on the table.
All of these people I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the past 2 years have left a massive imprint on who I am as both a driver and a person. I’ve learned how to be a better human in all aspects, from raw performance to race craft to building relationships. I am so thankful for everyone who pushed me to become who I am today, and I’m excited to share the next part of my journey with you.