Each new season brings a lot of anticipation. Where will we stack up compared to last year? Have the other teams found something new in car set up? Did we maximize our off-season testing to the fullest? The 2019 season brought a lot of unanswered questions for us. Particularly as the series had switched tire manufacturers for the first time in its history from Pirelli to Hankook Tire.
There was also a lot of anticipation under the Gas Monkey Energy Alliance Racing tent as Toney Edwards has grown our program significantly from our first season last year. Most notably, we would be continuing our partnership with Gas Monkey Energy, adding new key personnel, and in addition to Will Edwards, my teammate from last year, three new drivers were added to the roster: Zoey Edenholm, Ryan Macdermid, and Dylan Tavella.
For me, it was a long and uneventful off-season as I was unable to join my teammates out West as they competed in two rounds of the West-Coast F4 Championship. Fortunately, it allowed our team a great opportunity to begin working with each other and get a head start on our 2019 program.
Finally, after a couple months off, I was able to get back into the race car at our team test at the MSR Houston facility. This test proved to be a step in the right direction as we focused on the comparison and differences between the Pirelli and Hankook tires and adapting to new set ups for the 2019 season. Although it is always hard to objectively decipher how your lap times in testing would compare to others, based off of the conditions and the lap times regularly set at MSR Houston, we left Texas faster on the Hankook tires, feeling confident heading into Road Atlanta.
With Easter being the Sunday of race week, our schedule began early with a Promoter Test Session Wednesday, followed by a regular weekend schedule Thursday through Saturday. I was unable to compete at Road Atlanta last year, so it was important for me to try and maximize the first split session Wednesday morning to come to grips with the circuit. Throughout the test day we felt happy with the car’s setup on both used and sticker tires.
Throughout the weekend, we kept improving the car and myself as a driver. It felt good to fully shake the off-season rust and get back into the groove of things. The weekend was highlighted by a fifth-place finish in Race 2 after starting from the eighth position and falling back to outside the top 10 on Lap 1. However, after post-race penalties, I was promoted to a fourth-place finish. This was my best finish so far in the F4 U.S. Championship.
I also set the third fastest lap in Race 2, which meant I would be starting in the third for Race 3. I got a great start in Race 3 and was in second place by the first turn. I was pleased to have challenged for the lead for the first few laps until an untimely mistake caused me to spin on the exit of turn 5. I just carried too much speed across the apex trying to get a run into turn 6 and it cost me.
Fortunately, I was able to stay on track and continue the rest of the race. However, all in all, considering where we were last year at this time, I am really proud of the whole Gas Monkey Energy Alliance Racing Team and I look forward to us continuing this momentum and speed into the second round of the F4 U.S. Championship at Pittsburgh International Race Complex June 21-23.