It's a very special year for me as it's the first time I'm getting a chance to compete a full season in a professional series. I am competing with JDC Motorsports in the CanTorque/Christenson Developments supported #93 entry.
After a long week at Sebring, we came out with a solid top 5 in points after a bit of bad luck plagued our races. Overall though, I was very happy with the way we were making progress and I know there was more to come.
This past weekend we competed in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for Rounds 3 and 4 of the Championship. I have very fond memories of the place as it was my first street race experience last year. Racing around the streets of a city at over 200km/h is definitely a huge thrill that I've really come to enjoy. Florida weather in March also isn't anything to complain about when you get a chance to escape -20C back home in Edmonton.
It was also the first chance my Mom had to come to one of my races (outside of the Edmonton Indy) in almost two years. Unfortunately, her plans of making it for the entire weekend were cut short due to a massive snowstorm in Edmonton. However, after almost 24 hours of travel time with delays and layovers – she finally arrived late Friday morning.
As for the on-track, right out of the gate we showed good speed and ended Practice 2 just 0.001 from 1st overall. The car balance felt great and I was really looking forward to the rest of the weekend.
The one issue we had facing us this weekend was being 6th in team points after Rounds 1 and 2. With 31 cars on the grid, this meant we had a lot of traffic (at least 15 cars) in front of us in pitlane for all of our sessions. On a track that's less than 3km long, getting clear track for a qualifying lap was extremely challenging. In the end, we did have some issues with getting a clear lap and qualified 5th for Race 1 and 6th for Race 2.
Although somewhat disappointed, the P5 starting position for Race 1 turned out to pay off well for me. With carnage in the opening corner of the race, being on the inside row allowed me to slide into 3rd right off the bat. The car felt very strong all race and I was hounding 2nd place relentlessly but could not get close enough to make a move. The streets of St. Petersburg are exceptionally rewarding to drive through – but passing opportunities are far and few between. Ultimately, I brought home our first podium of the season. Even though it was just Round 3, it felt long overdue because of the effort the JDC Motorsports guys had put in.
The car felt great once again in Race 2 and I moved up into 4th position quickly off the start. In what was almost a déjà vu of the previous day, I was challenging for 3rd the entire race. Unfortunately, we didn't get the result we wanted on this day. With 3 laps to go I had slight contact with the other driver which knocked off my front wing. I ended up limping the CanTorque/Christenson Developments/JDC Motorsports car home to 11th place rather than a step on the podium.
Although we left some points on the table, I'm pleased with the way the weekend in St. Petersburg went. Getting our first podium of the season was a huge step – I think things are going to progress upwards from here. We have shown the speed we need to compete and now we just need to put a full weekend together to fight for top spot.
Next up, we will be competing in the Night Before the 500 in Indianapolis for my first oval experience. It will be another completely new experience for me, but I'm really looking forward to the challenge. For now, we leave St. Pete 5th in points and will be doing all we can to move up in the next few rounds.
Special kudos to guests of my partner CSP for coming out and supporting me all weekend. Likewise, a huge thank you to all of my partners this season: Goldmark Diesel, Calroc Equipment, Shelemey Financial, and Universe Machine.
In the meantime, I'll be heading back to "reality" with snow, hockey, and all of the other Canadian things I've missed these past few weeks.
Until next time,
UPDATE: There's a video of Stefan's weekend in St. Pete's here.