I hadn't planned on writing many race reports because honestly I wasn't sure if I would have anything worth writing about. I entered this season with low expectations, but with a decent season debut at Round 1 I started to have high hopes for the season. Going into Round 2 I was confident and was turning really good lap times during the lapping day despite never having ridden that track. Race day, however, would prove to be a different challenge. Finally getting a good grid spot I figured if I get a good launch, jocky for position, play defense and be consistent I would maybe have a shot at top 5 finish. Sounded good in my head, but I was wrong. Once on the grid my nerves and adrenaline were through the roof...and it showed. A bad launch coupled with a mis-shift made me change my game plan on the fly...now it's time to play catch up. Again, this would prove to be a bad decision, running turns wide, braking way too late, aggressive passes and eventually low-siding out of the race with the bike taking a killshot to take me out for the weekend as I didn't have or couldn't have found the parts I needed. With lowered confidence and rattled nerves I felt like I was back to square 1.
Enter Round 3! I'm no stranger to competitive racing, but the mental game is one that I've always struggled with, especially coming off an injury or this case...a wreck. I went through some of my old sports psychology material trying to get my head right and felt pretty good starting the lapping day. Having ridden PMP before I felt like I knew the track enough to go out and run some good lap times to get a good baseline for the weekend, but the race gods had other plans. With a good warm up lap I decided to push a bit harder the second time around, once again proving I make terrible decisions. I apexed way too early in turn 1 and immediately knew I was in trouble so I decide to stand the bike up and hit the brakes with the intention of running off the track. This is nothing new. I've done it before and this time felt no different except for a giant gopher hole waiting for me just off the track. This jumped the bike about 5ft before landing and eventually twisting and bucking me off with serious damage to the bike, but I was okay thanks to the air bag in my suit. After having a few choice words in a dust cloud which I'm glad I didn't get on camera we loaded up the bike and trailered it to the pit.
Examining the bike up close only made it worse. I was 100% demoralized and confused at how I could be so stupid. To say it was an emotional moment would be an understatement and looking to Coop DeVille for a pep talk was less than effective because while I was looking for empathy all I got disappointment, and rightfully so...I was f****** up. After a phone call with my wife Kelly Schmich Wright who has in the past been...unpleased with my racing was now very supportive and encouraging and even offered to come out even though at the time it seemed I was done for the weekend which was very uplifting.
So by now I've had an hour or two to kick rocks and finally decide I'm not blowing another weekend. No one is going to help you unless you're willing to help yourself...give the bike another look over to assess damage...roger that; time to get to work!
Mike, Eric and Phil really stepped up for me and I couldn't have been more appreciative and really showed this team is about much more than just racing. I sent Mike to my garage to pick up any spare parts I knew I might need and Phil grabbed material to do patching on my fairings. While Eric and I went to work on my radiator and tail section Phil was working his magic and does a damn fine job considering what he had to work with. Around 11pm the bike was put back together 100% which was a damn miracle considering the entire front end had been pulled at one point and given a not so good diagnosis. Get some sleep and wake up bright and early to go through tech and make any final fixes if needed. Pass tech with no problems. Take her out during practice to see how everything felt and decide I'm racing.
I knew Saturday was going to be nice and easy. I was conservative during practice with the intention to push a bit more during the races, but couldn't, my head still wasn't right. I took corners in a gear higher than I normally would have as a failsafe to not make any mental errors and while it was a safe, smart play, it obviously showed in my results and will eventually hurt me in Round 4.
After Friday's events just getting through Saturday in one piece was a win in itself. I felt good about that and surprisingly the bike felt good too. Sunday went much better. Although I got kicked back to 2nd wave in AMGTU I went back to my normal game plan and tried to make a push to catch the 1st wave if I could. I wasn't able to go as fast as I wanted, but I ended up shaving 7 seconds off my lap times from Saturday which was a huge improvement not only for my confidence, but as a good test to verify the bike was working as it should despite some issues that will eventually need to be fixed. I closed out the weekend on a high note with high hopes for Round 4. As of now parts are on order and repairs are in the works. It'll be good to get back home to HPR and tried to salvage points. I'm pretty sure I'll be in 2nd waves for all races, but if I ride at a consistent level I should be able to fight my way back up. So we'll see.
Special thanks to Christopher Jaech, Kevin Madden, Mike Daugherty, Phillip Y Takahashi, Erik Maxwell