I came into the weekend bound and determined to pick up where I left off at my last race back in February at Palm Beach International Raceway. The entire week before Daytona, I was studying my on-board videos from last year's races at Daytona International Speedway. I picked out sections of the circuit in which I needed to improve and set goals for myself. Fast forward a few days to Sunday's qualifying session. While trying to work on my racing line and getting settled into the car for the day, I was surprised by how difficult the car was handling. In some corners the car was understeering badly, and in other corners, oversteering. I tried to drive through the handling issues resulting in a few interesting moments on track. I use the entire qualifying session to sort the car out. It's not until I get back to the garage that I learn the source of my qualifying woes...the tire pressures. Each tire had upwards of fifty pounds of air in them. This means that they are over-inflated, using less of the tread patch on the tires. There is an optimal range for air pressure, and let me tell you, these tires were not close at all.
Apart from the handling issues, I qualified very well. I ended up qualifying third in class and twelfth overall. My qualifying would set me up for the greatest and longest battle of my racing career thus far. I started next to the #41 Spec Racer Ford. He split away from me at the start, but I chased him down a few laps later and the battle was on. We swapped places, drafted, and maneuvered through lapped traffic for almost forty minutes straight. Entering corners side by side, splitting traffic on the high banking, and most importantly, pulling away from the rest of the Spec Racer Fords. Right at fifty minutes I pitted, starting our mandatory five minute pit stop. According to the team (and my girlfriend), my team's previous pit stops were great practice for mine. This "practice" made my pit stop absolutely perfect; I left the pit box at five minutes and one second. As I am exiting the pits, I watch another Spec Racer Ford pass me on the road course before International Horseshoe (a corner on Daytona International Speedway's road course). This Spec Racer would be the eventual winner of the race as I matched his pace for the final twenty-five minutes of the race. I finished the race second in class and third overall. Two podiums to wrap up my first official race start of the season! I met my goals and superseded them completely!