It’s hard to believe that the 2018 season is almost over. Only one race left! I’m not sure where the time went but this season has definitely been a memorable one so far. I’ve won races with the CORE autosport team and we’re currently in contention for the IMSA Prototype championship. And of course, we couldn’t have had the success we’ve had without the help of Continental Tire.
As the race season ends, so does Continental’s time in the IMSA series. They have been part of the fabric of our sport for almost 10 years and have become part of the IMSA family. I can’t say enough about the hard work and dedication each-and-every person puts in to making sure we have the best tire possible week-in and week-out. And that’s not an easy task. When you factor in IMSA’s rules, the many different tracks, multiple classes of cars, multiple car manufacturers, and driving styles…building a tire to meet all those needs is not for the faint of heart.
While I had raced on Continental tires at the Rolex 24, my first real experience with Continental came in 2013 when they became the official tire of the PC class in ALMS competition. In fact, our first race was at Sebring that year and the first time on Continentals, I was able to go out and qualify on the PC pole and set a new track record. From there, we continued to build many memories together.
One of my fondest memories on Continental tires came later in 2013 when I was picked to drive the Michael Shank Racing Ford EcoBoost-powered Daytona Prototype car to attempt the fastest lap around the 2.5-mile oval of Daytona. I’m happy to report that it was a success and I was able to clock in at 222.971 mph. We also set a couple FIA records as well that day. It was a really special day for me. Daytona is the place I got my first professional sports car win in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series with a Ford-powered DP car and it’s such a historic place. I mean, we beat Bill Elliott’s record of 210.264 mph which had stood since 1987! That’s pretty cool!
I know there was a lot of work that went in to that day. From Jim France, to Mike Shank, to the people at Ford, Roush Yates Engines, and of course, the team at Continental Tire. To build a tire that will withstand the kind of downforce created on the oval at Daytona under normal race circumstances is a challenge. But to create a tire to do what we asked of it that day is simply incredible. I can’t thank them enough for the time and effort they put into building a durable tire to get the job done.
Over the years, Jon (Bennett) and I have racked up three championships, countless wins – including wins at the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring, and numerous pole awards…all while riding on Continental tires. At CORE, we’ve also raced on Conti’s in the PC, GTD and P classes and no matter the class, their engineers and at-track team really went out of their way to build the best tire possible for us each week. Their knowledge, expertise and track-side services are second-to-none and will certainly be missed.
In addition to Continental’s efforts on-track, I want to take a minute to recognize their efforts off-track too. It has been cool to see their huge display at the track each week along with a sea of fans wearing Continental Tire hats. They really went all out to try and make the entire IMSA experience a memorable one for fans. And their support of the drivers and teams and our charitable efforts and side projects has been great too. Of course, I’m personally grateful for the opportunity to write this blog for all of you for two years running now. It’s been a lot of fun to share some insider knowledge about what we are going through at the track. I hope all of you have enjoyed it.
Time to go start preparing for Petit Le Mans. Our CORE autosport team has worked so hard this year. While we had 2 great results to start the season at Daytona and Sebring, the next few races were tough, but we’ve really been able to pick up some steam here through the summer. Jon has had some fantastic drives and our strategy has been on-point. While we probably aren’t a favorite for the championship, I certainly wouldn’t count us out. We’re certainly going to work as hard as we can to bring home the big trophy.
Thank you to the fans for reading my blogs. And to Continental Tire, we “Celebrate YOU” and all you’ve done for our sport! Thank you for your continued support over the years. Looking forward to seeing you at a race track somewhere soon!