2017 Pikes Peak Climb Race Report
We are happy to report another successful year on the peak. It was not an easy one! We had to overcome a hard crash during a practice session 2 weeks prior to the event. I was fine after the crash, but the car was not. My first thought after climbing out was that I wasn’t going to be able to make the event anymore or even any race during the season. The car was buried in the trees and had extensive damage on the left side. They say it is not a matter of if, but when you crash. I have been lucky in my short career to not have a bad one. This one was bad. I was being stupid. The roads were wet from overnight rain. I still had on old slick tires. I was trying to push it.
This is were the car ended up. Buried in the trees. I was very thankful to be unharmed.
The reason? The turbos sent a boost of energy to the car at the wrong time as I was on a slight kink in the road after a tight left hand chicane. With the wet roads, the car lost grip and I started skidding to the left. Counter steering the car to the right was not enough and I left the road at about 70 mph. It is a surreal feeling to have the car leave the ground and start rotating to the left in mid air. I knew the steering wheel could help me no more so I took my hands off and brought them to my chest in a crossing pattern. I felt the first hit and it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Later I realized it was a 10 in diameter tree that I chopped completely in half that softened the blow. The next hit was not so soft. Very hard and abrupt. It was another tree, but it did not give and it rotated the car to the left. The car was stopped at this point, but pine needles and small branches were still flying around and falling all around me. I was fortunate that all the crash did was take my breath away.
What happened next is an example of perseverance and true friendship. After writing the car off and heading to a college friend’s wedding, I got a text from my racing buddies asking if I still wanted to practice the next day; they thought they could fix it in time. And that is what they did. There are no words to describe what Rodney O'Maley, Earl O'Maley, David Meyer, Jonathan Meyer, and Nick Strohl did for me. Rodney and Earl finished everything up to complete the all nighter and we met to go back to the hill with my car full of parts salvaged from their own cars. Hopping back on the saddle was the best thing I could have done to shake my nerves and regain the confidence needed to take on such a challenge. It's acts like this that defines what it means to be have such a tight-knit racing family. Thank you guys!
Here is the car less than 24 hours after the crash! Nobody could believe that we could put things back together!
After the weekend, there was still some clean up to do on the car and it was a feverish 2 weeks.
I was still a little apprehensive as we started practicing during the week leading up to race day. I took a cooler approach and slowly built up speed for every run. It was more methodical and paced. I was putting down times comparable to last year and I was at least happy about that. Even cooler, was the fact that after qualifying, we would be the 9th car off the line and 3rd of the Open Wheel cars!
Photo Credit: Rocket West Motorsports
Another big focus of the year was to expand our footprint and what we can offer to our sponsors at the Fan Fest celebration in downtown Colorado Springs on the Friday night before the race. It was a huge success!! Our title sponsor, Overdrive Raceway, was in attendance bringing their Lamborghini Marcelino, Jeep SRT8, and one of their new shifter karts that anyone can race at their facility. We gave away tons of coupons, information booklets, and my signed hero cards.
Preparations on race day comes fast these days with qualifying near the front. Being one of the first cars off the line has its perks. Not much stress about the weather coming in and not much time to sit around and let the nerves build up. In fact, the morning goes quick with the morning mass with Layne Schranz, Opening ceremonies, Drivers meeting, and any last minute checkups on the car. This year was the first to use tire warmers. I was able to borrow them from a fellow competitor that had car troubles and wouldn’t make the start (Thanks Derek!). It was great to try them and it gave me confidence going into the first few corners with warm tires, something that I always worry about and start slow with to make sure they have grip.
Photo Credit: Dave Liddle
We ended up being a bit rushed to get the car to the line and weighed to meet the Open Wheel rules. No sooner than we got pushed off the scales were we on the starting line with the timer counting down. Normally I am amped up and twitching to see that green flag. This year was different in that I was completely calm. The focus on making a smart and strong run had overcome me and I was more determined than ever to make it to the top. The race day road proved to be slow as all the competitors were all off the pace set during qualifying runs. My experience was similar in that the road just felt slick. I finished my run not quite sure where I ended up in time or place, but I was happy to make it to the top yet again. As I was getting out of the car, one of the organizers is there to greet me with the timing app on his phone. We both wait as the timing gets updated on the phone so he can call it out. I am intently looking for a N-sound or a T-sound coming from his mouth. N for nine minutes or T of ten minutes. It ended up being what I didn’t want to hear, Ten minutes, 5 seconds. Still and improvement from last year. That netted me 2nd in class and 8th overall of the cars, also best marks. For what we went through, I was very happy with the result.
It felt so great to be up at the summit again getting to hang out with the other drivers and volunteers.
Soooo close to that ever so elusive 10 minute barrier. It will have to wait another year, but you will be damn sure I will keep coming back to try it again!
Additional Thanks to my sponsors:
Borriello Brothers New York Style Pizza
Hoosier Racing Tires