Running at Wall Speedway is always unique experience because of its challenging track surfaces. The banked straightaway leading up to an even steeper banked corner lined with smashed up guardrails, the harsh transition from the banking to the flat infield and bumpy “woops” across the figure 8 infield section. I was actually really looking forward to drifting back at Englishtown Raceway. That track’s fast entry road course layout suits my driving style a bit better. But after getting reaquainted with all of the unique characteristics of Wall’s oval course, I began liking the course more and more as the event went on.
During the qualifying, I pushed a bit too hard coming off the banking and spun going into the first right hander. So I decided to play it safe and run the last qual run conservative just to make a clean pass to make sure I get a score in. That conservative run put me in the 26th spot which lined me up with Justin Pawlak running the Bergenholtz Mazda RX-8.
We started off the Top 32 tandem battle with me following and during the run I noticed that I had more speed than him going through the banking and main infield corners. I was able to easily keep up with him throughout the entire course. Seemed like his car made a lot of power from the way it revved up and smoked, but would hold deeper angles causing him to drift slower because of it’s longer wheelbase. When I lead I just ran my wide qualifying lines and hit all of my clips not making any errors. Or so I thought. During that lead run, I was paying attention to Doug, the starter and basically took off when he pointed at the christmas tree thinking it was a signal to go like how he did in practice. Found out that I jumped the light unknowingly and noticed Justin looking at me all pissed at the end of the run. Haha, my bad. Luckily the judges gave us a one more time so we can run it properly. Having ran on my Falken Azenis RT-615 tires all day through practice and qual. They finally ran out and had to switch to some fresh rubber. I called 5 mins to switch to new tires and the Garage Boso crew was on hand to perform a Nascar type pit stop and was quickly back on track to run again.
During our 2nd Battle, I followed him closer and stayed with him throughout the entire course. I had to check up a couple of times to prevent running into him. When I lead, I ran the same qual lines and again without making any mistakes. The judges could not declare a winner, so they asked for yet another one more time. This tandem match was shaping to out to be a pretty good battle and I was feeling more and more confident in my car and driving. Feeling pumped, I got ready to battle again. Justin this time called 5 mins to change out tires which gave me a chance to cool the car down.
We battled once more for a 3rd time, with me following again. This time I had a better launch off the line and was able to stick to him even better throughout the banking and the infield. I had to check up even more than the 2nd battle throughout both infield corners. I felt that I was even closer on his door this time and thought all I had to do was run the lead run clean. So during the lead lap I just did the same as before and ran my wide qual lines and got through the whole track error free. I parked at the end of the track awaiting for the results, feeling confident that I won this long and hard fought battle. I anxiously waited for the FD official to give the signal, but when he did, he pointed at Pawlak. My heart just sunk in disbelief. I thought I had that match, but 2 out of the 3 judges thought otherwise. At least one of them thought I won. I haven’t had a good hard battle like that in a while. I feel like I am getting more comfortable in the car where I am not thinking about the way the car drives as much and am thinking more about how to run the course and with my opponent. That’s a good sign. Next time I am gonna have to make it more decisive and rub up on my opponents doors straight up. I’m now pumped for Vegas! I represented for Falken last year there and will do it again this year.
Speaking of Falken representation. I am so proud of our team this round. Falken straight sweeped the podium: 1, 2, 3! The closest I recall us taking over the podium was back in the 2005 Sonoma Round when I won 1st and JR got 3rd claiming 2 out of the 3 spots. Congrats to D.Mac, JR and Tyler for representing! I can’t wait to get back up there again. This is going to be a good year for Falken!