The entire weekend felt very mediocre. I struggled to find a good pace, my confidence was low, and made practically no passes. While I didn't do poorly, I didn't take any podiums, either.
Saturday, Novice GTU (finished 6th)
After struggling with body position all day on Friday, my left leg started developing a sharp pain on the outside of my ankle. Practice on Saturday morning only served to aggravate the issue. I went into NovU with low confidence and high anxiety from not finding a stable platform to support myself mid-corner.
I started on the inside of row 2. Got a great start, securing 2nd place behind a distant #614 Tyler Weaver (who had a FANTASTIC start). I struggled to keep up with Tyler for the next lap while he built up a few second lead on me. Trying to make up some time, I came in a little too hot in T1, not even coming close to hitting the apex: #808 Dan Spurlock passed me handily on the inside.
Over the next 6 laps, I started making mistakes (partly from the distracting pain in my leg and frustration left over from practice). I lost 1 more position each lap. #746 Jon Renk, #999 Lukas Vaznonis, #412 Christopher Jaech, #807 Philip Takahashi, #178 Nate Pike, and #128 Bobby Mills all got past me, pushing me to 9th place by the end of lap 7.
I finished in a disappointing 9th place, almost 32 seconds behind Spurlock and Renk. At least I only dropped 1 place in championship points (5th to 6th).
Saturday, Novice GTO (finished 15th)
After getting way too frustrated with my performance in NovU, I almost skipped NovO. However, my pitmate and sage mentor, Mister Doctor Andrew Schrems, suggested that I should just go out and have fun, not worrying about position or points. Especially considering that I'm already 15th in points in NovO (from missing 2 races), I thought this was a good idea. I took a deep breath, decided to not let any mistakes bother me, and just went out and have fun.
I started from the 3rd row. I got an okay start, finding myself mid-pack by turn 1. I kept myself calm and focused on making good lines and not worrying about laptimes or position. I got passed a bunch, but had a much better time (despite my ankle still hurting every time I made a right turn). Finished in 15th place with mediocre laptimes, but I got some much-needed practice in the new T8-T9 West Course section.
Sunday, Amateur GTU (finished 8th)
After raising up my left footpeg a bit, my left leg was feeling much better. The pain was pretty much gone and I got through Sunday morning practice without issue. I also took some time Saturday night to really check my mindset. I needed to step back and take a deep breath. I was starting to take this a bit too seriously. I felt in a much better mood on Sunday morning.
For my first race on Sunday, I started from the second row, with a clear path in front of me (after #110 Nick Kaplan crash out of his endurance race the previous afternoon). #224 Jim Hinton and I both had really good starts, getting out front of #48 Jared Dear. Jim, however, managed to stay out front of Jared while I slid into 3rd place for T1.
I kept up as best I could for a while, maintaining 3rd place for the next lap and a half while Jared and Jim battled it out for 1st. At the end of my second lap, #808 Dan Spurlock made a clean inside pass in T8, pushing me back to 4th.
The race was about to get very interesting. Coming down the back straight, I could hear another bike pretty close behind me. I could tell someone was nipping at my heels in T4 and T5. Knowing that other riders often try to dive in too early for T6, I took a very late turn-in and apex to hold onto my drive out of the turn. Smart move; sure enough, #22 Mick Derner passed me on the inside, taking an early apex. I passed him right back, though, since his line (and being in the wrong gear) killed his drive out of the corner.
Coming up the hill for T7, I knew he was right behind me, so I tried to run defensive lines to keep him at bay. Coming into T8, I thought he may try to do the same thing he did in T6, so I turned in late (taking the fast line). In hindsight, I should've turned in earlier for a defensive line: as I turned in, he was coming off the brakes on the inside leaving no room to slow down before 'lightly' hitting me. His front tire hit my leg, and his nose scraped my tail.
Thankfully, this is the slowest corner of the circuit and neither of us went down. Unfortunately, though, #614 Tyler Weaver was able to take advantage of the situation and passed us both on the outside of T9 while we regained composure. Mick passed me on the brakes coming into T1, waving an apology. Still slightly shaken up, I left too much room on the inside of T2, letting #746 Jon Renk get past me, dropping me to 7th place.
A few laps later, after getting held up on lapped traffic, #807 Philip Takahashi made an outside pass in T9. I almost passed him back coming into T4 (since he had braked pretty early), but I couldn't make up the distance in time. I finished 8th, about 1.5 seconds behind Philip.
Sunday, Amateur GTO (finished 9th)
For AmO, I started on the inside of the 3rd row. I had an okay start, finding myself in 9th by T3. One of the big-bikes got in front of me in the straight, and I found myself in 10th.
Two laps later, on the brakes into T1, I made my first and only pass of the weekend, securing 9th place for the rest of the race. However, #808 Dan Spurlock was right behind me the whole time. I managed to keep him at bay, though, by trying to run defensive lines and get as good of a drive out onto the straights as I could. I finished in 9th place, 0.2 seconds ahead of Dan.