There's no 2nd or 3rd overall for this one, and though I was 3rd overall, Glen Mitchell had a 36 point lead on me and Dustin Hughes had 25. There was literally no way of me overcoming that with even a 1st place finish (which earns 35 points), so I dropped it to focus on the others.
This field is always strong and tough. Going into it, I was 2nd overall, and figured I'd be able to hold onto a top 3 overall if Jon Follmer didn't show. Jon is talented, and FAST (on a CBR600 even!) Hat-tip to him for a great season!
Saturday, my lack of confidence in the rear tire got in my head and I was off-pace a few seconds, but hung on for an 8th place finish. I was OK with that... Or thought I was.
Sunday, with the developments in another class (you'll read more below), I was riding VERY conservatively, to ensure that I finished, hoping I'd hang onto a 3rd overall, but had a bigger prize in my mind. I gave up 3 spots when i ran wide into T9 (the decreasing right), but throughout the race, wasn't battling very hard with anytone I was near lest I make a mistake and don't score anything! At the end, I ended up 10th. Turns out, if I had raced harder and scored 3 more points total, I could have held on to 3rd overall. Alas, I finished 4th overall for the year. However, ending up behind the likes of Dennis Pryor, Jon Follmer, and Stanislav Tambovtsev, I can still be proud of my finish. I'll probably "aww shucks" myself all winter for it, but 4th is still very good when there were 7 of us battling for the top 3 overall, and big grids of ~30 every race.
What a roller-coaster this one has been throughout the year! I was taken out once at Summit running top 5, and then took myself out at NJMP last round after setting personal bests every lap (running a really strong second at that!). Still, I was 4th in points overall, behind Dennis, Stanislav, just 2 points behind Follmer in 3rd, and just 4 head of Bitting.
Follmer came, saw, and kicked butt, taking a 2nd in this one behind Stanislav. Bitting took 4th, and I held on strong for a 5th. That finish brought me up to 3rd overall, just 2 points ahead of Bitting, but a top 3 nonetheless!!
But the big shocker for me.. Middleweight Formula 40.
Going into this, I was in second, only 6 points ahead of pit-mate and friend Paul, but also a BIG 24 points *behind* Juan Carlos Vasquez, who is an excellent racer, and whose spirit and determination I've come to really respect and admire this year. Coming on HARD was Jack Guyette though, who is blazingly fast, and despite being 31 points behind me coming into this, has been winning, A LOT. I felt I was safe from Jack's attack so long as I finished well, and needed good finishes to stay ahead of Paul as well since he runs strong, and CLEAN. I don't think he's DNF'd a race all year! This is why I ran so cautiously in the Superbike races - I absolutely HAD to finish both of these F40's to keep my second overall!
The shocker of the weekend came Saturday. Carlos was running well in the Grand Prix race (where he was leading the points overall), when Stanislav made a pass on him that was clean, but also tried to get Jack during this same pass at the apex of T7, and couldn't. Trying both was just far too aggressive and ambitious in my opinion. After getting past Carlos, he was going just too fast to make the corner and had to get HARD on the binders not to rear-end Jack, and in the process, got really loose and ran wide - Carlos had nowhere to go. Stas' rear wheel took out Carlos' front, and they were locked together for a second as Carlos crashed and somehow, Stas miraculously didn't. Unfortunately, because of the rug being pulled out from his front tire so abruptly, Carlos came down HARD, and was out for the rest of the day Saturday before he could run the F40 while he was getting medical attention.
I ended up running well in Saturday's race, taking home a 2nd behind Guyette, and suddenly found myself leading the championship, but only by 6 points! Fortunately, Carlos was cleared to race Sunday, and despite bruised ribs and a hurt left thumb, he was back up to speed, taking home a 2nd in one race, and a 4th in Sunday's Grand Prix (which won him the Cup, congrats bud!). I had my work cut out for me as I had to finish in front of, or right behind him. I got a GREAT start, and held the lead for a bit, and then Carlos came past me with a pass into T4 after I ran wide in 3c. I knew Jack was faster than I, but NEEDED him to pass both myself AND Carlos for me to take the overall. When he passed me, I found myself (for the first time) rooting for Jack as I watched them battle it out up front! :laughing: I finally saw Jack's black leathers replaced by Carlos' blue in front of me, breathed a sigh of relief, and made sure to keep enough pace to keep everyone else behind me, while not pushing too hard. I was running alone, and though my competitive spirit said "c'mon, you can go faster through here, harder through there", the big prize at the end kept me calm, I ran clean, and brought home 3rd, with Carlos in 2nd, giving me the 1st place overall by 2 points - Truly the epitome of the ups and downs of racing!
Looking back, I'm amazed at what a wild, fun, crazy roller-coaster of a year it's been. I've gained a bunch of skill, had so many experiences like none other, made many new friends and acquaintances, and wouldn't trade any of it for the world. I'm fortunate to have come through this inaugural season basically intact, and never thought at the outset that I would have won ANYTHING, let alone over a half-dozen race plaques, a race win, top 5 overall in every class I raced, a 3rd overall, and a championship?!?! Wow.
My goal for this year was simple: Build a very competitive machine in all aspects (and try my best to keep it that way, no matter what), so that if I end up sucking, I know it's all me, and not the bike. Go race said bike at every round in my chosen series, and give it my absolute all. The cards will fall where they will fall.
There are few certainties in life, and even fewer in racing, but one thing I am certain of, is there's no WAY I could have done that without all the support from:
My sponsors, helping to make this obnoxiously expensive sport *slightly* less obnoxious. Scorpion, Pit Posse, Woodcraft, Yoshimura, Vortex, Justin/Trackside Parts Club, ATech Customs, and Team Pro-motion, which thanks to Andy Reiss' awesome GPMoto race series, put the spark to my fuel to get out and race motorcycles.
Mike of Metric Devil Moto for his wisdom in servicing, setting up, tweaking the excellent Ohlins & Penske suspension, putting me on the best Pirelli tires for each track, but equally as much, your "tough love" advice, which we all know and enjoy. There's truly no way this season would have gone nearly as well without you in my corner, and even though you have faster guys with far more on the line than I, you always somehow made time to help ME be MY best. I'm eternally grateful, more than words can say.
Chris Maher/Maher Motorsports for the tuning and upcoming engine build!
Certainly, the best bike in the paddock won't win a single race if you can't get it onto the grid, and my incredible race family is to thank for that. Paul & Katharine Robson, John England, Leo & Misha Vitalin, the John Bonelli's, Enrique & Valerie Biosca, Jake the Tank Driver, Dennis Pryor, and EVERYONE else who has lent a hand or offered support, as well as all the CCS officials (especially you, David Graham!) and cornerworkers, I truly and sincerely thank you for everything.
Lastly, and most importantly, absolutely NONE of this would have happened without my truly better half, Nicole. You were right there, sharing the front seat of this crazy roller coaster with your unwavering support, patience, encouragement, cheering, (did I mention patience?), and love throughout the year. I don't know what the hell I did so right to have made you love me, but there's no one I'd rather be on this ride with.
Thanks for an amazing 2015, and I look forward to starting all over again in 2016!