It's now been a few weeks since our first KONI Sports Car Challenge race of the season in Daytona. As you may know, we had a great run with a second-place finish. Now, our next event at Homestead begins in just a couple of weeks, scheduled for March 13-15. That may sound like a lot of time still, but it's not, especially when you consider how much our team has been up to.
Also you may have heard that my teammate's car, the No. 60 Sunset Hills Vineyard Mustang, was damaged in an opening-lap crash at Daytona. The damage to the car has been fixed, thanks to the hard work of our crew back at the Horsepower Ranch shop. As for me, fortunately we did not have any significant repairs to make on the No. 61 ROUSH/Valvoline Mustang from the race.
What we do have, though, is a brand new Ford FR500C Mustang race car that will be making its debut at Homestead. We bought the car in December, which made prepping it in time for Daytona virtually impossible. Even for Homestead, it won't be a cakewalk to get it ready in time. Thoroughly prepping a new race car takes a lot more time than it may seem. I really have to hand it to Quinn, Brad, and the whole crew at the shop. They've been working like crazy, and it shows.
There's a lot of significance in this new car for me. It will be the first time that we (the "ROUSH" company) have owned a KONI Challenge car. In all of my racing in this series previously, it's been in other people's cars, though we participated at least to some degree in preparing them. That was even true at Daytona this year. We rented that Mustang from Mike Canney. The last ROUSH-owned car that I raced in was my drag racing car (a '01 ROUSH Mustang which my sister Susan has since taken over for her NMRA racing program), in 2006. Before that, it was all go-karts.
So why is this significant? There are a number of reasons, but the biggest is that it symbolizes a final step in taking the racing program back in-house. Back in 2006, I did some drag racing, and I wanted very badly to take a step forward in my racing career. The tough question was just what direction that step should be in.
I could have continued on the drag racing path which I started down--drag racing is a lot of fun. The exhilaration of nailing the lights and controlling the split second explosion down the track is awesome. It was also very rewarding to be involved with my father and the special projects department at ROUSH in getting the car ready.
On the other hand, I wanted give this road racing thing a try, though it wouldn't be in a ROUSH-owned vehicle for the foreseeable future. So, the involvement of ROUSH (including my father) in the program would be very much limited, at least in the short-term. However, I felt strongly that I was born to road race. I had done it successfully since I was six years old, and I believed that as I develop in my racing career, the best choice would be to stick with what I've been hard-wired for.
At the same time, I had a lot to learn about how to road race a full-sized vehicle like the Mustang. So, I took the risk and tried what I thought would be the most rewarding program in the end. I don't regret that decision for a second--and here we are. We have a new shop in Mooresville, North Carolina; we have a brand-new race car; with Hugh Plumb we have one of the best co-drivers in the series; and we have a great team with Mike Canney and Horsepower Ranch.
For me, it's a bit like coming home. I started my career with my father helping me work on the go-karts we raced. Now he is helping me with the KONI Challenge Mustang that we race.