The 2009 KONI Challenge series came to a close earlier this month. We started our new No. 61 ROUSH/Valvoline Mustang team this year under the banner of Horsepower Ranch. With it came plenty of challenges, especially on the side of bizarre mechanical problems: a failed brake line, a loose wheel, failed suspension parts (three separate times), etc.
However, looking over this season our new team has done very well and I'm proud of what we have accomplished in these ten short months. We've run very well at most every track that we've been to this season. This could not be more clearly seen than in the string of podium finished that we had late in the season: a third place finish that we had at Barber, followed by a second place finish at Trois-Rivieres, followed by a win at Miller. There was also that second place finish in our very first race as a team at Daytona, and another third in the season-finale at VIR, although that was taken away with a 45-second penalty when Billy Johnson, my co-driver, was accused of blocking. It was, in my opinion, unjust, but the officials still slapped us with a penalty and officially we were scored in ninth, though we crossed the line third.
The team finished fourth in the points standings. That's pretty good for a freshman effort. I think that if we hadn't had some of those strange issues we could have been up a few standings as well, maybe even battling for the championship, but it's easy to look back and say, "If only..."
Normally, the drivers get the most credit for a team doing well, and it's true: you can't finish well without the drivers doing a very good job on the racetrack. However, like links in a chain, a good driver must have a good team behind him to finish well, and we definitely have a talented group of guys on our team. The things that happen off the track with the car preparation are just as important as the job of the driver.
Looking ahead to next year, it will not be an easy season. At nearly every race in 2009, we saw the field's lap times become significantly faster than they were the previous year, and I expect that this trend will continue. The new Camaro that debuted at VIR looks like it will be strong. There will be the same teams running the BMW and Porsche cars that are always at the front of the field. This means that the competition will be tough, but for the fans, it should make for continued great racing. Here at ROUSH, we've never shied away from a challenge. So you can expect to see us raise the bar for ourselves once again.
I'd like to give appreciation for our team's sponsors for this support in 2009. To ROUSH Performance, Valvoline, MossMuscle.com, PWR, and MechanixWear, thank you for your help!
Speaking of thanks, I also want to thank Editor Houlahan for the opportunity to write about my KONI Challenge experiences for the Modified Mustang & Fords web site this season. With the change in focus of their magazine, it doesn't seem like a late-model based racing column will fit their format in the future, but I'm still going to blog about my racing programs. If you are interested in following me, in the future I'll be posting my event stories online at www.roushperformance.com under the "News" tab.
See you at the "Roar Before the 24." January is not too many weeks away...