Hot off my Vegas win, I was excited to get to Sonoma to keep my winning streak going. I’ve been a Jim Russell Racing Instructor at Infineon for 13 years and have raced all kinds of cars at that track from American Le Mans to NASCAR and with a ton of success. But when it comes to drift events at Infineon, it has been a debacle! From motors randomly not starting, to gear shift levers coming off in my hand, you name it, it has happened there. I just hope my luck has changed this year.
We only had an hour practice this year before qualifying, which was a little weird but the car seemed really good at the end. For my first qualifying run I just wanted to put something down that was clean just like my practice runs. I ended up scoring an 86.0 on my first run which put me on top at that point. I was stoked because I knew that that run alone would put me probably in the top 5. This gave me the opportunity to “have at it” on my second. I wanted to back it in but did it a little early so it put me shallow in turn 1. I had to settle for my first score, which stayed at the top. I qualified first! It looked like my momentum from Vegas made its way to Sonoma. To do it at my home track in front of all my family and friends was even better.
My match up in Top 32 would be with Dennis Mertzanis. I take these early battles very serious because I have proved this year that they are not just a walk thru. My lead run was solid and Dennis had a little mistake so the advantage went to me. On the follow run, I closed up on the first otter clip and was able to stay on him thru the run. Win went to me. Dennis did a great job and it wasn’t like I was stealing candy from a baby… Dennis you know what I mean haha
My battle in the 16 was with Tanner Foust. WTF! Every top 16 battle I’ve had this year has been with a top 5 driver… except Seattle and you know how that went. I really felt like I could beat Tanner with all the data we had on him. He struggle a bit in practice and qualifying but we all know he shows up for the show! My lead run was awesome and he shollowed up a tiny bit to close the gap but I felt good about it. Before our battle I asked Tanner for the pace and he said sure but I think Steph threw the drag set up on that thing! We left the line and by the time we got to the pace cone he had almost 2 cars on me. After the pace cone his car just took off! So I really think Tanner was giving me the pace simply because how much his car took off after the pace but I think he under estimated the pace I needed. Bottom line is, he had a good 4 car lengths on me as we initiated and all I could do at that point is try and close up the gap. I drove the crap out of it into turn 1 but went a little wide. Game over. Tanner moves on to the great 8
I was stoked to qualify 1st and the 12 points that come with that. I was also really happy with how the Falken Tire 350z was all weekend and how I drove. The straight line issue will be fixed next year but it is what it is at this point. I guess I’ll just jump the lights next time hahaha. On to Irwindale where I hope to better my 2nd place from last year.