So far, the highlight has been winning the 2007 National Championship in the GT Lite class. But my racing life goes back well before that. In fact, I go back a lot longer than my age would suggest.
My father, George, raced a Sunbeam Alpine and Lotus Cortina before I came along, and got involved in the administrative side of the sport (he was eventually elected to the SCCA Board of Directors and served as Chairman). So, I grew up in SCCA and attended my first racing event, a drivers’ school at Blackhawk Farms Raceway, at around four months old.
When I turned 16, I started doing autocross events – which I was absolutely horrible at, I have to say. At 18, as a rite of passage, I was given the opportunity to attend drivers’ school and figure out what racing is all about. Needless to say, I stuck with it.
There were two avenues that linked me with Honda from the very beginning. One was former National Champion Fred Fiala, a close friend of the family, who was selling a Showroom Stock CRX. The other link was another National Champion, Jim Dentici, and his King Motorsports shop. Jim was building some really good, solid Honda racecars, so we bought the car from Fred and brought it to King Motorsports to prepare. I met my other teammate, Bob Clark, through Jim, and he remains my crew chief today.
The link to Jim Dentici, Bob Clark and Honda is what keeps me on track today. I drive one of the cars Jim built, and he still builds my engines and preps my car. Plus, he keeps me honest on the track by racing me hard and often beating me, as he did recently at the June Sprints.
I raced a variety of cars between that first CRX we bought from Fred Fiala and the GTL CRX I have now. I raced in the Improved Touring category for about eight years, then in E Production with a King Motorsports-built Honda Prelude. But when I had an opportunity to buy one of Jim’s Mugen-built tubeframe CRXs – I now own two – I jumped at it, and that became my National Championship-winning car.
So that link to Jim has been critical to my racing success. He had quite a reputation for building good cars and being one heck of a race driver, so I grew up with a healthy respect for him. Jim always gives me good equipment and I believe he takes a great deal of pride in seeing another generation of racers exploit the work he’s done in the past. I know he views his cars as his legacy in some sense. We fight hard on track, and there’s a huge ego battle between the two of us, but it’s all good-natured, it’s all on the track, it’s all for fun and it’s all for everybody’s success.
We’re looking for more success at this year’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. To be honest, we have a bit of a battle ahead. The GT Lite rules dictate a smaller engine restrictor plate this year, which has actually slowed our lap times by about eight seconds on the four-mile course. We’ve been struggling to figure out how these single-inlet restrictors work, and what kind of engine configuration we need. I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say we’ve built more engines this year trying to figure it out than we have in my entire prior racing life.
That said, I wouldn’t have entered the Runoffs and committed the time and resources if I didn’t think we’d do well. Until everybody shows up and shows what they have, we don’t really know. But I do have a great deal of faith in Jim’s ability to build engines.
Beyond this year, we might actually look at some type of historic racing. The cars are still competitive in SCCA Club Racing, but these were significant cars with the Mugen input they had. They’re FIA-spec cars, constructed by people who moved into the Formula 1 world. We think it’s time to start showing how exotic these tubeframe cars were, establishing their legacy and how important they were in the history of North American motorsports.
Because they are custom-built, most of the parts are, too. That keeps us from taking advantage of some of the benefits that the Honda Racing Line program offers grassroots racers. But I can’t begin to explain how valuable it is to have help from the Honda guys in lobbying for rules changes, interpreting the rules, and helping us to adapt to whatever adjustments we have to make over the winter.
Having a relationship with somebody like Lee Niffenegger (Senior Engineer at Honda Performance Development), for example … being able to send an e-mail and say, “What do you think about this? Are there better ways of doing it?” is important. Having someone within Honda Performance Development who has greater resources, a greater reach, to bounce ideas off, or to ask for a broader view of products or technology … those kinds of things are very valuable to us.
I hope that, along with a little luck, those kinds of resources, plus having the car- and engine-building expertise of Jim Dentici at my back, are going to lead me to another National Championship in the near future.
If you’re a racer in a Honda or with Honda power, don’t forget to register for the Honda Racing Line program at www.hondaracingline.com.
Honda Racing Line is proud to offer original equipment replacement parts, performance parts and crate engines to Honda and Acura grassroots racers in the entry-level through professional ranks.