After I informed my buddy Tony Bartone, the NHRA funny car driver, I was off to race in New Jersey, told me he used to run around in South Jersey.
During my drive to the track I made a mental note to ask him if he was actually lost, because for the life of me I couldn’t find too much along the way that would entertain the larger-than-life Mr. Bartone.
I would believe he was on his way to Atlantic City however; now that makes much more sense. I really did enjoy my nice scenic drive from Philadelphia airport as I made my way to Millville, NJ and Thunderbolt Raceway.
I live in Florida these days and have become a self-admitted hurricane nerd and part time weather junkie. I mention this for good reason, there was a nor’easter coming to New Jersey and we were going to be right in the middle of it.
I arrived Wednesday night and by Thursday morning, we were wet and windy. Most of Thursday’s practice was wet, and all of Friday’s. My opinion is it’s never great to have rain as it sucks for the fans, but there was no doubt I was very quick in all the wet practice.
I’m not sure I mentioned this, but Thunderbolt Raceway is a brand new circuit at the New Jersey Motorsports Park. Add that to the Belle Isle, Michigan layout I raced a month ago in SCCA Speed GT, and that makes the 65th and 66th circuits I’ve raced on over the years, and the 28th and 29th in the States.
You might look at the flat, featureless topography at Thunderbolt raceway and wonder where the owners got the “Thunderbolt” name for it, not to mention its adjoining circuit named “Lightning,”. I was actually beginning to think it was for the weather we were experiencing, but I would be wrong. The two tracks were named after the P-38 Thunderbolt and Lightning WW2 fighter planes as they were made here in a factory at what is now the Millville Airport. See, there’s a reason for everything and it’s not always the weather.
My Team Remington Cadillac CTS-V and I arrived here second in the Speed GT points --second to my friend Randy Pobst and his Porsche, but the gap Randy has is an amazing 116 points. Equally as bad, Cadillac is second to Porsche by a 53-39 margin in the manufacturers’ championship.
It finally stopped raining before Friday’s qualifying, so that was held on a drying track. Basically whoever got a good lap closest to the red flag that ended the session eight minutes early was doing well. I lucked out and ended up 3rd but Michael McCann, my teammate was just warming up and did not finish his best lap, so he ended up starting 13th.
The race was another defensive battle for me and my Remington Cadillac. I felt we had a 6th place car as our dry setup was certainly guess work. I was able to hold onto third in the race until Eric Curran steamed by me on the fifth lap, but got back the position a few laps later when Eric’s car had an alternator die.
I had tremendous pressure from Michael Galati, Brian Simo and Jason Daskalos at various times, too, but managed to hold on to finish 3rd.