With a few days back home in California, I headed into the office and caught up on a few things before a day off. It felt great to be back home, but having a two-week gap between races was painful. I couldn’t have been more ready to get back out on the racetrack. I’ve gotten so used to being out on the road with my team that I’m at the point where when I come home, it starts to not feel like home anymore. My team, my race car and my family are my “home.”
My friend and PR girl Sarah Adams flew into California early to help me bake some Halloween goodies for my team. I wanted to do something nice for them because they have been an amazing team and so supportive and encouraging all season long, even when I made mistakes. I think the most important thing to have out here is a team that is confident in its driver and supports him or her through the highs and the lows. I’m so fortunate to say that I have that with them. Not only are they a great group of guys, a lot of fun to be around and goofy, but they are amazing at what they do. These guys have the ability to tear apart and rebuild a Funny Car engine in a little over an hour between rounds, and with all the pressure on them to be very thorough at their job -- because one little mistake could cost us the race -- they handle it well.
We packed up and headed to Las Vegas -- which is a four-hour drive from home -- with two races left in my rookie year in Funny Car. We loaded all our suitcases, bags of shoes and goodies for the crew guys and headed for the Strip. With a carful of girls singing every '90s pop and rap song we could find on our iPod, we finally made it.
Bruton Smith built an amazing racetrack at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I always look forward to racing there because we get great conditions during night runs and the atmosphere in Vegas is exciting. We came in a couple of days early and toured the Las Vegas Strip, trying out restaurants in the Monte Carlo and even going to a nightclub. We had a lot of fun before it was time to get back to business.
On Thursday I headed out to Fremont Street in old Las Vegas with some of the other NHRA race car drivers for autographs and pictures with the fans.
We had a busy weekend at the track and even got to run the hot pink Breast Cancer Awareness Funny Car for one last race and finish off October. We made some great runs during qualifying and ended up in the top half of the field, gaining lane choice in the first round for eliminations on Sunday. We won first and second round, and I was up against Jack Beckman in the semifinal round. There was a lot of pressure because we really needed that win if we wanted to help our teammate, Mike Neff, move up in the points chase for the championship. I was so nervous and had practiced my lights all day long. I got so fired up wanting to get that win for our team; I ended up red-lighting. I was so bummed and hard on myself for letting these guys down but came back to a pit area full of support. I apologized for making a mistake, and they told me it just shows them how bad I want to win and shows how hard I’m trying for it.
It’s been a great season so far, and I’m proud of the way it has been going for my rookie year. I’ve learned that you will win some and you will lose some, but you have to make mistakes in order to learn. It’s about sticking together to come out on top the next weekend and keeping each other motivated. We’re testing after the race in Vegas, then heading to the Specialty Equipment Market Association auto show for an appearance before heading back to California to get ready for the biggest race of the season -- the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, Calif.
My team has been nominated for the Full Throttle Hard Working Crew Award, and I’m going to do everything I can to help it win it. Please vote for the team.