At last, the 2011 Continental Tire Series season has come to an end. It's been a hard year in many ways, but the success that we've had wouldn't mean much if it was easy. As the war drums fell quiet, we walked out of the dust with a second place finish, both at the final race and in the season's point standings.
The season had a rough start at Daytona, just like we had in the 2010 season. However, this year's problem at Daytona was much more dramatic. As you may remember, an engine problem put us out of the race last year. This year, our run ended here early in the race with a crash at turn one. It was a heart-breaking blow for our team, but we pulled ourselves together and dug ourselves out of that hole.
From there, things got better, a lot better. With only one exception, we podiumed at every single event after Daytona. That one exception was at Laguna Seca, where my co-driver, Billy Johnson, was hit in the left rear and run off the road due to no fault of his own. The result of these events was both a broken radiator and front sway bar. Excluding these two poor finishes due to unfortunate incidents, our average finish for the season was 1.875. It'd be nice if we could take a mulligan on these two rough finishes. However, that's not a reality in racing, at least not in our series or any that I know of.
Season Performance Stats
Here is a list of our finishes for the season:
- Daytona (January 28): 71st (crash)
- Homestead (March 5): 2nd
- Barber Motorsport Park (April 9): 3rd
- VIR (May 14): 1st
- Lime Rock Park (May 28): 3rd
- Watkins Glen (June 3): 1st
- Road America (June 24): 2nd
- Laguna Seca (July 9): 41st (off-road incident)
- New Jersey Motorsports Park (July 23): 1st
- Mid-Ohio (September 17): 2nd
Here are some year-over-year stats showing the improved performance that we had over last year:
- 2010: 3rd
- 2011: 2nd
- 2010: 2
- 2011: 3
- 2010: 6
- 2011: 8
One of the most notable races this year for me personally was Road America. Although I had been to this track as a child traveling with my father, I had never driven on the track before, at least not in the real world. Starting months before the event, I spent as much time as possible at Road America in the iRacing.com simulator, studying the subtleties of each turn. As expected, the simulator was very accurate. As the real-life event weekend began, I was instantly quick and only got faster as the weekend went on.
Unfortuntely, we had a shock go bad for qualifying. So, we didn't have a great starting position (12th), and early in the race, we had to do serve a drive-through penalty for contact with a BMW in an incident which was arguably unavoidable for us.
Another interesting point to talk about for this race was the advantage that the Camaro's had just been given. At this point in the year, Grand-Am had just removed the requirement for them to have a restrictor on their 6.2 liter engine. They were also at a comparable weight to our Mustang. Meanwhile, the current rules stated that we were to have a restrictor on our 5.0L engine. Yet another point is that Road America has a lot of long straights, which naturally favor cars with more horsepower. Despite all of this, we battled through the field and contended for the win right up until the final green flag lap.
It's been a wild ride this year. There is a lot of great talent on the teams competing in Grand-Am. So, like I said earlier, success is hard to come by here, but when you achieve it, it has real meaning, and as much as we (and every other team) may grumble when a call is made that we don't feel is fair, I have to hand it to Grand-Am. They do an excellent job at keeping vehicles that are so fundamentally different competitive with one another. I, for one, wouldn't want their job.
At the beginning of this year, we transitioned from the older FR500C platform (2005-2009 body style Mustang) to the new Boss 302R. Ford Motor Company has created another great platform for the track and the street with this new car. I personally take great pride in piloting our ROUSH Mustang race car, which uses the same Ford Mustang platform that you can drive on the street, against premium brand-vehicles from around the world.
I also can't thank our sponsors and partners enough for all that they do to support us: ROUSH Performance, PWR, MechanixWear, Sparco, GoPro, USANA, Ford, the US Army Engineering Directorate, and BMRS. Not only do these companies help us in our pursuit of victories, but they are also quality companies that I am proud to be associated with and promote.
The ROUSH Performance team as a whole did more than I could have asked for this year. To Brad Francis, Jeff Campey, Billy Johnson, and all of the crew and guys back at the shop, I humby give thanks for all that you do. From the engineering side, preparing our race car long before unloading at the track, to the guys going over the wall to slam on a new set of tires and fill the car with fuel, our team is a major force to recon with. Even when walking from the podium after winning our races this year, we were immediately discussing what could have gone better and how we could improve heading into the next race. It's that intense desire to improve that has brought us our success this year and that we will bring to the table for our chase for the championship in 2012. Goal #1 for us in 2012 is to leave Daytona with a good finish to have a solid start in the point standings.
But this year isn't quite over yet. The season is over, but we have cars being prepared in the shop, and we have a couple of Grand-Am sanctioned test sessions coming up in October and November. As for my own preparation, I'm practicing locally with my new track car, at the gokart track, on iRacing.com, and I may even be going to a rally school with Billy Johnson to develop some new skills and refine old ones. And of course, I'm continuing to push my level of fitness with exercise and nutrition. Stay tuned for more updates on all of these soon.
-Jack Roush Jr.