35,000 FEET ABOVE THE ATLANTIC – Just like that it’s all over. The fun nights, close battles and unpredictable British weather have come to an end after nearly six months. It has been an incredible journey and feels just like yesterday when I arrived in the U.K. Today I left Brigstock which by now had become a second home. The trip to Heathrow gave me a few moments to reminisce about my times across the pond as I looked out the window at the British countryside one last time. It was odd to think that I was leaving Cliff and Michelle Dempsey and what I had come to know in England. It saddened me a bit but I was happy leaving with how everything went. Securing a podium at the Walter Hayes Trophy and finishing in the top five at the Formula Ford Festival were some of the top highlights of my career thus far. Recently it was brought to my attention that I was the first Team USA Scholarship driver to finish in the top five at both events. Something that was eye opening but very rewarding knowing that everyone’s hard work and sacrifice this year had truly paid off.
As you read this you may realize I’m heading home nearly two weeks after the Walter Hayes Trophy, and for a very good reason. After the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy I was offered the opportunity to test a British Formula 3 car at the famed Donington Park. To say I was excited is an understatement. To say I was thunderstruck would be more accurate.
It didn’t take me long to feel the difference between a Formula 3 car and a Formula Ford. As soon as I exited pits and got onto the throttle the rear tires instantly spun up and I could feel what real power was like but what struck me even more was the sheer amount of grip there was in the corners. Every lap I felt like I could brake later and later and the car continued to grip. To give some perspective into the insane level of grip present, going into the Old Hairpin corner at Donington Park, a 90-degree right, I was quickly downshifting to fifth gear and then instantly stomping on the throttle. So to sum it up in two words the experience was ludicrously fun. I can’t thank Douglas Motorsport enough for the opportunity and letting me use their facilities throughout the season. They are some great people running a very professional program.
Now as I write this we are currently passing the southern tip of Greenland – a view I thought I would be passing on more flights this year between America and the U.K. Due to the ongoing pandemic, my stay in the UK was uninterrupted which made for some lonely times away from family but also for many learning experiences in living away from home. Unfortunately with only a few days left in my stay in the UK, my dog Bear had to go through surgery to save her life. Luckily she has been doing well and we are picking her up after arriving home this evening. It definitely wasn’t the news I wanted to hear over 4000 miles away from home but as I learned through my time away, there is only so much one can do from afar.
Living overseas also taught me the importance of independence and positivity; something that I truly have taken to heart since I have been in the UK. When things go wrong – and in racing they go wrong quite often – I had to hold my head high and not let myself be defined by rough moments. It was very tough sometimes but made me a stronger person. As cliche as this may sound, I not only improved as a driver but as a person. The lessons and independence I’ve gained will help me for the rest of my life, in and out of the race car. I have to credit the people around me during my stay in the UK for helping me improve all around as an individual. Such as the Dempseys, Andy Low who did a phenomenal job in his first year as a team owner, and my mechanic Andrew Jones who showed me the power of Welsh choir music, something I will never forget.
For now silly season has commenced and I’m looking forward to what next year will bring. Some more testing is coming up soon and I’m eager as ever to get behind the wheel. I owe it once again to thank everyone involved with the Team USA Scholarship: Doug Mockett, AERO Paints, the RRDC and SAFEisFast.com, Tom Gloy, Team Cooper Tires, The Stellrecht Company, Chip Ganassi Racing, Styled Aesthetic, PitFit, Sparco USA, Bell Helmets, Dyson Racing, MPEC NAPA Auto Parts, Imperial Motors Jaguar of Lake Bluff, and last but certainly not least is Jeremy Shaw for making this all happen. It just goes to show how there are so many good people in motorsport, supporting the next generation, despite the hardships brought on by a global pandemic. To them I say thank you and they have earned my deepest respect. Until next time.