I just got back from a whirlwind of a trip! Two and a half weeks ago, I had virtually nothing on my plate for the next two months. I had planned on focusing on my training and spending much needed time with family at home. I got a call on Tuesday from an American Airlines contact asking me to get on a plane on Thursday, fly to DC, catch a charter flight to Las Vegas with a whole plane-full of wounded warriors, and spend Veteran’s Weekend at the Mirage for the fourth annual “Salute to the Troops.” Two hours after that phone call, I got another phone call, this time from Eric Bachelart telling me that ALMS had requested that I test our car at the Daytona International Speedway and that I would be flying directly from there to Austin to drive the F1 three-seater at the Circuit of the America’s the week of the Austin F1 race.
Needless to say, my plans changed. Quickly.
I had participated in “Salute to the Troops” last year as a thank you to our veterans. Snowball Express had requested that I return this year as an official representative of their charity. I was honored to fly on a yellow-ribbon American Airlines aircraft from Washington, D.C. with wounded and injured troops from Walter Reed and other medical centers in the D.C. area.
When we got to the Mirage, the troops received a heroes welcome. Hundreds of hotel staff and volunteers lined the hotel corridors as we arrived to show their appreciation. The entire weekend is sponsored for these 50 wounded warriors and their spouses thanks to MGM Resorts International, American Airlines, and the USO, and they get the red carpet rolled out for them.
On Friday night, I was invited to speak at a huge banquet at the Aria with over 300 military top brass about my involvement with military charities, and specifically why I felt compelled to give back to families of our fallen military heroes. It’s because of these brave men and women that we’re all afforded the opportunities to pursue our dreams, start our own businesses, and even come to America to become a racing driver. What most of us don’t realize is the incredible sacrifices that not only our soldiers make, but the spouses and especially the children. The children don’t choose the military; they’re born into it. And everything that I can do to make their lives a little bit happier, I will do.
On Sunday and Monday, I travelled from Las Vegas to Daytona International Speedway, where Conquest Endurance and I were scheduled to do a historical test with an effort to provide data for the GRAND-AM Rolex Series. This was one of the first steps in providing data toward building a class structure for the unified sports car championship in 2014. While all the Rolex cars were testing, we stood out like a sore thumb! I’m really excited to see how it will all come together. I’m definitely trusting the management and how they’re going to see this through. It’s an exciting prospect, and I hope to be out there driving one of those cars in the future.
Wednesday was spent travelling yet again, this time to Austin for the F1 race. I was contracted to drive to Formula GP Experience three-seater F1 car as well as one of the Lotus Evora sports cars. The cars were a ton of fun to drive. It had a lot of power for a passenger ride-along experience. I definitely got a thrill from driving it, so I can only imagine what the passengers were feeling when I laid on the gas! I especially loved seeing the new Circuit of the Americas. It’s a huge step forward for American motorsports to have a track like this, and I’m thrilled to see F1 make a return to American turf. It’s about time they made their way back over here!
Two weeks later, I returned back home after an awesome adventure! To be a part of three distinct experiences was so rewarding, each unique and important. And now I get to return to family life…until I get another set of calls asking me to pack my bags!