My race weekend started when my Dad, Steve Welk (driver coach), and I set off on a road trip to Toronto. We had a full road trip experience complete with a flat tire, stops at hole-in-the-wall cafes, and wrong turns. When we arrived Thursday afternoon, we took part in the usual track walk. ArmsUp Motorsports drivers are starting a new trend, “casual track walk day,” where we don’t dress up all proper and pretend we are paid race car drivers. Look for us at the Mid-Ohio track walk!
The Toronto track walk showed that this was going to be a much different street course than St. Petersburg. For starters, the track was much bumpier. It also featured natural curbs and racing curbs. I could tell it was going to be a bit of a challenge, and I was stoked to get out there and give it a go the next day!
A change in livery was in order for the Toronto Grand Prix. I was pleased to welcome Toronto based Assured Automotive and PPG Finishes as main sponsors for the race. The guys from Assured came out Friday and had an awesome time hanging out at the track and learning about the Mazda Road to Indy and USF2000 in particular.
The weatherman told us it was supposed to be nice all weekend when I checked Thursday night, and he was right… about Friday. The track was dirty but still had some decent grip in the first session. I ran the whole session only pitting during a red flag. My car felt a little off, so we made a change for practice two. In practice two I didn’t improve my time, so my engineer and I dug deep to get my car right for qualifying coming up in the evening.
The track was super fast in qualifying. I was sitting P4 when I pitted for some more new Cooper Tires. I went back out and never got clear of traffic and ended up only improving my time a small amount while two other drivers leapfrogged in front of me. So, I qualified 6th. Not the best result but we made huge improvements in my car from practice, so I was ready to battle in the races!
Saturday is where the weatherman made a small (huge) miscalculation in his forecast. Instead of sunny and 77, which he had predicted just 24 hours earlier, it was raining. The track was apparently so bad that the Verizon IndyCar Series didn’t race, so our Race 1 was rescheduled for Sunday morning.
When Sunday morning rolled around the track was still quite a bit damp, so we were going to be on rain tires. The track was very slippery, and I had a rough start falling back to 9th when a full course caution came out. After the restart I began making my way forward. I made a wicked awesome last lap pass on the outside of the turn 3 hairpin, which earned me a 6th place finish. The pass was also good for the RePlay XD Move of the Race, which can be viewed here:
I started Race 2 from 5th, which was already an improvement. I moved up to 4th on the first lap and then had a good battle with Colton Herta for a few laps until I finally got around him for good. I worked on running down the leaders until around lap 18 when RC Enerson had a gearbox problem, which took him out of contention and brought out a full course caution. The first lap after the restart, we had another full course caution. When we went back to green I was having brake problems. I had to do some defensive driving to hold onto 3rd place for the last two laps, but I managed! That podium keeps my streak of having a podium finish at the last four race weekends! It also vaulted me into 4th in the championship.
Up next is Mid-Ohio, where we will have three races! It will be our busiest weekend of the season, and I’m looking forward to going in hot and coming out on top!
Thank you all for reading,