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Jul 30, 2013 / reports


Hey!  July 25-26, 2013: The Compass360 Racing team traveled to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the seventh round of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series. Coming off a competitive weekend at Watkins Glen and returning to Indianapolis where I finished 4th in 2012, I was definitely looking forward to the weekend.

This weekend was Aaron's first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He did a great job getting acclimated to the tight infield and high speed oval sections of the track. When I got in theCivic, I found it to have a bit more corner entry understeer than I wanted. Crew Chief Ray Lee made a change to the rear shocks and tire pressure which immediately improved the handling. The road course at Indianapolis does not get used often. Every lap the Continental Tire series cars laid down more rubber, improving the grip.  To adjust to the changing track conditions, we made more changes to the suspension in the second practice and saw further improvements. Following practice, a quick review of video and data with Aaron made me fairly confident I would be able to challenge for a top five starting position on the grid.

Unfortunately, when I rolled onto the track for qualifying, I found the brake pedal very long and soft. The Compass360 crew assured me they had bled the brakes, but when I went for the brake in Turn 1 on my first flying lap, the pedal went to the floor! Fortunately, I was able to slalom through the traffic, continue onto the oval, slow down and safely return to the track. My confidence was shaken, but I found I could pump up the brake pedal and knew I had to record a lap otherwise the #77 Compass Civic would start last in the field of 31 Street Tuner cars. On my second flying lap, I took a conservative approach to the brake zones and recorded a 1:43, a couple seconds off where I had practiced. With my confidence somewhat restored, I picked up a draft and went for another flyer. Exiting Turn 13 onto the long front straight with its legendary yard of bricks, the crew let me know if I could pick up a tenth of a second, I would improve from 19th to 12th. I looked down at the lap time predictor on the dash and saw a low 1:41 lap and thought, "They are going to like this!" That lap ultimately qualified the #77 in 8th, quickest of the three Compass Civics. Without the brake issue, I might have had a shot at the pole.  But, I feel we dodged a bullet and was happy to bring the car back in good condition for the race.

Race day dawned sunny and warm with no threat of the thunderstorms which had plagued the race in 2012. The Compass crew did their normal great job getting the #77 Civic ready while Aaron and I signed autographs for the big crowd at the Grand Am fan walk.  Turn 1 at the start of the race was filled with the chaos the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge brings to every race. I held my position for the first few laps, despite being wheel-to-wheel in almost every corner with the #196 and # 93 Hondas driven by my old teammates Andrew Novich and Chad Gilsinger, #33 Nissan and #5 Mazda.  Except for when I bump drafted the #5 Mazda down the front straight, I amazingly made it through my entire stint without any contact! I had a poor re-start from the first full course caution on lap 13 and fell back to 12th.  The track stayed caution free for the rest of my stint. I used the great handling and engine power of the Honda Civic to chase down and pass the #171 Volkswagen, #81 BMW, #32 Mazda, #93 Honda, #196 Honda and #181 Volkswagen. When the #23 BMW pitted on lap 28, the #77 Compass Civic moved into 4th. My stint got us into our fuel window, so two laps later, I pitted for fuel, tires and turned the driving duties over to Aaron. The Compass crew executed a terrific pit stop and got us out in front of the race leading BMW which had pitted on the same lap. Aaron immediately went to work in traffic and moved from 15th to 13th in the next three laps. Entering Turn 1 on lap 34, a Grand Sports Chevrolet hit and spun the #40 Porsche right in front of Aaron. Drivers are taught to lock the brakes when spinning to prevent the car from rolling back into traffic  It appears the driver of the #40 Porsche needs a refresher course because he let his car roll back into the track where it hit the #77 Compass Civic in the left front wheel. After getting pulled out of the gravel trap, Aaron made it back to the pits, but the damage was to extensive to repair and the team was forced to retire the car.     

Overall, it turned out to be a tough race for all three Compass Civics. The #76 car retired early with mechanical issues and the championship leading #75 car had a drive shaft failure which put them a lap down in 19th at the finish. The #75 Civic is now 2nd in the championship with four races remaining. I have mixed feelings about the race. I am extremely satisfied with my driving in qualifying and the race. Compass360 race engineer Marcos De Leon, who could not attend the race, texted me after qualifying to say, "Oh, hell yeah!!  DT is back in business." It feels good to be back at the sharp end of the grid. I am just disappointed we were not able to bring home a result for Honda, Compass360, the crew and our sponsors.

You can catch all the action from Indianapolis on Speed at 4:00 PM Eastern Saturday August 3rd, or 72 hours after the broadcast at I will be out of the #77 Compass Civic for the next two races at Road America and Kansas Speedway.  You can bet I will be following all the action on Grand Am's live timing screen and cheering on Aaron and his co-driver, Robert Thorne. I will be back in the Civic with Aaron at Laguna Seca, September 6 - 8. If you find yourself near Monterey, California, swing by Laguna Seca and catch the race live!

Photos courtesy of Sideline Sports Photography.