This post goes out to Jason Hart and here's the story.
(photo of Jason Hart)
Jason and I started racing against each other in the former Grand-Am series. Jason raced for RSR and I was racing for Bimmerworld. I was new to racing, I took my very first driving school only months before my first professional level race, or at least what I believed to be my first pro race. But we'll get into that in another blog post. Jason and I quickly became friends as we often found ourselves racing to the front of the field, both not wanting to give an inch but always leaving the other room to race. In racing, this is key to being one of the liked vs disliked drivers in the paddock.
(photo of Jason and I racing)
As the season went on I started to realize that if I wanted to keep driving at this level I would need to find some funding. Up until this point, I had basically blown through what was to be my college fund. See when I originally told my parents that I was thinking about chasing my dreams as a race car driver, I thought they'd laugh at me and say that's funny. Get a real job! But instead, my Mom's response was, "Well the best investment you can make is in yourself, so if you think this is your path and your willing to invest in it, Go for it". Next thing I knew I was behind the wheel of a beat to death MX5 at Skip Barber Racing School. Loving every minute of my amazingly bad idea to become a race car driver. Now I say that jokingly as I love what I do, but by no means is it what I thought or expected when I spent that college fund. With only a few races left in the budget, I started to panic. What did I do? Well as I was walking through the paddock thinking about how I was on my way to being a has-been I saw Jason Hart. So I walked over and without hesitation, I said, "How in the hell do I get paid for this shit". Yeah I know, not my best choice of words but for the sake of keeping the story, authentic you'll have to excuse my foul mouth.
Jason laughed then pulled me into the trailer as if he was about to give me the winning recipe, but no, what he told me had a blunt sting to it. "NO ONE GETS PAID TO DO THIS SHIT, JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE FAST, LOOK AROUND, EVERYONE HERE IS FAST SO THERE IS NOTHING UNIQUE ABOUT THAT. Only a handful of guys in this whole paddock all the way to the highest levels of racing get paid purely on pace. It’s all about relationships and bringing sponsorship or teaming up with a coaching client. If you are not bringing something other than pace to the table you are likely not going to be around very long.". Boom, my world was rocked and then I looked to Jason as if he was going to give me the "but I'll tell ya how it's done". Instead, I got a handshake and something that I'd come to find was much better then any answer I was looking for at that time.
(Photo of Jason and I racing)
The season of 2011 ended and I managed to fund one more season in 2012 before completely tapping the funds dry. In 2013, Bimmerworld gave me an awesome opportunity to drive alongside James Clay one more year as they developed the new F30 Chassis. My first non-paid ride in a Pro level car came in exchange for brokering a new driver to the team. This was a sad time for me because I had invested a ton of finances, time and energy up to this point with the Bimmerworld team. My time as a driver at least for now was done at Bimmerworld.
(photo of the new F30)
After leaving Bimmerworld Jason and I began talking about driving together, so for the next year I shadowed Jason Hart as he began driving in the Rolex GT3 class. Our goal ultimately was to be a driver pairing in GT3. I'm not going to get into this too much but the deal didn't pan out and I was soon at what felt to be a dead-end road. The last thing I remember before taking a hiatus was being at SEMA with Jason walking the show until my feet were crying "no more". For those that haven't been, the show is huge and a ton of walking. You'd never think how much you'd come to appreciate the padded carpets at these shows. By the end of the show, we had met with hundreds of people related to brand sponsorship. Weeks went by with us following up day by day with the vendors met. Each day the list was getting smaller and smaller as we heard more and more no's.
(photo of the Porsche Gt3's)
At this point I was so broke I had to leave racing to sell used cars while working as a driving instructor on weekend and special events. I was doing whatever I could to earn a buck. Time went on and I thought racing was a thing of my past when all of a sudden the phone rang. Who was it, well Jason Hart. He simply asked if I wanted to throw down some cash on some tires and fuel and go race his old chump car. So I caught a flight out to Texas to go blister some tires with friends. We took the green and that was about all we took that day, but it didn't matter. I knew one thing leaving that track that day, my friend saved me from giving up and I had an urge to go racing again.
(photo of Ryan Lindsley and I)
On the flight home, I called my good friend Ryan Lindsley. See Ryan is one of those friends that you can't just say an awesomely bad plan in front of, because he'll just add some spice to the already hopeless business model, and then sign up as your new business partner. So what was this clever idea, let's start a race team as broke guys. He can fix cars and I can make them go fast, which let us be honest in crew terms means breaking them slowly. So with our combined $3,000 we bought a car, well part of a car. It was really just the shell and some stuff we couldn't use. Over the next 45 days, Ryan somehow managed to build us our most winning to date car but we didn't know that yet. All we knew was we had a car and no one to rent it to. So who did I call, Jason! Within hours he had the car sold out and we were making plans for our first race, which would take place in Texas.
A month later we get to Texas, not knowing what to expect. We were a new team, with zero races under our belt, we had only driven the car once on track before we got it to the first race. As we rolled our car out of the trailer we started to notice that some of the competitor's cars have parts outside the rules which should give them an advantage. With so many unknows the new crew started to panic, and truth be told I was concerned. I managed to not show it to much while pulling the crew and new drivers aside. I told them that we have an awesome car that we know to be in the rules, we are just going to focus on us and see what happens. The race was crazy, we lost a transponder, gas pedal and got hit. We went laps up, then laps down, but in the end, pulled off a 16-hour win in our debut.
(Team winning photo for debut race)
After this event, the interest to drive with our new team was quickly heating up. With many more referrals, Jason helped us to meet clients and grow our team.
(Our SPEC E46 and GTS M3)
Things were going good, compete at the lower levels. I wanted to be back in IMSA or PWC. I wasn't sure how the next jump for our new team was going to happen but I knew what car was the next racecar the second I saw it. BMW released the M235iR and the team of Classic BMW was going to campaign them in North Americas Pirelli World Challenge. The car was listed at $86,000ish USD, which to say the least was still out of our price range. Jason and I quickly started talking about the cars as he was scouting for a client of his. Jason's clients soon after decided to go with the new BMW M235iR's. Truth be told at first, I was jealous, these new cars seemed out of reach to drive and even further out of reach to own. At the same time, I was extremely stoked for Jason, as I knew he was excited to be heading the new M235iR program.
(Photo from the first AD that caught my eye on the M235i Racing)
I will never forget this moment or day, I had just got back to my house after a long day. I was going through a case of the Mondays for all you Officespace fans. The phone rang, who could it be, Jason. We had a few moments of small chat before the words that open the skies came out of his mouth, "Hey would you like to drive the M235iR with us at the next 24 hour of HPR?"
(First time behind the Wheel of the M235iR)
I paused waiting for the catch, but there was none. I just simply had to show up and drive. So that's what I did, and was it awesome! I was so excited to be in something new and most of all being valued as a professional driver. Jason quickly informed the team of who I was and gave them confidence that he had picked me for a reason. For a driver, these moments are priceless, its when it all starts to make sense. Well at least for me it opened my eyes.
(Photo from HPR 24 Hour win)
Over the next year and a half, I would drive alongside some of my favorite people in motorsports. Not only Ryan and Jason but my soon to be family on the road, Max, Dean, Scott, Pete, Steve, Kevin, Brian, Ryan K, Jay, Matt, and Mike. Most likely of these people would have never known about each other if it wasn't for Jason Hart giving me a small opportunity to just drive.
(Picture of 24 Hour win at COTA)
Things were looking good and then my world was rocked once more. I received a call from Jason. These tend to be good so I was curious to see what he had for me. From the moment he started talking I knew something was up, but I couldn't pinpoint what it was or why. Well, my seat in the M235iR had to be purchased and I was no longer driving the M235iR alongside my friends. I was out, and I was devastated. All I really thought about all day every day, was racing. At first, I was sad and then I was mad. I felt that each time I drove well new people became interested in the team/car. Basically, I was left with nothing as I had no skin in the game so to speak. A few months went on with disappointment dwelling in my head, what had I done wrong. The answer came later when the same guy that once told me, "lots of highs, lots of lows" took some time over a call to check up on me. I tried my best to stay positive through it all but I finally had enough and had to ask. "Hey Jason, what could I have done differently?" He simply said, "I want you to understand the decision was strictly made on financial reasoning. You did all you could and you're still on the list for next year". This was mega, hope again.
(Photo of time rolling by)
As the year went by and I figured that ship had sailed and I'd have to find a new way to get back behind the wheel of something shiny and new. Then unexpectedly Ryan and I had the means to purchase our own BMW M235iR. This came through one of our most loyal and valued friends, Austen. Austen drove with us in our debut race and we had met him through Jason Hart. Without Austen's commitment to the team, we would have not achieved multiple wins in multiple classes of racing. Austen ultimately went on to help us win the 2018 WERC championship.
(Photo of the first day with our M235iR)
Coming off that season I wasn't sure what was next but I had set a personal goal of competing in at least one race in either Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) or IMSA'S Michelin Tire Cup. At this point, I had emailed and called every team I knew of that had Pro opportunities, and I kept coming to the same response. "Only Bronze drivers are in demand". Well, this isn't what I wanted to hear as I was rated Silver. As I sat there contemplating how I was going to get an opportunity the phone rang. Its Jason, this time I was excited because well he wasn't going to tell me I'm not driving unless he was referring to my streetcar. Instead, he pauses for a second and said, "what do you think about driving PWC in the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 MR-CS"? I couldn't believe it!
(Photo of Jason and I leading the pack into turn #1 in 2019)
Thank you, Jason Hart, this post goes out to you!
Thank you for reading!