Peter Portante Champion’s Perspective: 2012 Race Series Championship Shootout, Part III

I woke up the next day very happy. I was sitting second in race points, only 1 point behind Jake. Plus, I was on pole today! Then I decided to look out the window, and it was raining… hard. And truthfully I was a bit nervous. I had never driven in the rain before, not even in a street car! And in ovals, when it rains, you put the car in the trailer and eat sandwiches. But this wasn’t ovals, we were going.

It took me awhile to accept, but when I did, I felt much calmer. I knew what a rain line was…kinda. So, yeah, I would be fine. My first impression of the rain was that it was cold, so very cold. And I could barely see anything! The race started well. I led some laps, but I soon fell back to third. I was figuring out the wet track, and how grip levels work in the rain. My laps became faster and faster as the race went on, but before I could challenge for second place, it was over.

Qualifying rules changed as well. Your starting position for Race 5 and 6 would be decided by your finishing position in the previous race. So I would start Race 5 in third position. On the first lap I got myself into second position, then fell back to third after a quick scare in Turn 1. I stayed tight to P2 and tried to work to catch P1. I soon realized that the gap was too big and should focus on battling for P2.

The laps started to wind down, not that I could see the lap board (in the rain you couldn’t see anything). I pulled onto the tail of P2 and waited to attempt another last lap pass. But in the meantime the rain started to come down even harder and rivers started to form on the track. I came down to the start- finish and saw a flag. “OK, this is the last lap” I thought, but I was mistaken. The previous lap must have been the white- this was the checkered! But, oh well, third in the wet was still good, but there were things I could have done better.

I got of the car, my soaking wet drivers suit feeling like it weighed a ton, and squished my way to shelter, where we were informed that Race 6 would not be run due to worsening conditions. Now we had to wait. And the wait was even worse in my cold, wet suit and shoes! But after what felt like two eternities, the race officials went to the podium to announce the standings. I knew Jake and I were close, but I had no idea how close and in what order. Third place was announced. So I was really waiting to see who finished second, because then I would know. When they announced Jake, I felt relieved. I had done it, I had won. I was the dark horse. I was the driver who progressed slowly through the season. I had fought the best and came out on top. I smiled and had my picture taken with the very large check!

Then it hit me- yes, I had won. Yes, that was great. But now the challenge is bigger and on a much bigger stage. But I’m OK with that. I know that what I learned from racing in the Skip Barber Race Series, driving with my competitors and feedback from the instructors. It has prepared me to move up to USF2000 and compete in the front. And if I can do that, then I think there is no better way to say thank you to Skip Barber Racing School than showing them, that with the skills you learn in their race series, that you can win in racing and do it at a high level.

Thank you to everyone for all their support this year. I’m looking forward to another great year in 2013!

Missed the beginning? Check out Part I and Part II