When the Optima rolled off the trailer at Circuit of the Americas, just a few weeks ago, it dawned on me just how awesome it was to be back for my fourth season with Kia Racing.
As I looked over the new livery on the car, I reflected on some of the great moments and successes we had achieved in a few short years with the Optima; a manufacturers championship, multiple race wins and changing brand perception are certainly a few key highlights.
I’m writing this blog post after St. Pete so we are now a couple of weekends into the new season and there is plenty to talk about!
First off, I have a new teammate in Ben Clucas. Ben is an accomplished driver and great guy and we are both focused on working towards a second straight manufacturers title for Kia! A warm welcome to Ben!
To win championships, you must first finish races and collect valuable points in every event. We’ve had a great start to the season in this regard. The COTA race saw Ben capture a podium while St. Pete was a bit more challenging for us.
We have achieved some great results on street circuits but St. Pete has always been the stone left unturned.
I had a strong qualifying run which put me third on the grid for the race. I ran a strong pace and pushed hard to run with the lead group. I was very happy with the balance of the Optima but the tough low-grip nature of the track worked the tires hard and we lost a few spots at the end. We scored some valuable points but went straight to work to find some late race tire longevity for race two.
After much deliberation, we made some changes to the balance of the Optima and found some additional consistency in race two. I pushed hard and we ultimately ended up coming away with a pair of top tens. Although the result is not what we had all hoped for, both cars finished and collected valuable points.
Looking ahead to Barber (a race we won last year) I can’t help but get excited! The track suits the Optima’s stability and long wheel base layout so we will surely be well positioned to get back to the pointy end of the grid!
In the mean time, I’ll be driving the Optima in IRacing to get myself well prepped for a great weekend!
As always a heartfelt thank-you to Kia Motors America and Kinetic Motorsports for providing me with a fantastic racecar!
Photo Credit: Richard Dole