Last weekend during the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, I had the great privilege of being the Deadman for Freedom Autosport during the Continental Tire Challenge. It was a fluke really. I was walking through the paddock at Barber Motorsports Park late Friday afternoon taking pictures when I happened upon their parked rig. I remembered seeing Freedom during my trip to Daytona for the Rolex 24 - noting that they raced Mazda MX-5's; the third generation variation of my own Miata. That was already enough to peak my interest but somehow what I failed to notice back then was another, very distinct image which stopped me dead in my tracks and suddenly made my heart race. There on the side of rig, decked out in Red, White and Blue was an icon from my past and something that permeates my life even to this day - the Marine Corps Eagle Globe and Anchor!! I knew immediately that I had to find out what this collaboration was about but unfortunately there was no one around to talk to that afternoon. I made a mental note to come by the next day to pay them a visit before I died of curiosity!
I was directed to meet them in the pits at 3:30 pm in time for the race and while I didn't have a Pit Pass, I deftly tucked my credentials into my shirt and followed my friend Sean Yoder's advice to "act as if" I belonged there so no one would give me any flack - which of course they didn't. Since most races are often won or lost in the pits, I was given a quick tutorial on the proper operation of the valve which, believe it or not, can be a bit tricky and certainly requires some upper body strength to manhandle. I was impressed upon how important it was to open the valve all the way prior to the refueler jumping the over the pit wall and to maintain it until either the refueling was completed or, God forbid, a fire broke out, to make sure there was nothing to impede the speed in which the racecar would be refueled.
I have to say that while I've had some really great opportunities lately, there is nothing like being in the pits and being an active part of a dedicated team during the race. I am so incredibly grateful to have had this experience, to have gotten to know the very special people at Freedom Autosport and as if that weren't enough, to have been a part of the winning team! Congratulations to Derek Whitis and Tom Long for their amazing win and I would like to express my sincere thanks to each and every one of the Freedom Autosport team for making me feel like one of their own and providing me with a once in a lifetime opportunity. As we say in the Corps, OOH RAH!!!!