First, let me apologize for my absence in the last two weeks' blogs... I'm back and here to present Driver Diary #3 with Pop Off Valve.
To quickly recap, last time I discussed sacrifices, returns, and a bit of the struggles I've faced in my career.
I ended the diary with an introduction to where I am today, and how a tweet has changed my life drastically in the past 6 months.
On May 18th, 2010, I posted a tweet - a quiet cry at 11:02pm as I lay in bed thinking about where I was and where I was going. It was a quote from my heart, speaking from built up frustration, a bit of doubt, and bit of disgust at the way the racing community has transformed. Where only the drivers who have the money to PAY for their rides are competing and some of the best are sidelined for no good reason.
It was born of so many ups and downs between 2006 and 2010 - a season with not a single race in 2007, a trip to college and back home after not having the time to focus on my passion, a year to save money and get back on the racing map, and a move at 20 years old to Indianapolis with hopes of things finally, for once, looking up.
Not realizing that anything could ever come from a post on Twitter, I wrote; "I would really like to be in a race car, sometime soon."
Not long after, I received a reply from @GregBubblyFace saying "We would, too. DM me and let's see what we can do to make it happen."
Quite frankly, I didn't think much of it at first. Being jaded and skeptical (I know, awful young to be so cynical, huh?), I brushed it off.
A bit later, though, I went back and looked through this GregBubblyFace character's Twitter feed. The optimistic character in me came back, and I figured I had better not let a possible opportunity pass me up.
(I'm still thinking, "GregBubblyFace? Seriously? With the full name of CarrieCurtMartin? What the HECK!!!")
Anyway, after 48 hours, I sent a DM and said, "Hello! Just following up. Please e-mail me to tell me your ideas 4 getting back in a car!!"
The last thing I expected was that someone legitimate and "for real" was at the other end of Twitter. But in this world I've realized three things: one, you can't judge a book by its cover; two, you have to be cautiously optimistic yet prepared for letdowns; and three, you must be open-minded.
A few e-mails later, after a bit of investigating and asking around, I picked up the phone to call "GregBubblyFace." I found out the real name of this interesting character, did a bit of Googling, phoned around in the racing community to see if "bubblyface" really had been present at the Winter Indy Tweetup (where racing fans/friends get together to socialize), and then decided that a meeting in a public place was OK.
Little did I know - but I would later find out - that the man behind the Twitter had a vision and a motivation that would even exhaust me at times. I had even less idea that this was going to turn into the most awesome chapter of my career thus far. A chapter that could write an entire book by itself - as you'll see shortly if you keep reading
I met Greg at Einstein Brothers Bagels in Speedway, Indiana, 24 hours after first speaking with him on the phone. The beginning of the 2010 Indy 500 practice was in progress less than a mile away. All I knew walking in was that Greg had some "crazy idea" that he had come up with in the last 48 hours.
Over coffee, I learned that Greg has three daughters and is a huge race fan. I found that Greg had been interested in getting his daughters into racing and he was unable to find anywhere to turn for help.
By the end of the day, I realized that what Greg was looking for was a role model. I believe that before Greg even realized it, I figured out that I could be the essential tool in implementing his vision. He needed someone who would help encourage not only his daughters, but hundreds and potentially thousands of young women by way of motorsports.
Greg asked me what I needed to get back on track. After not being in a race car for about nine months with not much in the works for the 2010 season, I needed to be where I belonged, ASAP, and Greg realized that.
Luckily, I was prepared with a budget and knowledge of what type of monetary figures it would take to get it done. I was able to tell Greg, "This is what I want to do, this is who I want to do it with (BEAST) and this is how much it's going to drain your bank account..." Just kidding. Kind of. Not really.
Before we left Einstein's, Greg proposed to me what he was able to make happen. After all, he told me that in his day job, his job description included "getting shit done." (As a side note, Greg later showed me his job description. Buried in all of the scientific and corporate responsibilities he has at his day job was indeed, "getting shit done." I suspect he put that in just for me, but I suppose I'll never know for sure.)
Between the proposal and the time that he asked for my "John Hancock" on the first sponsorship contract I ever signed, Greg, my manager and I drew up an agreement. It was an exhilarating yet daunting time. I couldn't believe that it was going to happen. I was already very jaded but, as I mentioned earlier, cautiously optimistic.
On June 16th, I formed a partnership with what had become Glass Hammer Racing, LLC. It was only four weeks and one day from my simple, yet complex tweet that resulted in me signing a contract that would allow me two tests and four races with the legendary USAC Midget team run by Bob East. My first "real" contract was put into effect, and I was going racing with the team I'd visualized driving for for years.
As you would see in a movie, we met again at Einstein Brothers Bagels on Crawfordsville Road in Speedway, Indiana where it all started. We sat at the same table where we first met, and we made history. We each signed two copies of the sponsorship agreement. Mister "Bubbly Face" had a gift for me as well: a Glass Hammer Racing embroidered ball cap, a ginormous Glass Hammer Racing embroidered men's polo, and a check which I watched him sign before he handed it to me... but which I still didn't believe was legitimate, not even when it was in my hand. Not even kidding.
He had a big camera along with his typical manila folders and we awkwardly asked the "barista" (if you will) to take our photo. I still despise this photo and hate how I look in hats, but it was an incredible day and one I will never forget.
I left Einstein's actually rather nervous. (Bet you didn't know that Greg!) It was a different kind of nervous. I don't get that sweaty palm, shaky, scared kind of nervous - this type was a kind of uncertainty. I still didn't think that the check was going to "work." It wasn't a matter of not trusting Greg, and it wasn't a matter of not believing it - I think that it was so surreal, that I couldn't come to the reality of the situation.
When I was younger and visualizing my successes, I imagined getting opportunities similar to what I've just described. I imagined that I would be ecstatic, on top of the world, and maybe even emotional. But this was different than I'd ever expected it would be... partly in fact, because I knew that at that point, I only had four races to prove myself. The work wasn't done, and I wasn't yet signed with Ganassi or Penske Racing. At the end of the day, I am proud that I have stuck to the ground and realized that there is more work than I can imagine still left to be done.
I would be driving for Bob East, who was the man behind drivers like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and many other incredibly talented drivers. I was going to get the opportunity to work with the best in the business and do what I was born to do... what I'd worked so hard for.
As is typical for Indy in late spring, there were many weather issues while scheduling my first test and first time in the car. After many schedules and cancellations, spending hours at the track hoping and trying to get it dry with brooms and squeegees, I finally got my first test in... on the morning of my first race at the Speedrome in Indianapolis. At the end of the day, I had jumped into a car I'd never been in, figured out the 900 pound, 400 horsepower Beast, and finished my first ever USAC Midget race with a top-ten, seventh place finish.
I continued to prove what I knew I could do every single week I got in that racecar.
The people in my back pocket like to tell me how "good I am". There have been many times, when I haven't even realized the "against all odds" achievements I have accomplished. So in writing the draft of this diary, Greg pointed out some statistics for me to show how well I did in these four races. I can only repeat these as facts and in third person, because I hate to be that big headed, overly confident, cocky person who no one wants to listen to. I am proud at the end of the day at what I accomplished in a short span and after a big jump, competing against drivers who had much more experience than me.
So here's how Greg summarized my season:
(Greg's note to the reader: Shannon is nothing if not humble. I have advised her that it isn't boastful to quietly state the facts. In her case, they will speak volumes about her talent. Honestly, it took a long time for the weight of this evidence to sink in and make me appreciate what I had been seeing. So, without further ado, here is a simple, factual recollection of Shannon's 2010 USAC midget season.)
In the three years prior, Shannon had only raced in seven races and only three of them in USAC Focus Midgets (the remainder being in late model dirt racing).
On the morning of June 23, 2010, she climbed into a 400 horsepower midget, twice as powerful as anything she'd raced before, for her first practice. Later that evening, she started 11th and finished 7th in her first ever USAC midget race, against racers who'd already competed in five races in 2010 - some with multiple seasons' experience.
Her second race at the Speedrome saw a 4th place finish, in spite of a loose car that was obviously trying to swap ends at the exit of turns two and four every lap for the last half of the race. After every yellow, she was in the group of 5 fastest drivers pulling away from the rest of the pack. Each of the racers who finished in front of her had already posted wins at the Speedrome.
Shannon earned her first heat race win and her podium finish in the 50-lap feature in her third race at the Speedrome. It was a race unmarked by a single yellow, and she lapped everyone in the field except the two racers who finished first and second.
In her fourth, and sadly final, race of 2010, she finished second on a track she'd never driven on until that evening. It was a very fast and challenging track that night, with a new lap record being set in qualifications and with multiple, no-contact spins throughout the feature race. On that fast and slippery track, she raced and beat the eventual USAC regional midget champion to the checkered to take second place. The remainder of the racers has another four races in the season, but Shannon, competing in only four of 13 races, finished in the top 10 overall in points, beating out many racers with both more experience and more races that season.
And those facts, ladies and gentlemen, speak for themselves. Now back to our regularly scheduled driver diary.
This shall round out today's driver diary. I am extremely happy with the way this season went and am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given. We now look positively on to 2011 with a busy off-season, eyes wide open and forward thinking.
Next week I will share part two of this chapter and how this opportunity became even better. How it became more of a dream that I was living. About a month ago I tweeted, "Does anyone wonder how someone like me makes a living?" And next blog, I want to talk about how I've worked my butt off to pay the small amount of bills I have and to keep living and to keep pursuing this life I love.
One of the most blasé, overused and lame quotes out there, "Hard work pays off," describes what I see happen every day in my life. It doesn't matter what you're doing in your life, and it doesn't matter who you are or where you're going. I encourage you to pick your ass up when you feel so incredibly knocked down that you don't even want to see sunlight. The rewards will come and you will be thankful for those absolutely, incredibly, horribly low lows that you will experience your entire life... just like I am.
When there is something you want so bad that you're willing to dedicate your whole life to, to make sacrifices for, and to do what it takes - you will become a person with a character that only passion can develop.
I like to be blunt and today I want to be a bit generic, yet simple, by leaving you with this:
Hard work does pay off.