Pre-race: the John Edwards "Blog" for Grand Am

MAZDASPEED driver John Edwards files his first blog entry for on his debut Rolex Series weekend driving for SpeedSource/Newman Wachs.

It’s been an amazing experience so far here at Homestead-Miami Speedway as I’m gearing up for my first Rolex Series race with SpeedSource. I’m used to the weekend atmosphere because we’ve obviously raced as a support series to these races, but now we’re the headliner. It’s a much bigger deal. It’s impressive how quickly SpeedSource has brought this car together in a matter of a couple of a weeks. It was ready within two weeks before the test last week in Palm Beach. They did some of the final prep with it before the race this week. So they’ve done a great job and it’s such a thrill to be part of the team.

This weekend also marks a shift in my career in many ways. Having climbed the feeder series and won the two series I was in while racing Mazda-powered open-wheel cars, I hit a road block of sorts. I needed $5 million to go IndyCar racing. I tried to do that in the beginning but realized it was an unattainable goal at that stage. So I also looked at Indy Lights, American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Series.

After looking at all of the facts, it just made sense to come here. Frankly, I wasn't sure if it was the right choice at the time, as I was expecting the car to have a lot of roll in it and not be that fast. I know it had more horsepower, but I wasn’t expecting a lot from the car. But it’s a blast to drive and has been very hooked up. It’s already exceeded my expectations. The SpeedSource guys do such a good job with the setups on the RX-8s, and they proved it with qualifying second through fourth today.

With being part of the Mazda family, I’ve finally made the step of being a factory driver for the factory team. It’s an enormous deal. Mazda has supported the ladder in a way no other manufacturer has. But they’ve also supported the top rung in GRAND-AM like no other manufacturer has. It’s always been in the back of my mind that if there’s an option to stay with Mazda, that’s what I want to do. Obviously I looked at some other series and some other cars, but I knew that the best and most supportive option would be to continue with Mazda.

In the move to sportscar racing, I have the new element of a co-driver to adapt to. I’ve been fortunate to team up with Adam Christodoulou, the reigning Star Mazda champion, but neither of us have had much time together in the car. Our first time came at the test last week and today. That’s a total of three days working in the car together.

It’s a really different mindset from formula cars. Over there, you have a teammate, and you try to help him, but not too much. Here, you really want your co-driver to be as quick as you because you want to excel together in order to finish in the highest possible position. You don’t want to say that you had fastest lap but your teammate burned off the tires and didn’t have a good race. You want to say that we finished first. It’s a really different mindset to get used to, but I think Adam and I have done well far, and the more time we spend together, the better it will get.

Another aspect of GRAND-AM racing that’s new to me are driver changes. But they can be practiced ahead of time. While not yet being the quickest at it, we have a nice flow and we get it done well within the fuel window. So I’m comfortable with that. It’s actually all of the other aspects of the race you can’t practice that Adam and I need to get used to.

The good news is that SpeedSource has been doing this for a very long time and our engineer who’s calling our race strategy called it for the No. 70 car that won the Rolex 24 in January. So they obviously know what they’re doing when it comes to race strategy. It’s going to be a learning curve for Adam and I, but I think we have the best people teaching us how to do it.

In qualifying, I was really pleased to be in the top three and within five-thousandths of a second of my teammate Jonathan Bomarito. Although it was just that more gut-wrenching to not get the front row since you’re so close to it. At the same time, it’s more than you can expect from this. Going into tomorrow, we know we have a good starting position but know we have a full two hour and 45 minute race ahead of us. That’s where we’ll really find out how we’ll do.

We’ve received a lot of advice and support from our boss, Sylvain Tremblay. He, along with Marcus and all of the crew guys have helped us a lot in getting up to speed. I think that’s the advantage of being with a factory team and a proven race-winning team like SpeedSource. On the Newman Wachs side, they’re trying to integrate some of the guys into the team, but the idea is to not to take anything away from the car while they’re learning. So we have the SpeedSource guys on the car now and are slowly getting the Newman Wachs guys integrated. We only have one guy from the Newman Wachs team here this weekend, but he’s learning all of the ins and outs and how to work on these cars. They’re so much different than what they’re used to.

We’re all looking forward to the race tomorrow. Hopefully we can put on a good show for Mazda and all of our supporters. I’m driving race cars for a living and can’t complain about that! Wish us luck!