For sports car fans, the month of March means the 63rd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
For baseball enthusiasts, it’s time for Spring Training to prepare for the upcoming campaign.
For C.J. Wilson, it’s a bit of both, as he prepares for his fourth season on the mound for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim while monitoring the progress of CJ Wilson Racing in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Sebring.
The two-car team is in its fourth season of Continental Tire Challenge Street Tuner (ST) competition, finishing fifth and seventh in the 2014 team championship. The team has six TOTAL Pole Awards and won two races in 2013, when Marc Miller and Stevan McAleer won back-to-back races at Circuit of The Americas and Watkins Glen International.
C.J., you got to spend some time with the team at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test at Daytona.
How do you feel the team is progressing entering the 2015 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season?
“I feel that every year is a new challenge for us as a team. We've changed drivers over the years and we've changed our marketing approach, but this year it is about increasing our competitiveness while increasing our professionalism in the paddock. I feel like we have done a good job with that over the last couple of years and we want to try and remain on that trend.”
Do you have any plans to eventually move the team up to the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship?
“The TUDOR Championship is obviously very sexy for a lot of reasons. It's the big show every weekend and if you're going to play with the big boys you have to be there! Right now there are so many obstacles between where we are now and that reality we are trying to be really responsible about how we get there. There is a strong correlation between how long teams survive in racing and the amount of money they spend initially and we are trying to stay on the right side of that equation.”
Obviously, Daytona is a tough track for the Mazda MX-5.
How competitive do you think the team will be at Sebring, where Stevan McAleer won the pole last year and finished second with Chad McCumbee?
“The MX-5 platform, for us, is more competitive the more turns there are on the track. With 17 turns at Sebring we feel like we have a chance to make up a lot of ground as opposed to at Daytona, which is basically four or five technical sections and two really long straightaways. Because of our previous success at Sebring, expectations are going to be at a high level but for the most part it is going to be about figuring out what worked last year and then working out how to get the cars working that well or better right away.”
Have you ever been to Sebring, and in what capacity? Favorite impressions of the track as a driver or spectator? If you haven’t been there, what have you heard about Sebring and would you like to race there some day?
“I did a driving school there a couple of years ago as well as a Skip Barber Winter test along with Spenser Pigot, Tristian Nunez, Felix Serrales and a lot of other very talented kids at the time.
What are you favorite impressions of Sebring as a driver or spectator?
“As a spectator, the speed of the track is so impressive. The flowing sections that allow you to carry speed like in Turn 1 or through the back sections of the track, it really creates the most incentive for drivers to go for it and keep the gas pedal in as deep as possible into the corners. As a driver, it really is very bumpy especially compared to other tracks like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca or Road Atlanta. It's also very flat so your ability to create the right handling package with the tires and suspension becomes really vital. If you're too stiff you're going to be bouncing off the curbs and flying through the air instead of creating good rolling grip through the corners. The single defining characteristic is the bumpiness.”
How do you feel as you approach Spring Training with the Angels for your 11th season in Major League Baseball?
“I was explaining to somebody the other day that I feel like I have been doing this forever. My first Spring Training was 2002 and every year it's a new challenge. Your body physically changes as you get older, it's more of a challenge to create the horsepower and torque, so to speak, you have to find ways to stay flexible and keep your strength throughout the season. The main focus for us is the fact that we have a great team coming back, we made some trades and we have a lot of really good players returning onto the roster and that's a good place to start from.”
Do you have plans to attend any races this year, and when will be your next time at the wheel of a race car?
“I have already noticed that our baseball schedule coincides with the race team being in Monterey at Mazda Raceway (May 1-3) and there is a good chance that I will make it to the track for that. As far as driving one of our race cars, I have absolutely no time available to do it. I did some racing this off season with Robert Davis Racing in the Mazda 6 Diesel at Thunderhill, this has become a bit of a tradition for me to drive in the 25 Hour. The hectic nature of the baseball schedule means there are not enough days off and no time for me to test.”
At what level do you plan to eventually begin your driving career?
“That is hard to say right now as it depends on exactly when the baseball career transitions into a driving career. The later that process unfolds, that will preclude certain types of drives and that is then added to the shifting landscape of the series. You never know what cars are going to be en vogue for us as a team and for customer racers such as myself. Whether that will be a GT3 level car or even an LMP3 level car, I'm not really sure. I know it won't be an IndyCar! I don't belong in a top-level formula car yet, probably ever, considering I weigh over 200 lbs. I really look forward to getting into a car and approaching it with scientific study and passion the same way I do with pitching.”
Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida
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