The two last rounds of the NASA Midwest Regional Championship were pricey, so I could not afford to go to the 2015 NASA Eastern States Championships. It was killing me, especially since I had finished on the podium at both nationals last year.

On the Wednesday morning the week of Nationals, I received a call from my friends and competitors Steve and Tara Brewster in Columbus, Ohio. Steve was signed up to go, but had injured his shoulder and wouldn’t be able to compete. Steve asked me if I wanted his nonrefundable entry. Tara, his daughter and fellow 944 spec racer, offered to crew for me since she already had taken the time off from work. I had to leave work immediately to have any chance at making Thursday practice.

I arrived at Brewster Trucking, where I was meeting Tara, around 1 a.m. Not only were the Brewsters sponsoring my entry, and crew, but to add frosting to the cake, Steve offered up his motorhome to use for the weekend!

We arrived at the track around 12 p.m. Thursday. I had driven for 21 hours straight without sleep, but I sucked it up and went out on track because it was my only chance to learn it before the serious stuff started the next day.

Dan Piña barely made it to the 2015 Eastern States Championships at VIR, but after the event, he was crowned 944 Spec Champion.
Dan Piña barely made it to the 2015 Eastern States Championships at VIR, but after the event, he was crowned 944 Spec Champion.

I started from third in the big race. In Turn 4 on lap one, the fourth place car T-boned me, bending my wheel and front suspension. The crash took him out, and dropped me to fourth. But I didn’t give up. I immediately recaptured third. On lap two, the two front-running cars got together and slid off. This handed me the lead, which I held for much of the race.

Eventually I was passed, but I quickly recaptured the lead. The third-place car caught up to us, and he passed for second. He made a few pass attempts on me, and eventually made one that stuck. Again, I came back and repassed for the lead! The second-place car was getting desperate, and his bump-drafts were getting harder and harder. The same driver passed me late in the race last year at Road Atlanta to take the win. One hit in Turn 4 was so hard it wrinkled the quarter panel —but I was unrelenting. This time, I held the lead until they threw the checkered flag, and I won my first National Championship! I couldn’t believe it. I screamed with joy. I wept like a baby. I barely made it to Nationals, but now I was a champion.

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