Brett Smrz – A Fantastic Experience

Written by Team USA. Posted in Brett Smrz, Driver Blogs

Published on November 03, 2009 with No Comments

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (November 3, 2009) – The whole entire Team USA Scholarship experience was absolutely fantastic. I have never had as much fun racing as I did these last couple of weeks. Being able to go overseas and race for America with a fellow racer – and an amazing team – couldn’t have been more fun. The Scholarship has changed my view on where I want my career to end up. I am setting my goals very high and I want to make it to Formula 1. The racing in Europe is better, in my opinion. The people are so much more into it and that is what I want to be around.

Now, to explain about what happened in my main event race at the Walter Hayes Trophy. As most of you should know, I qualified on pole for my heat race – despite putting my car into the gravel trap five laps in! I was a bit dumbfounded that I held the pole after that, but I would definitely take it! For the Heat race, I had a couple of quick guys that I had to watch out for, but they took each other out on the first lap which made my race extremely easy. I just cruised around the entire race and waited for the checkered flag. This put me off pole, in second, for the Semi Final race the following day.

For the start of the Semi Final, the track was semi damp – or so we thought. We had a full rain setup on the car, which was the wrong choice at the moment. The track looked like it was soaked, but it was only wet in one section of the track. My other competitors thought the same thing on their setups, but I don’t think theirs was as extreme as mine. I got pushed back to third on the start, and had a good battle for second for the majority of the race, but eventually started falling back when my tires started to overheat. I finished third, which would put me in the sixth place grid position for the main event. The other Semi Final was quicker than our one because they had a dry track, which put them on the inside row.

The main event wasn’t what I wanted but it was still a good experience nonetheless. I fell back to seventh right away when my competitor behind me jumped the start. I held my position for a couple of laps, waiting for my tires to come in so that I could make my charge to the front. Unfortunately, I never got that chance when I had contact with the same guy that jumped that start at the beginning of the race. I went onto the back straightaway and had two cars right on my tail. One guy pulled out on the left to make a move on me, and the other person (Josef Newgarden) pulled out on the right at the same time. This left me in the middle of a three-wide situation, and it was very windy. I did not want to be in this position, but I unfortunately had no choice. I held my line the best I could in the middle, but the driver on the left kept moving closer and closer to me, leaving me little room. Into the braking zone, I let the driver on my inside go, and I tucked in behind him. Apparently, Matt Parr was going to follow him through on the inside pass, but there was no way I could have seen him. I was more worried about making it out of the three-wide situation, so I never had time to look in my mirrors for the other guy passing in from behind.

Ultimately, I ran over Matt’s tire and got sent very high into the air (photo, above right, courtesy of When the car landed back on the ground, a rear wishbone had bent. This was making the car understeer very badly through the right-hand corners. (By the way, there is only one left -hand corner on the whole track). I did as best as I could with what I was dealt, and still managed to finish in ninth position.

I was very disappointed with my end result, but I know things don’t always go the way you want them to in racing. Congrats go out to my team mate Connor De Phillippi for winning the race and becoming the youngest driver to ever win the Walter Hayes Trophy. I will keep my head high and go into the final Jim Russell race in a couple of weeks with my sights set on winning the championship.

I want to send a special thanks to Peter, Cliff and Michelle Dempsey. They are the nicest/coolest family I have ever met. Michelle was like my mother while I was over there. She would always make sure that I was fed and in tip top shape for the weekend. Peter is a great new friend and an awesome driver coach. He helped me out every time I went onto the track by telling me some tricks to try. (By the way, they all worked). Then there is Cliff. He is such an amazing team owner and an even more amazing person. I had so much fun joking around with the him and team. He was always fun to be around and I look forward to seeing him again.

Special thanks also go out to the entire Cliff Dempsey Racing team. Cliff, Michelle, Peter, Frankie, Francie, Dave Hart, Dave Collier, Andrew, Bob, Scott Malvern, Cormac O’Neill, Josef Newgarden, and everyone else that was associated with the team. (I hope I’m not missing anyone here!)

Last, but most certainly not least, I want to thank the Team USA Scholarship for allowing me to have such an amazing opportunity to go over to Europe and race. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Jeremy Shaw and all of his supporters. Thank you for changing my mindset on where I want my career to end up. I will never forget this experience and it will always be one of the top stories of my career.

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