Opportunity Awaits

The life of a race car driver never seems to slow down.  It may be the offseason, but I’ve been constantly on the go! After winning the 2016 FormulaSPEED championship, I’ve put all my focus into creating opportunities for the next few years. The recent weeks have been a mix of celebration, enthusiasm and nostalgia. However, my excitement for the future has never been this colossal. 

The wave of good fortune started as I crossed the final finish line of the season. After receiving my trophy, capturing a few photos, and speaking at the awards banquet, I packed all my gear and drove down to San Diego for some post-season fun. I met up with my good friends Clay, Carole and USF2000 driver Dakota Dickerson. We went deep-sea fishing, played games, and even talked a bit about future endurance races (more on this soon). It was a wonderful way for me to unwind, reflect and celebrate my championship. 

After I returned home, I had a few days off to focus on a remarkable opportunity. Winning the FormulaSPEED Championship meant I was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. It’s a competition that invites champions from around the world to compete for a $200,000 scholarship. To be invited to this historic and respected event would be phenomenal. In order to get the invitation, I submitted a letter and video for Mazda and Andersen Promotions explaining why I felt worthy of being part of the competition. My fellow competitor Bruno Carneiro was a semi-finalist as well. However, Mazda would only select one of us to participate in the event. After a few days of composing, I submitted my finished video and letter to Mazda. Now it was time to anxiously wait as they reviewed each driver and made their final decision. 

Unsure of the announcement date, I tried to keep my mind off of the topic. The great thing about motorsports is that there is always something to work on. During this time, I decided to take on a few sponsorship deals. First, I went over to Yoshida Sushi to talk about Fontana with the whole staff, show them my new trophy, and share some sake with the chefs. Yoshi was so thrilled with my final results that he gave me an early check for 2017! What an awesome night!

Shortly after, the nostalgia train paid me a visit when Jesus Ochoa of Ochoa Pallets Inc. (OPI) graciously sponsored me for 2017! Jesus was my first ever business sponsor in 2012. Some things don’t change, as this deal is built on a foundation of trust, results and most importantly respect. I can’t thank Ochoa Pallets Inc enough for still supporting me after all these years! It’s great to have them as part of my 2017 team. 

Not long after placing the OPI logos on my helmet, I found myself leaving Alhambra yet again. I travelled to Buttonwillow Raceway to help with the 2017 VMB Driver Development Scholarship Shootout. It was rewarding to witness the new crop of drivers awaiting to embark on the journey I am on now. To start off the day, I gave the new drivers a quick walkthrough of the track. Remembering how nervous I was last year, I assured the drivers that this was a great opportunity no matter what the outcome. As the day proceeded, I got to know the drivers a bit better, witnessed some in-depth interviews, and gave a quick speech on how to attract sponsors. When that was completed, I watched the final sessions take place. It was a strange yet calming experience as I witnessed the 24 car being driven by new drivers. I was finally ready to say goodbye to the #24.

When I arrived home, I was notified that MAZDA had made a decision and would share it on a conference call later that week. Surprisingly, I found myself in a tranquil state of mind. No matter what was decided, I would hold my head up high knowing that I accomplished a lot in 2016. I have learned lessons that are truly priceless, looked within myself to find greater strength, and showed myself that confidence is truly key to success. When the time came, I picked up the phone. On the other end of the line was Jim Bowie (Director of Motorsports at Mazda North America) and Kyle Kimball (Operations Manager). As we talked, I learned about their success in motorsports & how they are some of the most influential people in the industry. It was certainly a pleasure speaking with them. After about 15mins, I finally heard what I was wishing to hear, “Jonathan we would like to invite you to be a part of this year’s Mazda Road to Indy Shootout.” I felt so honored. Words started to escape me as I attempted to express my excitement. I thanked them both, said our goodbyes, hung up the phone, and started to celebrate!

As an aspiring racer, I often think about what “the dream” of being a professional driver is like. However, it recently occurred to me that I am living the dream right now! I am currently living in the best time of my life. I get to travel with my best friends, go wheel to wheel with some of the best talent the future of motorsports has to offer, and network with the industry’s biggest names. I’m learning everyday how to better appreciate and respect this opportunity. I will never take for granted the strength and support that I’ve received from friends, family and sponsors. 

Well, you are all caught up now! And of all things, you find me writing this blog while lying in bed recovering from the recent removal of all my wisdom teeth. Luckily, I’m recovering very well and will be returning to action very soon. It’s time to start my training and preparation for the MRTI Shootout. So, I’ll soon return to the gym, gather as much information as I can from my peers to study, and put down as many laps on the simulator as I can to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be before the shootout. 

Thank you all for reading. I’ll report back with more updates soon! Until Next Time!

- Jonathan

Preview: Rounds 7 & 8 at Sonoma Raceway

This weekend is Rounds 7 & 8 of the 2016 Formula Car Challenge Championship presented by Goodyear at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, CA. This race marks the halfway point in the season. So far, the season has been filled some exciting moments, thrilling finishes, and wheel to wheel passes. It's certainly been a strong first half for team 24! Keeping the momentum rolling will be key this weekend as we have a stacked field for this weekend's races. 

Sonoma raceway will be an exciting one as this is the track where my hero, Jeff Gordon has been successful. This is arguably his best track, and he leads the all-time list with the most wins at this track in NASCAR history. It would be really incredible to put my 24 car in victory lane this weekend.

I learned a lot about passing and racing with others from the last two rounds at Thunderhill. Passing will be very important this weekend, as this track has only two realistic passing zones. In order to prepare myself for overtaking, I have been training on Iracing, watching some videos, and asking former racers who raced here for advice. I believe the driver who can deal with lap traffic the best and overtake at the right points will win this race.

My goal for this weekend is to bring my confidence and  excel with this championship. I have been working on a lot of things mentally and physically, and feel like I am in a better place mentally than I was in May. I feel confident, assertive, and focused. Physically, I have never been better. I feel as though my physical fitness just gets better and better as the season wears on. With this new found mental and physical strength, I plan on sweeping the weekend at Sonoma!

For updates throughout the weekend be sure to check out my Twitter and Facebook page
 
Thanks for the support and wish me luck!
 

- Jonathan

Recap: Rounds 3 & 4 at Thunderhill Raceway

Rounds 3 & 4 of the championship were held at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA. It was a battle on and off the track as I had to fight with the heat, physical exhaustion, and of course the other racers. There were a few highs and lows, but overall there are plenty of positives to take away from the weekend and I look forward to returning here next month for Rounds 5 & 6!

Qualifying for Round 3 was tough - both myself and my teammate, Carter Williams (#55), were running close lap times for the pole. With a few minutes left in the session, I was able to run the fastest lap and start first in the race. When the green flag dropped, I got a great start and pulled out to a comfortable gap between myself and second place. I was able to lead all the laps and cross the finish line to take home my second win of the season! My mechanic Kevin and I were talking throughout the race and communicating very well. It was by far the best executed, smoothest, and cleanest race i've done in a long time. Needless to say we were pumped about our second win!

Things went a little differently in Round 4. When the green flag dropped, the car ahead of me made a mistake on the start and we both got passed by cars that started behind us. I knew I had to fight through the field if I wanted another shot at the win. Aggressively, I managed to be in 2nd place in the closing stages of the race. With 2 laps to go, the leader caught up to a lapped car and was being blocked. I knew that this was going to be my last chance to catch up and pass the leader. The first placed car was able to pass the slower car, but I unfortunately ran into the back of the slower car and took him out of the race. My car was also damaged as my shock cover, front wing, and nose all flew off the car. I had to nurse my damaged car to the finish. I felt really guilty when I left the track. After the race I met with the series officials, apologized to the other driver, talked with my team manager & VMB President on what happened, and apologize the mechanics. Luckily, I was still in second place when this all happened so I was able to bring home the silver trophy. 

The weekend was filled with different learning experiences. One day I learned how to run a perfectly executed race, and the other day I learned how to deal with slower cars in the closing stages of a race. The best news of the weekend was that we took over the championship points standings! That’s a very exciting accomplishment.

The next race will be a month from now. I plan on coming back better, faster and stronger.

Till next time!

- Jonathan

 

Preview: Rounds 3 and 4 at Thunderhill

This weekend is Rounds 3 & 4 of the 2016 Formula Car Challenge Championship presented by Goodyear at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA. These rounds will be a true test of my physical fitness, car control, and aggression. After a strong run in the season opener, I have high expectations coming into the weekend! 

After winning the season opener, I'm gunning for another win at Thunderhill

After winning the season opener, I'm gunning for another win at Thunderhill

Thunderhill will be unique as it is one of two tracks (the other being Portland) of the season that I've never visited. So one of the challenges for the weekend will be to learn the track as quick as possible. I've heard that it is a fast, flowing, and physical track. In preparation for this weekend's race, I have been working on my diet & fitness, studying videos, and asking for advice from past Formula Car Challenge racers.

View of Thunderhill Raceway

View of Thunderhill Raceway

My goal for the weekend is to take home another win. I'm coming into the weekend feeling more confident than I have ever felt before. I plan to keep the momentum rolling this weekend. If I get a clean start, run some aggressive laps, and fight the physical G-forces, I am confident in getting another win.

Worldspeed Motorsports, VMB Driver Development, Axcel Fast Graphics, Yoshida Sushi, and Ramen Naruto have been supporting me and cheering me on after my win at Laguna. I'm pumped to have them along for the ride and I'm even more excited to announce another partnership in the coming weeks!

Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out all the updates on my social media sites this weekend! Let's grab ourselves another gold trophy!

- Jonathan 

 

Recap: Rounds 1 & 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Coming into the season opener, my plan was to start the season off strong...and boy did we ever. After 3 months of training, testing and preparing for the season, I had high expectations. Those expectations were realized - I won the first race of the season!

The 2016 VMB Scholarship Cars (#55 Carter Williams & #24 Jonathan Sugianto)

The 2016 VMB Scholarship Cars (#55 Carter Williams & #24 Jonathan Sugianto)

In Round 1 of the championship, I started on pole. On the pace lap, my mind was more focused than ever as I looked around and saw the other 31 cars on track. Emotions were high. I felt nervous, excited, and proud all at the same time. When the green flag dropped, I got a great start and was able to gap myself to 2nd place on the opening lap. From there it was all about being consistent and clean. I told myself to maintain focus, keep calm, and make no mistakes. With about 3 laps to go, there was a 3 car crash that drew out the yellow flag. The race ended under yellow and I was able to take the first win of the season!

I won the gold trophy, a pair of Goodyear tires, some Molecule products for my suit, and some points towards the championship. It was an awesome way to start the season!

Getting ready for the race! 

Getting ready for the race! 

In Round 2, things went a little differently. I managed to be aggressive on the start and make a pass for the lead in turn 3. From there, I laid down as many fast laps as I can to pull away in the early stages of the race. I managed to build myself a good lead but about 10 or so minutes into the race, my car had an issue with the fuel pump and I was forced to retire the car. It was a bummer since we should such great pace all weekend. It would have been great to sweep the weekend, but these things happen. 

Overall, I was pleased about the opening rounds of the championship. It's a long season and I know I need to keep maintaining my pace if I want to win this championship. However, I think we have established ourselves as front runners, and I know we have the pace to run up front. I left Laguna with confidence, pride and excitement for the future. I can't thank VMB Driver Development enough for all their support & Worldspeed Motorsports for giving me such an awesome car. Lastly, I'd like to thank Yoshida Sushi, Ramen Naruto, Axcel Fast Graphics, and my personal sponsors for allowing me to be on the grid this year. 

The track: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

The track: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

 

Let's get em at Thunderhill!

- Jonathan 

Preview: Season Opener at Laguna Seca

After 3 months of waiting, the racing season is finally here! The 2016 Formula Car Challenge Championship season opener will be held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend, rounds 1 & 2 of a 14 round championship. I'm feeling very confident heading into this season as I have a great group of people around me. 

I will be piloting the #24 VMB Driver Development Car for Worldspeed Motorsports

I will be piloting the #24 VMB Driver Development Car for Worldspeed Motorsports

This season I'll be racing with many new faces, beginning with my team, Worldspeed Motorsports. They are a great team and won the last two championships with Jaden Conwright (2014) and Michael Avansino (2015). I hope to bring home another championship to them this season.

Also helping me is VMB Driver Development. They have already given me access to learn more about vehicle dynamics, public speaking, and sponsorship. I am thrilled to be racing for Steve Brisentine's program and I look forward to the journey I'll have with them this season.

Lastly, my teammates for this season will be Carter Williams (#55) and Howard Sklar (#16). I look forward to racing and working alongside them. 

Worldspeed Motorsports prepping the cars for Laguna!

Worldspeed Motorsports prepping the cars for Laguna!

There are 14 rounds in this season and I can't think of a better place to kick off the season than Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I have raced at Laguna before and I love the track. It has a lot of elevation changes, tight corners and few passing spots. My strategy for the weekend is to have consistent laps, maintain my focus, and keep the car on track. The entry list so far has about 30 drivers, so lap traffic will be another factor to monitor.

Things are always exciting at Laguna!

Things are always exciting at Laguna!

Finally, my goal for the weekend is to have strong start to my season. The team and I have been working incredibly hard, so I plan to showcase all the hard work we have put in by getting some strong results for Rounds 1 & 2.

For updates throughout the weekend be sure to check out my Twitter and Facebook page.

- Jonathan

2016 Season Underway!

Hello everyone, it's been awhile! 

Looking back on these past few months has given me time to reflect on all that has happened in the last year. From finishing my first full year of car racing, to winning the 2016 VMB scholarship, it's been very exciting. I've been training, reflecting, and focusing on these exciting adventures that are in store.

The 2016 Formula Car Challenge is fast approaching, but first let's look at what I've been up to during the offseason. 

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January wasn't a great month for me to say the least. I was very sick with the flu, and had to pause all the work that I was doing. I took a break from crossfit, canceled a few interviews, and postponed getting my competition license. Needless to say, it wasn't a good way to start off 2016. 

However, I eventually got better and was able to get things back in order. Next week I'll start to workout again, schedule a few interviews and media projects, and will finish getting all the necessary forms & documents in order. 

February is already starting to look promising - I just returned from Buttonwillow Raceway where I had my first official preseason test with Worldspeed Motorsports and VMB Driver Development. It was full of new faces, new lessons, new experiences, and most importantly...new cars!

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Testing week started off with a quick trip to Autoclub Speedway in Fontana, CA. There, I took time to sit and reflect. As I viewed the track, I remembered a powerful moment I had there. In 2004, City of Hope got me tickets to see my first ever NASCAR race. There, my hero Jeff Gordon won his 65th career win. What are the chances you hero wins at your very first NASCAR race? I couldn't help but feel proud to see how far I've gone with this.

From fan, to spectator, to driver. It has been a long and exciting journey to say the least. I can't wait to keep living the dream.

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When I arrived at Buttonwillow for Day 1 of the test, I met the crew. Telo Stewart is the President of Worldspeed, Jan Trojan is the race engineer, and Chris would be my mechanic for the test. My teammates Carter Williams and Howard Sklar were in attendance as well. Day 1 was mostly car/seat fitting and a seminar on vehicle dynamics. The day ended with the VMB Scholarship Drivers (myself and Carter) receiving new gear, hats, shirts, & even a new GoPro HERO4! Lots of learning already!

Day 2 was all about track time. In total, I estimate we ran about 8hrs on the track! I got well adjusted to the car, and I ran some pretty quick laps as well. The main things I learned were braking pressure, intensity, sliding the car, and fitness. Yep, fitness. I pulled in during the last session as my hands were filled with blisters and my back was ready to give out. Driving these cars are more physically demanding than the cars I used to drive. It's safe to say I'll be at the gym quite often before round 1!

The final day was the day I learned the most about how to drive this type of car. We started the day with some car control drills, then moved on to braking drills, and finally three sessions to put down smooth, consistent, and quick laps. I started the test running 1min 5sec lap times and ended the test running 1min 3sec lap times.  I left the test with a sense of confidence and excitement after the great improvements. 

Currently, I'm back home in Alhambra, CA ready to tackle the next phase of my development...media & sponsorship. More to come on that soon. But as a few final thoughts, I'd just like to say thanks to everyone who made this incredible ride possible! I now have a team, development program, sponsors, and friends around me. I believe 2016 has a lot in store.

Here's to those who dream!

- Jonathan

Offseason Training: CrossFit

Since my last blog, I have been working on quite a few things for the upcoming season. This includes getting new racing gear, scheduling my first test session, and starting my new snapback brand. However, there has been one major change for 2016 - my new fitness routine. After the VMB Shootout, my body needed to adjust to the new car. My arms were drained from the heavier weight, my core was aching from the higher G-Force, and my brain had to adjust to the quicker speed. It was safe to say that I needed to step up my game. After the season finale at Atlanta, I came home and started to research places to train. I got in touch with the owner of CrossFit Monrovia, who also used to be my former kindergarden teacher. I took a look at the facility and I instantly knew that this would be the place where I would train for the upcoming season. 

This past week, I spent my time there learning all the techniques, equipment, and workouts. Next week, I'll be putting what I learned to use and start my classes. I am really excited about this and I think this will give me a huge advantage next season. It's no coincidence that the drivers who spend the most time in the gym are also the drivers who spend the most time in victory lane. With my new training routine, I hope to feel more comfortable in the car and grab some wins as well. 

So as you can see, I've been trying to get myself fit for my next session in the new FormulaSPEED car. I've been talking with the team and VMB about possible dates for my first official test. I expect to see myself in the car in mid January, but that's just an estimate. Hopefully, I can announce some official dates soon! I'll be posting another blog next weekend about my new snapback gig, which is another exciting project that I'm working on with my cousin. I really hope that becomes another passion of mine outside the track. Thanks for reading this blog and I'll talk to you all again next week! 

 

Keep you all posted,

- Jonathan