Salt Lake City resident John Potter just recorded his best finish in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, taking second overall for the 2013 season. Having raced well going into the final event at Lime Rock Park in Salisbury, Conn., Potter could have won the series with a good finish. But his quest for first was undone by a crash during the early going. He and his team were able to fix the car and hold on to second place, however. The Deseret News' Aaron Morton caught up with Potter this week to chat with him about his accomplishments.
First of all, what happened in Turn 2 at Lime Rock?
The incident at Lime Rock was very unfortunate. There was a car ahead of me who had been struggling for much of the opening lap, and headed in to Turns 1 and 2, which are the hardest braking corners on the track. He lost control and ran wide in to the grass. Normal etiquette when you run in to the grass is to slowly and safely return to the track, but unfortunately this driver decided to resume right back on to the "racing line," which is the part of the track that cars are going at full speed. As a result, he ran right in to me. He never even looked. The contact spun me around, and unfortunately a couple of cars behind ran straight in to me, which is what caused the real damage. There was nothing the cars behind me could do. It was extremely frustrating because it was only the second lap, and caused by a driver and team who hadn't run the full season.
Here's a link to the crash:
What did it take to get the car back on the track? What was that like?
The process to get the car back on track was nothing short of amazing. It would have been very easy to just say, "We're done," and retire the car outright. However, since the incident happened on the second lap, we hadn't met the minimum time to receive points for the race, so the guys sprang in to work to repair everything. The car took a huge hit to the front, and to the rear, and they literally had to change everything on the car to make it work. The front brake rotors, all three radiators, several suspension components, all of the front bodywork, as well having to bang out part of the frame. We had a team of about six guys who went straight to work, and it was incredible to see everyone just do their part. No one spoke; no one argued; everyone just instantly knew their role. Just a little over 30 minutes later, we were back on track.
This was the sort of moment that, as a team owner, makes you very proud. Our team has possessed a never-give-up attitude all season, and that's what kept us in the championship. This was teamwork at its finest.
How do you square the excitement of your best series finish with the disappointment of being so close to a championship?
It was bittersweet to say the least. In a weird way, we're lucky that the incident happened early. It gave us zero time to reflect and get upset, as we had to hold on to hope and rebound. If we'd retired right after the crash, we were looking at finishing as poorly as fourth in the championship, which would have been devastating given our season up to that point. Because of the amazing effort by the team, our ability to get back on track and score points for finishing the race earned us second in the championship, so in a weird way everyone still felt proud of having "earned" it. We all wanted the championship, but to overcome all the circumstances and come in second still showed the team's resilience.
What's it like to have Andy Lally as a teammate?
Andy has been an excellent teammate, and someone I consider a good friend. His reputation speaks for itself. Prior to joining Magnus, he'd had three victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, three GRAND-AM championships, and had earned the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year title right before he joined us. However, what separates Andy is what he brings to the team on a lot of other levels. He's very down to earth, and that resonates with the crew. He's not the type to just show up and leave. He shows up, gets to know every member of the crew, wants to know every detail on the car, and is very involved in the engineering. It's a team effort, but he plays a critical role in the team's motivation and direction.
On a personal level, he and I have been friends ever since driving together (for another team) in 2009. He has a great sense of humor, and it helps to make the environment a lot of fun, which is important to me.
What draws you to GT grand tourer racing instead of other motorsports?
I've always had a love for different types of production cars, and GT racing is sort of the ultimate extension of that. There have been opportunities to try stock cars or prototype-style vehicles, but they don't interest me in the same way as GT racing. I enjoy the fact that these cars share strong ties to their production counterparts. For example, our Porsche, even though it's a purpose-built race car, comes straight from the same factory that produces Porsches that you see on the road. I find that pretty cool.
Your bio says you came to Utah because of Miller Motorsports Park. Why pick MMR over other tracks? Has it worked out for you?
I've enjoyed a great relationship with the track and the Miller family ever since moving out several years ago. Miller Motorsports Park was built around the same time I started taking an active interest in motorsports, so it was just a natural fit to set up shop here. MMP has done a great job of creating available shop space and retail areas for industry vendors, and that's very convenient for me. A lot of other tracks don't quite have the permanent setup for shops and teams as MMP, and of course it helps that my wife is from Salt Lake City.
What will change for the sport and for you with the new series United Sports Car Championship?
It's an exciting time for the sport for sure. Ever since I've been involved in sports cars, I've been on both sides of the rivalry between the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series. For those who don't follow, it would be like following American League baseball and National League baseball without a World Series. It's very confusing for outsiders and difficult to explain to my friends and family. Now that everything has come together under one umbrella, it's going to be much better for everyone. It's easier to explain to sponsors, and now we get to cherry-pick between the best races of each series. It's definitely a huge new era for the sport.
There are a few downsides. There will be two GT classes, which means you'll have similar-looking cars running at different speeds, so it will be a challenge to explain to our guests, "No, that Porsche is a different category, so that's not a race for position." However, we all look at it as a small sacrifice to pay in exchange for having one quality series.
What are your plans for the offseason — if there is such a thing?
On the racing side of life, there isn't much of an offseason. Our next race isn't until the end of January, but we'll be racing a brand new car, which means a lot of preseason testing and development. It's quite a technical process to learn and develop a new car, so it means we have to start now so that we hit the first race ready.
Outside of racing, there are a number of Salt Lake City projects that are keeping me busy. We're developing several real estate projects, including a brand-new hotel along State Street in Murray, and there's a lot that goes in to it. It will definitely be nice to be home for a few weeks to just focus a bit on other businesses.