Photo Credit - Halston Pitman/MotorSportMedia – Julie Williams/CRC
Words - Halston Pitman/MotorSportMedia
As one walks through the paddock of a race weekend of the Grand-Am Rolex and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge you can usually easily identify why everyone is there. Mechanics legs are sticking out from underneath cars under team awnings. Drivers cruise the paddock signing autographs and taking pictures, they are easy to I.D. as they always have the coolest sunglasses and many time flip flops on. Engineers are seen in the corner of their team area looking over a laptop screen with a very serious look on their face. The rest of people that make a race series work are mounting tires, confirming all cars adhere to the rules and those ever crowd pleasing grid girls making sure you enjoy your time. Don’t forget to buy some merchandise from the teams, series and track so we can all keep coming back to enjoy the show!
There is one person that is a more difficult to identify. What is she doing here and every race weekend? An iPad, cell phone, radio and a team t-shirt are her tools of the trade. A couple minutes of chatting and we find out this very important person is a “Number One Fan” of someone. That someone is her son or daughter. The fan is one that never gets the limelight and we wanted to sit down with one such mother and find out what it is like to have your child mix it up on a race course, a very dangerous job, for the entertainment of others. We thought the best time for this would be post race of the Barber 200 in the CTSCC series. The race was to say the least carnage. Many cars did not even make the green flag because of race damage. More than one car finished with no driver side door, trunk or fenders.
Paula Capestro is the mother of John Capestro. John has moved quickly from spec series up into a seat with BimmerWorld Racing in their #80 BMW 328i. His rookie season in CTSCC led to podium finishes at Daytona and in his home state of California at Laguna Seca. For this season he has moved to driving with James Clay of BimmerWorld which results in a strong driver combination supported by a very strong BimmerWorld team.
BMWBlog – Paula thank you for taking the time for an interview! We appreciate you taking your time to answer some questions and get race fans a different perspective and mindset. Everyone loves the drivers, teams and mechanics but a different insight is always great. How long has John been racing and what series did he run in before Grand-Am Rolex/CTSCC?
PC[Paula Capestro] – John “officially” started his racing career in the Skip Barber MazdaSpeed Summer Series in 2010. He was lucky enough to run with a tough and talented group of drivers and was voted the most improved driver. In that series he won four races, was second twice and had two third place finishes among eight podiums, placing fourth in the championship and winning the rookie of the year driver scholarship. JCD joined the Bimmerworld team in 2011 driving the #81 car with Greg Liefooghe.
BMWBlog – Walking through the paddock post race at Barber it reminds us all that while safety has been improved this is still a very dangerous sport. How do you cope with this? Are you thinking about that while John is driving?
PC[Paula Capestro] – God makes no mistakes, John is who he is and has remarkable talent for racing. I just want Him to do his personal best on the track, I believe that the rest is in the hands of his Creator. I do pray that everyone has a fun time and practices good racecraft. I think it is important for the drivers to respect each other.
BMWBlog – Coming from California means long trips for all events except Laguna Seca. Do you travel to all races with the team to support your son?
PC[Paula Capestro] – Yes I travel to every race, occasionally I may have to miss a few days, but I enjoy arriving early to witness the preparation of the car, and watching the practice sessions as well as watching the race itself. The more I learn, the more I enjoy the sport. The technical aspect of car racing I find intriguing.
BMWBlog – That will end up being a LOT of miles for you and John. At least there should be some free plane tickets from frequent flyer miles after the season is over! Being at the track is definitely an experience everyone should enjoy at least once. During a race weekend what does your schedule look like? Do you tend to fend for yourself and explore and stick close to John and the team?
PC[Paula Capestro] -The weekend starts early. John and I go to the track to check in with the team the day before testing. The first thing I do is pick up the golf cart that we reserved two to three weeks prior. I try to help shuttle team members, drivers, guests, friends and equipment, run errands and for the most part help out. Sometimes I find it hard to stay out of the way because the garage area is crowded and everyone is in a hurry. During the lull in the schedule I drive the cart around the track to get to know the course and figure out a good vantage point to watch practice sessions and attempt to take a few good pictures. At the end of the day we go to dinner with the team whenever practical which is fun.
BMWBlog – Your tools of the trade during the race weekend are an iPad, cell phone and a radio. During on track sessions what are you doing with these devices? How connected can you get to the team that your son is driving for?
PC[Paula Capestro] – I have an inexpensive NASCAR radio that has our team’s frequency programed in and headphones so I can hear the incar chatter which I love. Then my phone is a hotspot so I watch live timing and scoring on the grand Am website with my iPad. I also keep up with some business stuff as well when we have down time while in the golf cart with my LG HBS 700 Bluetooth earbuds that fit under my radio headphones so I can answer calls during racing.
BMWBlog – Sounds like I might need to actually bring my tablet to the track! Once the green flag drops where do you spend the race? Do you stay here the whole time or prefer to move out to other areas? Before John gets into the car does he like to chat with his mom or is it strictly business at that point?
PC[Paula Capestro] -John is strictly business prior to a race and sometimes I don’t even see him until the fan walk. We speak a little bit as we make our way to the pit for the start of the race. I like to watch the race from the pit even though there is little room to sit. The iPad is set up for live timing and scoring and hopefully the monitor is working on the back of the Engineers Box so I can see the entire course on the live video feed. There are pros and cons to this because the pit box is VERY busy and I have to stay out of the way. I am in the center of the action there and experience the emotions of the team which is important to me. Also John is close and I like to wish him good luck before he gets in the car which has become our tradition from the beginning of his racing days.
BMWBlog – Post race is there anything special you and John do? The drivers will have their own debrief of course but does John open up and give his number one fan a post race interview?
PC[Paula Capestro] – John gives me a short debrief right after the race. Listening to the engineers and other team members is informative as well. Looking at data is very interesting when I have the opportunity to do so. The adrenalin is going after a race and I try to just “go with the flo” so to speak until things calm down. My favorite time with John is watching the incar video usually the next day on our flight home. Race weekends provide Andy and I with a lasting memory of John’s early days as a pro driver. We cherish this time in his life watching him pursue his dream.
Paula thank you for taking the time to speak to us. We wish you safe travels and good luck to John!
John would like to add “I’d really like to thank Skip Barber, BimmerWorld and my family for everything and getting me to this point, and continuing to support me.”