Monterey Resident Racing to End Alzheimer’s at Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Sept. 21-24
Racing champion and Pebble Beach caddy Nick Galante races for a cure
Fighting to defend his Continental SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner championship at his home track is certainly on the mind of Nick Galante heading into the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca September 21-24. The No. 17 Rickie Fowler/Legistics/RS1 Porsche Cayman co-driver with Spencer Pumpelly is also fighting for something much larger.
Galante and his supporters, namely principal sponsor CEO Phil Frengs of Legistics and PGA golfer Rickie Fowler, decided to eschew all corporate logos to instead focus on the Racing To End Alzheimer’s charity. Those donating to Alzheimer’s research will have the opportunity to put the name of their afflicted loved one on the car that will be competing in Saturday’s feature race, the four-hour Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240. More information about the program and how to donate is available HERE.
World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday, September 21 is a day on which Alzheimer’s organizations around the world concentrate their efforts on raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a group of disorders that impairs mental functioning.
Galante, who lives in Monterey with wife Erica Freestone, took time to answer questions about Racing To End Alzheimer’s, his deep ties to the Monterey Peninsula community, the upcoming event, and the unique path that led him from an upbringing with a non-racing family in Greenfield, Mass., to a professional racing career.
What was the impetus for the Race To End Alzheimer’s design that will debut this weekend?
My long-time sponsor, Phillip Frengs, has been sponsoring me from formula cars to sports cars. He created this great foundation from inspiration to end Alzheimer’s. He has agreed to take all of the corporate logos off the car to help benefit this great charity. Rarely do you hear companies saying they are going to take logos off the car for an event. That is exactly what he is doing.
He is paying for the whole thing. All the proceeds for The Alzheimer’s Project over the past four months – people have given $250 and put their loved ones stricken with the disease on the car – goes towards research and finding a cure. Phillip Frengs is making sure 100-percent of the money goes to the research, and he is footing the bill for everything else. It is pretty rare and pretty awesome.
What was your reaction when you first saw the car’s new livery?
It’s so nice to have something that’s giving back something of real value. My grandmother recently passed of Alzheimer’s, so I’m directly connected to it as well. It’s something I can easily fight for with all my heart. There are very few who aren’t affected by it whether it’s a family member or a grandparent. It’s so tough, because you see your loved ones disappear right in front of your eyes.
How did breaking your back in a snowboarding accident in 1998 lead you to pursuing a racing career?
It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Breaking my back definitely woke me up and made me realize how fragile this life is and how quickly it could end. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. I was going to pick one of four things: be a politician, be a musician, be a golf pro, or give racing a try. I told my buddy Tim Cunha that, and he told me, “If you love golf and racing, you should go to Monterey.” I said, “Where the hell is that?” “Pebble Beach golf course is right next to Laguna Seca.” I said, “That’s where I’m going.” The rest is history – working at Pebble Beach and racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
What are your thoughts about racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend?
What an amazing thing to be able to race here in a professional series right where it all started. I remember my first time pulling into the gate having known about this track through the history, reading about it in magazines, and playing it on video games. It was amazing to come here in 1999 and actually see ‘the Corkscrew.’ To be here now racing in a professional series and contending for a championship in front of all my friends and family is so sweet. I can’t even put into words how special it is. I definitely consider it my home track.
How often do you still caddy at Pebble Beach Golf Links now that your racing career has taken off?
I still caddy, though it is not as often as I used to. I did it full-time while I was learning racing. Now, I race full-time and caddy part-time.
What ties do you have to the Monterey Peninsula community outside of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Pebble Beach Golf Links?
I’ve been married for a year and a half to my lovely wife, Erica Freestone, who is a jeweler and kind of a local celebrity herself. We are both charging these dreams and passions between her jewelry business [Erica Freestone Handmade Artisan Jewelry in Pacific Grove] and my racing. We are both supporting each other and telling each other to go for it. It’s awesome.
What did it mean to win the 2016 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge driver championship?
Last year was amazing. It came down to the wire – down to almost the last lap of the last race – and we pulled it off. It was amazing. It was definitely a treat. We fought hard all season. We had our ups and downs and kept our heads down knowing that every point was so valuable. Right now again this year, we are second-place in points with two races left.
What do you anticipate during this Saturday’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240 event?
We have a four-hour endurance race for the first time ever at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It’s towards the end of the season when budgets are getting thin and motors and transmissions are getting tired. Being able to last the four hours when everything is being stretched so thin is going to make it interesting to see the strategies. The Mazda cars are so strong at that track. They are so nimble with such a strong history at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. They have won for the past couple years there. The Porsche may not fit to that track, but over the four hours it may be an advantage. We’re not sure. It’s never been done before, so it’s going to be interesting. Some of the teams’ strategies may or may not work. We’re interested to see how it pans out. My teammate Spencer is an amazing strategist over long endurance races. He has placed on the podium at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and has done strategy for a lot of teams at the 12- and 24-hour races. He is useful to have. I have learned so much from him.
How are you preparing for the event?
I’m definitely going to do the Twilight Cycling ride on Wednesday night and invite some people out for that. I always jog or bike the track before I’m even on-track. I’m pouring over last year’s in-car videos like I do before every race. I watch to look for mistakes that I’ve made and things that I can do better.
Galante and Pumpelly will be competing at this weekend’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 21-24. They will be in Saturday’s feature race, the four-hour Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240, which will begin at 2 p.m. PT.