C.J. Wilson had taken his baseball career as far as he could, making two All-Star teams, starting six postseason games, pitching in the World Series. But by 2016, shoulder surgery — on top of an elbow injury — had ended his days on the mound.
“Basically, I pitched until my arm fell off,” said Wilson, the former Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels left-hander. “So it was time to chase my other passion.”
Wilson already had been a race car owner, running a shop in Austin and fielding cars in two IMSA sports car series, when he decided to become a driver, too.
This weekend, Wilson, 36, is racing for the first time at Circuit of the Americas as part of the Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown. He’ll drive the No. 33 Porsche 911 at 11 a.m. Saturday in the GT3 Cup, the second of two weekend races in that series. Wilson finished an encouraging eighth place Friday night.
“I absolutely had to have something else that fuels my competitive fire,” Wilson said. “Racing energizes me.
“As a baseball pitcher, you could blame the umpire’s strike zone or maybe your team doesn’t score runs. In racing, there is no excuse. Either you’re good enough to pass the other guys — or you’re not.”
Wilson, who’s driven in amateur events for years, acknowledged he’s making a huge career leap into a support series for the world’s top sports car drivers.
“It’s like going from batting practice straight to playing Triple-A baseball,” said Wilson, who had a 94-70 record and a 3.74 ERA in the major leagues. “Think about Josh Hamilton learning how to hit a baseball, Elvis Andrus learning how to field grounders.
“I’ll be thrown some curveballs. You might not find me at the fast end of the field right now, but I’m serious about this. I lost 20 pounds, got in shape, and I’ll give it what I’ve got.”
Yet Wilson isn’t going to give up his day job as general manager of Porsche Fresno in California.
“Yeah, I’ve still got to sell cars,” he said. “My situation is like going to college (learning how to race) while having a full-time job.”
Although Wilson had a successful 11-year MLB career, he wishes it could have turned out a bit better.
“I regret not winning the World Series in Texas,” he said. “Still, a lot of great things happened, and even here at COTA, I’ve had people greet me wearing Rangers hats or shirts. We got so close in 2010 and ’11 but just couldn’t close the deal.”
Local touch: Corey Fergus of Austin-based Moorespeed Racing grabbed a second-place finish in Friday night’s Porsche GT3 Cup. Fergus, in the No. 00 US LED/Byers machine, pressed winner Trenton Estep of San Antonio for much of the race. Fergus had qualified second.
Austin’s Jeff Mosing, who won the ST class in the Continental Tire Challenge earlier in the day, was first in the P-M class and fifth overall.
Will Hardeman, an Austinite who drives for Moorespeed and qualified third, got swept up in a wreck but was uninjured. His No. 19 car is too badly damaged to be repaired in time for Saturday’s race at 11 a.m.
Foreign influence: The Lamborghini Super Trofeo races boast a major international presence. Edoardo Piscopo, a 29-year-old from Rome, won the pole for Friday night’s race. Other contenders included Richard Antinucci, 36, also of Rome, and Patrice Brisebois from Canada. They’ll go again at 9:45 a.m. Saturday.