2017 Year in Review: Mitchell deJong
FINISH: 5th in Supercar points
2017 RESULTS: 12 starts, 3 podiums, 1 heat win, 640 points
2016 RESULTS: 2 starts, best finish 8th, 24 points
THE GOOD: Finally a full-time Supercar driver after waiting for over two years, deJong wasted no time establishing himself as a regular podium contender for Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE. The 2014 GRC Lites champion didn’t finish outside of the top five in any race over the first half of the season, kicking off with respectable fourth and fifth place finishes in Memphis and Louisville.
It was in New England and Ottawa, though, where deJong truly stood out. He was one Scott Speed Joker Lap away from taking podiums in all four June rounds; the Californian notched third in the first New England final and both Ottawa rounds, and took fourth in the remaining New England final. The consistency briefly enabled him to crack the top three in the overall standings.
THE BAD: Unfortunately, it was a tale of two seasons for deJong, as the second half of the year yielded only two top fives and one heat win, all of which came in Atlantic City. It started off with a heartbreaking mechanical failure on pre-grid before the Indianapolis semifinals, keeping him from starting the session. Per series rules, because he didn’t advance to the final through his semifinal, he couldn’t take part in the final.
Seattle was a disappointment for the entire OMSE team, which had placed two drivers on the podium there in 2016, but perhaps for no driver more than deJong. He had qualified third for Saturday’s action, but had to settle for a ninth place finish that day. Sunday offered more hope as a runner-up semifinal result gave him a decent grid spot, but a DNF relegated him to eighth.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “I think we’ve done the best we can, especially in the first year. The first half of the season was really going well, and in the last few races we had a few more issues with a few things outside of our control. All I can really focus on is the driving side, and I think I’m happy with that. I’m confident because every race feels like an improvement and experience, so you just try to take that to the next race and do better.”
2018 PROGNOSIS: Still on the cusp of a major breakthrough, deJong showed top-three potential throughout 2017. Don’t expect a sophomore slump.
Photo credit: Louis Yio