PITTSBURGH, Pa. — After a Memorial Day weekend in Indiana, it was back to F1000, F2000 and Pro Mazda action June 3-5 at Pittsburgh Int’l Race Complex.
The PittRace weekend was the first time I’ve raced three different cars on the same weekend. After practicing all three cars on Friday, I qualified and raced each car on Saturday and Sunday.
Of the three classes, I was most confident with the F1000 car and looking to get wins No. 6 and 7 after I barely missed the weekend sweep at Barber Motorsports Park.
My first F1000 win actually came last year at PittRace, so I knew I could do it. We also had the track record at PittRace another goal for the weekend in the F1000 car.
In the first qualifying session, my right-rear CV joint failed and I was out of the session after just a few laps, so I started fourth in the race.
When the green flag waved, I moved up to third by passing Arrive Drive Motorsports teammate Tommy Cadwalader on the outside of turn one. He was held up by Steve Hamilton.
Hamilton and I traded the spot twice on that lap, but a few laps later I caught leader Reilly Harris. He held me up for a bit and Cadwalader closed the gap and passed me for second when I mis-shifted in turn 17.
Cadwalader tried to find his way around Reilly, eventually sending it up the inside of turn 12, opening the space and creating an opportunity for me to follow on the inside of turn 14.
I gladly took advantage of that.
Reilly passed me back into turn one, but I regained the spot in turn 10.
I ran down Cadwalader and passed him for the lead on the outside of turn three with two laps to go. The next lap, I got a little loose at the apex of turn three and ended up causing Tommy to run up on my front right tire.
That sent him into the air, the grass and the tire barrier.
That is not how I wanted to win the race, but we were both racing hard and there was very little margin for error. I was bummed about that result because I wanted Arrive Drive Motorsports to finish first and second, and it sucked that contact between teammates kept that from happening.
For the second F1000 qualifying, we didn’t have any mechanical issues and I won the pole easily. I missed the track record by one-tenth of a second.
Although I started on pole, the straight-line demons of the field, Steve Hamilton and Reilly Harris, both were able to pass me by the time we got through turn three.
Hamilton had a front wing failure and that left me and Harris battling for the win.
He pulled away as I was dealing with an unusual engine issue, but later I started to reel him back in.
The whole second half of the race was basically me catching up to and then battling with Harris lap after lap.
It was a crazy battle with a few close calls, but with only two laps to go, I got close enough in turn five that my car took the air off of his rear wing and diffuser.
Because of that, he didn’t have the grip he needed and spun in front of me.
That handed me the victory on a silver platter.
In the F2000 car, I qualified for the pole by two-tenths of a second for race one. I proceeded to hold my lead at the start of the race, making defensive moves whenever Austin Hill, my competitor, was close enough to challenge.
Despite a caution flag, I led every lap of the race to claim the victory.
However, the second F2000 was a different ball game.
The F2000 championship series has a six-tire rule, that means over the course of two qualifying sessions and two races, each driver can use a total of six new tires. My tires were fairly worn out from my first race victory consisting of many hard laps, and I only got two new tires for the second race and qualifying session.
I used up my two new tires a good amount in qualifying two trying to get as fast a lap as my car would allow me. I qualified third.
Considering my tire wear and that the eventual race winner had the freshest tires out of the whole F2000 field, I knew winning the race would be a miracle. Even finishing on the podium would be quite the accomplishment in itself, considering the challenges we were facing with our car setup as well.
I started third and over the next three laps, I was slowly gapped by the two cars running ahead of me with Austin Hill pressuring me from behind.
I defended his challenge three times, but the fourth time he got a good run out of turn one and had the upper hand entering turn three.
That superior positioning was too much to overcome and I finished fourth.
Finally, we also ran the Pro Mazda in the Open Atlantic Championship Series, my first time competing in the series. It was a mixed weekend for the Pro Mazda, as our main goals were to develop the car itself by fixing its fundamental setup issues.
We did this by taking away a substantial amount of the car’s aero, both front and rear, to expose the car’s mechanical grip deficiencies to try and achieve a true balance of grip with the car.
This, unfortunately, led to many troubles for me, as the car was nearly undriveable. There seemed to be almost zero rear and front grip, only doing well on the straights.
We were able to make some improvements in the car after struggling to a third-place finish in race one.
We were able to give it substantially more front grip, which was great, but the rear was still intolerable in race two, and we finished third again.
I know we could have done better if we slapped the aero package back on, but what fun would that have been? Plus, I got some valuable experience having to adapt to a very difficult to drive car, which was definitely developmentally beneficial.
In the end, the weekend was a success, with five of my six races ending with a podium finish, three of which were wins.
I’m looking forward to later this year when we return to PittRace, where I’ll have another shot at sweeping the weekend in all three series, while going for more track records.