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Nathan Byrd raced at Indianapolis in the SVRA 90-minute enduro on Sunday afternoon. (Byrd Racing photo)

BYRD: Three Races At Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the things I love about my schedule is the variety of tracks that I get to run.

Racing at Daytona Int’l Speedway was a blast, but there is nothing more memorable than driving a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

With the Sportscar Vintage Racing Ass’n in town for its annual weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I got a chance to drive the Arrive Drive Motorsports F1000 car on the IMS road course.

Originally, I was also going to run a supermodified doubleheader at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway, but that fell through because of a flight cancellation. The plan had us running a Saturday doubleheader at Oswego and flying to Indianapolis the next morning for the SVRA Endurance Race on Sunday afternoon.

Thanks to my father’s diligent efforts, we salvaged the weekend by flying to Indianapolis on Saturday morning to compete in all three SVRA races with the F1000 car.

We flew from Phoenix on Saturday morning and went straight to IMS from the airport. After checking in with SVRA officials, I jumped into the car for my first session in the F1000 car at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Nathan Byrd was behind the wheel of the Arrive Drive Motorsports F1000 car. (Byrd Racing photo)

Previously, I had only raced the IMS road course twice last year as a part of the Skip Barber F4 Race Series. This time in the F1000 car I was racing a different configuration than any I had previously experienced.

I had to get up to speed quickly, considering I was going to be starting at the back of a 26-car field because I missed the qualifying session.

I decided to approach race one as a test. My main goals were to get the seat time and try to get as good of a race lap as possible, so that I could start further ahead for race two, as the fastest laps would set the grid for the second race.

I moved up eight spots on the opening lap and continued to work my way forward to finish sixth overall and third in class.

After that, I thought I could compete for the overall podium in race two and the enduro. The cars at the top of the time charts and in the front of the field were old Indy Lights cars, Atlantics and other cars of that caliber.

In race two, I was excited to see what we could do with an F1000 car that has a few hundred less horsepower than the competition I mentioned. In the F1000 car, we turned down 1,000 RPM per gear to help the engine last the weekend.

It was going to be tricky during the race because I was starting sixth. The F1000 car would counter the straight-line speed of the other cars by outbraking and outcornering.

I’ve gained a lot of experience with cars around me that have significantly more straight-line speed. That’s where I’m able to improve lap time by using the brakes and getting superior speed in the corners.

This comes from competing in the NP01 prototype car in WRL weekends where we share the track with high-horsepower touring cars and race for overall podiums.

At the start of the race, I passed an old Indy Lights car on the front straight. I then passed a red Swift 014 Atlantic on the outside of turn one.

The Atlantic ended up overcharging the corner and made fairly light contact with my right rear in the middle of the corner. He spun and I maintained control.

I was fourth when the yellow flag waved after one lap.

I restarted in fourth, but the Indy Lights car powered past me entering turn one on the restart.

I regained the position in turn seven.

On the next lap, I ended up squeezing between an old Red Bull livery Indy Lights car and the blue-and-white car in the brake zone, forcing the Red Bull car on my outside to back off. I took away the preferred line for turn two from the blue-and-white car who was pinched down on my inside in turn one.

It was a two-for-one move using the brakes in turn one.

Up to third, I had visions of a podium finish.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake trying to defend my position and got two wheels off-course exiting turn 12.

This knocked me back to fourth, behind the blue-and-white car coming onto the front straight, and then fifth place by the time we were heading into turn one.

A few laps later, I held fourth all the way until turn 12, where the Red Bull car decided to challenge me on the inside.

Unfortunately, he completely outbraked himself on my inside, presumably trying to match my brake zone. He lost his rear and spun out.

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Nathan Byrd stands third on the SVRA podium at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Byrd Racing photo)

I ended up hitting him with my front left, breaking my wing, nose structure and front left suspension. My wheel yanked violently to the left, spraining my wrist and thumb, and I immediately came into the pits.

The car was going straight, but my steering wheel was upside down.

This was a disappointing result because I knew I had pace and the ability to challenge for a podium finish.

Luckily though, we had all day until the afternoon endurance race to fix the car and to check my hand out at the IU Health Infield Care Center to make sure nothing was fractured.

They said everything looked fine and cleared me to race. They wrapped up my hand and I iced it up as much as I could to help keep the swelling down.

I went into the 90-minute enduro feeling good about my ability to race. We planned to make one of our two mandatory five-minute stops a fuel stop and the other one a tire stop.

The SVRA Endurance Series always creates a crazy race, because of all the different cars that can enter it. In the top five, there was a famous multi-time 24 Hours of LeMans winning car, a fast prototype-looking car, the red Swift 014 Atlantic I battled against in race two, a LMP3 prototype car and my F1000 car.

I felt like I got a good start to the race, entering the braking zone of turn one about 75 feet behind the red Atlantic of Bruce Hamilton. I outbraked him on the outside of the corner and was half a car length ahead of him by the time we got to the apex.

We were exiting the corner when someone contacted my right rear.

I figured it was Hamilton again, just like in race two. After the race, my team confirmed that was indeed fact as he pitted for a flat tire after the first lap.

Running in fourth, I felt a vibration from my right rear for a couple of laps, but after that it went away.

I finished third in the enduro, after pitting only twice as planned. The first stop ended up being longer than we planned for, going over the five-minute minimum by almost two minutes.

If not for that, we could have competed for second.

The LeMans car that won was untouchable with unfathomable straightline speed. Hamilton finished second, despite his unplanned pitstop early on.

In the end, it was a very eventful weekend.

Despite the crash in race two, I learned a lot and showed good pace as I progressed over the course of the three races.

I went into a weekend with no practice or qualifying whatsoever, but that’s what I’m trained to do at this point.

Adapting, adjusting and learning on the fly is what I do, and it definitely leaves very few dull moments along the way.

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