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Lawson Aschenbach files latest Sportscar365 debrief after COTA…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

Circuit of The Americas, otherwise known at COTA, can be summed up in one word: breathtaking. This is the finest facility in North America and one of our favorite stops on the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge schedule.

It’s got a diverse set of corners from the medium-speed, but very technical, esses to the triple-apex carousel to a variety of hairpins. Managing the extreme heat is also an important aspect. It was HOT this weekend.

The track is a short drive to downtown Austin… a fun and up-and-coming city with plenty to offer. From great food to live music to the always-entertaining 6th Street, there is a little something for everyone.

We showed up to the penultimate round of the season with a lot at stake. Our teammates, Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, were the championship leaders and we all focused on doing everything possible to help them keep that position.

It became very clear that we had a tough battle ahead considering the current rules package has hindered the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.Rs from being able to battle for race wins. We knew our weekend was going to be decided on perfect strategy and pitstops as that is basically the only way we can pass other cars.

Practice and qualifying proved our concern as we ended up with the fifth and sixth starting positions. Andrew and Matt gave it everything they had and drove great, but we didn’t quite have the speed. We felt we had a good long run car, so we were still optimistic for the race.

When the green flag flew, Andrew and Matt got to work. Running nose to tail for their entire stint, they were able to pick up a few spots before pitting for driver changes and fuel/tires around the 46-minute mark.

Our crews strive to get better each and every weekend. We constantly perform live pitstops in practice and work tirelessly to find time here and there. Saying that, we had two PERFECT pitstops allowing Robin and me to pick up another position or two heading out for the restart.

Once the race got back underway, unfortunately, I noticed we had a bit of a braking issue. I was having a hard time getting the car to stop. I did the best I could to stick with Robin to provide a bit of a buffer between him and the cars behind me.

We ended up pitting for our final stop under yellow not long afterwards and we decided to take two tires to see if we could improve our track position. Again, another two brilliant tire changes and refueling by our crew put us in a great spot.

I was still struggling with the brake issue, so I had to play it a bit safe to try and make it to the end. I tried my best to help support Robin and had a great battle with Billy Johnson running side by side for a few corners.

I battled as hard as I could to keep my position, but ultimately I had to concede to a few cars. Either way, I continued to keep the pressure up in case we were able to get a spot or two back towards the end of the race.

Not long after, our teammates’ main championship contender pulled off track with a mechanical issue. That was a huge momentum swing during the race. They clearly had the car to beat and were probably on their way to another win, gaining valuable points in the standings.

While having a hard scrap with another competitor, I accidentally pushed him into a spin entering Turn 15. The driver broke quite early, but in the end it was my fault.

I continued to push as hard as I could before getting called into the pits for a stop-and-go penalty. This saw us fall back and finish eighth. Not the finished we hoped for, but more importantly, Robin brought the No. 6 car home to another win!

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough year for Matt and me, but if we can’t win the race we wouldn’t want to see anyone else up there than our teammates. All in all, it was a very successful weekend for the entire Stevenson Motorsports team!

We’ve got one more race to go and I know everybody will be giving it everything we have to finish on a high note! Thanks to the team for all their hard work.

On to Road Atlanta!

Lawson Aschenbach (@lawsonaracing) is a former Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge champion, driving for Blackdog Speed Shop in Pirelli World Challenge and Michael Shank Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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