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ASCHENBACH: Disappointment at Road America

Lawson Aschenbach files his latest Sportscar365 column following a frustrating weekend at Road America…

Photo: PWC

Double DNFs are a driver’s worst nightmare. You’re prepared, focused, and willing to do whatever it takes to win when you start a race, but sometimes things are out of your control. That’s important to remember when you fail to finish.

If you left everything out on the track and never gave up at any point, then you’ve achieved what a lot of drivers fail to accomplish. Rather than complaining and sulking about the actual result, you need to look at the bright side… the little moments of success that showcased your true abilities.

The Road America Pirelli World Challenge weekend was quite possibly one of the most frustrating and disappointing events in my entire career. Let’s review:

Final practice crash due to a suspension issue…

Missed qualifying…

Hard drive from 24th to 6th in a handful of laps during Race 1…

Hit after making a pass that resulted in a pit stop and end of our race…

Went from fourth to first in three corners at the start of Race 2…

Encountered an issue on Lap 2 that saw us fall back…

And ultimately retired with 10 minutes left…

Not fun, but that’s racing! This sport can make you feel like you’re on top of the world and then pull the rug out from under you at any moment. It’s cruel, but that’s why wins are that much sweeter.

It’s easy to blame the car, team, other drivers or the bird that flew past you heading into Turn whatever, but let’s face it; sometimes things are completely out of your control. This brings me back to the main point: You can only control what you do as a driver, nothing else!

When I look at the list above, the two things that stand out are going 24th to sixth and fourth to first. I’m proud of those moments. No need to dwell on the negative!

More importantly, thanks to Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller for building a strong Camaro GT4.R. I’m thankful that they put so much effort into building safe cars for racing. The engineering and thought that goes into every race car produced gives you the confidence to drive to the limit because you know you are protected.

Also, a massive thank you to Blackdog Speed Shop for thrashing to fix the car from final practice to Race 1. That was a big task and the guys did everything in their power to make it happen. I’m honored to drive for this team and appreciate all the hard work and dedication they bring week in and week out.

Moving on, I’ve got a few random notes:

***After stopping on track in Race 2, I got a rare moment to sit and talk with two corners workers in Turn 13. We had a good chat and a few laughs, but the funny thing was they both agreed they needed to stock their cooler with beer for stranded drivers the next race! Hopefully I don’t see them again (due to a wreck or a mechanical), but at least I know they will be prepared. HA!

***There were a high number of incidents during both races. Sadly, the constant crashing and yellow flag laps are becoming more of the norm. The driving standards need to be brought to a higher level. A few drivers brought up great points that tougher penalties need to be introduced. I agree, along with more fines to make people think twice.

***In another point of hilarity, while I was sliding toward the wall on the exit of Turn 1, somehow I keyed the radio! That allowed the team to hear, “NO…NO…NO…NOOOOO… SH!#!” It feels like the world slows down to a crawl when you know you are going to crash. That last second feels like eternity, but it also allows you to prepare yourself for the destination… concrete wall!

***On a serious note, desperation is becoming more noticeable during races where people are continuing to drive beyond their limits to make “miracles” happen. These “miracles” are causing massive wrecks and dangerous situations. Here is a thought: most of the issues happen, or start, in brake zones. Maybe we should eliminate ABS so drivers have a harder time throwing cars into brake zones?

***In the end, racing is dangerous. You will crash, sooner or later. It happens to all of us, but we are all fortunate that safety is a priority for manufacturers and series. I want to personally thank everyone that has a hand in making racing a safe, exciting sport for the fans!

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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