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ASCHENBACH: Utah Debrief

Lawson Aschenbach files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: PWC

There are specific times in everyone’s racing career when outside influences will create confusion, frustration and anger. It’s in those times that you need to take a deep breath and focus. Focus on the task at hand, nothing more.

You have to realize that you can’t control those influences, but you can control your own performance. The drivers that can separate the two will be a step above the others.

As Blackdog Speed Shop rolled into Utah Motorsports Campus, we were prepared for the toughest challenge of the season. We were given a significant performance adjustment by the series that was going to hurt our ability to fight for a podium spot.

Tony Gaples and I were going to need our best drives of the year to obtain reasonable finishes.

We knew it was going to be a struggle, but as Barney Stinson says, “Challenge Accepted!”

Everyone on the team did their best to forget about the competition and zone in on our own performance. We buckled down and got to work the minute we hit the track making countless changes to maximize the speed of our Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.

The car felt great after the test day and official practice. With qualifying up next I knew we had to get everything out of the car early on so we could save our tires.

This is important when you have one of the heaviest cars in the series and an extreme lack of straight-line speed.

We gave it all we had in three laps. The hot rod was on rails and felt the best it had been the entire weekend, but we could only muster 10th on the charts – almost two seconds off the pace.

Let me revisit the focus piece above.

This is one of those times that can send your brain into overdrive, distracting and angering the driver. But in all honesty, that doesn’t do anybody any good.

I blocked the bad thoughts out of my mind and worked hard with my engineer to make a few tweaks before the first race.

Race 1 was a heck of a battle, but we found ourselves 9th at the checkered flag. Using every ounce of track and curbing, I pushed the car to the limit each and every lap.

We had a tire failure while running 8th at one point, but a quick pit stop and fortunate yellow flag allowed me to battle my way back to roughly where we were headed anyways.

Obviously this was not what we wanted, but I was proud of the result considering the box we were placed. Under-powered and overweight is never good for results, but it felt great knowing that we achieved the maximum result possible.

Race 2 proved to be better due to incidents and carnage that saw us move up to 5th. Again, we clearly didn’t have the speed to battle for the podium, but we got every bit out of the car and overachieved without a doubt.

Am I happy with the finish? Of course not. No driver is happy battling for 10th. But as I write this blog I know there was nothing left in that car by the end of the race. That’s all you can ask for…give it your all!

There are always hardships and tough days in the motorsports world, but all you can do it keep you head down and get to work.

The best teams and drivers never give up, and I feel our team never gets fazed by situations out of our control. I know without a doubt that everyone at Blackdog Speed Shop comes into every weekend with the same goal: to win!

We won’t be denied. We will fight until that checkered flag falls!

On to COTA!

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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