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HARRISON: Get Us A Broom

HPD Junior Factory Driver Ashton Harrison files her latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Chris Green/Racers Edge

The Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS weekend at Road America snagged 100 wins for Racers Edge Motorsports and put us back in the championship fight! The adrenaline (or maybe it was the champagne!) from the podium kicked our motivation into high gear and we are reinvigorated for the final push of 2022.

The rollercoaster of this season has been full of peaks and valleys, some in my control and others not, and some really taking an emotional and physical toll at times. But regardless of the situation, our team has never given up the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality and our determination and preparation paid off for Rounds 9 and 10 at Road America.

The weather on Friday threw us for yet another loop, although one not uncommon in racing. We spent most of the weekend watching the radar for the rain moving across the area, as it did for morning practice.

Needless to say, Mario was thrilled to put in some laps in the wet. By the afternoon, the sun came out, which then produced a track with extremely mixed grip levels. Preparation for qualifying became slightly challenging with the changing variables, but we still had it handled.

I love Road America and I’d honestly consider it the track at which I have my best performances, but I didn’t drive so well in either practice session. Talk about disheartening.

At times, I was convinced I was up front, maybe top five overall, only to find out that I was the farthest down on the timing screen that I’d been all year. But practice is just that- practice.

We have these sessions for multiple reasons, and in this case, I just needed to keep pushing toward when my performance really counted- after the green flag dropped. I know I’m good racer and pressure helps me perform better. I just had to keep relying on my confidence while I asked questions and studied the data.

In qualifying on Saturday morning, I ended up P6 in class and 12th overall… ouch. Refocusing after one of my worst qualifying sessions as a driver wasn’t easy – to say the least- but nevertheless I just kept reminding myself of my responsibilities in the race.

I’ll be honest- to not be really disappointed and at times very angry with yourself after a bad qualifying run is so difficult because you know you’re better than the times posted. Watching Mario put our No. 93 Harrison Contracting Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 on pole for Race 2 both boosted my spirits and shook my confidence.

Photo: Chris Green/Racers Edge

I was thrilled with his performance, yet had to keep perspective as well, as compared to my own. Mario is a professional and a factory driver. That’s my goal, but yet I’m still learning, and that’s okay, too.

As my dad always says: ‘it is what it is’, and it was time to go racing. I had to play my role, one I knew I was very capable of, to get back in the championship fight!

One of my strengths are my starts (and restarts) and I had a great one in race 1, getting up to fifth in class before Turn 3 – then that nightmare of racing played out in front of me as several cars spun and collided.

I managed to avoid the melee to escape with no damage to the NSX while pushing through to P3 in class and seventh overall. My performance at the green flag and my ability to avoid the crash boosted my confidence as I settled into my stint. The repairs from the incident caused a long FCY period, eating into much of my time behind the wheel so I needed to capitalize on the restart and gain the next position before the pit window opened for Mario to take over.

On the restart, I gained P2 out of the infamous corner, The Kink and brought the car into pit lane five seconds behind the leader. After our crew got the joker on our pitstop once again, Mario left pit lane and went to work. After patiently chasing down Bill Auberlen in the BimmerWorld BMW, Mario made an amazing pass, late on the brakes and on the outside of Turn 5, to take the lead over the Pro-Am field.

We all hung over pit wall, waving and cheering as he took the checker, literally giving us a victory fly by on the front stretch, so close we could feel the draft from the car.

Mario started on the class pole and off the front row in Race 2 and lead his entire stint, building a gap to P2 by over five seconds when he brought me the car late in the pit window.

At this point in the race, it’s crucial for the second driver to hit their marks and be fast, but also to race smart. I had to channel my excitement and adrenaline into the focus needed to do my job- which isn’t always the easiest task after watching a stint like Mario just had.

Knowing your teammate just literally laid down the law in his stint and now you need to maintain can be just a bit nerve-wracking, but I knew I was more than capable.

The position we were in showcased why we make a good driver pairing. Every race weekend he makes me an even better driver because I learn so much from his performance and knowledge, and that performance had me fired up!

Photo: Chris Green/Racers Edge

My stint started out uneventful – whew! – until we needed to start saving fuel toward the end of the race. Thankfully, I had learned how to tackle fuel saving mode in the HPD Academy and Jim, our engineer, had been the one who taught me.

So, when he gave me the word, I was ready for the challenge! By that point, our combined efforts had built a gap by over nine seconds to P2, so we were in a comfortable spot with a new fuel strategy. I took the checker with my own fly-by of the crew, yelling into the radio, to take our second win of the weekend and third victory of the season.

Our sweep of the podium put us just two points outside the championship lead going into Sebring International Raceway – Mario and I have been working so hard to stay in sight of our goal and now that we are… as a sweet little boy at Road America said: “Mario & Luigi” are in full swing for the championship title!

Victory lane is always sweet, and to experience that feeling twice is one weekend is almost indescribable.

To add to such an amazing moment, Shea Adam told us in our on-air interview that we’d just earned Racers Edge the team’s 100th victory.

I think both Mario and I were speechless for a minute as we realized the importance of that moment to Jon Mirachi, and Mario pulled him into our interview.

Moments like these don’t come often, and I’m so proud that Mario and I could contribute to the Racers Edge legacy and earn Jon Mirachi and the entire team their 100th win at my favorite track in the U.S., Road America.

Ashton Harrison is a HPD Junior Factory Driver competing with Racers Edge Motorsports with WTR Andretti in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. .

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