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HARRISON: Walking Away With So Many Positives

HPD Junior Factory Driver Ashton Harrison files her first column after making WeatherTech Championship debut…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

You couldn’t miss the Harrison Contracting Company RV last weekend in Turn 3. It was like a big RED photobomb in so many fan pictures I’ve seen on social media.

The Harrison Contracting Executive group proudly joined so many of the long time Sebring mainstays- the Monks, the Cows, the HCC Red- in the massive crowds in the paddock. They’ve been such a huge support of my racing career, so to have them all at my IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut was beyond special.

And then there was my dad. Sporting a huge grin in his trademark bright red Harrison polo and red shorts, he enjoyed every moment of his favorite race, a race he never though he’d ever see one of his kids actually driving in or being announced on the main stage with some of the most talented sports car drivers in the industry.

He’s been there for me every step of the way. We took our first racing laps ever together at the Bondurant Sport Driving School in 2009, and he watched me take my first official WeatherTech Championship laps at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Photo: Ashton Harrison Motorsports

Joining a new team can be a transition, and there are always some adjustments to be made.

Thankfully, this transition was relatively seamless because I’d already worked with the team and drivers in the past. The Racers Edge Motorsports’ engineer Jim Pattin taught me at the HPD Driver Academy in 2021, so we already had a rhythm and I knew how to communicate the dynamics of the car with him.

Jim has extensive knowledge of the NSX, with over three seasons and multiple championships including one with this particular chassis, so I trust his judgement of the setup and run plans and can give him my best feedback accordingly.

Our car chief is my Peloton buddy, and he’s one of the most meticulous mechanics in the paddock. I know he’s going to give me the best car on track because that’s how Nick Pattin is– no detail goes unnoticed and his effort is unmatched anywhere. He pushes his crew to be the best, and his dedication shows in the team’s success.

Kyle Marcelli and I have been teammates in Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America with WTR so although we hadn’t driven together specifically, we have shared data and information and have established a good working and personal relationship.

And Tom Long- this guy has taught me so much, as my coach for over ten years from my Spec Miata days. How fun to finally get to share a car with him as co-drivers!

Photo: Racers Edge Motorsports

Jon Mirachi runs a great organization, and I’m so appreciative of all the hard work he, Harrison Contracting and Wayne Taylor Racing put into to create this GTD Pro program in such little time, with the support from HPD.

We’d successfully tested the NSX at Sebring a few weeks prior to the actual race, so already had a good handle on the setup and what we needed to accomplish.

But we can never anticipate every problem, despite our best preparation, those racing gremlins got to us on Thursday.

The team thrashed so hard all day to get our Acura back on track but we were still limited in practice time so we didn’t have a chance to run through all of our race setups. Because of the unexpected mechanical issues, we also didn’t get to install any cooling driver aids and that Florida heat is brutal, y’all.

I’m so grateful to Faith Houck and Ferguson from the Kinesiology department at Michigan State University for keeping myself and the WTR DPi drivers hydrated and our nutrition on point all weekend to offset the calories we were burning in the car.

I was completely gassed at the end of my stints, but they got me ready to go back in as fresh as I could be so I could keep competing safely.

The race itself is a bit of a heated, steamy blur — literally. I jumped in about an hour after Kyle took the green flag, when cockpit temps were nearly 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Put on a snowsuit in a sauna and then run a half marathon, all while trying to keep a 3,000-pound machine on a bumpy, slippery track while racing at 155 mph.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

That’s Sebring. Add in nearly 60 other cars, and controlled chaos ensues. I loved every minute of it.

Everyone who works in racing has experienced challenging weekends at the track, the ones where you’re so close to forgetting the love of the race and the glory of the event, forgetting that you’re actually under a canopy in the paddock at Sebring International Raceway.

The days were long and hot, especially with interrupted practices and shortened stints, and even though you understand the uncontrollable mechanical gremlins turn up, the frustration can invade all of the focus and training you’ve worked so hard for in preparation to do this job you love.

But all of those challenges fade when the car crosses the finish line and the high-fives fly after a brutal twelve hours of racing.

Success often isn’t a champagne bath or raising a silver plate on a podium step. Success can be quiet and understated. Success is a penalty-free race in a competitive car.

Success is steady, consistent laps in a new, highly competitive class of teams. Success is a team of rookies led by talented veterans completing one of the most prestigious sports car races in the world.

Success is selfies on the wall with your team while the checkered flag flies and fireworks flash overhead.

Photo: Ashton Harrison Motorsports

We came away from those twelve hours with so many positives. I stayed consistent in my lap times during all of my three stints as conditions changed nearly every lap and attrition nipped at our wheels, and I’m proud of myself for meeting that challenge.

The team had such great attitudes and work ethic, literally from Thursday at dawn until well into the early hours of Sunday morning.

The No. 93 Harrison Contracting Company Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 took the checkered as the highest-finishing Acura NSX after a penalty-free and competitive race — and in the top-ten of GTD Pro.

I can’t believe we actually raced GTD Pro at Sebring. To have that result in a one-off race is pretty incredible and I’m looking forward to potentially doing more IMSA races.

For now, we’re setting our sights on Sonoma and the start of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America presented by AWS season in mid-April!

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

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