- 19 August 2015
For the fifth round of the championship, we would be tackling the Pittsburgh International Race Complex and its brand new extension. It had been a pretty tough year leading up to this weekend as I had not scored a win yet, but had numerous podiums and, I believe, the most fast race laps out of anyone. The pace was there for sure, but we just needed the cards to fall our way.
Thursday and Friday both marked practice days for us. Even though the new extension doubled the track length from last year, I didn’t feel I had any problem getting up to speed on the new pavement. We were consistently very quick by ourselves, while pretty much the rest of the field had to rely on a draft to run our pace. Of course it’s practice, so you have to take the times with a grain of salt, but hey, the car felt hooked up!
Heading into qualifying, I felt pretty confident that we would be on the front row. When we first rolled out, I set the pace almost right off the bat, but as people started to catch drafts, the times dropped and I slipped back a bit. Not gonna lie, it can get a little frustrating when you aren't making progress up the speed charts after you put down a flier. But then again, you have to remember that it’s 1600 and a draft lap can be worth up to a 1.5 second, depending on the track. I managed to sneak one last lap in before qualifying concluded to end up P4, about .150 of a second of the pole time. I was a little surprised we ended up where we did, but if you look at the lap times, we were right there.
The first race started off with a little bit of drama as the outside pole sitter tried to push the pole sitter into the grass before the green flag. I thought it was a bit ridiculous myself, because the race hadn’t even started yet. To make my point, I made it three wide going into the first turn and drove around the outside of the guy who started P2. I almost made it to P1 as well, but the pole sitter chopped me a bit so I had to back out of the gas and I slipped back to about 5th. All the hustle and bustle of the first lap came to an end when we had a full course caution come out after the first lap. Well, it depended on who you were, as some of the corner stations didn't display the flag so some people continued to race while I slowed down. I naturally fell back but was given the positions back. At the restart, I started P4 and promptly made my way to the lead and started to stretch a gap. However, a massive incident behind me took out 3 cars resulted in another full course cation. I was thinking to myself “Why is this happening to me while I’m in the lead”. However, I knew that I was going to have to deal with whatever cards I was dealt and do the best I could. As the laps wound down, I positioned myself for run to the the win. On the last lap, I made my move going down the front straight into Turn 1. I went in deep on the brakes, and made the move stick to take the lead. I knew I had 85% of the lap left, so I defended for my life and took my first win of the year! It was pretty rewarding to finally come out on top. I think a lot of people were pulling for me and I was congratulated by just about everyone who I was racing with. It was really cool to see my friend and probably my biggest rival Scott Andrews pull up next to me and give me two thumbs up on the cool off lap.
My second race went pretty well and I ended up P3 after a tough battle for the win. I had myself positioned for a shot at the win, but it didn’t quite work out. I learned though and I know what I need to do when we go back in October! We were hoping to close things out strong in Race 3. We stiffened the rear bar for the afternoon race to reduce the understeer / push in the car from the morning’s race. For some reason, when I was on track, the car was almost undriveable with understeer. When the guys got back to the shop, they found that one of the rear bars had come loose which effectively softened the rear of the car. This completely threw the balance of the car off as it gave the rear end entirely too much grip. I ended up P6, and I was trying to squeeze every little bit out of the car.
Funny story from the weekend. When my dad’s coworkers from the series where standing in the elevator with their SCCA shirts on, a guy comes up to them and says “My cousin races in the SCCA, do you know so-and-so?” Well it turns out so-and-so was me! It was pretty ironic how my cousin and I were staying at the same hotel in Pittsburgh when we both live in Augusta! He was there for the Pro Disc Golf Association World Championships but he was able to make it out on Saturday for my first win of the year!
Overall, I was pretty happy with the weekend. It was a massive relief to get my first win! The rear bar coming off in the last race was pretty unfortunate and made the car a pig to drive. But we will rebound and come back strong at the New Jersey Motorsports Park on August 28-30! Skylar