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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Skip Barber Victories

I am now back in Lexington from Virginia, with a short detour in Boston for a meeting with a very interesting programmer.

The Friday practice went very well, allowing me to readjust to the new track conditions after a rain the previous evening. Saturday, the real fun began - as I decided to race for both regions - Mid-West and Eastern, I had 2 qualifiying sessions in the morning. I got pole on the first one, and the 2nd qualifier should have placed me on pole as well, had I not gone off the track with all 4 wheels. By regulations, I was placed in the back of the pack.

Getting pole on my first ever race qualifying was a wonderful feeling, but of course the win in the race was my only benchmark. I started on the inside with a Skip Barber National series racer, #14 car, in 2nd position to my left. With the green flag, he got a head start into turn 1, I let him go with no attempts to repass, keeping my mind focused and relaxed. I followed him in safe distance through turns 3, 4, 5, and the esses, not knowing his driving style and characteristics. Coming into the Oak Tree corner, I was right behind him, and managed to pass him with the aid of drafting on the back straightaway leading into 14. For the remainder of the race, with the R/T 2000's high drafting characterstics, the #14 car maintained its presence in my mirrors for the remainder of the race, and I ran away with my first ever race and my first ever win. After the cool down lap, I came into the pits with a welcome checkerd flag for the parade lap, but also got a treatment from a cooler full of ice water.

The 2nd race had rather different dynamics - it was raining, and hard, with nearly zero visibility at times, and I started in the back of the pack due to my off in the qualifying. I ended up crashing into a tire wall coming out of turn 5, breaking both, the front and the rear wings, and brought the limping car back into the pits. My high from the first ever race and win was withdrawn from my body rather rapidly.

This was certainly an interesting day - my first ever race, my first ever pole, my first ever win, my first ever race in the wet, and my first ever crash.

Sunday, the weather was great and the track was ready. I again started my race on pole due to my win the previous day. The #14 car and I kept on passing each other for the first several laps in the drafts and braking zones. A full course yellow allowed the rest of the cars to catch up to us, and added to the excitement as many cars went in hard into turn 1. Although I was in the lead going into the corner, there was a car on the inside, forcing me to forfeit going through the apex and going very wide in mid-corner to avoid contact with the car on the inside, which failed to brake in a timely fashion, missing its line. I nearly went off the track, losing 2 positions, coming out of turn 1 in 3rd. In the remaining few laps in the race, I passed both of the cars going into turn 14 in a single maneuver for my 2nd career win.

My last race was also very different in dynamics than any of the previous races - I started in the last position due to my crash the previous day. After the green, I quickly gained around 3 places going into turn 1. I maintained my position and backed off, ensuring no risks are taken this early in the race. On the 2nd lap, after gaining a few more positions in the braking zones and speeds out of the corners, I was ready to go into turn 14 at a very high speed, but the still-cold tires locked up, letting physics do the work of making sure I did not make the full turn. I made a wheel-to-sidepod contact with another car and was forced to make a pit stop to check for damage. I was quickly back on my way but the leading pack was very much ahead at that point. Luckily, a full course yellow came out when a car crashed in turn 1, which allowed me to catch back up to the field. I was in 9th position with 4 laps to go. I passed 8 cars in the next 3 laps, with a good margin of victory and a deep breath.

I walked off with 3 1st place trophies and a rookie of the race - not bad for my first race weekend.