After a pair of podiums including 2nd in the feature race of the SCCA June Sprints at Road America, the first weekend of the FRP F1600 Championship is also in the books. My first trip to Pittsburgh International Race Complex had its ups and downs, but I was able to learn the new track and show the #52 Tnemec/Caldwell Subway car had quick pace and gain the experience of battling with the lead pack (often 3-wide with 2 more right behind heading into a corner). Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the start to the season we wanted, but we have a strong car and we are in a good position to be competitive moving forwards.
The Friday test day was used to get comfortable with the new track and I had improved my times with each session. By the end of the day, I was second quickest just barely behind my teammate, Simon Sikes. I had a great opportunity to learn from Simon, who had been to the track with wins multiple times in different cars.
I qualified P4 for race number 1 and was able to quickly get up to P2 and I would spend my race going back and forth for second. I was very quick out of the last few corners on the track and led my pack coming to the line almost every lap, but my chance at a podium was cut off when I was passing for second but was pushed off the track in the final corner coming to the white flag. The other driver was penalized, but the damage was already done ending my race in P12. I knew I had a fast car capable of a podium, and I was excited for two more chances the next day.
Qualifying for race 2 was decided by the fastest laps for race 1. Since I led my pack or was passing for the lead, I didn’t have the draft required to start on the first few rows and began race 2 from7th. I went into the race with a very aggressive mindset to try and get to the front few before they had a chance to leave the rest of the pack. I had quickly made my way up to 5th with the pace to keep climbing, but the combination of 90-degree ambient temperatures and a 4-car draft blocking air from getting to the radiator to cool the engine gave me the challenge of cooling the car while keeping my pace up. I had to pull out of the draft to keep air flowing to the engine, short shift to keep engine RPMs down and at some points, lift on the straights to do everything I could to stabilize the temperature. During the madness of all this, I lost a few spots ending race 2 in P8.
For Race 3, based on the fastest laps in Race 2, I started on the outside of the 2nd row. I was able to make my way up to 3rd and 2nd at times, which gave me enough clean air to keep the temperatures stable. The team had done everything they could in between races to help the car stay cool. Despite their efforts, we still fell victim to the heat and running in the pack. After shuffling back to third in line, I wasn’t able to get the air I needed and resulted to doing what I could to cool the engine ultimately putting us P6 at the finish, only .3 out of 4th and .8 out of 2nd.
Even though these were not the results we were looking for, we still had a very productive weekend. We have a very fast car, and the next event will be at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. I have been very fast there in the past. As a matter of fact, I was able to score my first formula car win at Mid-Ohio last year in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series. So, I feel very confident going into the next event on the 4th of July weekend. On top of that, I have learned a lot and gotten much quicker at Pittsburgh. This will be very valuable when we return later this year for the 16th 17th and 18th rounds of the season.
Congrats to Simon, who swept the weekend in dominant fashion! We used different setups on Friday and the team used our feedback to provide us with the best cars possible.
I can’t thank Greg Rice and everyone involved with RiceRace enough for working hard to keep the engine temperatures down and provide great support. Also a big thanks to Mike Land with Tnemec Companies and Indiana Coating Specialists, and to Don and Jennifer Caldwell with Caldwell Realty and Caldwell Subways of Hobart and Valparaiso, Art Wilmes with Rising Star Racing, Bell Helmets, Cabin Coffee Company of Avon, BSA LifeStructures, Hinchman Racing Uniforms, Performance Tire Service Company, and Moeller Printing. And, thanks to everyone else who supports me and lets me do what I love!
We’ve posted some on-board videos to my YouTube page if you want to see some of the races, click here, or you can search Jackson Lee Racing on YouTube.
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