Aaron Jeansonne: Steady Progress
SULPHUR, La. (May 15, 2018) – Two race weekends of the 2018 F2000 Championship Series season are already in the books. It’s been a wild ride to start this year to say the least. Of course, in Road Atlanta, we began the season with two “DNFs”, so I knew going into Watkins Glen we would need two solid finishes. But first, I took a trip to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a nice weekend of IMSA racing. As much as I’d like to say how fun it was to compete there, that wasn’t the case.... yet. I had a great time getting to know more people in the racing world and spectating at an exciting IMSA event live for the first time. It surprised me just how many fans showed up to support their favorite manufacturers and drivers, and I was even able to meet some of my favorite drivers (below with fellow former Team USA Scholarship winner Dane Cameron). I can’t wait to be able to attend another!
Almost immediately after returning home from Ohio I flew out to Watkins Glen International Raceway, a track that has been close to the top of my bucket list at which to drive a race car. The weekend started off Friday with three 30-minute test sessions. We knew we needed to find improvement from where we were in Road Atlanta and we were able to chip away each time we went out, with the car coming to us more and more throughout the day. However, there was no escaping the rain all day on Saturday, which included two practice sessions, a qualifying session, and race one. Sounds like a busy day, right? Well, it wasn’t. We decided not to complete the two practice sessions for the simple fact that we didn’t believe it was worth the risk at the time, and we eventually went out for the qualifying session in the somewhat heavy rain that afternoon. Just getting up to speed, my Primus Racing teammate Simon Sikes was able to qualify fifth and I qualified seventh for Race One. Then, shortly before our first race was set to begin, race officials decided to postpone it until the next day due to heavy fog rolling in and little to no visibility.
As much as I love wet-track driving, I must admit I was pleased to potentially have the race in the dry the next morning. Much like the previous two days, Sunday dawned very cold, dark, and cloudy. Only unlike Saturday, it was dry! We had to work very hard to get heat in the tires for the race, which had my adrenaline pumping in the pace lap before the green. Our car was working better than it had been, but I felt we were losing a little straight-line speed and couldn’t manage better than a sixth-place finish. It was good to see the checkered flag!
Our fastest lap times set the grid for Race Two, which meant I again lined up in sixth. Unfortunately, one of the drivers had a huge impact with the barrier coming up to the start, so there was a lengthy delay before we were able to get going.
We finally restarted the race in single file and I was able to start from a higher position due to some misfortune for Simon, whose car stalled on the grid and wouldn’t fire up until a couple laps into the race. I quickly jumped to third and ran there for a few laps, doing my best to see what the leaders were doing and figure out how to catch them. I felt good and the car was working well. We were finally in position to attack and walk away with a strong result. Not much longer afterwards, raindrops began to fall yet again – even though there was no rain in the forecast – and I really struggled to capitalize on the conditions with the setup we had on the car. I fell to the sixth spot where I eventually finished again.
Our main goal going into the weekend was to come away with two solid finishes and we accomplished that. It was disappointing to come close to a podium and not get it, but I’m feeling the confidence in this team and this car that we will be running for many more as the season goes on. Our next race is at VIRginia International Raceway in a couple of weeks’ time. We ran a test at VIR recently and I really like the track, so I’m excited to be back there and get things rolling! Jon Baytos, Nick Denny and our driver coach, Austin McCusker, all did a great job at helping us constantly improve, and it’s a pleasure to be able to work with them. I’m also looking forward to working again with our regular race engineer, Derich Cutshaw, who just had a successful weekend including a top-five finish with Primus Racing’s Formula 4 driver Justin Gordon at Road Atlanta.
It was also nice to have a very pretty car over this race weekend – with a white wrap on it I was honored to carry the colors and logos of Team USA Scholarship, SAFEisFAST once again, Mazda, Dominion Raceway, and a company that I am actually employed with called Waitr. They’re a fast growing food delivery service that was founded right next to my hometown of Sulphur in a city called Lake Charles, La., where I went to school until seventh grade and still visit nearly every day. Waitr has been very cooperative in allowing me to make a flexible work schedule while still following my dream of making a living as a racing driver.
As I’ve said, we’re carrying positive momentum going to VIR, and are all excited. This weekend was a crazy one for us at Watkins Glen and I had a lot of things thrown my way that I’ve never had to deal with before, but I’m definitely having to learn a lot very quickly.
Thanks for keeping up, guys.