Robinson: Still I Rise
Drama… pretty much sums up my weekend in New Jersey.
We started Friday practice with a problem a few laps into the first session when the battery came loose in the foot box and was pushing my feet into the pedals. The battery isn’t exactly light so that was not a fun experience. I came into the pits and the crew was on it immediately. I went back out to hopefully get a decent time in, but things kinda snow balled from there when the car wouldn't shift.
We discovered an issue with the gearbox and the guys were able to get it fixed before our second and final practice session. Once we finally were able to get some laps down, we were quickest and under the previous track record set back in 2012.
Qualifying came on a beautiful Saturday morning. It was nice and sunny, but not too hot out which made for optimal track conditions.
I went out and started pushing hard right away as typically the times will slow down as the tires start to heat up during a session. After putting down several flyers, I ended up with pole and a new track record, with which I was very pleased. The nice thing about the New Jersey Motorsports Park is that the straights aren’t long enough for the draft to have a massive affect, so you could tell what each person’s raw pace was.
Race 1 came late in the afternoon for us. I had a good start and managed to hold the lead for the first lap. Almost right away though, the car felt like it had a lot of understeer, in other words the rear of the car was driving the front, not allowing the car to turn. Additionally, I was having trouble getting the car into gear during downshifts.
I fell back to about 6th, but pushed really hard to get back into a position for the last few laps. I managed to claw my way back to 3rd and was making a move for 2nd on Ben Auriemma into turn 5 which is a hard brake zone, with quick downshifts from 4th to 1st. As I dove to the inside, I was unable to get the car into gear before I turned into the corner. Once I managed to get the car into gear at the apex, I had a nose Ben. Unfortunately, I locked up the rears causing the rear tires to lock up and slide into Ben who was about 3/4s of a car alongside me. This sent him off and Scott Andrews dove under both of us. I came across the line in 3rd but was placed behind Ben so I finished 13th.
After the race, the crew found a loose bolt in the shift linkage which was creating my shifting problems. Needless to say I was pretty upset about the penalty as I felt it was mechanically induced. And even if it were a mistake on my part, it was an honest one. I was so upset and frustrated, I didn’t even know what to say. The way I look at it is how can you penalize someone for missing a shift?
Anyway, the next day I had a bunch of people tell me to stop worrying about it and focus on the races ahead. I was still upset about the call, and even though I was mad, it typically doesn’t affect my performance for the upcoming races. I think that is one of my strengths, = being able to bounce back.
I started 3rd for the 2nd race and maintained my position through the first couple laps. I tried to keep myself in the top 3 and traded the lead off with my friends Jordan Cane and Robert Megennis for about half the race. With about 3 to go I realized I needed to probably be in 3rd place coming into the last lap to have a good shot at the win. I made sure I was in position and as the white flag flew, I made my move, making it three wide into turn 1. I came out on with the lead and fended off challenges from Jordan for my 2nd win of the year.
It was a great way start to the day off but we had one more race to go. I would be starting 5th for this race. I didn’t get the best start and I slipped to 6th. I worked really really hard though to get back to to the top 3 where I knew I needed to be. Once again, Robbie, Jordan and I found ourselves braking away from the rest of the field.
Jordan and I traded the lead numerous times while Robbie hung back in 3rd to try and attempt the same move I made in the first race that day. As the laps wound down, I knew Robbie wasn’t going to try and pass me so I sat in 2nd and made sure I had enough of a gap from Jordan so that going down the front straight on the last lap I wouldn’t “stall” when I pulled out to pass.
I managed to time it just about right and I was about a nose ahead of Jordan when we got to turn 1. Just one problem… I was on the outside. I broke late, but really focused on carrying my momentum around the corner. It paid off, and I rode the cushion to a Sunday sweep.
I was super happy to sweep Sunday. One win is nice, but two is even better!