no images were foundSo last week I made my USF2000 debut in the National class driving the No. 29 GroupAWheels.com/Vredestein Tires/Race Optics/TreoBenny.com Van Diemen for Accele Race Motorsports. The event itself was a fantastic event from the first day. I could not believe just how many people were there even for Friday, which was only practice. All the fans were very enthusiastic and into every class. The amount of autographs I signed and pictures taken was quite substantial for what we are used to in the support series races. But, that’s certainly cool to see the fans that ecstatic about us as well.
Indy Car randomly selects 3 drivers and various amounts of crew and officials for each for drug testing from series it sanctions, such as the USF2000 Series. I was one of the lucky three for this race and had to go to the medical center. I sat in the chair in the room where they were doing it and had my head down while filling out the paper work. While doing that, a man in a black shirt sits next to me and starts to do the same. When I finished, I picked up my head and looked at the man and who was it? None other then Michael Andretti who is one of my child hood heros from when he raced Indy Cars. He was also randomly selected to take one and we sat next to each other and took ours together. A fun little note from the weekend.
But now to the racing! The weekend started off really great during the practice sessions. The USF2000 package with the Cooper Tires and more horsepower, is a bit different to what I am used to, but is a ton of fun! My engineer and I clicked from the first time I pulled my car into my pit box. He understood exactly what I was saying, making great changes to help the balance of the car. This really helped me to gain confidence in this new package to maximize it on track.
no images were foundQualifying was a fun session and a great job by the team to have the proper strategy to get the pole position for the National Class. With qualifying being at 8AM and us having practice sessions at that time earlier in the weekend we had a good idea what the track was going to be like. We had a really strong feeling that the track would be quite slick and would gain grip as the session went on. With that we came up with the strategy to go out and do about 5 flying laps, to put in a lap and get everything up to temperature. Then to come in the pits, sit for a while, save the tires and go out again at the end when the track would be faster.
We did just that and it worked perfectly! I did 5 laps to start the session and the track was quite slick, but at the time, I put in a lap time good enough for pole. I came in and sat in my pit box until 10 minutes to go. While sitting there, my team was keeping me up to speed with what was the current pole time as my competitors were going faster as the track gained grip. I felt confident because the track would be the fastest on the last lap and my tires would be relatively fresh. So, with 10 minutes remaining, it came time to go out and try and put the AcceleRace Motorsports car on the pole! Instantly on my out lap I knew the track was faster and I just sucked it up and put in two flying laps. My first flying lap was good enough for pole and then we piled on our lead, resetting the pole lap again on my second flyer! The strategy worked perfectly and we had pole for race one!
no images were foundRace one I put in some really good cold tire laps to build a gap over the competition. I then had a minor set back that put me back into 2nd place. Quickly, I took the lead back but had Luca Forgeouis still lurking. Coming to the white flag we caught his team mate about 10 seconds to put him a lap down! Sadly, JR decided to ignore the blue flags and not do anything for me to get past. This allowed Luca half a chance, and he put in a dive bomb move into the keyhole. He got all crossed up and I had to go to the right to avoid hitting him in the gearbox. We still made contact which ruined both our races. Sadly, I had to settle for 2nd. It was extremely unfortunate to have a lap car ruin the race, especially while leading on the last lap, but ”thats the way the cookie crumbles”!
Race two I had to start in 2nd based upon the races fastest lap from race one. I got a great jump on the start and took the lead right from the green flag. As I did in race one, I was able to build a gap on cold tires over the rest of the National Class competitors. Around lap 2 or 3 I felt that I was in trouble because I had really bad understeer. The track was very green from the rain the day before, and my gaps were still staying the same. So, I was hoping everybody else had the same scenario. Around lap 10 I could see Colassaco in the distance from my rear vision mirrors. As soon as I saw him, even though I had a gap, I knew I was in trouble. He closed the gap within one or two laps and he was now starting to terrorize me, looking for a way past. He put in some efforts to outbrake me in the keyhole and turn 4. I was a good bit stronger than him on the brakes and able to hold him off for about 2 or 3 laps. Eventually, he got past and I had to settle for second place again. Found out after that he managed to save a set of tires for the second race which explains the amount of front grip he had compared to me.
Certainly it is frustrating to lead so many laps during the week, take the pole and have two second place finishes. But that’s just the way it went. If it was easy, everybody would do it, and that’s just racing. The Accele Race guys did a great job all weekend. The car ran flawlessly the entire weekend and my engineer, Glen, was making great changes as well. I really wanted to reward their efforts with some wins but we will just have to do some more races to do that! Certainly the team and I were the people to beat most of the weekend in the National Class and even though we didn’t get the results we hoped for, I think we proved alot.
Editor’s Note: First and foremost, we’d like to thank AcceleRace Motorsports and Jonathan for taking the time to share his insight as a driver. You can follow AcceleRace on Facebook and on Twitter (@AcceleRaceF2000) and you can follow Jonathan Scarallo through his website, http://jonathanscarallo.com/, and on Twitter (@JScarallo).