The World Racing League visited Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on July 13-14 for the classic Peachtree Grand Prix. As always, I was driving the #213 Casey Carden Motorsports Mazda MX-5 with Jason Workman, Hunter Cestoni, and Erick Melton. We were in good shape for the weekend and had high expectations. We started the weekend with a short test session on Friday to just shake the car down and ensure things felt good for Saturday. We were all happy with the car, so the team moved onto prepping it for the race.
Saturday started with reasonably cool conditions given the temperatures and humidity expected to come throughout the weekend. I took the green flag and immediately had to deal with the typical first lap warriors but managed to keep out of trouble. We tried to continue chasing the lead GP3 cars but I was caught in traffic numerous times and lost sight though with pit stops we were still within striking distance.
Our first pit stop was smooth and Erick Melton hopped into the car after me. He did great work and continued a good pace. Hunter Cestoni was up next who put in some great times and was quickly hunting down the leaders. We managed to get the gap down before Hunter stopped and Jason got in to finish the race. Not long into Jason’s stint the sky opened, and it rained buckets of water. The race was stopped for a brief time as the conditions were far too dangerous and the amount of standing water on the track was too much for any tire to handle. This did come with a little bad luck for us. The leader we were chasing was stopped ahead of the safety car, so they let those cars lap back around to queue up behind the field which theoretically gave them almost another lap on us. So that was pretty much game over.
The green flag came back out though the conditions were no less tricky. We saw three cars spin onto the front straight and manage not to hit anything. That is a once in a lifetime gift of luck! Jason did fantastic work though and kept our car out of trouble. We crossed the line second in class and top ten overall. We were happy with a great point scoring finish.
Sunday’s race is a little unique in that Road Atlanta has a county mandated quiet time from 10:00AM to 12:00PM. So, we start at 8:00AM knowing we have a two-hour break but the cars are in parc ferme conditions at that time so we can’t do any work. The green flag flew and I knew I needed to push hard enough to stay with the lead pack so we could finish the morning up front. I had an absolute blast battling the entire time back and forth between the top four cars in class. Traffic was a huge factor and managing our way through it and trying to maintain speed when the faster cars were coming through was a good time. I managed to keep us in the lead and that’s where we would sit for the restart at lunch.
The restart came and Erick Melton would be in the car. He did great and dropped additional time from his stint on Saturday. We held onto the lead for a while but lost it due to fuel mileage and that’s what really hurt us on Sunday. The lead car could go over ten laps longer on a tank than us. There was nothing we could do. We kept at it though and cycled through the drivers chasing until the very end. Despite our fast race pace, totally clean race, and flawless pit stops, we crossed the line in second. This was still a strong result for the team and valuable championship points. The next World Racing League race for us is next month in Sebring. The heat will be the name of the game for sure on that one but we look forward to visiting the classic and bumpy central Florida venue.
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