Autobahn Country Club Road Course, Joliet, Illinois
By 1:15 p.m., we'd completed the 114-mile drive and were ready for the third event of the day. We were jacked and ready to go, but due to a prior commitment by the track, we didn't get to run until nearly 6 p.m. (Sigh). Down time is a real mood-killer, and we sat around for five long hours. I did my best to rest. I laid down in the car, behind the car, and practically under the car at one point to avoid the sun. We were just four laps away from tackling the 568-mile haul to the far side of Iowa.
Finally we got the call and Jeff suited up. "Our first road course event was on the 2.5-mile, 12-turn course at Autobahn," Jeff stated. "It is relatively fast, has a nice flow, and has some corners that can hold more speed than you think they can--but ONLY if you have the car in the right spot and are prepared to put the power down in spite of what your eyes are telling you."
Jeff felt good about his run, but admittedly, he overcooked a corner and was being hard on himself. Nevertheless, we packed up the Roush and headed west. Thanks to smart phones and our friends who were scanning the Internet, we knew the results from each track moments after they were posted. When the news came in, we saw Jeff nailed it, scoring 13th overall and 1st in class!
Mid America Motorplex, Pacific Junction, Iowa
Rain! That was the theme of the morning at MAM. Jeff and I found a small overhang, just big enough to prevent our stuff from getting soaked, but we were damp, tired, and not too excited about running hot laps in the wet. We decided I would run first so Jeff could take advantage of the dry, considering he knew the layout. "The challenge at Mid America Motorplex is maximizing corner exit speeds on at least three of the turns, as the track features some very long straights," said Jeff. "Another challenging aspect of MAM is its flatness. With just 18-inches of elevation change, it can be difficult to see through the turns."
I'd never seen the track before, so my recon lap was sketchy at best. Thankfully, the sun was drying the track quickly. Wanting to maintain our upward climb in points, I dialed my brain back a notch and focused on running smooth laps.
By my second lap, I was closing heavy on a BMW 330i and I prepared to make a full-on racing pass. I launched off Turn 14 (a tight right-hander) that led on to the long straight. The Roush gained ground with every foot, and as I approached 130 mph (and the fast 90-degree right-hander) I inched past the German machine, late-braked off line in the wet, and dove into Turn 1 cringing! The Roush held, and I rolled on the boost and drove off, completing my laps without further drama.
At MAM, Jeff and I combined for a great score, which moved us up the chart. Our closest competitors were a pair of new modified Camaros and a Dodge Magnum with a professional race driver on board. With our adrenaline pumping, we slapped our gear in the Mustang and headed south towards Hallett, Oklahoma, just 425 miles down the road.
Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, Hallett, Oklahoma
When the scores were posted from MAM, we were elated to find the Roush Performance Mustang listed second in class. While winning was our secret hope, realistically, a top-five finish and bringing the car back intact was the main goal.
Hallett is a staple of OLOA, and this is the 10th year the race has been held here. It is tight, quick, and can bite you--hard. If there is a demon turn, it's Turn 9, a quick right-hander aptly named The Bitch. Jeff knows this place--he knows it well--and we knew a double win at Hallett would give us the lead. Having fun was one thing, winning was another. I am competitive, I like winning, so I benched myself and told Jeff to let it eat.
"Hallett's 1.9 miles of climbing and diving, twisting and turning asphalt is one of my favorites," said Jeff. "Being highly technical, it is a true driver's track, rewarding precision and car control above torque and horsepower." Of all the tracks we competed at during the 2012 One Lap of America, Hallett is the most demanding of the driver's attention. You have to precisely place the car in the proper position and use every inch of asphalt--if you don't, you crash. Just before Jeff went out, a Porsche went off entering The Bitch, dirt is flying everywhere, and he barely saved it. Seconds later, a GTR barreled off and slammed the barrier, but somehow backed up and continued. I was nervous because I knew Jeff would push hard. Jeff made it happen, though, holding his line and winning both sessions by a nice margin. We got the lead! Next stop--High Plains, Colorado, just 625 miles away.