The last couple weeks have been eventful to say the least with some exciting highs and frustrating lows. Here’s how it went.
The 3rd round was held on a cold and windy October evening. Luckily, with all the padding that I adorn to keep my hips, back and tailbone from bruising, I wasn’t too cold on track. This week the light class was the first group on track, so the karts were sluggish and low on grip in the first race. I was able to qualify in 14th, but as the group pulled up to the start line something seemed off. When the green flag dropped the kart bogged down and seemingly had no power. Three or four drivers passed me by the time we reached the back stretch. The kart eventually started to pick up as the run went on, but the damage was done and the best I could muster was 15th. The heavy class put some more heat into the karts and track, and I was much more competitive in the second race; I qualified 9th and finished 9th.
For the final race of the night I was assigned one of the fastest karts I’ve driven in the series. I put myself in 4th for qualifying, which was my best result yet. Early in the race I was able to capitalize on a competitor’s mistake and moved up to 2nd! An epic battle with the leader ensued. At one point I lost 2nd after a little bobble, but was able to regain the position after a hard pass. Unfortunately, I couldn’t complete the pass for the lead before the checkered flag, but ultimately it wouldn’t matter; I was assessed a position penalty after the race for “avoidable contact” during my return to 2nd place. I was given 3rd place. Nonetheless, it was my first podium finish in a rental league race at GoPro Motorplex, and I learned that I was capable of winning a race. I never lost sight of the leader and was able to keep on him throughout the entire race. Although I was disappointed by the penalty, I was very excited to climb the ranks throughout the evening and have a chance to compete for a win!
The 4th round started much like the last race of round 3 but quickly turned into a disaster. Once again, I had a hot kart and qualified in 3rd. On the first lap, the racer in 2nd place slid wide going through turn 9 and I took advantage. My 2nd place position was brief as the driver behind me took advantage of my compromised line and passed me heading towards turn 11. Getting pushed from behind, I almost lost 3rd but was able to hold my position going into turn 1. Again, I caught 2nd and took advantage of a mistake he made in turn 6. After he slid out wide, he returned back to the racing line and pushed me into the curb at turn 7. I bounced off, into him and he fanned out wide into the grass. I kept the position. Again, I held 2nd until I was given the bump and relegated to 3rd. On the next lap, I was bumped again coming onto the front stretch, lost two spots, and when I passed the flag stand a black flag was flying for me! Confused, I brought the kart into the pits and was informed that the officials were going to park me for the night for disregarding the black flag for more than three laps.
It was explained that I was black flagged on the first lap for my pass for 2nd. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they would have also black flagged me for my second pass for second place on the following lap. Meanwhile, I didn’t think to look at the flag stand on the first three laps because from my point of view I hadn’t race anyone harder than they were racing me. I was moved out of the way for position a few times during those laps. I knew that arguing wouldn’t do me any good, so I spoke to the head marshal afterwards. He was unwavering in his assessment of my driving, but he did waive the disqualification, which allowed me to continue racing.
In the next two races I was careful not to give the marshals any reason to penalize me. My karts were not top contenders and I raced as cleanly as possible; I finished in 10th and 15th. Once again I was victim to the old adage, “That’s racing.” The head marshal explained that sometimes they issue black flags to set the tone of a race, and perhaps I was the unfortunate recipient of that intention. To me, it felt like I had been singled out because of the penalty I was assessed last week, and I was an easy target to identify because of the highlighter yellow shirt that I wear each week. Nonetheless, the race was over and the damage was done. All I could do was to be more mindful, hope for another good kart, and maybe wear a shirt that stands out less. To see it from my point of view, check out my helmet cam: