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BLACKSTOCK: Barber delivered first 2014 podium, but we’re looking for more

5.4.14 (via MoreFrontWing.com) – The Pro Mazda Championship ran Rounds 3 and 4 at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend, and it was a pretty up-and-down event for me and the No. 28 Starstruck Andretti Autosport team.

Things started out strong. We had the fastest time in the Thursday morning test session and the second-fastest in Friday morning practice, and we felt like the car was pretty on point. But our competitors started finding changes that were working for them, and from then on we were just playing catch-up.

In the first race of the weekend, we started sixth and were able to move up one spot to end up fifth. We were fine with that, but it wasn’t the first or second-place finish we were looking for.

In Race Two we started fourth and finished third to land our first podium finish of the regular season, so that was a bit more satisfying. We were frustrated that despite making some good progress on the car and some good changes, it just wasn’t enough in the end to give us the pace of the two front-runners.

If you look at the time sheets from the season so far, you’ll see there are only two teams that are consistently ahead of us: Juncos Racing – and especially the points leader Spencer Pigot – and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

Some people are looking at Spencer right now and wondering if he can be beaten. The thing about that team is that it’s 100% car over there right now. Don’t get me wrong – Spencer is a good driver. But we were wondering why they were so pushy about having the new front tire brought in for this season, and now it kind of makes more sense. It’s livened their cars up quite a considerable amount and definitely helped them a lot, whereas it kind of hurt our car and left us a bit behind. We will definitely have something for them once we get a handle on what our car needs, and then we should be right there with them battling for wins.

As for Cape — congratulations to them on getting up to speed this fast in their first season of Pro Mazda. Those guys are very, very good in USF2000 and they had a good amount of testing in the off-season, so we knew they’d always be a threat, and they’ve definitely proved to be that. It’s been pretty amazing to see.

We’re getting closer and closer to those guys on car setup and that’s all I ask for. We have some good strong points on the car – it’s just that the weak points really, really hurt us. We learned a lot at Barber and are making some updates to focus on our weak points and make the whole car overall stronger for our next event.

My other racing pursuits are going well. I mentioned in my last update that I was flying to Germany to attempt to qualify for the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Well, we did it by finishing second in class in the qualifying race, so we’re very happy. I can’t wait to get back there in June. It’s going to be 200-plus cars and 24 hours on the most dangerous and hardest track in the world. Sounds like my idea of fun.

And this weekend I’m at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to race with my teammate Ashley Freiberg in the Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series. We took the win at Daytona but dropped out with a mechanical issue at Sebring, so it feels like it’s been an awfully long wait for our chance to get redemption from that. Laguna Seca is one of my home tracks, so I have a lot of laps here. I really like it. There have been some balance of performance updates throughout the series for this weekend, so it’ll be interesting to see where everybody sizes up.

Of course, being on the west coast means I missed out on observing the Verizon IndyCar Series open test at the new IMS road course this past Wednesday. That doesn’t concern me too much, though. The Andretti Autosport IndyCar teams were there and our Pro Mazda engineers were able to check things out, so I’ll land in Indianapolis on Monday night and go out to dinner with them to go over everything. I’ll be caught up pretty fast.

I can’t wait to get on track at IMS in a Pro Mazda car. It’s great that IndyCar is running a road course weekend there and that the entire Mazda Road to Indy will get to be part of it. It’s the Indy 500 that obviously makes that place amazing, but it’s cool to do the road course and then a couple of weeks later go into the oval race. I think overall for the entire series, it’s going to be awesome.

Regardless, in the end it’s all about actually getting on track at IMS to see whose setup is going to work the best for that place. Like you, I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. I hope the work we’ve done gets us onto the top step of the podium.

- Shelby

 

 

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