Blackstock: An emotional, up and down weekend in St. Petersburg

Mazda Road to Indy, Pro Mazda, Pro Mazda bloggers, Shelby Blackstock — By on April 2, 2014 10:29 am

The next day was Race Two. I walked into my hauler that morning and Bud said to me, “Alright, I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news,” which is not what you want to hear when you first get to the paddock. “Alright,” I said, “give me the good news.” He said, “We start fourth.” Okay, I thought. That’s not bad. I can race from there. Then he goes, “Well, here’s the bad news.” Since we’re only allowed three sets of tires per weekend, the plan was to have me reuse my qualifying set that had really low miles on it. But it turned out that three of the four tires in that set got punctured somehow. We weren’t sure whether it happened on track during qualifying or while we were rolling back to the paddock afterward. The punctures were very small, like little shards of metal, so you could maybe even get away with racing on them. But what would happen is that instead of the tires elevating in pressure, they would probably stay about the same and then they wouldn’t give me the optimal level of grip. Also, it has the capability of exploding the tire, which nobody wants out there.

Instead, we went ahead with tires we knew weren’t punctured. My right front was a sticker, my left front had 40 miles on it, my right rear had 80 miles, and my left rear had 17 miles. When there are four tires with different mileage on them, the car can react a little differently and a little unpredictably, but we just kind of took what we had and scrubbed them in.

My standing start wasn’t that great because the tires were old in the rear, but I just kind of worked with what I had and raced my way from there. We finished fourth, but we ended up with the second-fastest race lap. We were kind of bummed with not getting on the podium because I think we could have gotten there. We ran into lapped traffic midway through the race, which really spread out the field, but we were able to run down the pack again once we got through it.

I was telling Bud that if we’d started on stickers like Spencer, Scott, and all those guys did, I think the car would have been just a rocket ship and could have gotten down to the times we accomplished last year, which had been a good chunk faster than we were going.

In the end, it was an emotional, up and down weekend. We definitely learned some stuff, which I’m very happy about, so hopefully we can take what we’ve learned in St. Petersburg and plug it in when we go to Birmingham, Alabama, at the end of the month. Hopefully we get back on top like we were last year.

I’m getting along really well with my new teammate, Garett Grist. He’s a little young and is still learning here and there, but I’m impressed with how quick he is for how young he is. I think by the end of this year he’ll be very good and battling for wins constantly. By next year, he’ll be a real contender for the championship.

As always, I’m keeping busy for the next little while. Today I leave for Germany to drive a six-hour race on the Nurburgring that’s happening over the weekend as qualifying for the ADAC Zurich 24-hour race, which I’ll be returning for in the middle of June.

For now, I think we got as much as we could out of the Pro Mazda car in St. Petersburg. I’m very happy with everything we learned. At Barber Motorsports Park, I’m pretty sure we’ll be quick right out of the box and ready to go to business.


Shelby Blackstock is a Pro Mazda driver for Andretti Autosport. Follow him on Twitter at @shelbilly and on Facebook.

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