TEAM NEWS: Aschenbach Races for Redemption in Salt Lake City

Photo by John Thawley SALT LAKE CITY - Lawson Aschenbach is a man on a mission. Since entering the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT series in 2005, the reigning champion had never finished outside of the top 10 - until his streak abruptly ended on the streets of Long Beach, Calif., on April 15. Hit from behind and spun out in the first turn, Aschenbach watched in frustration as the entire field drove by. Living up to his "Awesome Lawson" nickname, he used a heavy right foot and the horsepower and handling of his Cadillac CTS-V race car to charge through the field to a 12th-place finish.

But 12th is not where a champion wants to be. That's why Aschenbach will be racing for redemption in the third round of the 10-race series at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City on May 19.

"I want to rebound from Long Beach with a great finish and get back closer to the top in the championship," said the 23-year-old racer from West Palm Beach, Fla. "I'm really fired up and ready to get back on track."

The track that Aschenbach and his championship-winning teammate Andy Pilgrim will race on is the sprawling 4.5-mile, 24-turn Miller Motorsports Park circuit - the longest road course in America. Last year Pilgrim and Ron Fellows finished third and fourth respectively for Team Cadillac in the SPEED GT series' inaugural event in Utah, while Aschenbach was ninth with his previous team.

"I love the race track, and I really enjoyed racing there last year," said Pilgrim. "It's long, it's technical, and I just like the whole idea of it."

Aschenbach agreed: "It's a neat track because it's such a long lap," he reported. "There are not a lot of reference points on the track because it's so flat, so at first it's hard to figure out your turn-in points. I tested there last year before the race, and that definitely helped me to learn the course."

The track's 4,923-foot elevation and the heat of the high desert will make demands on the race cars and drivers. The thin air will cut horsepower by approximately 14 percent compared to sea level, and will also affect aerodynamic downforce and cooling. Team Cadillac will also have to cope with the SCCA regulations that give the Corvettes that have won the series' first two rounds a 125-pound weight advantage over the Cadillac sedans.

The Team Cadillac engineers and crew can make adjustments to the CTS-V race cars to prepare them for the conditions they'll encounter at Miller Motorsports Park, but the drivers will have little time to acclimate to the high-altitude environment.

"I train six days a week because I know that being in good shape is an advantage during a race," Aschenbach explained. "Lifting, running and biking is good preparation for any track. And living in Florida, I'm used to heat. If I can go for a four-mile run in 97 degrees wearing a sweatshirt, it shouldn't be a problem to race for 50 minutes in Salt Lake City."

The third round of the SPEED GT is scheduled to start at 9:45 a.m. local time (11:45 a.m. EDT) on Saturday, May 19. The race will be televised tape-delayed on Sunday, May 27, at 5 p.m. EDT on the SPEED Channel.

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