Returning back home from the penultimate round of the Blue Marble Radical Cup North America program at the famed Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Racing With Autism driver Austin Riley is all smiles. After a successful weekend that saw him on the podium on three different occasions, the young Canadian now leads both the Pro 1340 and Overall Championship standings with one event weekend remaining.
In one of the most grueling weekends in Riley’s racing career, Austin developed non-covid-like symptoms on the way to Texas and was not feeling his best throughout the weekend that featured 100-degree temps and high humidity. Having never been to the COTA facility before, Riley was a little off the pace throughout Friday’s test sessions but clocked times that were competitive to be in the top-five.
Saturday would be the home of the single qualifying session prior to the first and only wheel-to-wheel action of the day. After qualifying fifth in class and 19th overall, it was off to the races for the former Canadian champion.
Race one saw Riley rocket forward from his fifth place starting spot and move into the fourth position by the entry to turn one on the opening lap. A few laps later he made a pass for third and set off to chase down the second-place competitor. Once catching his rival and current championship point leader, Riley stayed glued to his bumper and pulled away from the rest of the pack. After finishing a respectable P3 in class, Riley was happy to stand on the podium but disappointed to lose some additional and valuable championship points.
Returning to the track on Sunday, Austin was feeling much better health wise, and it showed with his pace on track. Set to start race two from the second position courtesy of the second fastest lap in race one, Austin held station through the opening lap as he and the race one winner traded fast lap after fast lap through the 30-minute race. With his closest rival and championship point leader having issues and forced to retire, Austin drove a smart race to cross the line second in class, scoring a big point haul and catapulting to the championship point lead.
As the new point leader, the target was firmly planted on the back of Riley entering race three where temperatures had crept over 100 degrees before the green flag flew. Starting second in class with his rival starting near the tail of the grid, the team was hopeful for other big points day to help extend the championship lead, however, the start did not go well as Austin lost several positions after minor contact resulted in suspension damage. At the end of lap two, it was easy to see Austin was struggling. Falling back to fourth and losing ground to those in front, one of which was his championship rival who had an amazing start.
Race three would also require the mandatory pit stop as per the rules, which has been an issue for the team all season long. Entering the pit lane, Austin’s timed stop was probably the best of the season to date, but he still ended up losing one position and now sat fifth in class as he exited the pits. At the halfway distance, Austin made a move to regain the fourth position and was on the bumper of the third-place driver despite his car’s tricky handling from the earlier contact. A couple of laps later, the driver in front encountered an issue that would allow Austin to move up one position and back to a potential podium spot. With first and second battling lap after lap and with Austin having a clear track in front of him, he was able to close the gap to the leaders. It would all come down to the last lap and the final few corners with the win on the line. Austin’s main rival ran second and with Austin closing. Feeling the pressure from behind, the second-place driver made a lunge for the lead and collided with the leader slowing their momentum. Taking evasive action, Austin would snatch second and if the straightaway was a little longer, could have earned the victory.
Leaving the Circuit of the Americas, Austin is the Pro 1340 and Overall Championship point leader. With one weekend remaining at the Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California, Austin Riley and his Racing With Autism program are looking for partners to help ensure that they are able to make the cross-country trek and compete for the title.
Racing With Autism and Austin Riley would like to thank their partners and supporters for the 2022 season. A huge thank you to Spark Power Corp., Lincoln Electric, Hagerty, Ady’s Army, The Hawthorne Foundation, Hammond Manufacturing, Cal Chip Connected, Forest Contractors, Utech Electronics, ATC Coral, OPMT Racing, Nesco Appliances as well as all family, friends, and supporters.
Austin Riley is a multi-time champion, the first race car driver with autism to win a major championship, and above all, an inspiration for all who’ve met him. His motto, “Just because you have autism, it doesn’t mean you can’t do great things,” is backed by his success both on and off the track.
For more information on Austin Riley, please contact RTD Media & Management at 317.270.8723 or via email to Mike@RTD-Media.com.
Photos: RTD Media