It was another event weekend and a return to Barber Motorsports Park, a facility that is close to the heart of Canadian Austin Riley. Claiming victories there in the Pro 1340 ranks in 2022, the RySpec Racing driver was looking to do the same this past weekend, this time in the Pro 1500 category. Closing the weekend with a P5 finish and the second-fastest lap in race three, Riley can now shift his focus to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and Road America in June.
The weekend in Leeds, Alabama started out on a high note for Riley as a wet first practice session saw the young gun claim the quickest lap time overall. Following the session, a meeting with Scott Dixon was easily the highlight of the day, but there was one more session to prepare for the ever-important qualifying session on Saturday. With a valve failure early in the session that could have caused a catastrophe, Riley kept it off the wall and limped back to the pit lane. With a new tire ready to go, the Racing With Autism entry was back on track securing the fifth fastest time in class on a drying racetrack.
Friday saw two important sessions as qualifying in the morning set the grid for the first wheel-to-wheel action later in the day. With his timed session compromised due to a pair of red flags and constant traffic, Riley could only muster the fifth quickest lap time in the Pro 1500 class throughout the 25-minute session.
Holding his position at the drop of the green flag, Riley pushed “Abby” to the limit as he kept the pressure on the quartet of drivers in front of him. Driving over the limit on occasion, an uncharacteristic spin and stall caused a broken starter motor and an eventual end to his day.
“Disappointing end to today but we have two more chances tomorrow,” explained Riley. “It is great to race on the INDYCAR SERIES weekends and see so many fans. I hope that I can put a show on for them tomorrow.”
With bright sunshine greeting the Radical competitors on Saturday, a steady stream of fans packed the Barber Motorsports Park facility with the first green flag of the day flying mid-morning. Rolling off the grid from the fifth and looking for the Pro 1500 podium, evasive action in turn two on the opening lap caused Austin to avoid a collision as he fell down the running order. Spending much of the race battling slower cars to try and work his way forward, the Canadian was able to make it back to the sixth position before a late caution halted any further progress forward.
Looking for some luck in race three, the opening lap would see much of the same experiences as race two as once again, Austin got the short end of the stick and fell down the running order. Different than the day prior, Austin was able to make quick work of the cars around and set off to catch the lead pack. Putting down some of his fastest laps of the weekend around the track nicknamed the Alabama Rollercoaster, the race three mandatory pitstop was fast approaching. After a flawless stop and running with the leaders, another full course caution saved his competitors from an attack as he was forced to settle for the fifth position on route to the second fastest lap of the race.
With Barber now in the books, Austin will look toward the next event weekend at Road America in June.
Racing With Autism and Austin Riley would like to thank their partners and supporters. A huge thank you to Spark Power Corp., Lincoln Electric, ACL Bearing, Hagerty, Ady’s Army, Hammond Manufacturing, Cal Chip Connected, 6 Sigma Sim Racing, B2C Transport, Forest Contractors, Utech Electronics, Braidan Motorsport 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