April 7, 2023 – It was his first career Pro 1500 event weekend as Canadian Austin Riley took on the opening round of the Blue Marble Radical Cup North America program at NOLA Motorsports Park. Showing speed and improvement throughout the weekend, the RySpec Racing driver led race three before closing the weekend with a pair of top-five results. With the motivation to succeed, Austin Riley will now shift his focus to the next event at the end of April at Barber Motorsports Park.
With a Promoters Test Day on Thursday, Riley came back to the track Friday looking to find the necessary speed to race at the front of the Pro 1500 category. As the reigning Pro 1340 champion, Riley had proven his race craft the year prior and was looking to start 2023 off with a bang. With a pair of practice sessions that led into qualifying, Riley was happier with the car than the day prior to what would be a challenging qualifying session. As the heavens opened and rain drenched the NOLA Motorsports Park circuit, Riley struggled early before a shifting issue forced him back to pit lane.
“It was a struggle for sure,” explained Austin Riley. “Slowly getting up to speed as I tip-toed around the track, I started to get comfortable with the conditions before an issue with upshifting ended our day, With the car stuck in third gear, I headed back to pit lane with our day over.”
Saturday featured a pair of wheel-to-wheel races. With the shifting issue diagnosed and fixed from the day prior, Riley made huge progress forward both in position and in speed before a late race trip to the grass ruined all that forward momentum. With a pair of cars crashing in front of him, the Racing With Autism driver was forced to the grass with evasive action to miss the wreck. Losing momentum and positions, the young Canadian soldiered on to complete the race, despite falling down the running order.
Race two on the weekend was a much cleaner affair for Riley as he carved his way through the field and made his move toward the front. At three-quarter race distance, Austin had moved to a podium position in the Pro 1500 class as he made a move for P2. An uncharacteristic mistake saw Riley lock the brakes and slide wide, once again losing much of the progress gained as he dropped to the fifth position. With lapped traffic ruining any additional forward progress in the late stages of the race, Riley was forced to settle for P5 on track while scoring the third-fastest lap of the race.
Starting fourth for race three on Sunday, Riley immediately moved into the third position before taking over P2 a lap later. Motivated and determined, Austin began to hunt and stalk the Pro 1500 race leader before the race three mandatory pit stop. Instructed to pit when the leader pitted, Riley dove to the pits behind the front-runner but managed to leave just in front of him. Now with clean air, Riley laid down his strongest laps of the weekend as he stretched a gap on his rivals handling lapped traffic much better than the others. Looking like he was on his way to his first Pro 1500 career victory, Race Control transmitted a message that Riley would need to serve a penalty for a pit stop that was too quick. With a set time that drivers need to be stopped in their pit box, Riley was released just two-tenths of a second too early which cost him the race win. Pitting from the lead to serve the drive-thru penalty, Riley dropped to fifth where he would finish.
Riley added, “A tough pill to swallow in race three. I think we were the class of the field and the speed was there. A huge thank you to the RySpec guys for all their hard work and support. I am determined to bring them a race win or two at our next event at the end of April.”
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.