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Mar 12, 2014 - 07:56 PM
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Sunshine-Staters Get Ready to Defend Home Territory
Posted by: newsla on Mar 12, 2014 - 07:52 PM
Sports Cars
Sunshine-Staters Get Ready to Defend Home Territory

A race win at a track which is close to home is on the bucket list of almost every racecar driver. For SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires drivers John Dean, of Sebring, Fla., and Ethan Low, of Clearwater, Fla., a win with friends and family there to help celebrate may become a reality.


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While racing near your home is nice, there are also many unique challenges that develop from the arrangement. Racing to impress families, friends, sponsors and other fans can be a great motivator for any athlete to perform. However, staying focused on driving the racecar becomes increasingly difficult for many drivers.

There are two basic ways to handle the increased stress and responsibility. Dean chooses to embrace and manage the extra activities that can come with racing near his hometown.

“Racing here, in Sebring, gives all my family a chance to see what I do and spend a few minutes with me, here and there,” Dean said. “My friends and family are great supporters of what I do and try hard to help me out however they can.”

Low, a rookie to the series, will try to take the opposite approach by trying to treat this race the same as any other.

“It doesn't really matter, to me, about racing in front of a hometown crowd,” Low said. “You don't really think about that, because you have to be focused on the task at hand. Knowing friends, family and other supporters are there makes it slightly more difficult because you want to perform well in front of them.”

It’s not just family and at-track activities that can cause distraction. Racing near, or in, one’s hometown also means an increased number of responsibilities away from the track. The age difference between the two drivers, where Dean is the senior, equals a different list of responsibilities for each of these drivers. However, any outside responsibility can become a hindrance to high-level performance.

“Every year, preceding the 12-hour race, I volunteer to do the ‘Ride the Racetrack’ event put on by the Sebring chamber of commerce,” Dean said. “For a small donation of $15, individuals can get a meal and get a ride around the track with professional drivers.

“This was my seventh year participating in the event. It gives fans a real idea of what is going on in the car during the race and is an eye-opening experience for many of them. We try to make it a lot of fun, with some track history and playful driving.”

Low is still in high school and must complete the same classwork that his peers do, regardless of where he is racing.

“Because of schoolwork, and trying to get ready for the race week, I know I will be pretty busy,” Low said. “I will be studying video of the Mazda MX-5s on track at Sebring, drawing the track map and putting in laps on my race simulator every day leading to the race.”

While it may be difficult to block out the distractions of a hometown race, there are some distinct advantages to racing at a familiar circuit.

“I have enough experience at Sebring to say I know it well,” Low said. “I have run up front in Spec Miata at Sebring many times this past year and have been on podium in some big fields.

“I like how rough the track is and that it’s a technical track that puts a premium on the driver over the motor. Many turns have different surfaces, so grip levels are constantly changing.”

While Low has some good experience at the circuit, Dean has the addition of familial history with this yearly event.

“I love to race at Sebring,” Dean said. “It is one of the best racetracks in the country because of its mix of technical corners, high speed corners, long straights and great passing zones.

“I grew up watching the 12-hour race, while listening to my dad announce the action on the radio. For 21 years he was known as ‘The Voice of Sebring.’ One day I hope to race in the 12 Hours, but racing as a support race, in front of all the Sebring fans, is the next best thing.”

The SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires takes to the historic Sebring International Raceway March 12-14, for Rounds One and Two of the championship.

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