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Pobst Position: Sinatra
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For my 2012 Pirelli World Challenge season, think Sinatra: " I been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing: each time I find myself, flat on my face, I just pick myself up and get back in the race! That's life." I drive the fabulous K-PAX Volvos, the world's fastest Volvos, and it takes a lot to make them so quick. A lot of boost, for one. These cars remind me of the Space Shuttle that I watched launch from my old hometown in Florida. Powerful and complex. The start is like the countdown. Five...four...three...two...one...blastoff! We rev 'em to 7500, popping and snorting at full boost standing still, through the drag-racing magic of something called anti-lag, then BANG the clutch home and light up all four Pirellis. Unless something breaks. Which it did at Detroit. From pole (first starting position). Thirty-five cars managed to miss us, And I almost allowed myself to think we might get away with it, but the last two rows got three-wide and ramming mayhem ensued. Talk about a blastoff. Try a Mustang square in the tail at 50 mph.

2012 began at with a double at the St.Petersburg, Florida, street race, with many new parts that arrived way after the scheduled and promised date, and thus had to be first tested in on center stage in battle. Racing so often seems to work out this way. Those issues led to starting last in the first race, but in a hairy, dodging run we were up to sixth. In the second, we had moved from sixth to third, also running well in that high-risk pinball game. Turned out our new wiring needed to be debugged, because some mysterious ghost suddenly shut down my electrics in both races. It was a long weekend for the K-PAX crew, because they tried everything, including the impossible.

At Long Beach, life was good again, pole and second. Nothing but hot, spongy brakes to worry about. Life got better at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with another pole that was a second-try surprise (amazing what a couple late apexes can do for your lap times), and a win in one of the best balanced race cars I've ever driven. Yes, people, the setup changes a little for every track, and what you see in the results is the ebb and flow of good competition. We scored some significant points (wish that one was a doubleheader), and it was starting to look like we might get back in the championship hunt.

Until Detroit. Belle Isle. I love that circuit. Lots of corners, and I like corners. Lots of low speed launches from most of them. Good for Volvo all-wheel drive. Got pole, but only by a smidge, over a great effort from Johnny O'Connell's Cadillac, in spite of his load of rewards weight. We had a lil' help from that. That start fail was one of those flat on the face moments. Then K-PAX stayed up all night creating another Volvo S60, and we were, amazingly, back in the second race. What a herculean effort. Our team can be very proud of that. Soon after came Mosport. Ever feel like you really hit rock-bottom? I did after getting smashed on the line. Then we caught fire in Canada. Wow. Shot down in June. Hard to accept, but it can always get worse. In racing, the lows are low. My heart ached for the work I knew was ahead for the K-PAX crew. Alex did get a couple good finishes, thank goodness, but how long could this slump go on? Fortunately, there was a month break in the season. But, I thought, if there wasn't somethin' shakin' this July, I was gonna roll myself up...an-hannnnd die-yeee.

Well, guess what, Pirelli WC fans? K-PAX picked ourselves up and got back in the ray-yeece! We came back ready for Mid-Ohio, and brought Alex Figge and I two wins and a second, in the dry and in the rain. What a great feeling, what a comeback! Our strongest challenge was Cadillac, right on our tails and with a third car, but the Volvo S60s were just a little too much for them, again with a little help from the rewards weight.

On to Sonoma for the season-ender, and more of the same. Vindication for the hardest-working team in the paddock. And most of the top Volvo Cars US executives were there, along with special paint on the Volvo race cars and team uniforms promoting Alex's Lemonade Stand, Volvo's chosen charity. Named not for Mr. Figge, but for a little girl who opened her own stand to raise money for her cancer treatment. So touching. She did not make it, but her Stand lives on to help other children. Bravo, Alex.

At the awards banquet the next night, I got all misty-eyed a couple times. Once when Figge knocked over my Sonoma red wine glass, another thanking my girlfriend on stage, and again when our fearless K-PAX team leader Bob Raub received the Jerry Zimmerman Cup for crew chief of the year. Thank you Bob, you make this juggernaut work and succeed.

I myself had a huge smile when I was honored with the Jim Cook award for sportsmanship and contribution to the Pirelli World Challenge Series, my home now for ten years, thanks to Audi, Mazda, and for six years now, K-PAX Racing and Volvo. It is my personal mission quest to reduce violence and damage and improve the racing show in the series, and in road racing in general, and I believe this award recognizes that. Racing is an aggressive and dangerous sport, that is part of what we love about it, but it must remain within the limits of fair play, and I believe that is sometimes not the case. In my SportsCar magazine column, I work to better inform racers on how to make this sport work, for themselves and for the show. Crashes are inevitable, but we can minimize them by better understanding passing, lapping and traffic situations. Our sport must do a better job of teaching new and/or young drivers how to play the chess game of traffic. For example, when entering a corner, don't hit what you can see. Sounds simple, doesn't it? If another racer is in your forward field of vision, you must leave it room. A car width and an inch. Another great example was presented by series champion (go figure) Cadillac driver Johnny O'Connell, on behalf of the Bob Bondurant Racing School, at the Sonoma driver's meeting. He said, "You must have some advantage to make a successful pass." Again, sounds simple, right? Well, in the real world, racers often just pull out and dive bomb, Hail Mary attempts, especially on the last lap, and crash as a result. Johnny did not want to insult the field, but he was right. We need to constantly work to educate racers. Watch any race, and you will see examples of the damage that is done with deadly combinations of desire, ignorance and testosterone (and yes, I mean you ladies, too). We need officials to back this up with staunch and fair enforcement of the on-track rules, too. As in any contact sport, the referees determine the level of aggression. Think soccer, football, basketball, boxing. Racing is the same. The series drivers will soon see what they can get away with. And the officials must determine that, not an unruly driver that wins by putting other teams at risk. In road racing, out tracks are complex and long, and crashes cause lengthy yellows, which hurt the show and often greatly shorten the race itself. Fans don't want to see the series idling around behind the pace car.

A huge and sincere thank you to WC Vision, SCCA Pro racing, and my K-PAX Racing Volvo team for making this award possible for me. Here's to hard and tough, sweaty, intense, fierce and fair competition. To races where drivers can shake hands and congratulate, not shout and gesture across pit lane, after the checker.
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