INDIANAPOLIS IN – A week of firsts for Nathan Blok challenged the driver from Beachburg Ontario as he visited the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and competed in an open wheel car for the first time since August 2012. For Blok it was a brand new car in a new series for him, a new team at their first race together, while racing on a brand new road course at a track facility he had never been to before.
Thankfully quick-learning and adaptability are two of Blok's strengths and he quickly acclimated to the USF2000 No.33 of John Cummiskey Racing. All of the drivers and teams had to contend with learning the new track layout and the ever-changing weather conditions.
Blok's week began on the Sunday before the Grand Prix of Indianapolis with being fitted to the brand new Van Dieman F2000 car at the JCR race shop. The next day (Monday) the JCR team took the car to Indianapolis Speedrome (a 1/8th mile oval track) for a shake down run, as the car had never been run before, and it performed flawlessly.
On Wednesday and Thursday Blok was able to finally take the JCR No.33 car onto the track for two 1-hour test sessions each day. This was the first real opportunity to get the car up to race pace on the longer circuit compared to the 1/8th mile oval used for the preliminary test. On Thursday Blok finished the day 11th fastest out of the 22 drivers.
Friday was the first of two official race days beginning with a qualifying session that started off in the rain and quickly dried after a few laps. The rules did not allow for a change to slicks, so the lap times were actually slower than in practice. Blok was maintaining 9th place until the last few laps when he got stuck in traffic and was unable to get a clear lap. He ended up qualifying 16th, but was promoted to 14th when the 1st and 3rd place qualifiers failed the technical inspection.
Once again the weather proved to be challenging to their race strategy as a downpour meant the race officially started on rain tires. As the green flag flew, the rain stopped and the sun came out with a brisk wind, drying the track quickly.
A crash on the first lap brought out a full-course yellow flag. By the third lap, still under caution, the decision was made to bring Blok in for dry tires (slicks). When the car was released from the pit stop and was travelling at the back of the course, the green came out and the race resumed. This left Blok more than 1/2 a lap behind the field.
Being on cold slicks, Blok was initially 1 second slower than the field but as the tires warmed up and the track dried, he was soon catching the field by as much as 9 seconds per lap, finishing the race in 12th place.
However, the lap times from this race were considered the qualifying times for Saturday's race, putting Nathan 3rd on the grid by .23 of a second. The two other competitors with the fastest lap times had also decided to go to slicks during the race. Blok finished the second race of the event in 13th place out of a field of 22 cars.
"The entire weekend was just a steady increase in speed, familiarizing myself with an open wheel car again, a new team and by Saturday, things were mixing very well. I wasn't able to have wheel-to-wheel battles the way I had hoped to," recounted Blok. "It was a very good learning experience for myself. There is a very high level of competition in this series and I am looking forward to my next race at the Toronto Indy. I would like to thank John Cummiskey Racing and Salin Bank of Indiana for getting me to this historic race track for the Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis."
John Cummiskey commented, "I was really happy with the weekend. Nathan did a great job, improved each day, which was one of our goals. Saturdays race was a little disappointing but I think Nathan now knows how competitive the series is. The Mazda engine and Cooper Tires were great and we look forward to the Toronto race."
Release prepared by Jim Leggett (firstname.lastname@example.org)