By Michele Abbate
This year was the most anticipated one of my racing career and it has not disappointed. I had a lot of things to be excited about, from traveling to new tracks and racing for a new team. I got to drive a brand-new race car and I was equipped with everything I need to be successful.
If you would have asked me at Sebring, in the beginning of the season, what I was most excited about, I would’ve said I was anxious to see how I stack up against the competition. The past three years of my Trans Am career has been in an older car. Plus, my husband Anthony was the only one wrenching on my car, without any guidance or help. Joining the BC Race Cars team in 2022 meant we now have no disadvantage excuses.
Unfortunately, my first race of the season ended abruptly when two cars wrecked in front of me. They left me with nowhere to go because of another car passing on my outside. In addition, my teammate wrote off his car as well during that race. This was quite literally the worst possible way to make my National Tour debut. In hindsight, however, this was actually helpful for me. The ever-so-daunting idea of wrecking the car in a race happened and now it was time to bounce back.
Next up was the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval,” a track I had never been to. I drove somewhat cautiously there for a couple reasons; I wanted to finish for some self redemption, and because the following weekend was Road Atlanta. I didn’t want to take any chances that could jeopardize my ability to race a few days later.
Unfortunately at Road Atlanta, some lap traffic didn’t see me and caused race-ending contact to my car. So at this point in the season, I had a 50 percent finishing rate: Not great. I was learning about the effect of attrition in the TA2 Series. This is not something I was used to, but when you have more than 40 cars racing in the same class on track, it definitely becomes a factor.
Any good driver will tell you that the mental aspect is a massive part of racing. Even though I can’t plan a race or predict what will happen, I can control my mindset. Things that are out of my control will happen, so I have been learning how to adjust my mindset.
As I mentioned, at the beginning of the year I was focused on how I compared to the competition. Now, 10 races into our 12-race schedule, I wished I could go back and tell myself the importance of comparing my abilities to my abilities, and no one else’s.
The amount of talent in the TA2 field this year is undeniably the strongest it has ever been since the inception of the class. There are veteran drivers, champions from all disciplines and young talent that have astounding accomplishments already in their careers. When I remove myself from the comparison to other drivers in TA2, it is much easier to see my progress and success.
Being thrown into the massively-talented “wolves” of the National Tour TA2 class has been the best thing to happen in my career. Racing against strong competition only makes me better.
I have gotten faster at each track, and from every practice to qualifying. I’ve never taken a step backward. I have had success and competitive lap times at every track we’ve been to. I’ve also been able to understand race craft better, and execute things like braking, cornering, shifting and acceleration better than ever.
In addition to having a crew, engineers, and a teammate to learn from, I have been able to improve my performance far beyond any other year in my racing career. That is the big win. I am so proud of our results this year. If I’m fortunate enough to return for 2023, I believe we now have an excellent baseline from which to grow.
I am beyond grateful for my partners this year who have made it all possible. GHOST Lifestyle & GHOST Energy jumped on board with me for this journey and I couldn’t be more proud to be their only athlete in the racing industry. Long-time partners like Lucas Oil, Scosche, Boxo, Heat Wave Visual, RECARO, and PRYDE Apparel have all been with me since my club racing days. I am so honored to continue our partnerships through into the pro-racing level. Last but definitely not least, I am very proud to represent Shift Up Now in the Trans Am series. They have been an integral part of promoting women in motorsports and I look forward to supporting the cause. I cannot wait for the day I am not the only female in the world racing in TA2. Let’s GO!