Saturday May 31, 2008
Auston Harris, driver of the No. 4 Bob East Beast Ford Focus Midget, became the first African-American driver to win a USAC-sanctioned and -officiated feature event, a history that includes over 53 years of racing and over 7,500-plus events. Harris’ victory came Wednesday night in the USAC Indiana Ford Focus Series race at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind. Harris finished as the runner-up in the season opener in Mount Lawn Speedway in New Castle, Ind., and leads the point standings through two events.
AUSTON HARRIS – No. 4 Bob East Beast Ford Focus Midget – YOU STARTED RACING AT A VERY YOUNG AGE. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WHEN YOU WERE SO YOUNG? “I’ve been around racing ever since I was two or three. My dad was a crew member on a Pro Mod about 10 years ago and I just started hanging out at the race track with him. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked.”
YOU’VE DONE ALL TYPES OF RACING INCLUDING JUNIOR DRAG RACING, ENDURANCE RACING AND SHORTER CIRCLE TRACK RACING. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE? “I definitely prefer the USAC racing because it’s 30 laps. In endurance racing you do a pit stop and you rush out of the pit lane and you’re on cruise control for three hours. With USAC racing, you’re running 30 laps and it’s more fast-paced and you have to go right away.”
WHAT KIND OF SERIES WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO END UP IN? “I don’t know yet. I’ve been keeping my options open lately. So that way, if something does come up in, say, NASCAR or IndyCar or ALMS or Rolex sports car series, I can say that I’m not obligated to go one way, I can go whichever way I want.”
ARE YOU RUNNING A FULL SEASON IN THE USAC INDIANA FORD FOCUS SERIES? “We’re trying to do the full season. With this win I think we might be able to scrape some funds together to do the race at Mount Lawn Speedway [New Castle, Ind.] next Wednesday.”
WHAT EXPECTATIONS DO YOU HAVE IF YOU ARE ABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE SEASON? “I know I can win the championship after finishing second and first – I think I have a legitimate shot at winning. The whole field thinks I have a legitimate shot, but you never know.”
THROUGH THE FIRST TWO RACES YOU HAVE A VICTORY AND YOU’VE BEEN THE RUNNER-UP. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO FINISH NEAR THE TOP IN YOUR FIRST TWO RACES OF THE SEASON? “Just determination. We’ve been working for I don’t know how many months now in training. I’ve been studying tracks, I’ve been listening to what Bobby East says about his car and learning how I need to set my car up. So we’ve been doing our homework for the past few months now and it’s paying off.”
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH RUNNING FOR BOB EAST? “I tested last year after the Homestead IndyCar race with three other drivers for Ford. Some of them were going to do some things with Bob and some went their own way – Colin Braun is running with Ford now. I wasn’t going to do the full season last year because Bob pretty much had a full plate. He said I could definitely do a full season this year so we pretty much just waited until this year to get the funds together. But he said that he only wanted to do the first three races to give me an evaluation first.”
PEOPLE ARE CALLING YOUR WIN ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT SIGNIFICANT BECAUSE YOU WERE THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN TO WIN A USAC FEATURE. DO YOU FEEL THAT IT’S SIGNIFICANT? “Honestly, no. It’s just a regular win to me. I didn’t even know that until they announced in the interview room that I was the first African-American to win. It didn’t phase me that much. I was more happy just to win the race.”
WHAT KIND OF DRIVERS DO YOU LOOK UP TO? “Lewis Hamilton. I followed Lewis when he was running F3. He’s pretty much been a role model – someone that I look up to.”
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This report was provided by an outside PR source and posted by Kim DeHaven.
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