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STAR PERFORMANCE: Adrian Starrantino cruised to victory in both F1600 Championship Series races this past weekend at Virginia International Raceway. (photo: F1600/Valet)

STAR PERFORMANCE: Adrian Starrantino drove to victory in both F1600 Championship Series races this past weekend at Virginia International Raceway. (photo: F1600/Valet)

Ed. Note: After wrapping up a highly successful season in the Skip Barber Racing Series, junior formula racer Adrian Starrantino decided to graduate to the F1600 Formula F Championship Series with Bryan Herta Autosport for 2013. In a post exclusive to Junior Open-Wheel Talent, the 18-year-old standout writes about his opening weekend in the F1600 car at Virginia International Raceway. Enjoy.

One word to describe the start of the season: “Awesome.”

In the off-season I made the decision to move to Indianapolis full-time to pin down my racing career. During this time I have been able to see how much work goes into the cars during the off-season.  I knew when signing with Bryan Herta Autosport for the 2013 Formula F1600 Championship there was going to be some big shoes to fill, and I was more than prepared to take on the challenge.

Knowing how the team had performed last year, I was feeling pretty confident rolling into VIR for the first round of the 2013 championship.  I was fortunate to develop a relationship with the crew during the off-season and we were already becoming a true team. The weekend started off with a test day on Thursday and the car was right on pace.

Finally Friday came along and it was time for the first official practice session of the season. Right off the bat we were running P1 and stayed there the entire day. After tediously debriefing with my engineer, Geoff, we had a plan of attack for the first day of racing.

Saturday came and the pressure suddenly became real. All of my preparation and training came down to this day.  I told myself that I would just treat the first qualifying session as another practice run.  Sure enough, the track went green and I was sitting in P1.  Getting pole position was very important for us in two ways; the first was that it gave us excellent track position to start off the race and secondly we were awarded three bonus points towards the championship standings.

With the first pole of the season in my hands, I still knew that the race was going to be tough.  As soon as the green dropped I led into turn one.  As the race unfolded I was finding the similar pattern of the “chess game.”  I knew the best way to win the race was to enter the final lap in second-place.  As the white flag came out I set up the pass and made it stick leading my opponent to the checkered by three-tenths of a second.

I remember being so thrilled as I crossed the line.  I threw my fist in the air and shouted to my team “That’s what I call a start to a season, great job guys!”  The podium ceremony felt so redeeming.

Adrian Starrantino (photo: F1600/Valet)

Adrian Starrantino (photo: F1600/Valet)

After the great win on Saturday, I was determined to repeat my success on Sunday as well.  I qualified in P2 right behind one of my teammates, Ayla Agren, which put us in a great position for the start of race number two of the season.

My team had told me that my main competitor from race one was starting in the back of the field for race two.  I automatically knew that my strategy was going to change.  I thought to myself that it’s all about pacing now.  Keep the tire life as long as possible.  As the green flag waved, I got a jump on Ayla.  As we exited turn one I saw nothing but chaos in my mirrors and almost instantly the full-course caution came out.

As the field prepared for the restart, I checked my mirrors and saw my strongest competitor from race one sitting in P3.  My strategy was going to change yet again and I needed a repeat from the day prior.  As the race led up to the last couple laps, Jake Eidson and I checked out from the field.  I knew that if I had him right in front of me going into the last lap that I would have the advantage.  As the white flag came out I can remember everything getting really quiet… the crew, my breathing patterns, everything.  As we exited Oak Tree corner heading onto the back straight I had Jake in perfect position to overtake.  Right near the end of the straight I popped and made the pass stick.  The emotion was higher than ever going into the last section of the track.  As we popped out of the final corner he was right behind me getting a tow, we crossed the line and I beat him to the stripe by the tiniest margin.  Taking the second consecutive win of the weekend was incredible.  I could not believe it.

Sweeping the weekend in such a manner gives us such momentum heading into round two at Road Atlanta.  With 10 more races to go, the team and I know where we stand and what we have to do to be in the fight for the 2013 Championship title.

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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