Local tandem back at the Brickyard
INDIANAPOLIS – You’re never too old to drive 180 miles per hour.Just ask Breckenridge’s Jon Brownson, who will compete in today’s Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The local 54-year-old, who took 23rd place out of 27 racers in Thursday’s qualifying contest, hopes to shine in today’s finals and get a spot on the big stage next year.”If I make it to the Indy 500,” Brownson said by phone on Wednesday, “then I’ll be the oldest racer in history to compete there.” The former pro skier didn’t pick up auto racing until 12 years ago.”I always thought ski racing would get me to car racing,” he said. “I just didn’t think it would take me so long to make the jump.”Brownson may be one of racing’s old-timers in the eyes of fans, but to his co-competitors, he’s just another one of the guys with their eyes on the prize.”We all have the same passion for racing,” Brownson said. “They know that I’ve got to be nuts to do what I’m doing because they’re nuts. … We’re on level ground when it comes to getting in the car.”One of Brownson’s competitors and friends at the famed Brickyard is Mike Potekhen, a native of Silverthorne, who now hangs his keys on a hook in Phoenix.”It’s been kind of a role reversal,” Brownson said of the 28-year-old Potekhen. “Mike’s been a mentor to me through the years.”Potekhen, who finished sixth at last year’s Indy 500 precursor after qualifying third, has a simply stated, but clearly difficult goal in mind for today’s proceedings.”The win – that’s it,” Potekhen said on the eve of taking 26th place in Thursday’s qualifier. “I wouldn’t be happy with anything but the win. But there are 26 other guys who also think they’re going to win.”The 28-year-old Summit High graduate will be driving as defensively as ever after what happened to him last year in Indianapolis.”Staying out of trouble is the biggest thing,” said Potekhen, who temporarily fell back to the 26th position after another car bashed into him and broke one of his carbon-fiber wings. “Just keeping my nose clean.”Whereas Brownson has at least eight racing dates on his calendar this summer, Potekhen will be trying to go big in what will likely be his lone appearance of the season. “The owner I race for needed to focus on other interests,” the Summit local said. “So he put the whole team on hold for a year.”Sponsorships are crucial to success in the world of auto racing.”I’m at the peak of my career as far as talent and experience,” Potekhen said. “But it’s such a money-driven sport. It’s tough to find the financing.”Brownson, who averaged 185.2 miles per hour on Thursday and Potekhen (183.6) are pals, but they won’t be thinking about their mutual Summit County ties when the 100-mile race begins.”I consider Mike and his wife and his whole family to be friends,” Brownson said. “But once we get in the cars and start racing, that’s all out the window. … I wish the best for him as long as I’m finishing ahead of him.”Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at email@example.com.
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