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August 23, 2021

Tom O’Gorman: Autocross Still Gives Pro Racers The Shakes

Tom O’Gorman: Autocross Still Gives Pro Racers The Shakes

With at least 1100 entries each year, Tire Rack Solo Nationals is a unique experience. And that’s true no matter what your background may be, or where it may go.

That remains true no matter how many pro road races you have competed in, or championships you’ve won.

Take Tom O’Gorman, for instance. A four-time Solo Nationals champion, the 2013 Driver of the Year, and race winner in IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge, as well as a formidable sim racing competitor, he still makes the trek – from wherever driving has taken him that week – to Lincoln each year.

The question is, why?

The answer is simple – for the same reasons you do.

Let’s start with this. Do you remember as a new autocrosser, when you went out on the course and the adrenaline was pumping so high at the finish that it was hard to come back down? It wasn’t because you’re a new autocrosser – it never goes away.

“For me it’s the only time I get the shakes,” O’Gorman says. That’s after the pro races, the road races, the time trials and the coaching. None of those bring quite the intensity, at least not in the same way.

“It’s just not quite the same hit,” he explains. “It’s like doing 10 burpees instead of a mile run.”

And really, it’s just that simple. The challenge, the performance level, the expectations – it all remains, and it’s all there, every time he comes to Solo Nationals.

“In my experience in motorsports, from autocross to pro racing, at any level, what I’ve always found is the talent pool at the top is about the same,” O’Gorman said. “The fast guys are the fast guys. The bottom comes up. Everything is the deep end in IMSA. At Solo Nationals, it may not all be the deep end but the ones at the top are still every bit as good as the top of everywhere else. Just because it’s grassroots, entry level, family fun, it’s still some of the best driving that happens anywhere in the country at any event.”

That doesn’t mean you have to be in that top end to enjoy Solo Nationals. It is, however, a great reminder that every position you earn is just that – earned.

And it’s fun! The cliché is a cliché for a reason: we really do stay for the people.

“Coming from the grassroots community, especially at Nationals, there’s a chance to see people that I only see a couple of times a year. There’s a family reunion aspect to it.”

But let’s not kid ourselves – even Tom knows that his time as a professional and the relationships he’s built come with some perks.

Take a look at his name on the 2021 Tire Rack Solo Nationals entry list, as an example. While racing has been kind to him, and he’s certainly not asking anyone to feel sorry for him, he doesn’t own a new Acura NSX to drive in Super Street. What he does have, however, are some familiar faces at Honda and Honda Performance Development, who root for TOMO just as much as the rest of us do – and that led to a plan.

“I went to Acura and asked for a loan on an NSX to run at Solo Nationals and another big autocross event in the same two weeks,” O’Gorman said. “I was able to use my Pro Racing ties to get a car to bring to Nationals.”

And with that, the man who has, would and will continue to drive anything he can has yet another ride at Solo Nationals.

So yes, it’s a great time. And yes, it’s an open airport runway with nearly 1200 of his closest friends.

But with or without a first place trophy at the end of his runs, Tom O’Gorman will stack SCCA’s autocross national championship event up with any pro racing memory he has. And he’ll shake when he remembers it.

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