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Simple Formula Ensures Soaring Success Story for Goulian on Emotional Day at IMS

Surprisingly favorable outcomes involving two chief competitors in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship hunt assured that Michael Goulian left Indianapolis Motor Speedway in better standing Sunday than when he had landed three days earlier.

But the grounded 50-year-old pilot from Plymouth, Massachusetts, was so focused on maintaining a don’t-overthink-it mentality, his physical reaction to when he won the Red Bull Air Race was rather ironic.

“Once I realized I had won, I sort of realized the gravity of what had happened,” said Goulian, who immediately lost gravity in dropping to the cement in front of a hangar.

After he picked himself up, his voice cracked with emotion as he tried to put into perspective what it meant to prevail not just on American soil but on the hallowed ground of IMS. He grew up glued to a TV as a passionate Indianapolis 500 fan.

Also keep in mind, this is an underdog who had celebrated only one series win in the previous decade before becoming a serious contender for the first time this season. Just before Goulian took off in the Final 4, team manager/strategist Pablo Branco reminded him of the minimalist approach that has worked so well.

“Don’t go crazy,” Branco said. “Just be good.”

That Goulian was, which is why he is the points leader ahead of Martin Sonka and Matt Hall entering the season-ending race next month in Fort Worth, Texas. Sonka had started the weekend six points ahead of Hall. Goulian was a close third, nine points back.

Although Sonka won the pole Saturday, the Czech Republic pilot was stunningly eliminated by Kirby Chambliss in the Round of 14. Then Hall failed to advance past the Round of 8.

“We had heard Matt had hit a pylon, so we said, ‘OK, we’re already going to have a good day,’” Goulian said of Hall incurring a costly penalty by clipping an Air Pylon.

Goulian was suddenly in a better situation than he could have imagined, considering not long before he had feared that Chambliss might have prevented him from advancing past the opening round.

Don’t go crazy. Just be good.

Don’t think about how you could become the first American in a decade since Chambliss to win a race in your home country. Don’t think about how one triumphant run could be the springboard to accomplishing something beyond your wildest dreams in winning a championship.

Just don’t think. Period.

“My team, I probably drive them crazy because I’m pretty superstitious,” Goulian said. “So I have to put my glasses in the same place and my water bottle in the same place. Today, I was going to change the skull cap. And I’m like, ‘No, that’s a lucky skull cap. I’ll put the gross one on three times.’”

When asked Thursday about the IMS tradition of winners kissing the famed “Yard of Bricks,” Goulian quickly said he wasn’t “getting near those things” because he didn’t want to jinx himself.

“I’m not a ‘Hey, I’m going to win this race.’ It’s just not me,” he said. “I hope I can win. There’s 13 other guys that are just as good or better that me in an airplane, and anybody can win on any given day. I’m just going to put myself in position to win, and sometimes it’s your day. Today was that day.”

His second win of the season came after an unpredictable two days in which Goulian was quickest in Friday practice but missed the setup in Saturday qualifying and was slotted a disappointing eighth.

Sunday was more of the same, too, as he thought he was safe to advance as a fastest loser in the Round of 14, but then Chambliss reminded everyone of why he's a former two-time World Champion in an upset of Sonka.

“That’s the one thing about Kirby, he can turn it around when he needs to turn it around,” Goulian said. “We went from thinking, ‘OK, we have this; we’re ready to go,’ to ‘Oh, gosh, he just beat us as fastest loser.’ We were thinking Martin was going to be really fast, but when we saw (he wasn’t with) red numbers on the board, obviously we had a big change of emotion.”

Given the unpredictable nature of races and the continual fluctuation in points standings, Goulian joked that maybe he liked the idea of being in second place instead of leading. Not that he was going to think about it too much. He considers all three pilots even entering the final race – may the best one win.

“It was a great day. It’s great to be here,” Goulian said. “I think it’s what everybody wants to see, a fight for the championship. And that’s what they’re going to get.”

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