Last Points Race – Whittemore Speedway

And for sure it was. Kyle made the prudent call, as we would have had to make modifications to fit it in our car. The time we started hoisting the old one till the new one was set was a duration of 1hr and 51 minutes. The engine was fired for the first time about 5:30AM (good thing Drake Racing is based pretty close to the country) and the hood was going on about 20 minutes later. None of us had slept yet, and loading the car/trailer was one of the more challenging tasks for the night. Thankfully the sun started to come up soon after we started that task.

It was admittedly melancholy to push the trusty 12x off in the yard, but obviously there was no room for two cars on this trip. We finished loading and agreed that sleep would not be a good thing. We stopped for fuel (thanks to whomever reminded us they would not have it at the racetrack) and fuel for us. Omelette, pancakes, and of course coffee all went down easy.

Surprisingly there was not much dozing on the way to the track. We arrived about 30 minutes before practice started. It was nice to see so many people come up to see us, smiling, and saying that they were happy we were able to get it replaced. They crowded around to watch us roll out…a number 81.

The day was such a rush that it helped us not focus on how tired we were. Lulls in the action were not helpful. Setting the toe on the car was enough to induce a power-nap. But after getting acclimated (Kyle is a lot thinner, a lot taller, and oh his car has a hand clutch) we ran session after session. Many of these were to try suggestions that our shock gurus from RAM Engineering (who were there for the big show) laid forth. I did not count, but I would be surprised if we did not run the most laps out of anyone. We were making incremental gains, but not consequential enough. In our next to last session we got to sniffing distance of where we thought the cut line would be for locking in.

Just before time trials we got the official word that we would have to change the number to 12x or we would not be scored for our standard points. We rummaged up duct tape and old numbers to make the car “sort of” look like ours.

I don’t see no stinkin’ 81!

We went a couple tenths faster in time trials, which was a pleasant surprise for once. Unfortunately, so did most! 26 cars timed within 0.18 of one another. Regretfully…we were 25th of those 26th, which found us in 34th. That led to an uneventful LCQ race – started 5th and finished 5th. We then went out on the track for the autograph session. The Whittemore fans are always so great and happy to see the full field of fire breathers.

The B-main was much better. We started 11th, but continuously worked our way forward. We briefly got as high as 3rd on a restart, but ended up 5th. The car was really coming in, and I think could have been solid in the A-main.

Disappointingly we watched the A-main from the grandstand for the second night in a row. But, we had done enough – with all of the efforts through the night (and the season) – to secure the points title. We loaded up and took off. After being awake for 42 hours straight, I finally had to rest about an hour into the trip. The front seat of the Malibu was mighty comfortable, even from the parking lot of the Hampton Inn it was facing. Made it home safely with a huge smile on my face.

The next edition will talk about future plans as the team rebuilds to get stronger.

Still catching up on sleep,

-Michael

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Coulda Been a Good Night

The team had high hopes going into our last “official weekend” of the race season. It was the end of the points campaigns with 2 races in 2 days. A deep breath could be taken after that with only fun to be had at future jaunts. We rolled into Dixie Motor Speedway on Friday August 5th feeling good. We arrived on time (I know, again!) and set up shop. Tires were procured for both nights and we suited up for practice.

The car felt good in practice. There was decent grip, and only minor changes were needed. We timed consistently in the top 8, which would guarantee a place in the invert. We discussed strategy and even did a mock qualifying run to get ready.

We rolled out early for time trials, and took off into turn one. Typically we have a push condition before the tires get up to temp, but that was limited. Got to turn 3, and the car turned very well. Took the green flag and getting back to the gas off turn 2 the note soured and a severe vibration occurred. It was apparent what had happened; we had lunched the motor. To the dismay of everyone in attendance I rolled around to make sure I completed the first lap, as I wanted it to be a valid qualifying attempt. I got off the backstretch and parked it on the road to the pits where it evacuated the remainder of its oil. The block was freshly aerated, and we could see light where we shouldn’t see light. We solemnly loaded the car back in the trailer.

Because we had trekked so far we sat as a team, enjoying the racing whilst texting everyone the disappointing news. Kyle Drake offered us his car, and his motor – but the two had to be combined. We ate our walking tacos, once I learned what one was, and watched the mod race. Once it ended we made the call – let’s swap it. We skipped out before the late models ran. Kyle and Cam would have a 75 minute head start on us. The work started with all 4 of us at 11:30PM.

Practice started at noon. With a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us, that meant we had 10 hours to get it done. Beef jerky and energy drinks were procured. It was going to be a long night.

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Speed51 Mention

In our last entry I noted that we were in a bit of an enviable position – sitting atop the points for the Northern Division of the Top Speed Modified Tour with two to play (so to speak).

This got some notice, and some press. With Saturday being the Hot Shoe 100, bringing 60+ cars to Whittemore Speedway, a press release was published on Speed51.com. We were mentioned because of said points position.

Here is a link to that article: http://speed51.com/hot-shoe-100-bringing-best-midwest-mod-drivers-to-whittemore/

I hope when I pen these posts next week that I will be referencing more published articles, ones that congratulate the team and its partners Techman Sales Inc., Engine Machine Service, Murawski’s Tax Service, and Ram Engineering Midwest on a title run.

The team’s got some work to do – let’s get after it,

-Michael

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Baer Field – July 30th

Last Saturday the 30th found the team making its first foray into Indiana, otherwise known as “the other state south of Michigan that starts and ends with a vowel.” I printed out the directions (yes I am old-school) and hopped in the car as the trailer had to navigate a much different route to the track. As I got close there was a detour. And the detour pushed me through corn fields. Eventually a track appeared, next to an airport. One side airport, one side corn field – I think the track is likely okay noise-wise.

We decided to employ a slightly different tire strategy for the night. This proved prudent as we did not have to waste a session scuffing and were able to use the two sessions to fully learn the track. We seemed comfortable, decently quick, and actually able to get the car loose.

But, once again, the time trial demons bit us. I only managed 17th out of 22, which would thus be our starting spot. After a real nice introduction on the frontstretch (strong crowd), a hearty handshake with the Best family who was sponsoring the race, I buckled in and rolled off.

We were not bad early in the race. We could not pass easily, but were eventually able to work past some folks. About mid-way through the race the red flag came out for a car that had oiled down the speedway. After the restart the car came to life. We managed to work past some others, and stayed with the pack running in 6th-8th. Unfortunately the car worked best on the bottom, which is where 2 of the 3 ahead were running. From there we pretty much ran in formation to the finish. Overall a net plus eight was a good run. And once again – not a lot to do before the impending big weekend. That’s right – a Friday night and Saturday night race to end the points season. Interestingly we were able to take over the points lead heading into that weekend. We will be eager to light the wick and get after it.

Anxiously yours,

-Michael

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The Auto City Struggles Continue

It was no secret. We struggled at Auto City last year. With that in mind, we took advantage of a practice session the day before the race. We got in a couple sessions before the rains hit under the expert tutelage of the proprietor of RAM Engineering Midwest (otherwise known as our shock guy). The car looked good, and it felt good.

Fast forward to Saturday July 9th, and it is running good. Our times are where we want them to be. And as has been our nemesis we put on new tires for qualifying…and went slower. We timed 9th. Normally we would be pleased with this, but not when were slower than in practice. Inevitably, the lowest possible number for a redraw (8) was pulled. Therefore we lined up 9th.

We were riding, feeling the car out, in 10th place. Apparently those behind were ready to go earlier than we were. An aggressive move and subsequent hit to the LR turned us sideways to traffic. We then got hit in the door which straightened us out. But the car nearly stalled, which caused us to lose 4 spots and a whole lot of real estate. With no cautions to bunch up the field that was all she wrote for the night. We took our mid-pack finish, modicum of sheet metal damage, and rolled back in the trailer with three weeks to regroup before the next Tour race.

Humbly submitted,

-Michael

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First Foray to Ohio is Complete

The team has been looking forward to racing at Toledo for some time now. It is one of the fastest tracks in the area, and we would be able to stretch the ole legs a tad. Well, yeah, wow – fast track. It actually “feels” a bit fast, however the banking is more pronounced than from the stands. It is also very drivable in that you can change lines as a result.

The thing that stunk was once you “got out” for practice you could not get back in to pits. In other words, we were stuck in the infield, on the infield pit road, and could not make any adjustments. We went out for the first session and we were bottoming out something fierce. But we could not do anything at the time.

Since we are required to run scuffs, the 2nd (and last) session was close to useless – we did a few laps and then parked it to avoid ruining the new sneakers. We were admittedly way off the pace, over a half second from even being close to the invert.

For time trials we found a bunch of speed – about 0.4 seconds. The bad thing was we needed 0.49 to make the invert (as well as move up 7 spots – that’s how close it was). So we timed 16th and started 16th. The race was brutal, with many yellows and two red flags. We showed decent speed, and passed a few cars while keeping up with the 2nd pack. We would not have been able to hang with the top 3, but we were in the midst of the battle from about 7th back. Here is a picture of us on the inside, courtesy of R&S Racing Photos.

We ended up finishing 12th. An extra practice session sure would have helped a lot. Speaking of practice, we are off to Auto City on Friday the 8th so as to turn some laps prior to the race on Saturday the 9th. Thankfully the temperature will drop from then to Saturday (expected highs in the 90′s on Friday), but that is mainly due to the forecast of the r-word. We are hopeful we will get it in, as our season has already lost 25% of itself!

Until then,

-Michael

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Berlin Raceway – Tour Show – June 11, 2016

It took seemingly FOREVER – but the Techman Sales 12X finally hit the track for a Top Speed points race. The season was supposed to start at Springport. Then it was Berlin. And it eventually did start at Berlin. There is something disappointing about not getting going until the 2nd week of June. As a result of that – the entire season is shoehorned into a 9 week window. Enough blathering – let’s move on to how the race went.

Last year we were the undercard for the ARCA/CRA race, with Erik Jones and Chase Elliott running. It was a weeknight, and made for a great atmosphere. This year they changed the schedule. We ran with the JEGS cars, two nights before the big show on a “normal” Saturday night. It was still a solid crowd, and lots of quality cars/equipment in the pits. We are happy to support this event.

We got some help from the “Wizard” Kevin Lincoln, and much of his handy bodywork or handiwork was on display. We (myself, car owner Mike Stenberg, and crewman Austen) got there for the Friday practice to make sure all was good. We were one of 6 modifieds that turned some laps. It was good that we did as we discovered some things (not the least of which was continued cooling problems – not a good development on likely the hottest racing day of the year with 90+ temps) and learning on the new shoes we hadn’t used yet. I can say it is the first time I ever practiced on sticker tires.

We arrived Saturday morning (before the gate opened I might add). This was despite an “autocross-approved” dinner at Logan’s Friday night. We had our standard scrambling to get ready but got out for the first session at 2PM. We were pleasantly surprised to make the Top 5 on the charts, despite the car being very free. We put on new shoes to scuff for the 2nd session, and dropped speed (which is a theme we need to work out of) and fell to 7th. We were comfortable with this as a minimum of 8 cars would make the draw for position. Making this draw was our goal, with the top 8, 10, or 12 picking.

Our time trial lap was a bit tentative. We managed to just hold on to 8th. This was clutch as we drew 2nd starting spot. After the initial start was called back we pulled out to the lead. This was our first lap led on the Top Speed Tour – and also was our fastest lap turned of the race. We were thus displeased to see the yellow come out immediately, and more so when we got the radio call “go to the pits or go to the rear.” Turns out this is the first time we have run our new fuel cell “packed to the gills” and its overflow is a wee bit sensitive. We were leaving a tremendous trail of hydrocarbon products. Knowing it was fuel and would dissipate after a few laps we tagged to the back.

Here is a picture taken before the fateful trip to zee rear.

The next ten laps were great – the car was hooked up and we were able to advance many positions with “careful aggression.” It apparently wasn’t enough as we went for a loopty loop off of the fourth turn after moving up to 10th. Back to the rear we went. We picked off a few cars, and that was all she wrote. The car started getting looser and we could maintain and go side by side by not get any more spots. We ended up in 8th spot, happy to complete the 51 tours of the facility.

There is limited work to do, we could use some additional cooling and a few other minor modifications. With that in mind we head to Toledo Speedway on June 24th to run our biggest track ever. We will be the support division for the Sprint Cars.

Until then, we shall be staying hungry. We have work to do,

-Michael

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