But 2017 is Near

I alluded in the previous entry that 2017 would be different. The tour has become the NSTA tour, and it has become unified geographically. It has expanded to cover a whole lot more geography (more than triple, as a matter of fact).

That was the final arbiter in a team decision. After 4 years of points racing, and the pressures associated with it, the team is going to pick and choose a schedule.

One such decision was an easy one. For the first time in many years, certainly more than the existence of our team, our style Modifieds are venturing to the Colosseum known as Bristol. This is an opportunity that neither team owner nor driver wanted to miss (not to mention crew members).

80 cars are expected to try and make the show. Apparently many others had the same feeling and want to turn laps at a place that NASCAR cars head to twice per year. The entry list was released today, with 88 to eventually be pared down to 80. http://speed51.com/short-track-u-s-nationals-central-entry-lists/#TopSpeedModified

That is the primary focus. Beyond that we will look at minimum to run the Tour races at Toledo and Kalamazoo. It would not be surprising to find us at some season ending big races at local tracks either. This reduction in schedule will allow for a proper regroup for future efforts.

But, I am not content with one historic venue. I will be embarking on a separate quest, also in an open wheel car. I am working with Wrenchaholics Racing and their fleet of Formula Continental race cars. https://www.wrenchaholics.com/171-team/ . Yes, I will be running a small schedule in said open wheel ride, being confused every time I turn right (okay not really – but it has been a long time), with the hope of ending up at Indianapolis. The SCCA Runoffs will be contested there. And if I can make it through 5 or so races unscathed, I should receive an invitation to rumble across the yard of bricks in September of this year.

So, it’s different, but all of it is exciting. Continue to stay tuned for announcements and more concrete schedules being announced. For now, plan on looking for our name in the results the weekend of May 20th in Tennessee.

Happy near racing season!

-Michael

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2016 – far from forgetting

2016 was a memorable season for our race team. It signaled the end of a quest.

In 2013 we started our Modified expedition, grabbed a win, good finish in points, and Rookie of Year at a local track.

In 2014 we chased the local track again, winning a race, winning points, and faring well against Touring competition.

In 2015 we started touring, managing a top 10 in points and visiting a whole lot of tracks we never saw before.

In 2016 we toured again – and we ended up trekking to Fort Wayne, Indiana in a snowstorm to collect our laurels as the Top Speed Modified Tour northern champions.

The best part is that for much of that journey we had the same supporters on board to take it with us. Murawski’s Tax Service, Techman Sales Inc., Engine Machine Service, and RAM Engineering Midwest. We would not have had the opportunity to keep chasing larger goals if it were not for them.

We are indebted to each of them. Thanks to you, and to the families that we ignored chasing it.

2017 will look different – but with some new wrinkles.

Humbly yours,

-Michael

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Turkey Derby

The best part of my year is always Turkey Derby. Blu Metz always makes sure I am hooked up with a seat for SOMETHING. This year was no exception.

He informed me that he had one from his fleet ready. He then said, with a wry grin, that based on how it practiced leading up to Turkey Derby I would be pleased. Hmm.

After the first practice session, he was more than correct.

I parked it after the session and had a phone shoved in my face. It showed me in the top 6. I was confused, and the look on my face as I de-helmeted must have shown that. With a proper use of a swear word I was informed that is how I ran…first time in the car with this set-up.

I was pleased because this meant I would get to go out in the fast group for time trials (based on practice times). This is the opposite of 2015 where I was trying to get out of the slowest group. I hate group time trials but felt with even a decent lap I would make the invert.

After my laps, which felt solid despite some twitches, I ran across the scales. This time I was intercepted with some fingers and another phone. . I ended up P2. I was told also that I had the pole until the last lap of the session when points champion Matt Janisch ran off the quickest lap.

I drew 2nd for the feature. We took the green and I got “hustled” with a nerf bar right at that instant. Slid into line in 5th place and we were gone. We ran in formation for about 10 laps. I was being held up but there was no point to push the matter. I then saw the 3rd place car get loose, and 4th go under him. I had a good run off the corner so turned down even further. This unweighted the rear and around I went.

Started in the back and was picking off cars patiently despite my self-induced ire. About 10 laps more and an accident occurred mid-pack. Stopped car and had nowhere to go. I piled in and then got hit from the rear. Started all over and that was about all she wrote as I must have knocked the toe out.

Overall it was a fantastic time since showed that could run in the front. I just wasn’t used to being there in a TQ! It made me really want to go to the indoor races.

Thankfully yours,

-Michael

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Racing in Atlanta

Just noticed I never followed up with a summary of my day racing in Atlanta!

It was a wonderful day. Stayed out for the entire practice session – getting as many laps as possible. Was keeping up just fine with the “mid-pack” cars, and never dropped a wheel off for whole session. This was atypical.

This is from before all the wheel turning.

After practice checked something and noticed that the tire pressures were – odd. Evened that out and went for the heat. Well, the good thing about previous pressure was that it helped them come in quicker. Instead I went into fourth corner and went bounding. I then went bounding in the dirt, err sand, again later. Left hand turns were the foil.

Adjusted them back to the seemingly peculiar pressures for the feature and did what could to stay out of trouble. And there was a lot. It is depressing when can’t even get a 12 lap race in due to the time limit. It was a blast though and the car rolled back in the trailer under its own power. As soon as that was done I immediately contacted my uber ride (yes, I had set up an uber ride to take me the 75 minutes to the track) as the sun was going down and it was getting chilly. While waiting I was informed that the tires on the car were over 3 years old. Oh.

All in all the people couldn’t have been more helpful (especially Mr. Ragan), the weather cooperated, and Atlanta Motorsports Park was gorgeous. They said I could come back any time. I would love to!.

Sweet tea for all,

-Michael

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12X Team (Go-Kart) Racing

Tomorrow is the Top Speed Modifieds banquet. Going to be a fun trek, in the snow, down to Indiana. We look forward to it. It also marks the 3 month “anniversary” of the 1st annual 12x team go-kart outing at Extreme Indoor Kart Racing in Clio, Michigan. It was a celebration of the championship, and a chance for everyone to unwind a bit. All racing family was invited, whether it be team members, friends, crew, coworkers, college bros – and we had all groups covered.

We had an elaborate qualifying format set up, but with a spate of cancellations at the last minute (forget about your kids – and who really needs to work!?), and a party immediately after us, we consolidated to one group. The 11 of us engaged in 2 qualifying sessions of 5 minutes each. Best lap time between the two was “your” time. Top 6 were to be inverted. Karts were chosen in order by where you timed. It was then on to an extra length 14 minute A-main (which left most sore for days after).

After qualifying it was apparent that Kyle Drake was way ahead of the group. Instead of starting in 6th, he elected to start shotgun. He probably thought there was a bonus on the line for starting “Senneker.” The start was dicey with father and son duo Mike and Alex Stenberg clogging the track through the first 3 turns after the standing start. Mike tried to block both lanes coming on to the long straightaway which ended up with him facing the wrong way off the bumper of Occhipinti, who had started 3rd.

Occhipinti eventually worked to the lead and tried to gap the field while Kyle diced through the field. He got to 2nd on lap 4 and got the gap down to about 5 seconds. That was as close as it got and Occhipinti took the win. Testament to their closeness in speed is that Occhipinti had fast lap in the feature…by .002 over Drake. The top 4 finished on the lead lap, which was 24 laps completed.

Finishing order (with start position in parentheses): M. Occhipinti (3), K. Drake (11), Austen S. (5), John C. (4), Mike Stenberg (1), Alex S. (2), Cam B. (9), Chris Oz (7), Blake (6), Marshall B (10), Hosam (8)

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Reprising a fun race – 800 miles away

It was July 15, 2012 when I had the luxury of hopping in a Legends car and turning right as well as left. It was a [stinkin] blast. I felt much more comfortable than I had in any of my oval track races in it to date. I managed to win a heat and get 2nd in the feature.

Fast forward to November of 2016. Heading to Atlanta for the weekend with a rather open schedule. I still get Legends e-mails and find out there is a road course race a mere 60 miles away from my hotel. In the era of Uber and Lyft, this is easily manageable.

I make a few calls, and the next thing I know I am receiving a handwritten contract via text message, signing a contract via fax and figuring out a way to get my racing equipment in one bag so I can pay less on the plane.

It will be a good time on Saturday – heat and a feature on a 1.14 mile circuit in Elliottville, err Dawsonville, GA. I cannot wait to post updates from down south.

Talk to y’all from Hotlanta in 3 days,

-Michael

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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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