Banquet Time

October 25th was a day the team will not forget anytime soon. We headed to the Springport VFW hall for the Springport Motor Speedway banquet. As always, all of the track employees were so courteous and friendly to us. I personally enjoy it, because it gives all of us a chance to put on our finest threads. We got to sit near the front – a reserved table even – and partake in a nice dinner, and perhaps a libation or three. The speeches were good, even when some of us forget to thank key people (ugh), and the hardware was … huge. The trophy barely fit in the car; it is the interior width of the Fusion. And, I also managed to score an embroidered Hoosier jacket. It is very nice, and I look forward to accessorizing against Hoosier purple. The banquet was later in the year last season. This year it was earlier, which means the off-season is even longer. As usual, I can add the “we are working on some things” – because, well, that’s true. Next update will be after Turkey Derby (running a TQ midget again), and will have the season in review. -Michael

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Michigan Cup Weekend

It was a long day, but the last Top Speed race of the year at the Speedway was a decent one for the team. We time trialed adequately (10th/28). They invert 8, 10, 12 based on a “pull a number out of a bag.” We had a 66% chance of it being good for us, and naturally we got the 33% one. The top 8 got inverted, so we started heads-up in 10th. It rained as soon as qualifying finished, and there was over a 2 hour rain delay. It was nearly 11pm by the time we took to the track. And we behaved like a bunch of pent up savages. There was a lot of carnage, and we could barely string any green flag laps together. We moved backwards for a bit, but then started proceeding forward. We had enough bite to keep up, but not enough to make any real passes. Got to watch a lot of good battles ahead of me, but ended up in 7th place – and a car that rolled into the trailer (always a positive.) We will take it – if not for a love tap in the first race we would have had top 10’s in each of the Top Speed races at the speedway. It bodes well for 2015 – let us just say our current intent is to race with the group more. -Michael

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The Regular Season Comes to a Close

It would be easy to say that I was going to race the last night of the season “just like any other night.” But with the points title hanging in the balance, well I would be lying to you if I said that was the case. Let’s face it, I had worked through all the permutations. I knew where I had to finish compared to the other 2 tough competitors (Earl Miles and Walt Obrinske Jr.), and it certainly got in my head as I could not stop thinking about it. We came prepared, and loaded for bear. We did not want for rubber selection, and we had done some testing during the prior week. If I learn one thing from my car owner, it is “you can never be content with how the car was previously.” Well, we struggled a bit in practice. We could not find speed near where we were the previous week. The thought was that the new shoes would correct it. Time trials did not bear that out as we were sliding a tad, and the results showed that. We barely made the invert of 9, which was the lowest we had timed in any of the regular races. This started us 2nd in the heat. If we could hold our position it would give us nearly the maximum number of points, making up for the time trial issues. But the car was worse, as our adjustments made it nearly undrivable. I plummeted to next to last in the heat. This was not acceptable, and I was choking away the championship. Just before the feature a sage fellow driver came up and said “just drive as you have done all season and you will be fine.” At that point I was finally able to shake the cobwebs from my head, and I was able to visualize what I needed to do (a top 5 would lock it up). Stayed patient during the feature, managing to avoid the wrecks ahead of me, which pretty much always went up the track to the wall (thankfully). Soon I was in the front 2 rows on a restart, and the top 3 of us took off. It turned out it was the 3 points contenders. I held with them for a while, but we were a tick slower. They started to pull a gap and I held my position knowing that 3rd was more than enough. The problem was that I was holding up the train! Tap, tap, tap, there was plenty of notice that the line wanted to be moving. I had no intentions of giving it up, and we held on to 3rd, and with it got the team’s first points championship! It was the way the season should have ended, with the 3 of us on the podium. We then got to go back for some more Winner’s Circle photos – this time as the champion. It was a great feeling (I am not going to lie), and yeah I really was tongue-tied when handed the microphone. Sorry to the fans that I am bored while speaking! From there, it was only appropriate to have a halfbakedschemes celebration at Applebee’s! ½ price appetizers made it delectable and frugal (hey, we still needed team funding for the last Top Speed race). And besides, take out the slash from ½ – and it is 12, our car number. And yes, that was almost as cheesy as my frontstretch speech. Still glowing, -Michael

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Another Season, Another Trip to the Best Spot on the Track

The next to the last regular season race was held on August 16th at Springport. The team was feeling confident after a Top 5 in the previously held Top Speed race. Not only that, but the points race was tightening up. The car was fast off the trailer, and showed it in time trials, registering a 2nd place time behind Bobby Heyink (winner of the last race at the Speedway). The heat race was a precursor to the feature, as we were able to quickly move up into 2nd place. Despite being faster, there was no point in pushing the envelope in a heat race, so I tried a few different lanes to see how the car would behave. The fact was it was planted wherever I set it on the racetrack. The invert for the feature was small – just being a 6, which meant we started the feature in 5th. In front of us were some tough competitors (including the 5th place car from the previous race), but we were confident in our chances. The race started uneventfully, and we patiently worked our way forward – taking a car every few laps. By the time got up to 2nd the leader, Gord Alblas, was trying to check out on the field. We were able to systematically reel him in over the course of 10 laps or so. He was very quick, and there was not much to be had in the form of passing opportunities. Eventually we caught up to the back of the back. A lapped car held the middle lane coming off of turn 2, and Alblas went to the high side. I pitched the car to the bottom, and it just plain stuck. We got great drive off the corner and completed the 3-wide pass. From there we took off. There was the typical late race cautions to make things nerve-wracking, but we were able to hang on. The whole team was present, and we were able to get some great Victory Lane shots. With the win, it marked my 2nd straight season managing to find the way to Victory Lane. It also pushed us into the point lead with a single race to go. -Michael

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August 2nd – Top Speed Invasion #3

28 cars made the tow for Springport’s third Top Speed race of the season. It was a tough day on engines, as 3 cars had to withdraw prior to the feature with engine woes. With the Top Speed format the key thing is timing in the top 16, to ensure that you don’t have to run a consolation race (like we did in the first event of the season). The second is making the pill draw. After time trials a number 8,10, or 12 is drawn out of a hat – and that determines how many cars “draw” for starting position. We put on our scuffed shoes for time trials and the car did not behave at all, and the tires did not come in. We luckily timed 8th, which ensured we would be picking our starting position. After our poor draw of 10th last time we were relieved to see the #2 this go-round. We lined up alongside Bobby Heyink for the start of the event. There was some concern about being freight-trained on the inside, which is the preferred groove. However we were able to slide into line in 3rd place at the start of the extra distance main. At that point it was time to ride and save the equipment. We pulled away a bit from the pack, and started to catch the rear of the field. Managed to make a move in traffic to take over 2nd place when the first yellow came. All the restarts for the day were going to be cone races, where you get to choose inside or outside. I chose inside (car was handling better there), but that meant would restart in 3rd, instead of the 2nd position I was in. Quickly took back 2nd on the restart, and was content to ride again. Heyink was a tad quicker – we could keep up but had nothing for him unless there was a grievous mistake. The lead group continued to pull away, and we were right in the middle of it. Two late restarts (starting on the inside again) enabled cars to “get us” and we fell back to 4th. We stayed there with the pack and that is where we ended up. The top 5 get to park on the frontstretch after the race, so it was nice to be there right by the fans and hear the winner interview. Naturally, I would prefer to be the one talking. All in all, it was a good night. I am typically unhappy when I “go backwards” from my starting spot, but given the circumstances I was pleased. We hung with the outsiders and let them know the track regulars were going to continue to make their lives difficult (last 2 won by track regulars Walt Obrinske and Bobby Heyink on this night). We are most looking forward to the last Top Speed race of the season at the track, during Michigan Cup weekend. Contentedly yours, -Michael

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July 19th Race Story

July 19th was the first Springport race in over a month, as the previous race got rained out. It also doubled as the 2nd “stand-alone” race of the season, without the Top Speed tour in attendance. 17 cars pulled through the gate. We managed to time trial 3rd, and were still fighting a bit of a push. The heat race was a good one, as we were able to comfortably settle into 2nd and were quicker than the leader. It was too early in the evening to take any chances, so we merely stayed close to his bumper (apparently too close judging by some of the hand gestures). We started the feature with some work to do, starting in the back half of the top 10. Dropped a position or two on the initial start, but settled into line and was being very patient in picking off cars. As the distance wound down, we started to catch lapped traffic. The two cars in front of me (4th and 5th) were struggling handling-wise, and the leaders were getting away. A lapped car hugged the infield, and the 5th place car went to the outside wall. I saw the opening and tried to fit in there. As turn 1 approached it was very apparent that the opening was going to disappear. Despite massive brake effort there was incidental contact, which caused the 5th place car to spin. The caution was attributed to me, and I was sent to the tail of the lead lap cars where we remained. The 12th place finish was disappointing given how the car was definitely a top 3 one… Still preaching patience, -Michael

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Dual Report

It has been a few weeks since the last update, so it is time for one. 4 weeks ago was the 2nd stop of the Top Speed Modifieds at Springport. The team had high hopes coming in, since we had run real well the previous time out. The first time trial lap was abysmal, but we gained ground on the second and timed 4th. We were the highest of the track regulars, and were able to get into the re-draw. Unfortunately, Michael picked the number – and he drew 10th. It was the worst starting position we could have had for the race. We were patient in the early going, but were fast. They did not employ the cone race strategy for this race, so we were not able to be creative on restarts. We ran well but just not enough to complete too many passes. Ended up in 8th place, which was disappointing given how much potential the car had. If you told us before the season we would be disappointed with a top 10 against the Top Speed cars I think we would have laughed at you. Here is a picture of some chaotic action from the track photographer, Woody. http://racingwoodys.smugmug.com/SpringportMotorSpeedway/Springport-6-14/i-2dR4v2q/0/O/springport%206-14-126.jpg Another one of his choice shots will be used for autograph night on august 2 and given to any fans who stop by[shameless plug here]. 2 weeks later found Race Mom Darlene making her first foray to Michigan in 9 years. She jinxed it on Monday of the week saying the forecast was crappy. The forecast changed multiple times during the week, but was not looking great for race day. However that morning was beautiful out. She donned her new Kyle Larson t-shirt for luck and we traversed west. We made it halfway when it started getting darker. 2/3 it started to rain. Near the track was dark, but not terrible. We got to the track and cars were out there but was dark in the distance. We bought our pit passes, and thunder clapped almost immediately. By the time we drove into the pits the heavens had opened. We procured race rubber anyway, drawing chuckles from the track employees, and had a ‘team huddle.’ Owosso Speedway was called, over an hour away. They were supposed to miss the rain – and we peeled out on our way there. We arrived at 440, with the last mod practise scheduled for 445. It was starting to sprinkle, but we headed in anyway. We got pretty much the last pit stall, immediately got the car fired and driver suited and headed out with about 5 minutes to spare. Having never seen a modified on the track before, my line was a wee bit…off. The rains came right as time trials were supposed to start. Mike S took me on a track walk, site of a win of his I might add, and explained how most people prefer the high side here. 24 cars were in the pits. We timed 14th, which I was pleased with given the minimal time gap to the top guys. This got us in the ‘first’ invert which got us a shot at a better starting position. That did not end up happening as I did not move forward in the heat race. Started 14th in the main. I got comfortable once we had some laps in the field strung out and I was able to run high or low. Got near the top 10, and the car started to go away. I began bottom-feeding and was getting surprising traction down there – apparently more than most. We ended up 10th, but were being held up near the end. It was a good enough performance that we are seriously considering heading back this year, especially once the Springport points die down. Tonight is the Sam Faur memorial race at Auto City Speedway. Claude Plante Jr. is wheeling the car tonight, before I take it over next Saturday. Until after that, -Michael

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