Weekend on tap

The season is quickly winding down, and there is a large lull in the Top Speed schedule. Luckily for us, there is no lull in the local schedule. Car owner M. Stenberg has piloted the 12x the last two weekends, first at Springport then at Owosso. Both had glimpses of success. Springport found him winning his heat race. He then got spun while racing in the top 5 in the feature. He drove back to the top 10. Owosso he timed in 2nd (first time we have competed on American Racer tires). He started the feature in 10th after a near full field invert. He drove up to 5th, but then the car went away. All told though, there was lots of learning completed.

This Saturday is the last regular season points race at Springport. While we have long since been out of contention to repeat the local crown, we do like supporting the local speedplant and shall do so. We hope to continue the learning in preparation for the season ending Top Speed race(s). The other benefit of Saturday…it is the Mechanic’s race! Cam Behl is going to get behind the wheel and hopefully bring home a second victory for the night. Race results and future schedule to be published soon.

Enjoy the weekend,

-Michael

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August 8th – Whittemore Speedway

August 8th was a show that was not to be missed. The 2nd incarnation of the Hot Shoe 100 was being run at Whittemore Speedway in Whittemore, MI. The track is the longest continuously run track in Michigan. And it is a very cool set-up – it is in the downtown of a little town. The main entrance is actually off of Main St. The amazing part was the turnout – 50 cars showed up. Many had practiced the night before rather than run at Dixie. Thankfully they still had 2 hours of practice for us. I think we went out 7 different times, trying a number of different things. Only 20 cars were going to be locked in on time. We were roughly 30th in practice, but that was without putting our scuffed tires on. We gained 0.4 at Dixie the previous night, and only needed 0.2 on this night. Well, the driver did not do well in his laps. I actually slowed down from practice and qualified a disappointing 34th. Time trials were crazy though, taking well over an hour due to so many cars. Here is less than 1/3 of the field lined up to put in their laps.

Here we are going across the scales earlier in the evening.

That poor effort lined us up 7th for our last chance race, with only the top 2 being taken. I would like to forget about that race. Everyone checked up due to a yellow and I had nowhere to go. This caused a severe impact to the front (I should never be able to see the bumper). Once back green I locked up entering the turn and impacted another competitor, unwittingly taking him out of the race. We managed to work back from the rear to get up to 6th, but that was the end of our small chance to get in anyway.

One nice thing about the event is that everyone at least gets to run a feature. Even this non-qual race had a full field! We started 10th and got shuffled back early, but managed to drive forward after that (with judicious care to avoid losing what was left of the front end). We finished 8th, with many wonders of “what if” had we been able to qualify.

Many thanks to the Bonners for coming to watch, and naturally to the crew, who once again scrambled all night – and didn’t get home till almost 5 in the morning.

The schedule is a bit nebulous from here on out. There is still a TBA race, plus there is a combination race likely to be added. We also want to sprinkle in some local shows. We do know that the car will be out on the 15th at Springport, with Crew Chief extraordinaire Mike Stenberg piloting it. There is plenty he wants to try set-up wise, and it will help us communicate as he has not raced it with the new suspension set-up. Until next time…

-Michael

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August 7th – Dixie Motor Speedway

Day 1 of our 2 day jaunt to the north found us at Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run (Michigan – not the Dixie Speedway in Georgia). We arrived with 34 fellow groundpounders, ready to tear up the asphalt. The track is only used for special events now, so it was a bit dusty. The car liked the track, and liked it more the harder the car was thrown in to the corners. It actually behaved a fair amount like Berlin. We got plenty of practice, and took some big swings at it, continuing to try and loosen the car.

We time trialed again just looking in from the outside. 5 thousandths of a second was enough to relegate us to 18th and the pole position for another last chance qualifier. This one was a bit more stressful than that at Spartan due to some wheel-banging, but we held on to 3rd which enabled us to start from back in 22nd.

The car liked the outside and we steadily progressed to near the back of the Top 10. Restarts were not our friend however and said progress got stunted. Here is a picture of the car during the race, courtesy of Rabi Adhikari.

But, the car was in one piece, and we took our 16th place finish with us to TGIFriday’s for a late night meal. We stayed in Saginaw, so it was a short trip up to Whittemore the next day for the Hot Shoe 100.

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July 26th – Spartan Speedway

Well, smarter minds prevailed and we decided to skip the combination race to ensure we were ready for the subsequent race. It was the 100 lapper at Spartan Speedway, the annual Brian Heeney Memorial 100. I had not driven at Spartan in a modified, solely in a Legends car. That helped with some of the acclimation, but we were still fighting the car a bit as it was way way tight. We timed 17th, missing locking in by .003 seconds. We made an adjustment for the B-main, and the car felt real good. Took off from the pole and took a comfortable 2.5 second victory. That got some press on the Top Speed Twitter page. Checkered flag shot courtesy of Photos by Woody.

https://twitter.com/ICARModifieds/status/625433798403080192

We started in 17th for the feature, and the car was bad fast on the bottom. It was like a conveyor belt as we picked off cars. We drove up to 11th. Here is a picture of the car at speed, again courtesy of Woody.

That picture was just before contact that found us having to take an agricultural excursion and a detour to the back of the pack. Our team lobbied to get our position back but if was not granted. We rode for a while in the back after that, trying to keep the corners on the car and selectively picking when to pass. After about 20 more laps we had a suspension part fail that ended the race for us in 17th place. We showed speed though, and that was encouraging. More encouraging was the top 5 gathered by our teammate Kyle Drake. It was now a 2 week break until we had races on back to back nights.

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July 11th – Springport Motor Speedway

July 11th was supposed to be the aforementioned race at Auto City Speedway. Instead we trekked over to “home” for the Moonshine Run, a local event at Springport Motor Speedway. Traditionally this is not for Mods, but we were added due to rainouts. Time trials were good, we managed 6th, which netted us a 2nd place starting spot for the heat and the feature.

We felt we were “high” for time trials, so lowered the car for the heat. Sailing off into turn 3 on the opening lap we bottomed out – hard. It washed up the track. Once up there it turned like a beast and we got a great run outside the car that ducked under us when we went highside. Unfortunately, he didn’t think we would get said run.

We were outside him and unable to “get back out” before the wall came up. We hit hard, well hard enough anyway. It broke the panhard bar mount…and shifted everything to bust ANOTHER radiator. This was the start of the heat, just before the incident (courtesy of Photos by Woody)

It would have been easy to pack up at that point, but that’s not how the team rolls. Everyone sprung into action, from switching the bad wheels out for new ones, to getting the mount rewelded, to removing the radiator and actually “closing off” the broken passages in the radiator. The previous mounting of the radiator took 2 hours. This was done in ten minutes. We pulled into line for the feature with 2 laps to spare (the previous feature was getting the white flag.)

We had no idea how the car would behave, or if it would even make it through without overheating. Well, the car held on – getting a little hot in the last few laps. It handled reasonably well, despite bottoming out at every opportunity. We started 2nd, and still managed to get a 7th out of it. Given all that went in to even making the grid, that was a very pleasant result.

At that point, we had a decision, it was 7 days to the first North South combination race…in Indiana…

-Michael

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June 20 – Auto City Speedway

June 20th concluded the brutal stretch, with the 8th day and 3rd race having arrived. The schedule got messed up, with practice being pulled ahead an hour. I went from the pit entrance line to suiting up to out on the track. It is not my normal modus operandi, to put it mildly.

We tried hard to dial in the new set-up, and laps were close to where we needed to be, but not exactly. Time trials left some on the table, and we just managed to lock in (14th). The track once again asked us to run a heat race. We started 4th, and seemed to find something – running well and keeping up with the leaders. The result of 3rd was a seemingly needed confidence boost.

The feature, well, it could have been better. We started 14th, and it began uneventfully. We were riding around, managing our position. And the car started to get looser…and looser, and never stopped. It was a handful through the latter half of the race and we finished 16th. We did find fluid all over some of the tires, but were not sure if that was the true cause. The track managed to confound us once again. Thankfully the next race, also scheduled for Auto City, was cancelled. It was on the schedule, so why wouldn’t we race?

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June 16th – Battle at Berlin 251

A thrashing session began Saturday evening as the ultimate hope was to get done in time for the practice session at Berlin on Monday. None of us had been to the track, so practice time was of utmost importance. Luckily, RAM Engineering was already working on some shocks for us, which were supposed to be spares. They became primary as we busted one Saturday evening. Dick Meyers graciously worked on Sunday to get us back on track. A herculean effort was put in by Mike S., Kyle, and Cam to get the car done. We were close on Monday, but did not get done till late afternoon, and practice only went till 6pm, and we had a nearly 90 minute drive. And then the skies darkened.

We loaded quickly and headed out with a call to the track finding out that practice had been shoved back. We rolled as fast as we could, and arrived during the first practice session. Unfortunately the pits are on the infield, and we could not get in until a break. This break coincided with the modifieds heading out for their first practice. Thankfully, there was a 2nd session. We got the car unloaded in a hurry and suited up for the 2nd 20 minute session. It worked well as we used the first half to learn the track, which came quickly due to notes from Mr. Meyers. The second half featured adjustments. We felt pretty good as dusk came and we headed off for a steak dinner (it was needed).

Tuesday, yes Tuesday, came and a surprising amount of modifieds kept pulling into the pits. We did not know how we were timing, so there was some concern when it was announced a number of cars were going home. Well, we got some decent laps in and timed 13th. We were locked in, but disappointed we didn’t get to 12th and a possible redraw. It is amazing how perspective changes. After qualifying it was announced that the track was pleased with the turnout and all would start. That was a nice gesture which we learned as we headed out for the autograph session.

Speaking of the autograph session it was pretty surreal as we were directly across from Chase Elliott and the hordes of people trying to get his picture. Once it was over they quickly brought us back out, so we could get underway.

The race was a methodical one. We started in 13th , and just kept chugging. The car got better, and better, with a set-up we had never tried before. About halfway through we had climbed into the top 10, and we stayed there and were racy. Some passes in the last few laps brought us up to 8th, which was the best finish of the year to date.

The team was pleased, to put it mildly. We then headed off to various vantage points to watch the 251 lap late model race, which was very entertaining. Local driver gone national Erik Jones bided his time, in a back-up car, to steal the victory.

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