DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., June 30 With only about 20 laps of practice at Daytona International Speedway Wednesday before qualifying was rained out, the TRV Motorsport team was forced to make an educated but untested guess on the best set-up for its Supreme Exhaust System Products/Racer Parts Wholesale Riley & Scott Chevy for Thursday night's Paul Revere 250 Grand American race. Race car set-up is a rather black art to begin with and without the benefit of another practice session, drivers Jeret Schroeder and Tom Volk had their hands full Thursday night just keeping the car on the track for 70 laps. The car was extremely loose, and to make matters worse Schroeder got hit in the left rear by a backmarker. It was only due to Schroeder's skill and some good luck that an early DNF was prevented. At the end of the long, humid night, the Toledo, Ohio-based team's hard work was rewarded with a seventh-place finish in the top class, Sports Racer, and ninth overall in the revival of the holiday event honoring Revere's moonlight ride more than 200 years ago.
"It's evil," was the way team owner Volk, of Blissfield, Mich., described the car after his stint behind the wheel. "It's so loose that it's just no fun out there. You can't get the power down; it's really hard to drive. The rear end is sliding around and it's just diabolical in the turns. We did our best guess on the set-up, but unfortunately we were a little off."
"It's a shame we weren't closer on the set-up, because we had one of Todd Hertel's six-liter Chevy engines in the car for this race, so we had a lot more power than we had earlier in the month at Mid-Ohio," noted Schroeder. The Vineland, N.J.-based driver, one of the stars of the evening thanks to his Indy car achievements in addition to his endurance sports car activities, drove the lead-off and clean-up stints, while Volk handled the middle portion of the race.
Volk's 18-year-old daughter Amy, handling the race strategy solo for the second time ever, had calculated that the team would need two pit stops for a full fuel load and one stop-and-go stop for a splash of fuel, providing there were two pace laps and no caution flags for the first eight laps. She brought Schroeder in to get the stop-and-go out of the way under a full-course yellow on lap nine that was necessary when Jon Field spun into a tire barrier in turn three in the infield and a minor fire erupted in the Kreider Motorsport Corvette in the pits. Schroeder didn't lose a lap and only dropped one position, slipping from sixth to seventh.
Shortly thereafter the backmarker hit Schroeder several times in the left rear, even though Schroeder clearly had the line and the advantage going into the turn.
"He just wasn't watching," Schroeder said of the AGT-class car, which had a top speed in practice that was more than 7 mph slower than Schroeder's top speed Wednesday. "He hit me more than once and spun me around; it's a wonder we finished at all because we could have been out right then and there."
On lap 29 Schroeder made his first regular pit stop under green and Volk took over the steering wheel. At the end of the first hour of competition they were eighth overall, two laps down. Volk soldiered on with the ill-handling car and did a great job just to keep it in that position. While he was driving he also came up with what turned out to be a brilliant idea to help remedy the car's loose condition, suggesting that the crew change the car's front bodywork on the next pit stop to help its aerodynamics.
"That front is different than the one we were using, and it made a noticeable improvement immediately, even when I was on pit road going only 45 mph," noted Schroeder, who climbed into the car for his second stint on lap 50.
A lap later he was back in the pits for an unscheduled stop, however, to have the team pry the left rear tire away from its respective bodywork, another result of the earlier tussle with the backmarker and the stress of competition. "I'd be surprised if we didn't have some suspension damage during that earlier incident," Volk noted.
With 11 laps to go Schroeder was eighth in class and tenth overall, but Mark Simo and Chris Bingham dropped back a spot before the checkered flew and the TRV team ended up ninth overall and seventh in class, five laps off the winning pace of James Weaver and Andy Wallace's Dyson Riley & Scott Ford.
Fans on hand for the NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying session that preceded the Paul Revere 250 stuck around to watch at least a portion of the 46-car race, which was covered live on Speedvision and held on Daytona's 3.56-mile road course, which uses part of the oval.
NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart, who is a co-owner of the team that Schroeder drives for in the Indy Racing Northern Light series, was in TRV's pits to offer encouragement. He qualified seventh for Saturday's Pepsi 400 right before the Paul Revere 250 got the green flag at 11:12 p.m.
TRV's next race will be July 9 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.