AutoCon Racing Team On the Road and Hard at Work. David Steele, Joe Geldert, Tim Flickinger, and truck driver Willie Esteb have just finished up another long hard day working Michael Lewis' AmeriSuites Jaguar and have finally settled down in...
AutoCon Racing Team On the Road and Hard at Work.
David Steele, Joe Geldert, Tim Flickinger, and truck driver Willie Esteb have just finished up another long hard day working Michael Lewis' AmeriSuites Jaguar and have finally settled down in their hotel. They are tired and to a man they would rather be home, but this is the downside of the life of crewmembers that toil on the cars that compete in the Trans-Am Series.
This isn't a race weekend and the Trans-Am Series doesn't have a race in Michigan so what are they doing in Michigan when the AutoCon team should be home in Southern California?
The crew is here in Brighton Michigan rebuilding the AmeriSuites Jaguar. Their home away from home is the garage of John Adams Racing. Adams' son-in-law is Dan Binks who runs the #60 NASCAR race truck for Jack Roush and Binks and AutoCon team manager David Steele are friends from way back. The team had planned to take the Jaguar here to prepare the car for the next round of the Trans-Am series at Road America.
Michael Lewis was sailing along in the AmeriSuites Jaguar, solidly in third position behind eventual race winner Butch Leitzinger and Johnny Miller, and the race weekend went up in smoke. Literally up in smoke and plenty of flames. A broken oil seal caused gear oil to leak out of the differential and ignite. The resulting fire caused plenty of damage and prematurely ended Lewis' race at Trois Rivieries.
"The fire was intense," said crew chief Joe Geldert. "It burned out one rear quarter of the car, the rear fender wells and melted the rear window and a brand new windshield. It damaged a lot of the wiring in the car and even melted the rod end out of the rear wheel sensor of the data acquisition system. About half of the wiring system on the car got burned up or damaged."
"The race was really a shame for us," said Geldert with a sigh. "We had a full crew at Trois Rivieries and we had everything covered. During the race we had a good pit stop and Michael was cruising along and we could have easily finished on the podium."
Michael Lewis agreed and joked that he was happy to get out of Canada. Not that Michael feels there is anything wrong with Canada or Canadians. It is just that Lewis has been bitten by two obscure mechanical failures in the two Trans-Am races in Canada this season. Actually Michael Lewis had nothing but praise for the fans in Canada and specifically at Trois Rivieries.
"Trois Rivieries is a great little city, where the Canadian fans are probably our biggest supporters," Lewis said during the past race weekend. "The fans have a real appreciation for our teams, the cars and even know our drivers."
Always the optimist, Joe Geldert was philosophical about being out on the road for an extra week saying, "What can you do. We should finish the car this week, but you cannot the team to pay $1,000 to fly each of us home for one or two days. This is what we get paid to do!"
"We will have about 60 to 70 hours of man hours to rebuild the AmeriSuites Jag," Geldert continued. "And right now there isn't one panel on the car, but the car isn't as bad as it looked right after the fire. We will be ready to go at Road America!"
Michael Lewis agreed saying that the fire was a freak occurrence and that, "I am looking forward to going back to Road America as defending champ! Maybe our luck will change there."
Michael Lewis will defend his 2001 Road America victory on the scenic four-mile Wisconsin track against the entire Trans-Am Series competitors on Saturday August 17th.