Berlin Mike Buckley report

The ARCA series made up a rain postponed event at the Berlin Speedway just east of Grand Rapids, MI. This was a short 2 1/2 hour drive for our team and we left Ann Arbor around 8 am. After a couple of wrong turns we arrived to the speedway...

The ARCA series made up a rain postponed event at the Berlin Speedway just east of Grand Rapids, MI. This was a short 2 1/2 hour drive for our team and we left Ann Arbor around 8 am. After a couple of wrong turns we arrived to the speedway where we unloaded all of the equipment into the infield. This was home for the next several hours as the haulers are required to park outside the speedway. Most of our prep work was done, did some bolt checking and got the car ready for practice.

Berlin is a strange shaped track. The 1st and 2nd corners are square with some significant distance between them. Turns 3 and 4 are also square both without the distance and the fast way around is to cut turn 4 very low and drift out towards the front stretch wall. Tricky, but pretty neat when you can do it right.

While waiting in line to get on the track, Randy VanZant took a scary ride in turn 3 and backed his car hard into the wall. A large fire ignited and we all watched as Randy and a ARCA official struggled to get him out of the car. The fire was not easily contained. Randy got out and was fine....his car wasn't. He did start however in a Gerhart backup car.

Our practice began and the car was loose. Came in and changed a spring which did some good until we got as much as possible from old practice tires. Threw on a new set and the car took off. We were 12th quick in practice times. Shaved off 5 tenths but now the car was tight. Changed another spring and got the car handling well. The crew would push start the car between sessions until practice was over. The starter died in practice and we found that it was coming apart. Needed a new one at the parts truck....yuk. We were 12th quick in practice times.

Made some more adjustments and another spring change before qualifying. The qualifying lap felt all together different. Both pushy and loose, but the car was much faster and got us to the 14th spot. Most everyone picked up a bunch in qualifying.

The race began and the car was off. Big time. The car was pushing bad and in an effort to keep up, I was loosening up the car with the throttle. By lap 50 I had lost a couple spots but avoided a couple of spinning cars. I was abusing both the RF and RR tires by wheeling the car the way I was. I lost a lap to Steele and Kimmel but no one else was fast enough to put us down laps. The other cars began getting squirrly too, I began passing cars for position. I drove in too deep on the outside in turn 3 and lost it. The car spun down to the inside of the track and the motor died in the spin. The starter would not work, acted like the battery was dead (or the starter was locked). Had to wait for the push truck.....4 laps. Got refired and headed for the pit for fresh rubber. All of the tires were junk and we decided to change 4. We lost a lap on the pit stop. There was also some confusion about which tire was put on the right rear. We came in on the next yellow (only 2 laps after the green) and put on the correct tire. We also made some wedge adjustments that extremely helped the handling.

We then were running 5 laps down. The trick was now to finish the race without wrecking and stay out trouble. The car was now handling great (hmmm... good timing) so we raced semi-hard and saved the car. I had to avoid about 5 wrecks that all seemed to happen just in front of me. In two of them, I don't know how the car made it through the smallest holes while other cars crashed with significant damage. Finished the race in 18th spot.

Loaded up all of our stuff and got out of the track around 12:30 am. Got back home at 3:00 am. Sunday was veg day. We will get the car out this week and pull the motor. We will return this car to the Harpe garage in Fort Wayne(thanks to Lee and Larry). We need to thank them for letting us race this car during the past year. Our first race with this car was at Berlin last year.

Our next event is uncertain. We will be taking a break to build up some more equipment. The motor needs freshening and we are in the process of building two short track cars, one for the upcoming one-mile dirt races. We hope to complete the dirt car and appear in Springfield or DuQuoin. We are going to look at some speedway equipment this week. Hopefully we will have something for next years Daytona race and beyond.

The race will be televised on Speedvision....check the ARCA web site at arcaracing.com for the schedule. The Toledo race run two weeks ago will be aired on the 21st.

Mike Buckley
Owner/Driver ARCA #28

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Series ARCA
Drivers Mike Buckley