Buckeroo Michigan report

ARCA took to the Michigan Speedway last week for our second appearance of the year. In June, we were running a support race for the Winston Cup Series. This time our race was in support of the CART series. Same race track, but it sure seemed to...

ARCA took to the Michigan Speedway last week for our second appearance of the year. In June, we were running a support race for the Winston Cup Series. This time our race was in support of the CART series. Same race track, but it sure seemed to be a different setting. In June, the infield was full....as in packed by Friday morning. There were only a scattering of motor homes for the CART race and attendance for the ARCA race was light.

Michigan Speedway is about 35 miles from our race shop.  We get to go home
every night.  Wednesday, we had the car packed up by 11:30 pm and were in
good shape.  We needed to be at the track by 6:00 am.

We unloaded Thursday morning. Other than decals, the car was pretty much ready for the track. We had some minor setup work to do. We were running a different motor this time than in June. In June, we had a rented SB2 chevy that was very strong. The car's handling was holding us back. This time we brought our 18 degree speedway motor. This was down about 40 HP to the engine from June. We would have to make it up with a good handling car. The car was very tight in June, and this is what we worked on with the setup.

Practice started and the motor was only running on 7 cylinders. A plug wire was off and was corrected by the crew on pit road. Then we started turning laps that were as good as our June times. This was good. It was clear that our motor was going to be holding us back. I kept driving deeper in the corners and kept the RPM up, but times didn't improve much. We decided we were going to need another gear to get the RPM in the motor a little higher.

We borrowed a gear from the competitor next to us. He was looking to decrease a little RPM and agreed that the two cars would swap the gears. We made the swap in time for qualifying. The car handled fine and could have been driven in a little deeper at both ends. The RPM came up 200 to top out at 8400. We qualifyed 17th and picked up 4 tenths. This was our race setup. The car was balanced well so it worked out fine. Returned home Thursday night to our own beds.

On Friday, the CART cars pretty much had the track. We had a one hour practice scheduled. Our ride heights were a little high and we decided that if we could get the roof and spoiler heights down to the minimum allowed it would help the car get down the long straightaways. We also found that we could remove some of our ballast since the MIS tire setup was much heavier that the tracks we had recently been to. When practice started, temperatures were again climbing high. The track seemed a little slicker. Most teams slowed down...but we were just a tick slower than qualifying. At 40 laps the tires were still not slowing down. Put on a new set to scuff them in for the race and the times did not pick up much either. The car was balanced and if we could run the race at this pace we would be in good shape.

After practice we spent the rest of the day getting the car ready for the race on Saturday.

Saturday was a long day. The track opened at 8 am. The weather was fine in the morning but was beginning to cloud up. Being that this was our home speedway, we had a bunch of people who showed up to help or just be there for support. It was good to have everyone there. I am glad everyone came out. I think we had 21 people in our pit at race time. We had a lot of crew and not too much to do for a change. We changed the front windshield since it was about used up. Midwest Mall Fronts and Kelly Tire purchased an in-car camera and we needed to be sure the windshield could be seen through. At noon, just before we pushed the car through the tech line it began raining. The rain continued until 3:30 and had washed out the CART qualifying. The sun then came out and the track dried in a hurry. There wasn't much of a crowd left in the stands , but we were going racing. With the sun, the heat returned.....but not near the intensity of the previous two days. The track would definatly be different.

During the pace laps, it was clear the rubber had been washed away from the track. It was very, very grippy with the sun warming it back up. You could feel the tires chirp as I would work the car back and forth during the warm up laps. The green dropped and I got on the gas. The car tried to go sideways and I felt something tearing up in the rear end. I put the car in 3rd gear and it went sideways again. I got down low out of the way and tried to get up to speed, but the rear tires were still spinning and I could not figure out what was going on. When I let off going into the corner the car wanted to jump sideways. Something was bad wrong. I radioed the crew and said the rear end locker was junk. I got the car up to somewhat of a race speed and was going to plan on coming in for repairs. This was lap 3. Down the front straight the engine broke a rocker arm. It acted like it ran out of fuel. The rocker was on an exhaust valve and when the intake would re-open, it would vent the exhaust throught the carburator. I made it back to pit road, slow, and we began to diagnose our problems. The rocker was broke on #4 cylinder. We had no spares of this type of rocker. We pushed the car back to the garage and began to tear apart the rear end. We found the right rear drive plate was stripped. The right axle was OK, it looks as though the drive plate failed. This was a used drive plate (spare) that was replaced last week after our minor incident with the Memphis wall. The left rear axle was the only one connected to the drive train. I was lucky not to lose the car in the corners.

So we made the rear end swap and got the correct gears back in the correct cars with our neighbor competitor. That is always fun after a race......or a couple laps. The car is in good shape and no damage was done to the motor other than it needs some new rocker arms. We have replaced the drive plate and repacked the right rear hub. All is OK there. It was tough not to do well in front of the home crowd.....but we cannot beat ourselves up over part failure. These are parts that need to be cycled out on a periodic basis if our budget would allow it.

We are still 11th in points, but that will be sure to change this week as we are skipping the Pocono race.

Our next race will be at Nashville on August 11. This gives us a little time to prepare our dirt car which will be used the weekend after Nashville at Springfield, IL.

Mike Buckley
ARCA #28


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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Mike Buckley