At the end of the Kansas City report it was Tuesday and there was not yet a motor plan for Michigan. To recap, we had traveled to Kansas City for the race the week before Michigan and had hurt engine. This engine had just been put together...
At the end of the Kansas City report it was Tuesday and there was not yet a motor plan for Michigan. To recap, we had traveled to Kansas City for the race the week before Michigan and had hurt engine. This engine had just been put together before the Kansas race and engine #2 had not yet been repaired from the Gateway race.
We were able to secure an engine deal from Joe Rhyne on Tuesday night. This meant that we sent someone to go and get it at noon in Gary, Indiana. It arrived at my shop 6 pm on Wednesday. Now we had to be at the track gate at 6am on Thursday. It was a good thing that the Michigan Speedway is only 40 miles from the shop. We spent Wednesday night and into Thursday at 1:30 am getting everything installed in the car and packed in the trailer.
Thursday morning we prepped the car and got a setup installed. The motor was teched but the carburator was sitting just a little too high under the hood. We had to play with carb spacers until we got it fitting in the cowl just right. Practice started at 11:00, but we didn't make it on the track until around 12:15. We had until 1:25 pm.
The car had plenty of straightaway speed. I mean a bunch. We purposely were running a gear that would not over rev the engine. It was turning 8400 down the front stretch. The car however was not getting into the corners......and I was not willing yet to try driving it down in there. On our first session, I black flagged for smoke. The rear end was leaking around the gasket. Got some silicone on it for a quick fix so we could continue practicing. Tried to figure out what was going on with the corner entry but ran out of time.
We pulled the rear end and installed a new gasket before qualifying. I decided to leave the car alone and just not drive into the corners hard. We were around 20th on the speed chart for practice and knew that I would not have to bonzi a qualifying lap to get in. So I took it easy in qualifying through the corners and would start the race 23rd.
Friday morning there was a 1.5 hour practice session. I changed the front end setup and softened it up. This helped the car getting into the corners but the car was still very tight past the apex. The more I adjusted on the car, the worse it got. Our times were consistent but still off. With the motor we had, I should have been much better. At the end of happy hour.....I was not happy. The tires were now gone with 67 laps on them and the car was worse than when I started. Friday afternoon, I changed a rear spring and rebuilt both front shocks. We prepped the car for the race.
Saturday morning we got up and made it out to the track before the traffic started backing up with fans getting into the speedway. However.....I forgot the radios at home. Friday, I took them out of the speedway to charge them and had left them behind. Julie and Scott went back to Ann Arbor for them and had to fight the traffic coming back.
We bolted on a set of sticker tires to start the race on. The practice set was usable if we replaced the left front. We had a third set of new tires mounted but hoped not to use them (we could turn in one set for credit if we didn't use them).
The plan was to stay out of trouble and feel out the car. If the handle was good then we would have a strong run. Well the race started and I didn't get the best of starts. I got trapped behind a slow car at the beginning, then started racing with the 48 car. I still wasn't willing to drive it too far into the corner, until someone passed me out there and figured I had to try out my setup. The car worked, but was still too tight on exit. Once I was willing to arch into the corner on the high side and keep the engine wound up, I was making up ground and passing cars. I did loose a lap around lap 20. I started following the leaders line through the corners, and although I could not maintain their speed due to the push, found that I was much faster than I thought. It was all about finding the right line on entry.
I was on the other end of the track when Shafer hit the wall in two. I did not see the wreck and the fire truck was at the car by the time I came around turn 2. His car was a mess, and he is still here in a local hospital (see ARCA website for injury update).
This caution came out at lap 23. I was not willing to bolt on tires yet, but filled up with gas and got a wedge and track bar adjustment. On the green, the adjustments helped only a little. The car was still tight on exit. The next green run would be a long one. The tires were completely gone by the end of this run at lap 72. Most everyone was making green flag stops and I was starting to watch the fuel pressure gauge. We got a caution.....wow. On the way down pit road the car ran out of fuel. I coasted into the pit box. We bolted on the used set of tires. The tires that came off the car were down to the cords and one rear tire had a severe slice in it. Lucky stuff.
Finished out the race, running some decent times. I could not catch the 21 car which was just ahead of me for position. The tires at the end were just too far gone, but I was not willing to put on a new set when we were two laps down. Made it to the end and finished in 15th place. A real victory for us......we finished at Michigan in front of our sponsors, friends, and family. We did a little celebrating that night with a bonn fire at the shop with a few chilly beverages.
Sunday found us pulling out the motor so that it could be returned to Joe Rhyne. It was a super piece....I hope I can run it again someday. Our motor should be done this week. If it is......we will put it in and go to Pocono.
Mike Buckley ARCA #28