Buckeroo Talladega report

Our Talladega trip started very early last week. We left for the track from Ann Arbor on Tuesday. We had the car prepped and ready but the truck needed to be loaded. It was pouring rain in Michigan....a cold nasty rain. It took us forever to...

Our Talladega trip started very early last week. We left for the track from Ann Arbor on Tuesday. We had the car prepped and ready but the truck needed to be loaded. It was pouring rain in Michigan....a cold nasty rain. It took us forever to drive out of the weather....but by the time we got to Cincinatti, the rain had quit. I and my crew cheif Howard were the only "crew" for the first day. We stayed in Trenton, GA on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, we got up early...gained an hour with the time change in Alabama and made it to the track at 10:00 am. Registration did not open until 11:00...so we went to the hall of fame museum. Pretty cool stuff in there.

Wednesday afternoon was set up to get the cars through the inspection line. We made it through the engine tech and templete line with a minor problem dealing with how the rear spoiler templete would lie on the deck lid. Had to do a little grinding on the right rear quarter to get the templete to pass....no big deal. When the garage closed...Howard and I were tired. We would have more crew help in the morning, and those guys were bringing a motor home. We got a room 15 miles down the road.

Thursday morning had us prepping the car for practice. We still had a problem with the rear spoiler templete and had to do some more grinding. We also did some work in the air box and cowl. Practice started at 10:00 and we hit the track around 11:30. It would end at 1:00 pm. Our first round was pretty slow. The car was not going down in the front. We were already just above the ARCA minimums for spring rate....we changed the sway bar. The car was then traveling down in the front but the front shocks did not keep the car pinned. The gear was also keeping the RPM down at around 6400 to 6450. We practiced at around the 53.0 mark....177 ?.

Qualifying saw us rebuilding the front shocks. The rear shocks were provided by ARCA. Everyone had to pick out 2 rear shocks and install them in the tech line when you also installed their restrictor plate. We talked about changing the gear from a 2.94 to a 3.00. We were still unsure that our cowl was going to allow the air into the carb. We had made some changes during practice and were using a magnehelic gauge to see if the changes helped. We decided to leave the gear alone and try that change in happy hour on Friday. We picked up 6 tenths in qualifying and went 179 mph. Good for 21st.

Thursday night we bbq'd some steaks and potatoes in the infield and slept in the motorhome.

Friday, we had a practice at 10:00 am for a happy hour. We changed the gear and worked on the cowl. We checked the car for ride height and went out to the track. I tried to hook up with a fast pack of cars for practice but could not time it right for leaving pit road to catch them. I did have a car that was about a 200 ft. ahead of me that broke the wind. Together with that car, we got up to 183 mph. and only lost 2 tenths when the 1st car pulled in. Took some tire temperatures and adjusted the wedge. Went back on the track and missed a small pack of cars. Came back to the pit to take out some RF camber. Got that done and went back to pit road. The track had been closed for a spun car. We had 10 minutes left but there was debi and when that was cleaned up....it was time for Winston cup practice. Never really got to see what the car would do in a good draft with other cars. But it was much faster by itself...our changes had worked.

Friday afternoon we got the car ready for the race. I had to change the u-joints and front yoke on the driveshaft. The rear seal on the trans was leaking and I found more play than I would like to see in the yoke assembly. Also on Friday afternoon, the drivers and crew cheifs were invited to come to a seminar on safety that would include crash test (dummy in a sled test) data on the head and neck restraint systems and seat and seat belts. It was informative and caused us to do a little work on my seat adding some shoulder braces.

Friday night, after another bbq'd dinner in the infield, we went across the road of the speedway to the Talladega short track. They had the World of Outlaws racing on a tight 1/3 mile banked clay. I had not seen these guys in many years and they put on a good show.

Saturday, race day. We finished prepping the Midwest Mall Front Chevy in the morning. We got some more of our crew for the race as they drove down Friday night. After driver introductions, the TNT crew was waiting at the car to demonstrate what the HANS device looked like. Mike Harmon was in front and was using the Hutchin's device.....so the TV crew used our two cars to show the difference. Every one in the ARCA race was using one device or the other.

The race started and I got a little bit stuck. Mike Harmon had engine problems and did not quite get up to full song. By the time I got around him, some of the slower cars had formed an outside line. My car was very good in a draft....sometimes too good. My car is equiped with the very small rotors used for the speedways. I would get a very good run, then use the brake instead of lifting if there was not a lane open. Using too much brake was going to burn up the small rotors. The start of the race saw a green flag run of 20 laps. Two main packs formed....then a string of spead out cars. I was behind the second pack and trying to catch up. Just before the caution, the motor began to miss. At the caution, we filled the gas and went under the hood looking for a plug wire. Just before they closed the hood, Howard touched the trigger wires to the distributor, the car began missing then cleared. I went back on the track and told him that whatever he touched last is what he needed to work on. The track went green and there was a wreck on the restart coming out of turn 2 that happened in front of me. I then came down pit road and had them work on the trigger wires. Whatever they did worked and the problem was fixed for the remainder of the race (I will have to go through the electrical harness at the shop and see if I can find a ground).

I was still playing catch up...but the car was running good both by itself and with help. At lap 60 something, there was another caution for the #25 wrecking in turn 1. We put on four tires. There were some fast cars that topped off after that round of pit stops and I followed them towards the front. When I caught the main pack...the fun started.

My car was no good at the rear of the pack. However, with a car behind me, I could get great runs on most everyone. Now without those good brakes....and I didn't dare crack the throttle with a car behind me, I had little choice but to pull out when I would get a run on someone. I moved to the front of the second pack....then got shuffled to the middle....moved to the front again...then got shuffled towards the back of that pack. One car in the back of that pack made a move that caused me to go low and brake and eventually crack the throttle...I was at the end of the pack and then the car could not stay there. There was a caution in the middle of that story somewhere and we decided that we could not get back into that pack if we came in and topped off. We would be about 4 laps short if we did not. We would be hung out if we came in. We stayed out.

The caution did not come out again until we were just about out of fuel. Many, many cars were in the same boat as us. I was looking for someone to peel out of that second pack and hit pit road....I would stop with them, then I would have help drafting back up. Lee, the spotter saw Frank Kimmel slowing towards pit road....I was in turn 3. The fuel pressure was 6 psi when it had been running 8 psi all race long. I signaled to the car behind me and began slowing for pit lane. Frank had a rear end problem and turned right out back on the track. I hit pit road alone. A splash of gas and I was gone. I came back on the track behind the leaders and didn't quite catch the second pack of traffic. When I did get back up to speed the caution came out....3 laps from the end. Jason Jarret had run out of gas and was on the apron in turn 2. Several other cars were also running out and coasting to the pit lane....I made up several spots by stopping when I still was under power. Gerhart was leading and he did not slow down much for the pace car to pick him up. The race finished under caution and we were credited with 12th....1 lap down due to our fuel stop. If we would have stopped and topped off on the previous caution, I think we could have finished at least in 9th, as there were 8 cars that finished on the lead lap. We could not have made it to the finish.

We were very happy with our finish. Our car did excellent....this was the same car that we could not get qualified at Daytona in Feb. Some body rules changes really helped our situation and we had excellent horsepower from Joe Rhyne engines.

So now its back to Michigan where it looks like rain again this week. We will be prepping the downforce car for the Atlanta race in November and getting this car in shape for Daytona next year. It came out of the race without a scratch on it... but the front got sandblasted pretty good. We are still 10th in points and in good shape for the Atlanta race.

Mike Buckley
ARCA #28

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Mike Buckley , Frank Kimmel , Mike Harmon