Rain, rain go away. Our Charlotte experience began on Tuesday of last week. We needed to be at Lowes on Wednesday morning, 5:30 am. We would leave Ann Arbor at 3:30 pm and drive most of the night. We arrived in the Charlotte area around 4:00 am...
Rain, rain go away.
Our Charlotte experience began on Tuesday of last week. We needed to be at Lowes on Wednesday morning, 5:30 am. We would leave Ann Arbor at 3:30 pm and drive most of the night. We arrived in the Charlotte area around 4:00 am and had a Waffle House breakfast.
The skies were threatening right away. We had a problem getting the car through tech. We needed to play with the left side wheel base and that meant resetting the LF suspension. Not the thing I wanted to be doing just before practice. It was spitting rain during the practice session but we got it in......then the rain came.
Qualifying would be rained out....the field was set on owner points. That put us 12th on the grid. We were soaked and tired. Time for the motel room.
Thursday, the garage was scheduled to open at 2:00 pm with the race at 9 pm. It poured all day long. The garage was open from 2 to 5 pm and we worked again on the LF suspension trying to get that right. The race was rescheduled for Friday and the garage would open at 6:00 am. Time again for the motel room.
Now the Berlin race outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan was scheduled for Saturday. If the race were to be run in Charlotte on Friday, we would have to bogie up the road to Michigan Friday night. Right now we are a one car ARCA team. We needed to change gears, shocks, springs, and do a setup in the shop in Ann Arbor. That's if everything went ok at Charlotte.....it didn't.
The race began after many hours of track drying and waiting through mist showers at 10:30 am. The track had some gray areas but for the most part was pretty dry. The race started under yellow to make sure the track was ready. At the start, the car was a little loose off the corners but otherwise OK. I lost several spots after some of the really fast cars came up from the back and settled in. The car was decent. At the first yellow flag the water temperature shot up. I had too much tape on the grill for the car to cool down on the yellow. I pitted, removed some tape and made a chassis adjustment. That put me at the back of the field.
At the restart, the rear of the field went nuts. They were 3 and 4 wide in front of me. I was put three wide out of turn 4 (not good) and then I stayed on the outside down through the trioval. The track really narrows up past the flag stand going towards turn 1 and I got out into the gray. I turned the car down but it would not go and I bounced hard off the wall. Made it back to pit road where the guys pulled the sheet metal off the tires. After a couple of attempts to get back into the race, we determined there was too much suspension damage to continue. We fell out....1st DNF of the year.
We began repairs immediately after the race, made a list of parts that we needed, then packed the car and headed out of the track and over to Dave Jensen's parts store. We loaded up what we needed...RF ball joints, a LR Truck arm and U bolts and headed north. We arrived in Ann Arbor at 3:00 am and unloaded the car in the shop.
Between taking turns driving and couple of naps after we reached Ann Arbor, the crew got the car fixed up and ready for Berlin. It was not easy. The damage to body was patched up. The new suspension was "roughed in" and we loaded the car for the trip to Grand Rapids....about 2 1/2 hours. It was already 12:00 pm and practice was to start at 4:00. We arrived at the track at 3:00.
Just as we got unloaded the rain began at Berlin. This gave us time to get the car through tech, get it warmed up and ready for practice.
Practice went OK, but not great. The car needed work to get it to turn. We softened the car up a bunch and put on the good tires for qualifying. We qualified 26th......that really was disappointing for us at Berlin. The car was impounded...no changes could be made.
The race started and the car was just too loose. We came in on the first yellow and made some adjustments. The car then began to come around and we were turning some decent laps and passing cars. We stayed on the lead lap for quite a while but Billy V. was strong and eventually put us that first lap down. We only had the one set of good tires. After the next caution the leaders started bolting on rubber (which was good for only a little while). We changed rubber to one of our used sets and continued on. Most of the rest of the race the car was decent, but not great. We finished 5 laps down at the end in 18th place. Not a great finish for our team where our strong suit is at the short tracks. But it was over....and we could go home and go to bed. Arrived back in Ann Arbor at 4 am.
I want to thank all of the crew who made it happen during this past week. It was a long one.
Kentucky is next.
-Mike Buckley Owner/Driver ARCA #28