The ARCA series traveled to the Salem speedway in southern Indiana this past Sunday. Salem, like Winchester and Bristol, is a very fast, very high banked race track. Unlike Winchester, the racing surface is quite weathered and bumpy up near the...
The ARCA series traveled to the Salem speedway in southern Indiana this past Sunday. Salem, like Winchester and Bristol, is a very fast, very high banked race track. Unlike Winchester, the racing surface is quite weathered and bumpy up near the turn 3-4 wall. In order to be fast at Salem, the car needs to be about a foot away from the turn 3-4 wall.
Our trip started on Friday night after leaving the normal day job. Hooked up the trailer and headed out. We made it only as far as the gas station down the road when a wheel fell off the trailer. The outer wheel bearing was burned up and the remains were stuck to the spindle. Luckily we were not far from home. Found a replacement bearing and made repairs. Back on the road at 9:30 which put us to the hotel in Scottsburg at 2:30 am Indiana time. Not much sleep tonight.
Up at 5:30 for a day of open practice at Salem. Arrived at the track, unloaded everything on pit road (our home for two days) and began getting the car ready for practice. Our practice was OK. Not great. The car was loose in turn 2, and nothing we did seemed to make it better. Some of our neighbors on pit road were having the same problem. We were on old tires from the Winchester race. As the day went on, the tires were used up. We had a pretty good balance on the car at the end on old tires. This is what we want for the race setup since we won't be changing a bunch of tires (black gold) on Sunday. Went back to the hotel, relaxed, watched the WC race and got some needed sleep.
Sunday....race day. After thinking about how the car was performing Saturday, I had the crew check the drive train. I had felt a vibration, sometimes, under power coming off the corners. We found that the drive shaft yoke had a lot of play in the tail shaft of the tranny....it needed to be replaced. Found one at the parts truck, but we could not get a U-joint to mate up with it. Borrowed a yoke from the Hampton crew (#0 car) and some U-joint parts from the Cooksey crew (#51 car). Took a while to make the repairs, but my crew got the car through inspection without the drive shaft in place, made repairs and got it installed before the scheduled practice began.....good job guys!
Practice on new tires was disappointing. I was expecting the car to handle a whole lot better than with the old junk. Our times picked up, but not near enough. Made some wholesale setup changes before qualifying.
My qualifying lap was 1/2 second faster. It felt pretty good too. I was happy until I found out that most of the field had made up a bunch too, and the field was tight. I qualified a 18.57 which was 21st. Eigth place was a 18.1; 26th was an 18.69. Our practice times would not have made the show.
Starting 21st at Salem is not great. The leaders come in a hurry to put laps on you when you are battling cars that may not be running what they qualified. The worst two things happened.
1. There was a caution just after the start of the race for a spin. This put everybody in a single file line. Even easier for the leader to lap cars.
2. The cars that I was racing against were about my speed but were slowing down into the run. I was working hard to pass cars one at a time. The leaders were coming and we all started running behind a car that was smoking badly, but not slowing down and in the fast groove.
Lap 27, it all broke loose. My spotter came on and said to start working hard, the leaders were coming. I passed a car and started working on the next car on the inside behind the smoker. Car 64, the smoker, expired the engine on the entry to turn 3. Anyone who is familiar with Salem knows this had to be the worst place it could happen. My car was inside of the 19 car coming into the corner when #64 spun in his own oil. My car hit the slick and spun up the track and into the wall, tail first. All of the leaders were then in the wreck. As my car spun back around, I was nailed in the passenger door, and many other cars were wrecking around me and into the wall.
Refired the car and got going again. The right rear was bent down, but not dragging. The deck lid was pushed way up. Went to the pit for repairs, pulled sheet metal off the tires, secured the deck lid and tried to get a spoiler that would work pointed in the right direction. It was ugly.
Kept going in the race. The handling was junk. The front toe was messed up as well as the rear end alignment. Tried to stay out of the way and run as fast as we could. The fumes were terrible due to the lack of crush panels on the right side. Because we were not running up to speed, the motor ran rich, heating the exhaust pipes, then eventually my seat. Made stops during cautions, then eventually during a long green to keep the car handling enough to keep from wrecking again. It was a long, long race from my perspective. Finished 20th of 34 starters. Had we given up after the wreck we would have only finished 32nd so it was well worth our efforts.
Ken Schrader won the race easily. His car seemed to go anywhere he wanted to point it. Talked to him after the race, he said he barely made it out of the 3rd turn accident where he was right in the middle of it.
Well, this race ends our season. Time to regroup and repair our stuff for the year 2000. We have lots of work to do. We have our speedway car that was trashed at Michigan to fix, now our short track car has a bent rear clip and a bashed in side, and we have a third car we will finish this winter.
ARCA has three races remaining which we don't have the financing to run. Charlotte and Talledega in October, and Atlanta in November. Catch these races if you can. Our series is getting to be more and more competitive, well worth watching.
For the website, the autorace group and the RAS newsgroup: I will publish a season summary of our 1999 experience and what progress I think our team has made in a couple weeks.
Mike Buckley Owner/Driver ARCA #28 http://www.goddessfiona.com/buckleyracing Arcamike@aol.com