The Buckaroo Crew worked their hearts out this week. Tuesday - Inspection day: This was a slow and agonizing day. The haulers arrived before daylight and were staged on the backstretch. We then were parked in the pit in order of points. Our...
The Buckaroo Crew worked their hearts out this week.
Tuesday - Inspection day: This was a slow and agonizing day. The haulers arrived before daylight and were staged on the backstretch. We then were parked in the pit in order of points. Our little trailer is always dwarfed by the 18 wheel rigs of those who are around us in the points standings, but it is what is inside that counts. The ARCA inspectors were especially careful in the inspection process this year. They were fair and looked for everything. We had a one template issue with the rear spoiler, had to change our roof strip locations, and we were not approved for our front tread width. These issues we had to work out in the garage stall, get back in line, wait the hour it took to get to the front line, then learn that we did not go far enough with our changes to be approved for our practice sticker. We would have to go through the process again Wednesday morning.
Wednesday - Practice day: Our changes to the areas that did not pass inspection were approved first thing on Wednesday. We got the car in line first thing and got our practice sticker. We were ready for the first practice and on time. This was a good thing. We knew going in that we did not have the best motor in the car. We just didn't know how much it was lacking until we hit the track. Our best time in the first practice was a 52.178 for 172.48 mph. Not good. We took the car back to the garage, changed the gear to get the RPM in the range that the motor would pull and got ready for the second practice. In this practice, I pulled out my bag of "tricks". Normally these tricks get us 4 to 6 tenths of a second. Not. We did a little better, but barely at 52.027 for 172.98 mph. We were 49th. The motor was not going to pull the car. Period.
Thursday - Qualifying day: We were scheduled to go 19th in line for qualifying. I did not see any point in running the morning practice. The weather conditions were worse than Wednesday. The car did not even pull close to the same RPM in qualifying than it did in practice. We ran a 52.407 for a 171.733 mph lap. We were 52nd of 55 cars that took time. I was not happy. We got into show on a provisional. The last two provisionals are reserved for teams that ran 100% of the previous season with the same owner/driver combination. Our team and Chuck Weber's team took those two spots. We began talking with our sponsors about what we could do to get a good motor in the car for the race.
Friday - Happy hour day: We woke up to rain. It was cold and damp. Practice was supposed to start at 10:00. That would not happen. We still were negotiating to get a Joe Rhyne engine in the car. We prepped the car for an engine change, but could not start the process until everyone agreed to the deal. It was stressful morning with a bunch of stuff going on behind the scenes. We began the engine swap around the noon hour. We were looking to make the final happy hour practice. The crew changed the motor and gear, things were looking up. We went through the inspection line one final time to check our heights and wedge settings then went out to see what the car would do. I went out onto the track and as the car was coming up to speed in 4th gear in turn 4, the rear end exploded. Everything stayed in the carrier, but I do not know how. It went off like a bomb. I was able to get the car, heavy heavy on the brakes to pit road. I don't know how. Everything was banging around under the car. The drive shaft twisted 360 degrees then broke at the trans end. Everything was damaged from the bellhousing back. We got everything tore out of the car before we left the garage, then planned on what to do back at the hotel room. I did not sleep good that night. I think the crew did, because I flat wore them out.
Saturday - Race day: This is the day we overcame adversity and shined a little bit. The crew was fantastic. I cannot even begin to tell the list of things we needed to fix to get the car ready for a 200 mile race. Everything was changed, flushed, fixed, or welded from the bellhousing back to the rear housing. They did it all.....and all before 12 pm. We took the car out back and really warmed it up good and ran the rear housing at near full speed on jack stands. We had to fix one more problem when the surge tank leaked, but we were in line for inspection on time. The crew was fantastic.
We started in the back due to both our provisional, then because of the engine swap. The car would draft well and could run behind anyone. It did not run side by side very well. Only as fast as the other guy we were running side by side with. There was a caution at lap 5. We pitted for fuel and a wedge adjustment....the car was too tight. There was another caution at lap 19 where we again pitted for fuel and took a little bit of the wedge correction back out. Then at lap 29, all of the lead lap cars pitted.....except us. That put us in the lead. I drafted well with the lead pack, got hung out, moved back up, but after getting shuffled back to the rear of that pack, I could not keep up. I finally lost that pack when the 00 car lost an engine. I went way high to avoid him and got almost sideways at the top of the track...got out of the gas and lost the main pack. I then fell behind Jason Jarrett and we drafted together and were making time getting back up to that pack. The caution then came out at lap 49. Jason and I pitted with just a couple other cars. If the race would have went green from that point.....we may have in contention for a win because everyone else would have had to stop under green or be very close to running out of fuel. It wasn't to be however, as there were two more cautions for wrecks and they all made it to end. We were 14th or 15th with just a few laps to go when I got a flat tire on the RR. Had to pit under green and lost a lap putting us back to 26th place.
All in all the outcome was great. The hard work paid off. We not only were competitive, but got to run up front, lead laps, and had things gone our way....it could have been incredible. The flat at the end was from running through junk on the track....it wasn't our fault, and it could have been worse. Luck was on our side this week. I need to thank both Stoody Industrial, and Industrial Steel Service Center for stepping up to the plate and enabling us to put in the great Joe Rhyne power plant for race. Everything bad that happened, happened when we could fix it. I am very proud of the crew. They worked their hearts out.
Next race.....Atlanta on March 8th.
Owner/driver ARCA #28