Mike Buckley - Salem story

What a strange weekend. The weather had been calling for rain all day on Saturday. We unloaded (everything you own goes to the infield) at 6 am and got the pit organized. Just before we got the car through tech, it started raining. Not hard ...

What a strange weekend.

The weather had been calling for rain all day on Saturday. We unloaded (everything you own goes to the infield) at 6 am and got the pit organized. Just before we got the car through tech, it started raining. Not hard at first, but the kind that lasts all day. Cold, damp, yuk. We had to wait, and be ready just in case the rain actually quit.....no good....Saturdays qualifying would be cancelled and we would start by last years "owner" points. Those who know my opinion on this system know why I put that in quotes. This is the 4th race....and the last race we will be using the 2001 points for this purpose. We would start 17th.

The rain started on Saturday before the scheduled practice. No one had any time on the track. Sunday, the skies cleared....but the track and all of the Salem grounds were soaked with the heavy rain that had come the night before. The parking area was a mud hole....and it would get worse. The track drying with wreckers and safety vehicles got most of the track aired out with the help of a poking sun. ARCA then let the cars go onto the track at a slow speed behind the pace car......this was great move. It helped to dry the track and it helped to get some laps, even though they were slow laps in to work out any bugs. We had just put in a fresh engine and needed to run the car around a little.....good thing. The throttle linkage was hanging up on the air box....it was sticking a little bit, and we would not have found that before the race.

Because the race was started on points, the field was in two very different groups. The points leaders from last year were going to be fast....that was a given. However, the points leaders from this year were starting in the back. They needed to get to the front before Kimmel, Jarret, and Belmont started to lap the field. At the start of the race it got crazy in a hurry. Three wide down the back straight seemed normal. My car was too loose to start, and we started using the many cautions to adjust and would keep going to the back on the restarts. Went too far on a wedge adjustment when the right call was the track bar and had to come in and try again. Once it was right, the car was hooked up. I was a little too cautious in getting through traffic and lost a lap to Belmont....but then I got hooked up behind him and away we went. We ran with the leaders to the next caution, the car was good and we were on old tires at lap 90. The leaders came in and we were the last car on the lead lap, I stayed out. On the restart, I was able to stay in front for quite a while. I worked really hard to stay ahead of the leaders...hoping for a caution. Didn't happen. Wouldn't you know it, the longest green flag run of the race. By the time the next caution flew, I was on 140 lap tires. Belmont was leading and finally put me another lap down, that was lap number 2. The tires were way way gone. I cut down the RF tire on debris and I thought we were going to have to pit under green.... and then the caution flew. On that pit stop we put on four new tires, but the front air hose for the tire changer went under the left front wheel and we were held on pit road for a penalty....lost lap number 3. Too bad because the guys had a good stop going.

After the pit stop the car was especially good. However, three laps down meant stay out of the way.......but don't loose any more and beat everyone on your lap. The crew did an excellent job letting me know who I was to race, and who to let go. I hope that my fellow competitors recognized that and extend me that courtesy in future. The last car I needed to pass on my lap was leaking oil in bad way. Every time I would get behind him I would slide up the track. Well there is no room to slide up in turn 3, and I flat sided the right side hard into the wall trying to pass, kept in the gas and kept it going. This made me very angry, and I was determined to get that spot. I had to pass the 84 car without following in his oil stream and got 9th spot with just 6 to go. I pulled down and let Kimmel and Jarret go for the win with 2 to go.....thats where I lost lap number 4.

So ya we did OK. I was just a little disappointed in knowing that we had a much better car and couldn't capitalize. The only question was should we have stayed out and gambled on getting that caution at lap 90. I think it was the right call given the number of cautions that the race was having and given that we were in the front of the line when it all sorted out. The car was strong and it would run up front. Now it has a flat right side that needs replacing....that just ticks me off since it didn't need to happen. That other car had been oiling down the track for a long time.

The weekend continued in the parking lot.....what a mess. My hauler is a 30 ft. enclosed trailer pulled by a F350 4x4 dually. The four wheel drive is a requirement at our shop in the winter time....it was a requirement at Salem as well. I was glad that I didn't have a large truck and trailer this week as the mud had about everyone at a standstill. Sometimes not having the big rig is not so bad. There were incidents on the track that boggled my mind....and in the parking lot as well. Nobody had any fun loading up and getting out of there. Arrived back in Michigan around 3 in the AM and got to work a little late on Monday. Isn't this fun?

Kentucky is next. We will be bringing out the car we wrecked last fall and had a new 2002 body installed. It still needs to be finished up.....it will be a long two weeks.

Attention Kentucky/Cincinnati area......internet virtual pit crew volunteers and tire sponsors are welcome to contact me at the address below for the WLWT Ch. 5-155 race on May 10 and 11. Practice and qualifying on Friday with a Saturday night race with live Speed Channel TV.

Mike Buckley
Owner/Driver ARCA #28

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Series ARCA
Drivers Mike Buckley