#99 Exide Batteries / National Fast Freight Pontiac Grand Prix
Pete Vanderwyst / Castrol Super Series team
Cut tire in Calgary drops Vanderwyst from first to eighth
CALGARY, AB - This past weekend, Pete Vanderwyst returned to the site of his greatest accomplishment in racing. Two years ago, the EXIDE Batteries / National Fast Freight Pontiac Grand Prix driver emerged victorious at Calgary's Race City Speedway to claim his first and only career Castrol Super Series win.
Although Vanderwyst's run in Sunday's 300 lapper at the high-banked, half-mile oval didn't result in a win or a podium finish, the team overcame several hurdles during their stay in Calgary and were pleased to post a hard-fought, eighth-place finish.
The weekend opened on a high note when the crew of the EXIDE Batteries Pontiac won Thursday's Pit Stop competition. "The guys on the team did an amazing job and took the pit stop contest, downtown in the 'Eau Claire Market'. They were all pumped up about that," said Vanderwyst.
Friday's time-trial session to set the top two starting positions for Sunday's main event appeared to go well for Vanderwyst. The #99 EXIDE Pontiac posted the fourth best time, but that effort was wiped off the board when the car was determined to be slightly too low, during its tech lane inspection.
"We time-trialed fourth fastest, but the car was a little too low, so we had to start at the back of our 100 lapper on Friday night. We got up to fourth in that one, which was good and gave us a solid starting spot for Sunday's 300-lap race," continued the St. Thomas, ON racer, who lined up eighth in the field of 29 who took the green flag on Sunday.
But prior to the race, the team found a 'ticking time bomb' that had the potential to spoil their weekend. "Going through the maintenance procedures on Saturday, we saw that we had a camshaft that had worn out one of the lobes," said Vanderwyst. "It was to the point that we couldn't risk running it anymore. So, we put another motor in it and went back to the track and tested it. The motor combination and the gear change we did for this engine dictated that we change the chassis and springs."
Fortunately, the team was correct in its calculations and it didn't take long for Vanderwyst to realize that he had a strong piece at his disposal for the race. "We got out there on Sunday and actually had a better car for this race than when I won it in '99. It was an unbelievable racecar. The guys did such a good job re-scaling the car after we made so many changes on Saturday.
"I was confident that we were going to be on the podium, and maybe challenge for the win. But I got a flat right-rear tire, under green [while leading on lap 122]. We lost two laps fixing that. After that, we battled the rest of the day to hold onto a respectable finish. We came home eighth, which was pretty good. We had a good game plan set out for Sunday, and the race was going as scripted until the tire went down."
Looking back, Vanderwyst feels the weekend was a success. "Exide had a hospitality tent for their people and National Fast Freight. All things considered, it was a good outing. It was just another flat tire at the worst moment that bit us. We led for a while. But for the second race in a row, we hit bad luck while out front."
Prior to heading for Vancouver on Wednesday, the team is busy in Calgary putting the motor in the road course car. Like the other competitors, Vanderwyst has only a vague idea of what to expect in Vancouver. "This is our first time to be at the Vancouver Indy. I would expect it to be much the same as the Toronto course. Hopefully, we can get a little bit of luck for once. We need some good finishes to jump up several spots in the points. You just have to keep fighting and moving ahead," concluded Vanderwyst, who is 10th in the Castrol Cup point standings with two races remaining.
CALGARY NOTES: Dave Whitlock won Sunday's Mopar 300 at Race City Speedway. It was his second victory in a row. Points leader Don Thomson and Neil Fair were second and third, respectively... Tonight at 7 p.m., Sportsnet is showing the Castrol Super Series race from the Toronto Molson Indy.