This Week in Ford Racing May 17, 2005 U.S.A.C. Jack Arute is perhaps best known for his work as an auto racing reporter for ABC and Sirius Radio, but he is also a race-track owner and ... car driver. He competed in his first USAC Ford ...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 17, 2005
Jack Arute is perhaps best known for his work as an auto racing reporter for ABC and Sirius Radio, but he is also a race-track owner and ... car driver. He competed in his first USAC Ford Focus Midget Series race last Thursday night at the Indianapolis Speedrome. Driving the USAC 50th Anniversary Ford Focus Midget, Arute started from the rear of the field and finished eighth in the 50-lap event. He spoke about his racing experience and his enthusiasm about the future of the Ford Focus Midget series.
Jack Arute - No. 50 USAC 50th Anniversary Ford Focus Midget - HOW DID YOUR NIGHT TURN OUT AT YOUR FIRST INDIANAPOLIS SPEEDROME FORD FOCUS RACE? "I finished eighth and started last. It was really a great experience. The thing for me is all of the things I suspected about the Ford Focus Midget Series as far as the bridge (to other USAC series), that it's such a controlled environment. It really puts the emphasis back on the driver. All that was very evident [that] night. You're sitting there going up against these young kids and you see the aggressiveness that they've got, and it forces you as an AARP guy to get up on the pipe a little bit, too."
YOU REALLY DIDN'T GET A CHANCE TO RUN ANY LAPS IN THAT CAR BEFORE THE RACE. "I really enjoyed the challenge. This series will develop the skill sets that young people need to make the transition and go up the ladder. In the thirtyplus years that I've covered racing, USAC's made it easy. Number one, if you follow winged sprint-car racing, the wings can mask a lot of things. Going with the spec tire, if you haven't got a car that wasn't running that well, you could throw a set of new tires on it and it will perform better. If all of the sudden you're lacking a little bit in ability then your dad or car owner could say, 'Well, we need a $48,000 Gaerte engine.' What's happened now in the Focus Series is that you have controlled the environment that not only develops drivers that have a feel for the race car, but you are also developing mechanics. For example, after the heat race, I came in and the car had a really bad push to it. Now instead of coming in and saying, 'We'll we need to increase the stagger on the tires or go get new tires,' we had to work on distributing the weight better to free up the car. Once we were able to do that we were able to go faster. I sat there and I was thinking in my own mind, 'Great, I have Mel Kenyon doing it.' So he immediately knew what to do it. But I'm thinking, 'What if it were a dad or a buddy and they are just starting in this series?' The great thing is that they are going to learn weight distribution as a way to get the car to stop pushing, instead of throwing another set of tires on it. It hit me that this is what we need to do as a sport. You have all these kids coming up in go-carts and quarter midgets and all they have ever learned is how to flatfoot it and go fast. With this series, you have the racers and mechanics that are beginning to understand the legs of the table as it relates to suspension geometry. I have to tell you that [that] night, 50 laps is the longest race that I have ever run. We usually run 30-lappers in our mini-sprints. Everybody was kidding me about an old man being able to go 50 laps. I found myself with such a grin on my face when I was out there. All the sudden, I looked up and it was lap 47 and I thought, 'Yeah, I can do 50. I think I can do another fifty more.' Then I got back to the hotel at around 11 o'clock and slept like a baby."
YOU ONLY HAVE AROUND 180 HORSEPOWER IN THAT MOTOR. DESCRIBE HOW IT FEELS IN A FOCUS MIDGET AND ON THE SPEEDROME TRACK. "That package demands a smoothness. It requires that you be consistent. You can't be banging on the throttle. When you have a lot of low-end torque you can cowboy it and go into the corner, get totally out of the throttle and then bang it, bury the throttle, deal with the wheel spin and go. The Ford Focus engine rewards what I call the egg between the throttle and the shoe. It teaches you to be very consistent. Be very methodical about rolling into or out of the throttle. It's got plenty of power, but it teaches you to be smooth with that power. That's the thing that's so good with this because some racers can be fast but out of control. With these cars, you are going to be fast if you are in control. And that's what you want to do in a teaching-level series: Teach good racing habits, not bad ones. That motor really sounds the best when it's at full throttle. As short as those straightaways are, you can still hear a nice roar."
HOW DID THE RIDE COME TOGETHER FOR YOU? "When Mike Devin, USAC and Ford Racing announced the series three years ago, it just hit me. My dad and brother and I own a race track in Connecticut, called Stafford Speedway. And we are always looking at stuff. I saw this series and I said this is the wave of the future. Because costs are spiraling out of control, Banjo Matthews once said, 'Money buys speed. How fast do you want to go?' I really just started to follow the series. We run mini-sprints at home on dirt. I was making a speech in Daytona at one of the short track seminars and I ran into Rollie Helmling and Steve Farmer. They told me that they had a semi-show car available and I just lit up. They are introducing the Focus Midgets in the northeastern region races, in fact, Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway [ran] one[last week]. I said I want to drive one of these. I wanted to confirm what I thought, and I have. That this is really the future. I just kept calling and calling and finally they said, 'Alright, we'll put you in it for a couple of races.' Now I have the bug. Now I need to find me a ride for the eastern region and run out there when I get home."
YOU ARE RUNNING AGAIN AT THE SPEEDROME THIS WEEK. ANY CHANGES? "Yes, from a driver's standpoint, I have to continue to concentrate on smoothness. From a car standpoint, we are going to take a look at adjusting the fuel flow a little bit at the low end. That's the beauty of these things. Get in it and drive it. For me, it's all about logging laps. At this point in time that's what I can't wait for. I was actually trying to figure out how to get to Columbus this weekend. I looked at my TV schedule and we go off air at 6 o'clock Indy time and that's 7 o'clock Columbus time. Short of being a part of Star Trek I don't think I could get there in time to drive Saturday night."
You've Driven the car on Pavement. How much fun would it be to drive on Dirt? That's what this series allows you to do. "Oh, and that's my forte. I run exclusively on dirt at home. I feel like a gun for hire now. I'll go anywhere, anytime, any track, just give me the chance to drive one of these things."