Fornoro, Hultgren Phoenix Report

Hultgren and Fornoro Leave Phoenix Psyched for Future USAC Midget Races PHOENIX, Feb. 1 - Both car owner Paul "Skip" Hultgren of Belmont, N.H., and driver Nick Fornoro Jr. of Reeders, Pa., came away from ...

Hultgren and Fornoro Leave Phoenix Psyched for Future USAC Midget Races

PHOENIX, Feb. 1 - Both car owner Paul "Skip" Hultgren of Belmont, N.H., and driver Nick Fornoro Jr. of Reeders, Pa., came away from Phoenix International Raceway Sunday with a feeling of excited anticipation for the future. As sometimes happens in racing, a freak failure of an inexpensive part thwarted a higher finish in Sunday's 25-lap USAC midget race which was part of the Skoal Copper World Classic, but both men will leave Arizona confident that their team turned a few heads and assured that if things had developed differently, they would have had a top-five finish.

As it was Fornoro started 27th in a field of 30 and crashed into the turn-four wall on lap two or three when a tire stem on a wheel failed. A multi-car crash moments later then caused a lengthy red, and the team was able to make repairs in the pits and rejoin the field for the restart. Unfortunately the right front caliper bracket had been weakened during the crash and it broke on lap 11, knocking the team out of the race for a 19th-place finish.

"I know it may sound odd, but our showing was beyond my wildest expectations," said Hultgren. "The reason that I'm so happy was that our Autocraft VW motor never missed a beat. It's been some time since a VW motor did well at Phoenix, but we were in the hunt. That guy [Fornoro] can sure drive. He only had about eight good laps but he passed 10 cars and the car was absolutely in the hunt. He would have been a top-five car for sure, and the new car we're going to build is going to be even better.

"We came out here to try to learn something, and we did," Hultgren continued. "The average car out here was at least double the price of what the car we ran here cost, but we were still in contention. Fifty-one cars signed in and they only took 30 for the feature, and some pretty good cars went home. The part that failed us was a freak thing; the rubber stem popped out of the wheel and the tire instantly went down. It wasn't a tire problem but a wheel problem; it was maybe a 75-cent part. What's important is that everybody knew we were here and we're going to come back even stronger."

The midget race was won by Tony Stewart, who also won the Silver Crown race and came in second in the supermodified feature. In the midget feature Stewart was followed by David Steele, Ryan Newman, Chris Shultz and Andy Michner.

"I had forgotten how much I love to race on big tracks," said Fornoro of Phoenix's 1-mile semi-banked asphalt oval. "We would have had a top-five car. I would have liked to finish better of course, but I think we turned some heads with our little VW."

One thing the team learned was that its VW motor needs a couple laps to warm up, which made Saturday's time trials a challenge. The motor just didn't like the scenario of having to run at its peak immediately after the car was pushed off, as the green flew on the very next lap during time trials. Those results pushed the team into the 10-lap consy on Saturday, where Fornoro started 12th and finished third.

"That was pretty good, because we ran some laps in the consy which would have put us eighth in time trials," Fornoro noted.

The television schedule for Sunday's race has not yet been released, but tentatively the race may be shown on TNN at 2 p.m. Eastern time on either Saturday, Feb. 14 or Saturday, Feb. 28. The reairing of the broadcast is tentatively set for 1:30 p.m. Eastern on either Feb. 15 or Feb. 29. Please check the television listings for updated and further information, as these times and dates may change.

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Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Chris Shultz