May 12, 2014
Everything was fine during testing on Friday, even though it was my first time to drive for Acorn Cabinetry Racing owned by Randy and Claire Aubart. The white and red Boschett Timepieces/Acorn Cabinetry/Hoosier Tire/Impact Safety #95 was progressively faster in each of our three track sessions at Wisconsin International Raceway. So far, so good.
The Aubart’s are professionals. They have a bucket load of wins and a 2012 Mid-American Stock Car Series title to their credit, which puts me in an enviable position. Instead of having to carry an uncompetitive car on my back at every race, I now find myself as the weak link on a strong team. It’s a huge challenge and considerable pressure, but that’s how you get better… right?
Randy and Claire are a driver’s dream. Randy has forgotten more about car setup than most crew chiefs will ever know. He works with the clarity and purpose of a man who knows the sport. And he can laugh at the same time. Randy makes racing fun.
Claire is a brilliant spotter. She never misses a call (not that I would know since the car has no rear view mirror which is really weird and violates God’s plan for racing and I intend to whine about it all year long). Claire is blessed with an amazing ability that few spotters can claim. She makes clear, educated suggestions on driving line and marks, but unlike many spotters she never tries to drive the car over the radio. It’s a delicate balance few can maintain.
It’s really hard to go wrong working with people of this caliber. Believe me, learning from others is a humbling experience when you’ve been in the sport for 25 years. But it’s one I’m happy to endure because of the unique position I’m in. I honestly learned more from the Aubart’s in one weekend than I can remember learning from anyone else in a very long time.
Our consistent progress continued on Saturday morning. We were steadily faster in both sessions, which is precisely the form of measured progress that everyone wanted. Then we strapped sticker tires on the car – which I’d never experienced in all of 2013 – and everything changed.
The Hoosier racing slicks were perfect, but the driver wasn’t. The fresh rubber changed the car’s braking response, which altered my corner entry significantly. Randy warned me fair and square, accurately predicting exactly how the new tires would react. I overcompensated and qualified 2/10th’s slower than we had practiced. My bad. So much for impressing my new car owners. Worse yet, my only misstep of the weekend placed us at the back of the starting grid.
You know… where all the wrecks occur.
But we were still optimistic. Our strategy was to take whatever positions were given to us, but the real racing would begin halfway into the event at lap 20. We had a fast car. Our tires would be worn in and heated. That’s when we would fight our way into the top ten.
With our strategy in place, I strapped into the car and started 19th in the field. The green flag fell on the Mid-Am Vercauteren Memorial. I passed one car on the front stretch. Claire gave me the “all clear” signal going into Turn 1. The car in front of me slid high in Turn 2, which opened the door down the backstretch. No problem. I let him drift high for an easy and clean pass on the inside. I wouldn't even have to alter my racing line.
The rest of my race can be told in 25 seconds. Just watch the videos below to see what happened (TV view and on-board views play back to back).
Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions
Co-host, Mecum Auto Auctions
Boschett Timepieces/Acorn Cabinetry/Hoosier Tire/Impact Safety #95
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Sopwith Motorsports TV Productions, Kellie Morgan, Stephen Dale