March 15, 2015
Yours Truly Gets To Work on a Race Car
This winter in Northern Maine seems to be never-ending. Maybe it is the recovery from Achilles surgery or the semi-confinement due to that recovery. I contacted Brett and Bobby Alexander in January requesting permission to travel south to Ellsworth to actually work on their race car, a super late-model.
My race kart is confined in a non-heated garage and no one in my area is prepping their race car for Spud Speedway since there are no definite plans for stock car racing this summer at the track.
The Alexanders consented to my request and last Tuesday I made the four-hour trip to their shop in Ellsworth. The super late-model utilizes one of the eight bays at K & B Auto, a modern automotive repair facility owned by Brett Alexander since 2002 when he bought the business from his father.
Upon arrival I got the grand tour of the eight bay facility with its assortment of race parts on hand for the upcoming season. The #96 Chevy Impala occupied bay number one where it is being prepared for racing.
I was allowed to do several jobs on the car that afternoon as you may note on the WAR checklist page three prepared by Crew Chief Bobby Alexander. I told the WAR crew I wished I lived closer so I could work on their racer more often.
It is rewarding to me work in a warm shop on race cars or karts. I do not like working on street cars, they have too many systems jammed into what is often a confined space. Race cars, karts and snow-sleds have one purpose, to go faster than their opponents. That’s how I like it.
We left the shop after 6 pm that evening and went up the hill to Bobby’s house. He had prepared a wonderful moose roast and cooked some Bradbury Brothers russets that I had brought down to him from Bridgewater. I am not a moose or deer meat fan, however, Bobby did a great job with that roast.
The next day Bobby and I sat around his kitchen table and conversed about WAR and some of the tasks that the team had worked on during the off-season. I wanted to know the types of jobs and gathering of knowledge they did to help make a successful run at their home track of Wiscasset as well as other races they may compete in during the season.
Networking is one of the keys to success in racing as well as most other ventures in life. The PRI Show in Indianapolis, Indiana brings together over 1000 performance industry businesses under one roof. The Convention Center, hallways, and hotels become a “who’s who in racing” hotspot.
According to several drivers, crew-members, and owners that I have talked with over the years they have mentioned the importance of being seen and making connections with others with similar interests.
The Alexanders were no different in their quest. In fact they met up with Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault who was hanging around with his Brad Keselowski team-mate Tyler Reddick long before any official announcements were made about his 2015 plans. They group went kart racing at the PRI Show together.
In addition to attending the Northeast Motorsports Expo the WAR team were part of the Racing Preview at the Portland Expo February 20 & 21, 2015. Crew Chief Bobby Alexander said, “We hustled for a week to get the car ready for the Augusta Show. The neat thing about the shows is we do it for our sponsors.”
“Not only do we promote Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR), we’ve got materials from our sponsors like Harry Frannsen’s Speedway Sports Park in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harry took a liking to Wyatt in his younger days and wanted to support him.”
The race car had been stripped to the bare frame after the 2014 season and sent to Hermon for sandblasting, primer, and chassis paint. After bringing the chassis back to the shop in Ellsworth the running gear was added to the bare frame. Once the rolling chassis was ready, the car was trailered along with a new body to Jeff Taylor’s Distance Racing shop in Fairfield. The new Chevy Impala body was from sponsor, ARbodies.com dealer Norm Desjardins in Center Ossipee, New Hampshire.
Distance Racing installed all new sheet metal on the interior and mounted the body. According to the elder Alexander, Bobby, “That is a trick in itself if you do not have the jigs and templates to do it. It is very time-consuming so we provided the body and came back in a week and a half to pick it up.”
Some exhibitors will display only the shell of a race car yet WAR chooses to do it differently. “One of my pet things is that when I bring a car to a show I want that car to represent the way it is going to be at the track,” said Bobby. “I want to have the engine in it for when I take the hood off.”
“We take the hood off and people go ‘oh and ah’. ‘What’s this?’ ‘What’s that?’
“By doing this we bit off a big chunk of the work by doing what we did stripping the car to the chassis. It would have been easier to start with a new car and swap components on the new car, however, we knew what we had. Our package was dialed in.”
“We did not want to jump into a new car that we would be unfamiliar with. We could have bought a new chassis as cheap as what we spent getting this chassis in all reality. We have a know entity we understand and our driver was comfortable with so we invested in our car.”
In addition to PRI and the shows, I wrote about Bobby’s trip to the GRIP Seminar in Episode 43 on February 15, 2015. The team invested the money to send their crew chief to the seminar held at the Dale Earnhardt Industries(DEI) shop located in Mooresville, North Carolina on February 6-8, 2015.
The team still needs to do their scaling, set-up, ballast installation, and finishing the many small tasks that make a race car tick. Each member of the family has specific responsibilities.
Jennifer does the sponsorship packets, public relations, and finances. Brett runs K & B Auto and provides the financing as well as consulting with his Dad about every aspect of car preparation.
Wyatt does cleaning and helping his grandfather with projects. He also keeps in shape by playing indoor soccer, working out at a local facility doing strength training, and this spring will play tennis.
Wyatt is a straight A student at Ellsworth High School, which is another of his responsibilities. His parents want him to concentrate on his studies. He may enter an engineering school after graduation, more likely in mechanical engineering so he can work for a race business or team after his driving career is finished. His favorite subject is Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry.
Bobby’s wife Kristi, cooks for the team, takes care of her grand-daughter Quinn, and does embroideries for the team.
And of course Bobby does the day-to-day work on the car tending to the multitude details that go into a race car. He said, “The family is the team. If it wasn’t family we wouldn’t do it. That is our primary focus.”
“This is an activity we can do as a family. We do have some outside people. Chet Hanscomb of Burnham and Andy Saunders of Ellsworth have helped us. Wyatt has gotten advice from his friends Evan Beaulieu and John Peters who both moved up to the Late Models from Legends. Andy Saunders who will be racing at Wiscasset in the Late Models has also been a big help to him.”
It takes a lot of sponsors to keep a competitive race team going. Just to give you an idea here are WAR’s sponsors. ARBodies, Speedway Sports Park, Linnehans Right Way Auto, R.F. Jordan Construction, Friends and family Market, M & T Trucking, K & B Auto, Pilgrim Enterprises, M.H. Humphrey & Sons, Fellis Construction, Lee Fortin and University of Northern Ohio (UNOH), Harry’s Motorsports, Puzzled Racing’s Autism Awareness, and Renaissance Dogs in Holden. Whew!
I want to thank WAR for hosting me. They were very accommodating with food, sleeping quarters, photos, tape recorders, and fixing a flat tire on my car before I headed north on Wednesday noon.
Some Frozen Mayhem II thoughts
The Haines brothers pictured above seem to have been the most successful Aroostook County racers at this years vintage races at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds. I have not looked at the official results so my view is totally unofficial.
Jordan ran his 1980 500 cc Arctic Cat in the Open leaf spring class where he finished second in the heat race and second in the feature. In the 1990 and older open class he finished fourth in the heat race and won the feature. This is his second year competing at the fairgrounds.
Dustin aboard his 1988 530 cc Arctic cat finished fourth in the feature after placing second in his heat race in the 1990 and older open class. This was his first race at the Frozen Motor Mayhem.
Both of the Caribou natives come from a family with a lot of snowmobile racing history. In the early days of racing sleds in the County, the Haines family repeatedly took the Family Award for most members involved in racing.
Dustin and Jordan’s grandfather and grandmother, Duncan and Norma both raced. Their uncles Danny and Peter raced as did their father David. The whole family had great success in their efforts which appears to have been passed on to the next generation.
I was very impressed with Unity Raceway promoter Nick Huff who won several races. He certainly put on a show with his sled preparation abilities as well as his hard charging driving abilities.
It was good to see Frenchville native, Shawn Martin, back in the County racing his #94 sled to a fourth place. It was Shawn’s first race without his father Frank spectating. His Dad recently passed away just a couple of weeks ago. It must have been a difficult day for Shawn and his family who were very close to the senior Martin.
There were many other highlights at the vintage races which will need to told in a later episode. It should be mentioned that there were nearly 100 entries for the day with $4000 in prize money handed out.
Van Buren Native Key to HPD Aero Project
Phil LaPointe of Van Buren said he spent long hours the last several weeks putting the finishing touches on Honda’s IndyCar short track racer. He flew to the official unveiling at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama Sunday March 15th for the official unveiling and testing.
This will be the first time Chevy and Honda go head-to-head on the racetrack with the newly developed aero packages on the IndyCars.
The HPD team, in conjunction with Wirth Research in Bicester, England, spend countless hours working on computer modeling, wind tunnel tests and with Andretti Racing’s Ryan Hunter-Reay’s DW 12 Dallara on the track.
It is exciting for me to see another County native working at the top level in the national racing scene. I am sure I will have more details as Phil finds the time to converse with me.
Maine native Mike Morneau experiencing success with Kevin Harvick
Mike Morneau originally from Oxford, Maine now living in North Carolina is the rear tire carrier on the #4 Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) Sprint Cup racer driven by Kevin Harvick. Harvick won today at Phoenix and last week at Las Vegas. He finished second in Atlanta and at Daytona.
Harvick currently sits atop the Sprint Cup standings and has earned almost $2 million dollars in prize money this year.
I like to attribute some of Harvick’s success to his pit crew including Mike Morneau.
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria