Flipping at Indy, Slipping at Wiscasset, and Debuting at Thundering Valley

Episode 55

May 17, 2017

Justin Wilson's Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport qualified 6th at Indianapolis today for the 99th running of the Indy 500 next Sunday. The aero package on the car was developed in part by Honda Performance Development's Phil LaPointe from Van Buren Maine. Photo courtesy Honda Racing

Justin Wilson’s Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport qualified 6th at Indianapolis today for the 99th running of the Indy 500 next Sunday. The aero package on the car was developed in part by Honda Performance Development’s Phil LaPointe from Van Buren Maine. Photo courtesy Honda Racing

Flipping Caused Clipping at Indy

Qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday was altered due to the third IndyCar flipping in mid-air after an on-track incident. During Sunday morning practice Ed Carpenter in his Carpenter, Fisher, Hartman (CFH)  Racing Chevy flew into the air in a similar fashion to what happened to two other IndyCars earlier in the week.

Helio Castroneves in his Penske Racing Chevy began the flipping episodes in practice on Wednesday morning when he had a terrifying flight onto his roll bar yet landing on all four wheels. The team I assume went to a back-up car which Helio qualified fifth fastest at 225.502 mph.

On Thursday Josef Newgarden also flipped his CFH Racing Chevy in turn one. He did not land on four wheels rather on his side. As with all three drivers, Newgarden walked away from his crippled car was checked out and released to continue racing.

The consensus is that the back of the IndyCars with their speedway aero package causes the air to flow under the car when they get turned around in an accident in the opposite direction from which it was intended thus causing the underbody to lift. The underbody is supposed to receive air from the front and due to its shape “glues” the car to the track.

For qualifying IndyCar officials went to the following rules for Sunday and included Honda despite the fact that no Hondas had flipped, yet:

  • Engines will return to their low-boost settings, which reduces something in the region of 40-50hp and lowers lap speeds below 230mph.
  • All teams–from Chevy and Honda–will be required to race in the aerodynamic trim they use in qualifying. This effectively forces teams to abandon low-drag qualifying setups.
  • Teams are allowed to adjust their wing angles as desired.
  • Wing wickers are also open.

As predicted speeds did decrease and no flips occurred during qualifications. On the pole for next Sunday’s race will be Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon at 226.760. Joining him on the front row will be second fastest qualifier Will Power of Penske racing at 226.350. On the outside of row one will be Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske. Pagenaud qualified with a speed of 226.145 mph.

I am amazed that the every IndyCar team whose drivers hurt their cars during the week either had them rebuilt or went to the back-up cars. Simona de Silvestro cooked the back half of her Andretti Autosports Honda on Tuesday due to a leaking o’ring which allowed ethanol fuel to spray onto her header pipes.

The team had replace everything from the driver back and had the car ready for Thursday’s practice sessions. de Silvestro qualified 19th at 223.338 mph.

Pippa Mann clobbered the wall Wednesday in her Dale Coyne Honda. The spare tub was at Aerodine Composites Indianapolis shop being repaired from an incident earlier this year. All hands on deck at Aerodine allowed the tub to be finished on Thursday. The team had the car at qualifying on Sunday where Mann went 223.104 landing her in the 28th starting spot.

For me it is the efforts of teams to do what seems impossible that makes motorsports interesting. I have seen these machines close up and have some idea of the hundreds of details needed to get the car ready to run let alone run at over 220 mph. Incredible!

Despite a fluke pit incident that threatened to take the WAR #96 out of competition before the feature the tem persevered to help Wyatt finish 3rd in the Pro-Stock feature. Photo courtesy WAR

Despite a fluke pit incident that threatened to take the WAR #96 out of competition before the feature the team persevered to help Wyatt finish 3rd in the Pro-Stock feature at Wiscasset. Photo courtesy WAR

 

WAR Slips and Recovers at Wiscasset

Wyatt Alexander Racing did not let a weird pit area accident ruin their evening at Wiscasset Speedway Saturday night. Their ability to react in a positive fashion mirrors the attitude displayed by the IndyCar teams in fixing their wounded race cars.

Here is a recap of events courtesy of crew chief and Aroostook County native Bobby Alexander: “It was a busy week in the shop following last week’s Pass race at Star Speedway.”

“Repairs included the fabrication of a new rear bumper to replace the one that had been sheared off in the second of two on-track incidents and re-attaching the front bumper cover.”

“I made some major changes to the front suspension that included a new, faster ratio steering rack, revised bump package at the left front and changes to the rebound settings. Front alignment settings were also changed based on study of the tire temps from Star.”

“The first practice at Wiscasset showed that the changes were to Wyatt’s liking. Minor changes were made for the second practice and our lap times showed major improvement. For the third and final practice we mounted our race tires for a scuff session and we’re very impressed with our driver when we had the fast time for the session.”

“The car was very strong in the heat but slow traffic kept Wyatt blocked on the outside as faster cars were able to pass on the bottom. At mid race the field opened up and Wyatt was able to make his way up to fifth by race end.”

“Back in the pits, a slip of the jack caused the car to fall with the stands only partially engaged with the frame. This resulted in the clutch and brake hydraulic master cylinders being severely damaged as well as damage to the front brake lines.”

“With the help of extra crew, other race teams and the offer of replacement parts scavenged from a spare car belonging to track owners, the Jordans, we were able to make the necessary repairs before the feature race was to begin.

“The lineup for the feature found the 96 starting 4th based on a handicap system with the previous race top finishers at the rear. A 1st lap caution reset the field allowing Wyatt to restart in third. The inside groove is the preferred line at Wiscasset and Wyatt made an early break to the front where he was able to lead much of the feature, eventually being passed by points leader, Jeff Burgess.”

“Wyatt placed the #96 in Burgess ‘ tracks and received a valuable tutelage of the fastest way around the high banked Wiscasset oval. Andy Saunders in the 01, also from Ellsworth would follow in 3rd several car lengths back.”

“A late race caution would bunch up the field again with Wyatt restarting outside the fast Burgess and Saunders with the preferred inside spot. At the drop of the green it would be Burgess and Saunders on the inside with Wyatt making impressive moves hanging with them on the outside for several laps.”

“Fans were treated to an example of some close and clean racing as the trio would race out the final laps of the 40 lap feature. A late challenge by the #05 of James Osmond was held off by Alexander to see the 1, 01 and 96 finishing as the top three of the exciting Pro-stock feature sponsored by Steve Perry and Mainely Motorsports TV.”

 

Thirteen year old Damian Theriault of Caribou made his Senior Sportsman kart racing debut at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans today. Photo courtesy JRT Customs

Thirteen year old Damian Theriault of Caribou made his Senior Champ Kart racing debut at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans today. Photo courtesy JRT Customs

Damian Theriault Makes His Senior Champ Kart Debut

Two time Spud Speedway Junior Champ Kart points champion, Damian Theriault son of Jason Theriault and Janet Bossie of Caribou, moved up to the Senior Champ Kart division at St. Albans Thundering Valley Raceway finishing fourth in each of his two 20 lap feature races.

Theriault has raced at the central Maine kart track in the past, however, never in the senior division. The feature races had six karts in each with Theriault as the youngest. The field consisted of past track champs as well as seasoned veteran racers.

Damian Theriault in the #53 JRT Customs Senior Champ Kart lining up  prior to the start of the 40 lap feature at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans. Photo courtesy JRT Customs

Damian Theriault in the #53 JRT Customs Senior Champ Kart lining up prior to the start of one of the two 20 lap features at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans. Photo courtesy JRT Customs

Racing the JRT Customs kart owned by his father, Jason Theriault, the younger Theriault impressed many. His Dad said, “Everyone was extremely impressed. New class, new kart, and new everything to him.We still need to learn the setup for there.”

“He was right there with the top guys. And loved it.He was racing them guys that came up here (Spud Speedway). And was passing them and then they would pass him back.”

ASPIRE Higher Racing and Spenser Morse Racing at Oxford Plains Speedway

Another fascinating story I have been following since being made aware of it this winter is the Oxford Hills Middle School ASPIRE Higher and Spenser Morse Racing’s  Super Late Model race team as described in earlier episodes of UpNorth Motorsports.

Here in driver Morse’s own words are his thoughts about Saturday night’s racing. “Can’t thank Luke, Sully, Mara, Will, Anthony and Alex enough for their help last night! They were all so much fun, as are all the kids in the Aspire Higher RaceCar program. Also have to thank my other crew guys for helping put the old girl back together after last week…very encouraged by the finish last night.”

“Finishing 8th from dead last in only our second race is a huge accomplishment for us. We should have had a 5th or a 6th place run but I had a couple rookie mistakes.”

“Big shout outs to Tim Brackett for cutting me a break when I chopped him. And to fellow Team EJP Racing Driver Reid Lanpher on the win!!!”

“Thanks again toAndroscoggin Bank, Goodwins CHEVROLET, Axion Specialty Contracting,Crooked River Heating & A/C, LLC, Phin Enterprise, Perfect Stitch Embroidery, Screenprinting, & Promotions, Valhalla School Store, Western Maine Steel, PEP Classic Car Company, the Workstore,Troy Morse Concrete, Wilson Excavating Inc, Crazy Horse Racing and everybody else that has supported us so far this season! I can’t wait till the next one!!!!!!”

Thanks To My FFA Ag Mechanics Judges at FFA State Convention

I want to publicly thank all my judges who assisted me with the Ag Mechanics and Technology Contest at the Annual Maine FFA State Convention last Thursday. Our contest was based at the Welding and the Diesel, Truck, and Heavy Equipment shops at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor. Thanks to welding Instructor Chris Maseychik and Heavy Equipment Instructor Lowell Gardiner.

My crew consisted of Bobby Alexander, Steve Belyea, Danny Raymond, Darick Williams, Al Schaffer, Jon Hoffses, and the Matheson Gas team.

Let’s Go Racing!

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing.