The Smell of Racing

Episode 57

May 31, 2015

Thank You Lord for a Sense of Smell

As I was mowing my large lawn at home the other day I was pretending to be practicing driving my racing kart. I was making as precise turns and “hitting my apex” (the road where I turned) as consistently as possible.

I have been called weird before for my behavior, however, I read that you can learn to be a better race driver by practicing little things such as paying  attention to location, control, and in my case making straight lines on my lawn.

Anyway, I was thinking of what to write this week when I got the bright idea to begin the UpNorth Motorsports blog with smells. That’s right…smells.

I am very cognizant that smells trigger loads of emotional response. I can tell you when certain people are in the area because of their perfume or shower soap. You, I am sure, can tell similar stories as well.

The immediate smell was of freshly mowed turf-grass. I love the business and science of growing turf. I suspect those years of taking care of Caribou’s athletic fields had a lot to do with it.

I was and continue to be inspired by a couple  former students who have made careers in the turf industry, Shane Theriault of Theriault Lawn Care, Jason Griffeth Assistant Groundskeeper at Fenway Park.

Earlier this year I asked Jason to send me a picture of Fenway just before opening day and send me the smell also. He sent the picture and said my imagination must fill in the rest.

I just got a whiff of racing fuel as I started my mower. Well it wasn’t racing gas but it was aviation fuel. I like to run the high quality fuel all the time in my 2-cycle engines and in the first tank of fuel in my lawnmowers in the spring.

Ah….that smell reminded me that racing was just around the corner here in northern Maine with the practice sessions for karts on Saturday June 6 and stock cars on the 7th. Opening day follows the next Sunday June 14th at 1:30.

I will not be able to make opening day since that is Caribou High School’s Graduation Ceremony. I want to see fellow kart racer and former student of mine, Tyler Raymond get his high school diploma.

Another smell that is not always as pleasant is that of brake pads and clutch. Usually those are smells of trouble or abuse. The smell of gear oil with its unique acrid and invasive heavy odor typically signals trouble as well.

Sunoco Racing's "Essence of Racing"

Sunoco Racing’s “Essence of Racing” Photo Courtesy Sunoco Racing

I laughed at Sunoco Race Fuel’s new commercial for the cologne, the Essence of Racing “Burnt Rubber” Even though the commercial is a bit too racy the idea is great. Maybe someday someone will produce such a product.

In your head were you able to conjure up what such a smell would be? I suspect your brain filled in the blanks just as mine did when Jason send me the photo of Fenway but no freshly mowed turf smell.

So let the stock car racing season begin with its myriad palette of odors which adds to the enjoyment of the sport.

Autin Theriault and the #29 Brad Keselowski Camping World NASCAR Truck. Photo courtesy Austin Theriault Racing and Nigel Kinrade/NKP

Austin Theriault and the #29 Brad Keselowski Racing Camping World NASCAR Truck. Photo courtesy Austin Theriault Racing and Nigel Kinrade/NKP

Austin In the Heart of Texas

Maine’s Austin Theriault makes his debut at the mile and a half Texas Motor Speedway next Friday June 5th. Coverage begins at 8:30 with the race at 9:00 on Fox Sports 1. This race is a NASCAR stand alone race held in conjunction with IndyCar who will race on Saturday evening.

The Sprint Cup drivers will be in Pocono thus Austin will not be competing with them in the 167 lap 250 mile race.

Brad Keselowski Racing team is coming off a big weekend at the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware. Austin’s team-mate Tyler Reddick #19, won his second race of the season at the one mile high banked concrete oval.

Austin will be back in the BKR #29 the following weekend when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Madison, Illinois on June 13th to Gateway Motorsports Park for the American Ethanol Presents the Drivin’ for Lineman 200 Brought to You by Ameren. The race coverage begins at 8:30 pm on Fox Sports.

Motorsports Hall of Famer Thoughts on Up Tick In Pro Stock Numbers

New Brunswick's 16-year-old Ryan Messer in practice at Speedway 660 with his new Pro Stock. Photo courtesy Ryan Motorsports

New Brunswick’s 16 year old Ryan Messer in practice at Speedway 660 with his new Pro Stock Super Late Model. Photo courtesy Ryan Motorsports

I had an informal  conversation with WAR crew chief and Aroostook County native Bobby Alexander about why there seemed to be a slight increase in the number of Pro Stock Super Late Model  style race cars at least in the south central part of Maine.

I was curious after a visit to Crazy Horse Racing just last month. While there I viewed 7 Super Late Models in their shop in various stages of completion.

Here is what Bobby had to say, “I think that the popularity of the Pro Stock/ Super Late Model is due to the flexibility of the rules package. Racers have more options of chassis, engines, shocks and spring packages with a handicap system which favors the less expensive sealed “crate type” engines. Built engines and modified crate engines are required to carry more weight to offset the power increase.”

“We have found that on the tight 1/4, 1/3 and 3/8 mile tracks it is difficult to ‘hook up’ the extra power and the 400 to 435 horsepower of the crates is more than adequate and often an advantage as to drive ability and tire wear.”

I questioned Bobby about whether the increase was due to the availability of older chassis which could be made competitive with newer versions.

” Super Lates and Pro Stocks are pretty much the same. We were talking about the technology issue today. Because of the ability to innovate and tune the older chassis, one is able to be competitive with an older chassis. The key is to have a good, straight, rigid chassis as the foundation. There are many options as to front and rear suspension details. It is a matter of learning to work with what you have.”

I asked the WAR crew chief how their Saturday evening races went, “Perfect weather and a full field of Pro Stocks at Wiscasset on Saturday. Five more cars brought the field up to 15. The highest number to date, and I think a sign that Pro Stock fields are set to increase at those tracks that run this class.”

” We made some wholesale changes to the car this week. Still trying to find a shock/spring combination that will promote better left side tire temps. In the 3 rounds of practice we came up with a game plan that confirmed my theories and Wyatt was really fast in practice.”

” Used the heat race to get our final setup tweaked, started 7th in a caution filled feature. Wyatt put on a strong performance, running third with 2 to go when the ignition system failed, shutting down the engine. Wyatt coasted into our pit stall, thinking that the engine had expired. Testing proved that a lack of spark was the cause.”

 

Honda & Chevy Split a Twinbill at Detroit

Carlos Munoz of Bogotá, Colombia in the Honda was the winner of the saturday version of the Detroit Grand Prix. Photo courtesy Honda Racing

Carlos Munoz of Bogotá, Colombia in the Honda was the winner of the Saturday version of the Detroit Grand Prix. Photo courtesy Honda Racing

It was a wild weekend at Detroit for the Saturday and Sunday races in the IndyCar Series. I think the rain that clobbered us on Saturday night must have been in Detroit during the day because the race was red flagged after rain, thunder, and lightning threatened the safety of drivers and spectators alike. Carlos Munoz from Bogota, Colombia got his first win in a Andretti Autosports Honda.

Today’s race was won by Sebastien Bourdais in a Chevy powered entry for KVSH Racing. The race was marked with many yellows due to slippery track conditions. This was Bourdais 33rd IndyCar victory.

The IndyCar Series moves to Texas Motor Speedway for their race next Saturday evening. They share the spotlight with the NASCAR truck Series who as previously mentioned race Friday in Texas.

Patrick Sandell on left in the Bryan Herta Rallysports Ford Fiesta St and Buddy Lasek in the Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI battle it out over the jumps at the Red Bull Global Rallycross season opener in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo courtesy Red Bull Racing

Patrick Sandell on left in the Bryan Herta Rallysports Ford Fiesta St and Buddy Lasek in the Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI battle it out over the jumps at the Red Bull Global Rallycross season opener in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo courtesy Red Bull Racing

Ken Block Takes Season Opener

Every since I met Tanner Foust when he was in Northern Maine filming an episode for Top Gear USA I have been following the Red Bull Global Rallycross (RBGC) news.

 

Tanner Foust in the #34 Andretti Rallycross VW Beetle at the red Bull Global Rally Cross season opener in Florida. Photo courtesy Red Bull Racing

Tanner Foust in the #34 Andretti Rallycross VW Beetle at the red Bull Global Rally Cross season opener in Florida. Photo courtesy Red Bull Racing

Foust finished fifth in the Andretti Rallycross VW Beetle. Foust had this to say about his race, ” “It was a very exciting day two in Ft. Lauderdale, round one of the Global Rallycross season. After the first issue during yesterday’s heat round, I got positioned in the back and eventually went into the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).”

“I wouldn’t normally be very happy about a fifth place finish, but the takeaway from this weekend is pretty strong. Qualifying first and second with the Beetle against unknown competitors from the high echelons of American motorsport shows just how capable our Volkswagen Andretti team is and will be this year. Day two was certainly a battle and the final was very difficult. After getting pushed wide in the Turn 1, I sat in the ninth position after the first lap and fought hard to come back and finish fifth.”

The race was won by Ken Block in his Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta.

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.