June 14, 2015
New Guys in County Motorsports
I have not been to a truck or tractor pull in over a decade, however, I came across a couple of story ideas about two young men building pulling trucks. Their stories intrigued me necessitating a trip to the Central Aroostook Young Farmers Tractor Pull at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds in Presque Isle on Saturday evening.
As I drove into the Fairgrounds parking lot it became obvious to me that this was a popular event in the area. The parking lot was three quarters full and by my unofficial estimate there were between 1000 to 1500 spectators.
As I parked my truck the first puller, a Super Stock tractor, hooked up to the sled and made his run in a very impressive fashion. To my surprise announcer Tom Drew called the name of the second puller, Dylan Conroy one of my story subjects.
I rushed to get my camera from my bag. There was no time to attach my telephoto lens to get a close up of Conroy’s very first pull of his life.
Dylan, the son of Ralph and Vickie Conroy, built the truck from the frame up over the course of a year with the help of his father. The Conroys will tell you they are Ford guys but could not pass up the deal on this Chevy three quarter ton pickup.
The next day Conroy joined with his fellow Caribou High School Class of 2015 in graduation ceremonies. I will be following this young man’s story throughout the summer and sharing it with you.
One day I was visiting Caribou Tech Center Welding Instructor Keith Dumond when I noticed a couple of his students working on a truck frame outside his shop. I stopped and asked the guys what they were doing. Sixteen year old Tony Robbins, the owner of the newly obtained truck frame, replied they were prepping the frame to make it into a Super Stock two wheel drive pulling truck. His goal was to have it ready for the Young Farmer’s event only a month away.
Robbins told me Saturday evening ,”A month ago we had a frame and a couple tires and that was it. We have cleaned up the frame, straightened it out a little bit, put the body on, painted it, put the motor in, and now we are here.”
The truck named “Loud and Proud” made its first run after which Robbins described the pull saying, ” It felt good taking off then the fuel (pressure) went. I said ‘Oh Oh’ here we go and that was all she wrote.”
I will be following Robbins this summer to see how his truck works over the course of the season.
Another Youngster Makes His Racing Debut
I went to the season opener at Spud Speedway and noticed that one of my former students was making his first start in the Enduro class at Spud Speedway. Stephen Kinney finished first in his heat and won the feature in his Honda Civic powered by a 1300 cc engine. Granted there were not a large number of cars in this new class but I am sure Kinney will cherish the victories for a long time.
The car count was a little low at the Caribou track on a weekend that had a lot of activities to draw the attention of race fans including graduation, PASS race at Speedway 95, and the first warm weekend of the spring season. Racing will resume again next weekend for the traditional Father’s Day races.
Austin Theriault in the Top Ten Again
I was soooo tired this morning having stayed up until 1 am to watch the NASCAR Camping World Truck race from Gateway Motorsports Park. The rain delay meant a late start and my brother and I were not going to miss the race regardless.
As the race rolled off about two hours behing schedule Austin had the 10 starting position based on practice times. He moved backward settling just in front of leader Erik Jones who was a threat to put the Fort Kent native a lap down.
Cautions were Austins friends as they allowed to pack to bunch up. Surprising to me was the fact that Theriault’s #29 pit crew this week gained him positions on the track. Last week I dreaded yellows since the crew seemed to lose positions in the pits.
I have not talked with Austin yet, however, the truck did not seem to have the set up to run up front. The pit strategy put the young man close to the front but was unable to stay with the leaders.
After John Hunter Nemchek slammed Matt Crafton out of the race near the end another young guy Cole Custer held off the pack to win his first truck race and second in his career.
Maybe it is the fact that I know one of the drivers in the truck Series that makes it more interesting for me to watch than the other NASCAR Series. It could be also that these young guys put on a heck of a show.
Austin will make his next appearance in the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway next Friday night. He then has a couple months before he get’s behind the wheel again in September. Will he be at the Oxford 250? I am not sure. I certainly hope he is.
Kody Swanson Wins Again
The young man I have been telling you about, Kody Swanson, now living in Zionsville, Indiana won another feature race this weekend. The win took place in a non-winged sprint car at Waynefield, Ohio on the high banked Waynefield Raceway 1/3 mile dirt oval.
The 2014 United States Auto Club (USAC) Silver Crown Champion has had multiple wins this season not only in his Silver Crown car but in other sprint cars.
When I first met Kody at the National FFA Convention about seven or eight years ago, people were acknowledging him as a fast racer on pavement yet not so good on dirt. Swanson has worked hard on his dirt track skills and has dispelled any doubts about his versatility on dirt or pavement.
In somewhat equal equipment I would say the California native can match up with any sprint car driver today.
Did You Hear About Ford and LeMans?
None other than Bill Ford himself was at LeMans to announce the entry of the Ford GT in the 2016 24 Hours of LeMans. This is 50 years after Ford finished 1-2-3 in their GT 40 racer.
The car will be built by Multimatic a some what secret specialty high performance race car builder based in Markham, Ontario, Canada. They had a working car at the unveiling Friday in LeMans.
The car will be campaigned by Chip Ganassi racing Indianapolis, Indiana. I have visited their shop many times and would love to go back once again to see the Ford GT.
Owner Chip Ganassi had this to say courtesy Racer.com.
“When you put all of these things together: Ford, the new GT, a 50th anniversary and EcoBoost technology, any race team would jump at that opportunity,” he said. “We certainly did!
“People have always said: ‘Chip, you’ve won this race, that race, Indy etc., etc. – How about going to Le Mans.’ Honestly I’ve been waiting for the right program to come along and this is certainly the right program at the right time.”
“We probably started talking about this two and a half years ago – it was certainly this program that got us to shift over to Ford.”
Ford also produced an excellent video to accompany the unveiling of the Ford GT. Find it here at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVa4mlFZEmM&feature=youtu.be.
Exciting News from Ken Block, Ford, and the New England Forest Rally
Ken Block, M-Sport and Tim O’Neil Rally School will be teaming up to bring several Ford Fiestas to the 25th New England Forest Rally July 17 & 18. According to the New England Forest Rally’s press release Block had this to say:
“I’m excited about partnering with M-Sport at NEFR this year,” said Block, who returns to the Rally America National Championship next month with co-driver Alex Gelsomino in the Ford Fiesta HFHV. “I absolutely love my Ford Fiesta HFHV that we’ve built, but the idea of a car like the R5 that’s potentially just as quick, isn’t made up of one-off parts and features a lower operating cost is definitely an appealing prospect! I’m looking forward to putting it through the paces at our test prior to the event.”
Block’s wife, Lucy, will get in on the action running a Ford Fiesta R2 1600 engine. Should make for exciting action in the forest’s of Maine.
Toronto native James Hinchcliffe mercifully cannot remember the details of his crash at Indianapolis the day after qualifying. His car hit the wall at 125 g’s and the resulting crash sent a suspension member into his left thigh.
Hinchcliffe lost 14 pints of blood in the ordeal. The human body typically holds 12 pints. Fortunately he was in surgery at Methodist Hospital within 30 minutes.
After coming to he asked a somewhat typical racer question, “When can I drive again?”
After listening to stories of on site witnesses the IndyCar driver began to understand the serious nature of his injuries and the response of the Holmatro safety crew which saved his life.
No definite time frame for returning to the driver’s seat have been released. Hinchcliffe is very fortunate indeed to be alive.
See you next weekend at Spud Speedway when I debut the Aroostook Limousine, Stag Brand the Alpha Vegetable #10 Senior Champ kart.
Let’s Go Racing!
Soli Deo Gloria