Speed Weeks 2016 is Now!
After a three-month hiatus race fans will be treated to stock car racing again as Speed Weeks is underway at or near Daytona International Speedway. Not only will the 2 1/2 mile oval be thundering, several other Florida tracks will be hosting a variety of races too numerous for me to list here.
Some things we already know which may help determine our pick for the 500. Denny Hamlin was able to take his wounded Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to Victory Circle in the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday evening. There were only four cars that survived relatively unscathed in that slugfest.
My thinking is that the off-season had many of the drivers on edge to prove a point during a non-points race. The point being they were forces to be reckoned with in 2016. From my limited perspective it appears that the season will start where it left off last season; Gibbs, Hendrick, or Stewart Haas.
With that in mind I checked in with fans and non fans who their pick was for the Daytona 500 Winner’s Circle. Some simply stated who they picked and others why they picked so and so.
So far I have six picks for the #88 Dale Earnhardt, Junior, three Brad Keselowski picks, one Denny Hamlin, one Joey Logano, and one Ryan Blaney in the #21 Woods Brothers car.
Woodland’s Joe Chamberland said, “Even though Dale Jr. had problems in the Sprint Unlimited, he is my pick to win the 500. I think he was saving it till the end and got taken out by misfortune. This restrictor plate racing is for the birds in my opinion”.
Another Dale Junior fan, Jere Humphrey of Last Chance Motorsports put it this way, “Regardless of the predictions,track history amongst drivers,and all story lines leading up to the NASCAR Daytona 500,my sentimental pick will always be #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. As a loyal follower of the Intimidator — the toughest racer to enter the sport, I will always support the Most Popular Driver Dale, Jr.”
Joining Humphrey and Chamberlain in the #88 cheering section were Phil Miller of Miller Motorsports, Dana Morrell, Junior of Caribou, “Racer Mom” Stephanie Ball of Presque Isle, and Josh “Farmer Man” Turnbull.
Coming in second in my very informal poll was Brad Keselowski in the Penske #2 Ford with three votes. Caribou’s Derek Jepson’s reply was very insightful. “Ford is running a redesigned Fusion this season. I have Brad Keselowski taking the new car straight from the wind tunnel to Victory Lane. Teammate Joey Logano gives BK the late push to seal his first 500 win.”
Joining Jepson on the Keselowski side were Stockholm’s Joe “Super-Fan” Thibodeau and Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) Crew Chief and Motorsports Hall of Famer Bobby Alexander.
Racing fan, Gary Saucier of Limestone, noted this about Sprint Unlimited winner Denny Hamlin, “I hate picking until I see the Duels on Thursday but my early pick would be Denny Hamlin. He looked very strong in practice and won the Unlimited last night with a damaged car. We are due for someone to pull off the Unlimited-500 double. The last to do it was Dale Jarrett in 2000.”
WAR driver Wyatt Alexander picked Kyle Busch in Victory Lane next Sunday while his father picked Connecticut’s Joey Logano thus creating a divided Alexander household with three different picks. It would be fun to be a fly on the wall and watch those three as the race unfolds.
Spud Speedway’s #1 fan, Ronnie Cummings now living in Georgia, had an interesting pick, the famous #21 Woods Brother’s Ford driven by Ryan Blaney. Blaney qualified 7th thus earning his non-chartered team a guaranteed spot in the 500. He will in the second row outside in the Can Am 150 Duels on Thursday.
So who do I predict will win the 500? None of the above. I pick a long shot because Daytona with its restrictor plate racing lends itself to surprise winners. I would love to see the #59 Mike McDowell car win, however, Paul Menard wins with a push from Jamie Mac in the #1 car. Now that is a real long shot!
Austin’s Racing at Daytona
Just in case you have not heard by now Austin Theriault will be in the Brad Keselowski #2 Ford F150 for the NEXTera Energy Resources 250 Friday evening. The one race deals finds Theriault back with BKR in the #2 along with last year’s team-mate Tyler Roddick in the #29 and newcomer to the team Daniel Hemric in the #19.
I am uncertain who Theriault will have for a sponsor or sponsors. That has yet to be revealed as of publishing time tonight.
Theriault spent Sunday evening getting tuned up for racing in the Hattori Racing Enterprises #1 K & N East Series car at New Smyrna Speedway. He started fourth in the JET Tools 150, however, after mechanical gremlins struck, Theriault finished 2 laps down in 24th position in a race won by Todd Gilliland son of Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland.
The end off the race was disputed and after determining the race went 151 laps the scoring reverted to the actual lap 150 giving the first time winner Gilliland the win.
GET A GRIP
The 2016 GRIP Seminar Presented by Circle Track Magazine was held at Earnhardt Technologies February 5-7th. WAR Crew Chief Bobby Alexander attended the seminars this year. His attendance was part of an agreement with Wiscasset Speedway which I will let Bobby tell you about,
“Grip. Part science, part magic. It is the thing that allows a race car to make the connection between the tires and the racetrack, producing sub 16 second laps around the hundreds of race tracks that dot the American landscape.”
“Over 50 racers, mechanics and crew chiefs from the US and Canada were in attendance at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated headquarters recently in order to participate in the fourth annual GRIP Seminar.”
“Attendees were treated to presentations by experts in the pavement oval racing industry on topics ranging from the use of radios to communicate between drivers and crew, the latest information on tire selection and preparation, cooling systems, carburetors, chassis and shock tuning , bump stop and bump spring options and much more.”
“An unusual twist to my attendance this year is that I plan to partner with Richard and Vanessa Jordan, owners of Wiscasset Speedway to develop a ‘Pay it Forward’ program where I will develop and present several “mini-seminars” geared to assist other racers in the advancement of their racing programs.”
“As it is sometimes difficult for beginning racers to acquire the information that is needed to properly prepare a race car, we will be providing demonstrations on basic setup, track tuning, scaling and alignment. Future seminars will be provided on topics to be decided based on feedback from the initial segments.”
“It is our hope that this will help attract beginning racers,assist those advancing within the racing classes and others who would like to fine tune their racing programs. Times and location for the Wiscasset ‘Pay it Forward’ program will be forthcoming.”
“This year’s seminar met all expectations and then some. We were able to tour Earnhardt Technology Group (ETG) and see samples of the high-end components that they produce along with their work with various drive train pieces. Side trips were made in the evenings to the ETG pull down rig and chassis dyno.”
“Another trip featured actual testing of a Super Late Model in a wind tunnel.”
“The ability to learn from the leaders in the racing world and get answers to individual questions and concerns was invaluable. An additional benefit was chatting with other racers from others series in order to get their views and input concerning race chassis setups and tuning. We look forward to attending again next year.”
Alexander drove down to Mooresville, North Carolina and had the misfortune of driving home in the snow storm that racked the South that weekend and early week. He made it home safely and is looking forward to setting up teaching seminars. A large portion of his career has been in education so I am sure the “Pay It Forward” sessions will be well worth it.
Spud Speedway Junior Champ Kart Racer Does Well at Moosestompers
Brayden Thibodeau son of Tim Thibodeau and Erica McPherson of Limestone, obviously enjoys competitive racing; running racing karts in the summer and challenging snowmobile racing during the winter and off-season. Brayden finished on the podium in 3rd place among 22 fellow competitors during the recent Inaugural Kids 120cc Snowmobile Races in conjunction with the 20th Annual Moosestompers Weekend in Houlton. The race was sponsored by Last Chance Motorsports and Jere Humphrey.
Putting My Money (and Time ) Where My Mouth Is
I extol the benefits of welding many times thru the course of writing UpNorth Motorsports. I want you to be aware of a welding course offered by Eastern Aroostook RSU 39 Adult Ed on Thursday evenings at the Caribou Tech Center starting February 25 and lasting eight weeks. Cost of the course is $90.
The instructor will be veteran Caribou Tech Center welding instructor Keith Dumond. He will be tailoring the course to the needs of the students. You may recognize Keith as a source of information for several episodes of UpNorth Motorsports.
He says this about the course, ” A person interested in motorsports should know the basics in welding. If they choose to make their own race car they must be able to make quality welds on their roll cages so it will protect them in the event of an unpredictable crash. Basically their life depends on it.”
” Taking the class will only touch on the very basics of welding fundamentals, how to use the correct materials and welding processes for the typical application.”
Though I taught basic welding for several years I look forward to brushing up my technique. Contact Eastern Aroostook RSU 39 Adult Ed for more information.
Enjoy Speed Weeks 2016!
Let’s go racing
Soli Deo Gloria