“Up and down” would be the best way to describe our USAC Silver Crown race at Toledo on May 1st. It all began on the Tuesday leading up to the race when we received the car and realized how much work we still had left. I am a full time student at Purdue University so I knew it was going to be a struggle to have the car done by race day. Luckily, I have a great support system of my dad, Mike, and longtime mechanic Charles Holland. We worked long hours at night with Wilson Brothers Racing to get the motor mounted and make sure everything else was secure. It’s amazing how much really goes into getting a race car ready under a serious time crunch. Somehow, come Friday morning the car was ready to go and we were off to Toledo. I had to drive separate from the team, who left from Indy, because I had to go to class Friday morning at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. We arrived on time and I turned my mind into race mode.
The Silver Crown format works like this: one 45 minute practice session, qualifications, followed by the 100 lap race. Therefore, you have to maximize productivity in the 45 minute practice session to get the car up to speed because that is about all the time you have to make adjustments. We were 6th quick at the end up practice and I was pretty happy with that considering the car had just been built and I have not driven in the silver crown series in over a year. Qualifications followed and I stayed in the 6th position. To be honest, I would have liked to have been a few spots better because I know that there were some things I could have done better and, bottom line, racers are competitive.
The 100 lap race was up next. The biggest difference between the USAC Silver Crown series and any other open wheel event is the amount of fuel the cars hold. Over 100 laps, there are no pitstops so in order to make it to the finish, you need to have around 30-35 gallons of fuel at the start of the race. The fuel tank is located at the very rear of the car which means there are 35 gallons of fuel sitting on the rear end. Its a no brainer that 35 gallons weighs a significant amount and can change the set up of the car greatly. This is why I am so fascinated with the Silver Crown series. The driver and crew have to figure out a way to make the car handle as consistently as possible over the course of the fuel burn. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to find out if our setup worked at Toledo… 7 laps into the race, a part in the fuel cable which delivers fuel to the engine broke and we lost power and were forced to exit the race.
Nights like these are extremely disappointing not only because you didn’t get to finish the race but because you aren’t able to reward the hard working crew for their effort throughout the night and the week leading up to the race. There were so many people that helped us out or offered words of encouragement and it is no fun to tell them that you only completed 7 laps. But, like they say, the bad nights make the good nights that much better. We will be working hard to prepare for our next race to make sure that we don’t have any issues like this again. Fortunately, we have much more time to prepare for the next race now that we have the car in our possession. I can’t wait to bounce back from this at the next race!