HORSEHEADS, N.Y. — Mother Nature had been so good to us this winter in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier, and I’d say we got through relatively unscathed, save for one or two snow storms that made things interesting.
But now that we are all ready to go racing and ready to free ourselves of this cabin fever, she wants to make up for lost time.
In fact, there was talk of building an ark in our neighborhood with how much rain we’ve received this week. I even had to use the snow brush this morning!
Oh, the humanity!
For many race teams in the area, the rain and wet weather is giving them a different form of anxiety, rooted in the uncertainties of losing valuable practice time at their local short track.
On the other hand, some race teams are thrilled with one more week to finish a car or go through things thoroughly one more time before the car hits the dirt or pavement.
As far as goals for open track time, the list of goals varies from team to team. Open practice isn’t just about dialing in and making adjustments to fine-tune your race car. For some, practice nights can be as basic as ‘it turns on, doesn’t leak, it goes, it stops, it turns off and turns left.’
But as I reached out to some local race teams in the area, I found that many had really been hoping to get some practice time this weekend.
For Crate Sportsman Modified competitor Nick Guererri, losing practice sessions this weekend impacted his team more mentally than mechanically.
“I think more than anything, it’s a little harder on the nerves,” said Guererri when contacted Friday morning. “So many things run through your mind. Is everything tight? Did we remember to fill the fluids? I hope we don’t have any leaks. Is the engine going to stay cool? Are the brakes set where i need them? Does this new steering box steer faster than the old one?”
“We know we will be close on setup, but it’s the little things that can bite you on the first night.”
Guererri plans a full assault on Outlaw Speedway in 2017, racing with new primary sponsor Champion Power Equipment/Super Gen Products out of Newark, N.Y.
The winner’s share of the nightly purse at Outlaw was raised to $750 for this season, a perk that sparked a move from Guererri’s previous home track at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, where his family has raced weekly for over two decades under the name ‘The Back Row Gang.’
Although practice night on Saturday at Woodhull Raceway would have been nice, Street Stock title contender Tracy Dunn is confident his team will be ready to go.
“It’s always nice to be able to shake the car down without points or money on the line,” Dunn told Race Chaser Online. “We feel confident that we have done our best to prepare the car and will be going into opening night with high hopes of running up front and coming out of the night with a good finish.”
Dunn will be starting season number two on a chassis that he built from the ground up, going off of a similar style to local chassis builder Dylan Potter. The Cameron Mills, N.Y. shoe led Woodhull Raceway’s Street Stock division in Top 10’s in 2016, but narrowly fell short on kicking the door down to Victory Lane.
Dunn finished the season third in points and will look to improve that standing when Woodhull holds their season lid-lifter on April 15. You can bet that the party in Cameron Mills would last all the way to Sunday church if Dunn opened the season with a ‘W.’
Another interesting perspective comes through the lenses of a dirt track ‘crew chief.’
Adam Austin and his driver Chris Woodard, from STP Motorsports, are the defending champions in Woodhull’s Mini Stock division. Austin offered his take on how the practice washout affects teams.
“The weather cancellation of practice really put a damper on what we were looking to do,” said Austin. “The best part about practice and the biggest downfall of not having it, in my opinion, is not having that opportunity to log laps on the 2017 version of the car.”
“The on-track break in of the motor, and the feeling out process to make sure that anything new or any improvements made to the car will be dependable and provide reliability.”
Austin did point out one area where their team in particular will now have to spend a longer period of time doing R&D than if they’d had an open practice session to work with.
“One of the great things about racing at Woodhull is being able to test after the races are over. We will still be able to get through all the variations of setups- only now it will take weeks and won’t be complete before the first race.”
Austin has a new driver debuting in 2017, who now will take to the track for the first time out of the box, fully in race mode.
“James Lagrange is a brand new driver who has never made one lap. Practice for James was about seat time and working on developing a good line of communication. The 50-100 laps of practice is worth its weight in gold for him. James’ car is brand new and although we try to be extremely thorough, you can never be one hundred percent sure everything is right until you put it on the track.”
Woodhull Raceway’s opening night for 2017 is slated for April 15, sponsored by Close Racing Supply. All weekly divisions, except for the 370 Modifieds, will be on hand for their first taste of racing on the High Banks for the year.
Outlaw Speedway still has one more opportunity for practice on April 14. Racers will be watching the weather report closely, as a brand new clay surface has put a premium on getting time on track before the Outlaw Spring Nationals, April 20-21.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Steven Ovens is the Northeast Dirt Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and the creator and host of the Turn 5 Live dirt track racing radio show, airing at 7:30 p.m. Eastern every Tuesday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Ovens has spent his lifetime in the sport of dirt track racing, growing up in the garages of the Kerrick and Ovens families. He spent 11 years behind the wheel between go-karts and 4 Cylinder Mini Stocks which brings a unique perspective to his dirt track editorials.
The 30-year-old has a career in the growing health care business world, and is also entering his second season as the full-time announcer and media director for Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, N.Y.
In addition, Ovens was formerly the announcer and media director for Outlaw Speedway (formerly Black Rock Speedway) in Dundee, N.Y., serving in that capacity in both 2015 and 2016.
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