The Mid-American Sprint Series race 4 took place at USA International Speedway (US Air Motorsports Raceway). If you are into motorsports (motorcycle road and dirt, kart, and Drift and Autocross) you should make the effort to visit and give it a go. It was built in the early 2000s by a group who had a lot of money and didn’t know what to do with it. Somehow they decided to build a state-of-the-art kart track and amusement park in Shawano, WI. The support buildings are nice – on the scale of what you would find at a large track like Road America or Blackhawk Farms. The track itself rolls up and down over the area hills and is very configurable, including a dirt section. The configuration of the track for the weekend included 3 fast straights, lots of technical corners and a monza corner just over the start/finish line. The only down side is you can’t really see all of the action. There is one spot near near the tower where you can see a lot, but most of the track is hidden below a hill from the pits.
We arrived late Friday morning. We unpacked and got on the track to start practicing and fine tuning the kart. USAIR is a technical track with a variety of corner combinations that require some thought and planning to stay fast in straights. Jason took to this track pretty well. Right off the bat he was running laps in the 1:19-1:20 range and starting to approach 1:18 by the end of the day. Since this is the first kart race on this track in awhile, and not with the LO206 sportsman, it took a bit of guesswork to find the sweet spot. It turns out that it is much like Concept Haulers with long straights and fast corners.
The race day Saturday was an exercise in frustration. Partly because Jason was distracted by a video game all day, and partly because qualifying is not Jason’s favorite thing. He prefers to chase or be chased. It gives him something to immediate to work on. During qualifying, it’s just him out there by himself, without motivation. In the end he qualified 5th of 5 with a 19.720. Not even his fastest practice time by a half second, a few seconds behind the front and a fraction behind the fourth fastest. In the pre-feature he was not able to gain any positions on the start and was not able to find a way around a slower driver, so he finished 5th, and was really irritated in his inability to get around. USAIR is a difficult track to pass on, especially, if you are only a fraction of a second faster than your competition.
The feature started with #7 (Ashton) on the pole, followed by #88 (Seth), #55 (Christian), #91 (Riley), and #59 (Jason). Jason got a pretty bad start and even dropped back from #91 while the front 3 pulled away with #55 in taking the lead through the monza and down the hill. #55 made the turn at the bottom of the hill but overshot the next turn and ended up riding backwards through the grass as the field drove by. He recovered but it was too late to catch up. The front two (#7 and #88) pulled away and Jason began to search for away around #91. After about 5 laps the rear sprocket on #91’s kart loosened up and her chain came off and she pulled off. Jason continued on with #55 slow catching up. After a bit of nail biting during the last few laps Jason finished 3rd.
Sunday started a little better. The games were put away, Jason was more focused on the day and it showed in his driving. Still, he qualified 5th again, with 1.19.129. He was dismayed that he would be starting in the back again and would have to figure out how to pass. Like Saturday, he did not get the best start. He was going to have to find away around. There were several pass attempts and opportunities, mistakes by #91 and attempts on the inside of the monza, but none of them stuck. Finally, just after the white flag, he entered the monza with the right speed and headed to the outside of #91 to set up for the inside of he next corner for the pass. He kept on going, making some distance in the last lap finishing 4th.
All weekend long I worked with Jason to adjust his line and increase his corner speed. He has been consistently turning too early for the feature. I gave him two instructions: Turn late and break late. It seems he finally took this to heart. Starting the race in the 4th spot, he had a better chance of getting off to a good start. He did, using the same technique as in the pre-feature. He stayed on the outside and was in 3rd place by the exit of the monza, with Seth in first and Aston in second, Christian in 4th and Riley in 5th. He kept his foot on the gas and was hitting the corners just right and keeping up with them. It was nerve-wracking to watch. Eventually, Aston pulled in front and started to walk away from the pack. Jason then started to work on Seth and Christian worked on Jason. Halfway through, Jason got clipped by Seth in the back field and slowed up. This let Christian catch up and eventually make a pass on the inside of the monza. They stayed together for like this for a few more laps. When it started to look like Jason was being left behind for a few laps, but then he cleaned his lines and caught up. In the 11th lap Christian got loose in the back field and dropped a lot of speed and Jason got by. With two to go Seth started to pull away, and try as he might, Jason was not going to catch him. Jason stayed on the ball and finished third, giving lots of fist pumps and shouts as he crossed the line. His lap time was 1:17.45. The top lap of the class is in the area of 1:16.
The team will be headed back to the track that started this all, Road America, in two weeks for the RAKC race 6. Jason will be using this race to get ready for the last Mid-American race in late August.
This race’s thanks go to the guys that currently run USAIR, with the hope that the track is soon in good hands. To Katie, who is currently at the Lake County Fair showing her lamb. Karen, thanks for taking me to Wagner Farm so my kid knows where things come from.