The weekend of July 12-14 we had a choice, go to Grattan with Championship Enduro Series and road race or head to Badger Kart Club with Cup Karts of North America and sprint race. It was really a tough choice to make, Jason loves to race and we are not running for points in either series. A phone call from Jim at Coyote put us over the edge to go to Badger. It’s also helps that Badger only two hours away making for a slightly easier weekend. Lastly, badger gives wisconsin cheese cows to each of the podium winners, this is a great motivator for Jason.
After the previous hard weekend at the battle of the brickyard we were all ready well prepared for sprint racing. So much so, we never unloaded the trailer, we just changed tires and dressed the clutch with the kart on the stand. The only stress came from preparing for another very hot weekend and letter from village complaining about the trailer in the driveway.
Race weekends for the last year and half, since returning to sprint racing, have followed a pattern. Friday practice goes well with Jason and the kart showing speed, running with the fast karts with room for improvement. Saturday morning, things fall apart and we have to start hunting for speed again. They ended on Sunday finally getting the speed back for the feature but having to start from a poor position on the grid and battling slower karts. In hindsight, Indy was a hint of that changing. There he started pretty fast and kept building all weekend. It felt like he was on the cusp of returning as a driver to battling in the fast pack.
The weekend started with fast practice sessions on Friday. The kart was hopping as usual but we ignored that and focused on speed. At Indy and this weekend we had made a number of big setup changes. We put narrower front wheels for better grip in the turns, moved the front wheels in a bit again for better rotation. We also moved the rear wheels in to allow the kart to jack(lift up the inside wheel) so it does not drag through the corner. The jack does cause the outside to hop as it grips and releases from the track surface as the kart corners at speed. As the day progressed we dropped the air pressure and narrowed the front we experimented with some fine tuning. In the past, this was the opposite of what we have been trying previously. We ignored the hop and looked for a fast setup while Jason cut a fast line around the track and it seemed to be working.
Saturday started with one round of practice on used tires to make sure we were still on pace. For rounds two and three we broke in a new set of tires and pick up more speed and he became one of the fastest karts on the track. He pre-qualified in 3rd and then qualified in 9th. This put him in a bad place with some slower but hard to pass karts. He finished heat 1 in 8th, and Heat 2 in 9th. The feature only made one more position and then was gifted an additional spot for 7th due to a penalty on another driver. During the feature he set the 2nd fastest lap but was not able to capitalize on his speed. He was no longer struggling with the kart but working with it and getting it to go very fast.
With only one practice on Sunday, we decided to use it to practice qualifying and work on getting a better starting position for the first heat. We set the kart up getting up to speed in just a lap or two instead of the usual five or six laps. That practice paid off, he qualified 6th only .099 seconds behind the fastest kart. In the heats, Jason stayed in 6th or 7th throughout most of the races but this time he was running with the lead pack and was getting faster as the race went on. He started the feature in 6th place and moved up to 5th by turn one. He fell back to 7th after the first couple of laps. At the halfway mark he dodged a tangle of three karts, giving him 4th, 3rd was now too far to catch but he was well if front 5th. The leaders drafted each other and Jason slowly crept up to them as they battled. The white flag flew declaring the final lap. As the leaders entered the boot the karts in 2nd and 3rd connected and peeled off course and tossing up a dust cloud as Jason zoomed by. He kept calm and clean for the remains of the lap and seized second and most importantly earning a cheese cow for his first 2019 sprint racing podium.
This weekend showed a change of team dynamics, instead of trying to make the kart perfect we worked to just be fast. Jason took more of lead in tuning and we listened to each other as we made plans for each session. There was a real difference in his driving as well it was smooth and crips. It was great to see him move from the best of the rest to hanging with the lead pack again. It’s been a long time since he was running fast and have the ability to stand on the podium.
The next race will be Cup Karts of North America race in Delmar, Iowa’s 61 Kartway. It’s been a few years since we have been here and we are looking forward to having a go at this tight and rolling track now that we have a better plan and some new skills.
Thanks to Jim Coyote Motorsports and Reagan from 4 Cycle Central for the tuning advice. Rob at Kart City Performance for putting together a great motor for us. Everyone that offered words of encouragement this weekend, it really meant a great deal to us.