Wednesday – Load in
Happy to be back at STL. Last year I had made it to the Great 8, we had good data, and vibes were great! As always, it was disgustingly hot this week. Temps in the high 90’s and even up to 100. Luckily, we have Chads RV this year so we felt like kings having AC at the track :) We did our track walk, which is important to do at every round. But it was extremely important this time because STL made some changes to the track. They poured new asphalt, widening OZ3 by like 100 feet! We were all out there trying to determine where we thought the lines would be, since those were not painted yet. We needed tires to be mounted, but the truck delivering the tires were delayed a few hours. When they did arrive, we helped Tirestacks unload them (1040 tires) in 100 degree weather. That was fun. Lol. They got 10 tires mounted up for us, and the guys were able to complete the nut and bolt check. We were ready for practice the next day. We left the tack around dinner time. It had started thunder storming and raining so we were concerned about track conditions early in the morning…
Thursday – Practice/Qualifying
This track has hot pits, which means we need to make an additional pit, closer to the track. If something severe would happen to our car, we are allowed to go back to the trailer. But normal things like tire changes and fuel would be done at hot pits. Hot pits is about 5 mins drive away from the trailer. One of the cool things about STL is that the hot pit section is in a covered garage with electricity, so we did not need to bring a tent. We were able to start setting up our hot pit at 9am, followed by a drivers meeting at 9:30am. Immediately after the meeting, practice was hot from 10am-1:15pm. We didn’t get out of the drivers meeting until 10:15am, which delayed practice. There were a bunch of wrecks early on in practice too. The track was still a little wet in some spots, but it was drying up quickly. I finally got my first practice lap after about 45 mins of being in line. It looked good, but I felt like the car was under powered. I asked my spotter if it seemed under powered from the outside watching. I did another lap, and I was now 100% certain it was down. The guys took a quick look, and we noticed that the flex pipe on the passenger side had blown out. It looked like we would need to weld, and we didn’t have all the tooling to replace this at hot pits. So we all went back to the trailer and got to work. The guys did great, and in about 45 mins I was back out on track. On my next lap, I initiated and immediately felt something break. I assumed it was an axle, I was able to drive the car, but only the drivers wheel was making tire smoke. So back to the trailer it was to replace the axle. After the team completed the repairs, I went back out and got 2 more practice laps. So I got a total of 4 practice laps for the entire day. Now it went straight into Qualifying.
I was the 8th driver to qualify. So I felt good that I was able to do it pretty quickly after practice. This keeps my rhythm going well. I go out, and go 3 wheels off in OZ1. I couldn’t believe it! How did this happen? I didn’t take into consideration that the track surface was increasing in temperature and I would have less grip. I wish I would have taken 5lbs of air pressure out to make up for it. Good to know, as I now have to do another qualifying run. So a lot of time goes by, and its now my turn to redo my run. I thought I did great, filled OZ1 and 2, was short on OZ3, and did perfect in OZ4. But the judges only gave me a 69 pt score. Unfortunately, this was too low of a score, preventing me from being in the competition. In order to be in the show, you needed a 70.5. I missed it by a point and a half…
Tough weekend! Between the hot weather, random rainstorms that happened every day, mechanical issues, lack of practice, and low qualifying scores preventing me from being in comp blended together for not a fun weekend.
The team and I got to spend some time in STL. Sightseeing and having a night on the town was fun. We also went Go Karting at the track. It was lots of fun driving with the team. On Friday and Saturday, I was able to spend a lot of time with the fans. I also attended the autographing session, which is always a great time. I got to play SKATE (a skateboarding game) with a few fans. I think I’m going to make that a thing at EVERY FD event from this point on. It got interrupted by another crazy thunderstorm, but it was still a lot of fun.
I’m down on season points. This is something that will haunt my thoughts for the next 8 weeks until SLC in September. But I love SLC, it’s my favorite track. So it’s time to start winning, and get some overall points! I’ll be doing lots of driving locally every weekend to maintain my driving skills to help prepare for SLC. See you guys in September!
WORDS: Alex Lichliter
PHOTOS: Ignition Source TV
NST - NonStopTuning
NST - NonStopTuning