Wednesday - Load In
I’m back in St. Louis; and man, this year had to be the hottest! My brother, dad, and I arrived
early in the afternoon and unloaded. We pitted with our teammate, Alex Lichliter, so with the combination of our canopies, we had perfect shade throughout the day.
Thankfully, we had a month in between rounds, so my car was fixed. I had a solid testing day the weekend before, so my team only needed to change the oil, go over the front end alignment, and put in new tires in the front. After that, we picked up the rest of the team and headed to the hotel to get a good night's rest.
Thursday - Practice / Qualifying
We arrived at the track late morning and began preparing for practice. This round was a little bit different because unlike the previous rounds, our hot pits were normally at our designated pit area. World Wide Technology Raceway is so massive that the hot pit area was located in the infield, where they have garages. If all the garages were taken up, setup was in the beaming sun.
After our drivers meeting, we headed straight into practice after PRO completed their practice. With all the garages occupied, we had to deal with the sun! Luckily, we had a small canopy, but it did not do much because the asphalt was so hot that even my crew members' shoes were melting.
After two laps of going into practice, I had to change the gearing in the car. We had the same set-up from the previous year, but this time they changed what used to be an inner clip to an outer zone. This was way better for tandems, but after two laps, I noticed I needed to increase my rpms to carry more momentum. My team replaced the differential with a higher gear that took them about 20 minutes to do! Unlike most cars in PROSPEC, I’m not running a quick change where I can change gear ratios under 5 minutes; I was using the stock axles and differential from the Lexus SC300. Right after the differential was replaced, I noticed a big difference and the car felt amazing. Due to the extremely hot temperatures, I was definitely experiencing how slick the tires were getting after two runs. We ended practice on a super good note and had some of the best runs towards the ladder time of practice.
As we were getting ready for qualifying at about 7:30pm, the sun started to go down and by the time it got to my turn, it was about 9:00pm. With the sun fully down, we drove under the lights. Going into my first qualifying run, I knew from Orlando that the track grips up when the sun goes down, so my team knew to loosen the car to avoid any surprises. During my first qualifying run, the car gripped up leaving outer zones two and three and at that moment, my car fell out of boost and straightened. At that moment, I tried everything to save the run, but the judges deemed it as an incomplete; I had a second chance. Taking my first run into consideration, we loosened the car up even more for my second run. Going into my second run, I carried more speed leaving outer zone two, but the same thing happened where the car gripped up and straightened going into outer zone three.
This was a huge disappointment for me because during practice, the car felt amazing and I was determined that I would better my qualifying position from Jersey, which was 15th. I was very frustrated because I felt that it did not make sense to practice in 120+ degrees track conditions and have to qualify when it’s 30+ degrees cooler, but it’s not just me; all the drivers had to adapt too. I know I need to prepare myself in these extreme conditions, so that way in Utah, this won’t happen again. With the large break in between rounds three and four, I’ll be hitting the track a couple times to test a few things out because rumor has it that Utah will have 100+mph entries and I cannot wait!!! Also, a big shoutout to my teammate Alex; he had awful luck in NJ that ended his weekend early, but he came to St. Louis with a mission and got into his first Top 8! Congrats to him and his team!
WORDS: Carlos Arrieta
PHOTOS: Scott Paul - @swooshtatimages
Robert Goodwin - @robgoodwinphotos
NST - NonStopTuning
NST - NonStopTuning