Some Magic at Sugar River

With the season winding down we headed to Sugar River Raceway hoping it would go better than the previous weekend at Road America.  This was our second visit to this track; our first was back in June.  Last time, Jason ran with his LO206, stock slide and 6 inch wheels.  At other tracks this setup is for Seniors.  But at Sugar River the setup is for the Junior 2 class.  This time I set him up with the LO206 Sportsman class, with the hope that he would be able to run with Sugar River’s Clone Junior 1 class.

The weekend’s race was an opportunity to try to tune the kart without any pressure.  One of the things I have been meaning to try to adjust

casterwas the front wheel caster.  Caster is the angle between a vertical line and pivot line of the suspension.  The caster is there to add stability to the front of the kart in the straights, and influences how the kart turns.  More caster (positive) makes the kart easy to turn but more wobbly.  Think shopping kart.  Less caster (negative) means more stability but hard to turn.  By default, karts and cars are set up with negative caster because you want the front to be stable.  The trick it find out how much caster, to much and you have to fight the kart through the corners, too little and the front end slides(pushes) through the corner slowing you down.  During pre-race preparations I added some negative caster.  Jason came off the track early, complaining that the kart was really hard to steer.  Added some positive caster and we were off to the races.  In his first laps you can see the front end wiggle a little as he takes the turns a little fast, but the kart sticks and he looks comfortable and is not fighting the kart through the corners.

Sugar River is a little different than other track we have visited.  They qualify every race during the last practice.  Jason was running LO206 and was started at the back of the Honda pack because they didn’t want him interfering with the locals’ times.  I understand this.  We didn’t want to be spoilers in their season and not be welcomed back.  Unfortunately, the kart in front of him was not ready to take the track, and he and Jason were let out on the track very late.  This let the fast locals catch up to Jason from behind.  Jason did what he always does, which is to hold to his line, but that ended up blocking and slowing down the local racers, to everyones annoyance.  He qualified 8 of 9 with a 41.821; two seconds behind the leader.

Since he was running in his own class he was again required to start heat 1 in the back.  While he finds this annoying, ultimately it will be good for him because he will have to get a good start and then pass everyone he can as quickly as possible.  Jason had to bide his time behind the last of the Honda powered karts which were loose and not really following any line, let alone the racing line.  With two laps to go Jason made a drive for inside of turn one passing at turn 16 to move up a spot.  In the same lap just out of the 1 lane section, driver #6 bobbled the corner and went wide, letting Jason slip by.  Now that he was in open air, he picked up speed putting in his fastest lap of the race before taking the checkered flag.

The second heat for the junior 1 class at Sugar River is not like other tracks where they just line as they finished heat one.   They reverse the order of heat 1 starting single file, slowest to fastest.  Jason again started by himself in the back.  This setup forces the fastest kart to work their way to the front.  With young drivers it can be a little sketchy since they don’t always have the patience or experience to make sound racing decisions.  I asked Jason to hang back at the start so he would have clearance to get around any bumps during the start.  Jason spent this heat being patient and driving, letting those that made mistakes fall behind.  He picked up 3 spots and raced clean.

The feature went back to a normal two-wide start with the order decided by the previous heat finishes.  But again, the exception was that the classes were separated so Jason was in the back.  Into turn one Jason picked up a spot, then started to work on the rest.  In the second lap, #20, a front runner, lost it coming out of the backfield and everyone got by, up to 7th.  The next lap, the front runners pulled away while Jason was held up by 4, 16, and 5.  Those 3 tangled just before the finish line and Jason got by clean, now in 4th place.  But the crashed caused a full course caution with parade laps, confusion, and reorganization.  Jason got sent to the back and had to start the passing all over.

His restart was a little slow and was held up for two laps until he got a great three-wide pass in the the front straight with 3 laps left.  He then had to play catch up and started eating up the track between him and the next pack, even gaining in the corners, running laps a full second faster than his prey.  This was enough for him to catch and was on them as the white flag flew, signaling the start of the final lap.  He tried to find a spot to get ahead during the last lap, but couldn’t quite pull it off.  Overall, it was a great run, setting an even faster lap time for the the day of 40.649.  He is starting to get closer to the top.

This coming weekend is the last race of the Championship Enduro Series at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, MI.  While there Jason will receive his 2nd place accolades for the 2013 season.  He has already clinched the Championship spot this year.  Now that football has started and all of the our series have ended, racing is going to start winding down for the season.  The next planned sprint race is a night race at Road America on 8/20.

Thanks to Sugar River Raceway for letting us join in your races, the Peschang clan for saving a spot reminding us of the track.  Karen, so, football season has started and the NASCAR Chase has started, we might need a new TV.  Thanks for not saying no the first time.