LaBelle: I-96 Speedway Report
NEWS July 14, 2010
For some reason I was extremely excited for the next round of the AMA Pro singles series in Michigan. All week I was trying to find out as much information as possible about the I-96 speedway so that I could go over in my head what I had to do to finally put that Weirbach Racing Honda on top of the podium. I quickly learned a little about the track by asking other riders who have been there before, but most of what I heard wasn¹t making me feel as confident as I need to be. I learned at Gas city, the hard way, that stock car tracks are not my strong point, but at this point in the season I can¹t afford to have a bad attitude towards anything. My dad and I got home from work at about the same time on Friday, at which point the car was already packed and ready. I was so anxious to go racing that I ended up driving the full 6 1/2 hours from my drive way to the track. I got to the I-96 speedway just in time to catch some of the riders in the Amateur races Friday night. The track I was going to be riding on was making me nervous!
It had short straights for a half-Mile, a very narrow entrance into turn one, high banked corners, and a narrow exit out of turn four. We watched some of the races on the Short track and headed to our hotel for some sleep.
My dad and I drove to the track early Saturday morning and found people already in line for the pits. After about 2 hours of waiting in line, we crept our way into the pits and found a spot to pit. As always, Dick Weirbach already had everything out of the hauler and ready to go so all I had to do was wait. The rain clouds rolled in and the waiting game began to get harder as it started to pour. To my amazement, the AMA and track crew were hard at work and the track were ready in no time. My first session didn¹t go as well as I wanted it to. I didn¹t really know how to explain it other than I just felt uncomfortable. My dad and Dick made a couple of little changes to my bike before the timed sessions. A front row start in the heat races was very important on this track due to the one and only racing line. It seemed like I got better and faster each and every time I hit the track. In my first timed session, I managed to sneak by with a 6th fastest time and a top 20 fastest time, which gave me 12th overall and a front row start in the heat races.
The AMA Pro crew was behind in the program because of the rain delay, so the open pits time for spectators was reduced to 30 minutes. My team-mate and I were in the first heat together. He qualified 4th and appeared to be comfortable on the track, so I assumed he would be the one to beat in this heat. We lined up and after the green we hit the corner wide open. I was pushed to the outside where there was no groove, but somehow I got it to work and shot from 5th to 2nd coming out of the first corner. Every now and then I would see a front wheel that I assumed to be Mikey Martins, but I kept pushing towards the leader. After about the half way flags I didn¹t see the front wheel of the rider behind me anymore and I had caught the leader James Rispoli. James rode a flawless race and gave me no opportunities to pass but coming out of the last corner I tried to stuff my bike past him, but came up short. With a 2nd place finish in the heat, it put me on the front row of the main. I felt fast and was confident that if I could get a good start I stood a good chance of getting the Weirbach racing Honda on top of that podium.
When the horn sounded for our main, all I could think about was that green light. We made our way to the starting line while we were being introduced by the announcer. I didn¹t like where I was on the line because there was a thin layer of stone dust all the way to the corner where I was. I didn¹t feel I had a good enough line to get to the corner first. The green light lit up and we hit the first corner. Exactly as I had predicted, I spun the wheel all the way to the corner until I was able to move over and hit the grove. The track had formed a 4 foot wide grove around the bottom of the race track and coming out of the first corner I found myself 7th in a long line of riders. For a major portion of the main event I found myself held up by slower riders on the single racing lined track, and at the same time I was keeping an eye on my team mate, Mikey Martin, who was battling for 3rd with James Rispoli and Brad Baker. On lap 8, I had managed to slip into 5th and was closing in on the same battle Mikey found himself in. Going into corner 3 on lap 11, Mikey slipped off the grove and I took the opportunity and slid underneath him before he could get back onto the groove. I got a great run coming out of 4 past the white flag and caught the battle between Baker and Rispoli. I thought that if I could get a good run going into 3 I might be able to sneak by Rispoli for 3rd, but that plan was cut short by the emergency light and a red flag. We all put our hands up and slowed down because coming out of corner 4 there was a rider down and up against the wall. The AMA Pro crew called the race and said they were going to count the last lap, which gave the podium to Carver, Baker, and Rispoli. I was happy with my 4th place finish because it made the points standings a lot closer for me, however for some strange reason after it was all said and done, I found out I was given 5th place and Mikey was given 4th. I couldn¹t figure out how this was the conclusion but in the end that makes things better for Weirbach Racing because Mikey and I both are closer to a top five spot in the overall standings. The Weirbach racing Honda¹s were by far the fastest bikes on the track at I-96 but on a single file track you really need to get off the line to get on the box, and I failed to do so. This weekend improvements were made and that illusive Pro singles win is that much closer!
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