The last adventure of the year..... cross country to Duquoin, IL for the 2nd annual Junior Knepper 55 USAC National Midget event in the Southern Illinois Center.
I was fortunate enough to head across the states working for the Cory Kruseman Motorsports team, with Kruser and fellow teammate Chris Dyson behind the wheels. Excited to be back around the midget action, cold weather was no scare here. Let's just say the beginning of the adventure was rough. Working a long day before hand to escape for the 5 day trip, then road tripping 5.5hrs south to Ventura, CA to hop in a truck and Road trip across country for 32hrs. Hahaha... Dont Tempt me with a good time!
I made it about 31 hours with no sleep.... pretty delirious at that point. I decided to throw up the white towel and draw up a pillow. I'd say those were the best 2-3 hours I ever slept! Cramped up, caged up in the back seat with 3 great friends: Hobie, Dj, and She-Lukas... (long story behind Lukas' nickname).
Before we got too far into our trip, seeing that we were only averaging about 7mpg, we all took bets on how many fuel stops we'd have to make. Since we stopped often for fuel, like every two hours, we never had to stop for bathroom breaks! Let's just say that we ate our way through this trip! hahaha Pretty sure I gained 5lbs.... The trip went surprisingly smooth! (Knock on wood). No tire or wheel bearing issues... no tragedies etc. While driving through Texas, in the super dense fog, we encountered a car heading West on the Eastbound side of the interstate. I think that fellow was a little lost. Just glad he was in his "Slow lane" while I was in My Slow Lane! hahahahaha. After experiencing that, I was awake and alert for the next couple hours as we sped through the fog. Taking shifts in driving made the trip go by much faster.
We arrived Friday afternoon, moved the cars and equipment into the building, bench raced with a couple ol buddies, then worked our way over to the famous Duquoin Mile. Oh boy, was that entertaining!!! The 4 of us racers at heart were like 4 kids in a candy store! Checking out the track, and then seeing the infield pond frozen over. You know, us southern Cali people don't see snow or ice too often. Heck, the only water we see is the ocean! lol. I once watched a video of a guy skipping rocks on the iced over lake, and I remember how cool the sound was.... So I had to try it.... like a bunch of idiots, all 4 of us are out there in the 7 degree weather with shorts and jackets, skipping rocks across the ice! Have to say, those were some pretty cool sounds. I then felt the need to walk on water.... well, ice... I made it about 7-8ft off the shoreline, then fat boy got a little nervous and started to return. Wasn't taking on water yet, but the cracking of the ice was enough to scare me. As I slowed my paces, Shelukas slipped and ate $hit pretty hard! Pictures to prove it..... ohhhh, the humor!!! We were all dying with laughter.... I think Lukas was dying with pain.... I was about to make Yellow Ice! Ohhhh man, it was great.... til the ice started cracking!! Fat boy was getting low spreading eagle.... still about 5ft off the shore, we started to take on water!!!! I don't think I ever moved so quickly before. lol Ohhhh the good times. After we had enough fun, we worked our way back to the truck... We were still trying to get Lukas to lick the steel pole! He wouldn't do it... He must have seen the movie "A Christmas Story." hahahaha. Anywho, we got out of there before anybody died, then grabbed a bite to eat. Real Food seemed to make us all HAPPY! Then extremely tired! The four of us crammed into a room and sawed some logs that night. Getting to sleep in was much appreciated. Being that the camp was already set up in the Center, we had a pretty relaxed morning. Showers, Breakfast, and then over to the track to hang out and socialize for a bit.
Once we got to the track, we got some bad news..... Chris Dyson was weathered in. Unable to leave NY. Bummer.... Hmmm, do we prep two cars now, or just Cory's? To heck with it, Cory will find somebody to put in it... no sense in wasting a perfectly good car with car count being challenged by weather conditions back there..... Only if I would have known... Cory gave me a call about 45min before the drivers meeting.....presenting me with THE Opportunity! Wow, was I shocked and excited, yet nervous! My whole relaxed attitude went from 0-120mph like Right NOWWWW! I didn't bring any gear.... so now I have to find gear. The car is fitted for a tall skinny shoe, and now a short fat guy is going to plop in.... hmmmmm!!! Thank Goodness for our good ol Racing Family! Cory had a spare suit. A Young Missouri Talent, Riley Kreisler, had a pair of shoes. I borrowed Chris' Helmet and Hybrid. Another kid's gloves, and Shane Golobic's spare radio. Man, I was all kinds of mixed matched, but I was in a race car!!! Cheesing like a kid on Christmas morning! It had only been a year and some change since I had been in a midget; I swear I didn't have full wood action! lol.
New car, new engine, wasn't sure what I was in for, But I was in for it!!! Pushing off for hot laps, I cruised around, built some engine temp, and was like "Dammmmn this is a small track!" Super flat, with a 3ft berm! Gnarly! Remember saying "Oh this is going to be fun!" The green dropped and I let her rip. taking it easy, working my way around the track, feeling the car out, testing my patience around the berm, as there was NO cushion!!! Feeling like a rookie, I spun the car around in turns 3 & 4. I don't think I have done that since I was a little boy.... I was definitely too excited! lol. Anyways, re-fired, and slowed down to go faster! (My #1 School rule: Slow down to go faster!!!). Actually got a few good laps in there, reeling in the cars ahead of us. We were in the 3rd Heat race; 2nd row, outside, 4th. Racing ever so patiently around the berm, we advanced to a 2nd place finish, which ranked us 4th in points overall. Set us up for a Qualifier....well, the back of the qualifier. lol. I started right behind the boss man, Kruser! We had a game plan, and well, Lap 1 turn 3, the plan went to $hit real quick! lol. Cory got tangled by the spinning car ahead of him, which then collected us and kept the Kruser going. As I'm sitting there parked, mingled, and frustrated, I see Cory drive by smiling and waving! Couldn't help but smile back.... and hang my head. Restarting towards the rear of the field, we made a few passes via patience. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to go straight to the A Main. We had to go through the B main. Only a few spots from the transfer, I was feeling hopeful! With a few laps to go, we laid rubber, which made us fast, but it was darn near impossible to pass. If I left toe rubber groove, I felt like 20mph off pace. Remaining patient, I rode around hoping for the 4th place car to make a mistake so I could Chomp, but he held his line and composure. Crossing the line 5th, I didn't make the cut! Part of me wishes I would have been hungrier, maybe a lil greedy, and helped the guy out of the rubber groove.....? But, then again, I'm in somebody else's car, representing somebody else's sponsors. So, not happy that I didn't make the show, but I kept it classy! Cory went on to make the show and bring home a solid 10th place finish! It was fun, and over all a great experience!!
I'll forever be grateful for the opportunity the boss man, Cory, presented! A last minute, unprepared, thrilling experience, that honestly didn't turn out too badly! I was content at the end of the day! But, if I may say, damn did it make me hungry for more in 2017!!! :D
The truck ride home started off a bit rough as we skated on ice for the first 3hrs.... Hobes was white knuckled up on the wheel. Driving that stressed can be so exhausting! We stopped for a bit and got a room. Tried to wait out the weather for a few hours... or wait for the snow plows to salt the highways! haha. Once we got through Missouri, the trip seemed to smoothen back out! Still cheesing like that kid Christmas morning, we had quite a bit to talk about for a while: Car Set-up, driving techniques, how to "finish him!!!", etc, etc. Counting down the states, nearing back home, none of us wanted to drive that California State shift!!! That stinkin' 55mph truck speed limit! Ridiculous!!! We made it back to the shop in Ventura, CA. Unloaded the cars, put everything away......and then...... I had to drive another 5.5hrs home, ALL BY MYSELF! That was even more RI
DICULOUS! lol. Not gonna lie, looking down at the speedometer a couple times, I did find myself going "Whoops, should probably speed her up a bit...." 65 hours of driving time in a truck can make ya kinda cruise in a car....hahaha.
Oh the adventures that have been explored this year. Chili Bowl in January, Travels all over California in sprint cars, dwarf cars, micros, go karts, etc, Pennsylvania over the Summer with midgets, Duquoin, IL for an indoor midget race..... No, I don't love my life!!! Not at all!!! I am one blessed individual! I slowed down on the racing side a bit this year, but I did more driving schools and turning on the wrenches. I have to say, it was still pretty rad! Thankful for the Championship we earned with Dave Cantu in the #63x Jonah's Skate Sport Dwarf Car. So many great memories in the books. Good times with Great people! Call me greedy, but I'm Going to try and crank it up a bit more in 2017. Gotta get it all out before I get too old right?! That Racing bug is getting stronger.... ;) We'll See what kind of trouble we can get into next year. See what kind of diversity we can find: Sprints, Midgets, Micros, karts, Shopping Carts, etc. Wish to be a threat in everything again.
See ya next year.... Salud to 2017!! May it bring everybody Good Health, Great Adventure, and Much Prosperity!