After a rough 2022 at the Alabama Manufacturers Shootout, it was a race I was considering on not attending in 2023. It seemed last year that a combination of my tire selection and the track condition left me a bit uncompetitive and I was hoping for some improvement by attending in '23. Fortunately AKA has released a couple of new tires this year with a great new all around option being the #Lux. I have used this tire now at 3 events and have had some great success with it and it proved to have me in a competitive position this weekend once again as I battled the deepest contingent of drivers AMS has ever fielded.
All throughout practice and into qualifying I was putting in times near the top of the sheets. Whether it was 3 consecutive laps or full runs I was able to top the charts a couple times in various classes. I was running the new AKA Lux in Clay compound and utilizing sauce as was everyone else to get that extra edge and grip out of the track. The clay compound was working great from the start with the moisture that was in the track. I didn't opt to switch out to normal compounds until late qualifying when the track really began to dry out. The biggest difference found when going from clay to the standard compounds (in this case SLW and MLW) is that the standard compounds have a bit more initial give to them. The clay when it became a dry grip becomes extra twitchy because of the way the rubber behaves in that it is more springy, so its reactions are quicker. Great when the track has a touch of moisture because the track provides some of the give, whereas when the track dries out then it's nice for the tire to provide a little of that initial give.
As qualifying got underway with Q1's I was on those clay Lux in buggy and clay scribbles for truggy. I would in that round take a 3rd in ebuggy, and a 4th in nitro buggy. In round number two I would have another pair of solid finishes in buggies with a 6 and 5 respectively and I bounced back in a big way in truck with a TQ run! By Q3 the track was getting dry and so I went all the way to MLW Lux in buggies with a heavy saucing and was able to get a 2nd in ebuggy and a TQ in nitro buggy for the round! Overall after qualifying I would be 2nd in Nitro buggy, 3rd in ebuggy, and 11th in nitro truggy. But that wasn't the end of qualifying as we had the super pole which was a 10 minute dash that would be our final 'qualifier' to seed us into our starting positions for the mains.
First was the truggy super pole and it was an excellent race for me. With just 10 minutes to make moves on this tight fast track you need to be patiently aggressive and I was fortunate to make all my moves going forward and moved into 3rd and chased down Maifield at the end to finish just 0.069 behind him. By all metrics I was the fastest in the super pole on my SLW Scribbles which I would have to use the same set come main time as I was only able to bring the one set with me.
The nitro buggy super pole didn't go as well for me as I just didn't focus properly at the start and landed on the pipe in the top left demoting down to 10th from 2nd on the 1st lap. This required lots of work to dig out of and I did this by a quick fuel stop on lap 5 which allowed me to just press until the end to try to move up some positions. When others began to pit in the 17 lap mark or so I was able to move up to 6th in the end. Pace wise I was 3rd fastest for 15 laps so was hoping to be able to have a good main.
Ebuggy was the final super pole and again, I just didn't do as well as I had hoped. Starting 3rd I fell to 4th and then down to 10th on lap 8 with a crash. I was able to work back up to 6th in the end of this one as well which is a pretty tough starting spot for the short mains right in the middle of the pack, but I would give it my all.
Come main day Ebuggy A1 would be our first race and I opted for SLW Lux in this one. They had done a light watering overnight which had given a nice reprieve from all the dust for a little while but I thought having the possible extra grip of SLW over MLW would be a good thing in this 10 minute race. I would hold position for the first 5 laps before a mistake and falling back to 9th which is basically where I would stay the rest of the race. People just weren't making mistakes as the field just keeps getting more and more competitive every year!
Next was the nitro truggy A-main and I had an awesome first lap getting the pass into 2nd place. However on lap 3 I would get wide in the dust and give back the position on my SLW Scribbles. A couple laps later on lap 5 I got loose in the dust and missed my line on the front left and tagged the pipe and flipped over between the doubles. This knocked me back to 7th. Again I had to dig out of this one but fortunately my truck was pretty good overall as long as I kept it in the groove. I had some great intra race battles with Bornhorst and I seemed to follow in his shadow for a full pit stop cycle at one point. On lap 94 though I was able to catch him and solidly take over 3rd and I even caught the leader to unlap myself and pulled from him as I had the best tires at the end. However I would stuff the pipe with just under 2 minutes to go loosing 5 seconds and falling to 4th. I looked ready to settle for the position until Joe gave it back to me on the top left and I got by and held on for the 3rd place position!
Next was Ebuggy A2 and it was a freight train from the start as the whole field it seemed was just snaking around the track without a mistake. But the mistakes started coming around lap 7 and the field seemed to almost invert with guys starting way back now at the front and visa versa. Somehow I just stayed in my same 4-7 position during this time with a couple bobbles here and there, in the end taking a 6th.
Nitro buggy main was next and for the 45minute race I chose the MLW Lux again with a heavy saucing. Everything felt really pretty good as warmup ensued. I had a great start and moved into and maintained 3rd position all the way through the first set of pitstops. Then I got a slight tag on the back left getting me up on the pipe, I got off and drag raced with the other driver over the back long jump and we tagged midair and I got the worst of it and got knocked down to 7th loosing 5 seconds. After that I just tried to remain as clean as possible the rest of the race. Overall my car felt good and I stayed on the lead lap. After 45 minutes I finished just 19 seconds out of the lead and in 5th place. I'm pretty pleased with my results lately, finishing all my races and being competitive. I look for that to continue as we head into 2024 and I continue to dial in my setups.
Finally was ebuggy A3 after midnight. This one I had a good start and moved up to 5th then 4th on the first two laps. I even briefly got into 3rd on lap 15 before a mistake knocking me back to 5th which is where I would finish. Overall with the 3 runs I would take a slightly disappointing 8th though still pleased to be in the hunt in all my classes all weekend.
Overall after a hugely disappointing 2022 AMS, this year was excellent. We got tons of track time, my cars all were working very well and I was again able to compete at the highest level all weekend with some top seeding and TQ runs. I need to clean up the start of my mains a touch more and I feel I can be battling for those wins!
My biggest set-up changes this weekend were again going up in diff oils for the higher grip conditions. Not quite as high as S&B a couple weeks back but getting up to 20-15-10 in Nitro buggy and 20-20-12 in Truggy. Also again dropping that front link down on the tower really helping support the front on the drop down and in the high speed corners.
Set-up Notes: All wing holes were only in the center two sections of the wing. None in the outer quadrants.
Rear shock piston in the buggies was that I took the 1.3 x 8 Tapered (IFW405-138) and I closed 4 of the holes and drilled 4 new straight holes 1.3mm. So I ended with 4 angled and 4 straight 1.3mm holes and used 500 oil with this set-up on both buggies near the end of the weekend.