ROAR Nitro Nationals 2019 @ Thornhill Racing Circuit
- This past weekend was trip number 4 for me this year to Austin, Texas and Thornhill Racing Circuit. This time it was the ROAR Nationals that were taking place, and on top of that it was a Worlds qualification year. I was very confident heading into this race with my testing done there thus far this year. My expectations were for a similar feel to the last events I attended but it was different this time. Maybe due to the fact the layout sat un-ran for a month and probably got watered regularly, or just the greater influx of drivers and sauces being used on it caused the surface to be much higher grip than I can ever recall here. While Thornhill began its life as an outdoor facility it now features an expansive roof to allow yearlong racing even amidst the unpredictable Texas weather. What that roof does though is makes this track play like an indoor track. So many of the fast guys at 1/10th racing who were in attendance did very well. Also all the tire tricks and preparations were out in full force to gain any kind of edge possible from the competition.
- The week started with one day of free practice and one day of seeding practice. Tires were going to be 90% of the program here so most of the effort was focused there. We found clay to be probably the fastest, though for most it was a bit tricky to drive as it felt a little catchy on steering. Especially as clay generally works best as a low pin tire. So we ran AKA clay typo with some fast success but eyes were on the mains as well as we needed something easier to drive that could better last the 30 minute semi and hour long final.
- As qualifying began on Friday we had two 5 minute runs to start to set the pace. I had two very solid runs in Nitro buggy just kind of cruising outside the limelight and taking a 4 and a 3 for my two runs. In truggy I was in the B sort and would have a good run going in Q1 but have a cvd pin break in me. In Q2 I would try our “New Inside Outs” (we took clay grids and turned them inside out and mounted them to the wheel to create a quasi bar tire.) It actually worked very well and I bounced back with a 5th overall.
- Saturday offered up two more rounds of quals in which overall your best 2 of 4 would count. Buggy I decided to be the tester of a different compound and at the suggestion of resident AKA Genius Gil Losi Jr. we went with SSLW typo and they were much easier to drive, a lot more forgiving on the front end and still nearly as fast as clay. I would get another 4 even with a crash costing me a potential TQ run. My Q4 was riddled with driving errors as I worked out my setup further as traction continued to come up. I had found I made a mistake on my rebuild and put the rear camber link in the wrong hole so I fixed that. My other thing I was working on was getting the front to dive less in the corners. I accomplished this by raising the front link on the tower and going to less front kick up and also going to more caster on the caster block. All this moved me in the right direction for the mains. In truggy I had an 8th in Q3 and in Q4 tried slicks and the track had more dust than it had all weekend and it was just a poor choice. After quals I would be sitting 6th in Buggy and 9th in the A in truggy.
- First up we had the Truggy A warmup. I built 3 sets of tires opting to go with Impacts for the main. I had a set of SLW with taped foam. SSLW with taped foam and SSLW without taped foam. (I use this carpet tape: https://amzn.to/2WYHaLi which works really well and allows you to still reuse foams instead of gluing them. It is an Amazon affiliate link and if you purchase would give me a small kickback) Now I could only do about 3 laps with each set and I started on the SLW and they offered a nice slide to them making the truck easy to drive but they weren’t quite fast yet. So I tried the SSLW next taped and they had more grip right away but I just had this feeling they would heat up more and I would struggle as a race went on with them getting squirmy. Then I tried the SSLW un taped set and immediately I knew they were wrong as it got really squirmy and inconsistent on the higher traction and fast track. So I quickly put the SLW front and SSLW rear on both taped to try a mixed compound. It felt easy to drive but I again just felt I was going to have to much squirm out of the SSLW as the race progressed.
- So my final decision was to run SLW Impacts. Now we had also been saucing but the tire wear was getting super high. So what I opted to do was just burn in the sauce quickly. And because I liked the feel of the SSLW in the rear I simply burned the rear in a little more than the fronts. (What I mean by burning them in is spraying the liquid wrench (sauce) onto a microfiber towel and putting it up to your tire while it’s spinning on a drill and hold it there until it starts to smoke.) Anyways as we went to run I saw that I was one of two people running an outdoor so to speak tread with everyone else on an indoor tread. Obviously this is something we have to deal with right now at AKA but stuff is in the works. But regardless I was planning on making the most of it and do my best. I knew my tires were prepped the best they possibly could be.
- At the start of the 45 minute affair we were all freight training around. I lost a position or two early but the tires were feeling really good actually and were easy to drive. I began to move through the field picking them off one by one. The leaders were gone but I just kept plugging away and eventually found myself in 4th as we finished our last pit stops. Tessman was in 3rd and the announcer was just talking about 1 and 2 so I really didn’t know how far back I was and I didn’t ask my pit guy because I am going to give it my all regardless in every moment. Well with just a couple minutes to go I finally caught sight of Tessman and noticed I was catching him. Knowing his tires were toast by his slowing pace I continued to reel him in. With a couple laps to go I got real close on the back right corner but had to back off momentarily but I noticed he was pushing bad. Coming into the 180 before the double into the wood I set him up and dove inside and we jumped side by side onto the wood and he conceded the position as we landed side by side with me on the inside. I stayed poised over the final lap and brought home a nice comeback podium finish! I was pretty stoked about it coming from the 9 spot! It’s probably my 7th or 8th Nitro truggy ROAR Nationals Podium and it felt good to do it again.
- Next was the 10 minute Semi Final practice. I again prepared a host of tires to verify what I wanted to run in the main. I was set on Zips in the front but again wanted to compare the compounds and try two different rear tires. Again the SSLW set felt great right away. Also the SLW front and SSLW rear felt really good too. But I just felt my best option was to do like I did in truck. Regarding the rear tire my choices were Double Downs or Catapults. I knew both would have similar wear times. One thing about this track though was my car was a bit aggressive on steering and the rear felt like I wanted it to roll a little more. Well Double Downs Keep the car flatter with their more square profile while Catapults allow more roll with their more rounded profile. So because I wanted more roll and they also because of the more rounded shoulder pattern catch less holes I opted for the Catapult to make the Zippult combo.
- I still was looking for a little more stability in the rear on this fast track with lots of double apex corners and Gil suggested moving the wing back. So that was my change before the semi final and overall the car was solid. It was a bit of a change and I was a bit off my lines the first 10 minutes of the final. I was in 3rd just cruising with no one around me. Eventually though I started to adjust my lines and find my groove and start reeling in Tessman. Just like in truggy I would get inside him on the same corner and jump and make the pass into 2nd. At the same time Maifield had engine trouble and ended up out of the race promoting me to the lead where I set off to a nice semi win. My pace would have me start 3rd on the grid for the final.
- The last race of the day would be the 1 hour long A main final. I was very confident heading into the main and knew my stuff was good enough to win. At the start though as we did our procession into the first tight corner I felt we were going way to slow into the drop down. It’s a really hard corner because where I stood on the stand when I was turning it blocks the car that’s in front of you. I felt I was going so absolutely slow but unfortunately I got into Rivkin's wing and we got knocked back a bunch. The next corner though had a major pileup again and I was able to squeeze under that one. Rivkin was back into 7th I think and I was 9 or 10 so there was work to be done. My car was feeling really good but there was other drivers to Contend with and Cavalieri was getting away in the lead. For a number of minutes I was content just cruising behind the freight train and I decided I wanted to go for 9 minute stops. I would have some trouble with traffic and it took a while to get some clear track and some forward progress but many who did the 7:30 stop helped clear the track a bit. I came in for my first stop though and I flamed while being fueled. Billy and Jon were super fast getting me re fired but I lost some 5 seconds and would have to race some of the drivers I worked hard to pass before the pits again. Soon I was nearly getting lapped by Cavalieri before he came in for his second stop and I was like where has this race gone for me. I couldn’t believe how far behind I had gotten. Well I vowed at that point to dig in and get out of the hole I had dug for myself. About halfway through the race Rivkin had gotten into the lead and again as I came out of pits he was right behind me to lap me and the announcer said next up was me to be out a lap down and I just didn’t want to let it happen. I put my head down and he made a mistake and it was catch up mode from then on. On my second to last stop I was up to 4th and closing in on Tessman again but I flamed for the second time in the pits loosing another 5 seconds but thankfully Billy and Jon were stellar on the box. I spent the next 7 minutes reeling him back in and on my in lap I got right behind him for the final podium spot. I had a quick pit stop and wanted to put in a stellar out lap to try to overtake him in the pits. He came in the next lap and upon his returning to the track he was just in front and we battled the next lap. Then the unthinkable happened as he pitted again the next lap. I don’t know what that was about but I just kept my pace on my now slick tires and was able to come away with another podium 3rd place. I believe this to be my 3rd or 4th Nitro buggy ROAR podium of my career.
- Overall it was a very hard fought 100% effort weekend with some more positive results to show for it. Such huge thanks to Gil Losi Jr and Billy Tylaska and Jon Hazelwood for the support and knowledge! I can’t wait to continue this best year of my career and continue to prove that older doesn’t have to mean slower. :-)