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Tom Fecteau



 

August 5th, 2011
61st Sunoco Race of Champions 200 -
Proud to Deliver Our 3rd Top 10 Finish!

This yearís race was approached with a lot of enthusiasm and optimism. Terry and the #50 had shown moments of top 5 performance in the spring race and we were confident further improvements would make us a real contender. Friday practice went mostly as planned as we experimented with the limits of a chassis strategy that resulted in posting our best lap times ever. A hitch in the steering system meant we would be doing some maintenance first thing in the morning. Terry and Jody shook down the #18 so that Jody could confidently run harder and hopefully qualify for the race. The cars were packed up for the night and some team members relaxed at the camp site while others enjoyed the eveningís race events as fans.

Saturday started smoothly as we prepared for a very long hot day. The steering repairs went well and all cars were ready for a couple quick practice sessions before time trials. Both cars were scheduled for their 2 fast laps late in the sequence and as most of the top teams fired off some mind boggling fast laps, some of us began to wonder if our confidence had been misplaced. Terry then ran his fastest laps ever at Oswego Speedway, but it would only be good enough for a 25th place starting position. We were all left shaking our heads and having to realize we had a new mission for the off-season: learning the secrets behind time trialing. Jody then ran the #18 and was faster than 2 other cars but way off the pace. Last chance qualifying events would be next and the race director announced that 2 cars would be going home. Terry just ran the car easy as did the other fast competitors, saving their equipment for the long race ahead. Other racers battled hard for the final qualifying spots and luckily Jodyís time trial speed was used to get the 31st starting spot of 32 cars. The cars were readied for the 200 lap marathon and our strategy had to be changed given we were way back in the field. Now we were going to take it easy with the #50, save the car, take the latest pit stop possible and finish with fresh, fast tires. For this to work we were going to need some good fortune to fall our way, maybe even more than once.

A new variable also presented itself this day. Our pit crew would be relying on more of our newer volunteers as a few of our veterans were home addressing a variety of important family issues. Naturally each remaining person rose to the challenge and accepted their new responsibilities, and later that evening they would be put to the test more than once. Overlooked in the prerace prep was maximizing our teamís radio communications, something that would affect our performance but not a fatal error.

Tom would take care of Jody for as many laps as possible, our hopes were to get to lap 75 if we could maintain a reasonably fast pace and then possibly take advantage of otherís misfortune. Given the pattern of past ROC races, our strategies seemed sound as prerace ceremonies concluded and the cars were fired up.

As the green flag waved on a hot July evening, drivers immediately began battling for position. In the back, a couple cars exited early and by lap 16 Jody found himself a lap down. Although Jody was running slower than we wanted, he was giving the fast cars plenty of room and was maintaining his speed. However, the officials told him to park the car as some other slow cars had just tangled with some faster cars. Jody was naturally disappointed with his 29th place finish. Team owner Tom Fecteau was pleading his case to officials to let Jody back out, but as the race restarted a massive pile up occurred on the front straight which would include Terry. Several cars were eliminated and during the long caution, Terry brought the #50 in for a thorough going over. There was exterior damage but nothing major that would set us back. The front end was slightly out of alignment which would matter later but for now, he rejoined the shortened field.

As the race wore on there would be additional spins and crashes for other competitors which kept Terry from going a lap down. Around lap 78 Terry caused his own excitement when he brushed the inside wall in turn 3 and spun the car with minimal damage. The immediate pit stop took the crew by surprise, causing some brief confusion. Terry received a quick adjustment and was sent back out for more. Terry was still on the lead lap at this stage and now with 2 incidents we wondered if the car could support Terry for another 50-60 laps as our plan called for no tires before lap 125. Racing resumed at the same pace, a few fast laps followed by someoneís incident causing a caution. On lap 118 as Terry was about to go a lap down, a car spun in front of him saving our position once again. Almost the entire field pitted at this point and because Terry stayed out, he was officially in the top 5. We didnít revel in our position as we knew the fast cars with fresh tires would be passing us quickly on the restart. Also at this time Terry was suffering. Unknown to everyone, his Raceceiver radio battery had failed causing the squelch control to fail which meant Terry was enduring an intense loud static noise that he could not escape. We needed just a little more good fortune to give us our needed pit stop soon.

On lap 134, a group spin and crash gave us that opportunity. While the car was serviced for tires we tried to diagnose and repair his painful hearing problem but we did not succeed. At the same time our pit stop encountered trouble as some lug nuts cross threaded and took time to correct. These multiple problems caused us to go a lap down and took us out of a possible top 5 finish. We had no time to get down, there was still the possibility of a top 10 finish to battle for. As the race wore on, more accidents, bad tempers, and mechanical failures continued the attrition allowing Terry to bring the #50 home in 9th place. His 3rd top 10 finish in 3 tries with our Epic Ventures family. Terry was in pain and quite exhausted at the finish and the team showed the effects of a long day out in the sun and the rigors of multiple pit stops. Yes there was some disappointment but as we scanned the pits and noticed the dire condition of many fellow racers whose day had ended far worse, we realized that we had much to be thankful for.

The #50 finished with only superficial damage but we did discover one of the almost new tires had a large piece of glass in it terminating any future use as a test tire. The #18 was intact as well and ready to back up Terry at any future show. With some cool beverages and a hearty meal back at the campsite, things did not seem so bad. Later we would receive some additional good news as Terry would receive the Tommy Baldwin Perseverance Award. This was an honor that we all shared in as it validated everyoneís had work and push through adversity. It was another good race and with just a bit more wisdom, preparation and continued good fortune we will remain contenders for a win.

See us race next at the Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak special at DTRP in August.


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