BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (March 27, 2023) – Our 2023 season is off and running with the Torco / JCM Motorsports #19m and while Mother Nature threw us a curveball, we managed to “get a solid base hit” on our first night out.
Our plan was to start the Crate Racin’ USA (CRUSA) season this coming weekend but that would have meant we’d be going in “cold” without any testing and that didn’t sound good. After scanning the schedules of all the area race tracks, our Marketing Mgr., Chase Shaffer noticed that the same track we’re racing at this coming weekend was holding their opening night of the season last Saturday night with an additional Test Night on Friday.
So after a quick meeting with our team’s principal Colten Miller, we loaded everything and headed down to Cochran Motor Speedway to knock some of the rust off. After a few months off, you’d think making this trip would be easy but having only found our new Crew Chief Josh “Pookie” Patrum, a few weeks ago, going out a week early was pretty tough on us as we had to put a hold on a couple of “update project” we were working on.
With long hours being the “norm” sometimes in racing, we all pitched-in and got ourselves ready to go. After our long-drive we pulled into the very-nice 3/8 mile Cochran Speedway that’s owned and managed by Chris Martin. The track looked great and for their opening night-test, the car count was pretty high.
Our car was pretty good, right off the trailer and with some “driver tips” from our friends Glen and Wil Herrington, we got going pretty well. Thanks to Pookie’s thorough car prep, we got through the night without any mechanical issues and found more speed with every session. As we loaded up though, the weather seemed to be the talk of the pit area.
The next morning didn’t look too bad but sure as some had predicted, the rains came and unfortunately washed us out at Cochran. Since we were so close to Hawkinsville, we stopped by the shops of our JCM Motorsports teammate, Wil Herrington. The Herrington Family shop used to be a small car dealership many years ago and with both Wil and his dad Glen, racing out of here for many years there was cool stuff to look at everywhere you’d look.
As the weather started to move out of the region, Wil started searching to see if every track was rained out? As it so happens, East Alabama Speedway, which was basically on the way home was still looking good and since we still needed to get some race-miles under our belt, we headed west to run yet another track that I have not been to before in a town called Phenix City, Alabama. This track has a ton of history and is a favorite of many drivers who visit this part of the country.
While the length of this track is similar to Cochran, its long straights and tight corners called for a completely different set-up than we had in the car the night before. Once the gates opened, Pookie, Chase and I attacked the car getting it ready for the first practice. It took us right to the time limit as Chase got our Entry Forms turned in only minutes before the Drivers Meeting started.
To my surprise, we were pretty good in Practice, the car seemed to turn pretty well in the Center and the track was really fun to drive. We made some minor adjustments I headed out for Qualifying. By this time it was dark and as I sat in the staging area, warming-up the engine, the clouds opened up on us and drenched us all with a heavy downpour. As with many cloud-bursts hear in the South, the storm stopped as quickly as it started and the hearty race fans of East Alabama Speedway all came back to refill-up the grandstands.
After the 2 hour rain delay, the officials got the track prepped again for us and our 604-class was the first to hit the track. I buckled into my #19m Rocket and rolled onto the track for Qualifying. Unfortunately for us, the now newly very-slippery track did not like our car very much and I really struggled out there. The car just didn’t want to turn and as verified by our times, I didn’t do much to help the situation having never been to this track before.
As we suspected, we clocked-in 12th of 15 cars but we knew with the other divisions running the track in, the surface would come back to us so we were upbeat for the Start. You could tell this was the first race of the year because every driver had a case of “cabin fever” and was on “full kill mode” with the drop of the Green.
On the first start, we made it all the way to Turn-2 before people managed to get themselves turned around, completely blocking the track. Being on the outside, I took a hard-right and went up over the banking because there was no way I was going to stop in time. I made it back on the track and we all lined up to try it again, this time making it to Turn-3 before people got into each other again. Thankfully I was able to miss that mess to and we all lined up for our 3rd attempt at a Start.
I was able to make some good moves once we got rolling and had made it up to 5th or 6th and was feeling good. The car was really fast if I hit the corners just perfectly. On the other hand, if I missed it a little bit, I struggled to get it to turn and began losing ground. At just over mid-way, I really made a mess of Turns-3&4 and had to really slow-up to avoid hitting the front-stretch wall. This gave the cars behind me a run and I got mugged in Turn-1. A car miss-judged a “slide job” and went up and over my left-front tire.
I managed to drive though it but with the LF fender now dragging, I kept falling backwards through the field. By the end of the Feature, I managed to hold on to 8th place brought the car in with only minor damage to the LF Corner.
While we didn’t get the finish we were in line for, I’m encouraged by the communication my new Crew Chief and I had (on our first night out) and with Chase there to lend a helping hand and grab some great pictures and video, all-in-all, I think we did well. Especially when you consider what we as a team had to do to A) get ready a week earlier than expected and B) ran two completely different tracks on two consecutive nights.
Next up for us will be back at Cochran this next weekend for the start of the Crate Racin’ USA Series. The series runs through to late November with the finale taking place back at Cochran Speedway.
Please continue to check our Facebook and Instagram pages for the latest event updates and pictures as we get them. Thanks for reading…
Torco International Corporation manufactures super high-performance racing oils and advanced lubricants for a wide range of vehicles and applications. Torco is the industry leader in ultra-high-end specialty lubricant formulations for high-performance and racing applications and all of their products are made here in the U.S.A.
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