Kansas road trip and winning under the lights
My previous columns have been race weekend previews that include a particular topic. This time we are going to look back on the Kansas Speedway Grand-Am race,as it turned out to be an interesting event under the lights Saturday night. For Mazda, SpeedSource, and the new SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel Technology the race produced our seventh win in a row!
The track was extremely fast when on the oval, which tested the performance of the cars. The SpeedSource engineers were able to gather additional data from this style of track as we move forward in development.
The Kansas race week actually started off as a road trip from Road America. I was part of the minivan crew with my SpeedSource guys. Since our rental minivan had a TV it was a movie marathon which included: The Other Guys, Oblivion, Paul, Step Brothers, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. My favorite was Oblivion before I moved to the front seat to keep the driver awake. The guys in the back eventually figured out the "stow-n-go" seats for the middle row. Leg room was not a problem any longer. After the 11 hour drive and a few stops for fuel/food we arrived in Kansas City.
Tuesday was move in and setup day. My guys were busy with the driveshaft repairs from our race the weekend before at Road America. Tristan Nunez and I claimed the victory but moments after the checkered flag a driveshaft failure occurred. Our SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel engines have been performing great but the weak links that plague our team car No. 70 plus ourselves have all been non-Mazda parts related. The development process continues. With each parts improvement the stress and strain moves to the next weak point in the system. The engineers at SpeedSource continue to work hard and extend life cycles which is showing as we have been on a seven race winning streak!
Wednesday was an off day for the crew members. We decided to explore downtown Kansas City and found the National World War I museum, plus one of the Federal Reserves. We toured the WWI museum for hours, watch various videos about battles, the extremities of trench style warfare, and of course looked about some pretty big guns! Overall it was an amazing museum and proud to be an American after walking out.
The Federal Reserve was impressive. Three robots run the entire place and they have been comically named: Hughie, Dewey, and Louie. They run on trackless paths with a forklift device to carry the crates of cash. On the way back to the parking lot we saw a German Shephard and guard with what looked like an AR-15 on normal patrol. We carried on to find a local BBQ joint for lunch before heading back to our hotel. That afternoon it was a short 3.5 mile run with a few team members around town before calling it an evening.
A promoter test day was scheduled for Thursday which started slowly due to rain. Later that night we were able to get our first taste of the circuit. Running on the banking was pretty cool due to the high speeds. The track basically has three important corners in the infield. Many of the drivers where so/so on the initial impression, which I agree. Ultimately, we are all in the same boat and have to figure out the best way around.
When Saturday arrived the normal race day atmosphere was present. The past two days of testing made for close fields. A little bit of the close times were a result of a circuit with only three or four corners that made an impact. On large tracks with many corners there is more room for error, thus fields are spread out. That was not the case at Kansas and the fields were set to go racing into the night.
It was a busy race in the No. 00 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel VisitFlorida.com car. Every lap there was traffic or a Daytona Prototype to deal with. A lap around the circuit was in the 1m22sec range for our GX cars. The use of spotters was key this weekend to work with the closing rates of other cars.
Late in the race the other class cars started going at it. There were pieces of debris all over the track as a result! I hope the night atmosphere was fun to watch. Sparks were flying, exhaust flames could be seen, and brake rotors glowing under braking. I know after the race we had many circle track NASCAR fans asking where else they could watch sports car racing, because they had no idea how cool it was watching cars turn right and left plus bang doors as well as finish under green with the overall leaders nose to tail for the win. I quote one of the spectators in saying, ‘That wasn't boring!' Huh, imagine that! From a driver's standpoint, the circuit was so/so, but it was a nice facility and ultimately the race looked good.
We are still in search of a Mazda 1-2 finish with our SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel Mazda6s but the winning streak continues. As a team we go to our home track of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Sept. 7-8 and would love to capture the 1-2 there. A big thank you to my SpeedSource guys during our two-week race stint with all the work they did while on the road. I will tell you I cannot wait to race at night again! Maybe Daytona next year if the opportunity is there; we will see. Happy to provide Mazda with its partners, VISITFLORIDA.COM, SpeedSource, and my personal supports with another victory! Until next time.