Happy Holidays everyone.
We just got back from the U.S. Indoor Champs in Cleveland Ohio.
This is the largest 12th scale race of the season, and is really considered the "Superbowl" of 12th scale racing.
Last year, SpeedMerchant drivers Mike Dumas and Jake Pritchard ended up TQ'ing, and taking 1st and 2nd place in the pinnacle class, 1/12th scale factory modified. So going into this year's Champs, the pressure was really on us to try to repeat the performance. It wasn't going to be easy.
Since last season, we've added "The Fabulous One" Barry Baker to the SpeedMerchant race team, and just a month before the Champs, we were able to secure "World Champion" Billy Easton for the indoor carpet season.
Those two joined Mike Dumas, Andrew Gray, and Chris Mockerman as our Modified team going into the Champs. Unfortunately, Jake Pritchard was unable to attend this years Champs.
The SpeedMerchant team flew into Cleveland a week before the Champs to test at "The Gate" with most of the other factory teams. A big thanks goes out to the crew that runs The Gate for letting us use their facility for testing and practice.
The testing at the Gate went very well. Barry Baker had actually flown in from California 2 full weeks prior to the Champs to get his Rev 4.5 and Checkpoint motors dialed in. After watching him run a couple of packs, it was quite obvious his testing had gone great. His 4.5 was handling really well, and he had his Checkpoint motors just screaming around the track, and running out the back door after 8 minutes.
We not only got a lot of good practice in, but were able to test some new front suspension designs at The Gate. We had cut a few prototype chassis and front suspensions for testing, and were lucky enough to get 35-40 packs thru the cars with zero failure, and some pretty great results. When testing was done, Mike Dumas' quickest single lap of the week was done with our new front end bolted on his 4.5. Mike, Barry, and Andrew all liked the way the cars carved the turns a little better than their current set-ups. We will do some more testing and a revision or two, and probably debut the new front suspension at the SnowBirds in February.
On Tuesday, Billy Easton made it to the practice track. He had flown directly in from Japan, where he attended the Japanese On-Road Nationals. Billy was the only American to make the A Main at the event, and was happy with his results, but also absolutely dead tired from the travel, as well as sick as a dog with a stomach virus. He did some very limited practice with his Yokomo sedan, and we decided it would be best for him just to get some rest rather than try to get any practice in with his Rev 4.5 at The Gate.
So, after several looong days of testing at The Gate, we headed down the road to the Holiday Inn, and the U.S. Indoor Championships.
There was to be one round of practice on Wednesday evening, followed by three rounds of practice on Thursday, then two rounds of qualifying both Friday and Saturday, followed by the Mains on Sunday.
Wednesday & Thursday
Practice went well for the whole team. Dumas looked amazing as always, and with the help of Joe Pillars from Team Brood/Orion, we were able to improve his horsepower every time he went out on the track. Barry looked just as dialed as he did out at the Gate. Andrew had his Orion powered Rev 4.5 flying around the track, and finally after Billy caught up on some sleep, and started to shake off his stomach virus, he was really having fun piloting his Brood/Orion powered 4.5 around the Champs lay out. A nice surprise was the performance of Chris Mockerman. Chris has been racing for a long time, but for several years he has been very much a "part-time" racer, focusing more on his family and "real" job. Right away in practice, Chris and his Rev 4.5 looked like top 10 material.
After the 1st day of qualifying was over, it was readily apparent that this year's Champs was probably going to be a three man race between Team Associated's Jon Orr, and SpeedMerchant's Mike Dumas and Barry Baker. Those three just looked head and shoulders above the rest of the entrants in 12th Mod. Jon Orr and his LRP brushless powered 12L were setting the pace after day one, followed closely by Mike and Barry. Jon is just a super smooth driver, and probably has more experience with the LRP brushless system in a 12th scale car than anyone in the world. He finished top 3 in the Worlds in Italy just a few short months ago, and now he was trying to add the Cleveland Indoor Champs to this season's resume.
Day 2 of qualifying was much the same with several nice performances. Chris Mockerman was really driving well, and had his 4.5 in the top 10 all thru qualifying, while Billy Easton was quickly gaining a handle on the intricacies of 12th scale modified, and was climbing up the qualifying charts.
Going into the final qualifier on Saturday evening, it was still Jon, Mike and Barry for your top 3, and Chris Mockerman in the mid pack of A main. Billy and Andrew were on the outside looking in.
The B Heat qualifier took off at a super quick pace, and after the smoke had cleared, both Billy and Andrew had shuffled up to the A Main, but Andrew had actually bumped Chris Mockerman out of the A main. Mike and Barry were still quite secure in the top three.
The final A Modified qualifier went off, and Jon Orr took off and set a really quick pace. Mike and Barry actually slowed each other down by not racing too hard with each other up front. After a few minutes, Mike started to pull away from Barry, and started to reel Jon in on the master clock. Could Mike come from behind and grab TQ in the final round? By the 6 minute mark, Mike had caught Jon on the Master clock, and shortly after passed him on the track as well. Unfortunately for Mike, the announcer had remarked several times during the heat that Jon's TQ was "out of reach", so Mike thinking that his slow start with Barry had dropped his pace too low, decided just to sit on this qualifier, and enter the Main on Sunday comfortably in 2nd. It wasn't until the race was over that the announcer declared Mike had only missed TQ by One Tenth of a Second!!! Needless to say, we weren't real happy with the calling of that last qualifier. Mike had a ton of battery left and could have(barring an incident) grabbed TQ in that last round.
Going into the A Main, we were pretty confident we had the cars to beat on Sunday. Mike and Barry were both running great. Mike almost TQ'd in the last round on Saturday, and Barry just kept on getting faster every time he hit the track. We also had Chris Mockerman and Billy Easton in the main. Either one of them could have a great finish if they could work their way thru traffic properly.
But, before the A Main we had Andrew Gray sitting near the top of the B Main. The B Main had the likes of Rick Hohwart, Chris Tosolini, Bobby Flack, and many more A Main caliber drivers. Even with Andrew in the B, we were still really happy with his performance. SpeedMerchant only brought 5 Modified drivers to the Champs, and all 5 were in the top 12 after qualifying, which was just an awesome result.
On to the Main.... At the sound of the horn, Bobby Flack took the hole shot, with Andrew in chase a corner or so back. This was a very quick main with Bobby Flack really pushing the pace the entire time. About half way into the race, Andrew closed the gap on Bobby, and they actually traded the lead a few times, all while holding 3rd place behind them. In the last minute of the race, Andrew made an awesome(and scary) pass going thru the chicane, and came out the other side in the lead. He held off Bobby for a couple of more laps, and took the B Main win home. Just a great race, and quick too. Andrew's 43/8:07.266 would have been fast enough to win the A Main!!!
A Main time. Our guys had qualified as follows... Mike 2nd, Barry 3rd, Chris 8th, and Billy 9th. Going into the main Mike and Barry decided that they would give way to which other one was running quicker at the time. During the final qualifier, the day before, they both cost themselves a little time because they were actually being too nice to each other(something you don't see too often), and not running hard enough.
Chris and Billy both had the lap times and the cars to get to the front, they were just going to have to have some luck on their side to get there.
The horn sounds, and they're off....Orr took the hole shot followed by Mike and Barry. Overall, a very clean start for all the drivers. After a couple of laps, Mike gave a little squeeze, and immediately started to pressure Orr for the lead. It looked like Mike was able to turn under Jon's car, so you knew a pass attempt would be coming pretty quickly.
On the third lap, Jon went a little wide coming on to the back straight, and Mike ducked inside of him, but just "ticked" the inside of the turn which pushed him off-line. This allowed Jon to close right back up, and Mike and Jon tangled.
Barry, sitting in 3rd jumped to the front, with Jon right behind him. By the time Mike got straightened out, he was all the way back in 5th. This was all to change quickly though, as the train only made it around for another lap, when a bobble up front going thru the chicane changed up the order once again.
This time, Mike shot up to 2nd from the 5th position, Barry held on for 1st, and amazingly, Billy shot all the way up to 3rd with some great driving.
Coming around for the next lap Barry let Dumas go coming onto the straight. Just some really smart team driving on his part.
Barry was only in 2nd for about a lap, a small tap let Billy and Dayger by.
They ran in that order for a few laps, with Mike and Billy pulling away slightly from the rest of the pack. Barry was pressuring Dayger, and then made an insane horsepower pass on the straight which brought cheers from the crowd, and was described by the race announcer as "utterly astonishing". Barry's CheckPoint definitely had some massive rip!
So with 3 down and 5 minutes to go, we had Mike 1st, Billy 2nd, and Barry 3rd.....things were looking good.
They ran in the order for about 3 minutes. During that time, Mike slowly stretched his lead on Billy and the rest of the field, while Barry was chipping away at the gap to Billy for 2nd. With about 3 minutes left in the race, Mike had about 1/3rd of the track on Billy in 2nd, and Billy had a turn or two on Barry.
With about two and a half minutes left to go, Barry caught Billy, made the pass, and took over 2nd place.
This is how they ran until about 30 seconds left in the A Main. Out of nowhere, Mike's car coasted to a stop due to a cold solder joint on the negative motor wire (Bruce's fault).......Arrggghhhh! Unbelievable, Mike had the race sewn up, and now was going to have to watch the last half minute of the race and hope his team mates can bring home the win.
Luckily, Mike's team mates were doing a hell of a job. Barry was secure up front with a nice lead on Billy, and Billy had survived a few attacks from Cyrul, and was now racing in 2nd place at the Champs. Pretty good for a guy who was on his 8th battery pack thru his car.
That's how they finished. Barry cruised on in for the A main Modified win, Billy took a 2nd, Mockerman came home in 6th, and Dumas ended up in 7th without even running the last 30 seconds of the race.
Just a great job, by a great team....that worked as a team all week long!
A HUGE congratulations goes out to Barry Baker. Like I said earlier, Barry flew out to Cleveland over 2 weeks before the Champs to practice and test. It obviously paid off in spades. When Barry joined the team just a few short months ago, he said one of his biggest goals was to win the Champs in 12th scale modified. Well, he certainly took care of that goal quick enough.
After the main, Barry was as happy as I have ever seen anyone..... after any race. We just couldn't be more proud of him!
How about that Billy Easton??? Flies into Cleveland, sick as a dog, literally gets 3 batteries thru his 4.5 for practice, and then goes on to take 2nd in the A Main! Just unreal. He even qualified 3rd in the A Main of Sedan Modified with his Yokomo with virtually no practice either. Apparently, he's "a wheel".
A big Congrats to Chris Mockerman. He's about as close to being a "privateer" as you can get at this level, and left a lot of really fast 12th scalers in his wake. Awesome job Chris!
Finally, a big thanks to Mike Dumas for once again being the class of the field. The results might not show it, but anyone who watched the race knows that Dumas was going to repeat his win from last year, making it just look too easy.
Great job Mike, and I guaran-damn-tee that you will never have a solder failure ever again.
That's how the week went. Another good one for SpeedMerchant. As always, a big thanks goes out to all the other sponsors that make our cars go so well.
Joe - Brood/Orion. This guy just never stopped working trying to make Mike and Billy quicker.
Duane - CheckPoint. Barry's horsepower was off the hook. Mad rip, and out the back door everytime!
Jack - JACO racing tires. Jack and his crew continue to give us the very best tires on the market, race after race.
Danny - SMC Batteries. You don't get to be the largest battery matcher in the World with out a lot of hard work. Thanks Danny.
Dale - ProtoForm. The best cars deserve the best bodies. Form and function....Dale is an artist.
Charlie - Novak. Goes to every race, and gives us all the support in the World. Awesome ESC's too.
...and all of the guys associate sponsors.
A very sincere "thank you" to all.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!
Bruce Carbone - SpeedMerchant