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Thompson World Series 2014

by Derek Robbie
Derek Robbie
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on Thursday, 30 October 2014
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I am always excited to race at Thompson speedway but at the same time I get sad. Thompson’s World Series weekend marks the last race of the season. For us this season that started off on a high note but followed with a lot of bad luck.

Dad picked me up Thursday night from college to prepare for practice and heat races on Friday. I was really looking forward to being back on the track. Friday morning did come fast and soon it would be time to be on the track. It was a beautiful day and I was ready to see what the car would do. In the first practice the car was loose entering the corner and through the middle but the car had a lot of grip off the corner. I just couldn’t drive the car in as deep as I wanted. After talking to dad and Mark they decided a spring rubber in the right front was the change we would try and it turned out to be the right change. The car was much better and rolled the corner very well. The car had a little slide to it but we determined it was more than like the old tires we were practicing on. After talking with dad, I decided to sit out for the third practice and prepare for the heat race. I figured we would not learn anything new in the third practice and just chase our tails with any changes. Instead of driving  the practice, I jumped on the radio to help out my driving coach, and mentor Mark. He was back in a race car for the weekend. He wanted help finding the line and it is always fun working with him.

In the heat race I started 2nd. We put new tires on and got ready. I wanted to get a good start and settle in, and learn. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good start. I was ready, but when I went to shift, I missed it. I quickly recovered only letting the 73 by. The 07 hit my bumper which got me rolling. With Dan Meservey JR, and Randy Cabral in front of me (Two great race car drivers) dad radioed to me, “it’s time to learn”.  I got in my groove and started to see what the fast guys were doing. They were battling a little bit, but I found a good line and started to close in on them. The car got better and better.  I finished 3rd but closed in on them. I was very happy with the car. It was very stable and handled well. I was very confident going into the feature.

Since there are 14 divisions during World Series weekend it is a 3 day race weekend. I had heat races on Friday and the main event on Saturday. With that I also had other events going on Saturday. I had a college cross country meet in the morning. Mom drove me back to Franklin Pierce College where I attend and where my meet was. Against 7 teams and 100 runners I finished 22nd in the 8k race. I was very happy with my performance but my main focus was on to the next event, the race. Mom and I drove back to Thompson. Sadly when we got there the race was under rain delay. It was the 2nd of 3 they would have during the day. With that being the case, I have to say good job to Thompson Speedway for doing a great job on drying the track and getting the show in. Our feature was set to go off at 5:30. Due to divisions being moved around, we finally got our time at 11:30. I started 3rd and I was ready.

I got a better start then I did in the heat race. I tried to get the jump under the 07 but he got me. The 00 also slid by me coming out of turn 2. I settled into 4th and was ready to feel my car out. The 5 car looked to pass me on every lap but my car got through the corner very well and I managed to stay ahead of him. The 07 and 00 started to get really dicey, and looked like a few times they would wreck. I left a little room between myself and them just in case. I had a car to get to them and try to pass but I was just biding my time. On lap 8 something came of what a lot of people saw coming. The 00 bounced off the 07 and in to the wall, bringing the caution out. Here though I would also run in to trouble. I suddenly got gas all over my windshield and decided quickly my race was over and to shut the car off. I rolled down pit road. The 5’s team who I am close with looked over the car but the car started to smoke. For my own safety they decided to get me out of the car and my race was over. Another frustrating end to a race but you always have to fight through it and know luck will come.

First off I have to congratulate Phil Lausier on winning the 2014 Championship. I have to say a big thank you to my Dad and Mom for always being behind me. I have to thank my sisters and girlfriend Erin for putting up with me during race season. I have to thank Mark G for all his help with me this season. Also a big thank you to Tim D’Amico who let me borrow his motor for the last three races. Lastly, I have to thank all my sponsors for their support this season. They include RAD, BadAss Incorporated in Bellingham, MA, Marshall's Jewelers, with locations in Bellingham, MA and Milford, MA, Shibles Family Mattress in Belmont, NH, Ugly Duck Communications in Scituate, RI, Bellingham Parts Plus of Bellingham, MA, and RH Landscaping of Winchendon, MA.
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Making the best of a new opportunity

by Derek Robbie
Derek Robbie
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on Monday, 01 September 2014
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After our unfortunate luck at Waterford on August 3rd I thought my season flashed away from me in the blink of an eye, but yet again, the racing world proved to be an awesome place. I got a call and an offer I couldn’t turn down. Dan Meservey Jr. called to asked if I wanted to drive his #5 Pro 4 Modified. I still can’t thank him enough for the offer and I was ready to see what I could do with a top notch race car.  

Since I moved into college on August 24th, dad was all by himself to prepare the car. Dad would go to the Meservey’s shop and he and Dan would spent a day getting the car ready for me. It was only a few days until race day, and I was ready to see what I could do. I knew most of the day was to be about getting a setup I was comfortable with, and getting comfortable driving the car. Dad picked me up at Franklin Pierce University in the early afternoon and I started to mentally prepare myself for the day.

When we got to the track it was all business. I needed to get in the car and make any last minute adjustments to be sure I fit correctly. It was the first time I sat in the car, and they did a very nice job fitting the car to me without me there. I just needed a little padding in the rib area of the seat and I was very comfortable and ready for the first practice.

My plan was to just go out in practice and feel out the car’s setup. We had a similar spring and shock package I have on my own car, but with minor adjustments to the shock settings. Right away in first practice I felt comfortable, and they said I was very smooth. The nose of the car settled down very nicely, and it was just all about adjusting to the car. We decided to make no changes and just keep getting seat time. Dan gave me a few hinters to try with my line. This time I had a slight push going into the corner and a little loose off. I believe it might have been due to the track getting more rubber on it from all the cars practicing. After talking to dad, and Dan they decided to raise the pan hard bar on the chassis to help the push in, in hopes to help the loose off. It helped the push in a little, but it didn’t help the off. I was much looser, but after talking to them we decided to keep the changes and see what the car will do in the heat race as we were putting newer tires on it and go from there.

In the heat race I started 2nd. I wanted to get a good start and just settle in. I still needed to get a little bit more comfortable. Right on the start I got loose, kicked slightly sideways but then got the car straighten quickly. The 07 cleared me and the 1m was looking. We dragged raced for the first 2 laps, but the caution came out after 1 lap. I would hold on to 2nd. On this restart I want to get to his bumper and hold on, and I did that.  I got behind the 07 and started to get comfortable with the car. I wasn’t able to catch him, but he wasn’t pulling away. With 2 laps to go the 07x got to my bumper and started to pressure me. On the white flag lap he got under me but I held him off and finished 2nd. The car was still loose off. I could drive the car in deep but couldn’t hit the gas to exit off the corner well. After debriefing with Dan and my Dad, we decided to go back to the setup we had at the start of the day.

For the feature I would start pole position. I was hoping the car would have more grip off and I could get out front and lead some laps. I also knew I needed a few more laps of seat time to get where I wanted to be. Right on the start I got out front and wanted to just be smooth and hit my marks, but I had the 07x glued to my bumper. It took him until lap 3 but he got underneath me and now I had to start to chasing him down. The lone caution would come out on lap 4 for a spun car.  This time on the restart I got a great start and dragged raced him into turn 1. He got the position and I got my self-cleared  in behind him. Coming out of turn 4 he got loose, I closed to his bumper then made a mistake. Since I was still learning the car, I lifted to give him plenty of room instead of closing the gap more. This allowed him to open up a few car lengths on me. It only made me more determined to chase him down. Part way through the race it started to get hairy as lap traffic started to play a role. I used the lap traffic to my advantage an opened up my advantage on the 3rd place car. Now all I had to do was focus on 1st. We ended up playing a cat and mouse game after half way. He would gain a little on me, and then I would gain back. It was a very even race. I was hoping for a caution to have another shot at him but I had to settle for 2nd place. I was happy with my performance because he never got away and I kept getting quicker and quicker as the race went on and got comfortable. I was also able to clinch the win on the Monadnock Triple Crown series.

I cannot thank Dan Meservey Jr. enough for giving me this great opportunity. I also have to thank my dad for all his hard work getting the car ready and I have to say thank you to Mark Giordano for his help during the day in me get comfortable. I also have to thank all my sponsors for their continue support. They are RAD, BaddAss Incorporated in Bellingham, MA, Marshall's Jewelers, with locations in Bellingham, MA and Milford, MA, Shibles Family Mattress in Gilford, NH, Ugly Duck Communications in Scituate, RI, R N Landscape Management, and Bellingham Parts Plus.

 

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Hard work pays off

by Derek Robbie
Derek Robbie
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on Wednesday, 30 July 2014
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When you get to know a racer, you will learn they love to win, and they hate to finish 2nd, 3rd and so on back. This season I opened up with a win, then captured a 2nd and a 3rd. Going in to Monadnock last week we knew we were never quite right. The car could be a lot better. After conversation with dad, we decided we needed to search for the perfect setup. This race weekend we were trying a new setup, and after being off for 4 weeks I will ready to be in the race car, and see what I can do.

When we got to the track I quickly started to get my head in the race mode. But this week I had another job for the day. I was helping mentor Doug Meservey Jr, as he made his first Pro 4 modified start. It was special to see him make a start as that marked 3 generations of Meservey’s in a Pro 4 racecar. While mentoring Doug, time passed real fast and soon it was time for me to get in the car. I was ready to try out the new setup. Right away I felt the new setup. It felt unstable and the car was bouncing on the race track. This meant changes to the new setup would start right after first practice. We decided to stiffen the right front spring. This helped the car, but I now had a push going in to the corner,  but the good news was the car was faster. For the third practice we wanted to help the entrance. We decided to soften the left rear spring. This made the car better and faster but it turn out to have a somewhat false reading. I had a right rear go flat during practice so we now needed make an educated guess at the heat race.

That was the end of practice anyways so we got ready for the heat race. We decided to raise the pan hard bar on both sides, and we put new tires on.  In the heat race I started pole. This would also be the first race I would try to shift on the start with the new clutch setup. As Norm Wrenn told me, I have to learn some time and being a rookie, it’s the best time to do it. I got ready for the start and I was excited to see what the change did this time. Every time we made a change the car got better. I ran in to trouble right on the start though. I went to shift, and instead of pulling it in 4th I pulled it in to neutral. I missed the shift. I quickly recovered, and got it in 4th gear. I only lost 1position. I settled in 2nd and started to feel the setup. The car was much better. We still had a few more changes to make but it was better. I tried to reel the 07 back in, but I couldn’t gain on him, nor did I lose any ground to him. We stayed 2-3 car lengths the whole heat race. I brought the car home in 2nd and was very happy with the progress.

 After looking over the car after the heat we found a problem with the right front shock. We quickly acted on it, and changed the shock. As dad was changing the shock he decided to change the spring as well. He softened it a little. After that we noticed another problem. Unfortunately we noticed it right before the feature, so it was decided I would have to race with it. We found the left rear tire wasn’t working correctly during the heat race. In other words the car was only using 3 tires, and wasn’t using the left rear. Dad and I talked about just going out and making the best of the situation I have. Changes and all.

I started 2nd in the feature. I wanted to get in behind the 07x and follow him knowing he was fast. Right on the start I did that. He took off and I settled right in behind him. Every lap I ran the car just got better and better. After 5 laps I was really comfortable with how the car was handling and I was clicking off constant lap times. My dad kept saying be smooth you’re doing a great job and that’s what I did. On lap 8, I started to encounter lap traffic, calmly I handled it well. Then just after half way, I had a hairy situation. The 21 car and 67 car were side by side in front of me and I was closing fast. I had to think fast because now I had the 5 car right on my bumper. The 21 car went low and the 67 car went high. I split the middle and cleared them nicely. I continued to hold second position, making the 5 car work hard if he wanted the position.  We kept clearing lap traffic and I kept opening the gap every time we hit a lap car. With 2 laps to go, we closed in on to the 93 car. Going down the back stretch I cleared him and shut the door so the 5 car couldn’t get there. I came around and saw the white flag lap flying. It looked like I would have a 2nd place finish. The caution would fly for the first in the race though. Within the cars battling behind me, it appeared as though the 32 car got pushed out of the groove and spun in turns 3 and 4. We would now have a green white checker. Knowing the 5 car was behind me, I wanted to get a good start and hold him off. Dan Meservey Jr, the driver of the 5 car is one of my mentors, and a good friend, not to mention a great race car driver. I wanted to beat him badly. I got ready for the start, and got a decent start. The 07x got the jump on me. I went down into turn 1 nicely but the car pushed out of turn 2. Dan got his nose under me, after being slightly ahead into turns 3 and 4, we drag raced down the front straightaway and into turn 1. We came out of turn 2 side by side still and I knew it would be another drag race. I tried to pinch him down going into turn 3 but he got the position and took over second position. I was still extremely happy with a strong third place run. We made gains on the setup the whole day and never gave up! I have to thank my dad and Dan for working on the car all day to get it better every time! That’s what racing is about! Making the unknowns work.

My next race is at Waterford Speedbowl. Last time we were there my car was very fast. We were unable to finish due to a blown clutch. I look to rebound from a rough night last time and capture another podium finish.

I also have to give a thank you to all my sponsors for helping me every week. With out there support I couldn’t do what I’m doing. Thank you RAD, BaddAss Incorporated in Bellingham, MA, Marshall's Jewelers, with locations in Bellingham, MA and Milford, MA, Shibles Family Mattress in Gilford, NH, Ugly Duck Communications in Scituate, RI, R N Landscape Management, and Bellingham Parts Plus.

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Getting the season back on track

by Derek Robbie
Derek Robbie
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on Sunday, 22 June 2014
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After having two DNF’s inconsecutive races coming earning after my first Pro 4 modified victory, I was starting to really become frustrated. I really wanted to finish a race, so I could continue focusing on getting top 3’s. Heading to Monadnock for the third time of the season, I was really ready to have a solid run. We did some different things to help keep the car running cool, and had a different spring setup in the car compared to the last time we were at Monadnock. We also had a new throw out bearing for the clutch installed and I was ready to see how all the changes worked.

Practice started at 3:30 and I was ready for it, or I thought I was ready. The car just wasn’t there. No everyone, it didn’t misplace the car nor did it go missing, it just didn’t like getting through the corner. In other words the car was handling really bad. The good news though was the new throw out bearing was worked great.  Dad and I started to talk and decided we needed to change the spring setup back to where it was last time, because the car was rolling over way too much and was unstable.  We made those changes, and in second practice the car was better but I was still off from where I wanted to be. Dad and I talked more, and we decided to move some lead around hoping to make the car handle to my liking. In third practice the car actually went slower than the previous rounds of practice, but I was a lot happier with the car, and could drive it that way. We decided to put the race tires on and see how it goes in the heat race.

For the heat race I would start first in the pole position. I hoped to get a solid start and run some laps, preparing myself for the feature. Right on the start the 1M got the jump and I settled into second. For a few laps I struggled to find my line but finally around lap three I did and slowly started to feel the setup out. The stopwatch showed the car just got faster and faster. I was very pleased bring the car home in second in the heat race and knowing I had a solid car for the feature.

In the feature I would start second, outside on the front row.  The plan was to either get a good start and get out front or fall in-line behind the 93. The preferred plan was of course to get out front on the start. Since the car was really good in the heat race we decided to change nothing on the car. I got out for the feature and I was ready for the race, but sadly the starter wasn’t. The starter broke just before going out on the track. A push from fellow racer Randy Cabral and I was ready to go. I warmed the tires up and prepared for the start. I got a nice start and got ahead of the 93. I gave him room underneath me for the first lap then I was able to shut the door as I slid into the lead. Lap 2 we would see the first of two cautions. I talked with Mark and dad about my start and prepared to lead the field to the green flag. I got a decent start, and got back out front. After a few laps I got a bump from behind. Seems the 32 was glued to my bumper. For most of the race he hung right there, making it a two car race. I kept him held off though up until lap 19 when we would see the second and final caution of the race. We talked about my start again and I was ready. I got a good start and cleared the 32 immediately. Unfortunately, as I went down into turn one,  I slowed up a little too much. I got a bump from the 32 and he jumped to my inside. We dragged race down the straightaway but with the inside position, he got the advantage. For the final 5 laps I held on for a second place finish. The car ended up getting too tight in the middle of the corner and was snapping loose off the corner. I was just happy to finally finish again and finishing second was a bonus. I have to congratulate Dan Fresh and the 32 team on their first Pro 4 win.

My next race is at Bethel Motor Speedway. This will be the first time the Pro4 Series has visited and I look forward to seeing how we can do out there.

I also have to give a thank you to all my sponsors for helping me every week. With out there support I couldn’t do what I’m doing. Thank you RAD, BaddAss Incorporated in Bellingham, MA, Marshall's Jewelers, with locations in Bellingham, MA and Milford, MA, Shibles Family Mattress in Gilford, NH, Ugly Duck Communications in Scituate, RI, and Amsoil.

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Trying to follow up to a great season start.

by Derek Robbie
Derek Robbie
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on Monday, 19 May 2014
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The race after winning your first race can always be nerve-racking.  You want to go out and make sure you can back up the good finish. For this race, we changed the front springs hoping to fix the entrance into the corner, and the exit. For us though we were also using this race as another learning experience and to continue to make the car better.

Prior to Thursday, my Saturday was looking very busy. I was going to have a track meet in the morning, then head up to the race track. With threat of rain on Saturday, they moved the track meet to Sunday which was okay with me. (As a side note: I was able to anchor my 4xmile relay team to a 5th place and a school record, and anchor my 4x800 relay team to a qualifying time for the state level meet). Now with the track meet moved, I was able to focus fully on the race. Practice started at 3:30pm so the morning was very relaxed, but once we got up there it was all business.

First practice came fast and I was ready to see what the new setup would bring. It immediately showed to be better. The entrance into the corner was so much better. The car would go anywhere I wanted it to. We still had a problem with exiting the corner though. I was way too lose off. All this showed up in the first few laps I was able to run. On lap 3 I was forced to pull the car in. The air cleaner decided to find its way off the car and on to the track. I would pull the car in and the air cleaner from last year would be put on. Second practice I wanted to keep the setup and just get more laps under my belt with the new setup before making adjustments. This time I slowed my corners down and really made sure I hit my marks. The car was really good in, but still really loose off. After talking to dad we added some wedge into the car, and closed the stagger up.

For the heat race I would start 6th. Since I’m a rookie, I’m forced to start in the back, which sometimes isn’t a bad thing, because you learn more passing cars than running away with the show. I also have to start in the back since I won the last feature race. The heat came fast and I was ready to turn some laps and learn. My plan was to simulate the race start, then settle in and learn not make any aggressive moves unless I had a clear hole to get by them. We want to make sure we make it to the feature. Right on the start I got by the 11a and settled in behind the 07 and 32 battling. The 07 got clear of the 32 by lap 2 and I slide right past him as well to settle into 4th. I started to close into the bumper of the 07. I got there a few times but I still wasn’t consistent. Then on lap 5 I got a little loose and lost some ground. I collected myself and settled back. The last 2 laps I picked the pace back up and now it was off to get ready for the race. The car seemed really good if I hit my marks. A little loose off but it was fast. If I didn’t hit my marks the car was all over place. Knowing this I knew what I had to do in the feature. Just hit my marks lap after lap.

In the feature I started 7th right behind the 32. We closed the stagger up a little to help the exit but I was ready to hit my marks. Right from the start of the race I got a nice start and was glued to the 32’s bumper. I did everything right till turn 1. I moved up the track then back down, then back up. Any space I had to get by the 11a and 32 was gone. So on lap 2 I sat back in the seat and refocused. It is all part of the learning curve. I got to their bumpers and followed them by the 93. I then started to look for ways around the 32 then the 11a. Every time I would get under I would have to tap the brakes to avoid him coming across my nose. I quickly laid back and kept trying to make the pass but I just couldn’t finish it. Lap 15 while we were lapping a car the 11a got really loose and the 32 got by and I had to settle in behind. Again a move that I replayed in my head and wish I did differently but that’s why I’m a rookie. I’m here to learn. I didn’t give up though. I wanted to get by both of them. I tried really hard to get by him but on lap 17 I got really loose. I was able to save the car but lost some ground. I refocused and started to bring him back him. Lap 19 going down into turn 3 I would have a problem though that would put an end to my night. Water would come out the back and Dad got me shut down and into the infield. They threw the caution anyways and I got the car pushed in to the pits. An end to a frustrating day. I just wasn’t able to hit my marks, but that’s why we race. I try to earn from my mistakes and get better every time I hit the track. I’m learning things even now as I recall thoughts to write this blog. I can’t wait to get back onto the track and put what I learned to work.

After some examination into the engine and talks with the engine builder Les Rose, it looks like we have a few things that could be wrong. We are getting them fixed and hopefully the problem will be too. The fixes are easy and it seemed the overheating didn’t affect the engine at all. We are also going to try and change the setup a little to get just that much better. My next race is at Waterford Speedbowl. A place I really like and have a great gasp on. I’m very exciting to see what I can do with more power.

I also have to give a thank you to all my sponsors for helping me every week. With out there support I couldn’t do what I’m doing. Thank you RAD, BaddAss Incorporated in Bellingham, MA, Marshall's Jewelers, with locations in Bellingham, MA and Milford, MA, Shibles Family Mattress in GIlford, NH, Ugly Duck Communications in Scituate, RI, and Amsoil.

 

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