Update #10 – July 15, 2017 – Last week Spira Racing sold the #86 Mini Stock to rookie driver Erik Dalla Riva with Erik making his debut at Flamboro Speedway as part of the APC United Late Model Series event. Erik has a background in go karting and road course racing but Saturday night would mark his first attempt at stock car racing.
If his debut is any indication, he should be contending for wins in no time as he finished fourth in the first feature and 2nd in the second one. The #86 will be missed by Billy Schwartzenburg as he drove the car to a number of victories across the province over many years but with the commitment to the Pro Late Model division, it was time to let go of the past and let someone like Erik enjoy a quality car as he ventures into stock car racing at Flamboro.
The team spent the week in the shop making some adjustments to the #86 Pro Late Model to fix a small push condition that had prevented Billy from getting on the throttle as soon as he wanted in the centre of the corners the previous weekend in preparation for the round five of the APC Series at Flamboro. Billy went out for the first practice session and the push condition had rotated more on corner exit and that confirmed that the team was going in the right direction.
More adjustments made the car loose coming off the corners; however, a small adjustment backwards would be just what the driver wanted as he said the car was handling great as practice concluded.
Twenty-four cars lined up group qualifying and Billy quickly moved into the top-5 before being bumped back to 8th as the final group concluded their qualifying runs. After out of car driver introductions on the front stretch in front of a great crowd, a full field rolled out of turn 4 to take the green flag.
Unfortunately after just one complete lap and all cars running side by side, contact between the #97 and the #17 sent the #17 spinning high in the middle turn 3 & 4, stacking up the field from row 3 on back. It looked like Billy had the #86 stopped in plenty of time to avoid any contact but the accordion effect of the field stacking up behind him caused the #32 to give Billy just enough of a bump that the right front made contact with the outside wall.
While this was all happening the #22m drove over the right rear tire of the #10 just behind Billy sending the #22m flying into the air ultimately landing on top of the wall. As Billy got out to survey the damage, he radioed to the team that he wasn’t able to drive the car back to the pits as the front tires were pointed in opposite directions. With the track under a red flag the tow truck brought the #86 back to the pits as a rotating crane that was on site for a promotional event worked at lifting the #22m off the wall and over the fence.
With the car now back in the pits, the team was able to go over the damage but if they worked on it under the red flag they would go two laps down when they got back on track. After getting the spare parts and wrenches together the team decided to take the two lap penalty as it was unknown just how much damage there was and they needed to get started if they were going to have any chance of getting back on the track.
Although the right front spindle was badly bent, it was not broken so the team replaced the tie rod to bring the front tires back in line. Removing and reinstalling the bolts was not an easy task with the bent pieces and with Billy’s spotter David keeping the team informed as to how the track cleanup was going, they ultimately weren’t able to get the car repaired before the track went back to green.
Yet another red flag shortly after the field got restarted allowed the team some more time to get the car fixed but with Flamboro being the only track in the series that does not allow cars to re-enter the track under green flag conditions, Billy was forced to stop at track entrance in turn 4 just as the field took the green flag and he then had to wait for another caution before they would let him on the track.
On lap 79 the caution finally came out for the #89 spinning in turn 1 allowing Billy to rejoin the tail-end of the field many laps down. Billy was instructed to be extremely careful and run as many laps as he could as a number of cars were already out of the race giving him the chance to still pick up a few positions. Over the last 21 laps Billy was able to stay ahead of the leaders and said that the car was actually handling pretty good despite the bent spindle.
Finishing a disappointing 20th, the team headed back to the shop to unload the car so they could get a head start early in the week to ready the car for next weekend’s regular point’s night back at Flamboro.
Billy returns to Flamboro Speedway on Saturday July 22nd where the front gates open at 5:00 PM and racing gets underway at 6:00 PM. It will be a busy night for the team as once they get back to the shop after Flamboro, they have to get the car ready to head to the revamped Jukasa Motor Speedway the following morning for an open tire test put on by the APC Series and American Racer in preparation of the tracks grand reopening at the end of August. Samantha Shaw returns to Sunset Speedway that same night for a regular points night. The front gates open at 4:30 PM with racing getting underway at 6:00 PM.