TRUCKIN' WITH TWISTER - RACING INTO THE NEW YEAR by Mike Twist
Seuss Team Puts Speed51.com Writer Into a Pre-Hangover 150 Ride
When I first heard about the race, I intended on going to watch. An enduro race on New Year’s Eve to be held whether or not there was snow on the ground? Well, that sounds like fun. Since racing action is a little lean this time of the year, I figured it would be a good fit for Speed51.com to cover as well. So I made plans on heading up to Riverside with photographer Jamie Williams for the race.
I planned on bringing my notepad, tape recorder and camera. I didn’t plan on bringing my helmet and firesuit. That all changed two days before the race thanks to a phone call from Modified driver Andy Seuss.
“Want to drive our racecar this weekend at Riverside?” Andy asked me. He didn’t have to ask twice. I immediately jumped at the chance.
Seuss and his family and pit crew love to race. They’re pretty good at it too, winning the 2006 Florida Speedweeks Modified championship and posting strong finishes in the True Value Modified Racing Series and on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour with their family-owned team. The Seusses love racing so much in fact, that they have been known to keep a few enduro cars around to have fun with during off-weekends with their Modified. Crew member Jordan Wein usually wheels the #21 Ford Escort that the team currently has, but he couldn’t make it to Riverside. So that gave me the chance to get behind the wheel.
I hit the frontstretch wall about a half dozen times, I hit the backstretch wall twice and I hit other cars too often to count. I spun a few times, got spun a few times and spun a few other cars several times. I never really got stuck in the snow and only went down the frontstretch in reverse one time, so it could have been much uglier. Most of all, I had a blast.
So did the entire Seuss team – which consisted of Andy, his father Steve, his Mother Bobbi and sister Shelly.
“That was absolutely a fun way to spent New Year’s Eve,” said Andy Seuss, trying to play the unfamiliar role
end the race in the backstretch pit area, I kept driving. It really didn’t handle that much worse and I finished in the 17th position with both rear tires flat. At the end of the race, I was 39 laps down to winner Floyd Bennett, Jr.
Both amazingly, the #21 Shorty’s Pet Playhouse/J&C Optical Escort survived. In fact, I think that I should probably buy an Escort to drive on the street now because the darn thing was pretty much indestructible out there.
Power-sliding through the snow is fun, even if it is only in a stock Ford Escort. (Jamie Williams Photo)
I’ve raced on dirt and asphalt. But until Sunday’s Pre-Hangover 150 at Riverside Speedway (NH), I had never raced on snow. Now, I have and it might have been the most fun that I’ve ever had on a racetrack.
Coming out of turn four was the hardest part. The front end of the car would slide on the snow/ice and I found a whole new level of understeer. Usually, the car would hook up just enough to point itself down the frontstretch. Sometimes, it would hook up early and sent the rear end around. More often that that, it wouldn’t hook up at all and I would slide into, and bounce off of, the frontstretch wall. A few times, I rode the entire frontstretch wall and kicked a rooster tail of snow into the air. I offer my apologies to the flagman for that.
The day before the race, things got even more interesting. A few inches of snow fell on Northern New England, leaving a very interesting track surface. Another dusting on the morning of the race made sure that it would be a wild event.
There was no practice or heat races. The first time that I got on the track was to line up on the backstretch for the start. I managed to pull the 20th position out of 46 entries for the line-up. 42 of those cars made it to the line, I was almost not one of them. I slid around plenty just getting to the backstretch and nearly got stuck. The packed snow and ice on the quarter-mile oval and the worn front tires of the Escort weren’t a good combination at low speeds.
Plus, there was a problem under the hood. Something was steaming pretty bad under there. Sitting on the track waiting for the green flag seemed to take forever…and when the race started, my car promptly stalled.
It refired though and from that point on, my race was all about forward momentum. I found out that by going fast enough, I could drive through or bounce off just about anything – which was good since I had little control over where the Escort was going to go.
Early on, I cut a front tire after contact with another car. I went into the pits for Andy and Steve Seuss to change it for me. That’s when Andy stuck his head into the car to comment on some type of coolant leak that seemed to be getting worse.
“The car really doesn’t smell too good from out here,” Andy said.
I checked the temperature gauge and it was fine, so we kept trucking on.
I had two more flat tires during the remainder of the race, but I also had no idea what lap I was on. Not wanting to
I know that if I’m invited back to drive one of those cars (the Enduro, not the Modified!), I’ll be back too.
I got to test out both the frontstretch wall (Top -Jamie Williams Photo) and the backstretch wall (Bottom - Alan Ward Photo) at Riverside.
Mike Rainville's #22 helps me go for a spin. That was okay. I spun a few guys out too during the race. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Three-side action at Riverside. (Jamie Williams Photo)
of car owner after the race. “I’m happy with the debut of our driver. Everything went pretty smoothly coming out with a top 20 finish. The crew (which consisted of Andy and his father Steve changing a flat tire) worked well together. We had excellent pit stops all day long. It was a lot of fun and a great time of the year to have a race.”
Seuss was also shaking his head about the fact that I made it to the finish.
“You never gave up,” said Seuss. “Two tires, no tires, inside or outside. You still got the job done. I didn’t know what would happen. The car was smoking early on and during the pit stop, it smelled pretty funny. But it made it to the finish and drove itself on the trailer, so that is really good.”
Ever the racer, Seuss is now planning on the team’s next race – and looking ahead to the possible second annual Pre-Hangover 150.
“Hopefully, they will have it next year and we’ll be coming back as a multi-car team. We’ll be back. Now we’re looking forward to New Smyrna for our next race. We’re jumping from the Pre-Hangover 150 to Florida Speedweeks.”
The first thing that I did after the race was the check out the damage - and it wasn't that bad! (Jamie Williams Photo)