Trucking (and Tractoring) With Twisty - 2007 Season by Mike Twist
The Truck That Won't Turn and the Mower That Really Moves
Pick-up trucks and tractors. If you live in the country, you probably couldn’t imagine going for long without either piece of machinery. But as helpful as they are in maintaining a piece of land, I’ve found a much better use for both. That is to race them. Up in Maine during the summer, that is exactly what I do.
With the help of the Seuss family of Modified racing, and their Rockingham Boat Modified team, I had my truck fired up for the first time within 24 hours of the gates opening at Beech Ridge. The early-season extra races were scrubbed, but somehow I did get on track for opening day at the Ridge.
Now the engine runs great, but the truck and its driver have been struggling when it comes to concerning around the track. To date, I have run three races at Beech Ridge with three finishes of ninth. Sounds good ,right? Well, this is a new series and the car counts have been building up. Those three ninth-place runs have come against field of ten trucks, nine trucks and nine trucks respectively. So in three weeks, I’ve finished ahead of one truck….and that one ended the night with a large dent in the side of its engine block, so it was an easy “pass”.
The #51 BDI/51 Designs Mini Truck. (51 Photos)
So far my racing season has been a pretty frustrating one, but I can already feel that starting to change – thanks to a new adventure in racing and some progress being made on my old truck.
After running in the Sport Truck series at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) last season with some success (a top finish of second…easily a career best result for me), I had a different plan for 2007. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) debuted a new Wednesday night racing series and to save an hour towing in each direction, I decided to take part in that new eight-race Summer Series. Since the Beech Ridge schedule didn’t start until late June, my original plan was to start out the year by racing quite a bit at Oxford and Unity Raceway (even further up the road in Maine). I figured that I’d easily get a half-dozen races under my belt early.
That didn’t exact happen though. What I thought was a timing problem from my last race of 2006 actually turned out to be a few bent valves and a damaged cylinder head.
My biggest problem has been tires. I ran mid-pack in the first race after I started on the outside of the front row, missed a shift on the start and then passed a bunch of trucks on a march back through the field. Then my right front tire came apart and I sunk right back to the tail of the field again. Things have pretty much been sliding downhill ever since.
Week two brought more tire problems, although this time there were also issues with the rear springs. The truck was barely drivable and at times, that wasn’t even the case. I spun out three times in practice and once in my heat race. Now, just because I share a first name with Mike Rowe and Mike Stefanik, doesn’t mean that I can drive anywhere near as well as they can…but, I’m not so bad to spin out multiple times on my own either. At least, I didn’t think that I was.
But on this night, I was a weapon…a menace…a squirrel. Say what you’d like, but I was the one that you’d watch in the feature and laugh at. Not a good thing to be.
So I went back to the drawing board and redid some things for week three. The good news is that it appears that my rear end housing isn’t shifting around anymore. The bad news? More tire trouble. It seems to be contagious.
How would you like to race with this tire? It wasn't much fun. Believe it or not, it still holds air!
This week, it actually started on the way to the track when the tread separated on a trailer tire. It continued in first practice when the entire right front wheel came off. Thankfully for my pride, it wasn’t because of loose lugnuts. All five were still on tight. However, the center section of the stock wheel that I was using broke completely out. Rules at Beech Ridge only allow a six-inch wide wheel and I had a stock full of seven inchers. I figured that using what I could find around the shop, as long as it measured correctly, would work fine. That wasn’t the case and it learned that really quick.
After being towed back in, I got going again…but I killed another right front in the second practice and another one in the feature.
The good news was that with some help from Mario Binnette, whose son has gone two for three in the division this season in his #96 Champion Auto Toyota, and a few members of the #96 crew I’m on the right track. They took pity on me and helped me
set-up the truck before its latest feature. The truck handled better in the feature, but still
suffered from a chunked tire. I parked it early and finished ninth. But with some tweaking, I might be alright before the end of the season.
So enough about truck racing, now it’s time for some real fun.
I’ve gotten sucked into another form of racing and will be making my debut with that on Friday night. I’m talking about lawnmower racing and it’s a blast to watch….I hope that it is equally as fun to take part in.
The Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club in Saco, Maine got a lawnmower racing league together last year. A dirt track was built and entries started to come in. Before long, there were enough tractors to require a B-Main. 40 and 50 lap feature races on every other Friday night have been action packed. Car owners and crew members from various short track teams have put together entries. Mike Rowe is even the regular driver of the pace tractor!
Speed51.com photographer Jamie Williams found me a cheap old Murray tractor to race and with the help of my father, Pluffybilt Racing Tractors and SP2 Mowersports – it is now ready to hit the track.
Pluffybilt is the creation of creation of Bruce Plouffe who races the #1 Lawn-Boy at Saco and knows just about everything there is to know about making lawnmowers go fast. Pulleys, transmissions, belts…you name it, “Pluffy” knows it.
SP2 Mowersports (formerly known as SP2 Motorsports) is actually a team that short track fans know well. It is the team that is fielded by Scott Pullen and Steve Perry. They used to race Super Late Models with Mike Rowe in the seat – winning races like the Oxford 250, the Beech Ridge 300 and the Atlantic CAT 250, as well as the 2006 PASS South championship. SP2 is now out of SLM racing (although Perry does still have a hand in a SLM driven by Kyle Busch and Brad Leighton on occasion).
Pluffybilt took up residence in the SP2 shop and the result is a team of 11 racing tractors – including mine. Whether it involves working on the tractors or racing them, these guys know how to enjoy themselves.
Plouffe, Pullen, Vinnie Currio and a number of others at the shop went to work on my tractor and came up with a freshly-painted rocker of a tractor. Switching around pulleys and belts gives it some serious top end speed. I'm not sure if my 11-horsepower Briggs and Stratton will keep up with some of the 18-horse John Deeres out there, but my tractor is light and hopefully it will handle pretty well.
Last Friday night was scheduled to be my first race with the #51 Tractor, but on the way to the track, we got the call that afternoon thunderstorms turned it into a muddy mess and there would be no racing that night. We had six tractors loaded up nose-to-tail in my race trailer and another four in other various trailers.
It was quite a sight to see. At least I still got to do some testing in the yard and I’ll tell you, the tractor is a monster to drive. Think of a four-wheeler that sits up way too high and you’ll get the idea. It's hard to steer, hard to turn and hard to keep on the seat. But it's also a blast to play around with.
So this Friday night is the big debut. There will be a 50-lap feature dubbed the Rowe and Sons Trucking Firecracker 50 at Pathfinders Snowmobile Club on Heath Road in Saco, Maine. If you are in the area, stop by. Racing starts at 7pm. I can almost guarantee that you’ll be looking through the want-ads the next day for an old tractor once you see us in action.
I'll keep you posted on how it goes.
Tractor racing here I come! That's Pluffy on the green #1 by the way.
Did you know that you could fit six racing tractors in a one-car trailer? Now you do.
My father Craig shakes down the #51 tractor, which lives with a bunch of other tractors in the Pluffybilt/SP2 shop.