Kirk Alexander Meets the Challenge of the Widow Maker by Denise Dupont
The A-Team Brings Lightening Speed to Thunder Road
Peter Jarvis (#9nh) led early, but Kirk Alexander (#43) led when it mattered most at Thunder Road. (Jim Dupont Photo)
“I cannot say that I really held back. I did not take any chances was what I was trying to do because they would come back and bite me. I saw the leader coming and how those guys got all bottled up and then you cannot really pass.”
Turn four of the track has a wall that has been nicknamed “The Widow Maker” by drivers who had their race prematurely end as their cars met the wall. The winner of the race was among those who brushed up against her.
“It really gets tight up in turn four and once you get too wide that is about it. When things singled out I could get going. I had a few close calls. I bounced it off the walls and I got together with the #0 car (Mike Holdridge) and he climbed up over the inside of my bar. We both straightened it out though. I got lucky. Right place, Right time”
So Kirk was one who survived a meeting with the track's wall of fame.
Summer started with a roar as the True Value Modified Racing Series brought Modifieds back to Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) on Memorial Day weekend. This was the first visit of the True Value Modified Racing Series to the small bull ring ever and the first time Modified cars have returned to the track for 43 years. And when the race ended on Sunday, fans knew why they call the track Thunder Road and the Modified cars groundpounders.
Kirk Alexander won the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day 100, which allowed him to place a new notch on his belt for another victory. Alexander has somewhat of a record of having won at every track that the TVMRS has raced at since the series inception and that continued this weekend.
“It was an awesome weekend,” said Alexander. “So far, we have a win at every track, but we have Wiscasset to conquer still and I have not seen that place yet.”
Alexander started the race second from last and did what he does best - he charged through the field of cars to win the race.
“We worked on the car and worked on it. We made some changes for the feature and they paid off. I was turning right at the center and coming out of two was where I made the some good moves to pass guys. That was where I had worked on it in practice to make the car good there.”
During the race there were cars spinning and turning everywhere, but Alexander
managed to stay safe and miss most of the action.
David Pinkham races by some great views at Thunder Road. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Veteran driver Dwight Jarvis tried hard to get a win in his home sate of Vermont but he only managed to pull off a second place finish behind the crafty Alexander.
“The car felt real good,” said Jarvis. “I think that I had as good a car as Kirk did. But he just got out in front before I did. It was all in who got out front first today.”
The track did allow drivers to make move and pass as the top two cars showed with their finishes. Dwight Jarvis had only half the way to go as Alexander but the journey was still a challenge.
“He had to come a long ways from the rear and I had to do it battling from midpoint. We both had a good run and it was a real fun track to race on.”
The trek to Thunder Road was a short trip for Jarvis' #28 race team, who usually has a long commute to compete.
”It felt real good racing in my home state. We got up yesterday morning and traveled an hour and a half and be at the track already. I saw a lot of people I knew and local fans.”
Peter Jarvis continued his strong run in the TVMRS with a podium finish. But after leading for about two-thirds of the race, Peter Jarvis lost his lead to the A-Team car that had made his way from the rear.
“The big guns got to me,” said Peter Jarvis. “They came all the way from the back to take the lead. You have to pace yourself when you are up front. You probably use more car then you really need at the beginning. We are learning to pace ourselves.”
They say that racing is eighty percent luck and twenty percent skill and sometimes the skill overcomes the luck. This was the case for Peter Jarvis when seasoned Alexander passed him to take over the lead.
“The 10x team is getting stronger and stronger every week. They are behind me. I am behind them and you could not ask for anything more.”
This was the first time for most drivers at Thunder Road and an opportunity for them to taste the speed of the small track. Alexander joined the ranks of those that loved the track challenge.
“I love it here. Even before I went out to race, I said that this track was awesome. When you figure it out it is a great little bullring. It is fun to drive!
“You are climbing in the corner and sweeping in the big turns and coming off right to the bottom. I love doing that just riding it in. It is like driving a big 600 horsepower go-kart. It was a blast," said Alexander.
Ed Dauchenhausen's #10x (Rick Ibsen Photo)
“Kirk went to the high side and our plan was to stay low and make him go high to go around. And he did that. Then Dwight went up as well. They said I had more I had a behind me so I moved up and there was more grip up at the top at the end then there was at the bottom. They tried it first and you never know. That is the luck of racing. We feel really good where we ended up.”
Ed Dachenhausen in the #10 car started the race in ninth spot and drove in the top five group most of the day. His goal was to win the race but in the end a fourth place finish was his to take home.
“Our goal was to win but we lost our power steering after lap 40 so we were hanging on for dear life,” said Dauchenhausen. “We did the best we could with what we had. We had real good car and we are glad we got by every body when we did because it would have been tough getting though there with no power steering.
“I love Thunder Road, it is a great track. It was OK racing. I had a blast.”
During the 2008 race season, Dachenhausen has wheeled the #10x car in the front of the pack several times. Driving with his new team this year has been a great marriage so far for the Dachenhausen team.
But then again, it is very close quarters for a big go-kart shared with other drivers.
“I have a lot of respect to the guys I run with because anyone of them could have wrecked me coming off of turn four. We all get along good.”
But speed and the tricky track dealt a twist of fate for two second generation drivers as they competed for the lead. On lap 81, Dale Evonsion (#35) and Chris Pasteryak (#15) were dueling for the first spot when just one move took both cars out of the lead.
“I was up to his (Dale Evonsion's) left rear,” said Pasteryak. “Could I have backed off? It was probably a little too late. He though could have given me a little more room. Then maybe I would have let him correct it and we would have gone another lap.”
“It was probably my fault,” said Pasteryak. “I was a little impatient. I knew that Pinkham was right behind me and he was coming. Dwight was behind him and I think that Kirk was behind them. We did not have a whole lot of room. That was the reason that was why I was not really working the outside because I knew that I was going to leave the bottom line open and then I was going to go back to fifth.”
Chris Pasteryak (#15) and Dale Evonsion (#35) (Jim Dupont Photo)
Pasteryak did recover and managed a fifth place finish.
“They knew we were here and got back up to fifth. I did not give up. It was the best car that we ever had any where. I hope that we come back here next year. I cannot wait if we do.”
Among all other things, Pasteryak will want to re-visit the widow-maker.
“I used it to make the corner actually. It was a gentle nudge to the widow-maker, a bank shot.”
Evonsion on the other hand was not so lucky and went home with a disappointing nineteenth place finish.
David Pinkham, the last TVMRS race winner, made it from the very last place in the pack all the way up to third spot at one point. David was racing hard behind the leader Dale Evonsion and second place car Chris Pasteryak when the cars went to high up in the dirt in turn three. Pinkham stopped on the track to avoid hitting the cars which cost him his third place position as officials placed him to the rear of the field.
“They did not see it my way I guess.”
Pinkham did not give up though. He wheeled his car from the back up to an eighth place finish.
Then there were those that did not have the type of finish that they would like to see at Thunder Road. Andy Seuss was one of them.
“I would also like to redeem myself after today's showing,” said Seuss. “We had a real good car early on.”
Then during a late race caution, the #70 team's run to the front came to an end. “
I do not know what happened with the #22 car (David Pinkham). A caution was out for a half of a lap and he just rolled up on to the back of the car. After that, on the restart the car was never the same. The rear end was moving around about an inch and a half back and forth. We were just getting tight and then loose. We just stayed out there to get a good finish.
“I didn't hear the yellow and we ended up getting into the back of Andy Seuss. That kind of messed things up a little bit in the end, which is my fault,” said Pinkham about the mishap.
Les Hinckley also left Thunder Road disappointed with a damaged car. He was involved in an incident just before the widow-maker wall that took him out of the competition for the day.
“I really don't know what happened. I do not know what started it and I could not see it really good. And in the end it did not turn out really good. Guys told me that cars got checked up and the #13 car (Steve Masse) got turned around.”
Then the #06 car of Hinckley was up and over the #13 car before he could react.
“It happened so fast. They told me on the radio that there was a wreck on the front stretch. I could not see anything. As soon as I started slowing down the whole thing started and he was right there in front of me. I locked the brakes up and there was not really any room to go on the outside of him around the wall. It just was what it was.”
As the holiday ended, the TVMRS left the high banked track high in the hills of northern Vermont and the spectacular view of nature behind as they headed back to their shops to rest up with a couple of weeks off. The next event for the series will be Saturday, June 14th at Seekonk Speedway.
Kirk Alexander's winning ride. (Rick Ibsen Photo)