This past weekend I attended an indoor TQ (Three Quarter Midget) event at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. This was a two day event with over 50 cars competing for the chance to win the “Dunkin’ Donuts Cup”. The driver to win, leaves with one “cup”, and another will be on display with the driver’s name at the center till next year’s event.
This was the first indoor event I have attended, and to my surprise, there was an extreme diversity of cars at the event. From 750cc TQ’s to 600cc Mini Sprints, all competing together for the cup. The variety in chassis design, drive trains and setups, would blow your mind.
I was attending to help crew for Joe Payne Sr’s A-Plus Towing & Recovery sponsored, #66 TQ. The car was driven by Danny Shirey of Oberlin, OH. Danny also drives a Mini Sprint for owner Dick Hathaway, a 305 Sprint Car for owner Andy Roberts, and a Supermodified owned by Jim Shirey, Danny’s father.
So what does in door TQ racing look like? Well, it was in a hockey area where they removed the ice, and pushed back the first section of seats. The infield was basically the size of the original hockey rink while the space where the bleachers once sat became the race track. Being flat concrete, coke syrup is sprayed down on the concrete to establish the first bit of traction the cars will utilize while cornering. After many laps of practice are run, rubber from the tires replaces the coke syrup, or mixes with it depending on your view, and becomes even tackier.
Friday night started with a chance to feel the car out with a few practice sessions. During the first practice, Danny was fighting a push, as well as instability when getting on and off the gas. After making some adjustments to stagger and break bias, the car became too loose and during the time trials the rear end broke loose spinning Danny out and loosing the second time trial lap. With a time in the mid 9 seconds for his first lap, we started to the rear of our heat.
After time trails, more adjustments were made to get the car to perform more stable. Fortunately, the changes paid off.Starting 10th in the heat of 12 cars, Danny was able to fight and claw his way up the field and finished with a respectable 4th place, in turn qualifying for the feature event.
24 cars started the feature Friday night. We started 12. After many laps, and 11 cars heading to the pits from wrecks, Danny made his way to 6th place, where he was forced to lay hard on the breaks as a car involved in another accident stopped abruptly in front of him. The force in turn snapped the left break caliper off its mount and proceeded to rotate forward and lock the front left wheel from turning. This ended the night with a 13th place finish. An excellent finish when you consider there were 50 plus other cars competing in the same event.
Danny’s father, Jim, welded the caliper back in place Saturday morning for the start of day two of racing at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Unfortunately, the event did not give the opportunity to re-qualify for day two. This was too bad, because with the changes that were made to the car, it was at least a second faster than the day before.
This placed us starting in the back of the pack of our Heat. As many accidents threatened to take the #66 with them, Danny was able to avoid them all while sacrificing valuable track position. The heats consisted of 12 cars competing for the top 4 spots in only 10 short laps. This time, it just wasn’t enough to pull off a 4th place finish. We would be forced to run in the concy. The concy would be the last opportunity for the drivers to make the feature who did not make the top 4 from the heats.
With the same number of cars and laps as the heat, the concy proved to be just as difficult to come from the back of the pack. Danny was able to advance to 5th, being slowed only by wreaking cars in front of him. But in the 10 short laps allotted to advance it proved to be and impossible feat and we would be forced to watch the feature from the stands.
It was a pleasure to meet and work with Danny Shirey and his father Jim this past weekend. Their knowledge, experience and professionalism in open wheel racing gained my respect as a driver and competitor. I’ll be working with them again in January 2010 at the Gamblers Classic in Atlantic City, and I’m looking forward to it.