Winter Indoor National Series 2013
by Christian Blake
SmacTrac - St. Louis, MO • February 9th - 10th 2013
Classes raced/results for Christian Blake:
2WD 17.5 Spec Short-Course Expert (Slash): Qualified 8th in A, Finished 3rd
4WD Short-Course Expert (Slash 4X4 Platinum): Qualified 1st in B, Finished 1st in B
This was my first time racing at this facility. I had received good reports about the track and the racers here, so I was looking forward to the race. With over 350 entries for this weekend's race, I knew this was going to be a weekend of fierce competition.
I got to the track shortly after it opened on Friday and got set-up in the pits early so I could have a full day of practice. I was able to get several good sessions in, but I was fighting tire choices and learning this new track at the end of the day. The track was smooth, with a lot of jumps and a tight line. When practice ended Friday evening, I was confident I would be able to do well in qualifying the next day with a little tire modification. Tire selection was going to be a key factor to being competitive on this track with the jumps, tight corners, and hard-pack surface. I worked Friday night grinding the treads off of two sets of tires so I could run "ghosted" tires for qualifying. Just like the full-sized races, it sometimes takes a lot of work to get a stock tire ready for the track.
My first qualifier race Saturday was 17.5 2WD. I spent the first two qualifiers trying to dial in my Slash to this track; it seemed like it was just out of reach. I was still not getting the traction and steering I needed to be competitive and just could not find the "magic setup". I shortened the wheelbase and raised the ride height in the rear, but it finally came back to proper tire selection. After two mid-pack qualifiers, I switched tires again and ran a set of full pins. This made all the difference in how the truck handled. I now had the traction and steering I needed to be competitive. Both my 3rd and 4th qualifier races were much better, and I was able to dial the truck into this track. With my mid-pack finishes in the first two qualifier races, I qualified 8th in the A-main. Not where I wanted to be, but I felt confident that Sunday would be a great race now that I had the truck set up for the conditions of this track.
I fought the same tire selection issues in the 4x4 Mod class that I had with the 2WD, and, with the strong competition in this class, I was able to qualify 11th. That finish placed me in the top spot of the B-Main.
Sunday morning came early, as they were starting the mains at 7:30 AM. Starting in the 8th position would make this race a definite challenge. This track was very technical and tight, with only one good line, making passing almost impossible. I knew I would have to be in the right position, run a clean race, and be ready to capitalize on the mistakes of others if I was able make it to the front of the pack. Early in the race, the 9th qualifier took me out in a turn, and I was only able to make it back to 7th place before I ran out of time. In the 2nd main, I stayed clean and ran in a train of trucks in 6th place until the final lap, when the 4th place truck tried to pass the truck in 3rd and caused a pile-up. I had been waiting the whole race for this opportunity and fought my way around the 3rd, 4th, and 5th place drivers to take 3rd place. Both the 1st and 2nd place drivers ran a strong race and held their lines; they just never gave me the opening to move up on them on that final lap. This heat left me feeling confident after moving from 8th to 3rd place and I was ready for the 3rd main.
What a great race! I was able to run a clean line and put myself in position to capitalize on the mistakes the other drivers made as they pushed their trucks just a little too hard. I worked my way around traffic and crashes to finish in 3rd place. This sealed a 3rd place overall finish for me in the 17.5 2WD class. The Slash did amazing in this race, taking all the punishment this track and the other drivers threw at it and finishing strong and ready for more.
In the 4WD main, I placed my dialed-in Slash 4X4 Platinum on the pole of the B-Main. I knew I just had to stay clean and run a safe line against a strong field of competitors that all wanted to finish in the top spot. I drove a clean, close-fought race until the very last lap. While passing lap traffic, I got tangled into a slower truck and this allowed the 2nd place driver to catch up to me. By the time I had cleared lap traffic, it was a neck-and-neck dash to the finish to see who would come out on top. Thanks to a good line and great truck, I was able to fight off his aggressive challenge to finish just ahead of him for the win.
It was a great weekend of racing. The track was exciting, race competition challenging, and my Traxxas trucks all ran flawlessly. I met a lot of great people, both on and off the track. It was also rewarding to be able to help other Traxxas racers dial in their vehicles. This track will be seeing a lot more Traxxas drivers in the winner's circle in the future!
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