03.29.11 - Moose Earns Rookie Stripes
With sponsorship from Ken Stabler's Legend Cellars Wine, the Moose made his first Super Late Model starts with a double header weekend starting with the Buddy's Home Furnishing 100 at Pensacola's 5 Flags Speedway followed by the Miller Lite 100 at Mobile International Speedway a Rick Crawford Performance Track. The Moose got tangled up in other people's mess and was out early in Pensacola. An all nighter by the team got the Legend Cellars Wine Fusion to MIS on Saturday where the Moose made the distance and finished 13th. For more Moose: MaxForceRacing.com
Pensaocla: After a whirlwind week of testing and the announcement of new sponsor Ken Stabler's Legend Cellars Wine the Moose was looking forward to a little seat time behind the wheel of his Turner Motorsports Ford Fusion. Thursday testing at 5 Flags was frustrating as the tired old surface worked a number on the Buddy's Home Furnishings Super Late Model rookie. A little more practice on race day and a couple of trips through tech man Ricky Brooks "Room of Doom" still left our team looking for the right package for the Moose. "We really struggled in practice but we didn't give up we kept throwing setups and laps at our Wine Ride and like a fine wine it kept getting better with time," said Thomas.
The Moose timed in the 18th spot next to a couple of Pensacola Icons, Scott Carlson on the inside and Wayne Neidecken Jr. behind him. The field got off to a clean start and the Moose's car in race trim was much better than qualifying but the conga line to the front was long and the race was early. The Moose dodge a couple of wrecks and then on lap 35 a couple of cars spun in front of the Moose. With the track nearly blocked the Moose ducked to the right but ran out of room slapping the outside retaining wall. "Really disappointing, so many people worked so hard to get us here it's just really disappointing." The wreck destroyed the right front suspension and sent our team scrambling to get ready for Saturday night.
Without the convenience of a back up car the team worked until the sun came up and then went back at it after a few hours of sleep. Nothing was going to keep our team from opening night at Mobile International Speedway a Rick Crawford Performance Track.
What looked bad at the track was worse at the shop. Our team dug in and started working on getting the Wine Ride back together. Fortunately our team is prepared with spares already at their prescribed lengths and dimensions. The real issue was the upper control arm mounting bracket.
The bracket is a critical piece of suspension and was bent at a 45-degree angle. While one part of the team worked on the right front suspension another went to work on the body parts, another worked on the rest of the car that needed to be changed for Mobile. We rolled in to MIS a little late and a little banged up but with a solid chassis.
Our first job in practice was to make sure we had all of our pieces back together. A few hard laps and the Moose uncorked his Wine Ride. After a solid test the team struggled to get a handle at MIS. The Moose timed into the 15th spot matching his best time from Sunday's test, behind Josh Hamner and in front of Pro-Late Model Champion DJ Vanderley.
With the drop of the green flag the Moose settled in behind Hamner, Kyle Busch's development driver TJ Reid and pole sitter ARCA driver Grant Enfinger. The race took on a green flag look and went 97 laps before the first caution. While the Moose was giving 100%, the handling on his car wasn't. Our rookie team could have used a couple of cautions to adjust on the car but on Saturday night that wasn't meant to be and the Moose finished 13th. "I just really couldn't be prouder of our team. They worked from the moment the car hit the ground off the wrecker until we loaded it up for the Speedway. Then to match our mock qualifying run from testing is a real testament to how good they are," offered Thomas.
"I really appreciate Turner Motorsports giving me this opportunity and to have the Snake with the Moose is really cool. Mr. Ken (Stabler) spent a lot of time with our race team this weekend, if we were on the track he was in the pits. He's a quick study and he's already picking up on what we're doing to our Legend Cellars Fusion. While he's learning about racing we're learning from him about being on a great team, a winner is a winner. Our goal was to have all 4 corners on the car and make 200 laps. Well we have 3 corners and 135 laps. I would say our results give us a D+-C- weekend but the results really don't reflect the effort our team put in. In 2 weeks we'll be back at Mobile with Christine, (Pro-Late Model) there's no rookie stripes on Christine and we're not looking to log laps. Congratulations to Mr. Rick (Crawford new Manager/Promoter at Mobile International Speedway.) on a big opening night. The fans were having a great time and I'm looking forward to seeing them back in 2 weeks."