Tuesdays with TMAC – Short Trackin’!

TMAC at the Short Track Nationals (Brandon Young Photo)

TMAC at the Short Track Nationals (Brandon Young Photo)
TMAC at the Short Track Nationals (Brandon Young Photo)
From Bill Wright

November 8, 2016 – The season wrapped up for Terry McCarl and the TMAC Motorsports #24 team with last weekend’s Short Track Nationals at I-30 Speedway near Little Rock, Arkansas. After a slow start Thursday, the Altoona, Iowa driver locked himself into Saturday night’s finale with a podium run on Friday. He would ultimately be sidelined in a battle for fifth, but it was a strong end to a successful 2016.

On Friday, TMAC drew a big number for his heat and could not find his way forward in a non-stop event on a fast track. “We didn’t have the car driving forward in the heat,” he says. “It was wet and rough, and I didn’t want the car tight entering the corners. It was kind of a godsend in that we knew we were behind the 8-ball. We thought about loading up, but we used the rest of the night as a practice session.”

It proved to be the right decision. “We threw something at the car that we’d been wanting to try, and it worked well,” says TMAC. “We were able to win the C from fourth by taking our time getting to the front. Then, we were able to move up about five spots in the B. We needed a yellow. I think we had a car capable of getting up into a transfer. Shane (Stewart) and I had both caught the group of cars in front of us. We were glad we raced it, because it was good for our confidence. We knew we had a car that was in the game for Friday.”

The draw didn’t go much better, but the night did. “We drew 128 the first night, and 119 the second night,” says TMAC. “We kind of laughed it off. We went down there to relax and have some fun. My Dad always told me if you’re fast, you’re fast. We were able to start sixth in the heat and won it. The track was slicker on Friday. Then we finished third in the Qualifier after starting sixth. That made us highest in points, which was awesome.”

With a starting spot on the pole of the feature, a podium finish would lock TMAC into Saturday’s finale. “I watched the second B and it looked like it was laying rubber then,” he says. “I went and changed my car a bit. It really didn’t hurt us, but starting on the bottom was tough. Tim (Shaffer) had a good run. I tried my best to hold him back, but I couldn’t. I think if I win that start, it’s a different story. I was loose the first few laps. Once the rubber came, we were very good. I could have pushed the issue on the last lap and probably got second, but there was no use crashing us both because we were locked in.”

The Dash draw on Saturday saw him start fourth. “The track kind of tricked me in the Dash,” says TMAC. “I thought we had our setup down, but we were loose. It’s a funny track. I was just a little free. Again, it was a good test session, and we ran fifth.”

TMAC would run sixth in most of the 40-lap finale, but his car came on late. “It got slick on both ends going in,” he says. “Coming off of two and four, especially four, there was a ton of moisture. So what do you do? Do you loosen it for that? It was a heck of a guessing game. I saw Jason Johnson was working up top, so I tried that. It worked well, but Chad Kemenah stuck his nose under me. He’s such a great driver down there. I had to get back down there. I was all over the guy in front of me (Brian Bell).”

He made a move on Brian Bell for fifth. “I went to the top in one and two and got into those ruts,” says TMAC. “That upset the car a little bit, but it was a good run. The next lap, I went to the middle of one and two through the rough stuff. It was a good run and I had him passed. I drove in on his right rear heading into three. He got into the moisture and got kind of sideways. That stuck us in the fence coming down the front straight. We tore the car up pretty good. He got his right rear into the cockpit. It could have been worse, but it ticked me off that the car was torn up. We were helpless going across the front straight in front of everyone, and I’m thankful that we had some good drivers behind us to avoid that.”

TMAC was happy to show speed at both the Trophy Cup and Short Track Nationals to finish the season. “It was an unfortunate to end the year that way when we were headed for a top five finish,” he says. “To finish with a third and fifth there is great. Tracks like that aren’t my forte and it was a neat experience. Racing in front of fans that don’t get to see us often or at all is always fun. My Uncle Ivan, who is my Dad’s brother died a few years ago, but his son, grandson and great grandson were all there watching us Friday night and that was neat. I don’t get to see them very often. To go from competing for a win in California to doing the same at the Short Track Nationals makes me proud as an owner. Doug (Rankin) does a great job and we had Brandon Ikenberry there too, doing a great job.”