From Bill Wright
January 31, 2017 – Terry McCarl made another successful trip to Australia, competing in four race nights for Ken and Benisa Hutchins #V29. The Altoona, Iowa driver qualified for the finale at the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic at Premier Speedway near Warrnambool, Victoria. This was the first time the #V29 team had competed in the Classic. TMAC will return to action in the States later this month in Florida.
TMAC was thankful for his hosts. “I have to thank Ken and Benisa Hutchins, Leah and Trista Spinner, Benn Hall, Michael Tancredi and Paul Solomon for making this trip possible,” he says. “Michael is the Hutchins normal driver and we ran as a team. I know some of their partners were West Coast Concreting, Barry Medew Building Supplies, Cubic and Highton Bobcat.”
The first stop was the first trip to Simpson Speedway in Victoria for TMAC. “It was a fun racetrack,” he says. “It reminded me of an avocado. It was really tight in three and four. They did an amazing job with the track. They reworked the bottom for the feature and left the top alone. It made for good racing.”
He took to it quickly. “We timed in seventh or eighth quick,” says TMAC. “We ran second in our first heat, and started at the back of our second. I had a hard time getting going, and we were trying for third when we got chopped in the wrong end of the avocado. That spun us out and killed us pointwise. We didn’t make the Pole Shuffle, but we started eighth in the feature.”
The setup for the feature came in as the race wore on. “We went with a little harder tire than anyone, which really cost us in the beginning,” says TMAC. “We came on at the end like crazy though. We were eighth with eight or nine laps to go, and ended up running second. It was fun for the first night in the car. Even though it had only been a couple months, it seemed like forever.”
It was a rare 410 event for the #V29 team. “Our team normally runs 360’s, so they rented a motor for the week,” says TMAC. “We timed in groups (as they moved on to the President’s Cup at Avalon Raceway) and we were able to get fast time with our group. They inverted ten in the first heat and we ran sixth, which was great. We started on the pole of the second. I think we would have won no problem, but we broke a lifter. That set us back. We still ran second on seven cylinders. We took the green and pulled off in the feature.”
TMAC was wondering what the motor trouble meant for the Classic. “That put us in a bad situation going into the Classic, because the team doesn’t own a 410,” he says. “Fortunately, Matt Reed, who a lot of the people in the States remember racing there, was nice enough to come to our rescue. He loaned us a really nice engine.”
That set things up for the Classic January 20-22. “There were 106 or 107 entries,” says TMAC. “It’s a lot of fun and I recommend it to anyone. It’s definitely the Knoxville Nationals of Australia. They split their field. We were third quick. We were able to win our heat with Ian Madsen starting next to us. That was really important. Time trials go down by two points, but the heat positions go down by twelve, so they are huge. We were sitting pretty at that point.”
The second heat didn’t go as well for TMAC. “I just missed the setup in the second set,” he says. “It was slick, which usually is in my favor. We started eleventh and ran tenth. We weren’t able to start up front in the feature (13th) and that killed us. We ran 13th. We weren’t great in the feature. It’s tough. Everyone in there is tough.”
Sunday’s finale program was lined up by points. “We ran pretty well in Sunday’s heat,” says TMAC. “We started fifth and ran fourth. We really needed to get up to third to lock into the feature. We ended up starting in the second row of the B. It was tough. We had former champion Shane Stewart, and last year’s champ, Jamie Veal behind us. There was a lot of pressure. We were able to get up to second right away, but a lapped car kind of slowed us and we ended up third.”
That was enough to lock TMAC into the finale, where he would drive from 22nd to 14th. “Making the show was big for the team,” he says. “They had never run the Classic before, so making the feature in the country’s biggest event was great for them. We were able to gain eight spots, driving up to fourteenth. We actually tied for hard-charger with Cory Eliason, but he started ahead of us and got it, which is the way it should be.”
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