12X Team (Go-Kart) Racing

Tomorrow is the Top Speed Modifieds banquet. Going to be a fun trek, in the snow, down to Indiana. We look forward to it. It also marks the 3 month “anniversary” of the 1st annual 12x team go-kart outing at Extreme Indoor Kart Racing in Clio, Michigan. It was a celebration of the championship, and a chance for everyone to unwind a bit. All racing family was invited, whether it be team members, friends, crew, coworkers, college bros – and we had all groups covered.

We had an elaborate qualifying format set up, but with a spate of cancellations at the last minute (forget about your kids – and who really needs to work!?), and a party immediately after us, we consolidated to one group. The 11 of us engaged in 2 qualifying sessions of 5 minutes each. Best lap time between the two was “your” time. Top 6 were to be inverted. Karts were chosen in order by where you timed. It was then on to an extra length 14 minute A-main (which left most sore for days after).

After qualifying it was apparent that Kyle Drake was way ahead of the group. Instead of starting in 6th, he elected to start shotgun. He probably thought there was a bonus on the line for starting “Senneker.” The start was dicey with father and son duo Mike and Alex Stenberg clogging the track through the first 3 turns after the standing start. Mike tried to block both lanes coming on to the long straightaway which ended up with him facing the wrong way off the bumper of Occhipinti, who had started 3rd.

Occhipinti eventually worked to the lead and tried to gap the field while Kyle diced through the field. He got to 2nd on lap 4 and got the gap down to about 5 seconds. That was as close as it got and Occhipinti took the win. Testament to their closeness in speed is that Occhipinti had fast lap in the feature…by .002 over Drake. The top 4 finished on the lead lap, which was 24 laps completed.

Finishing order (with start position in parentheses): M. Occhipinti (3), K. Drake (11), Austen S. (5), John C. (4), Mike Stenberg (1), Alex S. (2), Cam B. (9), Chris Oz (7), Blake (6), Marshall B (10), Hosam (8)

Reprising a fun race – 800 miles away

It was July 15, 2012 when I had the luxury of hopping in a Legends car and turning right as well as left. It was a [stinkin] blast. I felt much more comfortable than I had in any of my oval track races in it to date. I managed to win a heat and get 2nd in the feature.

Fast forward to November of 2016. Heading to Atlanta for the weekend with a rather open schedule. I still get Legends e-mails and find out there is a road course race a mere 60 miles away from my hotel. In the era of Uber and Lyft, this is easily manageable.

I make a few calls, and the next thing I know I am receiving a handwritten contract via text message, signing a contract via fax and figuring out a way to get my racing equipment in one bag so I can pay less on the plane.

It will be a good time on Saturday – heat and a feature on a 1.14 mile circuit in Elliottville, err Dawsonville, GA. I cannot wait to post updates from down south.

Talk to y’all from Hotlanta in 3 days,


Last Points Race – Whittemore Speedway

And for sure it was. Kyle made the prudent call, as we would have had to make modifications to fit it in our car. The time we started hoisting the old one till the new one was set was a duration of 1hr and 51 minutes. The engine was fired for the first time about 5:30AM (good thing Drake Racing is based pretty close to the country) and the hood was going on about 20 minutes later. None of us had slept yet, and loading the car/trailer was one of the more challenging tasks for the night. Thankfully the sun started to come up soon after we started that task.

It was admittedly melancholy to push the trusty 12x off in the yard, but obviously there was no room for two cars on this trip. We finished loading and agreed that sleep would not be a good thing. We stopped for fuel (thanks to whomever reminded us they would not have it at the racetrack) and fuel for us. Omelette, pancakes, and of course coffee all went down easy.

Surprisingly there was not much dozing on the way to the track. We arrived about 30 minutes before practice started. It was nice to see so many people come up to see us, smiling, and saying that they were happy we were able to get it replaced. They crowded around to watch us roll out…a number 81.

The day was such a rush that it helped us not focus on how tired we were. Lulls in the action were not helpful. Setting the toe on the car was enough to induce a power-nap. But after getting acclimated (Kyle is a lot thinner, a lot taller, and oh his car has a hand clutch) we ran session after session. Many of these were to try suggestions that our shock gurus from RAM Engineering (who were there for the big show) laid forth. I did not count, but I would be surprised if we did not run the most laps out of anyone. We were making incremental gains, but not consequential enough. In our next to last session we got to sniffing distance of where we thought the cut line would be for locking in.

Just before time trials we got the official word that we would have to change the number to 12x or we would not be scored for our standard points. We rummaged up duct tape and old numbers to make the car “sort of” look like ours.

I don’t see no stinkin’ 81!

We went a couple tenths faster in time trials, which was a pleasant surprise for once. Unfortunately, so did most! 26 cars timed within 0.18 of one another. Regretfully…we were 25th of those 26th, which found us in 34th. That led to an uneventful LCQ race – started 5th and finished 5th. We then went out on the track for the autograph session. The Whittemore fans are always so great and happy to see the full field of fire breathers.

The B-main was much better. We started 11th, but continuously worked our way forward. We briefly got as high as 3rd on a restart, but ended up 5th. The car was really coming in, and I think could have been solid in the A-main.

Disappointingly we watched the A-main from the grandstand for the second night in a row. But, we had done enough – with all of the efforts through the night (and the season) – to secure the points title. We loaded up and took off. After being awake for 42 hours straight, I finally had to rest about an hour into the trip. The front seat of the Malibu was mighty comfortable, even from the parking lot of the Hampton Inn it was facing. Made it home safely with a huge smile on my face.

The next edition will talk about future plans as the team rebuilds to get stronger.

Still catching up on sleep,


Coulda Been a Good Night

The team had high hopes going into our last “official weekend” of the race season. It was the end of the points campaigns with 2 races in 2 days. A deep breath could be taken after that with only fun to be had at future jaunts. We rolled into Dixie Motor Speedway on Friday August 5th feeling good. We arrived on time (I know, again!) and set up shop. Tires were procured for both nights and we suited up for practice.

The car felt good in practice. There was decent grip, and only minor changes were needed. We timed consistently in the top 8, which would guarantee a place in the invert. We discussed strategy and even did a mock qualifying run to get ready.

We rolled out early for time trials, and took off into turn one. Typically we have a push condition before the tires get up to temp, but that was limited. Got to turn 3, and the car turned very well. Took the green flag and getting back to the gas off turn 2 the note soured and a severe vibration occurred. It was apparent what had happened; we had lunched the motor. To the dismay of everyone in attendance I rolled around to make sure I completed the first lap, as I wanted it to be a valid qualifying attempt. I got off the backstretch and parked it on the road to the pits where it evacuated the remainder of its oil. The block was freshly aerated, and we could see light where we shouldn’t see light. We solemnly loaded the car back in the trailer.

Because we had trekked so far we sat as a team, enjoying the racing whilst texting everyone the disappointing news. Kyle Drake offered us his car, and his motor – but the two had to be combined. We ate our walking tacos, once I learned what one was, and watched the mod race. Once it ended we made the call – let’s swap it. We skipped out before the late models ran. Kyle and Cam would have a 75 minute head start on us. The work started with all 4 of us at 11:30PM.

Practice started at noon. With a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us, that meant we had 10 hours to get it done. Beef jerky and energy drinks were procured. It was going to be a long night.

Speed51 Mention

In our last entry I noted that we were in a bit of an enviable position – sitting atop the points for the Northern Division of the Top Speed Modified Tour with two to play (so to speak).

This got some notice, and some press. With Saturday being the Hot Shoe 100, bringing 60+ cars to Whittemore Speedway, a press release was published on Speed51.com. We were mentioned because of said points position.

Here is a link to that article: http://speed51.com/hot-shoe-100-bringing-best-midwest-mod-drivers-to-whittemore/

I hope when I pen these posts next week that I will be referencing more published articles, ones that congratulate the team and its partners Techman Sales Inc., Engine Machine Service, Murawski’s Tax Service, and Ram Engineering Midwest on a title run.

The team’s got some work to do – let’s get after it,


Baer Field – July 30th

Last Saturday the 30th found the team making its first foray into Indiana, otherwise known as “the other state south of Michigan that starts and ends with a vowel.” I printed out the directions (yes I am old-school) and hopped in the car as the trailer had to navigate a much different route to the track. As I got close there was a detour. And the detour pushed me through corn fields. Eventually a track appeared, next to an airport. One side airport, one side corn field – I think the track is likely okay noise-wise.

We decided to employ a slightly different tire strategy for the night. This proved prudent as we did not have to waste a session scuffing and were able to use the two sessions to fully learn the track. We seemed comfortable, decently quick, and actually able to get the car loose.

But, once again, the time trial demons bit us. I only managed 17th out of 22, which would thus be our starting spot. After a real nice introduction on the frontstretch (strong crowd), a hearty handshake with the Best family who was sponsoring the race, I buckled in and rolled off.

We were not bad early in the race. We could not pass easily, but were eventually able to work past some folks. About mid-way through the race the red flag came out for a car that had oiled down the speedway. After the restart the car came to life. We managed to work past some others, and stayed with the pack running in 6th-8th. Unfortunately the car worked best on the bottom, which is where 2 of the 3 ahead were running. From there we pretty much ran in formation to the finish. Overall a net plus eight was a good run. And once again – not a lot to do before the impending big weekend. That’s right – a Friday night and Saturday night race to end the points season. Interestingly we were able to take over the points lead heading into that weekend. We will be eager to light the wick and get after it.

Anxiously yours,