Top Gun Racing, RC Enerson misses track time due to grease leak
INDIANAPOLIS – Bill Throckmorton would go under the radar just as quickly this week, leading up to the biggest racing weekend of his life in decades. His wife, StÃ©phanie, made it quite difficult.
While the couple, co-owners of the famous Grant King Race Shop, have been preparing in recent months for Top Gun Racing’s bid to attempt to make the 2021 Indianapolis 500 land, Bill has been involved in hiring the mechanics and engineers on her wishlist. make qualification possible.
Stephanie did her best to make sure fans and paddock members alike remember their debut. They landed performing a return livery to the Johnny Lightning Special car that made waves on the USAC dirt track and in which Al Unser Sr. won two consecutive Indy 500s in 1970-71, with the bottom iconic navy blue and yellow lightning bolts that seem ready to propel the car onto the track themselves.
But it was all the more difficult to go unnoticed when, during RC Enerson driver’s rookie orientation program on Tuesday afternoon, the No.75 Chevy started leaking grease, by chance as Enerson was pulling the car into the pit lane for a tire change, having already completed 27 laps.
After returning the car to the garage halfway through the second of the three phases of the program, Bill and the team came across a broken half-tree which he said was the culprit. In the end, it was an easy fix for the Throckmorton team. It only took a few minutes to get Owen Snyder’s new parts from Dallara, the team co-owner said, and a few more minutes to fix the car with over 90 minutes left in the last session. the opening day.
But the moment of the piece’s failure ultimately ended the day for the team. At that point, Enerson had less than 10 laps to go between 210 and 215 mph to complete Phase 2 of his ROP. Had the mechanical problem arisen a few minutes later, and with Phase 3 comprising 15 laps over 215 mph, Enerson and the team would have been cleared out for the two-hour field session to end the day. and run. those 15 laps with the 34 other cars on the track – and more.
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The rookie pilot got the decision, with top speed averages over one lap of the day exceeding 226mph (led by Will Power at 226.470mph) and Conor Daly reaching a start-finish line trap speed of 239.400mph. at the end of the afternoon. Even running 7 or 8 laps at 212 mph with cars flying past him on either side would not have been safe for the terrain in general.
A team that built their car from scratch, with their mechanics and engineers pulling what Enerson described as “48 hour days” in just over a month to put the finishing touches on the Chevy, Top Gun Racing is no stranger to bumps in the road this spring.
In early March, when IndyStar spoke with co-owners Throckmorton and Gary Trout as the duo announced their intention to compete in this year’s race, most of their team were not yet locked down. The secret primary they then called a “game changer” has yet to be officially signed, leaving the team to open the Johnny Lightning car without a sponsor this month.
âWe still hope that could be changed within a week,â Throckmorton told IndyStar on Tuesday. âBut if we don’t come to an agreement, we run Johnny Lighting.
“But all this, I’ve been doing this for so long, I don’t know better. I know what can happen. I’m just glad the car got into the garage today. This is the most important thing. “
Throckmorton last was part of an Indy 500 program in 1983 and has been working with Trout to put that program in place for almost two years now. The duo, along with Enerson, were on the home stretch to compete in last August’s race, but their sponsor dropped out when it was decided the race would run without fans. They’re back now, but with an air of uncertainty they’ll be around Monday morning, with 35 cars vying for a spot in the 11th of three rows.
âWe know we’re the huge underdog, but that will make him a lot better when we get in,â Throckmorton said. âThere’s no one in this garage who doesn’t think we can do this.â
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That garage was pretty meager in terms of personnel on Tuesday, Throckmorton admitted. With the last minute nature of some of their team members getting together, some couldn’t get away from their daily work.
âI think a lot of people encourage us and encourage us,â he continued. âWe know we’re the losers, but I think a lot of people would love to see us race, me included.
Throckmorton praised those who helped make this entry possible, from his chief engineer Roy Wilkerson, the longtime IndyCar mechanic who was most recently on Santino Ferrucci’s car a year ago when he finished 4th in the 500. The list went on, from the folks at Dallara who worked to get Wilkerson and Bridget Clifford the parts needed to build the lead and backup cars over the past six weeks or so, to the organization sanctioned IndyCar who sent flight attendant Max Papis to WWT Raceway last week for Enerson-mandated rookie evaluation, he had to finish just to be cleared to start a ROP on Tuesday.
And, Throckmorton added, Chris Blair, the general manager of WWT Raceway, who made the oval track available on such a short notice.
âIt was a bit of a fire drill just to get in here,â Throckmorton said. âWe just didn’t have the car ready for the previous test, and (racing in) Texas wasn’t going to work. Blair went out of his way to help us. A Gateway sticker will definitely end up on this car.
âWithout him, we wouldn’t be here.
On Tuesday evening, IMS and IndyCar announced their intention to open the track an hour earlier to allow Enerson to complete his last 20+ laps so he can participate in the six-hour free practice from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. In the event of rain, they will have to wait to get on track until 6pm and then essentially miss two full days of testing, with only two remaining before the two-day qualifying process which begins on Saturday.
Enerson, a veteran of just four previous IndyCar races – only one to come since the start of 2017 – ignored the loss as he impacted his hopes of making his oval debut on May 30. the ROP – run 10 laps while trying to maintain speeds between 205-210mph on a track where the car begs to go 15-20mph faster – the New Port Richey, Fla. native said that he had just entered a groove when the team called him into the pits and discovered the grease leak that had ended their day.
But the time spent watching instead of driving has given him a new perspective and a new reason why he thinks Top Gun Racing can finally cause trouble this weekend.
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âI was talking to Conor (Daly), and he told me how green the track was this morning,â said Enerson. âAnd it won’t be cold the rest of the week. Nothing huge is missing when it comes to the setup. It’s pretty much about missing track time, as a novice driver trying to get used to the car. In the end, it will take turns and experience.
âBut we were watching the rest of the day, and it looked like some people were having a hard time finding the rhythm, and we weren’t even done ROP yet, but the car was comfortable. The second I get to grips with the trim and get to slightly higher speeds, I think we’ll have a good chance.
Email IndyStar Motorsport reporter Nathan Brown at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @By_NathanBrown.