July 23, 2012
The Edmonton Indy was back on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series circuit for 2012, and the VMS team was eager to return to the airport venue with its reconfigured 2.256 mile paved track.
Friday, July 20th: Day One was a relatively light day on the track with just an unofficial practice scheduled for the twenty-one NASCAR teams in attendance. The Van Domselaar Motorsports team took the opportunity to check out the new track layout, and was also pleased to put in some laps in front of numerous local SteelCraft employees. A revamped engine program meant the VMS machine had power to spare down the lengthy front straightaway. Unfortunately however, Friday’s practice was cut short when the #14 machine suffered a broken differential. But the VMS pit crew rose to the challenge and had a new differential installed in short order, ready for the next day’s events.
Saturday, July 21st: Day Two began with James Jr. discovering a broken frame trailing arm mount, while the #14 was being unloaded from the trailer. Working speedily yet again, the crew fashioned and welded a brace into position to secure the repair, just in time to make the morning’s mandatory technical inspection. The track schedule for Day Two was more intensive as well, with two official practice sessions scheduled, followed by a late-afternoon qualifying session. Adding to the intensity of the day was the foreboding weather, with teams having to be prepared to switch to rain tires on a moment’s notice. Despite the day’s initial adversity, the first practice session went well for the team, placing 15th overall, with lap times being only a few seconds shy of the leader’s pace.
The second practice was disappointing for the team, with further rear-end problems. This time the culprit was a broken axle, likely related to the previous day’s differential breakage and frame rail problem. Taking no chances, the pit crew changed both axles. The afternoon brought with it with multiple rainy downpours, and for a time it was uncertain whether qualifying could proceed, even on rain tires. But the sun returned, and with the ongoing track activity of other classes of cars, NASCAR deemed the track was sufficiently dry to proceed on regular tires. The late afternoon qualifying session resulted in the 16th position among twenty-one competitors for the #14 Chevy Monte Carlo.
Sunday, July 22nd: Race Day for the Edmonton 100 dawned clear and warm, with no hint of the previous day’s bad weather. The 28-lap, 100 kilometer NASCAR event was held mid-morning, while temperatures were still moderate and comfortable for fans, drivers, crews and equipment alike. The race started cleanly, with all twenty-one drivers making it through the nearly-hairpin dimensions of Turn One unscathed. James Jr. piloted the #14 through the course’s series of 13 turns expertly, with car, track and driver becoming more unified on each lap. With the car’s earlier equipment problems addressed, Jr. drove his fastest laps of the weekend and by far the fastest laps ever for the VMS team at the Edmonton Airport venue.
But at the halfway point of the race, the team’s fortunes reversed yet again. On Lap 14, a competitor was exiting pit road and merging into race traffic, the merge area being at the apex of Turn 1. Jr. braked hard to avoid making contact with the merging competitor. Doing so resulted in a hard spin and slide into the runaway lane. Jr. re-fired the car and rejoined the chase, but after another half-lap, radioed the crew that the rear suspension had suffered further breakage. He was able to coax the #14 back to the pits, where a broken third link was discovered. Undaunted, the pit crew rushed to repair it, but before the team could return to the track, NASCAR had retrieved the car’s transponder, officially ending the team’s day.
At the final reckoning, the VMS SteelCraft Chevy Monte Carlo posted a 19th place finish. Disheartened but ever forward-looking, the team set their sights on their next oval competition, to be held in just three days’ time at Saskatoon’s AutoClearing Motor Speedway.