VMS at Edmonton Indy

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. 


A New Beginning in Vernon

July 18, 2012

The VMS team headed to Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, BC this past weekend for their first race of the 2012 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season.  It was also their first race since the recent passing of beloved father, friend and crew chief, Jim Van Domselaar.  With the help of many friends, team-mates, and racing colleagues, the team came together in a new form and raced in honor of Jim this weekend.

The hot Okanagan weather broke just in time for race day, with temperatures still warm, but bearable.  The #14 SteelCraft Chevrolet Monte Carlo turned some respectable lap times in the first practice.  The team experimented with some set-up changes in the second practice to try and free up a tight handling condition, but reverted to near-original set-up when no further gains were made.  

Qualifying results on un-scrubbed tires were somewhat disappointing, with the car landing in the 17th of 20 qualifying positions.  But with 300 laps ahead of them, the VMS team knew there would be lots of opportunity for adjustments.  With temperatures cooling and the grandstands filled to near-capacity, the A&W Cruisin’ the Dub 300 was underway. 

 The 20 car field started cleanly, and the race stayed green until a caution at Lap 20 for debris on the track.  On Lap 29, Jr. was spun out by a competitor on an attempted pass, but both cars were on their way quickly with no laps lost and no damage done.  At Lap 84 two other racers were involved in a spin and James Jr. steered the #14 into the pits for a handling adjustment, while taking the opportunity to top up with fuel. 

 As the race progressed, the #14 continued to experience a tight handling condition, with some laps lost as a result.  Another short caution ensued on Lap 156, closing the field once more.  Then at Lap 171, Jr. was holding his line going into Turn 4 when he was sandwiched by the 02 on the low side and the 5 car on the high line, causing a multi-car spin.  Jr. had some trouble re-firing the car, but got moving before losing a lap. 

On lap 192, again under yellow conditions, the call was made to change the two right side tires and refuel.  Jr. entered the pit stop cleanly but several lug nuts jammed in the air ratchet sockets and the team lost another lap as a result.  With gritty determination, the team persisted.

With about 50 laps to go, Jr. called in a worsening steering problem, and had to pit under green flag conditions.  A loose tie rod end was the culprit, and the pit crew quickly remedied the problem, sending Jr. out in short order to finish the race.    

Jr. crossed the finish line in 15th place, ten laps off the lead pace.  While the results at the finishing line weren’t what the team had hoped for, the most important goal of the race was achieved without question -- to work as a team to honor a man who embodied the true spirit of racing:  the collective pursuit of excellence.    

The VMS team’s next race is in Edmonton, AB on July 22nd, held in conjunction with the Edmonton Indy event. 


VMS heading East with the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series

VMS is heading to the Toronto Honda Indy July 17th this summer. The team will then head straight back west for the home town show at the Edmonton Honda Indy July 24th. The season will cap off at the NASCAR race in Saskatoon August 4th. A short but intense month of racing for the family and friends racing operation. “Toss in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLS) charity events and we have a very busy summer of racing for our volunteer gang.” says James Jr. “Without the financial backing of our new and longtime sponsors and the hard work of Jim, Steve, Wally and the rest of the volunteer crew, and the patience of our wives and kids this would not be possible.” "The Mihalcheon (Steel-Craft) family supported our family 100% through my wife’s battle with cancer and without them the whole experience could have been much more difficult, with Steel-Craft on the hood now they have once again stepped behind my family to promote awareness for the LLS!”

VMS would also like to thank Cantorque and Northlands for their continued and increased support this year, which proves to be the most exciting, most successful year to date!