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Monday
Jul302012

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. 

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