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Issues With Front End Equipment Challenge Young Driver In His First Race
Prior to an ill-fated practice session on March 17, Ken had only been behind the wheel of his #17 Chevy Pro Truck while in their driveway at home in Titusville. And although he recognized, as a result of even limited practice, they were facing significant issues with his equipment, little did anyone on the team realize how major the problems really were as they prepared to kick off the race season three days later at Orlando Speedworld.
Anxious to compete in his first ever Pro Truck race, they arrived at the track prepared to take advantage of the pre-race practices in order to further shake down the truck. Over the course of three 10-lap practice sessions they were able to make several adjustments which seemed to make improvements. "At that point we were a lot better, but we still weren't where we wanted to be at all," said Ken.
In spite of the obvious equipment issues, the thrill and anticipation of the impending race was almost too much for words for this talented up and coming driver. "This was my first time competing on a track larger than the standard 1/16 mile oval I raced quarter midgets on and I don't think I've ever been more excited!" Ken said. He would go on that evening to compete in a 15 lap Novice Pro Truck event on the 3/8 mile asphalt track which had been the training grounds for so many of Florida's best drivers before him.
The Novice Division was created for a few young drivers who were looking to make a jump from other forms of racing but did not yet meet the age requirements mandated by FASCAR to race in the regular Pro Truck Division. For this season opener Ken and only one other novice driver showed up ready to take on the challenge of driving this 2,850 pound machine around this fun and fast short track. The two-man race produced memorable moments for each driver, but for very different reasons.
The #49X Potter Motorsports truck started on the pole and ran a smooth, consistent, tight line finishing first to take home his first win in a Pro Truck. On the opposite side of the spectrum was Ken's first race experience. On the second lap just as he was bringing the truck up to full speed he felt something let loose. Later he would find out just what equipment was to blame - worn out idler arm and tie rod joint. This caused a severe push coming out of the corners, almost taking him straight up to the wall on several laps! Even from the grandstands you could easily see Ken had his hands full of steering inside his #17 Chevy Pro Truck. Remarkably he was able to catch up to the leader several times, however the handling issues proved too risky and he wasn't able to execute a pass, finishing in second position.
Afterwards Ken received several accolades on his impressive driving skill he demonstrated during the race. Suggestions on handling the equipment problems from others in the pit area were forthcoming. And so began an unbelievable month!
The Team turned to the experience and knowledge of Street Rods Unlimited as they began dismantling parts and investigating the issues in more detail the day after the race. They replaced numerous front-end parts including the idler arm and tie rod end. The Team also discovered a worn out steering box, which after multiple attempts with several different models over a period of days, and faced with ongoing problems with the installation, they came to the realization that something else might be the problem - the frame. The #17 Chevy was then turned over to Alsup Frame Shop for a much needed expert assessment and repair. After hours of time spent working on the frame, Alsup concluded that in order to fix it a portion of the frame had to be cut out.
Once the frame was straightened the Team was once again hard at work. With the help of Brian and Walt at Finney Racing they were able to reconstruct and weld into place the new frame piece. They also provided valuable technical support and help with chassis set-up.
It was an incredible month of non-stop repairs and replacements resulting in what Ken and his Team felt would be well worth all the sweat and hours spent producing a truly competitive race machine. From this point looking forward, Ken is excited about his prospects and anxious to hit the track again.