USTCC Round Four – Near Triumph from Near Defeat!
August 2nd, 2009 – Chittum suffers broken transmission, BTM comes through, goes on to Pole Position, and an unbelievable race
Working hard in the break between races, Mad Man Motorsports leveraged the full engineering talents of BTM Motorwerks to design new aero components that would reduce drag on the high-speed oval – infield configuration at California Speedway in Fontana CA. With just a few warmup laps, Chittum immediately went to the top of the timesheets, seconds ahead of the other talented USTCC drivers in only his first trip to this particular track.
But luck was not with the team, as during first Saturday Qualifying, Chittum found himself with a transmission that quickly got worse and without a 5th gear he posted a mid-field qualifying result. The team immediately got to work and within a few hours had the old transmission out and a new one in. But after reassembly, the new transmission was still not working perfectly, and Chittum prepared for a difficult race with the goal of salvaging points and staying in the season championship.
With a few more BTM adjustments, Chittum was able to drive the car respectably in warmup, and the team agreed on two hot laps for qualifying to save the car for the race. The first lap went well, Chittum quickly coming up to speed with the car, and the second lap was picture-perfect posting a qualifying time low enough to make up for the slow Saturday time, putting the BTM Motorwerks car on pole by less than a tenth of a second.
But the race would prove to be just as drama filled for the underdog team. Ailing gearbox notwithstanding, Chittum got the car off the line, but as the field passed 120 miles an hour on Cal Speedway’s oval in T2, the MBO Motorsports Dodge driven by 2007 series champion Curt Simmons came rocketing by. For several laps Chittum dogged the powerful turbocharged car, the BMW faster in the infield sections, but unable to make up distance on the high speed oval. Finally, Chittum blasted onto the front straight just inches off Simmons’ bumper caught the draft, and actually began to gain on the powerful Dodge. Simmons saw Chittum coming high, and moved to block, but Chittum darted down low and took the lead, braking side by side from over 140 mph down into the tight 55 mph Turn 3.
For the next several laps, Chittum got a good lead going, resting the car when possible, and pushing to stay ahead when necessary. But late in the race, with the transmission cooperating less and less often and a broken front splitter from contact with an errant cone, Simmons attacked. Going two wide into the tight Turn 12 complex, the two cars split another backmarker who swerved away from the Dodge, leaving Chittum the choice of an off or hitting the barriers guiding cars back onto the front straightaway. The crafty 2008 series Champion, Top Lepper, driving the Prima-Racing Acura TSX also took advantage of the moment putting Chittum down to a heartbreaking third place with just one lap to go.
But Chittum attacked, and by turn 9 had caught up to the wiley veteran. In a surprise move, Chittum was able to fake an outside pass on the exit of the turn and parallel the TSX going into T10. Chittum led through onto the straightaway and took a hard-fought 2nd place, finally beating the Prima-Racing team for the first time this year, gaining valuable points toward a 2009 season championship.
"We’ve really been working hard to get that first victory." Chittum said. "We had the pace this weekend, but with all the things we had to come back from this weekend, 2nd place is a good result. My hat is off to Brad and BTM Motorwerks, without whose support, we’d have been back on the trailer heading home before this race even started." In addition to Brad, the weekend would not have been possible without the help of Jennifer Chittum and John Chittum at the track, Elton Wong, Ross Martindale, and the BTM Factory crew, and Kari Craighead for logistical support.
Mad Man Motorsports returns to competition September 10-12, at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele Utah where the USTCC will be racing in Group A at NASA Nationals.
For pictures of the weekend’s racing, please visit Ryan Chrystobal’s Flicker site at: