I just returned home from Speedweeks 2009 at New Smyrna Speedway (much earlier than we had planned). Our A-Best Forklift team had tested our new NASCAR WHEELEN MODIFIED at Punta Gorda speedway on January 11, 2009. The car felt good but we did not have any benchmarks to compare it with and we only got two short practices. We were there to race our Late Model, and the track does not have a class for the NASCAR tour type modifieds. Speedweeks would be a great opportunity to get some practice and race seat time behind the wheel of the new Modified car. We were a little disappointed that we only got another two 15 min practices with the car. Speedweeks has a very busy schedule and they put on a great show. The car felt good and our lap times were not far off from some of the top touring teams.
We were going to use the first 25 lap race on the first night of Speedweeks as another test and shakedown of the car. Jon qualified the car in 13th place with a respectable 17.44 second lap. The pole was a 16.9x ; there were about 5 cars that ran 17.40’s right with us and some respectable touring teams that were behind us. Jonny Kay (driver) insisted we were not trying to win the race and elected to the rear of the field at the start. These guys put on a great show and were so competitive that they tore some real good equipment up — usually for no apparent reason. We were trying to stay out of trouble and gain some experience but before we knew it we were in 5th place. We didn’t have great luck staying in the rear of the field as some of the drivers there were "off the pace" and driving inconstent lines so I talked John out of dropping back to the rear of the field again. The car was handling well and our lap times were consistent and respectable and we were "just coasting" and trying to stay out of trouble.
I guess when you are trying to stay out of trouble, trouble is probably trying to find you. With three laps to go in the 25 lap race we were going into turn one, at top speed just were the driver transitions from the accelerator to the brake when the car violently jumped to the left and then turned sharply to the right and impacted the wall head on. The accident was without question hard enough to cause serious injury to John but due to the safety features of the car and his Hans device, John was not injured (other than some next day soreness and major damage to his wallet). We hope the track video captured the accident so we can figure what went wrong, but we do know the car turned so violently it was not from driver error. The spotter for the 9NH car that was a car length or so behind us came over to me on the spotter’s tower and said something tubular flew out from under the car just before it spun. We haven’t yet found out what broke and may not be able to due to the extensive damage to the car. It may have been something on the track. We may never find out, but will try when we unload the car on Monday.
I hope my old friend Louis Mechalides from Tyngsboro Massachusetts does good the rest of the week at Speedweeks. It was good to see him again. I was planning on talking with him more but decided to head home after our accident. I will post more information and pictures later but here are some for now. -> JASON ATHANAS owner / pres. Autobahn Performance Inc., crew chief of A-Best Forklift Team 48 Racing
All of the paved spots were taken. We had to buy plywood to put under the car so we could work on it. New Smyrna Speedway is a big place. This should give you an idea of how many racecars were here.
Louis Mechalides (40) and Johnny Kay (48) line up on pit road before race.
After the wreck. There is a lot more damage than it appears.
Tour-Type Modifieds Qualifying Results