Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – ALBANY, NY – Sure. Everyone wants to win whenever they enter a race. That’s why drivers and crews do what they do.
However, once in a while everyone can put aside the stresses of the regular season and inject some much needed (at times) fun factor into the sport most of us grew up with as little kids. Tim Buckwalter and crew may have put a lot of work into the inaugural Albany Indoor but they made sure to do it all with a smile on their faces.
Buckwalter, a Pennsylvania native, was given the opportunity to pilot the Laffler Chassis No. 0 Coca Cola TQ after a brief talk with team representatives. In fact, Buckwalter has only met his car owner Timex Morgan once. Morgan was injured at the Atlantic City event while piloting the TQ midget.
“I met him years ago when he did indoors for the first time.” Buckwalter told me as we stood just outside the busy pit area, “I got a phone call from Mark Laffler and he said, Hey you want to run Timex’s car?”
Morgan and Buckwalter finally spoke over the phone on Friday for the first time.
Friday night started off promising for Buckwalter, as he held quick time in the only time trials session of the weekend and won his heat race. The feature event however, did not go according to plan for the USAC Sprint and Grandview Modified regular.
“A car got up on a yuke tire there and we got collected and ripped the right front tire off. That’s kind of the way the indoors is. You can have a real fast car, you just gotta have the luck to go with it.”
That statement said a lot about what it takes to be successful in a race that seems to never give competitors a moment’s rest. In other short track racing series you hear the term ‘Jet fighter in a gymnasium’ thrown around once in a while. When asked if this was most true in TQ midget racing, Buckwalter looked me dead in the eye and gave a simple one word response.
Buckwalter described, as best he could, what its like to pilot a TQ midget with 750cc’s of motorcycle engine around a 1/10th mile temporary track like the Times Union Center in Albany.
“It’s crazy. You’re just kind of out there along for the ride. Everything happens so fast that you really can’t react. You’ve just gotta hope the decision you make will be the right one or else you’re going off on the hook.”
Buckwalter’s Saturday began much the same way the previous day’s action began. Buckwalter was among the fastest in the two practice sessions and had a front row starting position for the final feature event of the Indoor Auto Racing Series season. His early lead, however, did not last.
“I just started getting really tight. I picked up a real bad push.” Buckwalter said, as we walked through the exit of the arena floor. “There was nothing I could do adjustment wise to get the push out of the car. It’s so hard here because the track’s so fast if you don’t have it right out of the box you’re not going to be right. Mark Laffler is great at getting these things close. To run second to Andy J. (Jankowiack). I would’ve like to beat him starting on the pole like that but I couldn’t get off the corner like I needed to.”
Buckwalter plans to run 25 USAC Sprint Car events in 2018, along with Grandview Speedway weekly in the Modified division. You can also see Buckwalter in action weekly at Kutztown, Pa.