NASCAR Ranting and Raving's favourite ARCA driver Ricky Byers made the trip last week to race in the ARCA RE/MAX Series Weis Markets 125 at Pocono. And I made the trip to go watch him race.
I had a 6.5 hour killer road trip to get to the racetrack, but no matter how hard my trip was to get to Pocono Ricky's was harder, much harder. Since Ricky and I first 'met' each other back in September of 2009 through Twitter he has had an up and down journey to get to where he is now, on the cusp of something big.
Upon securing badly needed sponsorship dollars only a few short weeks ago Ricky and his team were able to get a car via the ageless James Hylton and get to Pocono for the race.
You see timing was crucial for this event, because it was televised on SPEED and seeing that Racing For a Cure car on the TV was important to everyone. Sure Ricky and the team could have waited a week or two more to go racing which would have allowed the team to gel a little bit but none of those races were going to be televised. In order to get this Racing For a Cure program up and running it needs the exposure that television can bring it pure and simple.
On Friday while Ricky was out on the track shaking down the Rousch/Yates powered #48 car getting it ready for qualifying the unthinkable happened; Ricky slammed into the Turn 1 wall at the end of Pocono's air-strip of a front stretch.
Ricky fortunately escaped serious injury, only bruising his knee on the steering column, but the Hylton owned #48 Ford wasn't so lucky. The whole right side of the car from bumper to bumper was damaged with the front wheel area taking most of the initial impact.
In addition to the usual body damage and obligatorydamaged radiator the accident pushed the frame up against the motor putting several holes into the exhaust header and along with the usual damaged rim, rotor, and brake components on the front wheel the lower 'A' arm was also sheered off of the frame.
With no back-up car the team was forced to try and fix the damaged machine. A hammer and some 200-mph tape fixed most of the body damage to the point where the areodynamic properties of the car were re-established (for the most part anyway).
They managed to weld the frame and straighten it up a bit, but not to the point to where it was before although they did get it off of the engine. They were also able to weld in a new 'A' arm and reattach the the wheel and suspension components but given the damage done the geometry of the car was all thrown off even with all the new pieces put on.
Essentially, as a result of the practice wreck, Ricky's Racing For a Cure ride became a Start and Park entry. All because of a little piece of metal about the size of an average person's thumb nail that Ricky picked up off of the track in his front right tire.
They just were not able to put the car back together good enough for Ricky to run safely at full speed, plus that they were worried that they might further damage the leased Rousch/Yates motor because it was discovered that the motor would probably lean against the frame under full acceleration coming off of the corners which would put holes in the exhaust headers causing the engine to suck air back into the cylinder head further damaging the internal components of the engine.
After his initial reaction of, 'Well that's it, put it on the trailer. I'm not going to start and park it. I will not be known for that,' Ricky faced his situation with the same resolve he has faced everything else in his life and didn't give up on the purpose of his cause, after all it's about Racing For a Cure and not about Ricky Byers.
It was decided he would go out and run about 5 laps and get some exposure, and hopefully some TV time, for Racing For a Cure then park it and move on.
Ricky ran the parade laps, came down pit road for a photo op, took the green flag, avoided the wreck at the start/finish line when a car ahead of him (Danny Lia) missed a gear causing chaos on the track, rode around for a caution lap or two and then parked it under Hylton's direction.
Officially Ricky finished 36th out of 39 entries, but in the grand scheme of things I think Ricky finished better than that. Compared to where he was a year ago Ricky has come a long way in getting Racing For a Cure off of the ground and to a track near you. Granted there is still a lot of work to be done, but he is going in the right direction and when he shows up at Chicago later this month don't expect him to do anything less than running that car full-out because that man will not give up - its in his nature - if would have given up a long time ago he wouldn't be around trying to Race For a Cure.
All photos by Bob Ellis from NASCAR Ranting and Raving