Racers gear up for first practice at Spud

12 years ago

Racers gear up for first practice at Spud

By Jon Gulliver

Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — Getting a car ready for spring and summer for most people might involve changing out the snow tires, giving the vehicle a wash and wax and not much else. For Jeff Willette of Presque Isle getting his car ready for spring and summer is a little more complicated. That’s because Willette’s car is a late model racecar and the Spud Speedway season is rapidly approaching.

    “All kinds of things to do before the season really,” said Willette. “Just go through the car and double and triple check everything on the car. Fixing up anything that got damaged at the end of the season.”

    Willette, the reigning late model points champion at Spud, added that spring is also a good time to clean and paint the car to make it look good, which still looks pretty good from last year with only a few tire marks on the sides.

    “When you are out front it’s hard to get hit,” he said with a chuckle.

    Willette, who owns an auto repair business, has a unique perspective on racing. He is a driver, but is also the chief mechanic.

    “I really like working on racecars,” he said. “It’s something that is different from working on daily use vehicles. It’s nice to be able to work on something like a racecar at the end of the day or on the weekends. It might sound crazy to work on cars all day long and then work on them again at night or on the weekends, but it is something I thoroughly enjoy.”

    Once the season starts, diligent maintenance is needed to make sure the car is running at peak performance and above all safely.

    “I am really big on safety,” he said. “We spare no expense on safety equipment, like my safety suit, the seat in the car and my HANS device, which keeps the head and neck secure in a crash. Everything about that racecar revolves around safety. I like to set a good example when it comes to safety.”

    The first practice at Spud Speedway will be on Saturday, May 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to all classes. Willette said he won’t need many laps to get his car race ready.

    “Generally I try not to do a whole lot of practice laps,” said Willette. “You try to conserve on your tires and fuel. If you can go out and make 10 practice laps you have a pretty good idea of what you need to adjust or how the car is working and where you need to go from there.”

    Willette’s car, which he built from the frame up before the season last year, is one of three he is working on in his shop. His first year with the car led to a championship, but he is not resting on his laurels.

    “They are never perfect, there is always something you can do to make them better,” he added.

    In addition to the first practice on May 12 there will be the Spud Speedway Motorsports Show on Saturday, May 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Griffeth Ford in Caribou. The racers and their cars will be on hand and hot dogs will be on sale to raise money for the American Red Cross.