By: Jordan Redlin/www.JordanRedlin.com
It has been a long season and I was really looking forward to seeing how I stacked up against the best in the world. We arrived Monday evening in Las Vegas, Nevada of the SKUSA SuperNationals and checked in, then went straight over to the track. Not much to see yet but the SKUSA staff were hard at work laying out barriers and building curbs. This was the first time we got to see the new PSL West trailer after the fire the team had in Dallas. Wow, it was great. We headed back to the hotel to get an early night, it was going to be a long week.
Tuesday morning we were up bright and early and with excitement we made our way over to the track. We organized our paperwork and checked in, then straight to the team tent. My awesome crew, comprised of my father and Eddy Tinini worked hard to prep the chassis and soon, I was ready for Wednesday. This year, Tag Sr was in the afternoon which meant I could sleep in all week. That’s a real treat for a driver and I needed it as I picked up a cold on the plane. The track layout was completed and at 6:30pm and SKUSA allowed everyone out onto the track to walk the course. The layout was one of the safest I have seen at the Supernats. Good visibility on the corners and proper kart barriers around the entire circuit. Way to go SKUSA. Off to bed now, we race tomorrow.
I watched the morning sessions and it was clear that the track had very little grip, far less than normal for day one. In Tag Sr. we had two options for engines, the Leopard or the new X30. Chris at Italian Motors built me two awesome Leopards and we felt that the Leopard would be the engine to use. I couldn’t afford to put on the extra weight of the X30 anyway.
The first practice was under full yellow conditions which allowed me to have a good look and feel for the track. It was technical and flowing. In the second session the craziness of the Supernats kicked in as a driver drove me off the track on the out lap. I really have no idea what the driver was thinking, I had never even seen him before. I was able to limp back to the pits but a precious session was lost, and in Vegas that can be costly. In the third session I entered the track and after the first lap I drove deep into turn one and hammered the brakes, oh yeah the CRG brakes are awesome, but in this case a little too awesome. The caliper decided to stay on a little bit after I exited the turn. I was under full power and didn’t really notice it but as I continued to brake at each turn I felt the drag. At the start I thought the engine was too lean so I quickly added full, no use. As the drag worsened, I realized it wasn’t engine tuning and retired from yet another session. At 50 km/h whipping into the pit lane, I began to smell the problem. The brakes billowed smoke like I have never seen before. We inspected the kart and found the problem, the brake was intermittently and randomly dragging, but the damage was already done. We changed the entire brake system to eliminate all problems, as I had to be fast for the final session!
The final session of Wednesday would determine the P1 and P2 groups for the rest of the weekend. I was ready to go, and so was the brake, but immediately out of the pits I noticed something wasn’t right. Not right at all, the engine was down on power bigtime, I fooled around with the tuning for the entire session but it was no use. I was seconds off the pace!!! We looked inside the engine and the piston was ruined. In those 5 laps during the brake seizure, the engine spiked in temp and massively overheated, this would end up costing me “big time.” I was way off the pace and in the wrong group, it’s essential to be in the fast group or you have a long weekend ahead. We decided not to take any chances and built a new kart and went directly to our primary race engine for the rest of the weekend.
The morning practices went okay but I was essentially starting from ground zero. We worked on chassis setup and found the gear. Early on we thought we might have made a mistake as most of the field switched to the X30. Slowly but surely, the grip was starting to rise and if I drove the turn perfect I believed I would be able to stay with the X30’s off the turn and carry the speed down the straight. Since I knew we could out power an X30 on the straight we worked on trying to stay with them in the infield. Chassis setup was going to be key and my tuner Eddy knew that we just needed to wait for the track to come to us. We didn’t change too much on the kart but rather worked on track lines and strategy for qualifying.
Being in the P2 group meant it was going to be tough to get a good starting position. Being in Vegas I rolled the dice and geared the kart more for straight-line speed. I was going to need a perfect, and clean lap to get a good time. Unfortunately, with about 40 karts on the track it was impossible. I was the last driver to leave the grid, giving myself as much space as possible before the drivers came back around again. I managed to get a straightaway distance, but it was no use, I closed the distance in only a couple laps, and my hot laps were all impeded. The fastest I could manage was mid 47s. That time was not going to be good enough if I wanted to have a chance at a win. I ended up 42nd overall and would start each heat in 21st. After qualifying I thought “oh, man it’s going to be a long fight to the front”, and it was.
A cool feature about the Supernats is that annually many big names in motorsports come to compete, including past and present Nascar, IndyCar, etc drivers. I was starting each race behind AJ Allmendinger, totally cool.
Friday came quickly and we lined up for the first heat. I focussed on getting through the first two turns. Yikes, it was crazy!!! Karts all over the place. In turn two I had to slow down a lot but managed to squeeze my way through. Getting down to business I passed as many karts as I could. After the first lap I was in about 25th place. I had twelve laps so I worked on overtaking one kart per lap, I ended heat one in 15th.
Heat two was more of the same. Crazy starts, karts flying all over the place, I got caught in a turn two pile up, I didn’t actually get hit but I couldn’t get through either, I waited as karts moved forward and after about 5 seconds or so there was room for me to continue on. I worked my way back to 19th and was just glad to finish. We made some changes to the kart and we were starting to match the speed of the front runners taking 4th fastest lap. I just need a break to get up there.
In the warmup we made a few minor adjustments to the kart as now the track was starting to get sticky. These conditions were beginning to suit my CRG Blackstar perfectly! AJ and I talked a lot before each of the races, he is a great guy. I reassured AJ that with me starting behind him, he would always have at least a kart lengths gap separating us at the starts. I did this to protect him in case someone bumped me from behind. If that happened, I wanted time to slow down the driver behind me and avoid crashing into him. Even though the extra distance between us cost me a bit of time and some positions at the starts, I figured it would look pretty bad on a resume to have accidently punted off a NASCAR star.
In my mind it was clear now that our choice of using the Leopard engine was the right choice for us. Now that the grip was building up I was able to great a great launch off the turn and let the engine stretch its legs down the straight. Nothing sounds sweeter than a finely tuned race engine bouncing off the limiter at 17,000rpm. Originally we had a couple tricks up our sleeve for this race including a fast 08 leopard. The 08 leopard has no rev limiter, thus making our straightaway speed unbelievable, unfortunately that engine was ruined on Wednesday with the brake failure. Never the less, the start was the usual chaos but I noticed in the first two starts that a very tight line around turn two would give me enough room to carry some speed and not lose touch too badly with the leaders. It basically went to plan and with a bent steering column and tie rod, I was able to work my way up to 11th.
One of my biggest highlights of the weekend happened during this race. As I approached AJ Allmendinger, he looked behind and saw me. AJ gave way and pointed for me to pass! I believe I was the only driver he did this for. The fact that he gave me his position in such a big race means a lot to me! I asked him in the scales area why he did that and he said “you were faster and needed the points more than I did, there was no use in me slowing you up “. As a result, I managed to overtake another driver before the race ended, which I wouldn’t have been able to if it weren’t for AJ. I couldn’t believe it, he is a total professional and a class act example of the drivers we should be like. I made sure that if there was anything I could do to help him move to the front in the main with me I was going to do it.
With an 11th place finish it meant that I would transfer directly into the main. AWESOME, made the main at the Supernats in my first senior year. I would have a crappy starting position of 25th but at least I was in.
It finally arrived, and I was sicker than ever. I had been up since 3 in the morning in pain and unable to sleep. In the short morning warm up of 7 minutes I nearly threw up in my helmet multiple times, luckily I could hold it until the end. I was becoming afraid of what might happen in 25 laps! I felt that we had a really good chance at making it into the top 10, so I pushed everything else out of my mind and focused on the racing. I needed to make sure I had a great start, on the first attempt the grid was out of line, around we go for another attempt. Second start and we were Green, Green, Green.
I immediately moved to the inside and used my IM Leopard power to gain a few spots. Coming into turn two I had to stay wide but luckily avoided most of the mess and was through. Now down to work. This was a 25 lap race and there was enough time for me to get to the front. I worked steadily passing at least one kart on each straight, and if I could, a couple of late passes to keep my momentum going. At about half distance I was still able to see the leaders as I went up the straight they were racing into turn one. I figured I still had a shot and just focussed on driving perfectly and making no mistakes.
I was patient when I need to be and aggressive when I had too. With about 5 laps to go I could see a group of karts ahead and I was determined to catch at least one. I didn’t realize that it was the last podium position. I was making up a lot of time and with two laps to go the driver ahead made a big mistake, he started to look back to me. As soon as he did it twice I knew I had him, he had already lost, I had won! I was able to catch him on the last lap and instead of worrying about getting a clean run onto the straight he turned around to see where to block. BIG MISTAKE, I did the exact opposite and made sure that my run onto the straight was the best I could make it. I had a huge run on him and as we approached the checkered I stayed calm as he blocked me. I pulled out on the outside and just nipped him at the line. The difference in time, only 16 thousands of a second. Awesome. I pulled into the scales area and the PSL West team was cheering and my Dad was freaking out. Eddy my tuner was nearly crying, it was great. I then heard Rob Howden say on the loud speaker that I also had the fastest race time, and the second fastest of the entire weekend. What a bonus.
Soon enough, we cleared through tech and I had just a couple hours to wait for the podium presentations. I have to thank God for helping me find that speed and keeping me safe during all the chaos. I want to send a special thank you out to PSL West and Eddy Tinini. PSL West has had a tough year but still did what they could to support my program, Eddy Tinini flew over from Italy three times this year and taught me a lot. I would also like to thank Rampart Detection Systems, Fikse Wheels, Holeshot Drive Systems and my friends and family for all of their support for without them I wouldn’t be able to live my dream of becoming a professional race driver.
Thanks for reading my blog, for more information visit, www.jordanredlin.com
Jordan interviewed by Kart360.com
Jordan Redlin TaG Senior Final – SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII (2 Parts)