Big Dogs vs. the Underdog
(Andy Forsberg of Auburn, CA, has been driving sprint cars since 1994. A second-generation racer, he’s won an unprecedented 10 Civil War Series dirt sprint car championships. He’s claimed multiple track titles at Placerville and Chico and has 170 main event victories across California and Oregon. This is the fourth of a series of columns.)
Tear Offs • by Andy Forsberg | I can’t tell you how great it feels to be an underdog and beat the big dogs, especially when it’s in your own backyard. In this case, the big dogs were the regulars on the World of Outlaws sprint car series and we were at my home track, Placerville Speedway, on September 12, 2018, during the Gold Rush Classic.
My A&A Stepping Stone 410 team rolled into the pit area like we had so many other times during the season at Placerville, but this time things were a little different because we would be racing against the well-funded Outlaw teams that compete on the national series. An Outlaw team’s budget dwarfs the budgets of any local team. It’s crazy.
For example, it costs my team roughly $2,500 to $3,000 a race to go to the track. I don’t know what those Outlaw guys spend on a night but it’s definitely more. Probably three to four times more. Shoot, it’s not even something that I worry about; it’s not even in my world. For the most part, a local guy could have $20,000 to $30,000 in a 410 sprint car engine and they’ll spend roughly $10,000 to freshen up every 800 laps or so. But the Outlaw teams will have $60,000 easily, in a single engine.
Anyway, my ears started to perk up during the drivers meeting when I heard that the promoters were offering an extra $2,000 for fast time to a non-Outlaw driver. I thought I might have a chance. But the practical side of me was like, “Hell, somebody else will get that, it won’t be me.” You see, I know, at a quarter-mile like Placerville, a team like ours has a shot against the Outlaws, since horsepower is not as important on such a small track. I knew I could use my experience and knowledge of Placerville to my advantage.
I thought, “I’ve won a bunch of races and a few championships at Placerville,” but it was all 360 stuff. I knew I was playing with the Outlaws in 410s and we didn’t have a ton of time in the 410 last year. I thought to myself, it was going to be a matter of qualifying at the right time, when the track was just right. I knew, the earlier I went out, the faster it was going to be. The track surface would start getting ledgy, and it would get harder to turn a smooth lap. I went out about 10th out of about 35 cars and it was just getting to the point where it was almost impossible to turn a smooth lap.
Brad Sweet went out about three cars before me and he turned the fast time. Brad obviously gets around Placerville pretty good. He grew up racing there and he’s turned enough laps there, so he knows what he’s doing. Anyway, I went out there and beat his time and I was thinking, “I don’t think there’s anybody left that can beat it.” The track was getting pretty lippy getting into turn one.
I remember seeing Brad; I was on the scales, and I think he was kinda hustling up to see if he was still fast time. I gave him the No. 1 and pointed back at myself and he just kinda smiled and shook his head. It was just extra cool to beat Brad, too, because I’ve known him for so long. He used to work for me at my furniture-finishing shop when he was just starting out.
In the main event, the track was heavy: right up my alley. Typically that place gets pretty slick. Everything kinda went my way and I stayed out of trouble. The race was 49 laps, and for me, that’s an eternity. I’m used to a 25-30 lapper. But we proved I was no fluke and finished third and had a shot to win. The Outlaws are so good at sticking in the middle, they can mechanically stick to the track, where I need something to lean on. During the race the cushion was starting to fade after a while, so we ended up backing up to third. But if I get a cushion at Placerville and if it lasts for an entire race, and I’m up front, I think I could seal the deal. But that’s a lot of ifs.
But getting fast time was cool. We were the last team to load up and leave the pits that night. We don’t always necessarily need to have a good night to be the last car out because we always try to have fun at the track. You know, we have home-cooked food, and after everybody has kinda come and gone, whether it’s for autographs, or just to b.s., we like to just hang out at the end of the night. We’re all ready to just sit and talk with our crowd. But when the morning came around, we all got to work a little bit late.
It was a good night to celebrate.
There’s another Placerville Outlaw show coming up on March 23rd (ed note: rescheduled to September 11th due to weather), and we’ll see if we can seal the deal this year.