This past Friday night, one of the odds-on favorites to win the Glass City 200 Outlaw Super Late Model event at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway crashed in practice. Terry Senneker Jr. destroyed his race car just one day before one of the biggest Outlaw events of the season. He thought his weekend was over. Everybody thought his weekend was over. But really, it was just beginning.
Senneker took his car back to his race shop, three hours away from Toledo Speedway in Wayland, Michigan. He and his team went to work and rebuilt the car, and Senneker raced on Saturday in the Glass City 200.
“The guys really wanted to race,” Senneker told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We love racing so much. We know that they’re going to give out a trophy to somebody. It might as well be us. I feel like it was a victory for us.”
Only it wasn’t a victory. At least it wasn’t one that would appear in the record books. Senneker finished 26th and only completed 51 laps after a fan blade broke causing his race car to overheat.
“(Falling out early) was real disappointing. I really felt like the car was good,” he said. “We started 11th and made our way up to third, but we just took our time. We really weren’t pushing the issue. I was trying to keep the fenders clean. It was a very good car. I made it up to third without putting it into any compromising positions. We were very bummed out that we couldn’t pull off the underdog type of story.”
From the start of the weekend, Senneker was fast, but like all race car drivers, Senneker wanted to go faster. That’s where the mistake came in, Senneker said.
“I decided to try something new in the back of the car,” said Senneker. “I ran a couple laps and it was pretty fast, but it was pretty free. Then something snapped in the car on the back end and we spun right around and backed it into the fence pretty hard. I felt foolish for crashing the car when we had a fast car and we were trying new things to go faster. We definitely took a risk. In hindsight I wish we wouldn’t have taken that risk.”
Senneker, the 2012 Glass City 200 winner, said it was the hardest impact he’s ever had when backing a car into the wall.
“It pushed the rear end up into the fuel tank,” he said. “It broke the rear end. Bent the rear end tubes. It smashed the fuel cell and collapsed it. It had a bladder in it so it didn’t spill any fuel, but it folded over the rear clip. It was a pretty hard hit. It knocked the wind out of me. I’m fine now though.”
His first course of action after seeing the damage in the pit area was to make a phone call. He phoned a friend and asked if he could run his friend’s car just in case. When he was told that he’d have the car should he need it, Senneker and his crew decided to go to work on their own car.
Senneker and the team loaded the car into the trailer and departed for Michigan. On the ride back they started to remove everything they possibly could in order to make quicker progress on the car once they arrived back at the shop.
“We got to the shop and worked through the night,” explained Senneker. “My mom had a crockpot full of chili and had that sitting there for everyone. Every three or four hours we’d grab a bowl of chili and then keep on working.”
Nobody got any sleep except for a “cat-nap” on the ride back to the race track. They finished working on the car a little bit before 8 a.m., loaded up, and headed back to the track. They didn’t even get to shower.
“We were all dirty and greasy,” he said. “We basically took wash-clothes and wiped off and changed our clothes and then headed back. We missed the driver’s meeting but made it for practice.”
Senneker said he had 100-percent faith in the car because he and his team were so thorough in checking every inch of the race car when putting it back together. That showed when Senneker almost immediately went to the top of the board in practice.
While the race didn’t exactly go as planned, Senneker wasn’t sitting and watching from the sidelines like he said he thought he would be when the race began. He was out there mixing it up for a little while before the car overheated. And because of that, Senneker said this is one of his most favorite race weekends.
“We went back to the shop and had a lot of laughs,” he said. “Nobody was miserable at all. We didn’t get much sleep, but there was a lot of joking around having fun. We wanted to show everyone how bad we want to work and how bad we want to race. It was great to rally like that and come back and at least put on a show and have a chance at winning.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Terry Senneker Facebook