The first cracked wheel we found was at High Plains, which we actually believe was there from a previous track, as we paid attention to the loss in tire pressure that morning. It wasn’t that surprising to find a crack, because it was impacted at some point with some heavy curb rash on the inside of the rim.
The second and third cracked wheel didn’t show themselves until we were at Brainerd and also noticed the tire pressure drops. They had no reason for being there except one. Rota Grids are cheap wheels.
You do not need to remind me that ROTA makes cheap wheels which should not be used on actual race cars. I get it. The wheels I really wanted on the car cost more than the price of admission on One Lap, so compromises were made and painful lessons were now learned. The fact that 3 of the 5 wheels we brought cracked is more than enough proof to remind me that I should not bring half-assed products onto the most grueling endurance race in the country. Once I learned the error of my ways, I did everything in my power to get those wheels off the car, before they actually impacted us on a track.
We were able to keep the wheels from leaking air by cleaning the cracked area and shoving RTV in the cracks. That is a reminder that I should have packed the JB weld. I ran the car on Brainerd with this setup, made sure to keep my race lines clean and off of any bumps, but didn’t really hesitate to run that first turn at 140MPH. They survived the track sessions and the drag race. For the most part they were all holding air except for one, which we had to stop multiple times on the evening drive to Road America to keep pressurized.
It would borderline an uncomfortable amount of thanks that I owe Joe Woodward and the Tire Rack for making sure those wheels were replaced with something better. Within a 30 minutes of finding out we needed help, Joe called into the Tire Rack, connected the guys to make sure the wheels would fit what we were running with tires, brakes and suspension, and cleared the path to make sure the order would be ready to go through.
When I explained to Joe that if we next day shipped the tires to meet us at Road America, it may mean we sacrifice our first run of the day, he made another call. Joe’s stepson Andrew agreed to jump in a car, pick up the tires at Tire Rack in South Bend and drive them up to Plymouth, WI. He then met us at a shop at 6:00AM to get them changed out, helping every step of the way to make that happen.
I didn’t buy my original wheels at the Tire Rack. What they did was above and beyond what I would have ever asked for and I can’t thank them enough, especially the support from one of their employees who went above and beyond himself. Without their help, along with the president of Road America, George Bruggenthies who helped put us in touch with Paul Weiss and his shop in Plymouth, none of that would have come together. Once again we were humbled to have the support of these guys behind us.
The wheels were replaced with a set of Enkei Racing PF01 which went on without a flaw and were clearly a superior wheel in every way. I am pretty sure they were lighter and even the wheel nuts they came with made the previous ones look cheap. If the tire size ever grows on this car, I am calling Enkei to see what they can do to make a proper racing wheel for us, to make sure we don’t fall for the same mistakes again.