In the sport of auto racing, there is no resting on your laurels. Having a good season one year, does not necessarily mean you will be successful the next. You have to try and stay ahead of the competition, or they will catch you quickly. Small Block Supermodified driver Russ Brown is not resting this off-season, even though he has been the “one to beat” in the division the past couple of years.
He is the two time defending track champion, as well as two time defending SBS Classic. Overall, Brown is the most decorated driver ever in the SBS division. He is tied with Dean Hoag for tops on the all time win list with 16, has a commanding lead in all time top fives and is in third position in all time points with almost 8000.
Russ is the only 3 time SBS track champ, as well as 3 time SBS Classic winner. He is the all time SBS Classic point leader. Any statistical category there is, Russ Brown’s name is at the top of it.
No one can argue with the team’s track record. Despite that success, the 13 team is coming into the 2007 with a new hot rod. “We are coming in with a new car,” Russ said recently. “We thought we could build a better mousetrap. We changed a few things. It was a little heavy, and we messed around with the left side weight. It’s a little lighter, and we just wanted to try some new stuff.”
Russ went on to describe some of the changes to the car. “The top rails are moved in about 4 or 5 inches. We changed the weight a bit, and took some of the rear wing out of it.”
The new car doesn’t mean that they weren’t happy the past two years. “We were very happy the way the last two years went”, Russ thought back. “We ran every lap the last two years, that’s something. We finally got the car going at the end of the year. It ran all right at the beginning, but it took us a little bit to get it where we wanted it.”
An ironic twist is, the proven car is for sale, and has been for a while. “It’s for sale,” Russ added, “but nobody wanted it. We have it for a back up for now. Guess it’ll be a pretty good back up car.”
The team has a goal in sight and they are taking dead aim on that. “The 18 second bracket is the goal,” Russ said. “That’s what we’re shooting for this year. We’ve been at 19.2, and Chris Proud ran a 19.1, but 18 is where we’re shooting for.”
They have a specific target area they think will help them get to that target. “One and two is our trouble spot,” Russ explained. “We have to run better in 1 & 2 to have a chance at the 18 second lap. We get through 3 & 4 well, we have it there, but the other end of the track gets us. I don’t know what it is, but that’s where we need to make up the time.”
The team has done a lot of work in the winter, preparing for the upcoming year. They carry the “race is won in the garage, not on the race track” philosophy that is tried and true. “We’ve worked all winter at it, and we’re ready to go. We were at the Syracuse race show a couple of weeks ago, and the car was race ready. It wasn’t just patched together to look good for the show, we’re ready to race.”
While he is looking at getting his new car up to speed quickly, he knows he will have a hungry pack behind, looking to knock him from his perch. “Mike Bond will be back this year, in the new Solazzo 26. Mike is always fast and a good driver. Josh LaRochelle just keeps getting faster, and I look for him to be back up front this year. Gruel is always fast too. This division is a tough one. So many guys are so good, it’s a tough class.”
While Russ is at the keyboards, the man behind the machine is a familiar face in the pits as well, Ray Hedger. “Racing is his outlet,” Russ said of Ray. He has his cars, he works on all kinds of cars, everything from antiques to anything imaginable. Ray is amazing with them. He gets stressed up in his work, and racing is his release.”
Brown and the rest of the Hedger cars will be ready to go when the green flag falls on May 13. “The plan now is to rent the track before opening day,” he added. Practice day is nice, but it’s tough to be there all day. You really don’t get a lot of track time that day, it’s much more efficient to rent the track and get the track time that way. All of the Hedger guys will come in together and we can all compare notes and talk about it at the same time. For us, it’s just a better way we found that works for us.”
Familiarity is another aspect of what helps the 13 team be so successful, there is very little crew turnover. The same group is helping out this year, and they even have and extra set of hands as George Metrick has joined the team. Finger Lakes Machine, Hedger Fabrication, Locy Hardwood Flooring, Ralph’s Collision, Brown Dairy, Golden Brown Tanning, Reed & Benoit Funeral Home and Carpenter Stoodly are sponsors of the team this year.
Russ Brown and his team have been the top dogs of the SBS division since he returned to racing locally a few years ago. They are the team to beat weekly, and are looking to add to their impressive list of statistics as the 2007 season comes to us. They have built a new car for the year, looking to stay ahead of the pack once again.