How we got here, and where we are going
How we got here, and where we are going
As a kid growing up in central Indiana, my summer weekends were spent with my dad, John Hayes, at the local short tracks. We spent many nights at Anderson Speedway, Terre Haute "Action Track", Kokomo, Eldora, and others. And when the month of May came around each year, I followed all of the action at the Indianapolis 500. I always loved racing. And every time I was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I would dream about what it would be like to battle on that stage.
As a teenager, I started racing myself, but on a smaller scale. My dad and I got in to racing scale radio-controlled cars. Everything from fast and nimble 1/12 scale on road cars, to the large 1/4 scale cars. We eventually became so involved, that my dad became part owner of a local high banked oval r/c track. I learned to enjoy the technical aspects of building the cars, as well as the competition on the track. The technical aspects of racing, wether r/c cars or real cars, are what lead me to study Mechanical Engineering in college. After graduating from Purdue, my r/c car hobby turned in to my first professional job. I became an engineer designing r/c cars and slot cars at Parma International. While it wasn't full scale racing, I was proud to have designed a range of successful 1/10th scale r/c and 1/24th scale slot cars that won national and world championships.
After a couple of years working at Parma in Cleveland, Ohio, it was time to move back to Indiana to be closer to my son and family. So my wife Nan and I packed up, moved back to the Indianapolis area, and I took a job at Firestone Industrial Products. I had moved on from the scale model cars, and now I was engineering suspension systems for real cars.
One weekend, I went to visit my old friend Sam Mudd. Sam had an awesome Scalextric slot car track, and we would have some pretty intense races there. This is where Sam introduced me to Chuck and Mike Baden. They lived down the street from Sam, and had a garage full of race cars. This was my real introduction to Formula Fords. I went over to see their shop and cars. I instantly fell in love with the cars, the perfect mix of simplicity and technology, lightweight, fully adjustable, and fast around a race track. I would spend weekends at their shop helping work on their cars, and in exchange they helped me rent a car and get through my SCCA drivers school. I was really going racing!
It was the spring of 2007 that we loaded up a Lola T-440 formula ford, and headed to Gateway Raceway for my SCCA drivers school. After a hectic weekend full of loose wheels, accidentally triggered fire systems, and a broken crank...I had barely completed enough laps to get my race license.
So I had a race license, but I also had a rented car with a broken engine. This is where Sam came to the rescue. He bought the Lola with the broken engine, and later would have a full restoration done on that car. The partnership with Sam was further cemented as we decided to go in together to buy another car that I could race that year. We found an old Zink Z-16. One of my Firestone colleagues, mutli-time Runoffs champion Dave Weitzenhof had raced a Z-16 in the past. So I figured if a Z-16 was good enough for Dave, then it was certainly good enough for me. I ran the regional Club Formula Ford class that summer. That car wasn't much to look at, but we learned to love her. I won my first race in the Zink Z-16 at Gingerman Raceway, and we celebrated victory with dinner at a restaurant called Clementine's. From that day on, the Zink had a name, Clementine.
By the end of 2007, we decided to move in to a more modern car. We bought a very well prepared Van Diemen RF98k from Jim Nash. During the 2008 season Sam formed Team Effort Racing and bought a second RF98k for Mike Baden to run alongside me in the car we bought from Jim Nash. We started doing a bunch of development work on the two cars, ran a full Nationals season, and went to the Runoffs in Topeka. We didn't set the world on fire, but ended the year winning a few races, and finishing in the top 10 at the Runoffs. Not bad for only having a hand full of races under my belt.
That winter, we put a ton of effort in to preparing the cars. In a stroke of luck, accomplished race engineer Geoff Bushor lived right up the street from me. Geoff had spent time engineering everything from Formula Fords to IndyCars. That winter he helped Team Effort Racing take our preparations to another level. The 2009 Runoffs were scheduled to be at the high speed Road America, and we were going to be ready. Unfortunately our season was derailed right from the start. I had started suffering from pretty significant neck pain, and my season ended under the knife.
By 2010, Team Effort Racing had added a Van Diemen DP08 Zetec F2000 car to the stable. And driver James Winslow (IndyLights, F3, LeMans, etc...) started driving our cars at times, and became a huge asset to me as a driver coach. I would spend 2010 splitting time between the FF and FC car and getting faster and faster with each outing.
But it was also in 2010, that I made the very tough decision to put my racing on hold, and move to California to start working for a little known electric car start-up called Tesla Motors. The next six years were spent working long hours, and my racing endeavors were limited to a few mountain bike races here and there.
This is where the story begins to come full circle. The SCCA announced that the SCCA Runoffs would be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017. And I was not going to miss that. So I bought an immaculately prepared Piper DL7 Formula F car from Doug Learned. I have Doug and his son Doug Jr. preparing the car for my 2017 season. If all goes well, I'll be racing at the Brickyard in September!