Twisting and crushing in school

Episode 246

January 6, 2019

Student projects twisted and crushed

Though the title may seem a bit harsh, Automotive Technology students at Caribou Tech Center, Caribou, Maine were eager to have projects they built destroyed. They were given the assignment to build a race car chassis which would protect the driver and eliminate as much chassis flex as possible. I designed the project to be a prototype for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) idea that I developed.

Since the cost of doing such a project would be extremely cost prohibitive and consume many days of valuable time if done to full-scale, scale models were built. Teams of one, two, or three were working with randomly selected chassis constructed before class by HTF Motorsports utilizing “high-tech” materials; craft sticks, cereal boxes, and wood glue.

Prior to the building process students went over several engineering terms including, compression, twist (torque), tension (tensile) and shear strength. Chassis building material shapes such as round and square tubing, angle iron and hexagonal shaped tubing advantages and disadvantages were discussed. Space frame (tube frame) versus monocoque construction were compared.

Toothpick models were displayed showing the value of triangulation and load transfer to good chassis construction. Advice from race engineer Jeff Braun from CORE Autosports and Ross Bentley from Speed Secrets was discussed in regards to  adding lightness and the basics of chassis deflection (twist).

Chassis #10 of 11. Note the three compartments; red Lego on left fuel cell, driver compartment, and green as a power plant. Fuel could be batteries and power plant could be electric or internal combustion engine with fuel. Cereal box floor was to stiffen up the chassis before student team began their work. The driver needed to be protected from rollovers. Length overall about 9 inches (228mm) by 2 11/16 inches (68mm) wide. (HTF Motorsports photo)

In order to check weight before making their designs, auto tech students utilized triple beam balance scales. Students were next required to insert a 1/8 inch drill rod through holes in the front of each side of chassis. Attached to the end of the rod was a spring scale.  An inclinometer was placed on the chassis to determine degrees of flex. Students checked the force in kilograms to twist the chassis six degrees before any modifications were made. Typically 600 grams per 6 degrees.

Auto Technology student Cameron Amato, Fort Fairfield, determining the chassis weight prior to any modifications and went on to twist test his chassis next. Typical chassis weighed in at approximately 22 grams. Note the drill rod insertion holes directly above Amato’s pointer finger. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The goal was to hold a minimum weight of 12 pounds (5.544 kilograms) of lead on the roll bars of the chassis. “Roll Cage tubing” (balsa sticks 3 mm wide), was used for structural purposes. The welding machines were hot glue guns.

The trick was to hold their usage of “roll cage” tubing at a minimum since weight gain was a big factor in overall judging plus chassis builders could only acquire two sticks of tubing about 80 mm long per stick. In the real world resources are not unlimited that includes time.

If students passed the minimum requirement for their roll cage, a concrete block was added to the top. Only one chassis survived that punishment. It only lasted less than 30 seconds.

Morning class Automotive Technology photo results

This photo was taken just before the concrete block crushed the roll cage of the chassis of Mark Graves, Presque Isle on the left and Jesse Helstom, Fort Fairfield on right. Northern Maine Karting Association Senior Cage Kart champion Damian Theriault, Caribou, was the third member of the team. They placed second in the morning class. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Racing to meet the morning bell deadline was (l to r) Zach Tarbox, Caribou, Keegan Goodine, Washburn, and Ben Hanning, Caribou. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Winners of the morning class was Kyle Haney, Caribou on left and Aidan Plante, Caribou, on right. They were awarded free passes from Maine Indoor Karting, Scarborough. (HTF Motorsports photo)

PM Automotive Technology photo results of strength and materials…chassis construction

Trevor Graves, Fort Fairfield, displays his finished chassis prior to weigh-in, twist test, and roll cage crushing. Graves placed fourth. (HTF Motorsports photo)

(l to r) Evan Pelkey, Fort Fairfield and Nate Labreck, Caribou teamed up to place third with their chassis. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Cage Lister, Caribou, in foreground with his second place chassis which held the weight of the concrete block the longest. Unfortunately he welded (glued) the test holes for the twist test which could not be performed and got zero points. Despite that setback, he finished only 4 points behind winner Isaiah Drayton who was camera-shy. Both Lister and Drayton were awarded tickets to Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough. In background are Nate Labreck, Wilder Mitchell, and Evan Pelkey. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Peters will be inducted into Eastern Snowmobile Racing Hall of Fame

Receiving his Class of 2018 Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame member award at the Augusta Civic Center in April 2018 is Tom Peters, Presque Isle . The award was presented by Maine Vintage Race Car Association members and fellow Aroostook County residents Lorraine and Joe Chamberlain, Woodland. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Tom Peters, member of the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2018 was notified this week that he, along with four other snowmobile racers from the northeast will be inducted into the Eastern Snowmobile Racing Hall of Fame headquartered at the Crane Snowmobile Museum in Lancaster, New Hampshire in May 2020. Peters is the only snowmobile racer from northern Maine to be selected for this honor.

Your chance to own a race track

Aerial view of the pre-race grid at the Aroostook Savings and Loan Firecracker 200 last July 3, 2018. Note the large crowd the likes of which had not been seen in several years. (Spud Speedway photo)

Let me start out with this disclaimer, I am the Spud Speedway groundskeeper for the last five years. I am responsible for making sure the facility is ready for racing or hosting other events.

Today Spud Speedway track owner, Troy Haney, posted that his 48 acre facility is for sale on the track’s Facebook page. The announcement is not a surprise for many fans who follow the track’s history over recent years.

Haney hosted regular stock car racing at the Caribou track for several years with mixed results. The cost of running the weekly series culminated with attempts to lease the track to a promoter who could try their hand at running a race track in northern Maine.

In 2014 the track celebrated 50 years of racing with a huge weekend of racing, a fair, car show, and battle of the bands. Over 2600 showed up for the weekend.

Jon Albert who leased the track in the 1990s, tried his hand at promoting the weekly series in 2015. Unfortunately that was largely an unsuccessful endeavor.

The track hosted only weekly kart racing (Northern Maine Karting Association)  in 2016 and 2017 with a limited schedule of events in 2018, including the well attended Firecracker 200 and Monster truck shows.

Haney made huge investments in the track including pit buildings, yearly maintenance and repair, seating, fencing, and many other projects not so visible to the eye. He has always stated that he would be glad to sell the track to an interested person or group of person’s who would like to keep stock car racing alive in the County, at a price of course.

Here is his posting:

For Sale: 48 Acres Speedway Facility located at 209 Thompson Road, Caribou, Maine
As we enter our 10th year of ownership of Spud Speedway we have some awesome special events scheduled for 2019 and we believe with the right focus and ownership there could be more events held at the Speedway. Without the proper time to build a full season we would love to see the Speedway go to a person with passion for Motorsports get the Speedway working great again.

The facility is in the best condition it has been in decades and truly is a great place to host events. Lots of parking and camping area, the track is in great shape. There are all new rebuilt bleachers done just last summer, nice clean bathrooms, two beautiful kitchen/concession areas, lots of storage buildings, and more!

This location is also an approved and favorable area for a cell phone tower and we have had companies interested in renting space in the past. This sale will not effect our 2019 schedule and if a sale doesn’t happen we will still continue to host a season of kart racing, the Rusty Wallace Driving School, and of course our Pro All Star Series race in August.

This facility worked great to host concerts, sled racing, monster truck shows, racing and more. If you are interested in more information contact Troy Haney at 207-227-0897 or email me at

Wyatt Alexander Racing releases their 2019 race schedule

After a family meeting looking at logistics of their race car and trailer, crew, and of course their driver, who is a full-time student at University of North Carolina-Charlotte compiled a schedule for the 2019 season which includes races in the south, road course races, races in Maine and in New Brunswick. The 20 race schedule is subject to change as needed of course.

Wyatt Alexander racing preliminary 2019 race schedule subject to change as needed. (Courtesy of Wyatt Alexander Racing)

Spud Speedway Firecracker 200 winner PASS National Champion

When #12 G Derek Griffith, Hudson, New Hampshire pulled into Victory Circle at Spud Speedway July 3, 2018, few spectators that evening would have guessed that they were looking at the Pro All Star Series (PASS) National Champion for 2018. As steam rolled out of the engine after a hard battle with D.J. Shaw and Cassius Clark, Griffith was surrounded by his hard-working crew.

They would once again surround the young man from New Hampshire at the PASS Annual Awards ceremony held this year at the Hilton Garden Inn-Riverwatch, Auburn Maine Saturday evening. Griffith finished fourth in the Northern Tour and won the National Tour.

Derek Griffith #12G crew at PASS Awards ceremony l to r Louie Mechalides, Lindsey Ellison, Jeremy Stec, Dolly Mechalides, John Griffith,  Derek Griffith, Emily Lanpher, Cassidy Griffith, and Chris Tsioulis. (Photo courtesy Dolly Mechalides)

Back to 24 Hours of Daytona this month

January 25, 26, and 27th you can find me and my brother and my assistant, Bill Hale, at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. This will be my fourth year covering this classic sports car event. This race has me more excited than the first three from the standpoint that the County has another local tie-in to the race.

The owner/driver, Jon Bennett CORE Autosports, has a direct connection to the Swedish community which you will be reading about over the next several weeks in future episodes of UpNorth Motorsports. I have been keeping this story under wraps until now.

CORE Autosports based out of Rock Hill, South Carolina, late in 2018 decided to move up to the top division in IMSA, the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class. To accomplish this the team purchased the Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) two Nissan V6 twin turbo powered Onroak Ligier chassis after ESM’s primary sponsor pulled out of racing. The team received the Nissans in December. Despite the late start in DPi, the team had some bright moments with a fifth place on the charts during night practice and quickest time for the final practice session at the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway these past three days.(CORE Autosports photo)

In addition to the CORE portion of coverage, we plan to meet with Ford GT manager Grant Weaver to find out how the team plans to unseat the Corvettes for the season title. Of course you can expect photos of the turf grass on the front stretch which is the handiwork of Director of Grounds, Jason Griffeth, a Woodland native.

Speaking of Nissan…

As you may know, I interviewed Garrett Holler, Holler Customs this past summer. Holler got his start working on very expensive collector cars at Restoration Performance Motorcars, Vergennes, Vermont.

This past year he opened his own shop in Addison, Vermont specializing in high-end and custom cars. One of those cars caught my eye when he unveiled the finished product on his Facebook page this week.

This 2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo owned by Vermonter Angela Volk now living in Mississippi, had the “Holler” touch applied to the carbon fiber, rear wing, and air ride suspension installed. Volk is a certified boiler welder specializing in paper mill boilers. (Holler Customs photo)

A word about Angela another “gearhead girl”

I was interested in what inspired Angela to purchase the bright red Nissan 370Z Nismo. In addition to finding that out, I found out she was a farm girl and former FFA member. Her words:

“I was an FFA member! And a 4H member. I showed cows for 11 years and every once in a while I come back in the summer and show open show still at field days.”

“I wanted to be a large animal vet, but life took me elsewhere. I grew up working on dairy farms and was completely oblivious about the car world. My dad would always have to remind me to do my oil change because it was just something I never thought about doing and now I’m constantly making sure everything is good and my cars are running well and happy”

“I admire cars and I can do basic mechanical work. I didn’t get into cars until about 6 years ago when my ex boyfriend introduced me to the ‘car scene’.”

“I started out with Subaru and just wanted to go towards a more ‘adult’ sporty car that gives you the thrill but looks sleek and sophisticated. I went with a Nismo cause it’s more refined and tweaked in a way where it handles better, has a better tune and overall more aggressive feel.”

“I hate it though how Nissan is now making all their cars come with a Nismo package. I feel like it’s ruining the specialness of owning a Nismo packaged Nissan.”

Volk has lived in Mississippi the last 3 years and 8 months where she works as a certified boiler welder. When asked if she went to school to learn how to weld she replied, “[My boyfriend] taught me to weld out of our garage. We have a personal welding machine that we use.”

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)


Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine