WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Weather in the Midwest is unpredictable and even the slightest accumulation of moisture on the track can pose a major risk to NASCAR drivers on race day.
To combat unwanted moisture, the racetrack is cured with a dryer attached to the bed of a truck that blasts hot air via jet engines straight onto the track. With a slight chance of rain in the forecast for the highly anticipated Buschy McBush Race 400, a broken dryer, contracted repair team unavailable, and the closest spare multiple states away, the Kansas Speedway reached out to the 442d Fighter Wing for assistance.
“The racecars not only have no windshields wipers but the tires have a completely smooth tread which is designed to provide the maximum amount of contact on the track” stated Pat Warren, president of Kansas Speedway. “The cars drive at speeds around 200 mph, and for 167 laps, the surface area must be dry.”
“When Mr. Warren called and needed our assistance, I knew our maintenance team could do the job” said Brig. Gen. Mike Schultz, commander of the 442d Fighter Wing. “The request not only provided training to our jet engine mechanics but also reinforced our ties to the local community. NASCAR boasts some of the most patriotic fans you will ever find so we were excited to showcase Air Force Reserve talent and provide support to our Kansas Speedway partners.”
Two Reserve Airmen, Tech. Sgt. Boyd Kempher and Tech. Sgt. Daniel Russell, both Air Force aerospace propulsion and jet engine mechanics whose daily job is to inspect, maintain, modify, test, and repair jet engines were hand-selected to troubleshoot and fix the speedway’s dryers.
“What we knew when we arrived was that the auto shutdown feature had malfunctioned due to either temperature or speed” said Russell. “Kempher and I repaired the wiring in the thermocouple – which is basically a heat-operated switch – and the governor on the fuel control, which controls the top speed of the engine. When that didn’t fix the problem, we isolated the issue to the centrifugal multi-switch, which enables the dryer to work as the oil pressure and temperature change when the rpms increase.”
“We cannot thank the 442d Fighter Wing and Team Whiteman enough. Although we were fortunate that the rain held off until later that evening, in the event the track needed dried, we had the right team helping us out” said Warren. “The ties we have to Whiteman Air Force Base are second to none and the partnerships we have forged is a true testament to our Midwest values.”
“The A-10 flyover, Airmen fixing jet engines, and engaging with NASCAR fans – what is more American than that?” said Schultz. “We look forward to continuing our long lasting partnership with the Kansas Speedway for many years to come.”