The Claremont, N.H., driver had thrown everything he could think of at his No. 31 R.E. Hinkley Oil Dodge Charger to no avail. Nothing was making the car circle the peculiar quarter-mile any more efficiently. If Hinkley had a kitchen sink at his disposal, he probably would have thrown that at the ill-tempered car, too.
So, Hinkley made a phone call across the Green Mountains to Mitch Green, and in the middle of the night, Green offered up some advice. That advice turned Hinkley's team around 180 degrees – turning the No. 31 from a car that simply wouldn't go to one that most of the other ACT Late Model Tour teams couldn't keep up with when practice resumed the next morning.
“The knowledge level up there (at Crazy Horse Racing) is huge for us, especially now with this ACT Tour deal,” said Hinkley, 29, in his first full ACT season. “Look at that race at Thunder Road. We were 35th or 37th in practice all day on Saturday, and I called Mitch that night him and told him I'd done everything I could think of to do to it."
“Then he told me to make some changes that went against the way I would have ever thought – and we were so fast on Sunday. It was unbelievable.”
Hinkley went out and finished second in his qualifying heat and ended up posting a season-best finish of seventh in the Merchants Bank 150. He followed that by finishing 10th in last weekend's Spring Green 112 at Devil's Bowl Speedway, part of a banner day that saw three Crazy Horse Racing chassis finish inside the Top-10.
With his first career back-to-back Top-10 finishes in ACT competition, Hinkley sits sixth in the Tour standings heading into this weekend's off-weekend. He's qualified for all three ACT events in 2012 and hasn't finished outside the Top-15.
“That's one of the biggest things about the Tour is that we haven't been to a lot of the tracks that we're racing at this year,” said Hinkley, who got his start racing Mini Sprint cars on dirt as a teenager. “We had never been to Lee (USA Speedway, site of the season opener last month) before, and at Thunder Road I only had limited experience. We go to Oxford next, and I've never been there, either, or to any of the tracks in Canada.
“It's especially tough when you look at the amount of competition on that Tour. I honestly believe there are 10-15 teams each week that can win a race and have a shot each and every time. There's a lot of young kids and older veterans. It takes every little thing to win at that level.”
Hinkley dabbled in the ACT Tour in 2011, running a half-dozen events and posting a career-best finish of fourth on his home track of Twin State Speedway. He's running a Crazy Horse Racing chassis originally built for Brian Hoar – the same car Hoar drove to the 2009 ACT championship.
Having the support of the chassis builder has helped Hinkley and his relatively new team – they've only been together for three years – get up to speed sooner rather than later. In 2010, Hinkley won two Late Model features at Twin State.
“I've worked with a few different chassis builders over the years, and (Crazy Horse) is the best. They're just all great people,” Hinkley said. “You can call any of them, it doesn't matter what time, and they'll walk you through things. They'll always help you. That's been big for me.”
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