Cary Racing looks to thrive with new drivers – Purdue Exponent
After losing both drivers from last year, a Purdue team has found two experienced students who it hopes can drive to victory after qualifying near the front of Saturday’s 33-driver field.
The elder driver on the team, junior Adam Jennerjahn, started go-kart racing when he was 9 years old and has been racing ever since. For the electrical and computer engineering technology major, deciding to race in his first Grand Prix wasn’t a tough decision.
“I grew up racing go-karts,” Jennerjahn said. “So (Grand Prix) wasn’t really an option for me. It wasn’t something that I wanted to but something that I had to do.
“I remember a lot of late nights in the garage with my dad that I did not want to do. Nowadays I don’t mind it as much, but growing up at the age of 12, I just hated working with a wrench. … All I wanted to do was drive.”
The Hartford City native raced on tracks all over Indiana while he was growing up, coming across some of the competitors he will face on Saturday.
“I grew up racing with Camden Speth, who qualified right behind me,” Jennerjahn said. “A lot of these guys are familiar faces. Abby Willis, who qualified sixth, I raced with her just last year. So, there’s a lot of people from the area.”
Another one of those familiar faces is Jennerjahn’s teammate, freshman Kyle Tilley. Tilley used to race go-karts at a track in New Castle, Indiana, along with Jennerjahn, Speth and Willis.
Grand Prix will be Tilley’s first race since his freshman year of high school.
“It was a great passion of mine,” he said. “I didn’t stop because I didn’t like it; I stopped because it was a pretty expensive hobby to be into. Unfortunately, we had to drop it, so when I heard about Grand Prix I knew it was something I had to join.”
As for the learning curve, it didn’t take Tilley too long to get back into the swing of things.
“Maybe the first few laps it took me a little bit (of adjustment),” he said. “But I’d say it’s just like riding a bike. … I’m sure I’m still shaking off a little bit of rust, but for the most part I still remember all the tricks and the techniques you need to get around the courses.
During Saturday’s qualifying session, Tilley didn’t show any sign of rust and qualified second, one spot ahead of his teammate in third.
As far as Cary Racing goes, team members don’t have to live in Cary, they just need to be willing to commit to the team. Jennerjahn lived in McCutcheon and Hilltop before receiving a call from Cary Racing asking him to be a driver for them. Tilley also was sought out by the team after members learned he would be coming to Purdue.
Cary Racing seems to have hit the replacement jackpot with Tilley and Jennerjahn.
The time commitment is essentially year-round for the 20 to 30 official members of Cary Racing. New members are introduced in the fall and the education process starts immediately.
“Mostly we’re working on teaching the new members on how to tune the car and how to get ready for race day,” Tilley said. “We only meet about once a week, usually on Thursdays, as a refresher and to keep everybody active. It’s not too busy of a time commitment other than these two or three weeks during Grand Prix season.”
Later in the fall semester is when meetings turn from education to application.
“Grand Prix is kinda always on your mind,” Jennerjahn said. “Typically the work starts about mid-December getting ready for things like the technical inspections and stuff like that.”
The technical inspections usually take place in late-January and early-March, and safety officials look for anything from the type of bolts used to hold the kart together to the type of gas that can used to refill the tank.
After passing these inspections and making it through all the practice and qualifying sessions, the Cary Racing team is finally ready for race day.
Saturday will be Jennerjahn’s first Grand Prix behind the wheel, but he gained some experience being a crew member last year. After qualifying third last weekend, he knows this will be a long week leading up to the race.
“I’ll overthink things a lot,” he said. “But mainly just focus on getting the kart ready and making sure everything is where it needs to be.”
Despite being Tilley’s first Grand Prix, he’s trying to gain experience by watching film of previous races.
“I don’t really know what all to expect throughout most of the race since I haven’t been here,” he said. “I’ve watched a good amount of the race footage from last year just to see what I could expect.”
Though, Tilley admits he is nervous about getting off to a good start.
“Most of what I’ll be thinking about is trying not to get into an accident those first five laps.”
Starting at the front of the field, avoiding an early accident shouldn’t be a big issue for Jennerjahn and Tilley. But as the race goes on, the ability to cleanly maneuver through lapped traffic will play a major role in determining the outcome.
“They cram 33 karts on that small track,” Tilley said. “So there’s gonna be a lot of lapped traffic. There may not be as much passing up front, but I’ll be passing cars in general pretty often.”
Picking the correct time to pass and making the right moves are things Tilley said he has a lot of fun with.
“The thing I’m most looking forward to is the amount of passing,” he said. “Honestly, there were some races (as a kid) where I had to start in the back. Some of those were the most fun races I ever had. Passing karts is really the most exciting part.”
For go-kart racers, passing the driver in front of them is a lot more difficult than just flicking on a turn signal and cruising by.
“The first thing I try to do when I get up behind people is identify what kind of lines they’re running and about how quick they are,” Tilley said. “Depending on how fast you are or what kind of lines you’re running, I have to debate where I can pass.”
Despite his experience with racing as a kid, Tilley has never run a race as long as Grand Prix.
“I’m hoping it’ll be alright,” he said. “It’s gonna be a little tiring. I will say qualifying wore me out a little bit, but that’s running 15 laps straight, as hard as I can. When I get out there (Saturday), there’s gonna be cautions, I’m gonna be passing people, so that gives you a little bit of a breather.”
Jennerjahn had some advice for his teammate.
“A lot of things can get in your head over the course of 160 laps,” he said. “So, the best thing is to remain optimistic and remain hopeful. Keep your head in the game and don’t take yourself out of it.”
Even though neither driver has ever raced in Grand Prix before, their outside experience gives them confidence that they can place well.
“I definitely wouldn’t say I fully expect to win,” Tilley said. “But I feel like I have a decent shot at winning, so it’s a possibility. … Ideally, I definitely want to finish the race so that’s one of my main goals. But, I am a competitor; I’ve raced for years so my primary objective is still going to be to win.”
Jennerjahn was more clear with his expectations for the race.
“To win,” he said. “That’s why I came.”
Cary Racing looks to thrive with new drivers – Purdue Exponent