Cunningham getting by with a whole lotta help from "friends"

BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 16, 2017) -- By now you may have seen the story on social media about Cunningham Motorsports and the team's all-nighter over the weekend to build a new car in time for Michigan. The real story actually started at Pocono last weekend when the team's 77 car crashed in qualifying. That's when the team got swarmed by its competitors.

"Everybody in the garage knew we were on a tight time frame," said Chad Bryant, crew chief on the 77.

A tight time frame indeed considering qualifying was at 2 o'clock with a 200-mile race right behind at 5:30. Keep in mind, the 77 was one of the last cars to qualify, so they were really against it. And, the 77's back-up car at Pocono was the team's short track car, which wasn't exactly race-ready for a high-speed triangular superspeedway.

Fortunately for Cunningham Motorsports, it was a good swarm, not a bad one.

"Before we knew it, we had guys from other teams up on the lift-gate unloading our back-up car. There were guys here from both of Schrader's two teams…the Venturini team was down here, Will Kimmel, guys from Codie Rohrbaugh's team, a couple from the 23 car, some of the 18 guys, and I'm probably forgetting someone but it was amazing."

Really? of the team's main competitors…the Venturinis?

"Don't get me wrong…we wanna whoop their ass on the track every week," said Venturini Motorsports General Manager Billy Venturini. "But they needed the help so we did it. We have a really good relationship with Cunningham Motorsports…there's a lot of respect on both ends. This deal is still like family here."

Bryant and Cunningham Motorsports would of course return the favor in a heartbeat.

"When the 52 crashed at Pocono two years ago in qualifying, we did the same thing with Schrader Racing. They don't forget that," Bryant said. "That's the way it is around here.

"We're all really close in this series. We race each other really hard but we have compassion for each other. It might sound corny, but that's the way it is. You really appreciate your competition who lends you a hand in times of need.

"Could we have got the car done on our own? Probably. Could we have done it as well? No."

And so it went. In a very short period of time, Cunningham Motorsports, with a whole lotta help from their "friends", transformed the 77 car from a short track car into a superspeedway special in about an hour. With elbows up...springs, shocks, suspension pieces, sway bars…you name it…they changed it. Whatever they did, it showed on the track when Dalton Sargeant managed to race his way to the front from the back, led 15 laps and finished 6th.

Then the work began.

"I flew home, so I got home first," Bryant continued. "Got to the shop about 11 a.m. Saturday and assessed the situation. We had an intermediate car that really wasn't even close. The only thing it had on it Friday was duct work and brake lines. Sunday morning, the crew showed up at 7:30 and everyone went to work on it. We built a brand new car piece by piece. Worked straight through till 1:30 in the morning Tuesday night (Wednesday morning) and loaded for Michigan."

ARCA winners at Michigan
ARCA’s relationship with Michigan reaches back to 1980 when Joe Ruttman won the inaugural ARCA race event from the pole. Other former Michigan ARCA winners over the decades include Bob Keselowski, Jeff Purvis, Tim Steele, Frank Kimmel, Kerry Earnhardt, Casey Mears, Reed Sorenson, Steve Wallace, Parker Kligerman, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher and Ross Kenseth to name a few. There hasn’t been a repeat ARCA winner at Michigan since Steele pulled off the feat in 1996 and 1997.

Raceday Schedule/Media Coverage
General Tire Pole Qualifying starts at 1:40 p.m. Friday afternoon. The Corrigan Oil 200 is scheduled to get underway Friday at 6 with live coverage on FS1. will provide live timing, scoring and chat.

Don Radebaugh