Wallowa County-based Hayes Bros. Racing Team is set to roll after a slow start at the beginning of the 2018 NW Pro Four (cylinder) Racing series. The team consists of brothers Jerry and James Hayes as well as head mechanic Brian Finch of Walla Walla, Wash. James Hayes is the team’s driver while brother, Jerry, works in the pits.
Jerry said Finch had built a new motor with plenty of extra horsepower for the car.
“He did a great job building that engine,” Jerry said. “We’d been buying engines from these other guys, and they were gutless.”
Along with the new engine, the car, a modified Ford Fusion, also sports a new fluorescent-yellow exterior, a change from its previous red color.
“We always wanted a yellow or bright car because it makes us easier to see on the track, and it makes the car really ours,” Hayes said. “It also attracts attention to our sponsors, and we couldn’t do it without them.”
Horsepower, however, doesn’t always win races. The team’s first race of the year on May 19 in Hermiston saw the gearing create issues, as did the carburetor. The team dropped out of the race.
“It’s been one of those years,” Hayes said. “It’s a year of little-bitty things, not major things, but it’s been just constant.”
The team began its second race of the season in Monroe, Wash., hoping for better luck, but carburetor problems proved a cruel portent for the day as the team spent some time, including the first practice run, rounding up a new one.
After getting the carburetor issue resolved, the car’s starter gave up the ghost. The team had to push-start the car as it was too late to replace the starter.
“We missed both practices we had,” Jerry said. A heat race served as the team’s first actual practice, and the car came in 11th of the 15 that competed.
“It was fine, considering we had no practice,” he said.
The team still qualified, but when the actual race began, they had to start behind all competitors due to the push starting. James Hayes quickly started to catch up to the competition, but the lack of practice with the new hopped-up engine saw Hayes closing the gap so fast that he was forced to dive into the bottom lane to avoid a collision.
Still another car dropped in front of James, forcing him to slam the brakes, barely avoiding another collision.
The Hayes team twice installed new gears on the car to cut back on horsepower and increase torque. The main race saw the car still had plenty of horsepower for speed, and James quickly passed several cars after push-starting from behind the starting line.
“He was just flying,” Jerry said. “He was doing great, and we were running in eighth place and still gaining on other cars.”
With around 10 laps to go in the race, the leader began to pass the Hayes car and although James took the car high into the first turn to avoid a collision, the leader still clipped him near its front wheel. James reported steering issues to the pit crew, who motioned him in. Inspection found a bent rim and another major issue.
“The guy hit us so hard in the front wheel spindle that it stripped our tie rods,” Jerry said. The team ended the race 10th.
“It wasn’t where we wanted to finish,” Jerry said. “It was a rough day, but we got good information on the engine, and we know what it will do. We’re pretty excited.”
The team is set to race again July 28 at the Wenatchee Super Oval in Wenatchee, Wash., and finish the season with two races in September in Roseburg and Hermiston.
To learn more about the Hayes Bros. Racing Team or to become a sponsor, visit the team’s Facebook page facebook.com/hayesbrothersracing or chat with Jerry at 541-426-5919.