Saturday, March 21, 2020

TRUCKS: A rough NASCAR debut for Dan Corcoran

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Among the seven Canadian drivers entered in last summer’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Dan Corcoran was perhaps the most unique. At age 61, the native of Elginburg, Ontario had picked that day to make his Truck Series debut, driving the #33 Chevrolet fielded by Josh Reaume.

“Been on my bucket list for a year,” said Corcoran between practices. “They’ve [NASCAR] struggled with car counts a little bit – with truck counts – and it seems like an opportunity to help that part of the program. . .I’ve raced here a lot, so I’m pretty comfortable with Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. And the chance to be a part of a NASCAR show is just kind of a fantasy for a motorhead.”

Corcoran had been road racing in Bowmanville since the late 1980s, starting with the Player’s Challenge Series in 1987. He’d also claimed a few victories racing his Corvette in Trans-Am in addition to some experience in endurance racing. His racing career has close ties with his family’s business, Corcoran Excavating, which backed his effort at Mosport:

“My dad started the company in 1962, and the money to buy his first bulldozer he made racing cars. So he would race cars four nights a week and make $35 a night and he would work on the bulldozer all week and make $35 a week. So the money to buy our first bulldozer came from racing cars. And he got me started racing cars when I was 15. My brother Tony who’s helping me this weekend, he started racing when he was the same – he was 15 or 16. Tony went on to have tremendous success as the first “Mr. Dirt” in the Northeastern United States – my brother Tony Corcoran. And he raced in NASCAR North with Robbie Crouch and (Kevin) Lepage and those guys. So the Corcoran Excavating name needed to be on the car because that’s kind of what got us in the excavating business. We’ve been very fortunate – the excavating business has been very good for us.”

Corcoran steered his attention to NASCAR with some advice from his friend and hero Ron Fellows, who gave him some pointers about racing heavy stock cars around the road courses. This led to Corcoran’s XFINITY Series debut at Watkins Glen earlier that month, driving for Mike Harmon. After qualifying 34th in the field of 37, his race got off to a rough start: “Once again, a rookie driver and crew chief didn’t communicate very well, so we got done qualifying and I left the damn power switch turned on. So when it came time to start the race, the battery was dead. So give it a little push start, limped it around because it would hardly run at all, so we needed to change the battery which got us down five or six laps down at the git-go.”

Ultimately, Corcoran made it onto the track on Lap 7, and climbed to a respectable 25th at the finish. “I found the car was harder to drive fast than I expected. I was thinking I’d catch it on faster, or a little bit better. I’ve run almost as many laps at Watkins Glen as I do here, so I’m pretty comfortable there, but I really struggled to get up to speed. The cars are hard to attack – meaning it’s the first time I’ve driven one at Watkins Glen, so it was hard to attack the corners and get those couple of seconds a lap that I needed to get. But still, a bit of a surreal experience. It was really wonderful. I’m very happy to finish the race. Very happy to not wad Mike Harmon’s car up on him.”

Prior to the Mosport race, I asked Corcoran if he was interested in taking one more step to the Cup Series, perhaps for the upcoming race on the Roval. “No,” he said. “No interest at all. These guys play for keeps. I really found that out with the XFINITY guys, and I expect the Truck guys are even more, or worse, depending on how you look at young guys aspiring to move up. They need to show what they’ve got. So, no, I’m here because I’m a motorsports junkie and I love the opportunity to race race cars and trucks on great race tracks. But, no, this will be wonderful. There may be another opportunity in another truck or an XFINITY car with Harmon, but that’ll be as far as I’ll go.”

Unfortunately, things didn’t go well for Corcoran on Sunday. Running by himself off Turn 4, the #33 broke loose and nosed head-on into the inside wall, then struck it again with the rear. The driver climbed out unhurt, and we spoke briefly afterward. “Yeah, I’m good. These trucks are great – safety is wonderful. A pretty good lick on the front of the wall and the truck did a spin-around, which you’d think would give you some gyrations in the truck, but the seat’s amazing and I’m good. Just my pride – I asked the medical staff if they had anything to help me with my broken pride, but they said no.” He wasn’t sure what caused the accident. “No, it was – something happened at the exit of (Turn) 3. I don’t know if I missed a shift or whether – I just don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, the truck was around and I don’t know what happened. I don’t know.”

“I decided that if we had some success today, through the day, that I’d probably try it again. But now it’s a definite “no” from me. It’s been incredible, I’m so thankful for the opportunity, but maybe it’s a 20-year-old’s sport.”

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