Wedge Racing in 2007
Homestead - January - skipped.
Sebring - January - skipped.
Well ... it was Kershaw -what did we expect? Good weather? Guess it depends on your perspective <G>. The temps had been quite mild - all through January and February - right up to the day before we left for the race. The temperature plummeted from the 70's to the 40's and the forecast was for even colder through the weekend. Oh well ...
Linda and I recently bought a "new" (to us) motorhome - this time a DP (diesel pusher - engine in the back). Those things are generally horrendously EXPENSIVE, but I 'got a deal' on a fixer-upper and had spent quite a number of hours over the winter getting it into shape. This would be our first trip in it pulling the trailer. Fortunately, everything seemed to go pretty well. A couple of minor issues popped up, but nothing major - it towed reasonably well and was AMAZINGLY quieter in the front than the gasser (which we still have if anyone is interested <G>). I have yet to determine just exactly WHERE we'll park it and HOW we'll get it around the driveway. Ultimately, it may end up being more than I can manage, so that's why we're hanging on to the old one - till we decide for sure that we can work everything out with the new one...
Got to the track and found a decent place to park (another issue with the DP - it's 11 feet longer than the gasser. Parking won't be quite as easy!) - got some electrical power and checked things over in the trailer - all seemed OK. Unloaded the car and ran it over to tech to get it's "annual" (every car has to be FULLY checked over by an official at least once per year). Being one of the early races of the year, there was quite a line, but we got through it and the car passed just find (I hadn't taken it out of the trailer since the Runoffs!!). After tech, I got out some tools and spent a few minutes going over it to make sure that nothing had fallen off (or was about to) during the 4 month hiatus since the Runoffs - all seemed good so we retired for the evening.
Sat morn was COLD COLD and gray. I considered skipping the practice session - we were group 2 - but, since the car hadn't been out (nor had I) in 4 months, I felt it prudent to make the effort to at least get in a couple of laps. Unfortuantely, at TWENTY FIVE degrees, the battery and engine weren't in such a good mood. I couldn't get it to crank. Put the battery charger on it and waited a while - still no go - the battery didn't have enough juice to turn it over decently. After fooling around with it for about 15 minutes, I finally realized that the electrical power voltage was too low to charge the battery at all - too many people drawing power across the paddock. I cranked the RV generator and THEN had decent voltage. The battery came up quickly and in about 5 minutes I had a running engine :-).
I put on extra clothes under my driver's suit and we waited in the semi-heated trailer till the checker flew for the first session. Took a little longer to get in the car with my extra clothes and we were late getting out - no real problem. Just meant that we didn't have to sit in the cold for quite as long :-). I got onto the track and took it easy coming up to speed. The car felt "ok" - not "good" - just OK. Engine felt strong, but the handling was pitiful. Seemed that way for most people, I think, as I caught a group of about 4 Vees and ran with them several laps. No one was doing really well (JUST TOOO COLD!!) and we all had pretty close times. I was able to pass on the straights, but the car was a beast in the turns. My fingers were frozen to the steering wheel and it was "not quite as much fun" as usual :-). We survived and ended the session intact (28 degrees according to the temp sensor in my data system!)
The (only) qualifier was in the afternoon. It warmed up a bit into the mid 30's but was still REALLY COLD. I kept the car in the trailer with the kerosene heater going so at least IT wouldn't be cold. Checked everything over, put in fuel and oil and cleaned things here and there. I decided to leave the same tires on - I had only one other set and wanted to save them for the race. In the qualifying session, the car was diabolical! It seemed quite a bit worse than in the morning session. NO GRIP at all!! The rear kept trying to pass the front and I could get NO speed through the carousel going onto the back straight. The engine still felt fine, the car just wouldn't stick to the track! I kept it mostly on the track, though, and didn't crash - I considered that an accomplishment. In the radio, Linda told me I was about a full second off the fast Vee time - not good, but what could I do?? Stay safe - don't crash - keep trying ... When the dust settled, we were 3rd on the grid with only a tenth of a second between 2nd, 3rd and 4th - pretty close!!
I talked to the Goodyear guys, and the new tires they had would be the same batch as the Runoffs tires that I already had - so there didn't seem to be much reason to buy new ones. The ones I had, had plenty of rubber and should be better than what I ran in the first 2 sessions.
Race day was clear and sunny, but still cold. Being Group 2 meant we would race before lunch. The sun "warmed" the track all the way up to about 40 degrees and the wind died down to tolerable levels. All in all, not a 'bad' day although still quite chilly. Our race time came and I worked HARD to warm the tires on the pace laps (they gave us 2 pace laps due to the cold). It SEEMED like this set of tires was going to be pretty good. GREEN FLAG - I got a good start and pulled up on the outside of the pole sitter as we crossed the start line. I was pondering just how deep I could go, when HE decided he was deep enough and backed out of it. I passed going into T1 and took the lead as we chased after the FF's and F500's. The car was feeling 'decent', but still did its 'drifting thing' going through the carousel (T5). I could see Gary Blanrik in his Caracal in my left mirror coming up on the outside of me and he BLEW by me as my car slid - obviously, his was sticking better than mine :-(. I followed as best I could - keeping pace on the straight, but loosing on every turn. He gradually eased away from me while I had constant pressure from behind from Charlie Rogers. After about 7 laps, Charlie passed me at the end of the back straight and I had a NEW JOB - *STAY WITH HIM*!! In order to have any chance of getting second place back, I would HAVE to stay close. I thought about passing him back when the opportunity presented itself (actually several times), but decided that my best chance would be to wait until the last lap - that would give him only ONE shot at getting back by ... if I didn't screw up anywhere. I waited, followed, waited ... Linda counted down the laps. The FF's lapped us - and then F5's and as the laps wound down, it became clear that the lead FF was going to lap us again - the question was WHEN. If he caught us and went by on HIS last lap, it would shorten our race - we would suddenly be on OUR last lap when it USED to be 2 laps to go. I watched and wondered, then decided that I better go ahead and pass Charlie - just in case. I would have to deal with the possibility of getting repassed when that problem came up. I took the position with 2 laps to go and hoped. I was lucky ... the car worked well and apparently Charlie's tires were going off as he slowly faded rather than pressuring me. I finished comfortably in second but with first no where in sight. Gary won, then me, then Charlie, and Dale Rader finished 4th after fighting with his ill handling car the entire race.
The car is in one piece - I'm talking with Goodyear about the tire situation and they're working on it. Could be that the tires I have, have been sitting in the warehouse too long - they're too old to work in these cold temps. Maybe **I'VE** been sitting in the warehouse too long?? Hopefully, Roebling will be warm! I'm not leading the division, but at least we're racing and having a good time. On to Savannah and we'll see what transpires there!!
Road - March
HEY!! Good weather for a change <G> !! Nice easy trip down on Friday, found a decent place to park, and we got to watch the last 3 test sessions of the day.
Saturday and Sunday both turned out really nice too. Temps in the 50's and 60's during the day and only into the low 40's at night. I was a bit apprehensive coming into the weekend. We had a good field signed up and it looked like there was going to be some serious competition (I was not to be disappointed). With the cold tire problems we had at Kershaw, I was very concerned that the car was not going to handle - or maybe I'm losing my touch at the wheel? The track was repaved late last year and this would be the first National event on it. I was VERY pleased when I went out for the practice and the car was GREAT!! It was cornering and sticking just like it was supposed to and I was grinning from relief. In that first session, I turned times very close to the fastest I had EVER run at that track. When the afternoon qualifier came, I left the same tires on (Runoffs leftovers) and managed to qualify on the POLE with a time about 1/2 second under the lap record. Donnie Isley was second, Jeremy Grenier third, Mike Leonard 4th with several other cars within tenths of a second.
At race time, we had picked up about a 20 MPH headwind - that would mean that the draft would be more effective, but ultimately lap times would likely be a bit slower. At the green, Steve Ira got a great start and blasted by us all going into turn 1 (he had to start last because he was unable to qualify due to a fuel cell problem). Everyone was together - Steve, then Donnie, me, Jeremy and everyone else behind that. On the next lap, 3 of us passed Steve, dropping him to 4th - the full pack still close. Donnie, myself and Jeremy swapped the lead over the next couple laps and we broke away from the rest of the Vees. About 4 laps into the race, as I was passing for the lead, 2 FFords got together in T1. As we passed the incident, I was concerned that a yellow flag MIGHT have been out and I missed it (Donnie's car is bright yellow and I was looking at the back of it most of the way down the straight. I slowed and pointed Donnie back by (to 'unpass') and Jeremy went with him. As we came by S/F, I watched closely to see if I was being shown a black flag - AH! none shown - I'm OK. We race on around to T5 where I see double yellows (Pace Car coming out) at T6. Apparently, the operating steward wants the remaining FFord at T1 moved (too close to the track). We slowed somewhat but kept a fairly decent speed, since our "job" was to catch the FFord pack in front of us - bunch the field together so the rest of the track would be empty for that car removal. We would also lose that gap we had built up over the rest of the Vee field. Coming down the front straight, I noticed a red car coming up in my mirror - Mike Leonard was still hard on it, passing several cars as we came across the S/F line before he suddenly realized his error (he had not noticed the yellow!). He immediately slowed - pulled to the right and put his hand up - waving us back by so he could insert himself back into his rightful spot. We caught the FFords at T5 and the tow vehicles were finally dispatched to the T1 incident.
The Pace Car slowed us A LOT on the front straight as they finished the car removal, then we steeled for the restart. Donnie was leading, I was second and Jeremy 3rd. Donnie got a good jump and held the lead into T1 with me and Jeremy close behind. On the next lap, Jeremy passed me going into T1 and closed on Donnie. When we went into the carousel, Jeremy made a move to the inside and took the lead coming out of T7. It would do him no good, however, as both Donnie and I were able to get by him before the S/F line. The FFord leaders lapped us in the next couple of laps and Jeremy started to fade - I think he made a mistake at the carousel - or possibly got 'misplaced' by a lapping FFord - and lost the draft. After that, he just lost a little more each lap. Now it's down to Donnie and I. Donnie was leading, so I spent the next several laps staying behind him and working on my strategy. I was faster in the turns - he was a tad faster on the straights. Each lap I set Donnie up as if for the last lap - sometimes for T1 and sometimes for S/F (the only real place to pass is on the front straight - S/F is just under 1/2 way between T9 and T1. Most passes are made going into T1, but if you do that, you might be repassed before S/F). I tried to guess if I was fast enough to get by Donnie before S/F - or fast enough to keep him from passing ME before S/F. In the end, I decided that I MIGHT be able to get him before S/F, but it wasn't likely - my best bet would be to take the lead going into T1 on the last lap and try to put enough distance on him to prevent the repass before S/F. Linda was on the radio as she counted down the laps. It's a bit difficult sometimes because the lap count is based on the overall (FFord) leader's lap. When HE crosses the finish line at the end of HIS 23rd lap, our race will end the next time WE cross S/F. Linda was trying to figure it out as I was going down the front straight - she finally came up with a positive answer as I exited T2 when the FFord leader took the checker. A bit too late for me to make the last lap pass into T1, unfortunately. Soooo.... we go to Plan B - try to beat Donnie to the S/F line out of T9. I need to be EXACTLY the right distance behind Donnie coming out of the carousel - too close and I won't get a good enough 'run', too far back and I won't complete the pass in time. I set it up ... I'm closing.... Donnie comes onto the front straight and moves to the inside to make me have to go farther to pass. I cut it as CLOSE as I can before pulling out to pass ... I'm edging up on him... more... more ... here comes the line.... it's going to be CLOSE .... !!!!! Fantastic finish - with me JUST edging Donnie by a few inches at the finish line. (The timing and scoring staff reported it as "something less than a foot" margin of victory.
We come around and park in the impound area where congrats are handed all around. This is Donnie's first race in a couple of years - a GREAT start to his comeback! This was GREAT FUN!! *THIS* is why we race!! ....Uh oh ... the Chief Steward takes me aside ... there's bad news... The Stewards have declared that I passed under the yellow and will be penalized 1 position. Donnie will inherit the win and I will be relegated to second - I have 30 minutes to decide if I want to protest the decision. I agonize over letting it go, but finally decide that I just CAN'T let it go without getting more facts. I'm sure it's about the pass that I made at T1 right after those FFords got together. I ask around and NONE of the top 3 Vees saw a yellow as we went into T1 - and I was already committed to the pass by that time anyway. I'd go argue my case. I file my protest, then go load the car and change clothes while I wait to be called. I got witness statements from Donnie and Jeremy that they also saw no flag as we came to the incident.
When my turn came, I presented my case. One of the stewards kept referring to the 'double' yellow until I finally saw the writeup on the 'pass' - it was about Mike Leonard!! When he passed me under yellow, the GCR (SCCA Rules) does not allow for him to 'unpass' and get back to his correct spot. When he 'backed up' behind me, I essentially passed him. I asked just HOW they expected me to stop him from doing that - was I to STOP on the track behind him when he slowed? They couldn't give me a better answer than to say "the GCR says you CAN'T pass him"!! They sent me outside so they could discuss it alone. After about 5 minutes or so, they called me back in and gave me the GOOD NEWS. My argument was successful - they dismissed the penalty and restored my WIN! I thank the Stewards for recognizing that some times there's more to the issues than JUST the rules.
2 races - a second and a first. I'm now in second place in the Division and ready for Road Atlanta!!
(#1) - March
Road Atlanta showed us some great weather and a nice smooth newly paved track this year ('cept for one small bump). I towed up to the track on Friday morning so that I would have time to check the car over good during the day. Due to my septic tank problems at home, the area where I usually park the trailer was dug up and I could not get the car out. ALL of my PM would have to be done at the track.
I had a list that included changing the oil/filter and putting new brakes on the front and a few other minor things. What I hadn't counted on was the broken front motor mount. Not sure when it happened since I have had no 'hits' with anything other than potholes (at Topeka) since the big crash with the concrete last June - also at Topeka. I changed the motor since, but must have missed a crack at that time. At any rate, I took enough parts off to access the mount and fabricated a repair - good thing I have a small mig welder in the trailer for issues like this.
We had 2 track sessions scheduled for Saturday and, this time, BOTH sessions counted as qualifying. I selected another set of used tires for the first session - wondering how they would work on this new surface. We were gridded according to our registration times - Atlanta Region uses OLRS (On Line Registration System) from DLBRacing and the gridding was an effort to encourage people to sign up early for the events. Since I generally set up the events for OLRS, *I* was the FIRST driver registered - therefore I had the 'pole' to begin the qualifier. The bad news was the class makeup of our session group. The Vees have been racing with F5 and FF in recent events, but to better balance the group counts, Atlanta Region added FC and FE (Formula SCCA) to our group. Oddly some EIGHTEEN FF's decided to come where no more than 5 had shown up at the previous several events. FE was expected to add maybe 8 more cars - they showed with 13 - FC was expected to add about 3 - they had SEVEN. We ended up with about FORTY cars in our group -Vee being the SLOWEST class. That meant that we would be contending with multiple, much faster class cars running us down and passing during each session - some of them with FORTY MPH closing rates on the back straight!! In the week before the event, FC was moved to the other open wheel group to better balance the group counts, so now we just had THREE class groups passing us alla time ... better than FOUR!<G>. As the grid rolled off, I planned to wave LOTS of cars by until I could find a space, but as I got to T5 I realized that no one was really close to me yet - the faster cars were taking their time, warming their tires and testing the new track surface. I decided to go ahead and try to put in a couple of decent laps right at the start if I could - at least get familiar with the new track before I had to start wearing myself out POINTING cars by.
I have lap times displayed on my dash near the S/F line and I watched as the times came down. First lap - '48 (UGGHH!) - next lap - '46 (better but no good) - 3rd lap - '44.... NOW we're getting somewhere!! The lap record is about a '44 flat (actually 1:44.1) and we hadn't been below the high '45's in the last several years (the track loses grip as it ages). About then is where the faster cars started catching me - but, amazingly, most were quite respectful of my meager Vee and didn't try to crash-dive the apex of turns away from me at the last millisecond. I actually got several decent laps in and ulitimately 2 or 3 laps that were in the '43's!! BELOW the lap record. The car felt great, motor felt great, and the traffic was 'manageable'. A pretty good first session - maybe I really haven't lost my touch?? Have to wait and see how the other Vees are doing.
When the grid was posted, I had the fastest time by just under a second. 2nd place was Steve Schiff who lost several laps due to a loose spark plug wire, but got back out and finished the session with a time equal to the old lap record. He was definitely a threat for the pole with 2 more cars close enough to worry me. Regardless, when I had looked over the car and selected tires for the second session, Linda INFORMED me that I was going to Hiawassee to perform dish washer surgery THAT DAY. I could blow off the second qualifier and go NOW - maybe make it back in time for a paddock birthday party to which we had been invited - or we would go after the qualifier and for sure miss the party. After some agonizing, I decided that skipping the session was the least of the evils, so we stowed the car and headed for north GA. [we did get the DW fixed and we DID make it back in time for the party <g>]. I found a grid sheet and I still had the pole - however, Steve was now only 0.4 seconds back - a time set on a hotter track and the other 2 cars had closed the gap considerably - now all within about 1.5 secs behind me. Considering how much the draft plays a part, I could see that my work was cut out for me for the race.
Race day was beautiful - we were the first group after lunch. As the pole FV, I was 33rd on the grid! The Pace Car took the pace lap rather quickly and I had JUST caught the cars in front of me by the time we got to 10A/B - the other Vees were strowed out behind me. As I left 10B, I saw the yellow flags drop and Linda yelled GREEN-GREEN! on the radio. I nailed it and got a pretty decent start on the Vee pack - unfortunately, several cars slowed as we went through T1, 2 and 3 and before we got to 4, they were all over me. We got to the back straight and the writing was on the wall.... by the time we got to T10, I was FORTH. This was going to be FUN!
We would have probably 4 or 5 laps before the first of the fast cars caught us - then it would get pretty ugly after that. The lead Vee pack of 4 cars stayed together with each of us taking the lead at one point or another. Then, as the faster cars came through, we all (semi-intelligently, I think) settled down a bit as we all had to pay more attention to our mirrors than what was in front of us. The first FE pack came through - followed closely by the lead FF pack [interesting at times trying to guess just HOW MANY cars would be in those packs - we needed to let them ALL through at the same time] - and we survived it all, with the Vee pack still intact as well. Good show! Slight breather and we went back to racing amongst ourselves. Then some of the 'lesser fast' cars started coming through - THEY didn't seem to be nearly as 'nice' as the leader packs and were stealing apexes left and right. I was in the Vee lead - I had ALMOST broken away a couple of times. I could get a decent lead by passing going into T10 and I could open a gap, but would catch the slowest F5 at T3 EVERY lap - he would hold me up till T7 and then blast away down the straight. I would get a bit of draft from him but the Vees would all catch me in time to pass if they chose at T10 (that would be the RACE on the last lap). Finally, that F5 got 'put out' at T7 [he didn't want to let the faster car through - but the faster car INSISTED!] and left an open path for me - the other Vees also got caught up a bit behind the 'put out' F5 and I managed to hold the lead into T10. THIS TIME, the F5 wasn't in front of me at T3 and I opened the gap all the way to T7. By that time, I had a pretty good lead, but I could see the Vee pack in my mirrors - now fighting with each other (GOOD!! GO AT IT! DON'T WORK TOGETHER! <G>). Now, I finally actually had some time to look at my dash and lap times. I was UNDER the old lap record. I might set a new one - that would be nice. But I also knew that the other Vees were going pretty fast too - it was likely that at least one of them would get a good time under the lap record as well.
Somewhere in here, my radio quit working, so I no longer had a lap count. I knew we should be getting close to the end and was happy to go 'down' another lap to the lead FE car - as long as I held the lead, the race could stop any time it wanted to <g>. Finally, I break the bridge and see the checker waving - we WIN! Thanks Rollin (Butler Engines) and Goodyear - the tires (still 'left overs' from the Runoffs) were GREAT.
On to Daytona...
Summit Point -
April (Out of division) Skipped for '07
The Washington DC region raised the entry fees some $50 this year. That and my septic tank problems suggested that we should pass on that event. It's always a fun event racing, but the weather is generally miserable and the tow is long. Maybe next year...
Daytona - May
I changed to the long transmission gearbox this year. In '05, I had tried running the 'short box' (the one we run at all other tracks), but it seemed just too much wear and tear on the engine. The weather was pretty nice for Daytona this year. Ground fires in nearby Flagler County kept the skies hazy, but it wasn't raining and it wasn't COLD. This year, we had a one day event since we were Group 1. We were first out in the morning with Q1, then Q2 midday and our race was the last session of the day. The first session would have been the quickest with the temp near 80 degrees. I had a pretty good session - we were grouped with SRF this time - there were THIRTY EIGHT of those boats out there. It seems like running alongside the Queen Mary... probably even worse for the F500's. I found what appeared to be a decent place to run - I was getting some great drafts from SRF's - the only problem was they were too fast to pass and too slow to give me a decent lap overall. I actually clocked over 118 MPH stuck up behind one of those things on the oval - that's the fastest top speed I can ever remember seeing on my data system. Unfortunately, when it came to the turn, my normal minimum speed through T1 would be around 65 MPH - following them I would be doing only about 45 - similar problems at the chicane.
About half way through the session, we all got blackflagged into the pits so the communication radios could get worked on. The Corners couldn't talk to each other or race control, so we sat in the hot sun for about 25 minutes while they figured things out. We finally got back on the course and ... on the second lap, something happened in the chicane - 2 F5's got together when a car spun in front of them, then an SRF piled into them scattering debris everywhere. The session was redflagged and I decided to call it a day at that point. I had a 'decent' time and it would have to be good enough for now. When I got back to my paddock spot, Linda looked at the rear suspension and asked if all that oil was normal. I glanced at it and said 'yes' - but then noticed that I had forgotten to safety wire the valve cover bolts. I got the wire out - then realized that the rear bolt was quite loose... probably pretty good that we came in early .. and even MORE "PRETTY GOOD" that Linda noticed the oil!! That could have been an expensive problem.
We went out again - second group after lunch. Much hotter this time - about 90 now, but the track still felt pretty good and the engine was running fine. (This was a 'new' engine for this race since the old one had some 7 races on it.) I also had a new Roxannes exhaust collector - once again experimenting with tiny things that MIGHT make big differences. Seems that one or the other must have helped since we had the fastest top end we've ever seen there! (That's GOOD!!!). For the second qualifier, I decided to just stay away from the SRF's and everyone else as best I could - I hadn't run the track in 2 years and I needed to get clear looks at the turns without having boats or other items in the way. It worked out well, and I qualified on the FV pole with a pretty good low 2:26 time. 15 years ago, we used to turn in the 2:24 range, but as far as I know, I have the fastest recorded times in the last 10 years and had never broken out of the 26's.
Race time finally came and we got 'caught out' by a quick turn around following the last qualifying session. By the time I got in the car and started toward the grid, the first cars for my race were already leaving the grid - means I start LAST. Not a real big deal, since I was already 5th or 6th from last anyway. Dave Green, down from Pennsylvania, was late too - so he actually ended up being last behind me. It worked out well for him, since he managed to take the lead going into turn 1 and put a couple of SRF's in between he and Steve Ira and I. I got by John at the start, but I'm not sure I stayed there through turn 1 - was just too busy dodging BOATS to care that much - my primary objective was to NOT get bumped off the track! Ira got around a slow SRF at the horseshoe and got behind Dave - they pulled away, while I labored behind the SRF. I was finally able to get around him just before we came out onto the oval, but it didn't matter .. he just powered by me on the oval and PARKED in the chicane while I watched the 2 lead Vees pull away. We closed back up some on the front 'straight' (it's not really straight, you know) with the SRF pulling me along and I was able to dive inside going into T1 and get by - I saw a waving yellow as we got into T1 and then an F5 against the guard rail on the inside - the first casualty, I guess. With clear sailing, I started to close on the lead 2 - I made up some ground through the infield and got a great run onto the oval - I was in Ira's draft and closing - was I going to catch him before the chicane?? I think - YES - I can get by. JUST as I started to pass, the lights went yellow on the oval. I put my hand up and backed out of it as the corners all went double-yellow - PACE CAR was coming onto the track. We slogged around behind the pace car for a lap - I presume to allow the corner crews to remove the F5 from the T1 guard rail.
The restart was 'interesting' - we were single file behind the pace car and with almost 40 SRF's and 6 or 7 F5's, I was about the FIFTIETH car back! As we came through NASCAR 3, the oval lights suddenly went from flashing yellow to GREEN. I couldn't see the start stand or the pace car (out of my view), so I couldn't be sure, but the lights said the track was GREEN and we should be racing. Since I was not COMPLETELY convinced, I decided not to just 'take off' and pass 20 cars - no one else was accelerating - maybe they could see something else?? I moved onto the apron and started to pass - then I reached the point where I could see the flag stand and the pace car was STILL on track! Well... we can't be racing then - right?? OK - I get out of it and THEN the pace car dives into the pits and the green waves - with me still on the brakes.... nice job Steve ... as everyone goes sailing past me. Oh well .. back to racing again. Ira got by Dave, so now the top 4 are Ira, Dave, John and then me. I got by John in the infield and then caught Dave on the oval and passed going into the chicane. Ira was 'a ways' up ahead. He had gotten a pretty good break on the restart. It took me about a lap and a half to catch him and I passed going into the chicane. Then he mowed me down and passed back about the S/F flag stand. We matched pace through the infield - I passed again going into the chicane - and he passed again on the front straight! Got to DO something about this! I decided NOT to pass going in to the chicane this time. I waited until we came out of it - then passed him on the front straight. I tried to put together my BEST infield run and got enough distance that he couldn't catch me before the chicane. I got a pretty good run through the chicane and put another couple of car lengths between he and I - both of us pulling away from Dave and John. Ira closed up some of the gap on the straight - but not ALL of it. I worked at hitting my marks and making no mistakes - each lap putting a little more distance between he and I. The lead F5 came up and lapped me - then the second place F5 as I continued to pull away from Ira. On the LAST lap, 3rd place F5 passed me going into T1 and then SPUN right in front of me! Fortunately, he was far enough ahead at that point for me to see it happening and take evasive action and then the Checker just after T1. ( The official SCCA finish line is in front of the Timing and Scoring building at the exit of T1 now.)
The car was great - engine was great - tires were great and the win was great!! Other good news is that we turned several 2:25's this year - our fastest times in many years (maybe that new Roxannes exhaust collector? Hmmmm...) Our third win in 4 races this season and we're solidly in the division lead. Now, change the trannie back to the short box and get ready for Road Atlanta!
Road Atlanta (#2)
Sent my short trans to the shop for a checkover since it seemed to be a little difficult shifting. Got it back in the car and checked everything over again. ... Ready to go (I hope!). Arrived and setup on Friday, got the car out and did another nut/bolt check. Found the holddown nut on my oil bypass block loose - GAD that would have been bad! Then I found 4 "not tight enough" bolts on the trans tubes. Really a good idea to check over these things, I guess :-).
We were group 6 - last National race group - so I got to watch some testing on Friday and some more other classes on Saturday while I waited for my time. Our first session was "just" practice. This being a Regional/National event (our first in some time), National cars can only qualify with National cars - if Regional cars are on track, our times can't count for grid - so we were fastest (when it doesn't count!). It was pretty warm - already almost 90, so our times were about 1.5 secs off our March times. My tires are getting older and older and that doesn't help either - but we're still in the hunt with 'em :-). I should have tracked the number of heat cycles on these things, but am just too lazy (and not well enough organized) to do it. If there's rubber left, they should still work - right?? :-). In the afternoon session (our qualifier), the car felt pretty good, but with a hot track it wasn't quite as fast. I ended up 2nd on the grid with the first 5 cars within about 1/2 second! Looking like a pretty good race on the horizon. Not a session without problems, however. I noticed a plume of blue oil smoke coming out of T7 several laps from the end - it didn't repeat and I wondered.... then, on the LAST lap of the session, I slipped off 10B and rabbled over the bumper strips pretty hard. SOMETHING happened and the car felt 'funny' on the cool off lap. I finally realized on the back straight that my shock wasn't working at ALL! Did I break the shock end off? Did the canister crack? ... back to the paddock - take the cover off and THERE's the problem (sorry - no pic of it) - the swaged fitting to the remote reservoir had blown off and dumped all the shock oil. A little more looking found my dipstick partially out of its tube - I guess I forgot to seat it properly the last time I checked the oil (I HOPE!).
The shock turned out to be more trouble that I had expected. The remote reservoir was on the end of a 5 foot hose so that it would reach into the cockpit. I spent quite some time trying to reattach it so that I could trust it, but ultimately decided to forgo the remote part and replace the line with a spare brake line that would handle the pressure. The line was smaller - but I figured that a "mostly working" shock would be quite a bit better than one that didn't work at all. Pushed the dipstick back down onto its seat, reinstalled the shock and got to bed at 11P.
It rained overnight and the track was wet for the morning practice. I really needed to run the session, to make sure the dipstick stayed where it was and no oil came out of other places. I wouldn't be able to tell much about the shock - but it would be better than nothing. I bolted on some intermediate tires - it had quit raining a couple of hours earlier, but the new asphalt wasn't drying very fast - and tested the waters. All went well - the tires worked well - the car felt good - and we managed to break 2 minutes :-). Pulled in and checked everything and all seemed fine. Take the IM's offs and sort through the trailer for the best remaining set of tires. The sun's out now - it's getting hot and the track is drying quickly.
At race time, the vees were at the back of the grid - I mean WAY back. I needed a telescope to see the front of the false grid :-). At any rate, we all got off the grid and sorted ourselves out. The T10A/B complex really screws things up for the starts of large grids. We get spaced out making the double turns and were trying to catch up as we came under the bridge. I knew the front cars would be near the start stand by now, so we either had a green or a wave off. I decided to go ahead and floor it (I had room in front of me) and hope for the best. Schiff, the FV pole car, didn't make that same decision and I left him behind. As I came into view of the stand, I could see the green waving - about that time, I also saw LOTS of tire smoke underneath it. An F5 was sideways and spinning around - not sure what caused it, but my job was to AVOID it! Being far back does have its advantages and I had plenty of time to pick my path as I came up to speed. I got through and figured I was home free - leaving the other vees in the dust .... well, no.. not exactly. Seems Steve Schiff was RIGHT on my tail through all that so I had a whopping 2 foot margin over him going into T1. A few more things happening in front of us as the F5's and FF's got through T3. I dodged a bit and Steve (I'll call him 'SS') got split off a few car lengths. No matter, when we got to the back straight, the draft brought him right back up to my "bumper". SS has a lot of experience and I figured he would stay behind me for a while to see if we could make it a 2 car race and get rid of those other 4 cars in the lead pack. I was right ... and we did. I think Mike might have made a small mistake - Sherman was behind him and that split them off. Charlie was hanging close, but falling back bit by bit. We stuck together for several laps - then the MONSTERS started coming. The FC and FE cars started lapping us about L5 - things were still pretty tight everywhere. Linda gave me radio notice that the leader was coming up fast behind us. When the lead FC showed in my mirrors going down the hill from T5, I could see that it would be close and I was certain that he could not 'get me' before the corner. I waited ... watched .. until I had to commit to the corner - when I did, I said to myself - OK guy - this corner is now MINE - you can't pass! - but he dove in anyway. Fortunately, I caught a blur in my mirror, and managed to yank the nose of my car back out of the way. He zoomed across in front of me, locked up his brakes, killed his motor, restarted (while still sliding), cranked it down 2 gears and limped on around the corner (all without actually leaving the track!) and then passed me again on the outside - while the next 4 cars in that pack (3 FE's and another FC) went by me on the inside between 6 and 7 (I was thinking THIN as hard as I could). THAT was ugly!! - but there was no contact by anyone - because I had made sure I had some place to go before it happened. I was not "on the edge" at turn-in like I might be ordinarily - a little in 'reserve' for just such a situation (thankfully). We all got through, but that slowed SS and I by several seconds and Charlie, Mike and Sherman latched back on again down the backstraight. Another lap and we're coming down the back with that train starting to fan out a bit - another FC follows - as he crests the hill, there are 3 (or was it 4?) vees in between him and 10A. He's closing at around 35+ MPH and the tail vee suddenly hits his brakes - since the lead vee (ME at the time) had reached his braking point and we 'stacked up'. The FC has to dodge left since his braking point is still a few hundred feet down the track. As he does that, he realizes that he has NO PLACE TO GO! Vees are getting ready to turn into 10A and there's no room left. I see him as he comes out from behind the vees and realize the same thing - he's coming too fast to stop before the corner (and ME) - I move as far right as I can get hoping the other vees don't seize that as a passing opportunity too. I wait and wait as long as I possibly can - I still can't see the FC beside me, but I know he's there - somewhere. He JUST manages to get his car turned onto the rumble strips as I go wide in the turn - CRAP!! there's TWO of 'em!! I stay as wide as I can through A and see them power by on the left - fortunately leaving enough room at the apex of B for us slow peons. ... and we all make it through again :-). (Compared to that, the rest of the race is uneventful <G>).
SS and I gradually open up a gap again and
he finally passes me - I think - ... OK ... I'll just follow you till the last
lap. He's driving really well and it's a bit of a job keeping up - but I
can easily stay with him down the back straight. Should be no trouble
getting by when it's time. Here come the MONSTERS again. FF's this
time, then FC and FE again right close behind. We lose ground again and I
see Charlie catching us again. I figure, MAYBE I should go ahead and take
the lead. MAYBE I can use some of these passing cars in a good manner and
get away from SS - MAYBE Charlie will catch SS and the 2 of them will fight a
tad - giving me a chance to break away. Well... NONE of those things
happened! NOW, I'm back in the lead with SS on my tail just waiting for
the last lap pass. I'm a bit faster, but not nearly enough to break the
draft. OK.. OK.. THINK - DRIVE. Do good lines, lead aggressively -
but not TOO agressively :-). What am I going to do on the last lap?
If I slow too much to try to force an early pass, Charlie will be on us in a
flash - I might end up 3rd instead of 2nd. DRIVE! OK, what if I just
slow up a little, SS will have to decide too - DRIVE! If he passes too
early, I can get him back. DRIVE! If I go as fast as I can, his pass will
be late and I'll have no opportunity DRIVE!! 2 laps to go, Linda says.
I'm coming down the front straight into T1. Let's do a really good T1 how
about it (but not TOO good). How close is SS? Coming out of the turn
I can't see him in my mirrors.. MAN!! he must be RIGHT on my tail (he's been
getting better and better at this turn) - going up the hill, I still can't see
him - going into T3 as I turn in, I glance at the mirror ... it's EMPTY!!!
HEY!! I'm alone!!! Don't screw up - one more lap to go. I get it
done and come down the back straight for the last time to see an FC staring me
in the face. He's looped it at T10A and sitting dead in the water at track
out. No problem - just slow down and leave plenty of room... but if SS had
still been with me, that would have been a REAL problem!! We would have
likely been side by side at the flag station - who would have let up first??
Really glad I didn't have to face that!
Vees coming out of 10B at Atlanta (SS is leading, but I'm VERY close <g>)
Anyway - another win in the books and the car is in one piece. Turns out that Charlie developed a transaxle problem that slowed him, but he stayed 3rd behind SS who recovered from his spin in time for 2nd. I think Sherman, Mike and Ray battled to the end with Mike winning that battle. My shock repair was 'better than nothing', but I did definitely notice bouncing on the straights that wasn't there before. More work to do in that dept before the next race. For the moment, Linda and I are taking a little break for our 30th anniversary - a trip to Alaska for a few days. I'll get back to the car when we return :-).
Heartland Park Topeka ? - June (Out of division) Can't afford to make this trip this year - cheaper to do an extra test day in October
Double National - July
OK - we did it - we WENT to Savannah in July! Can you spell HOT? Great weather, with low humidity made the temps strangely bearable. It hovered near to 100 in the afternoons - peaking at 103.4 on Sunday as we were leaving the track! (but it was a DRY heat, so not so bad <G>).
The car was great! We started
on old tires but Goodyear has a new compound that we needed to check out, so we
spent the rest of the weekend on a set of those. I ran the full first
qualifier for Saturday's race. As Group 1, it wasn't as hot, but still
quite warm. The other qualifiers, I was on the new tires, so wanted to minimize
the wear - expecting to use them for BOTH races.
Mike follows me into T5
Things went about as well as could be
expected. I had the fastest time in both sessions for Saturday's race, and
therefore the pole for the class. The race started clean, and except for a
lagging F5 that stayed in our 'way' for about 6 or 7 laps, things went well.
2 other vees had contact coming onto the front straight and spun each other out,
but no long term damage as they both drove away and finished the race. The
lead pack stayed fairly large (6 cars or so) for several laps - partially
because of the lagging F5. Everything was compounded by the fact that the
Vees were once again, running with FC and FE - both some 15 seconds a lap faster
than us. They came blasting through and we were ALL very fortunate that we
had no 'interclass' contact. It was interesting that - even with the mixed
classes - the only contact was from cars in the same class - and that happened
... let's see... I think 5 times!?? Probably influenced somewhat by the
constant requirement to be looking in your mirrors when you NEEDED to be looking
ahead :-(. At any rate, Donnie and I finally broke away to a 2 car lead
pack and left the others fighting for second.
We both took a crack at leaving the other behind - to no avail. Remembering our VERY close finish in March, I was plotting strategy to try to ensure another win - but my plots didn't seem to be working. Donnie's car is incredibly fast on the straights - especially so coming ONTO that front straight. I was lucky in March, but several setup attempts to be able to execute that last lap maneuver failed miserably. My PLAN B was to pass into T1 starting the last lap and then pull out enough distance to keep Donnie from being able to pass me back. Considering how fast he caught me once when I thought I was "gone" - it was looking bleak. With about 5 laps to go, Donnie seemed to be having a bit of trouble in T1 - he was leading and I was following CLOSE. He almost lost control twice - the second time, I was SURE he was going to spin - but he didn't. I decided to back off a hair for future trips into T1. With 3 laps to go, he seemed to miss his downshift completely and ended up in neutral - I hesitated - thinking he was 'playing' with me - trying to get me to pass and leave him to make that last lap move - but he continued to coast until I decided that it didn't matter. There's only SO MUCH time you can give up, when you have a pack of snarling Vees not too far behind, so I passed him and took the lead. I was listening to Linda count down the laps and thinking 'you only have TWO to go - how're you gonna get out of THIS one?'. But I quickly noticed that Donnie wasn't staying close at all - in fact he was dropping back pretty fast. I kept my head on straight - dodged one more set of lappers coming through, and finished with a significant margin over Donnie. I later found that his transmission was acting up badly - he had finally gotten it into high gear and was afraid to touch it after that. Win #5 for the Racer's Wage in the books!! It was REALLY nice that both Goodyear Tires and Butler Engines finished 1-2-3 with Myself, Donnie and Mike.
The second qualifier for Sunday's race was even warmer than Saturday's. Even at 8:15AM, it was already HOT. We got about 3 inches of rain Saturday night after the track was secured, so the humidity was up a bit now - not as comfortable as before. Just before the 5 minute warning for our session, I tried to start the car - no go... the battery was too low. I grabbed my charger and plugged in - put it on HIGH (as high as it would go - not very high), gave it a few minutes and tried again. Still no go. I finally grabbed a voltmeter and checked to find the battery below 12 volts and the charger only putting out barely above 12 (it SHOULD be up around 13.5 or 14V!) I went around turning off everything I could find, then finally cranked the motorhome generator to get some voltage going (with over 100 people drawing air conditioning power, the primary voltage from the poles just couldn't keep up). FINALLY - after another 5 minutes or so of charging, the engine fired (whew!). I only needed a few laps - but really wanted to NOT miss them leaving nothing but the race. I had kept the same tires from Saturday and needed to conserve. I got out late - just after the main Vee pack went by. Linda came over the radio and said - 'the pack just went by - slow down and let them come around to catch you so you'll have someone to run with' (the draft is important and having someone to use as an "air splitter" is critical for good lap times). - I think... SLOW DOWN?? are you CRAZY!!?? I'm going AFTER those guys :-). So I did - and in 4 laps was able to catch the pack and set the fastest lap by almost a second - time to hit the pits - the pole position secure once again. Unfortunately, Donnie's transmission was apparently damaged during those last few laps of Saturday's race and wouldn't stay in gear - so he had to pack it in and watch from the sidelines.
I spent the Sunday 'quiet time' making sure the battery got a good recharge - went over everything one more time and even consulted with Linda to check for things I missed. Race time came around and we were ready to go. First group after lunch - right at 12:15P - now, it's getting REALLY hot!! The start seemed to be a little slower pace this time and the green didn't wave when most expected it - but MANY seconds later. It was starting to get pretty ugly inside the field as cars jockeyed to avoid slowing cars that had just sped up a second ago - but then the green came out and we were racing. I got a pretty good start and thought I was clear - then I see a vee passing on my left - then one on the right - then another passing the one on the right, then we actually started to catch 2 of the F5's that had qualified in front of us. GEEEZZEE! There's NOT ENOUGH ROOM HERE!!! for all these cars! - but somehow we all (I think) made it through T1 and sort of 'single filed' getting into T2 - no crashes this time :-). I ended up about 3rd I think, so followed around waiting for the front straight to see about moving up. I set up the cars in front of me and I'm really closing fast - onto the front straight and I get by BOTH of them and take the lead - JUST about the time I get to S/F, I see 2 guys standing by the pit wall on the right frantically pointing at the S/F stand on my left. I quickly looked in that direction - just in time to see a BLACK FLAG displayed. I presumed that something had happened elsewhere on the track - cracked the throttle, put my hand up and started slowing down. MAN! was I shocked, as the entire Vee field went screaming by me - it actually got pretty ugly in the middle as cars went by on both sides. I was thinking - 'wow! they ALL missed the Black' - but then as we got close enough to T1 for me to see that there was no flag displayed, I began to wonder. No flag at T1 - no flag at T2.. or 3 .. or.... hmmmmm. MAYBE that wasn't a Black Flag *ALL*, but was just for a specific CAR - ME?? Now being almost last, there was no rush - the Black flag would be displayed again at T6 and I would be able to see for sure if it was ME or someone else. As I approach T6 - squinting to see the number on the board, I get passed again - now putting me solidly in LAST place!! About that time, I can finally read the number .. and it's NOT ME!!! Yeaa! - I can go racing again <G>.
OK - now we get back to work. This could be fun... I gradually worked my way back through the field to reach 3rd place. Mike was leading with Ray right on his tail. I was stuck behind them for several laps as the FC and FE cars plowed through us. Seemed each time I was in position to make a move, my path was blocked by one or more cars coming by. Finally, the way cleared and I was able to get past both on the front straight and get a good run into T1. I think that Ray might have tried to go inside Mike with me and that slowed both of them enough to allow me some breathing room. A couple of laps later, Mike started to develop engine problems and fell off the pace. Ray fell into the clutches of Jonathan and Charlie coming on hard. I worked on my lines and maintained a good pace - one of my concerns, the new tires, were holding up magnificently and I had no problems other than a continual watch in my mirrors for faster class cars. Linda gave me the LAST LAP signal and I was prepared for the checker - alas... no flag - Start had missed the leader when he came by. We turned one more lap and then got the checker on the 24th of 23 prescribed laps. It was a shame for Charlie as he and Jonathan had battled for several laps and he was just able to complete the pass for 2nd at the line - but on the 24th lap. Official results were posted (according to the GCR) as of the last PRESCRIBED lap, so he lost that position. Finish was Me, Jonathan and then Charlie. Now SIX wins for the Racer's Wage - that's all we can count (max of 6 points events allowed), but it's enough to secure the Divisional Championship again - our 6th year in a row!! Any regular season events between now and the Runoffs are just for fun <G> - but then again... *ALL* my racing is "just for fun"!!
(Virginia International Raceway)- August
On this trip, I stopped by Butler Engines in Greenville to pick up my freshly rebuilt motor. Rollin helped me drop it in the car so that I could finish up the job by myself on Friday at the track. Linda couldn't get off work and so was unable to make the trip with me. During the install process, I managed to fall over the rear of the car - twisting my left ankle in the process. Fortunately, it only swelled a little bit and I was able to walk with only minor pain the rest of the weekend. I met friend, Jim Belay, at a fuel stop and we 'convoyed' the rest of the way together. We traveled in some pretty HOT weather, with my outside temp showing 104.5 in the shade and it went to 112 when the sun hit the sensor! Unfortunately, my dash air quit, so it was PRETTY HOT! driving that beast down the road - good practice for the race weekend J
I had a couple of minor updates to do to the chassis (repair front motor mount was one) and the install was uneventful, otherwise. The day was HOT tho' - my thermometer indicated 106.5 in the shade in the later part of the afternoon. I had modified a set of old Lynx head scoops to fit my car - yet another attempt at getting the head temps down some more. The test would be tomorrow (Sat).
Interestingly, when I woke up Sat. morn - I seemed to not be alone. I sat up and looked around and THERE was Linda lying next to me. FABULOUS!! She had snared a ride up with Jim Belay's wife, Carol, and decided to surprise me. Nice surprise <g>!! Anyway, the car was ready and I was ready to test the new head scoops. Welll.... maybe not. As I ALMOST completed the first lap of practice, the engine dropped WAY down on power and started making TERRIBLE sounds - my NEW ENGINE! and I had hardly put it on the floor yet!! I pulled into the pits while listening carefully. It sounded BAD - but not like a rod or piston, or anything else I could think of. Not a broken exhaust. Jeremy Grenier happened to be in the pits and he listened too - he said it was clearly on the right side, but could not see anything definitive. Oh well... that session is GONE! I got out and started pushing the car back to the paddock. Got some help to get it out of the pits and then Joe Hooker volunteered to tow me the rest of the way with his 4 wheeler. Thanks, Joe!
I got back, got out of my suit and started taking things apart. Didn't take long ... I found the #3 spark plug lying on the head instead of in the plug hole where it SHOULD be. I had been concerned about that plug since my head temp gauge goes under it - I have to remove and replace that plug every time I change the motor which adds significant wear and tear to the threads in the aluminum head. Sure enough - it was completely stripped! Prophetically, I had discussed this particular issue with Rollin yesterday when I picked up the motor - he had no helicoils and I had no helicoils to repair it. A hour or so wandering around the paddock found NOTHING to fix it with. I was just about to give up, when Jim Belay's crew guy, Marc, came over with a full helicoil repair set!! THANKS GUYS! I got it fixed - and made a 'note to self' to GET my own repair kit! Put the car back together and ready for the next session. (Sorry Jim - no pix of the spark plug hole .. I FORGOT!) Turns out that Donnie and Steve Schiff collided in the session when Steve spun - both cars were damaged. I went and found both of them after I got my engine running again. Talked Steve into UNloading his car (he was already leaving) and fixing it, then found Donnie and looked his over. Donnie's was damaged, but seemed easily raceable (with a new nose) to me. Steve had the left rear 'stuff' torn up, but I loaned him some parts and helped him take it apart so he could get going again. Both cars were going to race!
Qualifier - The car seemed pretty good for the first lap or 2, then it just went away on me. I was finally OUT OF TIRES!! It was running strong, but the new air scoops didn't seem to be providing any better cooling than my old ones (another FAILURE!). Driving it was TOUGH - especially the rear of the car. I ended up running with Ray Phillips - he was pulling away from me in the 'twisty bits' while I struggled to keep the car on the track and not hit anything. On the straights, I could get a draft and close back up - not all the way, but staying in touch. By using his car's draft, I was actually able to get the pole for FV .. just BARELY, over Ray! I was surprised, but it showed that we should be in pretty good shape if I put some decent tires on the car.
We decided to go out in the morning warmup - I put my old scoops back on and needed to make sure that they would stay in place (I had had to trim the body work somewhat to fit the new 'test scoops'). They did, and temps were "about the same", so we left it for the race.
The race started 'not as hot' as the last couple of days - now that 96 seemed 'cool' by comparison <G>. I put on the best set of tires that I had left and we rolled off the grid. Our race was first and it seemed several Vees were caught off guard. I saw Steve Schiff running up the hill JUST before the 1 minute mark and Donnie and Mike were no where to be seen! Hope they show up! We rolled, and about half way through the lap, I could finally see Donnie, Mike and Steve WAY BACK in my mirrors - at least they got on the track. At the green, I got a good start and took the lead going into Turn 1. Alas - as usual, the FFords and F5's "got into it" in the turn and suddenly cars were spinning everywhere. I saw buddy, Don Baggett go around, and 2 or 3 other cars were scattered around in various stages of 'spin'. I dove for the inside line and found a clear path. I got through, Ray Phillips followed me and I think everyone else got 'balked' or worse. I had a pretty significant lead by the time we got through Oak Tree onto the back straight. CRAP!!! A BLACK FLAG showing at the turn station. They were stopping the race!
After an interminable time sitting in the pits (in the VERY HOT SUN!!) while the stewards decided what to do, we FINALLY got restarted. They regridded us and started COMPLETELY over with a new race (I think we only lost 1 or 2 cars - no Vees). On the pace lap, I could see all the Vees still there behind me - let's do it again <g>.
At the green, I once again got a good start - I was holding off the pack when, suddenly Mike Leonard came BLASTING by! He got a REALLY good start! He took the lead into T1 and then just PARKED! I almost hit him. Something must be wrong ... I got back by in the middle of the turn and pulled away. Glancing in my mirrors, I saw that Donnie and Ray were right with me - no cake walk this time. The car was good - not great, but good. I think I might have been asking too much of my tires again. These were the best I had in the trailer, but they did already have 3 qualifying sessions and 3 races on them - a good bit of time. We 'freight trained' around - me pulling Donnie and Ray. Ray made a mistake and fell off the pace, but Donnie stayed GLUED. He was playing with me - he could pass at almost any time, but was waiting for that LAST LAP! I took a bit off my pace to save my tires. I also noticed that my head temps were quite a bit higher than normal - not a lot I can do about it right now... Donnie practiced drafting and 'almost' passing - while I practiced 'not going quite as fast as I could' to screw up his practice passes <g>. The FFords and F5's lapped us and we maintained position. Linda is counting down the laps for me. Some question about the lap count as no one is really sure what the stewards decided to do about the count (did they count the second pace lap or not?) An advantage to having faster cars on the track with you AND a radio, is that the overall leader receives the checker and Linda can SEE it wave - I'm still on the back straight. I get the word - look for Donnie .... HE DOESN'T KNOW!! I make the last trip through 'Hog Pen' a good bit faster than the last few times and come onto the front straight. Donnie is too far back - he can't make the pass in time. WE WIN!! Donnie is about 1/2 car length back. I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em <g>.
The car is in great shape, but I do need to do some checking on the handling. I noticed in impound that the right scoop (the one where the head temp gauge is) was cocked at a REALLY bad angle - it didn't stay in place. That would explain the high temps during the race. I might also have a shock problem so will be sure to check that carefully before leaving for Topeka in October. But we're 'looking good' - 8 races, 7 wins and a second for the regular season. Not bad for an 'over the hill' driver and car <G>. On to Kansas to try it again...
Heartland Park Topeka ? - Sept (Out of division) - skipped in favor of additional test day during pre-Runoffs week!
Regular Season team stats
|CMP, Kershaw, SC||3rd||2nd||9|
|Roebling, Savannah, Ga||1st||1st||12|
|Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA||1st||1st||12|
|Daytona, Daytona, FL||1st||1st||12|
|Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA||2nd||1st||12|
|Roebling, Savannah, GA||1st||1st||12|
|Roebling, Savannah, GA||1st||1st||12*|
|VIR, Danville, VA||1st||1st||-|
*Division Championship Confirmed
- October -
Heartland Park Topeka
Well - we're here!! The trip was uneventful (thankfully) and we arrived midday on Thursday. We had 2 test days scheduled, so we registered and got set up in our spots. We have a great RV spot - looking right at Turns 1 and 2 with a view of the carousel and T4,5,6 combo. The race car is right across the way. (our RV parking spot with the trailer in the background)
Weather was pretty good for both test days except for the WIND. Seems that 'a bit windy' around here means GUSTS UP TO 50 MPH!! We have had continuous wind here since we arrived - steady out of the south and at a minimum of 20 MPH or so .. and much worse. It's difficult to even STAND on the top of the RV without getting blown off! The good side of that is ... no bugs!!
We started out on Friday test day on old tires. I just wanted to get acclimated to the reconfigured track - no need to go really fast (as Linda continually reminded me!). Made it through the first 2 sessions just fine - then we bolted on some new shoes to see if we had anything for 'those other guys'. I happened to end up on track with Brad Stout - a good 'test case' - he had the fastest times in most sessions so far and already had 2 test days (and the recent National race) under his belt. I pointed him by going to T1 ... unfortunately, a FFord coming out of the pits saw my point (I didn't see him) and thought I was pointing HIM by. When I tucked in behind Brad and turned in to the corner, all of a sudden, I saw RED just to my right. I was committed to the turn and had no way out. We both hit the brakes, but his front tires were between my front and rear and I launched over him and into the air. We came down HARD on the left rear. Broke a number of important pieces and ended my last session a bit early. We got it back to the pits and set about the repair - fortunately, the damage was minimal considering the circumstances. The brake drum broke and took a lot of the load along with the backing plate - both giving their lives to help protect the inner parts of the transmission. A couple of hours later, we had her ready to go again. (Sorry - forgot to take pix before we fixed it.)
On Saturday test day, we ran the same set of tires (except for the one that was punctured in the wreck.) We did manage to NOT hit anyone (or get hit), but each day there were more cars on the track. Testing was more MIRROR DRIVING than I've ever had. I'm guessing that there were about 55 cars on the track - with only 5 vees testing, that meant that the other 50 cars were significantly FASTER than us. The closing rates were mind boggling between us and the FA's and CSR's and DSR's - maybe 60 - 70 MPH faster than us in a lot of places. SCARY!! In the second session, we tried a different configuration of new tires to see if it was any better. In the middle of that session, some yahoo in a CSR same screaming by me on the front straight, pulled over in front of me to set up for T1 and then SLAMMED on the brakes. MAN! can those things STOP. I must have hit him at 50 MPH!!! Amazingly, there appeared to be no significant damage. It did break off the radio antenna and bend a rim slightly, but .... worse things could happen. Even better, we went on in the session to turn quite good times - maybe not the fastest of the day, but very close. We followed that up in the last session of the day with more consistently fast times. Still not the VERY fastest, but close enough to think "we're not out of it yet!".
The BEST news, I haven't yet destroyed my new bodywork and nose (tho' I've tried). It still looks pretty good...
We're out early in the morning - it's raining right now ...
we'll see what happens in the A.M. ...
Monday (Q1) - We were second group out and it was still raining, though not hard. The track was completely wet, but no deep puddles. After considering not going out, at the last minute, I decided to go ahead and take the chance. I'm generally pretty good in the rain and I wanted to see if there was a 'rain line' different from the regular line. We went out LAST from the grid - only about half the field taking the track. Initially, I was WAY faster than anyone else that was out, but after several laps, Mike Varacins turned in a really good 2 minute flat lap. The best I could manage was a couple of 2:01's - still good for second fastest with 3rd being 3 more seconds behind me. After the session, I looked up Mr. Mike and noted that he had been on full rain tires. My full rains are pretty much worn out, so I had used my intermediates and it was still (apparently) a bit too wet for them. Oh well... it means I start 2nd in tomorrow's qualifier and I'm in with some decently fast cars. The car is in good shape, so we'll see what we can do on a dry track with fresh tires! Additional reports to follow...
Tuesday (Q2) - Well ... we continue to outsmart ourselves :-(. Today we (...I) decided that we could still do SOMETHING to improve the head cooling. So, I sought additional advise, and we tried AGAIN something more... something different... something ... something. We also tried changing the air pressure AGAIN - and that didn't seem to work either. All in all .. today was pretty terrible. I had a GREAT starting spot (2nd from the rain qualifier on Monday), but could do nothing "good" with it. I couldn't pass anyone and I couldn't make the car handle - even with brand new rubber on the ground.
All I can say is, it was BAD. The engine heads were hotter
(too hot apparently) than normal and the tires just wouldn't stick to the track
at ALL. We started at the front and managed to work our way backwards
about 6 places in the line - to eventually finish 15th on the field. I guess it
could have been worse, but ... oh well. I guess we'll try again tomorrow.
We've already changed the cooling ducts back and we'll get a new set of tires
first thing in the morning (we qualify at 9:50am) and hopefully, things will
work better then. We'll see....
Wednesday (Q3). OK, .... so we changed the cooling ducts back to 'normal' ... thankfully, things were better and the head temp dropped back down about 25 degrees (to where it was before). We made a couple more changes before the session - trying EVERYTHING we can to get it done (more later). We bolted on a new set of tires for the expected "good weather" session (much cooler.. but not TOO cold) and lined up in our lowly spot. On the first hot lap, one of the lead cars spun in the carousel and 2 more cars crashed avoiding the spinning car. Sometimes it's good to be a bit back ... we had time to see the warning flags and take evasive action before arrival. However, the stewards declared an immediate BLACK FLAG ALL so the track could be cleared. Jeff Loughead drove his machine back to the pits, while Jim Kearney had to be hoisted 'on the hook' to clear the path. A few minutes later, we started it all again.
5 laps later, it was all over. Precious few laps to work with. Today seemed much better than yesterday, but we still couldn't quite position ourselves for a clean pass to give that ultimate lap. On the other hand, we DID manage to go almost 2 seconds faster and move ourselves from 15th up to 7th spot on the grid. Timing and Scoring clocked us at 0.5 secs SLOWER than 3 independent clocks on the sidelines - however, THE clock, *IS* THE clock, so that was that. Instead of 5th on the grid where we thought we should be, we are in 7th. Could be a LOT worse. Shortly after our session, I HAD to attend the SpeedTV 'precursor', where they spotlight 6 people .. one of which they feel will be the '07 National Champion. I was one of those selected folk and we configured ourselves around Dorsey Schraeder, a former SCCA racer and Champion in several other series like TransAM, who talked about us like we were SOMEBODIES <g>. (Watch for the SpeedTV broadcasts of the Runoffs races in November and/or December.)
After the TV session, I found a small leak in the oil cooler block and spent a couple of hours taking it apart and resealing everything that looked important (taking a short time out to watch John Robinson II lay down a new pole time in FFord!). During that time, "we" (see the next pic) also spent some time going over the motor to verify that everything was working correctly and we weren't needlessly sacrificing HP. (you might recognize ME under the car and my "skilled assistants", Gordon and Rollin, providing support! <G>)
All in all, we were somewhat pleased with the move UP the grid,
but still disappointed that I couldn't put together a really good lap - that's,
of course, PRESUMING that such a 'good' lap exists. We get one last chance
to move further up (or down) tomorrow. Let's hope we can improve our
position. I can say that the competition is pretty stiff out here.
LOTS of cars with good equipment and talented drivers. At least 5 former
National Champions as well as a couple of new faces in the top ten. More
Thursday - Well.... maybe there ISN'T such a lap - at least there wasn't TODAY!! WE did go "pretty well", but not "well enough". I guess, that's about all there is to say. The session wasn't BAD - just not GOOD :-(. It was a disappointment - especially since we dropped 3 spots on the grid - to end up 10th. However, 10th *IS* a couple of spots higher than last year's start :-). Maybe the end result will be better? All I can say is... we'll TRY!! (That's me - last in that train and the RV at the center top is OURS!)
I took the trans apart ( the DSR guys in the background are changing their motor AGAIN for the 4th time! ) to make sure we hadn't caused any internal damage in the Friday test day shunt. Everything looked just fine in there, but I needed to be sure. I'm pretty sure I'm going to change the motor today too. My other motor has been working fine all year and is in good shape - this new one ... well, I just need to at least TRY the other one. Unfortunately, I didn't think about doing it for one of the qualifying sessions. The forecast is for rain on Sunday anyway, so it might not matter nearly as much if the weatherman is correct. After the engine change, we'll have a good bit of time off to watch the other races before our warmup Sunday morning, so no more reports till I get back home. Wish us luck!
On Saturday morning, I decided to swap the motor. It just SEEMED to me that the original wasn't pulling the way it should. Rollin freshened up the heads on the one in the trailer while Linda and I took out the one in the car. Took most of the day, what with stopping to watch races here and there, but all seemed to go reasonably well.
We put on a new set of Goodyears to scrub in the morning warmup - It rained HARD Friday nite and Saturday morn) and the ground inside the apexes was muddy, but the track was dry. The session was uneventful - I didn't try to go fast - just wanted to make sure the engine was running OK.
Just before the race (wanted to make sure we had a good shot of the new bodywork before 'trash time' <G>).
We were the first group after lunch again and made SURE we were there early this time. I'm pretty sure everyone made it OK this year - we started 43 cars - the largest field at the Runoffs. From my 10th place grid spot, as we came to the start stand, I see the flag wave at about the same instant that Linda yells GREEN GREEN! in my radio. I get a pretty good start and hold position as we come to the (now fairly open) Turn 1/2 complex. I move to the outside as things start to stack up in front and think 'gee, I'm getting a GREAT start!" I pass about 4 cars on the outside of 1, but then have to tighten up at 2 and get to watch as about 6 or 8 pass me back before I can find a place in line. I had been VERY concerned about this first turn with the large field, but the Vees showed their mettle as we *ALL* came out of T2 with NO contact between anyone as far as I know. (most classes failed miserably in this first test!). I get back by a couple of cars as we enter T3 - a net ZERO positions for the 1st 4 turns - at least we didn't LOSE any <g>.
The Vees head into Turn Alpha on the first lap (the first seven are already gone, but *I'm* in this pic <g>) (for more pix go to Ron Leiferman's website)
Things get pretty busy from there on out and I have a great deal of difficulty remembering exactly what happened (as I get older <G>). We string out a bit, but I am in contact with the lead pack. I can see the leader about 20 car lengths in front of me (sadly, my newly installed video camera failed to record a single second of the event) and I tell myself to settle down and drive laps. I have a decent gap (3 car lengths?) from the cars behind me and can concentrate on the ones in front. Dennis Andrade is immediately in front, so I set my sites on him. I set him up for a clean pass and get by going into T1. As we near the end of the lap, I think "maybe I'm clear of him" - however, on the following lap, I am forced to watch as he passes me back going into T1. Now, I have Roger in my mirrors, but still concentrate on Dennis. I move back into position and get by again on the next lap. At the end of that lap, I glance in my mirrors and see that Roger is no longer in my mirror - Kearney is... He goes by before I get to T1, but I note that he is relatively slow through that turn. I decide that since Kearney has passed me, maybe we will both be faster and can run down the lead pack if I let him lead. I follow him, staying CLOSE, but showing no threats ... but he is just too slow through T1 - Roger is running us back down. - just about this time, Dreizler spins and moves us up another spot. We are closing slowly on Loughead and Shields. HALF - WAY. We're close ... Shields SPINS - out of the way at T13 - we get by clean (up another spot). Kearney seems even slower at T1. I can't stand it any more. I pass Kearney and get a good line (finally) into T1/2 This time I come out good and get a good gap on Kearney. Lisa Noble also gets a great run through 1/2 and gets by him and comes after me. I'm working on Loughead, but watching Lisa. She closes on the front straight and passes into 1. We're still closing on Loughead. I try to set up Lisa next lap, but just not quite close enough to make it stick. Work HARD, work HARD!! I concentrate on T13/14 and make sure I'm close behind Lisa - Kearney is falling off. Making the pass ... I pull out at the last possible second to get by Lisa into T1. I still manage to get a decent run through and come out with a good lead on Lisa - one more lap.... I'm getting closer to Loughead. I see that he's 'tentative' through the 8/9 chicane complex. I close a bunch. I'm close coming onto the front straight .... Linda says ONE LAP TO GO .. LAST LAP... LAST LAP!!! I can't make the pass on Jeff at T1. STAY CLOSE! STAY CLOSE! I close in a good bit at T 1/2, then more at T5. I'm right on him. DON'T SCREW UP TURN SIX!!! I keep close, we're starting the back straight, I'm closing, but can't make the pass before the chicane - I hold my distance so I'm not too close. He's into T8 - I'm FLYING through there ... RIGHT ON HIS TAIL as we exit T9 - I move to the inside and start my pass - he moves to block, but I'm already alongside - he pushes me over as much as he dares .. but I've GOT HIM. T10 is coming... He can't protect and I take the position. Now... BE CAREFUL... DON'T SCREW UP - they can't pass unless YOU screw up!! Protect.... you DON'T have to go FAST through here - just DON'T SCREW UP TURN FOURTEEN!!! I get through 11, then 12, then 13 - no one diving inside (thank goodness) - balk a tad before 14 .. make CERTAIN you don't scrub the tires or let anyone get a run on you!! I'm on the front straight - Loughead is right on my tail, but there's no time! He pulls out, but can't gain ANYTHING on me!!! I hold the position and we finish 5th! (seems almost like a win doesn't it <g>).
In the end, a somewhat disappointing race, but OTOH, a quite satisfying race too. We had some people to race with, we passed a few cars. We didn't CRASH! We moved UP instead of back, and we finished in impound once again. INTERESTING NOTE: The Speed TV 'Cars to Watch' preview mentioned above managed to spotlight SIX out of SIX cars that made it to impound! Congrats to all .. Steve Oseth repeats as Champion with a great pass going into T1 to start the last lap. Mike Varacins finished 2nd (as he did last year), Bob Neumeister (Nuby) finished 3rd, Brad Stout was 4th, I was 5th (Brad and I on Goodyears), and Jeff Loughead finished 6th. And congrats to *ALL* competitors that made it to the Runoffs.
As usual, we'd like to recognize those without whom we would not be able to participate... My wife Linda, all the workers - on the corners and elsewhere around the track (even those who couldn't make it to Topeka), Rollin Butler (ButlerEngines ), Eric, Mike, Bob and all the rest of the guys at Goodyear Tires, Valvoline Oil, "the Dave Twins" of PAR (Precision AutoResearch) who tried diligently to teach me some useful things about data acquisition <g>), Gordon Webster, and Jerry - who was recuperating at home from surgery, but was with us in spirit.
Now, a little rest and relaxation is in order for a while...
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