Wedge Racing in 2008

Homestead - January (DOUBLE) - skipped.

Sebring - January - skipped.

Kershaw (CMP) - February.

We towed uneventfully to the track on Friday afternoon - registered and found a decent spot in the paddock.  I got the car out and trundled over to Tech to get my 'Annual tech registration' - all went well - the car being "as raced" at the Runoffs last year.

On Saturday morning (GOOD WEATHER! for a change) I decided to make some changes in the rear suspension setup.  I was having a 'push' problem (not BAD, but still there) at Topeka, so I HAVE to get that solved for this season.  I made some guesses and when we went for the 1st qualifier, I found immediately that my guesses were extremely poor :-(.  The car was ... well, OK, but that's about it.  Seemed way too harsh in the corners and across the curbs.  The Vee field was small ... VERY small, with only TWO cars - so I managed to grab up second place on the grid :-).

After that session, I UNdid all the changes that I made - and then continued on a bit more in that direction.  I also changed tires and put on a set that was a bit better than the first set.  In the qualifier, the car felt a TON better - unfortunately, we didn't seem to go much faster.  Again, Dale (the other Vee) and I didn't run together - we each did our own thing somewhere apart on the track.  In the end, I managed to JUST grab away the pole time - but only by a couple of tenths.

Overnight, I pondered over the car, but couldn't come up with anything else to try (that I dared going into the race).  I went over the car and tried to make sure that nothing fell off during the race - gas'ed her up and put her to bed.

The weather for this event was the best we've had at CMP since the first event there some 8 or 9 years ago.  Cool 40's overnight and cool mid 60's during the day.  No thunderstorms, tornadoes, or hurricanes this year - YEAA!!  Race time.  There is a new track configuration this year - they have modified turns 12/13/14 into a new set with wider radius turns and essentially removed T13 altogether.  T14, leading onto the front straight is a good bit "easier" now, but it doesn't seem to make it that much FASTER - just less 'troublesome' than before.  All in all, I rate the new changes as a POSITIVE for the track :-).

Anyway, the race waves green - Dale and I had qualified in the middle of a pack of 5 Spec Racer Fords (outweigh us by 600 lbs and are BIG!) - which we did NOT want to be in the middle of in T1 - so we both agreed that we would start last and NOT "go" when the green waved.  We just tooled around watching the SRF's pull away (leaving us some racing room) until we got to T5.  We agreed that we would "go" exiting T5.  I got the better run into T7 leading onto the back straight so took the early lead.  The next lap, Dale got along side me and I waved him by at the same place.  We lapped around a couple of laps and I got to watch as Dale ALMOST lost it in T7 one lap ... but he saved it and we continued on.  I could see that we were running down 2 of the SRF cars, so it was time to start thinking strategy.  I generally figure that, in a lapping situation, I'm always in a better position if I'm in front, so I passed and took the lead back.

It took a couple of laps to get by the SRF cars, and in the process Dale got an opportunity when one of them balked me and he took the lead back. We both got around and held station - then that same SRF spun, went into the pits, then came back out JUST in front of Dale - then he let Dale by and BLOCKED me for the next 2 turns (might not have realized I was there).  He finally let me by coming out of T5, but Dale now had a 10 car length lead - enough so that I was NOT in his draft any more.  Couple more laps went by - Dale was holding distance on me.  I could close a bit through T3/4/5 complex, but then he would pull it back out in T11/12/13 complex.  The lead FF came through and we maintained position - then the SECOND place FF came through ... I let him by going in to T11, thinking he would jump Dale into T12 - but NO... he decided to just WAIT ... and in addition, he waited WAY BACK - opening another 5 car lengths between Dale and I.  When he finally passed Dale, Dale was too far ahead for me to have a chance!  Even if I had had one before that last separation.  I put together my fastest 5 laps of the race, but still couldn't close on Dale until the last lap. Dale was taking it easy - he had plenty of room over me - and there was no reason to take a chance throwing the car off the track on the last lap.  He took the win and I finished about 5 car lengths back.

In the end, Dale had the win *AND* the new track record (1:46.924).  Congratulations to Dale on a fine drive to his first national race win.  I'm sorry that I had to be his VICTIM, but he drove a stellar race and didn't make any mistakes when the chips were down.  Time to go over the car again and get ready for Roebling Road in 2 weeks.

Roebling Road  - March
Great weather again at Roebling (wonder when it's going to catch up to us?). I changed the motor after CMP - just to put some more time on the 'newer' one.  Rebuilt my disintegrating oil cooler mount and tidied up a few other minor issues.  The morning practice session was cool and clear - the track was great and we had no problems.  I used the same tires I ran at CMP (and the Runoffs qualifiers) and managed to sneak the fast time away from the others by just a tenth or so.  I did try something new with my air scoops - it seemed "OK", but nothing any better than before. Oh well... <sad face>. It warmed up quite a bit for the afternoon qualifying session.  I ended up running with Charlie Rogers and we seemed to work well together.  I snagged the pole time (1:21.4) and Charlie was RIGHT behind me with a 1:21.6.  The rest of the pack was pretty tight time wise, but still behind us :-).  We cleaned things up, swapped to a NEW set of tires for tomorrow and went off to visit the volunteers at the evening social.

Sunday morning started with 2 short warmups - all I needed was a chance to scrub my tires in a bit.  I've been trying to get my new HERO 3 camera
  to work in the car - not much luck so far.  However, THIS TIME, it worked GREAT for the warmup.  I only turned 3 laps - not fast - just getting the tires warmed up and the video I got was really good.  Unfortunately, it failed me again miserably for the race, yielding about 5 minutes of paddock and grid time before it coughed and died.  NO race video at all.  We were the second group out, which is nice - it means we get to get on the road home a bit earlier this trip.

The race was waved off on the first try - the front 3 cars (1 FF and 2 F5's) were not "aligned", so we tried again.  2nd time was much better and we got a great start. (Thanks to Joseph Brown (upcoming FV racer) for the pix.) It's pretty rare that I make it to T1 first from the pole, but I did it this time.  Charlie latched on behind me and things were looking GOOD.  I ran a really good first lap and we put a bit of distance between us and the rest of the Vee field.  On the 2nd lap, Charlie passed me into T1, then I passed him back on the straight at the end of that lap.  All that passing was enough to allow the field to close up on us .. then the next lap, Donnie Isley passed Charlie and glued himself to my behind (you may recall similar scenarios from past Roebling races <g>).  At that point, I was pretty sure that Donnie wasn't going to pass - he and I wanted to put some distance between us and anyone else ... and we proceeded to do just that.  We pulled out about 3 seconds and then I eased up a bit - I was hanging on the ragged edge and almost lost it a couple of times.  Time to be a tad more careful - save the tires - I MIGHT just need them later in the race.

Even though I 'slacked up' a bit, we were still turning some really good lap times (almost a second faster than we qualified).  Linda was giving me splits back to the 'pack' and I was a bit surprised that they seemed to be keeping pace - even as fast as we were going (gee... that's just NOT RIGHT! <G>). (Charlie is just out of view of the camera in front of Mike)   The lead (and ONLY) FF caught us and passed without incident.  I took several shots at 'losing' Donnie - all to no avail.  I could get what SEEMED to be a good lead ... but he would just mow me down on the next straight and ... there we were again.  He was practicing his last lap pass maneuver.  He'd get a good (or bad) run on me coming out of the last turn and see how far he could get before the finish line.  I wanted to 'play' him a bit, but that PACK was still keeping pace, so I couldn't slow down enough to make a difference without getting into a 5 or 6 car melee again.  Donnie never made a serious pass attempt - just kept practicing, waiting for that last lap.  I pondered what I might do to prevent the pass.  #1).  I could go "really fast" on that last lap and leave him in the dust ... yeah... RIGHT!  #2)  I could go "pretty slow" ... maybe he would pass me and *I* would have the last lap shot .... yeah... RIGHT!  #3) Hmmm... this one might work.  If I can slow just enough on the last lap in the middle of the turn, he can't pass me there, and he would have no draft to work with.  It would just be a drag race to the finish line...  well ... maybe.  It's worth a shot!

2 laps to go .. FINALLY, something happens behind us and the gap suddenly grows to a comfortable margin.  Don't need to be concerned about them catching us now.  But also, no real need to slow down - Donnie's not going to pass till the end (or try to, anyway <devilish grin ..hahahahaaaa!>)  OK... we're going into the last lap. The checker is already out on the FF - I lead us around to T5 and blast down into T6 ... then suddenly (not TOO suddenly mind you), I'm not going quite so fast.  Donnie closes up right behind me (my evil plan is working !!!)... I hold him there, hold him... hold him.... we're coming out of the turn - only a short run to the last turn.  If I get a good jump here, I can make it.  SLAM goes the 'go pedal'.  I catch Donnie napping and pull away - maybe 5 or 6 car lengths between us.  I glance back as we enter the last turn - he's still back a ways.  Look again as I come onto the front straight... I think I've got him... he's closing, but he can't make it... there's no WAY he can get me now.... why's he pulling out anyway?? Just a waste of time on his part.  He CAN'T catch me .... he CAN'T catch me ... can he?  can he?? ..... WHAT the ?!! **^&(@#%)#^&#*%&  AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!  Donnie takes the win by about 4 inches at the line (semi official margin of victory - 0.019 secs).  Seems that maybe I didn't slam the go pedal hard enough after all....  Oh well.  Congratulations to Donnie - another notch in his roll hoop.  A great race for all.  EVERYONE finished the race and EVERYONE went "fast".  After the race, tech had each of the impound finishers 'take off their pants' for some undercover inspections. Seems that THAT is going to be the norm this season - a good thing for the class,  I think.

Donnie had the fastest lap - with me 0.1 behind him, Mike 0.1 behind me and everyone else only tenths back all the way through the field.  Possibly the fastest cumulative race times we've ever seen at Roebling.  Also - 5 of the 7 Vees were on Goodyear Tires, including the top 3, and 4 were running Butler motors - finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th - not a bad day for all of us. Final results are HERE if you're interested.

We all load GOOD cars back into the trailers and head for home.  Next up is Road Atlanta in 3 weeks.  Hopefully, I can find some more speed before then.

Road Atlanta (#1) - March
Hmmmm... unfortunately, I'm beginning to see a pattern here ... one I don't like ...  (at least the weather was good <G>)
Road Atlanta is close by, Dennis Andrade and Charlie Hearn trekked in from out west to visit our track and the weather was fantastic! 

We were Group 3 and the first qualifier presented us with a GREAT track.  To my dismay, my car handled like a pig.  It was 'loose as a goose' as they say and it took all my skill to keep the back end behind me and not loop it.  In the end, I must have done a pretty decent job because I managed to snag the pole by about a tenth of a second.  Hearn had seen the track for the first time on Friday and Andrade hadn't raced Atlanta since the Runoffs were held there 15 years ago, so I had a bit of an advantage I think :-). Hearn was right right behind me followed by 7 more cars. 

I UNDID one of my "make it better" changes and put on some better tires for the second qualifier in the afternoon.  Even though the track was probably about a second slower than the morning session, the car felt GREAT. I went almost 2 seconds faster - good enough for the pole.  Hearn went considerably faster as well, as did several other cars.  Hearn was second about .8 back (but still learning) with Stephen Schiff 3rd, Andrade 4th, and Charlie Rogers 5th with several more vees behind him. Several opted to go out during the morning warmup on Sunday, but I decided that the danger of mixing it up with the incredibly fast DSR's and other open wheelers was too high. I watched one of the DSR cars pass an ATLANTIC coming out of T1 like he was tied to a POST!  DSR's were 4 out of the top 5 on that group's grid - sure glad I wasn't in it.  We had it bad enough with the FF and FC cars.

We were first race after lunch and at the start I held the lead through T1, but Andrade and Schiff got together with Schiff spinning and Rogers nailed him in the side. The track went double yellows behind the pace car while a wrecker came out to pick up Schiff's car (he was OK - not sure about the damage). Andrade also spun, but recovered at the back of the field. Rogers continued as well, crippled with a busted nose. Following the restart, Hearn and I quickly pulled away from the pack. He took the lead on about lap 7 and I decided not to challenge at that time. He was leading when the FC and FF cars started coming through for the first time. We got separated a bit, but I was able to catch back up. On the second lapping by the FC's we got separated again and I was starting to get worried as the laps ran down.  I put my head to the grindstone and was again able to catch back up on the penultimate lap - on his butt for the last lap pass. I thought about making the pass on THAT lap, but decided to wait - hoping I wouldn't get screwed by lapping FC or FF cars - a gamble either way. Unfortunately, 3rd/4th FC (fighting for position) caught us in the esses on the last lap - and at the same time we caught a lapped Vee.  I could see it unfolding and it didn't look good.  I HAD to stay with Hearn or my race was done. Hearn got by the vee, but when I went to go around, both FC's were trying to pass me and there wasn't enough room - 3 wide through the esses just doesn't work. I tagged the lapped vee on my left as the FC's forced me that way going by on the right. Harry (the lapped vee) spun in front of me (not his fault) BETWEEN Hearn and I, and he and I slid to a stop while Hearn disappeared over the hill at T5. No real damage to either car and we both drove away immediately, but Hearn was out front with a 15 second lead by then. He won, I was second. Harry lost a valve cover and didn't realize it - dumped oil all the way down the back straight and through 10a/b - brought out the double yellows as the remainder of the cars finished the last lap. Hearn JUST missed a new lap record (somewhere in the hundredths) and we still managed to cross the line in second.  Andrade pulled in third, working his way back up from last and Rogers just missed impound with his busted nose.  In 2004 I made the trip to Houston to visit Charlie (Hearn) at TWS (his home track) - I walked away with BOTH wins at "his" double race event.  He came to Atlanta and repaid the favor (VBG).

I don't THINK there is any real damage to the car, but I'll drag it out and look it over before we head out to Roebling for the 45th FV birthday party in 2 weeks.  As I said, I'm getting tired of this 'second place' crap - but at least I've had some good competition and some good races for a change.  The car is still running great and we COULD have won all three races - we were close. The last couple of years have been too good to me.  I guess it's TIME I started dealing with some of this before Runoffs time :-).

FV 45th Birthday Celebration - April at Roebling Road 
Well... LOTS of things to talk about this time.  On the way down, a couple of tires escaped from the rack above the car and at least one of them fell DIRECTLY onto the top of the air filter, crushing it. Damaging the filter was no big deal, however it is attached to the carb, which is mounted on top of that flimsy intake manifold.  I was quite concerned that the (VERY expensive) manifold had been damaged.  A close inspection revealed nothing of note and racing during the weekend showed no loss of power, thank goodness.

We had a free Friday test day (sponsored by Bruce Foss of Hoosier Tires - Thanks, Bruce) and that turned out to be REALLY nice since so many people traveled long distances for their first visit to Roebling.  [A LOT of cars were wandering around trying to find the line and that test day probably saved a bunch of wrecks during the weekend :-).]  We wanted to try something in the suspension, so I went out for 3 laps in the first session to set a baseline, then another 3 laps in the second session.  Things seemed pretty good, so we parked it for the rest of the day and watched.  2 of the remaining sessions were wet, so it was just as well.  It was pretty cool to see all the old cars and reminisce about what FV *USED* to be like.  And see some of the OLD drivers (besides ME <g>).  There were a number of LEGENDS attending - including Ray Caldwell (one of the early developers of Formcars and Jan Brundage, the son of the late Hubert Brundage who commissioned the FIRST Formula Vee.  I'll be posting my pictures over on the FormulaVee.us website after I get a few things done around here.  It was also pretty nice not to have to listen to F5's or MAZDA's revving up their engines <g>.

We also decided to skip the first session on Saturday since it was a practice and not a qualifier.  No real reason to NOT go, but no need to get out there with so many cars, and so many not familiar with the track.  The "current FV" cars were broken into 3 groups - I was in the middle one.  In the afternoon, the skies started to look ominous. The first session went off without a hitch.  Rick Shields took the pole with newcomer youngster Billy Cooper right on his tail.  The skies continued to darken, but we went to the grid on slicks.  About 1 minute before the 5 minute warning was to be given, it started to sprinkle - then a bit harder.  I immediately headed back to my paddock spot and before I got halfway, the bottom dropped out.  I drove the car straight into the trailer as the wind threatened to rip the awnings off both the trailer and the RV.  Fortunately, the winds died down after a couple of minutes, but about that time, the LIGHTNING took over.  They shut down all the corner stations so the workers could seek shelter and the PA was turned off as well while we waited for the fireworks show to pass through.  While we waited, we swapped over to the rain tires. 

About 30 minutes later, the lightning had passed, but the rain remained pretty steady.  They called the workers back and us to the grid again and we entered a pretty wet track  - not a driving rain, but coming down steadily.  I told Linda to keep me advised as to who was fast ... and HOW fast they were.  About 3 laps into the session, the rain started to slack up and track conditions started to improve.  It was likely going to come down to the last (fast) car on his last lap for the pole.  Linda was timing several cars - the ones we thought would be the fastest.  Brad Stout quickly became my 'competition' for the pole.  We were both at least 2 seconds a lap faster than the next fastest car.  Stout was behind me, so I was 'dealing' with the fact that he would have a slightly drier track than I - I would HAVE to be GOOD today!  As the session wore on, I kept getting faster and faster (good) - catching more and more cars (bad).  The draft was useless, since you couldn't see the car ahead when you got close enough to feel the draft and it was too dangerous to be that close anyway.  Passing was a nightmare, since the car ahead generally had NO idea that anyone was behind them and the slow cars were ALL OVER the track - very difficult to pass - each time wondering whether the car would turn into me at the last second.  Linda was giving me lap times and I was staying comfortably ahead of Stout.  On one lap, I got stuck behind 3 slow cars for a full turn before I could get by and Stout nipped my time by a tenth.  On the next lap, I took another second and a half off my time and surged back into the lead (at least by Linda's clock <G>).  I'm sure my last lap would have been my fastest, except for the fact that I ran up on another car that was JUST fast enough to keep me from being able to pass him quickly - having to be beside anyone for any distance, was just not a good thing ... so we followed and lost about 4 seconds that lap.  Stout had a clear last lap and Linda timed him as "close".  When the times were posted, *WE* had the pole by about a half second. I had turned 2 good laps earlier when the track was wetter that were good enough.

Race 1 - (2 races were scheduled...)
Stout and I started on the front row, with some 20 cars behind us.  I think we were 2nd and 3rd going into T1 on the start - I was "ahead", but got passed at the last moment by Steve Oseth.  The next lap Stout took the lead and we seemed to already be down to a 5 or 6 car lead pack.  Donnie Isley and Gary Blanarik stayed in the hunt with Oseth, Stout and I.  I think each of the cars led at least once into T1.  Stout drove his usual race and I was forced to hit the grass or dodge him diving inside me several times.  That meant that I needed to be more conscious of where he was when behind me.  Just one more thing to worry about as the 15 laps ticked off.  Coming down to 2 laps to go and EVERYONE is trying to be in the "right" place.  I figured I could probably win from second coming onto the straight, but likely not from 3rd. On the NEXT to last lap, things just "worked out" that I got past everyone going into T1 (they probably LET me by ... to set me up for the last lap pass) - one more lap to go and I was dead meat - I led around to start the LAST lap and managed to hold off all but Oseth into T1.  Stout tried hard to put me in the grass again, but this time I wasn't going.  He followed in 3rd into T2.  I remembered his divebomb inside me at T4 earlier and so took a defensive line out of T3 - staying to the right of the track.  It would screw me up for T4, but was the only way to keep from being forced out of position ... or so I thought.  Next thing I see is Stout - 4 wheels in the grass beside me - this CAN'T be good.  He bounded around a bit, managed to "save" the car and come back onto the track in front of me.  To my great sorrow, he was unable to HOLD that and spun the car - causing Oseth to go WIDE to avoid contact.  I hit the brakes as lightly as I could and not t-bone Stout while bracing for the inevitable crash into me from behind.  Fortunately for me, Jeremy and Donnie also saw the incident developing and slowed as well - UNfortunately for Donnie, the *next* car back did NOT recognize the situation soon enough and plowed into Donnie, flatting his left rear tire and braking a suspension piece.  While all this was going on, I was able to get by cleanly and lead around to take the checker.  Jeremy Grenier had started last on the field and tried the last lap nip at the line only to come up about a half car length short.  The Racer's Wage had WON the first of its 2 scheduled races.

Following the race, I was called to the tech shed to see the Chief Steward .. only to find out that Mr. Stout had filed a protest against ME for 'something' related to T4 on the last lap.  I requested some blank witness report forms and went to a couple of the guys that were behind the incident.  I asked them if they would fill out "what they saw" - no suggestions of any kind on my part.  I only told them that Stout had filed a protest against me. (one of them LAUGHED at the fact that Stout would file against ME!).  Interestingly, at NO point was I ever actually informed of exactly WHAT his protest said - or exactly WHAT I was defending myself against.  I was only asked to give my version of what happened at T4 on the last lap.  After some deliberation on the part of the SOM's, the protest was thrown out.  At the next (VIR) race, I found that Stout had protested me for not leaving him "racing room" and that of the FIVE incident/witness reports that were filed, not ONE of them remotely supported Stout's view of the incident. 

The Brundage Cup Race:  Grid position was based on our fastest lap during the heat races.  I had taken the opportunity when it presented itself during the heat race to get a pretty good lap.  Jeremy started the heat last and made his way up to second and came up with fast lap in the process - I was second.  Nice to be starting on the front row :-).  I think Oseth got the drop again at the green and led into T1, then me and Jeremy with Stout next.  I should take this opportunity to compliment Jeremy - he and I got to T1 at the SAME time - he had the inside, but I was slightly ahead.  I turned in, leaving him racing room and he kept his car inside, leaving ME racing room.  We ended up going side by side through T1, T2, T3, and T4 before I was finally able to gain position on him into the left hander at T5 (shades of NASCAR <G>).  I couldn't actually SEE him MOST of that time (and I had no 'spotter')... but I could HEAR him and FEEL him - he wasn't in front of me and he wasn't in my rear view mirror ... that left only ONE place he could be  - BESIDE me ! :-).  Several people mentioned that to me later - most giving ME the credit, but it took BOTH of us to do it. On the next lap, Stout took the lead and I followed in 2nd, then Jeremy, then Oseth.  After that I just can't remember who led which laps - but I think EVERYONE in the lead pack did at one time or another. Oseth, me, Stout, Jeremy, and Womer -with lots more cars not far behind.  Stout pulled out some distance on me - I just couldn't seem to make the car go where I needed it to go.  Womer came by and took second, but was even slower than I in the turns.  This race was only 10 laps, so STAYING near the front was especially important!  Jeremy finally got by Ed and I with 2 laps to go, and I got back past Womer so stayed 3rd with Womer and Oseth close behind.  Jeremy took off after Stout and I wished him well in catching and passing him :-).  *LAST LAP* - I managed to hold off Oseth and Womer at T1 somehow, and I could see that Jeremy was now RIGHT behind Stout.  My car was sliding badly, but apparently others were having similar problems (found out later that OIL was on the track).  Oseth got inside me at T5 and took the position, but I held off Womer.  Oseth pulled me badly at T6 and opened up a pretty good gap, but I started to close coming through T7 so I scrunched down as low as I could (less wind resistance, you know) and plastered the PEDAL as hard as I could.  I was closing...closing... wasn't going to make it ... we come onto the front straight ... closing...- I glanced at my mirror - Womer was closing on me as well, but didn't think he could make it by me... closing...  Suddenly Womer pulls out to pass and Oseth moves right so Womer would have further to go.  When he did that, it opened up a small spot for me on his left and I went for it.  PRESS! PUSH! GO!  ....  YES!! I GOT HIM!!  I took 3rd by about 6 inches. Oseth held 4th and Womer was fifth.  When we got to impound, I was presented with another fantastic piece of info - Jeremy had beaten Stout to the line and won the Brundage Cup!  All in all, a pretty great race and weekend - despite the 'bad karma' and CRAP from Stout.

The tow home this trip deserves a heading all it's own... About 100 miles out of Roebling the front right tire on the trailer departed and crossed the median and oncoming traffic - thankfully missing anyone or anything of consequence.  What it left behind was real MISERY.  A fellow "tow'er"stopped behind us to offer help, but there was really nothing he could do beyond tell me where the tire/wheel assembly went.  While it was still daylight, I crossed the interstate on foot and walked back to the expected location of the tire.  I was quite lucky to find it sitting there nicely waiting for me (though it was quite HOT!) - at least I didn't have to buy another wheel/tire.  The hub and axle end were completely destroyed - absolutely NO WAY I was going to use that axle or hub to get home. 

Pitiful looking end of the axle - you can
see why it was unusable.

             

The brake assembly was FRIED.
Shoes burned completely off!

The first order of business was to see if I could get Linda HOME while I dealt with the problem.  I called buddy Charlie Rogers who thankfully had stopped for dinner and was just about 12 miles behind us.  He lives only a few miles from us and was able to stop and give Linda a ride.  I disconnected, locked the trailer up as best I could and set off in search of anything I could find at 7P on Sunday night that might be useful. Needless to say, I found NOTHING - but I did pick up a few phone numbers.

I returned to the scene and figured I'd just sleep on the side of the road behind the trailer - to try to protect it from highway thieves.  Linda called me and talked me into calling a wrecker with a tilt bed and after a couple of tries I came up with one.  He also had a place to take me to, where I could leave the trailer if need be.  Getting off the side of the Interstate was quite a relief and I went to bed dreaming of how much worse it COULD have been.  BTW - the cause of all this, was inadequate maintenance.  I packed the wheel bearings just last year, but I guess the loads from the bumpy highways and the full weight of the trailer directly on the axle (no real "suspension") was just too much. The outer bearing dried out, heated up and proceeded to heat everything else up till it got into the inner bearing and it pretty much burned up EVERYTHING.  It was also apparent from the damage that the hub had run 'some' miles with no bearings left - what a MESS!

I spent the entire next day trying to locate an axle anywhere in mid GA, or someone in Atlanta who was available to go to my house and bring down my spare axle from home.  No luck! Then I tried to borrow a friend's trailer and drove 3 hours to pick it up - only to then find that it had a flat tire and no spare. Frustration loomed large.  I finally decided that the only logical thing was for me to drive all the way to Atlanta to see what I could find there.  I got home late and went to sleep, dreaming of plans for the next day. Tuesday morning, I called every trailer place in the area (my spare axle had been bent, so I didn't really want to use it), until someone finally suggested that Northern Tool might have what I needed.  I got on their internet site and found something that looked promising. I called and they actually had one in STOCK!  I drove over with a tape measure and checked it out.  It all looked right except that the spring shackles were in the wrong place.  I bought it and a hub set, took it all home, then ground off the original shackles and welded new ones in the right place for my trailer.  Then I loaded it all up in the motorhome (I need a NAME for that rig, don't I?) and took off for Dublin again.  I got there around 3:30P and the weather was decent enough.  C &C Towing had gotten my trailer off the flatbed and put it in a spot where I could work on it (thanks Casey!).  The ground was a bit soft and it took a while to get the trailer up on stands where I could work on it - I had to unload the car and ATV so that my jack could pick it up!  Once the trailer was in the air, things went about as well as I could hope for.  I had replaced an axle a couple of years ago and so was pretty familiar with the job.  It took me only about an hour to get it swapped.  Then I slipped on the new hubs and put the tires back on.  I decided that I should take a look at the hubs on the other axle to be sure, and found them nearly dry as well.  One of them was already swapping metal in the outer bearing and I would have never made it home on it.  I swapped the good side hub and bearing from the hosed axle, greased everything up with fresh lube and wrapped up the package.  By 5:30 I was done and by 6P I was headed toward I-16 again.  The trip home was uneventful - and the good news was that the repair I had done with the new axle was ready to go on to VIR the next day.

VIR (Virginia International Raceway)- April - A DOUBLE race this year
We left town about 6:30 in the evening to get outside of Atlanta during low traffic time.  We stopped at Rollin's shop and spent the night in his parking lot before heading on up on Thursday morn (the double was a Fri/Sat/Sun event). We got to VIR a little before noon and set up camp.  There were 3 vees there testing, so we alternated watching, working on my car (no maintenance since Roebling), and working on the trailer - a dust cap had fallen off during the trip and I had to FABRICATE a new one from a Vee cap I had in the trailer

Just before the last session, Dave Green, came over and asked if I'd like to take his car out for the last session.  Who, ME?  SURE!!  Always glad to drive most anything when the opportunity arises <VBG>.  It was pretty fun, I didn't crash, and it didn't cost me anything.  I turned some decent lap times on REALLY old tires and Dave was pleased to hear my report that his car seemed pretty good to me. Thanks, Dave!

We were the LAST race group, so we had plenty of time to get things ready on Friday morning - I studied tires and tried to plan out the sessions for the weekend. Our time came and I went out on what I thought were pretty decent tires (Sat Qualifying).  They seemed 'not so great' though.  Everything else seemed OK. Engine ... car in general.  I was able to pass anyone I ran with, and run down the pack of vees from a good ways back.  But the times were pretty slow.  I still managed to grab the pole time away from newcomer (another youngster) Derek Harding, visiting from California - he and his family had come for the 45th B'Day races and were hitting a couple of other tracks before heading home.  The second session (Sun Qualifying) was very similar.  I went about a second faster, but so did most everyone else.  I still got the pole, but second place was Ed Womer this time.  Only 2 sessions this day, so we were done and went down for a pretty good meal put on by the folks of NCR, the host region.

On Saturday morning, the skies were ominous.  Big, nasty looking clouds were rolling towards us and severe weather (with SEVENTY mph winds!) was passing JUST NW of the track.  The first 5 sessions went off without a hitch ... and then the storm came.  Another lightning show with momentary torrential rains followed by light rain and sprinkles, followed by more lightning. Again, they shut down the track and took an early lunch while we waited for the storms to pass.  After lunch, the worst of it seemed over and we started up again - with us out first (2nd Sat Qualifying).  I decided to pass on the session and wash the trailer in the rain instead.  No one was going to beat my time in the rain and I had just gotten the car all wet last weekend at Roebling - I don't mind driving in the rain, but I HATE having to clean the car up afterward <G>.  The trailer hadn't been washed in a WHILE, so it was good for it.  I drained some shower water from my RV holding tank (shower tank is separate from the 'BLACK' tank) and used it when the rain died down a bit.  I was almost done, when the last squall came through and gave my nice clean trailer a good rinse down.

The clouds hung around - looking nasty, but it stayed dry after the Group1 (wings 'n things) race.  They started with a bad mix of slicks/rains/intermediates and a track that was alternately WET, drying, getting wetter, drying, and finally almost DRY at the end.  Glad I wasn't in THAT race! LOTS of cars to pick up after thath one. Our time came and we took the green on a completely dry track.  Sherman got me going into T1 and we started 'at it'.  I passed on the back straight and TRIED to get away, but the tires just wouldn't stick in T1.  I had to slow SO MUCH that pretty much everyone was back on top of me coming out of the turn.  Womer led the next lap, then Sherman again, with Harding and Andrade right on our heels.  I led the next lap and Womer decided to stay behind me and see if we could break off a 'lead pack of 2'.  We were successful, and when we were adequately clear, Ed passed me and took the lead again.  I took it back when I saw the FF cars coming to lap us.  Sometimes it works out OK, sometimes you get HOSED by the lapping cars.  I wanted to be out front right then, so if anyone got hosed, it wasn't me <G>.  Ed did get somewhat hosed and I got away a bit ... however, with my tires sliding so badly (his weren't much better) he was able to inch back up to me.  He passed again, and the next lap I noticed that Andrade had run us down and joined the lead pack as well.  He, either was not able to pass or just decided not to - possibly waiting for the last lap (the NEXT lap).  On the last lap, I took the lead at the end of the back straight - confident that Ed couldn't pass me back before the finish line.  We came out of hog pen onto the front straight and I watched my mirrors.  Ed was still behind me.  Don't think he can catch me... He's closing ... nah - he can't do it... he's closing... nah.... he's closing... the line is just ahead ... one more check in the mirror... nah ... I've got it... PRESS - the line is ... HERE!  I've Wo....HEY, that's ED beside me pumping his fist!  WHY is he doing that??  Maybe I should pump MINE too!??  Anyway, I follow him around to impound and we get out to congratulate each other on a great race.  After a few minutes a volunteer comes over and confirms that ED won the race by 0.001 secs.  T & S said the MOV was about 2 inches ... or less.  CRAP!! AGAIN!  At least my margins of 'loss' are getting smaller and smaller. 10 car lengths at CMP, 6 inches at Roebling, a MILE at Atlanta (due to last lap crash - I won't count that!), and now TWO inches at VIR.  FOUR second place finishes in a row. I'm getting REALLY tired of this <G>.  But Ed drove a great race ... and SOMEONE has to be second.  Andrade finished 3rd (and had fast lap) with Engler, Harding and Green rounding out the finishers.  Schiff had spun off early on and ended up with a flat tire.  NCR put on another nice 'feed' for us that evening and Ed and Kathy came over so we could watch the video from his in-car camera - and Kathy could see the new floor in our RV (she wants (Ed) to do that to theirs <G>).

Ed was putting on 'new shoes' for the Sunday race, so I had no choice except to do the same.  The clouds were still hanging around, but not nearly as evil looking.  About 15 degrees cooler as well.  Our qualifier was only 15 minutes, but I didn't really want that much - I just needed a couple of laps to scrub my new tires - I took 3 to make sure and ended up with the pole over Ed - some THREE seconds faster than our race times on Saturday.

The first green flag attempt was waved off - not sure why. I had dropped the vees back a bit behind the last F5 since some of those guys are SO S L O W on their first 2 or 3 laps.  I wanted them GONE by the time we got to T1.  On the second attempt, I reluctantly closed up the gap a little bit and we got the green.  When we got to T1, my fears were realized as SEVERAL F5's were poking through the turn - I actually got past 2 of them, only to have them blast back past me before they SLAMMED on the brakes again for T4.  Again, I passed out the outside - only to have him blast back by so he could slow me down again at T5.  GET OUT OF MY WAY *&!#)!  I screamed in the helmet.  I have a good lead on Womer now, but the F5's are holding me up and he's gaining.  We get to the back straight.  SURELY they'll pull us enough to get out the way this time.... but NOooo.  Although he has 1/2 mile on me going INTO T12, I catch him before he's OUT of T12 and I'm held up again - T12, 13, 14.  I'm all over him, but can't get by - just losing time as Ed closes.  Front straight - F5 takes off again and I catch him coming out of T1 and have to FOLLOW him all the way to Oak Tree ... by now, Ed has caught me <sigh>.  Over the next few laps, the F5 S L O W L Y pulls away from us and FINALLY is out of our hair.  I can still see him (all the way to the checker), but he's far enough ahead that we can't draft him and he isn't slowing us in the turns.  Womer is the only one of the pack that's with me.  As we come out of T1, I can see a 3 car pack fighting for position going IN to T1.  Something must have happened to break them off.  For the next few laps, Ed and I swap the lead.  The tires seems to get worse each lap, but I can see that Ed is having the same problem.  We're easily clear of the rest and just fighting it out between us.  The lead FF and F5 cars come through without incident and the last lap approaches.  I replay the last lap of yesterday in my mind.  Should I pass Ed again at the end of the straight, or wait till the bottom of the hill and try to pull off the pass that Ed made yesterday.  I test a couple of times and it's 'iffy'.  I can PROBABLY do it, but as the last lap begins, I decide that he only won by 2 inches yesterday - I just have to drive 2 inches FASTER through the last turn this time.  I make the pass at the top of the hill and 'let it all hang out' in the hog pen turn leading onto the front straight.  I check my mirrors ... he's too far back to make it this time .... he's closing .. but he's too far back (sound familiar?)... I'm watching ... the line is coming .... he's closing.... the line is coming ... he can't catch me this time... he's closing.... the line is HERE!!!! WHERE'S ED?  Ahhhhhhhh!  He's STILL behind me!  FINALLY that first win has arrived.  Sherman rounds out impound.  A nice 'picture' trophy for the winner and a few more points 'in the bank'.  We are now leading the Division by a fair margin.  Every person who beat me except one has been from out of Division.

Steve leads Derek and Ed at VIR Turn 5, April 08
 The 'Wage' leads Derek Harding and Ed Womer through
 Turn 5 at the VIR Oak Tree Double National.
(photo compliments FandSEnterprises.com)

 

    

VIR Oak Tree National Sunday 2008 Podium
Ed Womer (looks happy, doesn't he <G>), Me on the TOP STEP
and Sherman Engler playing games ...
(photo compliments of John Davison - VIR PR Director)

We finally get on the road to home at 6P - it's going to be a LONG trip.  I stopped briefly by Rollin's shop to drop off a motor and we rolled into the driveway a little after 2 am.  Another uneventful trip home.  Next up is Daytona - I have to get the Van out of mothballs. install a new transmission in it, and change the vee transmission - maybe the engine too - it's getting a little 'long in the tooth'.  More work to do <sigh>.

Daytona - May
After delivery of the transmission for the van was delayed twice, we decided to take the RV instead.  Just a little too dangerous taking off on an 800 mile trip, towing a big trailer on a new trannie - even if we had it (STILL not in yet!)  Using the RV meant we wouldn't be staying on the beach so.. if we wanted to GO to the beach (which we did) and didn't want to try to take the HUGE RV to the beach (which we didn't), we decided to rent a car during our brief stay there.  I found a really good last minute deal at Dollar and we actually SAVED $$$ considering the extra cost of diesel fuel, the slightly BETTER mileage of the RV over the van, and the considerably cheaper fees for the RV park vs the motel on the beach.  We might even go that way in the future, since the RV tows the trailer so much better than the van.  At any rate....

I had the front shocks rebuilt (after only FIVE years) and I'm told, they really needed it!  Changed the trannie to the long box and made a trip to Rollin's to pick up the newly rebuilt engine and got it installed.  On top of that, I decided to replace the 3500# axles under my trailer with 5200# axles!!   Yep - note those SIX lug wheels..  Yup, that's me - towin' down the road with my NEW FIFTY TWO HUNDRED POUND AXLES, UH HUH, UH HUH! (Freshly greased up too! <G>).  After all that, the tow was uneventful (thankfully!).  The cost of diesel fuel even dropped a couple of cents to help us out.  We arrived, picked up the rental car at the airport, then dropped the trailer and RV on the DIS grounds and headed for the beach.  We had a couple of hours before registration opened, so we might as well see what the ocean was up to. A few shades of red later, we were back at the track, got registered, moved the trailer inside and then headed for the campground.  Got set up and then downtown for a great dinner at Shells with fellow FV pilot Dave Green, down from NEW YORK to try to steal some of my points! :-).

The next morning, we got to the track in plenty of time (we were group 4) and I finished up some work on my new video camera installation. 

     After the terrible luck I had with the Hero3, I decided to try something different.  We now have a Lyra (made by RCA) multi-media recorder that's a little larger than a pack of cigarettes (for those of you who remember what those used to look like) and it SEEMS really neat.  The camera part is a lipstick camera mounted away from the PVR (personal video recorder). 

I McGuiver'd a mount  beside my helmet, but Linda and I both agree (meaning, I agree with HER!) that it really needs to be centered on the car.  I'll be working on that...  The bottom line is that
1) I got it working to my satisfaction
2). I'm still an idiot for not leaving enough room on the CF (compact flash) card to record the entire race - but I did get about 4 laps of 11 of ... mmm OK decent footage before the card got full.  It isn't a $10,000 professional network cam, but it's good enough to give you a pretty good idea of what's going on.

OK ..back to the racing.  I qualified on the pole by a pretty decent margin - enough that I was confident that it would hold up through the second qualifier ... so Linda and I loaded up and went back to the beach for Sat afternoon.  I figured, worst case, I'd drop one or possibly 2 spots - not enough to really worry about with the LONG straights at DIS.

We came in with some slight changes in mind for the camera for Sunday morn - I took care of that and then headed off to see what happened on the grid while I was away.  I ran across Steve Ira - working on his car - again - after having LF wheel bearing trouble the day before.  He assured me that THIS TIME, he really had it fixed!  We chatted a while, then I went on up to the tech area to check on the grid.  Hmmmmm.... those guys cut my margin in HALF! while I was 'beaching it'.  I better be careful!

RACE TIME- The Vees were last on the grid of *ALL* open wheel cars.  We would have Formula Atlantics closing on us by >40 MPH on the straights, FB's, FM's, FC's and FE's a bit less, then FF's and lastly F5's ... *ALL* significantly faster than us in a straight line.  It would be a BUSY morning!  With some 46 cars in our group, it seemed to take forEVER to get off the grid.  Then the pack was still strewn out all over the place as we came out of NASCAR 4 onto the front straight.  FINALLY they started to tighten up a bit (and left the Vees WAY back!) - I picked up the pace - trying to close the gap a little without going all out and while still keeping the Vee pack together.  I was ALMOST on the floor when the green finally came out.  As I crossed the start line, I could see Ira passing from his lowly LAST place grid position (he did qualify on about THREE wheels <g>) to take 2nd or 3rd - couldn't tell which.  I went into T1, watching more ahead of me than behind - it was UGLY up ahead.  Since we had been so far back, OUR group was pretty much OK.  Ahead we had FA/FC/FF/FE/FM/F5's all fighting for position.  I took it easy - ...left a little room ... just .. in ... case.. SUDDENLY, coming out of T1, I see tire smoke  - can't tell what's up yet... an FE goes around, an F5 dodges right.  Everyone around takes evasive action as I ease towards the incident.  The FE is trundling along BACKWARDS down the track - but holding it steady.  We get by clean, but then I see Dave Green beside me on the left (where the FE had been) - how he got by that FE is a mystery to me!  Coming out of the horseshoe, I close rapidly on Dave - it seems that he may have decided that he just MIGHT have passed under the yellow, so is letting me back by .. maybe the stewards will have pity on him <g>.  I take the gift and head down the short shoot in the infield.  As I come out of the right hander, I can see Green and Ira fighting for position behind me...  YEAH!!  keep it up guys :-).  I get a good clean line coming out onto the oval and even have an F5 close enough to grab a bit of a draft from.  I follow him to the chicane ... then NAIL the chicane - about as good as I've ever done it.  When I come out, I can see that I've gained a significant advantage over the rest of the Vees.  From there on, it was pretty much clear sailing.  I spent the VAST majority of my time watching my mirrors and listening to Linda warn me of FAST CLOSING traffic.  With the advantage I had over my class, it was a 'no brainer' to make sure I didn't get into the middle of anyone else's race - thereby taking a chance on getting CLOBBERED by someone not willing to lose an inch!  In one case, there was a pack of about 7 cars catching me going in to the chicane.  I elected to almost PARK it ... WAY down on the apron, to let them all by.  A pretty messy lap for me, but I had enough time in hand to do it .. the safe thing to do.  We cruised around to the win leaving the others to fight for 2nd place.  Ira "won" second, taking it from Green AFTER the 'start' line (where DAVE thought the race ended), but having position at the middle of T1 where the FINISH line has been for years <g>.  DAVE!  You gotta read those SUPPS !! <VBG> !!

The new engine is running great and hopefully, the 'other' one at Rollin's will be even better.  We earned a couple more tires and I understand that Goodyear should have a new tire for us to try in the next month or so.  Let's hope it's GOOD!!

Summit Point - May 17 (Out of division) - New date for this race this year - I'd like to go, but am going to have to skip it... Only SO MUCH $$ to go around and SO MUCH time to work on the car <g>.

Road Atlanta (#2) - June
Well - I FINALLY got some video of a race !!  My new camera/DVR has it's own share of problems, but at least I do get video to look at.  After the moderate success at Daytona, I moved the camera to the top of the roll bar to get a better view.    I need to remount the camera in some manner that reduces the vibrations.  This was first cut - maybe I can come up with a better mount soon - possibly mounting it on my helmet.

I've cut it down to JUST the race, but it's still a pretty big file (300+ MB) - if you have a fast connection and are really interested, you can download it from the following link (right click on it and choose 'SAVE Link As' or 'Save Target As'- save it somewhere (easy to delete later) on your HD and then go do something else for a while.  THEN you can come back a take a look.  For some reason the audio and video won't stay in sync (if you can tell me how to fix that, I'm all ears!) so you can't tell where I'm letting off the gas or getting back on it - but, trust me - it's where I SHOULD be doing those things <g>.  (The big key to whether the audio is ahead or behind is to watch my shifting hand.)
http://www.wedgeracing.com/video/atlanta_race_june08_short.avi
I have to say it's somewhat boring.  You can see Rob Poma (FC) going around me at the start - he started LAST after missing Saturday qualifying. The only Vee you get to see (besides the nose of mine) is Mike Leonard when he got the jump on me at the start.  I passed him on the back straight and you will see NO OTHER VEEs in front of me <VBG> - only the faster classes in our race group when they lap me.   The car ran and handled great all weekend.  The video will also probably make you sick if you watch the whole race - keep a sturdy bag handy <g>. 

Oh - and I WON.  Pole position (in class), fastest race lap and first place finish.   I have all second and first place finishes - and we can only count 6 and I've run 8 (one of which was non points and didn't count anyway), so I'm dropping 2nd's and replacing them with 1st's when I win - now up to 3 and 3.  Could be worse :-).

It was Atlanta, so not much about the tow ... except that the RV generator ruptured a radiator hose.  It shut itself down - hopefully before any permanent damage occurred.  I'll know more after I come up with a fix for the hose.

Heartland Park Topeka ? - June (Out of division)  - nope, not going.

Roebling Double National  - July  - Too busy to go this year

HMMMMM - just WHAT have we been busy DOING??  Well, I kept it under wraps for a while - didn't know how it was all going to work out, BUT...

We built a new CAR!  Allan Adderley developed this new aero bodywork he calls the Silver Bullet.  I spoke with him about adapting it to my car, but after several discussions, decided it was not practical - my car was TOO GOOD to modify enough to accommodate the changes necessary.  SO - at Linda's behest, I decided to build a new frame to go under the Silver Bullet bodywork.  It has been quite a process - we ran into a LOT more problems than I anticipated and I felt like calling it quits many times ... but I had too much invested to do that.  I have chronicled the process over on the 'Bullet Pages' if you're interested in the trials and tribulations of designing and building a chassis. It's called the Racer's Wedge Model SB-1 - nicknamed 'Bullet'.  I'd like to thank my friend Jim Scott for coming out of racing retirement again to help me in the design and construction of Bullet.

In the end, it did finally hit the track at the July Road Atlanta Regional race.  It wasn't quite ready, but close enough to not miss the event.  We had a number of problems, but considering the rush to get there and the first time out, I was quite pleased with the outcome.  We brought it back home and started reworking details and aimed for the CMP National race in mid August.  By the time the event arrived, we THOUGHT we were ready ... but we weren't.  It didn't run very well and I couldn't figure out why.  It FELT really good (except for a few thousand more details that needed work <G>) - seemed to handle extremely well (cars do that when you go slow!), but just wasn't fast.  In the race, Charlie Rogers took off into the distance and left me to fight with Dean Curtis for second.  I could barely hang with him lap for lap, but was loosing distance BIG TIME coming out of all the turns.  I was going IN fine, just couldn't get OUT.  To top it all off, I could barely stay in his draft - I felt like I MIGHT be able to complete a perfectly implemented pass attempt under braking ... but it wasn't going to be easy!  As it turned out, I seemed to be a bit faster than him through the kink leading onto the back straight, so I plotted my strategy for the last lap pass attempt.  OK  - it's here - LAST LAP.  I fought to stay close going into the sweeper leading the straight before the kink - I had to time it just right.  Too close and I would have to slow down for him .. to far back and I wouldn't be able to catch him.  Here we go ... I've got the distance set ... I think it'll work ... he goes into the turn and gets on the outside curbing .. slows him a tad -- easier for me... then *I* get out the outside curbing ... and .... suddenly.... the engine is DEAD ... DEAD... DEAD!!  NOTHING!! DEAD!  He proceeds on and I kick it out of gear and look for a place to get off the track ... CRAP!!!  All that planning for nothing!  Turns out, the nice job of powder coating on the frame caused an intermittent contact to the Master Switch.  I have now scraped all the powder coating OFF of the Master Switch mounting bracket and HOPE that I don't have that problem again.

After the miserable outing at CMP, we decided to give Bullet ONE MORE SHOT at being a decent (Runoffs quality) car, so we went over everything again and loaded up for the double regional at Barber Motorsports Park (just east of B'ham).  To be brief, on Saturday, the car ran 'ok', but not good.  The first session, the throttle cable pulled loose and I coasted to a stop at the end of LAP ONE! - no practice in this session.  I had to get permission from the Chief Steward to start the race at the back ( where I would have started anyway).  Again, handling seemed good, but the engine just didn't have 'the stuff'.  Unfortunately, on the last lap of the Saturday race (after working my way through the entire field), I  caught Sherman Engler at the end of the back straight.  I couldn't quite get the pass done, so followed him through the fast dip at the end of the back straight.  He hit the brakes at the bottom of that dip about 50 times harder than I ever expected.  It was like being shot out of a cannon into the back of his car.  I creamed him (causing almost NO damage to him) .. spun him around, but then was able to dodge on by.  Even worse for everyone, Anthony Henderson was close behind me and couldn't find a place to go as Sherman was sliding BROADSIDE in the middle of the track.  Anthony CLOBBERED Sherman in the left rear causing major damage to both cars.  Sherman's is REALLY messed up (frame is twisted) - Anthony's will take a lot of work, but not too many $$$.  I really hate that - I always make every effort to not affect regional racers by my presence.  In my defense, I don't really consider Sherman to be 'regional' as he has won many national races in the (distant) past.  I was staying close to Sherman just to put on a good show for the crowd (there actually WAS one!), but sadly, it turned into a NASCAR like finish.  It was certainly not my intent.

I was very fortunate in the incident to come out with nothing (much) more than a torn up nose.  About a roll of duct tape later, the nose was back on the car and ready to go (mostly).  For this trip, I had removed the other engine from the Wage and brought it along - just for this scenario.  We set about changing the motor to see if that would fix the problem. That done, we bedded down for the night.  Sunday morn was really nice - good temps and the car felt really good ... until I got onto the track.  The engine wouldn't run hardly at ALL! Felt like trash in the carb or something.  I stayed out, hoping it would clear.  Occasionally, it would clear for a few seconds and run fine, but then come right back.  Coughing, spitting, misfiring, etc.  it never got better and my times were terrible.  We got back to the paddock and I checked everything I could.  Cleaned the carb, double checked all the electrical connections - cranked it and it sounded perfect ... in the pits. (as they almost always do).  Again, we started last (even though I was gridded NEXT to last <g>).... and, as I feared, then engine started acting up immediately on the pace lap.  Not much I could do at that point, but stay out and hope it cleared.  As the race started, it seemed to clear up - it ran pretty good for the first 5 turns ... then it came back.  I watched the field pull away from me as I kept the pedal to the metal, hoping for something good.  I played with the car - swerving side to side to see if I could tell any difference in the 'note' of the engine - was it a wire hitting something?  No .. didn't seem to be.  Still it would clear up for a little bit here and there - leading me to HOPE.  FINALLY >>> after TEN laps of misery, the engine seemed to come to life.  By that time, I had used up any tires I had left, but at least it was RUNNING decently.  I took over 10 seconds a lap off my times and started to pick cars off (being VERY careful!).  I never got close to the front this time, but I did get some good runs down the back straight and got DATA that I could study after the race.  My lap times for the last 5 laps were pretty good.  Not quite as fast as I turned last year there, but the track was hotter this year and I was OUT of tires.

After the event, I decided that Bullet had not shown enough to go to the Runoffs ... later, I got the data out and studied it carefully - comparing last year's data and looking at top speeds.  After a while, I decided that ...maybe... Bullet DID show enough promise to give it another shot.  The only 'another shot' available is the Friday test day at Topeka, so we're now taking BOTH cars out there.  Bullet will get the first day ... and depending on how things go, I'll SELECT the car to use the next day .. and presumably though the Runoffs week.

It's been a hassle arranging to get both cars in the trailer.  Fortunately, the Wage - stripped of engine and trannie doesn't weigh THAT much.  I'm guessing that I'm only going to be about 200 pounds heavier than I usually would be headed to the Runoffs - maybe less.  The biggest problem, was the logistics of loading and securing Bullet and the 'biggest piece' of the Wage.  Hopefully, all will go well and we'll make it OK.  Nice that I upgraded the axles a few months ago - I couldn't dream of carrying this load on those old axles.

Oh - BTW - I took my engines to Rollin for freshening and we found one of the valve SEATS screwed up in that 'bad' engine. I had to have a new head built, but both engines should be good to go now.

Wish us luck - more later, when we get back.

Regular Season team stats - SEDIV Champion

Race     Qualified Finished Points
CMP, Kershaw, SC 1st 2nd 9 (dropped)
Roebling, Savannah, Ga 1st 2nd 9
Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 1st 2nd 9

Roebling FV 45th B'Day (heat)
Brundage Cup

1st
2nd
1st
3rd
--
VIR, Danville, VA #1 1st 2nd 9
VIR, Danville, VA #2 1st 1st 12
Daytona, Daytona, FL 1st 1st 12
Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 1st 1st 12
Kershaw, SC 3rd 3rd (car broke) -

Runoffs - HPT - Oct 6 - 12
Packing for this race was a bit unusual, being as how we were cramming TWO CARS into the trailer. It took me a few days to figure out how to do it, but it did finally work.
  Cram the Wage into the trailer first - then load the ATV and Bullet behind it.

  I also transferred a *LOT* of stuff from the trailer to the RV, so as to not overload the trailer. (a small part of the stuff)


The tow out was more or less uneventful - we did have to change another tire on the trailer, but the TPMS warned us in time to avoid a catastrophic problem. I pulled off at the next exit and put on some 'fresh' rubber at the right rear location.  We arrived about midday on Thursday, registered, found our paddock spots and got set up.

  Same RV spot as last year - T1/2 just in front.

Then we unloaded Bullet and got ready for Friday test day. 

The weather was really GREAT this year - except for that RAIN Monday eve, night and Tuesday morn - but it affected FV very little .. except for the W I N D that did its best to blow us into Nebraska for the first few days and into Oklahoma the rest of the time. (Weird how the wind reverses itself out there...)

Friday ... Bullet seemed to be pretty good, but I had quite a problem 'handling' him. The mods I made to the steering did not work out like I hoped and the effort to steer was just too high.  I wore blisters on my right hand (primarily left hand turns) and 'road rash' on my elbows trying to turn the car.  After 3 shots at resolving all the issues on Friday, I decided to swap over to the Wage for the rest of the event.  Bullet was respectably fast, but too difficult to drive in a big 39 car CROWD.

On Saturday morning, we got up early and started the conversion - basically swapping the transmission and engine from Bullet to the Wage.  I had never done 'the conversion' before in earnest and was just hoping that we wouldn't run into any unforeseen problems.  We didn't...  however, a couple of the 'foreSEEN' problems required a bit more time than I had expected .. but we did get it done and made the grid with several MINUTES to spare :-).  Right off the bat, I felt considerably more comfortable in the Wage .. and ultimately, we went about a second quicker by the end of the day.  Bullet cools better and has a couple of other better things, but .. in the end.. someone has to DRIVE it.  I just didn't think I could handle Bullet in the tight traffic of FV racing - I'm confident that we made the right decision.  Bullet will have another year...
  Bullet - relagated to the sidelines L

 
The Wage - now ready for battle once again.  Jerry drove over from Ohio to keep us in line.
Allan Adderley (builder of Bullet bodywork) was also there to support us and the other Silver Bullet car (#57).

Monday- The skies were somewhat threatening in the morning. We went out at 10:30A and rain was expected some time around noon.  Fortunately, our session was completely dry. Things went relatively well - no real problems.  We were using the latest thing from Goodyear and the tires seemed MUCH better than the ones from last year.  With 39 cars on the track, it was pretty difficult to set up a lap, but we managed to come back with an 8th place spot, which I thought was pretty good.  We continue to battle head temperature problems with the Wage - we tried something different EVERY session we went out - including test day, but nothing improved the temps.  We could make it worse, but not better.  The group after us (Spec Miata) also had a dry qualifier ... just before the rain set in.  Everything from there on out was SOAKING WET!!

  An interesting 'backbone' pattern that showed in the Monday evening skies (click pic).

Tuesday - Another modification to the head scoops (that didn't work) - we didn't go out till 3p and that turned out to be good.  The rain was still misting in the morning, but finally stopped around 10.  The wind was 'brisk' and the track dried faster than we might have thought considering the humidity remained at just under 100%.  When we went out at 3, the track was ALMOST completely dry except for some water trails going across the track at the exit of T2 and the middle of T14 coming onto the front straight.  However, off course excursions were going to be a MAJOR problem.  The session was going pretty well for us .. the engine was running great and the tires seemed to be working well.  I was following Don Schanche and Lisa Noble - trying to get that 'right distance' to set up a good lap.  As we came up the front straight, Linda says on the radio .. "I think someone might have blown an engine".  About 3 microseconds later - as I was headed into T1 flat out, I saw O I L all over the T1 area.  Don went sideways in it, Lisa slammed on brakes and I had to EXIT stage left into the mud to avoid a MAJOR whammo!  I managed to get it slowed down enough before I left the track that I didn't hit the wall, but I couldn't see CRAP .. and my hands were a bit too busy to wipe my shield at that moment.  I trudged through the mud and slop and worked my way back onto the track, then spent the next 3 turns trying to clear my shield so I could see.  At that point, times were REALLY slow, but I could see that the track continued to dry and the oil would be absorbed into our tires soon enough that coming in would not be a good idea.  From that point on, each lap was faster .. and my last lap was my fastest.  I went about 1/2 sec faster and was relieved to find that, although several others also went a bit faster, no one in the top 8 changed places.  We were still in 8th!

Wednesday - We had the ENTIRE day to kill this time.  We were the LAST group of the day - starting at 6PM!  I used the time (after dreaming it up overnight) to build some totally knew scoops based on the success we had with Bullet.  THESE scoops just could NOT fail to improve the cooling.  That, some fuel testing, some tire changing, and a couple of other things here and there (like taking a few minutes to watch the FF and F5 qualifying) pretty much ate up the whole day quickly.  When our time FINALLY came, the sun was shining brightly and L O W in the sky.  It was blinding in T14 coming onto the front straight.  With some fresh rubber, we gained another 1/2 second .. but, alas, THIS time, it wasn't enough - 4 guys went faster than us .. I thought dropping us 4 spots .. however we went faster than 2 of the guys previously in front of us, so we gained 2 of them back and ended up in 10th - the same place I started last year ... with almost EXACTLY the same qualifying time ( an omen? ).

Thursday - a day 'off' and the FV party at the Womer compound.  Linda prepared some Brunswick stew to take and we were astounded to find how many people had never even HEARD of it!  It must have been a hit, since it all disappeared in no time at all.  There was still plenty of food, however, thanks to Cathy and Ed Womer, and Lynne and Eddie Cadena - and I imagine a few others.  A good time and a great crowd.  It started early and ended early so that we could all get a good night's sleep for RACE DAY (I assume that SOME, actually did SLEEP <g>).

RACE DAY - Another beautiful day - if you can stand 30 MPH wind on you all day.  EVERYTHING in the pits had to be tied down if you wanted to keep it.  As always, we managed to fill pretty much all of the time.  I scraped up a few minutes to go do some driver interviews for the upcoming (I hope) 'Join the FV Crowd' DVD that Paul Schiemer is working on.  At the moment, he doesn't have much to work with, but I'm TRYING to get him some stuff.  We followed SRF - second group after lunch. 
GRID TIME !!


The Vees take the green for 2008 HPT Runoffs (I'm down in there somewhere. Linda needs to be TALLER!!  <g>).

Fresh tires again.  I was interested to note that the 9th place car was starting on sticker tires.  Mine were fresh but we scrubbed them in during the last session on Saturday test day, so I felt confident they would hold up throughout the race.  The pace car slowed us WAY down before he left us just before the front straight.  I was staying close, but was surprised to find myself FLAT OUT trying to keep up right out of the turn - to my amazement, the GREEN waved JUST before I would have had to lift and I popped out toward the pit wall and blasted around Brian McCarthy.  HA! I thought - we're going pretty good.  I got up beside Lisa Noble and she shoved me into the grass at Alpha (turn before T1) - I managed to hang onto it - only to find out that the reason I got shoved was Patrick Hughey going by Lisa on her other side.  We all saved it and I fell in line behind the 2 of them.  They were slower than I was, but VERY difficult to pass.  While I was trying to find a way around them that would stick, the lead pack was disappearing in the distance.  I could still see them, but they were quickly becoming unreachable.  Lisa got by Patrick, then Pat passed her back at the kink - a bad move as it slowed us all down - I got along side Patrick at T10, but somehow he stayed on the outside and held me in - and regained the position at T11.  On the next lap, he passed Lisa again and I had to follow them again.  I had tried to pass Lisa the two previous laps at T3, but she could JUST (barely) slam the door on me.  THIS time, I got a better run through T1/2 and a cleaner shot coming into 3.  It was CLOSE, but I managed to stick it in there and hold it.  I was pretty busy keeping the car on the track, but the next time I could look in the mirror, she was not threatening me.  Patrick, meantime, was closing up on Jeremy Grenier. He passed Jeremy going into the kink, then Jeremy got him back at T10.  I followed and closed up to RIGHT on Pat - Pat drafted by Jeremy with me close behind, then Jeremy dropped in behind Patrick - when that happened, it gave me a GREAT draft and I managed to squeak by both of them going into T1.  By the time I got to the kink, they were history.  I set my sights on the next car up - Charlie Hearn.  He had been running in a 3 car pack, but dropped off of them and was alone.  Linda tells me on the radio that I'm in 7th spot - one more to go to reach impound again. It took me 3 laps to catch him and I went right on by .... however, he didn't drop off and the next lap he passed me back.  Then I passed him... then he passed me back. Then I noticed that the pack behind us was closing ... Hmmmm, I better be 'nice' for a lap or 2 and help us to get some clearance again.  So I followed for 2 laps.  THEN, with 3 laps to go, we came into T1 and saw waving yellow,  Stephen Saslow had spun exiting T2 and Eddie Cadena collected him doing a big time roll over.  They were just off the racing surface, but I KNEW we would go full course yellow for it.  I set up Charlie and was closing like gangbusters coming out of the kink and had JUST started my move, when the double yellow flags came out.  WAAAAA!  Slow down and follow the pace car.  We went by the incident and it looked like both drivers were out and OK - I thought we MIGHT get a green for the last lap ... but, no... we came around to the start stand again and they waved the Checker instead.  Flagged us one lap early as I presume they couldn't get the cars cleared in time and it would be pointless to run around another full lap behind the pace car.

A big thanks to Rollin Butler and Goodyear Tires.  The motor was just fantastic and the newly developed tires were a great improvement towards next season.  I have an interesting incar video of the race, but it's about 1/2 gig in size and I can't seem to get it to upload to the website because of the size - sorry :-(.  OK - I've cut it down to just the first 5 laps or so - you can see my big battle to get by and it's ONLY 30 MBytes or so :-). InCAR video (be patient - it'll take a while to download - it's 30 Mbytes.

Not finishing in impound meant we could load up and go HOME instead of standing around for 4 more hours while they took Brad's car apart.  We left about an hour later and got almost to St. Louis before stopping.  Was supposed to be an easy drive home the next day ... yeah ....  We stopped for a few minute break and I checked over the tires ... CRAP! Another trailer tire failure.  It was still holding air, but had obviously developed a tread separation under the belts - the tire was about 4 inches taller than it used to be!  Fortunately, we caught it in time - TPMS wouldn't help us on that one.  Changed the tire and headed on.  Good traveling conditions ... until we got stuck in a 2 1/2 hour traffic jam north of Nashville due to an  overturned tanker in the median.  Wasn't fun, but could have been a LOT worse <g>.

All in all, a pretty good trip - JUST out of impound, a decent running car - no accidents - and both cars in good shape.  We have some cutting to do I think, on Bullet, but I'm pretty sure what to do and how to do it.  Bullet should be GOOD at Road America next year if we can get it fully sorted in time.

'Till next season...  Happy Holidays and all that stuff!!

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