Wedge Racing in 2009

PBIR (newly reconfigured track) - January (DOUBLE) - skipped.

Sebring - January - skipped.

Road Atlanta (#1) - February Regional for testing
To keep this brief (I'm REALLY busy right now), I'll just say that we took Bullet out to Atlanta again and things went a LOT better.  I redesigned the steering mechanism over the winter - to solve the "impossible to steer" problem that developed at the Runoffs last year - and it seemed to work quite well.  I was quite pleased with that aspect of the weekend, but a significant handling problem still remains.  We turned 'decent', but certainly not 'stellar' times.  It was quite cold, but otherwise great weather for testing.  I'm so busy with work on our new home that I simply don't have any time to spend on the car at the moment.  Hopefully, things will ease up before too long and I can at least take the proper time to write up my episodes :-).  Roebling is next.

Roebling Road  - March
Great weather again at Roebling (wonder when it's going to catch up to us?).

(Abbreviated report) Donnie got me on the last lap - but Goodyear and Butler finished 1-2.

Road Atlanta (#1) - March
We pulled away from the pack and lead handily throughout - taking the win by some 20 seconds. Bullet's FIRST NATIONAL WIN!! Yeaaa!

VIR (Virginia International Raceway)- April - A DOUBLE race this year
We WON! (some 'conflagration' behind me as the rest of the lead pack caught a slow F500. 2 cars hit and Womer was knocked into neutral gear. Donnie dodged around the melee and secured 2nd (along with a NEW LAP RECORD for Butler and Goodyear) and Doug Voss rounded out the top 3. Another 1-2 for Goodyear and Butler and another Win for Bullet!

The next day didn't go quite as well :-(.  Our tire pressure gauge suddenly started indicating incorrectly and we went out with only TEN pounds of air in the tires.  Then the engine started acting up.  We qualified poorly and in the race, things didn't improve.  We still had lockup in the rear tires under heavy braking and I spun once again going into HogPen. No real damage, but I had worked my way up to 3rd, then dropped back to last in the spin.  2 laps later I dropped a cylinder - I think a rocker arm or pushrod broke - and I limped into the pits. dead LAST in the field.  *THEN* on the way home, we had a blowout (like a 50mm CANNON) on the Motorhome .... Sunday, just wasn't our day.

Oh well... still a pretty decent weekend - one good win and no (lasting) car damage.  Goodyear has a new tire that is quite competitive with the Hoosier and we're looking good for the rest of the year.  Since I dropped out of the second race, I think Donnie is now leading the SEDIV points race, but there are races left to fight :-).

The tow home was ... interesting (as noted above)...  We had a BIG BLOWOUT on the motorhome at 60+MPH on the interstate.  It sounded like we had been hit by a mortar.  I immediately slowed, but wasn't sure what to do - I looked at all the tires in the mirrors - both RV and trailer and saw nothing strange.  A few seconds later, I had just about decided that an inside rear tire must have blown and my TPMS system started beeping at me .. YEP - the inside right rear showed ZERO pressure.  Once I knew for sure what had happened, I limped on to the next exit - no sense in addressing this directly on the side of the interstate with trucks and cars whizzing by at 70.  Fortunately, the next exit had a nice flat sandy spot right on the ramp so I pulled over to address the situation.  Almost immediately we had 3 people stop to offer help (nice!).  I had a bit of previous experience and foresaw something like this happening and after having read many stories on the RV forums about people sitting, waiting on tire service for as much as TWO DAYS!!, I took the steps necessary to a). make sure I had a spare tire ready to go and b). made sure I had all the tools required to CHANGE one of those monsters.  Having leveling jacks makes the job about 1000 times easier as I could just use the RR jack to lift that tire.  I drug out the air hose and air gun I had acquired for just this purpose and set about the task (in a light drizzling rain).  Some 45 minutes later we were pretty much ready to get back on the road.  All in all, not too bad.  The rear tire had ZIPPERED open a hole about FOURTEEN INCHES LONG!!! in the sidewall.  We reflected just how lucky we were.  Had that happened on a front, the rim would have IMMEDIATELY been on the ground and the RV, no doubt would have been quite a handful to drive, possibly uncontrollable and positively would have destroyed a VERY EXPENSIVE aluminum wheel.  The next day, I was on the phone pricing a new set of tires <g>.  Mine were not THAT old, but they were around 5 years old or so .. better safe than sorry.  Expensive tires, but a drop in the bucket compared to the damage that would be done if a front tire failed - or a rear tire had a tread separation.  A tire slinging a 'gator' around at 60 MPH can cause a *LOT* of damage in a big hurry.

Daytona - May  - due to the timing of Linda's new job and the move of the house furniture, we just couldn't make the race this year.  I hated to miss it, but had no choice.

Summit Point - ??  - also, no way to make this one.

Road Atlanta (#2) - June  - AHA - one a little closer to home that we could make.

Goodyear finally has some new tires for us !!!  The race looked to be pretty tough.  Donnie Isley had finally decided to return to Road Atlanta after swearing it off after an incident there some TEN YEARS ago.  Although he hadn't seen the track in that time, it really hadn't changed any either .  In Q1, I ran old tires while Donnie strapped on a new set - he blew me off the track with a time about 0.2 under the lap record, but I was still second.

In Q2, *I* strapped on my 'new set', but the track temp was quite a bit higher.  Donnie had troubles, but I couldn't put together a lap good enough to top his time, so we ended up staying 1,2 on the grid.  The weather was GREAT - a forecast of things to come for the July double - it was PRETTY HOT - just under and just over 90 degrees for the 2 days with a blistering sun.  Fortunately, there was also a decent breeze most of the time which kept it tolerable.

On race Sunday, we were the last National group so the track was even hotter than the afternoon before.  Donnie took the lead into T1, but before we got to the end of the back straight, Charlie Rogers (3rd place qualifier) showed his stuff and blew by both of us to take the lead.  At the end of lap 2, I was able to make my way by to take the lead for a few laps before Donnie took it back about half way through the race.  I followed Donnie and Charlie fell off the pace leaving the 2 of us to fight it out to the end.  We got lapped by several (other class) cars, but - in a gentleman's agreement, we elected NOT to attempt any passes of each other during those times.  It's dangerous enough just being out there with cars that are 40 MPH faster on the straights - no need to make it any worse than it needs to be  ... unless it's the LAST LAP <G>.

I stayed in Donnie's shadow as the laps wore down.  With 2 laps to go, an FF driver spun coming out of T10B and killed the engine (apparently).  He could not get re-fired and was ON the track, right at the exit of 10B.  As we went by, I tried to guess if he would get going again.  If he DID, then we had 2 more laps ... but if he DIDN'T, then the stewards would no doubt do 1 of 2 things - either throw a full course yellow - prohibiting passing - or checker the race 1 lap early.  I made the decision to (at least attempt to) pass Donnie as soon as we could get to the back straight.  The straight arrived and I started my pass - encountering no resistance from Donnie ... he, no doubt thinking that I was handing him a gift of my incorrect lap count.  As we topped the hill at T9, I could see the FF still in position and I knew I had it won.  The yellow flags were waving and Donnie couldn't pass.  As we came out from under the bridge, I could see the Checkered flag waving and Donnie was too far back to make a challenge.  Another win (NUMBER THREE!) for Bullet and the Wedge Racing Team.  Thanks to Lee for coming by for support, and Linda for (nearly) always being there to do my tires and 'man' the radio.  Thanks also to Goodyear, who brought out that new tire after all this time - we seem to finally be on a competitive platform against the Hoosiers.  Thanks also to Butler Engines who put together a new engine for me - this was the first event for it and ... I think it passed the test <g>.

The Roebling Double National will be the next (and last) event for SEDIV.  We won't make the June Sprints this year with the house move .. but we'll BE there for the Runoffs for sure (I hope).

June Sprints (new track for Runoffs this year)? - June (Out of division)  - ??.  Can't make it - same 'moving issues' as above.

Roebling Double National  - July  - Briefly, we made the event and had no real trouble during the weekend or the tow there and back.  Donnie took the pole and wins on both days with me in hot pursuit.  I'm beginning to think the new engine is just a bit off.  With his wins, Donnie sewed up the Division Championship - congrats to him.  Next is prep for the Runoffs.  The handling seemed pretty good, but I still have some ideas for improving it.

 

Regular Season team stats -

Race     Qualified Finished Points
Roebling, Savannah, Ga 2nd 2nd 9
Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 1st 1st 12
VIR, Danville, VA #1 2nd 1st 12
VIR, Danville, VA #2 7th? last? 0
Daytona, Daytona, FL - - -
Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 2nd 1st 12
Roebling Dbl #1 2nd 2nd 9
Roebling Dbl #2 2nd 2nd 9
       
Season Total     63

Barber Double Regional - Labor Day Weekend - I hadn't been in the car since July, so I wanted to get some seat time.  I also had a few ideas of things to possibly improve the new car, so I set the car up and we took off for B'ham.  The event was a simple 1 qualifier and 1 race for each of 2 days - four on track sessions.  We had rain for Q1, so I strapped on the intermediate tires and easily took the pole, but couldn't tell much about the handling for sure .... it SEEMED terrible, but I thought it was just the OLD (about 6 years) tires I was running.  When race time came, it was still threatening to rain again, but the track was just slightly damp in a few places - you just wanted to make sure you STAYED on the track surface.  Unfortunately, I found that the handling was just as bad ... no, actually WORSE than I had suspected in the morning session.  I managed to spin the car about 3 times, but turned some half decent laps about a second quicker than last year - still not as quick as I thought I should be.  I had also made some seat/fit changes in the car and the good news was that they were a big help and I was MUCH more comfortable in the car.  I "won" by a large margin, even with the spins, but as usual, I waived my points/trophy so as to not affect the regional competitors who were really wanting the points for their shots at the regional championship.

I mulled things over in the evening.  I didn't bring a second motor, but I didn't think the problem was in the engine anyway.  The handling was about as bad as it could be.  I considered undoing the (somewhat radical) changes I had implemented, but decided that my purpose was to TEST and thought that maybe I could "learn" how to drive the car better.

The next morning in Q2 I tried some new lines and varied some of my approaches to the turns.  I made it better and we turned a couple of laps well under the lap record, but I still wasn't comfortable with the handling.  In the afternoon race, the track was in great shape but "going after it", the car turned DIABOLICAL handling wise!  I managed to NOT spin the car, but I was scared to death more times than I care to remember.  The "fun" part of the track - the very high speed dip/swoop at the end of the back straight was terrifying to say the least.  I made it through there only ONCE when I did NOT think I was going to trash the car.  Our lap times were decent, but I didn't quite make it to lap record times.  I decided that my changes just weren't going to cut the mustard for the Runoffs - gotta get home and UNDO them.

All through the handling problems of the weekend, I had managed to not damage the car - it looked GREAT with its newly painted nose.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize just how much my changes had lowered the nose.  When returning from the scales after the race, I went to just DRIVE it up the ramps into the trailer - it was like hitting a brick wall when the nose hit the end of the ramp door and shattered it (the nose) - the door was fine.  ARRGGGHHHH!! (or whatever I said...).  What a terrible way to end a pretty productive weekend!

 


Runoffs -  Road America - September.
We left Danielsville for Road America on my birthday (15th) - had a tough drive through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, but otherwise the tow was uneventful.  We arrived on Friday morning, set up and unloaded the car.  I had been able to reserve a decent spot on pavement with electricity.  We forgot to take any pictures though (funny how that just doesn't ever seem to occur to me until we're on the way home <???>).  We rode around on the ATV to several different spots to watch the cars that were testing.  I raced here in '98 and then again in '03, but 6 years is still "a WHILE".  I had decided to NOT test other than the (cheap) Monday test day, but was quite surprised to find that almost NO ONE was testing this year.  There were only TWO Vees testing on Friday and only 7 cars in the entire group!  The main reason I had decided not to test was that I expected to have at least MOST of the open wheel classes in my group and I figured there would be 60 cars.  I decided to go ask at registration about signing up for Saturday and was again surprised that there were spots available ... a LOT of spots.  Since I had had so much trouble at Barber, I decided that it would be "not wise" for me to pass up a good test day - the weather was TOO good and the traffic situation didn't appear to be very bad ... so I did :-).

We had 3 sessions scheduled for Saturday and were the second group out.  I went out on old tires - just to refamiliarize myself with the track.  The car seemed pretty good and it didn't take me very long to remember how to drive it.  My lap times were decent and we were significantly faster than either of the other 2 vees that tested.  Our group ended up having only 9 cars total and the sessions were GREAT.

The second session they combined us with Spec Racer Ford, which added another 10 cars or so - I decided to use that session to scrub in my qualifying and race tires.  The Goodyear boys agreed to help us change tires in the pits so I could get both sets done in the same session (thanks Guys <G> [Mark & Tony]).  Again, my times were pretty decent and pretty consistent.  Since I was scrubbing tires and avoiding SRF's there were some slow ones, but all in all, a good session.

In the last session, we tried to see what we could do.  It was cooling off a bit and the SRF's were back in their own session.  I had a couple of really good laps - still quite a bit faster than the other vees that were testing.  The car was handling GREAT - much better than I had expected and it looked like we were going to be "in the hunt" for the podium this year.  Super news for Bullet - finally starting to show his stuff.

Jerry (all the way from Ohio) came in on Sunday to help us out for the week (THANKS, Jerry!)

We watched others test on Sunday - finally there were several vees - about 11? - that went out.  I saw nothing that made me think any less of Bullet.

I THINK this is coming onto the front straight at T14.

The Monday "official" test day finally arrived and most everyone tested ... including us.  Again, the car was good.  A LOT busier on the track, so more difficult to get good lap times and no reason to take any chances.  We tested a new tire for Goodyear and it looks promising, but was not available for use during the race.

We were the 2nd group out for Q1 on Tuesday with a moderate threat of rain and were "randomly" gridded in 26th spot.  There were a few cars to potentially run with, but the prime objective was to get in a couple of decent laps alone before starting to look for that ultimate lap.  We started off slowly, set up a gap to work with and ended up 4th on the grid.  I was pretty happy with that.  It gave us a LOT more flexibility for the following qualifier sessions. The car seemed to be pretty quick on the straights and I was able to pass anyone that I caught without too much difficulty.  The car that got the pole (Mike Varacins) was "way out there" well over a second ahead of the 2nd fastest car.

Q2 late afternoon on Wednesday was a bit more problematic.  Of course, everyone that didn't get a good lap on Tuesday was now PUSHING to move up on the grid.  Traffic was disastrous and we did not get ANY decent laps but the car was still good.  We dropped 2 spots on the grid to 6th, but still felt good about everything.  When I got back to the pits, I decided to check all the brake shoes again and, when I got to the back, I found CRACKS in *BOTH* rear brake drums.  I guess these things are just too old to last!  There is a weak spot on the later model drums that I've been using and both were cracked at that same place.  Fortunately, I brought spares - replaced them and also found that one shoe was pretty much total gone, so replaced that as well.  Good thing I decided to check <G>.

On Thursday for Q3 we went out right about race time .. first group after lunch.  We had had rain and drizzle most of the morning and rain was hanging in the air.  The track was just barely damp and I thought my grip position was secure.  I was late getting to the grid - I guess our clock was off a bit and there were NO announcements over the PA - when I got there, the grid was EMPTY and I was directed straight through and out onto the track - I was ALONE.  RATS!  I was pretty careful for the first several laps - the car seemed to be sliding around a bit and, with no one to see in front, I never felt confident that the next turn wasn't wet.  I picked my way through some slow cars and then finally caught Nuby (Robert Neumeister) - aha! someone to run with.  Nuby and I worked together - I got a decent lap and then gave him one - each of us getting to use the draft of the other, but the session was shortened for some reason and suddenly it was over.   We turned a time almost equal to our Tuesday time (still slower than we ran when alone on Sat test day) and I thought I'd be OK.  What a SHOCK when I saw the grid ... we had dropped TEN SPOTS to 16th!  The fast time of the session was 2 seconds faster than his previous time and well below the lap record.  It must have been GLORIOUS somewhere around the track, but we never saw it...

Oh well - more cars to (potentially) pass on race day <g>.


Bullet leads Nuby's Vortech through T14 onto the front straight
(someone handed me this pic at our Vee meeting on Friday evening - I was involved in a conversation and forgot to say thanks, or even ask his name - I apologize - THANKS!)

In Q3, I had noticed a slight 'burble' in the engine going through T1 and coming onto the front straight.  I wasn't sure of the cause and wasn't sure that it actually hurt me any, but I set about trying to FIX it for sure.  I went over the entire car - checked all the wiring, rechecked the distributor, cleaned the points, and cleaned the carb.  It sounded fine in the pits ... but then again, it always does <G>.  I went to the stewards and got permission to run the hardship warmup the morning of race day.

Race morning came and it had rained overnight and was still damp on the track, but not raining at the moment.  I went out with the first group, but the hardship session turned out to be exactly ONE trip around the track - leave the pits onto the track - drive around and come into the pits without passing S/F.  Not much to work with.  Add to that, the damp track and the fact that an FM was 2 cars in front of me trying to scrub tires (big FAT ones) and it was pretty much a waste of my time.  I couldn't tell ANYTHING about whether the problem was fixed or not.      ... oh well...

The rain came and went till mid morning - most of the races were mostly dry, but rain was a continual threat.  I had bought a new set of rain tires on Friday and made everything ready for last minute swaps to rains if needed.  Around 11 am, the sun actually tried to poke through a few times, but the threat of rain remained.  We agonized through lunch and finally it was race time ... and no rain ... yet.  We got to the grid (early this time) and onto the track and still no rain ... and the sky actually seemed to lighten a bit - looked like we would have a dry race.

I was far enough back to not have a great view of the green flag and I was just a tad late hitting the throttle.  I still was holding my own when I looked ahead and saw FOUR CARS across the track in front of me ... and it didn't look good.  They were VERY close to each other and I watched as they ping-ponged against each other and then suddenly Ed Womer's rear caught the back of Donnie Isley's rear and Ed was UP in the air - RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!! (see brief video if you dare <G> [and a wmv player]).  I SLAMMED on the brakes and watched for an opening that I thought I could get through.  Ed started around and I dove to the right as cars streaked past me.  I cleared him and refocused on the pack WAY up there in front of me by now.  To my advantage, there were just TOO many cars going into T1 at the same time and that slowed all of them ( all except the leader, who was already 'on his way') down and allowed me to stay 'in touch' with the lead pack.

I picked off 1 car between T1 and T3 - then another coming out of T5.  I already noticed that my brake pedal was not as high as it should be - NOT a good thing on this track!  Going into T8, I became accutely aware that I had made a BIG mistake by not adjusting the brakes before the race. ... it was taking about all the effort I could put into the pedal to get the car whoa'd down.  Down the back straight into Canada corner and we closed a BUNCH under braking - NOW, I was actually close to the tail end of "the pack".  Somebody (I think Weisheit) went wide in T7 and I moved up another spot.  Going around the carousel, I could se the front of the pack up ahead.  I got a great run into Canada and picked off 2 more cars going into T13.  Coming up the front straight I got another one, following Jeff Loughead past into T1 - by the time we got to T5, "the pack" was now  ... "just" 10? cars - I was in 8th ... for the moment.

I was really amazed at how well the car was drafting - I caught the pack again at T12 and got by Loughead coming out - then lost that spot to Jonathan Weisheit who, unfortunately was dropping LOTS of oil.  I could barely see.  I got by him at T5 and was back on the tail of that lead pack.  Jonathan got a great run through the kink and got inside of me at Canada - I couldn't SEE him, but I new he was no longer in my mirror and I could HEAR him beside me.  I left enough room and lost the spot again ... and had to deal with the oil again.  He blocked me on the front straight and we caught Rick Shields - I thought I was by Jonathan again, but as I went by Rick on the left, HE went by on the right and managed to continue to oil me down until I could once again get him at T5.  The amount of oil was staggering.  I kept yelling at him inside my helmet.  STOP GETTING IN FRONT OF ME! YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY FINISH THE RACE!!  Now the oil was reaching epic proportions.  He was dropping enough that it was affecting the track and I was sliding around in his oil.  I almost went off a couple of times - taking some SERIOUS bump rides exiting T12, but managing to hang on to the car ... Where was I now??  I lost track of the other cars around me while dealing with the oil.  Loughead got back by ... then I got him back again.  FINALLY Jonathan disappeared - not sure whether he spun (possibly in his own oil - poetic justice?) or the engine seized or what, but I was able to turn my attention back to the job at hand.

From there, things are pretty hazy.  My video camera died about then so I have no 'guide' to look at to help remember what happened.  The burble in the engine was gone and we moved up in the pack and we moved down in the pack ... but we stayed IN the pack !  I managed to get all the way up to 3rd (2nd in the pack, as Mike was a mile ahead of us by now), but only briefly before being shuffled back again (ala NASCAR style <G>).  Linda is counting down the laps for me - 3 more to go.  I'm thinking about how to position myself and thinking ... I can get on the podium if I play my cards right (or get REALLY LUCKY <G>).  Again through the kink I am FLYING down the straights and closing rapidly into Canada Corner.  I look at the situation and think ... this pack is now TOO TIGHT - we had about 8 cars - 3 cars wide and deep.  I backed out a bit - this is no time to trash the car - finishing even 9th is better than tearing up the car and/or spending the night in the hospital.  Just about that time, I see Bruce Livermore fly up into the air! .. where should I go - anyone beside me? yes - on the right - the left is clear - DIVE DIVE DIVE - go wide.  I go UNDERNEATH the back of Bruce's car.  I tell him ... LEVITATE!! - give me a few more milliseconds to get by - and then it's over.  I'm into the rough bumps, then into dirt and back onto the pavement and looking ahead ... Hmmmm - only 3 cars left in the pack in front ... I've got a GOOD shot at the podium now!!  However, it was not to be ... at the next turn we were shown Double Yellows.  I knew the race was over, as did we all.  We trundled around for the last 2 laps - finally catching Mike and the pace car coming out of T8 on the last lap and took the checker under yellow.

In the end, there were 4 cars 'lost' in that T12 melee.  Bruce Livermore, Rick Shields, Donnie Isley and Dennis Andrade.  Dennis had been blocked from the view of the start of the accident and had run over the top of Donnie first, then Bruce, then flipped upside down, hit the asphalt and slid into the gravel (or so I'm told).  The saftey crews immediately called for an ambulance and the double yellows to control cars still behind the accident - an unfortunate, but necessary call.  Dennis was removed (slowly) from his car and taken briefly to the Quack Shack, then on to the local hospital for XRays - but in the end he had no significant injury. I spoke with him yesterday via email and he is back home (in Washington State) with no ill effects.  Thank goodness for that.

We spent the next 5 hours or so in impound while they tore Mike's car to pieces.  Eventually they concluded that he was 100% LEGAL, awarded him the flag and let us go.  I went down to check on Dennis while we waited and got the "pretty sure he's fine" report,  then went about getting the trailer and motorhome ready to get on the road as soon as they let the car leave impound.  All that done, we loaded and finally left the track about 7P with the objective of getting well south of Chicago before we stopped for the night.  We got that accomplished (after paying over TEN DOLLARS in tolls - there's just NO way through Chicago that doesn't cost you $$$!) and finished the drive (we bypassed the Smoky Mountain Park road this time) home about 10P on Sunday night.

This was Bullet's first Runoffs and I have to say it was a resounding success.  I still have a couple of things to work on for next year to make him better but, for now, it's time to rest up a bit and catch up on things that have been deferred till "after the Runoffs" .. that time is NOW.  Thanks again to everyone who helped us get there this year.  The boys at Goodyear were great - as is the new tire.  Rollin Butler built us a terrific engine (he had TWO engines in that lead pack till Donnie got tied up in that accident) and Jerry drove over 8 hours to spend the week with us.  And, of course, Alan Adderley and his Silver Bullet bodywork.  Without his prompting, I probably never would have gotten around to building that new car.  There were quite a few times when I questioned whether or not it was the right thing to do, but I'm pretty happy about it now. Thanks to all!  It's nice to be back in impound again after missing it last year.  Impound in 5 of the last 6 years.  Not too bad for an 'old fart' <G>.

Oh - I uploaded my incar video - at least as long as it lasted.  The oil really made a mess out of it getting on the lens, but ... it's still somewhat interesting if you're ... interested <G>. http://vimeo.com/6832145
You might want to skip about the first 7 minutes or so as that is just sitting on the grid and getting through most of the pace lap.  Don't forget to occasionally check the rear view mirror - you can actually see a (small) bit of what's going on behind me.


 

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