Wedge Racing in 2011
Sebring - January (DOUBLE) - After racing in FV for over 30 years, I decided that THIS would be the year for me to make my first trek to Sebring International Raceway - one of the most famous facilities in the world and the home of the Professional Sebring 12 hour Endurance Event. I modified my trailer to carry 2 cars so that FV competitor Mike Leonard could travel with me and help to share the travel expenses. Linda would not be able to make the trip, so another small task was to add a lap counter to my steering wheel - it always helps to know exactly which lap is the LAST one. Over the winter, I built up a "new" gearbox to use at the Runoffs - although Sebring is generally a short box track due to the tight turns, I opted to run the new long box to see if it seemed good enough and to make sure it had no internal problems.
The trip down was uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to scope out the areas that we could access before registration opened. Once inside, we were able to find a nice grassy spot with power - close to Tech and impound. What more could we ask for?? (maybe some asphalt <g>). We set up camp, unloaded the cars and got our tech approval stickers for the weekend. Both cars arrived 'race ready' (we thought) and we settled in for the night. First race group will come early tomorrow (Friday) morning.
Friday, 1st qualifier Saturday race - I had never seen this track in person before, and Mike had only run the shorter configuration some 15 years or more before. The first session was going to be a learning exercise. My brakes went REALLY soft on the second lap, but I decided to stay out and just go slow since I needed all of the on track experience I could manage. After the session, I was SHOCKED to find that the big (like 2") single NUT that secures the right rear brake drum to the axle was GONE - it apparently broke in half, fell away and left nothing but the cotter pin holding the drum to the axle. The hub rattled around, destroying it's internal splines and it was only the fact that I lost the rear brakes (from a leaking fitting on the left side) that kept me from plowing full speed into a concrete wall with NO RIGHT REAR TIRE! WOW! - Talk about dodging a BULLET - I feel like Neo....
I replaced the drum and tightened the fitting and went over the car again. Amazingly, my best lap time - even without brakes - qualified me in 3rd place (of 11) due in part to the fact that 2 cars crashed out on the 1st or 2nd lap and received no times.
Friday, 1st qualifier Sunday race - with the car back to ready status and a bit warmer track ... and a whole SIX (slow) laps around the track, I was ready to go a bit faster this session.(I was some FIVE seconds off the pole time in the first session, so there was apparently lots of room for improvement.) All sessions were REALLY busy since we were grouped not only with the usual FF and F5 cars, but also the much larger and MUCHO faster FM, FE and S2 classes. My percentage of 'mirror time' had to be higher than usual making it tougher to learn the track. Add to that that this track has the roughest surface I have EVER encountered. [Take the aggravating 'bumps' on an old concrete highway - multiply those bumps by about 500, then put them about 5 feet apart and you have an idea ... oh - and don't forget you're hitting them at close to 100 MPH ... in a turn! Just SEEING where you're going is quite difficult.] At any rate... The car seemed PERFECT - all I had to do was to control it without mistakes. At the end of the session, I was ECSTATIC to find myself sitting on the POLE for the Sunday race. The fastest time in the session by a bit over a full second. WOW - the car, the Goodyear tires and the Butler motor were all working GREAT!! and that new trannie must not be too bad either <G>.
Saturday Q2 - my session went great again. I stayed out of trouble and improved my consistency considerably. I wasn't quite able to equal my best time from Friday, but I was pretty close ... close enough for the outside pole anyway. And the car continued to feel REALLY GOOD - despite the scary feeling generated by the rough pavement.
Saturday race - The green
waved and instantly an S2 directly in front of Ed Womer and I blew his motor
dumping LOTS of oil in our path. That dropped me to 4th and Ed to 5th
going into T1. We settled into position and waited for
opportunity. Staying out of trouble is quite important - if you don't finish,
you can't win the race. I picked off Russell Fredericks
near the end of the first lap and started to close on
Jeremy and Charlie, now well
ahead of me. It took me 2 laps
to catch Charlie, then he went wide at T1 and I slipped by
for 2nd, but Jeremy had pulled a pretty good lead while I evaded Charlie. 2 more
laps of work got me into position to pass Jeremy on the back straight just
before the first Full Course Yellow (FCY). 3 more laps
behind the pace car, then I got a good run onto the front straight
but Jeremy still managed to get by me at T3.
I got him back coming out of T5, but made a MAJOR error at T10 and went
completely off track when I outbraked myself. RATS !.. back to 4th again.
(I gotta work on that turn!) I managed to pass
Charlie again, JUST before another FCY - 2 more laps of waiting - now in 3rd
again. Restart and I get Ed going in to the hairpin and go after Jeremy.
Next lap, I catch him at T5 and pass going in to the hairpin, but he gets me
back the following lap going into T3. It SEEMS that it's just he and I at this
point - I see Ed in my mirror, but he's a ways back. Last Lap! I set up
Jeremy and make the pass going down the back straight - I look in my mirror and
find ED in my draft, he closes as we head for T17 (guess he wasn't that far back
after all <G>). I move to the inside to leave only the outside for any pass
attempt. As I turn in, I lose him in my mirrors. I figure he's was beside
me somewhere, so I tighten my turn a little - closer to the right wall which
means I have to slow a tad more than I want. As we exit the turn, I can HEAR Ed
beside me - then I see him pull ahead of me coming onto the front straight.
I press the already nailed 'go pedal' further into the floor, but to no avail.
Ed takes the win by just under a car length with Jeremy's nose RIGHT on the rear
of my car. About 0.4 secs across the 3 cars. I gotta work on my line
through T17 <G>! Still, a second place isn't bad for my first visit to this
Saturday Finish (thanks to Bonnie Hall for these Pics)
Goodyear finished 1-2.
Sunday Q2 - it was quite a bit colder this session - high 30's or maybe low 40's, but the track still seemed pretty good. I had qualified with a 2:36.4 on Friday, but with the additional laps, I really felt I could click off a 35 if I got lucky. Nay ... although there were fewer cars now, I just couldn't get a decent lap without having some FE or FM divebomb me in a turn. I got pretty close to my Friday time, but couldn't improve on it, however, I kept the pole as none of the other fast four went faster either... and I stayed out of trouble and didn't crash <G>.
Sunday Race - The vees were all at the back again.
This time we got a clean start and I lost only 1 spot to the outside pole car (Jeremy). I settled in behind him to see if we could pare it down to a 2 car lead pack. We had a decent gap at the end of the lap, so I took the lead going into T17. I held 1st for a couple of laps, watching things develop behind me and trying not to get caught out by one of those monsters coming up to lap me. Jeremy got back by, then Charlie passed going into T10. I followed the next lap, then as we approached T10 again, an FF spun just past the apex ahead. As Jeremy turned in, he realized that the FF was DIRECTLY in his path and had to go off track driver's left to avoid. Charlie and I were able to dodge right and get by while Jeremy followed pretty much the identical path back to the track that I had on Saturday when I went off at the same place. I passed Charlie down the back straight and he made a mistake in T17 dropping back a ways. I led the next several laps - hoping to break away from He and Jeremy, though I could still see them in my mirrors. Ed Womer got back in the mix behind me, but then lost a wheel going through T1 a lap later and went into the tire wall. The fast cars came through again, and always seemed to force their way past at the wrong place. Each time that happened, the pack gained back on me till Jeremy was RIGHT on my tail as the last lap started. I could pull a little distance from T10 to T16 and I got a GREAT run through 16 onto the back straight - it was going to be close. Jeremy was in my draft but could not quite get the pass done before we got to T17 - I was NOT going to 'pussyfoot' around that turn again on the last lap! and I got a good run coming out. I think Jeremy might have tried a bit too hard and he actually lost ground to me - leaving me with a clear win - Yeaaayyy!! I saw Ed out of his car on the cool off lap ... and Mike was standing next to his car off the outside of T12 (he developed some sort of motor problem on lap 6). Jeremy was a close second and Charlie rounded out the top 3 a few seconds back.
All in all a GREAT weekend for Wedge Racing and Bullet. Clearly, the engine, car, tires, trans, etc all are working well and we are competitive in the class. A second and a first in our first weekend of the year and I think, for the FIRST time ever, *WE* are in the Division lead after the first race weekend (this is the first time in many years that we have even competed in either of the first 2 events of the year). Thanks to Goodyear - I raced on several session old tires from last year's Runoffs all weekend and they were fantastic. Thanks to Rollin Butler for a fabulous engine that never faltered. Thanks to Roxannes Headers for a perfect exhaust system and thanks to Mike Leonard for agreeing to make the trip with us to keep the expenses down ... oh, and thanks to the Sebring track for not putting me into a wall anywhere <G>.
I'm sure most of you are well aware of the weather around the Atlanta area following that weekend. We had a forecast that *SERIOUS* SNOW, SLEET and ICE was going to hit starting around 9PM. Fortunately, we were group1 and we were able to get loaded and on the road by 12:20PM. I drove as fast as I could manage with the big 65 foot long rig and we made great time - but it was still an 11 hour trip. Everything was just fine until about 15 miles before we crossed I-20 - then it hit us. BLINDING SNOW! I wasn't concerned as the roads ALWAYS take a while to get covered... well, apparently not "always"... this time, in 4 miles or so, it was starting to definitely affect the road surface. We passed I20 (we were on Highway 129 near Madison, GA) and the road continued to get whiter. We passed quite a few cars having trouble sliding around (or just too scared to drive in the snow), but we kept going. There were STRONG indications that, should we opt to stop, we would be stuck there for at least 24 hours - possibly till Tuesday. We made another 15 miles or so without too much trouble, but it continued to worsen - the snow was coming down in buckets. Now about 35 miles from home. Roads still passable, but CARE was the order of the day. An ambulance pulled out ahead of us and we followed him for many miles. Finally we reached the east side Athens bypass (near UGA) - a four lane. Unfortunately it is UPHILL for about a 5 mile stretch with several long bridges. The cars ahead were CRAWLING up the hill, spinning tires, sliding back and forth and wandering around dangerously. The snow here was now 3 or 4 inches deep on the road. We passed several cars that were in the median, or ditch. The traffic line was squarely down the CENTER of the 2 lanes, leaving little room for passing but I was able to pull into the untracked snow beside them and motor on by. I knew if I stopped behind them, I would be in a REAL predicament. Getting this much mass moving uphill in the snow would be tough - I had to KEEP it moving if possible. We made it by tons of slow/stopped cars and got to the end of the 4 lane and onto the 2 lane part that most concerned me. Now there would be almost NO place to pass, so I kept a LONG distance behind any cars ahead. As we got closer to home, the curves seemed to get tighter. A couple of times I could actually feel the front tires 'pushing' - a little too fast for the turn, but CAN'T hit the brakes. Race driving skills certainly came into play here. I kept it on the road, but it was really close. We got to Danielsville ... only 8 more miles to go. As we got out of downtown, the snow on the road lessened and from there on, it was a pretty "easy" drive. Finally, we pulled into the driveway - HOME AT LAST - and safe. As we arrived, the snow got even heavier, but now we could just sit and watch it. Quite a trip to say the least!
Homestead - January (DOUBLE) - skipped (as usual).
Road - March
OK - sorry I'm a bit late in getting this written up.. but I have excuses <g>. First off, I need to report the SALE of the venerable Racer's Wage - my dedicated, National Championship winning car since 1989. After finally getting Bullet sorted out properly, it became evident that I needed to divest myself of a car. It just doesn't make sense to have 2 FV's sitting in the garage if I can only drive one at a time. A friend came over at the track last year and SHE expressed EXTREME interest in owning and driving a Vee - despite having NEVER driven a true race car of ANY kind. Lynn Sweatte is one of our region registrars and is married to an IT racer, Chip Sweatte. Chip started racing a few years ago and Lynn relit a fire that has apparently been burning inside her for quite some time. For reasons that are totally unknown to anyone else, she DECIDED that Formula Vee was the class she wanted to race - despite having never even SAT in one. She pumped me for information and kept at it until I started to think that, maybe this young lady might just qualify as the future owner of the Racer's Wage. After several talks and her insistence that she didn't need to drive it to be sure, I agreed to (possibly) sell her the car, but only after she had driven it ... and the upcoming Roebling Driver's School seemed to be the correct solution. I cut her a deal to tow and support the car for the weekend and we could work out any details of sale AFTER the weekend ... if she was still interested.
Well... I'm here to tell you, I WAS IMPRESSED. This was a woman - never driven on the Roebling track - in a car she had only sat in a couple of times for a few minutes - and she KICKED ASS! It rained for most of the 1st two days of the (3 day) event - but that seems to have helped her develop a great 'feel' for the car. When the last day rolled around - with the sun shining brightly, she started dropping lap times like crazy. She was bettering her times by 2+ seconds a lap EVERY session - culminating with a time that was close enough to MY fastest lap to make me wonder if I should not keep the car away from her <VBG>. Her fastest time on the last day would have put her THIRD on the national FV grid at the March NATIONAL race! Pretty impressive.
Following that weekend, the deal was done. Lynn and Chip (fully supportive of her racing asperations) are now the proud owners of the Racer's Wage and plan for her to debut it at the Jim Stark Double SARRC at the end of April - again at Roebling. We certainly wish her great luck and many wins. I'm confident that she is going to surprise a LOT of the FV drivers that show up for that event.
On to Bullet ... The main reason it's taken me so long to post this is that it was just a 'bland' weekend. The only "interesting things" that happened of note were that Donnie Isley's motor seized up in the second session and I won the race. Well ..maybe there's a BIT more, but that's the gist of it. I qualified on the pole under clear skies while Donnie was plagued with an engine blowing oil so badly it apparently emptied the crankcase and starved the engine of lubrication. The field was quite small and the only other issue was the threatening skies sandwiched in between rain showers. The WX reports indicated 80% chance of SEVERE weather for race Sunday, and the Stewards elected to run Group 2 (SRF) on Saturday at the end of the day to try to shorten Sunday in case of the expected lightning. We were scheduled as the last group on Sunday, but they decided to move our group into the morning group 2 slot since our entire group was small and available and the other groups would not be expecting to race before quiet time on Sunday. As it would turn out, the worst of the rain fell on Group 1 and then got better the rest of the day - with us starting in a wet - but not raining - situation. I waited till the last minute to make the call for slicks over rains. It it didn't rain any more, I would destroy my rain tires ... if it DID start raining again, I would be in serious trouble on slicks. Tough call, but I made the right one. Based on that call, I knew that I needed to 'make hay' at the beginning of the race when it was NOT raining, in case it started raining later.
The lone F500 had the pole for the group while I was on the outside. We started that way without incident - everyone being really careful as there were still LOTS of puddles scattered around the track. The clouds hovered ominously and it LOOKED like rain could be back on us any instant for most of the race. I had severe spray from the F5 in front as he was wearing rain tires, so when he went a bit wide at T4, I snuck into the lead and managed to pull away handily. After getting a good gap, I settled for maintaining my pace while STAYING ON THE TRACK and NOT HITTING ANYTHING! IIRC, I lapped everyone in the field at least 3 times except for the F5. I also set fast lap (as slow as it was <G>) and took the overall win (no FF's showed up, though they were assigned to our group). A nice win over a dismally small field, but a win nonetheless. Load the car and head for home...
(#1) - March - now a double race
The weather report looked good for the weekend ... actually, it looked GREAT - sunny and ... almost TOO hot - at least for March. Expected to be in the mid 80's on Saturday, tho cooling back down to low 70's on Sunday. Unfortunately, Donnie could not get his damaged engine from Roebling repaired in time, so once again the field was quite small. Mike Leonard did bring out his Caracal, but Charlie Rogers couldn't make it due to a family conflict. Mike tested on Thursday and seemed to be doing really well. Testing was tough with ALL OPEN WHEEL cars on the track at the same time, but he managed to put together several laps that could put him in the hunt.
Friday qualifying was good for Bullet and I. Although traffic was a bit scary here and there while being lapped by faster class cars about 5 times per lap, we still managed to grab the FV pole time for both race days and stay out of trouble. The car was running great although not handling as well as I wanted - but I was running some pretty old tires, so I felt comfortable about it.
Saturday morning, we had only a 10 minute qualifier - compressing the day to allow time for a 90 minute enduro scheduled for the end of the day. I was ready, but Mike didn't realize the sessions were so short and he didn't get to the track early. About 30 minutes before our session, I called Mike to find him still some 30 minutes away from the track. Linda and I and our paddock neighbor Jeremy (also an FV driver, but not running this weekend) prepped Mike's car for him in hopes that he would make it in time to get at least a couple of laps. For my session, I put on a NEW set of tires (to scrub them in) to see if the handling improved, but my number 1 goal was to NOT get involved with any of the faster class cars and to NOT hurt those tires. We were running with 4 other class cars (FC, S2, FF and F5) and we were by far the slowest class. Staying out of trouble HAS to be my primary goal in that situation. Despite that, I still managed to take about a second off my best Friday time - while not abusing the tires, but .. again, considering the fact that I have to doublecheck my mirrors before EVERY turn-in, not bad. Mike did get there in time to get a single lap ... but no timed laps. At least he was able to check out some changes he had made to the car the evening before.
Saturday race - I was 'bogged' by a slow FF for the 1st 5 laps or so until he finally got far enough ahead that I didn't catch him every lap. Mike stayed close behind during that time, but the other Vees faded away quickly. About the time the FF problem went away, the lead FC was lapping me. From there on, it was 85% mirror time and 15% 'ahead' time. During the traffic, I was able to put some distance on Mike and he faded back. I worked on my laps as best I could and continued to stretch my lead till the checker. The car was great, but still not as fast as I wanted... I wasn't getting through T1 like I wanted, but had on older tires ... guess I need to put on the good set and try again tomorrow.
Sunday qualifier - again 10 minutes. It cooled off even more than expected and was overcast. I put some 'medium' tires for the session and hoped to improve a little bit. I managed to match my times from Friday but couldn't do any better. Mike had trouble again and I held the pole for the race.
Sunday race. FIVE MINUTES! (photos courtesy Janice Eakin)
I've been racing with this grouping for about 3 years now and Saturday's race was the FIRST one I can recall that did NOT have a spin in T1 at the start (always in FRONT of the vees). Generally, it hasn't caused us Vee types any major grief since we drop back on the start due to our VERY low HP to weight - we are well behind the pack at T1. This start also did not disappoint as 'something' happened up ahead and by the time I got to the turn, all Hell was breaking loose. See brief video at this link
We had a "black flag all" so we could go sit in the pits while the volunteers cleaned up the mess before the restart. Unfortunately, my camera, while faithfully recording the initial start, failed to close the recorded file of the remainder of the race. This is unfortunate since there would have been some VERY interesting video. At the beginning of the restart, I got a good jump and passed a slow S2 and an FF on the outside of T1 - putting them between Mike and I. They got back by me when we came to the short shoot between T5 and 6, but they had done their job - blocking Mike through T2,3,4 and 5 <g>. By the time those 2 cars got back by me, I had quite a lead and set about to seek the lap record with my NEW tires on (FINALLY - NEW TIRES!! <G>). I worked the track while watching my mirrors - helped somewhat by the loss of FOUR FF cars in that T1 melee. I concentrated on my turns and improved on most every lap - working especially hard on T1.
I PLANTED those flowers so the picture would look nice <VBG>. I think this is
just before turn-in to Turn 1 (about 107 MPH).
I worked my way down into the 43's (the existing lap record - held by MIKE! - is a 1:43.252) and I WANT that record <G>. After putting together some pretty good laps - 3 mid 43's in a row, I thought... I'm about 1.5 TENTHS away ... just got to get that 'little bit more' at T1. The next lap I'm pretty sure I made the best T1 I ever have - it felt GREAT... I KNEW I'd be REALLY CLOSE this time ... if I just can keep it together and not make ANY mistakes for the next 11 turns <yeah ...that's a LONG WAY!>. T2 - no problem - T3 - not perfect but really good ... T4 <!!SHUDDER!!> ... *WHAT WAS THAT?* ... uh ...ohh.... Get out of the gas - straighten out the car - is it OK? mmmmm.... shudder continues, but lessens as I slow ... T5 coming up ... GINGERLY turn up the hill ...BLAM! The chassis is ON THE GROUND and I'm spinning ... *WHAT??** I can't tell what, but now I'm headed backwards up the hill and I see LOTS of cars coming at me FAST... I realize I can still STEER, so catch the car and steer to go as straight up the hill as I can - I'd like to be as far from the apex of the turn as I can get! The pack goes by - thankfully, all missing me - as I realize I still have BRAKES. I see an open spot up track so I steer to cross to the outside of the track - corner station is to my left (going backwards), but that is also the primary impact area, so I choose right and coast off track as far as I can. I end up about 2 car lengths off track - safe enough I think in that position. As I sit there, I can see one of my rear TIRES rolling around on the track ...wandering around looking for a place to stop. Finally, it stops - just off line outside the T5 apex and drops to rest. Another pack of cars comes through and all miss it. I hop out and jump the wall ... and watch the last 2 laps of the race. As I stand there, I think about the lost win ... and new 4th place 'finish' (I have well over the required laps to be classified as a 'finisher') - but then it occurs to me. I had actually lapped the last 2 cars 2 or 3 times already... it's still possible that I finished 2nd!
The checker falls and a tow truck shows up and takes me to impound. They 'write me up' for a missing LR wheel (I have to 'fix' that before my next race), and then tell me that I HAD to go to impound since I finished 2nd. WOW - I was right. 2nd is a lot better than 4th... but still, no lap record. Oh well. At least the car is easily fixable. Seems that my REALLY FAST Turn 1 run had caused a lug bolt or 2 to pull out of the threads on that 54 year old brake drum on the left side. A couple of turns later, the other 3 started loosening and by the next turn, they all fell out! Guess I need to readdress that situation before the next race. I temporarily 'glued' the wheel back to the car to load it and get it home. No serious damage, I'm in one piece and looking towards the next race at VIR in 3 weeks.
(Virginia International Raceway)
- April - A DOUBLE race
The tow was uneventful and we arrived early Thursday afternoon and got set up. Storms were in the forecast and we were group 4 so there would be plenty of time to check out the car Friday morning. Jerry Zeger traveled down from Mid Ohio to crew for us, so we broke out the steaks and had a nice dinner while we 'bench raced'. The storms passed us by and all was clear for Friday qualifying. The car was great and we had no problems to speak of. I was able to snag the pole by a few tenths of a second over newcomer Daniel Oseth in his Vortech. Daniel has been cleaning house in the regional ranks and is now finally stepping up to the National scene. This, his first trip to VIR would make for a doubly tough attempt in his dï¿½but. Fittingly, he also did quite well and he slipped into 2nd spot in the Vee field. Dale Rader traveled all the way down from Pennsylvania only to have nothing but grief, the entire weekend - losing 2 engines and a transmission in the process of completing only a handful of laps. A valiant effort for a very unsatisfactory result - I wish him luck in getting things sorted out before the next race weekend.
The afternoon qualifying for Sunday's race also went well for us - once again on the pole, but Ed Womer grabbed second this time - with Daniel and Bob O'Connor in hot pursuit - all of us within about 0.6 secs. It looked like an exciting set of races was in the future.
Saturday started off with rain again with SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS in the day's forecast. Strangely enough NO race groups ended up actually racing in the rain. It rained before some ... and after others ... and *JUST* before the Group3 SRF race (the group before us) - they were actually under the 5 minute warning when it started - then the bottom dropped out - the track shut down for about 90 minutes and we started all over again, with the SRF's turning a really wet track into a "pretty damp" track with quite a few dry spots as we took the green flag.
Race 1 - Saturday. At the start, I held the lead into T1 - despite the fact that I dropped the Vees back about 50 yds behind the cars ahead, by the time we got to T1, we were all there together. 2 of the F5's spun off exiting T1, but otherwise we were clean. I had an opportunity for a breakaway from the pack, but 2 of the slower F5's held me up allowing the Vees behind me to keep pace. After a couple of laps, they finally got moving and I was able to open up a decent gap. By the 4th lap, I was alone - sitting pretty with no one in my mirrors. Sadly, that comfort died when a Full Course Yellow came out for the stranded cars at T1 and - once again, we (the Vees) were a PACK <ARGGHHH!>. To make matters worse, one of the F5's passed me just after the FCY was shown at Oak Tree, then realized his mistake and he pulled almost off the track at T15 and waved me by. Last time a similar thing happened, I was called before the stewards for passing under the yellow and had to spend an extra 2 hours at the track explaining myself before they finally relented and let me keep my win. I hesitated, but really had no choice other than to stop - I went on by and hoped for the best. To add to the excitement, the Safety car had picked up the wrong car and we had to spend another lap going through wave arounds to get the field in the correct order for the restart.
Daniel leads into the esses.
When the green came out, Daniel Oseth was behind me and closing rapidly. He took the lead at S/F on the next lap - only one lap to go now. I stayed close and retook the lead at the end of the back straight. He was right on my tail coming onto the front straight and pulled out to make the pass - then, he seemed to let off and I took the checker. I don't know what happened - it looked like he would be really close at the line - but it wasn't. Oh well... WE WIN! - a good outing for Wedge Racing and Bullet. In impound, I was told to "go see the chief steward", so my win wasn't solidified quite yet. After spending a few minutes waiting, the steward finally told me that he had talked to the F5 that waved me by and all was OK - I would not be penalized. Thank goodness - much less heartache than last time. Back to the paddock - put the car in the trailer and go get dinner at the track social. Tomorrow would be a new day.
Race 2 - Sunday. A new, dry, and beautiful day - and another qualifying session. Although the track conditions seemed almost perfect, no one clocked any faster times than Friday afternoon, so I held the pole. Ed Womer got his brake problems fixed from yesterday and would line up beside me for the start. When the flag waved, Daniel came from his 3rd starting spot to take the lead out of T1 - I was 2nd, Ed was 3rd and Bob O'Connor rounded out the top 4 pack. We raced for several laps - each of myself, Daniel and Ed taking the top spot before the FM cars started lapping us. Somewhere during those faster car passes, Daniel got snookered out of an apex and lost the draft - leaving his battle with Bob a good distance behind Ed and I. Ed and I swapped the lead several more times as we tested each other out for the last lap. Should I take the lead at the end of the back straight (if I could)? - or should I hold and try to make that pass coming to the flag? Would I have the option to decide? I THOUGHT I could hold him off if I was in front - but I also thought I could probably make the pass on the front straight if need be. On the last lap, I was leading and Ed elected to make the back straight pass and lead into HogPen - he pulled one of those 'hesitation' moves coming out of T14 and caught me off guard. I was immediately back in it - I thought soon enough, but as we hit the front straight I could see it didn't look promising. Ed made a great T16 and I got only up to his back wheel by the S/F line - Ed had the Super Sweep Win - congrats, Ed. Congrats also to Daniel Oseth for great 2nd and 3rd place finishes in his first ever National race ... at a track he had never raced before. Quite an accomplishment in my book.
Ed grabs the win for the BF Goodrich Tires Super Sweep event on Sunday at VIR.
All in all, it was a really good weekend for the team - we had a great car, didn't crash, ran well, and ended up with 1st and a 2nd place finishes. Nice to load up and head home under those conditions. I have a partial knee replacement coming up in 2 weeks. The jury is out as to whether or not I'll be recovered enough to run Road Atlanta the 3rd weekend in May, but we'll be trying to get ready. We'll play it by ear and see how it works out. As always, thanks to Goodyear, Butler Engines and Roxannes Headers for their equipment that keeps us at the front. Thanks also to Jerry for traveling all the way from Ohio to help us out during the weekend.
Summit Point - ?? - TBD - a possibility - nope - conflicts with Road Atlanta (and my knee recovery) - won't go.
Road Atlanta (#2) - May - Knee has been surgerized (I have new parts now <G>) and I'm just under 3 weeks post op - knee feels good and doc was agreeable to taking me off blood thinner so I could race! Forecast is for HOT HOT weekend.
Unfortunately, a very small field despite the combined National/Regional event. With the Runoffs being so easy to achieve these days and weekend costs continuing to rise, no one seems to want to RACE just for the fun of it any more. Not much to say about this one. 2 qualifiers and the race .. all quite HOT - Sunday was 103.5 in the shade at race time with 128 degree track temp!
I qualified on the pole without contention. The car ran great and we tested a couple of minor new things (I'm sworn to secrecy <g>) that didn't HURT, and might have even helped a bit - always better than the alternative :-). At the start of the race, Mike Leonard got the jump on me, so we slotted into 2nd with Anthony Henderson and newcomer Chris Bryant in tow. For only the 2nd time in MANY Atlanta starts, no one spun or crashed in T1 on the start so that was nice too. I followed Mike - waiting for the right opportunity; no need to rush with plenty of time available. We had FE cars heading the field, so would likely get lapped at least twice, but that still left 16 laps to work with. I passed him on coming through T8 on the second lap and gradually pulled away to a comfortable lead. The track was incredibly hot and the handling was not ideal, which led to a few 'pucker' moments, but we kept it on the track and no wheels fell off <g>. I won by a significant margin to notch our 5th win of the season to go along with 3 second place finishes. We can count our best 7 finishes, so that gives me 78 points for the season and maintains my lead in the Division. I understand that Ed Womer, currently in 2nd place, plans to run at least 3 more races this year (up north), so we'll have to wait and see how the points shake out for the Division Championship. I'm pretty sure that my (national) race season is over at this point although I will still probably race at Barber Labor Day weekend for my annual 'Runoffs tuneup' before leaving for Wisconsin in September.
Photo courtesy ClarkMcInnisPhotography.com
June Sprints - June (Out of division) - ?? Nope - fuel is too expensive to justify the tow.
Regular Season team stats -
|Sebring, FL #1||2nd||2nd||9||got beat at last turn|
|Sebring, FL #2||1st||1st||12||didn't get beat|
|Roebling Road||1st||1st||12||damp, but drying track|
|Road Atlanta #1||1st||1st||12|
|Road Atlanta #2||1st||2nd||9||broke while leading|
|VIR, Danville, VA #1||1st||1st||12||Held on for win|
|VIR, Danville, VA #2||1st||2nd||9||came up short on last lap pass attempt|
|Road Atlanta #3||1st||1st||12||Won easily|
|Season Total||78||replaced 2nd with 1st (count best 7)|
Regional - Labor Day Weekend - (warmup for Runoffs) ?
Decided NOT to go this year - saved my $$$ to use for test days at Runoffs.
2011 SEDIV Championship confirmed - 9 out of last 10 years
Runoffs - Road America
The tow trip to and from Wisconsin was uneventful though I did get an air leak in one of the trailer tires on the way up. Again, my TPMS system alerted me and we were able to pull over and swap it before any damage occurred.
We arrived at Road America late Wednesday night and spent the night in their outside parking area. The next morning, I tried to get inside to my reserved parking spot, but the "track police" informed me that they were not allowing anyone inside until after 1P. I checked the SCCA supps which clearly stated that we would have parking access starting Monday morning at 6:30A and continuing till 5P each day. This was an extreme irritant that was not necessary. The parking "guides" were sitting around in their cars drinking coffee and shooting the breeze all morning. There was almost NO activity in the paddock area and no reason (that I could see) not to let us enter. I complained to SCCA and when they called the track, the track told them the same thing, so it was suddenly "OK" with SCCA for us to sit outside for 7 hours. There was a bitter cold wind blowing briskly, so we couldn't even open the doors to the trailer. All we could do was SIT inside the motor home and wait. Road America certainly is NOT making SCCA friends with this attitude. 'nuff said' about that!
When we finally got inside and set up, the wind had let up a little, but it was still quite cool - mid 50's I'd guess with a 10 degree chill factor, but we got the car out and looked it over again. Then looked around the paddock to see who was there. We were the second testing group for Friday morn so, after verifying that the car was ready to go, we put Bullet to bed and then ourselves.
Friday morning was cool but nice. Not as cold as Thursday - more like 60 degrees with almost no wind. My first session out was a "try to remember how to drive" effort since I had not raced the car since early June. I ran old tires for the first 2 sessions, but was still quite disappointed at my times. For the 3rd and last session, I decided that I really need to KNOW if we had car problems, driver problems, or TIRE issues, so I bolted on a set of STICKER tires to see what we could do. That last session was MUCH better - about 3 seconds per lap on average. After that, I felt like we at least had a reason to be there - we didn't have to go home just yet.
Overnight it rained off and on and was still drizzling for our first Saturday session. I decided to go out anyway, since I had not yet run in the rain there. Since the drizzle was quite light and on/off, I went out on slicks - it was just for fun anyway. The drizzle stopped and started a couple of times during the session, but the track stayed mostly damp. I was able to note where the most treacherous places were and that might be valuable information in the future. Gladly, I had no off-track excursions and brought Bullet back home safely.
The drizzle stopped after that first session and the rest of the day was nice - still in the mid 60's, comfortable and mostly clear. I went back to older tires for the 2nd session and then used the last session to scrub in 2 new sets for qualifying and the race. Times were "OK", but nothing to impress anyone. The car felt good, but really no comparisons yet - I had not run with anyone that I expected to be competitive yet. There *WAS* a bit of excitement in that second session though - you might care to view it HERE (a ~10 sec video)!
Sunday was another pretty day and we watched a group of about 15 vees test. They stayed mostly in 2 groups - the fast guys and the "almost fast" guys :). In the end, there were several guys in the 42's (2:42.x). The car that stood out most was Roger Seibenauler (RS) - he seemed to be head and shoulders faster than everyone else - certainly one to pay close attention to.
Q1 - It rained again overnight. It wasn't actually RAINING for our session - it had stopped just after the first group went out, but we would be second on a WET track. I watched G1 as long as I could before we had to commit tires for our first qualifier. We would be gridded according to national points standings for Q1, but by fastest Q time after that. I needed to take advantage of my 3rd spot on the grid if I could. I finally opted for slicks - it would be tough the first few laps, but I expected it to dry out - corner workers reported 'decent' track conditions. When I got to the grid, there was only 1 other car there ... and he (Charlie Hearn (CH)) was on RAINS. I thought... well, we're going to find out if I was right pretty quickly :). The rain tires prevailed in the first 2 or 3 laps, but I held on - then I started to close the gap - finally catching and passing him as the clouds started to break up. Then I was able to drive away as the track continued to dry. By the end of the session, I was ALMOST at my normal braking points, but there were still a few spots at 'track out' that kept us in check. I ended up 3rd on the grid with Mike Varacins (MV) and Jonathan Weisheit (JW) ahead of me. Both had sat out the first half of the session and come out later on slicks. There was quite a large time gap behind me to the next fastest car (which I think was on rains). RS decided to NOT go out and would be gridded LAST for the next session.
Q2 - A dry, mostly clear day - good temps in the 60's - a full field on the grid - this one would set the stage. We qualified (all sessions) with the F500's - that meant 60 cars on the track at once - I expected it to be UGLY out there. The 500's went out first and then the vees a few seconds later. JW hung with MV and pulled away from me. I was trying to set up a drafting lap, but let them get too far out front and so had to wait for someone from behind. Didn't take long before a BUNCH of cars went blasting by me - all scratching for position to get that draft. I inserted myself and joined the fray. 2 laps later, the 500's started coming through (some 20+ seconds a lap faster than vees), but it really wasn't as bad as I had expected. They came by in small groups and managed to NOT cause us (at least ME) too much grief - maybe it would be OK after all? At any rate, I spent 2 or 3 more laps trying (unsuccessfully) to set up something decent before Chris Jennerjahn came up behind me and PUSHED. NOW we were getting somewhere. He passed once, but realized that I was faster through the turns I guess and so stayed behind me after I passed him back. We set several decent laps together and ended up 4th (him) and 5th (me) on the grid. He was about a car length behind me at the beginning of our fastest lap and TOUCHING me at the end of that lap - the difference was some 0.050 secs I believe. So.. not too bad a place to be so far. RS leapfrogged almost everyone and ended up SECOND on the grid behind MV. JW had snagged 3rd spot. Pretty tight behind me too as we had about 5 cars in the same TENTH of a second. Gary Blanarik was one of them - only 2 spots back (sister 'Silver Bullet' car). After this session, I decided to change the motor. My "best" motor had been in the trailer and I felt I should at least give it a chance - I would hate myself later if I didn't. After completing the engine swap, Allan Adderley (Silver Bullet Bodywork Manufacturer), gave Linda and I a ride down to the Formula Vee PARTY at the paddock of Ed Womer. Ed claimed this would be his last year at the Runoffs, but we'll revisit that next year <g>. Thanks to Ed and Kathy for hosting the Vee Party for the last several years - it takes a LOT of work to put that on, not to mention the cost.
Q3 - Another dry session - late in the afternoon. The track had rubbered in a good bit and the air was cool. It COULD turn out to be a fast session. My tires were getting older each session and there were quite a few who opted for new sticker tires again - I decided NOT to go that route ($$$ and all ...). The session STARTED very much like Q2, but this time the 500's started causing grief right way. It seemed that EVERY lap was hampered by a 500 either blocking me through a turn or diving inside me well after my braking point (MUCH LESS weight, disk brakes and wide tires = shorter braking distance). I just couldn't seem to get CLOSE to a decent lap. FINALLY on the last lap, I hooked up with Dennis Andrade and we both got decent laps - mine turned out to be 0.030 SLOWER than my Q2 time and he was just behind me. Unfortunately, 3 more guys jumped past me on the grid and I ended up 8th. An "OK" spot, but not as high as I had hoped. Robert Neumeister (Nuby) had jumped to 2nd spot on the grid, but MV still held the pole with his Q2 time. 3rd spot now belonged to Rick Shields (defending Champ) and RS slipped to 4th. Despite the slightly slower time, I felt that the new engine WAS a bit better than the first one. Hopefully it was ... at least it seemed to be no worse.
Q4 - Another early morning session and another early morning drizzle. This time, the skies were HEAVILY overcast, but the drizzle was stopping and starting. Again we were G2 - again I opted for slicks, hoping it would dry out. About 1/2 of the field elected to not bother. I did that last year on the last damp Q session and lost 3 spots on the grid when the track dried out <cry>. HOWEVER, this time the skies did NOT break up and the overcast hung heavy around the track. It didn't rain any more, but the track also did NOT dry out due to the VERY high humidity. We ended up with the 2nd fastest time of the session - first being RS .... on rain tires, I'm pretty sure - both times irrelevant to grid position. I think only 3 or 4 of the top ten went out at all. The car felt as good as I could expect and we seemed ready. This year we race on Friday ... tomorrow. Check the car over again - gas it up - put on the race tires and put Bullet (and us) to bed - we would need to be up early in the morning to check on the skies and plot strategy!
RACE DAY! In an amazing turn of the tables, no rain overnight and nice semi-cloudy skies .. no threat of rain - cool temps, but not cold. Looked to be a GREAT day for racing! I had been having video camera troubles all week long and had NO video of any of the Q sessions. This time, Linda would be on the grid with me and could make SURE that the recorder started ... thankfully she was, because it turned out that my remote start button was the problem. She started it for me and we would hopefully have something to watch this winter.
As we came to the green flag, I realized that the 'snorkel' on top of JW's car was blocking my view of the starter - CRAP! All of a sudden I was sure the green was out as cars zipped by me. I was fortunate enough to get back by 2 of the 4 at T1, but it was not a pretty sight. We got down to T3 and again stacked up a bit and I ALMOST lost another spot, but hung in as we raced towards T5. I could see first place as I came to braking and thought ... gee - I'm not TOO terribly far back (9th as I see from Jean Stoezel's pic. Thanks, Jean (Canadian FV winner) for sending me these shots). That's RS, MV, Shields, CH, Nuby, JW, Andrade, Womer, then ME - Gary just out of pic. There's hope yet as we climbed the hill to T6, then around the carousel out of T8, through the kink towards Canada Corner. I think I got by Ed (Womer) for 8th. The race stayed pretty much that tight all the way to the end. In the next pic you can see that the lead pack of three is drawing away a bit, but "we" (not that I helped THAT much <g>) ran them back down and made it a front pack of about 10 midway through the race. Somewhere around lap 10 (of 13), CH went wide at T8 and forced me out of position as he came back on - then he blocked me through the carousel as the front half of the lead pack (5 now) broke away. By the time I got around CH, we were toast - no way we were going to catch those guys unless one of them screwed up. As the laps went on, we ended up with our own 2nd pack of 4 cars. Me, Gary, Charlie and Ed. This shows the 4 of us lapping Harry Schneider (blue car in the bump strips - 80yrs old!) at T5 about L9. You can see the leaders at the top of the hill... we weren't very far back ... just TOO far to catch them. Finally, it's the LAST LAP. Here we are at T5 again with a new order. Now it's Ed, Charlie, Me and Gary . We stayed that way through the kink, then I got the upper hand and made the pass going into Canada Corner. I got the pass done, but Ed was still on my outside and I couldn't get a good line through the turn - Ed got back inside me just before we turned to T13 and CH tried to follow him through. I kept my foot pasted to the floor and we went into T13 side by side with CH having a slight edge - I held the inside for that turn and as we exited, I started to pull back even, then slightly ahead of him and gaining. Suddenly he veered away about 2 feet and then SLAMMED into me HARD - wheel to wheel fortunately and, even more fortunately, HE came out on the short end as I continued to pull ahead getting good position for T14 ... onto the front straight and the run to the finish line. Ed was about 1.5 lengths ahead of me, but I got a great run up the hill and pulled out to pass... I pondered for just an instant.... are we fighting for LAST place in impound? .... impound finishers will have to STAY for HOURS as the winner's engine is torn down..... hmmmm?? how many cars were in that lead pack? .... NAH - we must be fighting for 10th or so by now.... a TOP TEN is good - let's GO FOR IT! I completed the pass easily and "won" my little race ... hmmmm..... did Ed *LET* me pass so HE didn't have to sit around in impound ?? When we got around to the hill down to T5, I was able to count the cars ahead .... uh, oh.... 1,2,3,4,FIVE.... I was SIXTH (AGAIN) and would have to (get to?) sit in impound while Ed, Charlie and Gary could all head for home. Wow .. what did I win? Well... I got to hang around and congratulate all the guys that finished in front of me and Roger who won the race with a last lap sling shot pass over Nuby - some hundred odd THOUSANDTHS of margin at the line. Last year Roger LOST by thousandths - this year he turned it around. Congrats to all and especially to Roger - this his 3rd National FV Championship.
Apparently, Friday would be the last "Great Day for Racing", as the clouds moved in and MOST of the races on Sat and Sun were in "iffy" or DAMP or WET or POURING conditions. We were VERY lucky this year.
As always, a huge thanks to Goodyear Racing Tires, Butler Engines, Roxannes Headers and the entire FV Community. This is a great class and I feel honored to be able to compete for this many years (I won't say JUST how many <g>).
Back home, we unloaded and can finally REST a bit and do something besides racing (and writing) for a while. Bye y'all!
Runoffs/Divisional Finishes for the Wedge Racing Team
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