Wedge Racing in 2013
Sebring - January (MAJORS)
I decided to make the trip again this year to combine with a visit to Roxannes Headers (near Tampa) to get a tune up on my exhaust system. The tow was pretty decent until I was about an hour and a half away from Roxannes' when a trailer tire EXPLODED (yes, ANOTHER one ) - causing significant damage to the fender and adjacent tire. There was little room to pull over at that particular spot, but I eeked over as far as I dared. I changed the blown tire and opted to ride with the damaged one (really DANGEROUS sitting JUST off of a 70+ MPH highway) and try to make it on to JR's place. Thankfully, I was successful. There, I was able to change to my second spare and keep the damaged one as a spare as well as make some 'paste work' to the damaged fender. I also ordered 2 new tires and Bob Browsky was kind enough to volunteer to pick them up and deliver them to the track at Sebring for me so I didn't have to divert 35 miles to get them - THANKS BOB!!
I made it to Sebring Thursday afternoon and found a good parking spot - set up, went over the car and did final double checks for Friday morning's qualifying session and called it a day.
Friday morning dawned WET. It had rained overnight and was still coming down lightly. After watching an SRF ping pong off both concrete walls after running across the EXTREMELY slippery S/F paint, I decided to skip the first qualifier. The rain was supposed to end in the morning and be dry for the rest of the weekend. Since I was alone with no help, it made a LOT of sense to keep the car safe in the trailer and wait till the afternoon session. Lisa (Noble) was the only Vee driver to brave the elements - she made ONE timed lap and came back in.
The afternoon session (qualifier for Sundays' race) was dry and the track pretty decent. The vees started at the back of the group so we could get, maybe 3 laps before the faster cars would start catching us. I remembered that the track was quite bumpy in T1 and T17 -- but I didn't remember just HOW bumpy it was. WOW - it was all I could do to hold on the the steering wheel through T1! The car was bouncing all over the place as I tried to figure out where to brake and where to turn in for the apex. On the second lap, I brilliantly SPUN in front of the entire Vee field at T1 and had to steer my coasting car backwards down the track while cars zoomed by on both sides. Fortunately, they all avoided me. On the next lap, I managed to spin again (T3 this time) - also without any contact - so resolved to SLOW DOWN a tick until I figured out just exactly where all the turns were. I had not been here in 2 years. After a couple of 'so-so' laps, I finally managed to put a good one together and nipped off a low 2:39 time that took the Vee pole by a good margin.... and my car was still in one piece .
I did 'next day prep' on the car and chatted with a few people that dropped by my spot. Fellow vee'r Duke Waldrop and his wife, Fay, hosted a nice "vee party" (with MUNCHIES ) at their paddock after track shut down, so we dropped by to visit a while and then turned in for the night.
Former Atlanta resident Tip Franklin came down from Lakeland to crew for me on Saturday and Sunday. Thanks,Tip - it was REALLY nice to have an experienced driver to help should the need arise. He also manned the radio for lap counts and to keep me aware when faster cars were about to lap me.
The Saturday morning qualifier was dry with a bright sun shinning in our face going through the T15-16 complex - it took a couple of laps to get used to that sun! The car felt great, but I just couldn't get away from Lisa or Russell Fredericks - they were FAST. I gave up and just worked on my braking and turns - trying for smoothness that is pretty much impossible on this bumpy, abusive track (but it's a SERIOUS challenge and mucho FUN .. when you don't spin). I didn't go quite as fast, but still managed a low 2:40 which ended up being the pole time in class.
Saturday, Race 1 - THE START!
I managed to hold Lisa off (just barely) into T1 with Russ close behind. The top 3 gradually pulled away while swapping the lead several times. All three of us led at one time or another
until just before half way when Lisa passed me on the back straight and then slowed dramatically and pulled into the pits as we came onto the front straight. I later found that her engine "just died" when she hit a pothole or bump on the outside of T17. She never really figured out what happened as the car cranked and ran just fine when she got back to her paddock spot.
At any rate, that left Russ and I to battle for the win. I led most of the laps, and once, I thought I was going to get away, but traffic came by again and I had to 'dodge' the passing cars, so Russ closed right back up and was breathing down my neck. With 2 laps to go, the double yellows came out for an incident in T5 and the race was DONE. Russ was still in second, waiting for that last lap pass .. but he could NOT pass under the yellow - so ... I WIN!! Race #1 in the books. All the winners except me got a victory lap . For some reason the grid marshall directed me into the pits and the others on to collect their winners flag and victory lap.
Then, after sitting in impound a few minutes, we got to step up on the podium and spray a little champagne.
Sunday ... and Race 2
It rained again overnight, but stopped early ... however, the clouds stayed... and STAYED they did -- right smack on the ground. Visibility was about 50 yards or so - not enough to see cars on the track or from one corner to the next. The track was shut down. About an hour after the first cars were supposed to go out, the PA made an announcement that there would be an announcement about the plans for the morning qualifying sessions ...soon. Another 45 minutes passed and a second announcement called all drivers to the tower for a pow-wow with the Chief Steward. He announced that the track was still 'unplayable' and, with the driver's permission, we would cancel the 2nd qualifying session for all groups and just go on the Friday afternoon times - I'm pretty sure there was at least 99.9% agreement from the drivers. Racing would start on time - hopefully. About an hour later, the fog finally lifted and we were good to go.
If you're interested, here's a video of what happened from my car. There were several comments made on the forums about how vee "drive unpredictable lines" and "wander from one side of the track to the other". I think this clearly shows that MOST of our lines are (should be) pretty predictable. Lisa-GET OUTTA MY WAY!
Thanks to Fay Waldrop and Purple Frog for the pictures
Roebling Road - February
The tow down on Friday evening was about as messy as I've seen. Light rain and FOG all the way. Visibility was pitiful - but we did make it safe and sound. The rain continued overnight and throughout all day Saturday. The first session was a practice, so I opted to pass on it. I was also seriously considering bypassing the afternoon qualifier, but Linda thankfully, talked me into going out ... in the rain. The car was terrible and I couldn't figure out WHY. I was on brand new Hoosier rains (my first time on Hoosier rains) and I wasn't sure what to expect. Donnie went out on his Goodyear rains and blew me off the track (figuratively, of course). The car was LOOSE, LOOSE and the tires seemed to have NO grip at all. It started raining harder as the session wore on and when I came in, I drove it directly into the trailer - soaking wet - both the car and me.
I often skip the morning warmups at Roebling, but decided I really needed to try again Sunday morning. The sky was beautiful - clear and sunny and warming rapidly. A set of slicks this time and I was READY to redeem myself a bit. Alas - was not to be. The track was still slightly damp and the humidity was still quite high and the handling was again TERRIBLE. My times were no better on the drying track than they were in yesterday's rain. I did have 2 objectives - presumably easily accomplished - warm the brakes to check them for dragging and warm the oil so I could do a proper level check. For reasons that I don't entirely understand, the dip stick reads erratically unless the oil is up into the 200 degrees area. Someday I'll figure out why ... maybe.
At any rate, I came in from the warmup - disappointed that it didn't feel better. Pulled into my spot and checked the brakes.. CRAP - right rear still dragging badly - adjusted that first. Then took the bodywork off to check the oil. I always check it with the engine running - cranked it up and cleaned and re-dipped the stick and ... WHAT!? It reads !!TWO QUARTS LOW!! - *CAN'T* be right. Check it again.. it reads TWO QUARTS LOW! What's up?? I look closely at the engine area and notice ... what is that?? it's OIL in the pan beneath the engine ... a good bit of it. Back off and look around ... OIL on the front exhaust pipe.. oil on the rear pipe... oil on the axle tube - all on the left side. YIKES!! Jacked up the car and crawled down for a better view. OIL EVERYWHERE underneath the head on the left. Ahh HA!! I'll bet I have a broken head stud. Don't SEE anything.. top 4 studs are visible and look good. Remove the valve cover and 'oui la' - there is a NUT and WASHER lying in the cover. Quick glance shows bottom front stud on #2 cylinder broken. That would cost me around 10-15% of engine power *AND* dump significant amounts of OIL onto the track just in front of the left rear tire. Hmmm.... I wonder if that had anything to do with the lousy handling and lousy laptimes ?? YOU THINK!!?? I wonder if it broke this morning, or ... maybe YESTERDAY in the rainy session. Fellow vee racer Jim Vaseff dropped by - seeing me working on the car - and mentioned that he had SEEN oil pouring out of my car when I passed him yesterday, so that confirms that it did break some time during the qualifying session. I'm beginning to feel a little relief ... I think.
Plenty of time to get the job done. I have special tools to allow stud removal and I always carry spare studs - this is NOT the first time this has happened. The question is... is this "THE" real problem ?? I guess we'll find out in the race. The next issue is that I need to add oil, but can't tell how MUCH I need to add. The dip stick won't read properly and there's no way to warm it up to adequate temps without going on track. So.... I GUESS! (Poorly, I might add). I try to err slightly on the high side. There is an overflow tank, but it only holds a quart - if I put more than a quart too much... well... it's going to make a heckuva mess at speed.
Race Time. Skies still beautiful and getting a bit
toasty - now up into the high 70's.
Donnie has the pole and Charlie Rogers is right behind me at the start. GREEN! Donnie gets a run and takes off.
(How about that "paint" job on Donnie's car??) I'm doing OK, but then Charlie flies past me after Donnie and we head into T1 nose to tail. I settle into 3rd and consider my car... is it running OK ? I think so. Am I blowing oil out? I don't think so - both good so far. Am I losing ground to the guys ahead? I don't think so. I'm holding my own... for the moment.
Around the back side and back out onto the front straight. Same order ... so far. I'm closing on Charlie and pop out to pass as we go past S/F. Still closing on Donnie, so I set my sights on the empty spot just in front of him. He moves over to "make it difficult", but leaves me a couple of inches of asphalt between me and the grass. I pass cleanly as we arrive at T1. The car is feeling pretty good - through 1 and into T2 - still OK. T3, then T4... hanging it out from 4 to 5 - turn in to 5 and .. what's that? SMOKE ... IN MY COCKPIT!.. uh... check mirrors - nothing really terrible looking back there. Hmm.... around T6 through the carousel - MORE smoke .. a LOT of smoke. But still doesn't look too bad in the mirror. Another hmmm... *MAYBE*.. just maybe, I overfilled it too much? If so, then it will eventually stop...hopefully before the motor does. Let's take another lap and see what happens. At this point, Donnie is content to run behind me and try to split off Charlie and Jim behind us. Good plan .. let's do that . Another lap and Linda says we have a 'split' to Charlie, but I miss how much it is. I can't seem to catch him in my mirror, so... maybe he spun? or just dropped a wheel and fell back. More SMOKE.. I think I best consider staying in high gear more and downshifting less. Another good plan... I hope. The smoke gradually lessens and I start to relax a bit. Engine temps are tolerable and oil pressure is good. I think the engine is OK. Handling is MUCH better, although still not as good as I wish. I wonder if I'm dropping more oil ?
Once we get down to a 2 car pack, Donnie elects to stay behind me - planning his strategy for the last lap pass. Yep - that's what I'd do.. and what I DID last year . In the meantime, the sole F500 in the field passed us and headed off into the distance and left us to play. Laps dwindle down with no real change. Then, Linda tells me that the overall leader (the F500) is closing on us from behind. 4 laps to go... he continues to close. 3 laps to go - still closing, but more slowly. He did mention to both Donnie and I that he would do his best to stay out of our race. I think he's just 'riding' back there so we can 'race it out' without interference. 2 laps to go. Linda tells me that the F5 is on *HIS* last lap.. but he's still behind us. If he passes, we will suddenly be on *OUR* last lap - will he pass? I don't think so, based on what he told me - he'll wait. The checker should come out right behind Donnie and I - we still have another lap to go. JUST IN CASE, I decide to try to put a little distance on Donnie around the carousel. Still another lap to go, but gotta consider the possibility that the F5 might pull out and pass us. Out onto the front straight - F5 stays put. S/F line approaching - I have 3 or 4 car lengths on Donnie. I wonder if he's setting up for a pass at T1, or planning to wait till we come onto the front straight next lap. SUDDENLY, the starter whips out the checkered flag about 3 car lengths before I get there and waves it frantically... as IF it's the end of the race. As we pass S/F, Donnie lets off the gas... but *I* keep my foot in it ... again, just in case. In my mind, our race is NOT done. The flag was for the F5 that was BEHIND Donnie and I. Doesn't Donnie realize this? I guess not, but I'm not taking any chances. I keep my foot in it all the way around and back to S/F where I receive a 2nd Checkered flag - this time it's MINE!
As I take my cool off lap, I see Donnie behind me. That means he DID, at some point decide we had another lap to go, but I was too far ahead .. good thing I kept my foot in it the first time. Starter's fault - he SHOULD have waited at least until I passed under him before showing the flag .. or shown a number board with the F5's car number, but I'll take the win. I also had fastest lap, so the car wasn't doing too badly. To impound to weigh - weight good .. but the car won't start after shutting it off for the scales. CRAP! More stuff to fix before COTA - but I'm pretty happy at the moment... except Linda and I have to PUSH the car back to my paddock and into the trailer. Oh well.. we still got a WIN!
Thanks to Janice (Mrs. Purple Frog) for the pictures - she does nice work!
COTA (The USA F1 track) - March - MAJORS event (but out of my Conference) - made the trip and raced - finished 5th on Saturday and 4th on Sunday. The tow out and back was windy, wet, and cold, but otherwise good. The weekend, however, did not go well for us ..but could have been a LOT worse (see Atlanta). It was a 2 day drive out, but the weather was beautiful when we arrived late afternoon on Wednesday and amazingly, we only had to wait in line about 45 minutes before someone led us in to a great paddock spot across from the false grid. The paddock marshals were really nice and doing the best job they could. We got setup and then had an opportunity to look around a bit before bedtime.
Thursday was a test day so we got to see a little of the track although access to most viewing areas was restricted (to someone other than us). There was only a single Vee testing and it was difficult to tell much about how to drive the track. I was in somewhat decent shape since, although I did not test (too expensive), I do have COTA on my racing simulator at home, so I had a slight feel for the turns and which direction they went. The day was nice, but it started raining in the last couple of sessions and into the night. As group 1, we would be looking at a wet track Friday morning.
Session 1 - . With ~60 cars of 3 classes on track, it was pretty busy, but all we needed to do was get a 'feel' for the track. It was a lot more technical than I had expected. FIVE really slow corners, 3 with long straights leading to them. The slow turns were also all decreasing radius (got tighter as we went through). The car felt OK, but not great and we ended up 2nd fast in the session. Tyler Hunter, set fast time but had tested on Wednesday and Thursday.
More time to think and watch and look over the car while we waited for session 2 .. while watching the skies. Alternating.. RAIN, DRY, MIST.. and then we do it over again .. possibly in a different order. WOW - what a day for unpredictability! Continuous delays throughout the day too. Rain, mist, then more rain and then mist again. Several black flag sessions and finally lunch. (sure is nice to be right across from the grid . We're next up! More unexplained delay, then finally the rain starts in earnest. Geeee.. waiting again. FINALLY out onto the track. We were on our brand new Hoosier rains - the track was soaking wet, but the rain had slowed. The car felt pretty good. The rain stopped and speeds picked up, then started again. At the end, we are again 2nd fast to the same guy. Not bad and it's time to go over the car again. More alternating rain, mist, dry throughout the afternoon - then light rain at the end of the day and into the night. Qualifying first thing in the morning.
The rain finally stopped and we woke up to a mostly dry track. We started only a few minutes late as the clouds started to build again. On the track and the car feels pretty good and we go with it. It's only a 15 minute session, so that means about 4 or 5 laps. At the end it starts misting again, but it's OK. We got no really good laps and I'm not sure what's up. I feel ... not comfortable? I should be getting MORE comfortable with the track, but the alternating conditions and ... whatever else I'm feeling, isn't helping. We end up 4th on the grid - well off the pole pace .. but still in front of a LOT of cars. HEY .. what can I say? We got what we got and we'll do the best we can with it. Qualifying sessions continue through the morning .. some dry.. some wet.. some in between.. I wonder what it's going to be like come race time?
Race 1 - We have a split start for the race .. FF is first and then F5 and Vees all mixed together. When I look at the grid, I see disaster on the horizon. There are only TWO decently fast F5's ...the rest of them are mixed amongst the vees - that's ALWAYS a bad thing. We come around T20 and wait for the green - the FF's are long gone. GREEN!! The 2 fast F5 take off and the first 2 vees slot in behind them (Jennerjahn and Hunter) - as expected, when we get to turn 1, there are F5's all over the place ... directly IN THE WAY of the Vees (except for the first 2). I have F5's in front of me, beside me, behind me ... everywhere. At T2 I get past 2 of the 5 that beat me to T1... and then another one, but that still leaves 2 between me and the lead vees. Charlie (vee) is beside me coming out of T4 and beats me to T5, so I tuck in behind him - maybe we can GET those F5's before the leaders are gone. Good through T9 and 10 .. then on to T11 (hairpin). We get 'em going into 11. A lot of good it does as they BLAST back by on the straight and then *PARK* at T12. We are right on their butts, but can't get by (HP to Wt ratio). We complete the lap .. then get by coming out of T1 - we lead into the esses and pull some distance. This time when we get to the straight, we ... BLOCK to keep them behind and I continue to follow Charlie. No one between us and the (vee) leaders now. Around to T20 and onto the front straight - we're leaving the F5's behind.. on around to the hairpin.. have we gained some ground ? nah.. don't think so. The straight... The lead 2 FF's pass and I'm closing on Charlie like gangbusters... make to move to pass.. he doesn't fight it.. maybe we can leapfrog to gain some ground. Through the tight twisty stuff and T19 .. coming to T20 leading onto the front straight .. I'm in 3rd with Charlie right on my tail .. !*WHAM*! (ouch!). Unbelievably, the 3rd place FF has just T-BONED me at the apex of T20. He tried to make a pass from at least 4 car lengths back and he has spun himself and me - Charlie misses me and goes on. I pause a microsecond or 2, then realize the car is still running. Do I have gears?? YES... will the car move? YES - put it in gear and take off again down the front straight. We had several seconds already on 5th place and they haven't (yet) caught me. How's the car? Ck mirrors - tires look OK. Steering wheel is offset about 70 degrees, so SOMETHING isn't right!? Nothing visually that I can see. Weave a bit - car feels OK.. Guess I'll keep racing . Around another lap - the leaders are long gone now and I see 5th place behind me and closing .. and 6th is also right there. Ck laptimes as I cross the line - I'm TWO seconds off previous pace! WHAT is up? Look around some more - still don't see anything, but 5th (Mike Landon) has now caught me and sneaks by on the straight. I'm driving my ass off, but still losing ground. I can see Lisa (6th) in my mirrors now - not closing as fast, but pretty close. The lead FF comes through again ... followed shortly by FF 2nd place and I'm still struggling, but hanging in as best I can. Finally the checker comes out - 5th place! Could be worse (I could be trashed by the wayside). On the cooloff lap, the clutch pedal suddenly hits the floor... NO CLUTCH! What ELSE is going to happen? (but at least it didn't break DURING the race!!)
Around to S/F and waved into impound (as is everybody). I get out of the car and look around. My left tie rod is bent significantly and I have about 2 inches of toe-out in the front. No wonder I was slower! - some bodywork damage on the left where I was T-Boned, but other wise things look OK. Some work to do, but should be doable... except maybe for the clutch problem. Victory celebration (for the podium, anyway) - Race 1 is done, and we head off to our paddock spot to start repairs.
WOW - the damage was worse than I thought.. or at least my ability to repair the damage was worse. It took a couple of hours to find a tie rod that was close enough to the right length and get it cut and threaded to fit. Then it was clutch cable time. I ended up having to remove the fuel cell and it's container to be able to thread the cable through that area. Then I had to fabricate a splice and create an end to mate with the clutch arm - next time I'm going to wire that end to the clutch arm! All in all, it took us some seven hours to complete the work and have the car ready for the next morning. During that time, there were more FCY's and delays and at the end of the day, there was no time to run the Group 7 race - it had to be delayed until the next morning. With that change and the expected continuing delays, the decision was made to also eliminate ALL qualifying for the Sunday races and be gridded according to fast lap in the Saturday race. That said - after being ASSURED that the grid would be based on lap time, the grid actually gridded us according to finish order ... oh well - not much difference anyway. The next surprise was that our group would have a THREE WAY split start in order to minimize the FV/F5 issues.
Sunday - Group 7 was welcomed by a WET track and there was an extra 30 minutes or so delay while ... something? happened. Their race eventually started and actually finished, I believe, without an FCY (amazing!).
Our Turn - The grid was a mess and the sky that was supposed to be clear was suddenly overcast again. We sat on the grid for an extra 20 minutes or so while ... something? happened. During that time, it misted a bit, then started raining. Steve Bamford's crew (FF) made a dash for rain tires, but it had stopped before they got back to the grid. Then it started raining again and they went into 'speed mode' to get the rains on the car. By the time they had finished, the rain had stopped... and we got the 5 minute call. They all resigned themselves to being 'left in the dust' while they waited for the '1'. Then the 5 got cancelled .. while ... something? happened and the crew went mad again changing the tires back - it was quite a Keystone Cops show . FINALLY, we roll off the grid. The track is damp from the brief rain. I see several small puddles here and there. The (3 way split) start is good. With only vees to contend with, the lead 4 break away by the time we get to the hairpin. Bullet still doesn't feel right, but we're still hanging in there. At one point I take the lead on the back straight, then fall all the way back to 4th on the front straight. Then.. it happens ... somewhere. FCY just before the lead FF catches us. The pace car waves us 4 vees on by so he can pick up the leader behind us. 2 laps (I think) of FCY and the lead vee pack finds itself just behind several SLOW F5's and several midpack FF's as rain drops start to fall again. The green waves for the FF leader and we are still back in T16. Chris (lead FV) gets a radio call for GREEN/GREEN and he takes off .. even though the corners are still showing double yellow flags. WHAT a mess!...and we are in TRAFFIC like crazy. Coming out of T1 we pass 2 of the F5's, but before we can get to T3, 2 FF and at least 1 F5 have already collided at T4. Chris, Tyler and Charlie all get by OK, but one of the F5's is coming back on track and I HAVE to slow down, breaking me off, and suddenly I have Landon and Noble right behind me. At least one of the cars at T4 appeared to be broken on track, so another FCY is imminent - I HAVE to hold position until then. Around T6 and then T9 as we head toward the hairpin. Still a green track... coming into the hairpin, one of the F5's spins RIGHT in front of me and I have to dodge - Landon was out of view of him and realizes too late.. he chooses to hit ME instead of T-boning the F5, My LF tire is knocked full tilt toe-out and that locks my steering .. I can't steer. I'll be stuck here! Then Mike seems to back off and then hit me again... this time it knocks the tire back out of lock and I'm good to go again ... cool! I drive around the F5 as Lisa Noble dives inside all of us and takes the position. I'm closing on Lisa fast down the back straight... I need that position back! ALAS ... FCY again ... and that's the way we finish. At least the car is drivable. At impound, we are told that 2nd place has been penalized for passing under the yellow, so Lisa gets elevated to 3rd place and stands on the podium. Oh well.... drive the car into the trailer and head for home.
Not a good weekend for us, but could have been a lot worse. The car ran decently well and we only crashed twice .. Yep .. could have been a lot better too. But at least we got to race on the F1 track and find out what those guys have to deal with with their 900HP engines and seamless 7 speed gearboxes .. and me and my 60HP and (essentially) 2 speed gearbox. The rain and storms pretty much followed us ALL the way home. We broke out a couple of times, but it caught us again when we stopped for fuel or food - but we made it safely without issue. Road Atlanta next weekend will hopefully be better.
Road Atlanta (#1) - March - MAJORS weekend
To keep this short, I'm just going to post some pix and a brief description for now. Too busy to write a long dissertation at the moment - trying to get the car repaired for the 50th Anniversary event. See This Page. By the way, I had no significant injuries - just a few bruises here and there...
For the weekend, I borrowed my old car, the Racer's Wage. It took a bit of 'remembrance' to get used to that car again, but it ran quite well and I worked my way up to 2nd during race 1. Guy Bellingham was leading and we had a 4 car lead pack. About 2/3 through the race, we were catching 2 of the slower vees while the leaders in FE and FF were catching us. Unfortunately, we *all* came together at the top of the esses and all **** broke loose. I dodged around one of the vees and Dale Rader caught his tire and went up and over him. That broke Guy and I away from the rest of the vees and I was content to ride in 2nd place with only 3 more laps to go. Dale was dazed and an ambulance was called during the following lap and that put us under double yellow (FCY) for the remainder of the race. I was READY to pass for the win, but could not.
During Sunday's race 2, the Wage was again running fine and we were solidly in the lead pack. Alas - on the 6th lap, the splines in the left rear brake drum (the ones that provide DRIVE from the transmission), stripped leaving me with NO GO coming out of T7. I tried to get to the pits, but ended up having to stop near the top of he hill, overlooking turns 10A/B - only a few hundred yards from being classified as a 'finisher' and getting some points. I was able to WATCH a really good race from the sidelines as Guy gradually pulled away from the rest of the field to wrap up his SWEEP of the weekend.
Thanks VERY much to Lynn Sweatte for allowing me to abuse her car and at least salvage one of the races. I have since replaced the drum and returned the car to race ready service.
The repair to Bullet was an exercise in frustration. The FV 50th Anniversary race was coming up and I really wanted to make that weekend with Bullet. I stripped him down and took a trip to a local body shop that has a frame jig. We spent a LONG day working on it - with his expertise and my knowledge of the car. In the end, we could only get it "pretty close", so I brought him back to the shop to see how much closer I could get here. In the end (I'm leaving out a LOT of detail here), it came out pretty good. The center section was, thankfully, undamaged for the most part - that included the area between the front roll hoop and the back of the engine tray. In the front, I ended up cutting all of the beam support pieces away, and decided to raise the beam an inch while doing the work. That meant rebuilding the nose, but it was mostly trash anyway. I had to shim the left side of the beam about 1/4" because I just had no way to 'grip" the frame and get a bit of twist out of it from the crash. I was working 14 hour days EVERY day between the 2 race weekends (just one weekend between). The bodywork had to take a back seat and I would just 'deal with it' at Roebling.
Roebling Road - Formula Vee 50th Anniversary Event
Finally - a weekend that went well for us.
I loaded Bullet into the trailer only about 1/2 hour before Linda got home and we left for the track. After arrival at the track, I continued to work on details in the trailer as it was raining. Friday morning, I started again and decided to skip the first session (free test day from Hoosier) since it was still raining. I was going to skip the 2nd session too, but Linda talked me into going out for just a lap or 2 - just to see if something radical was wrong that I hadn't anticipated - that was, of course, the right decision. I went out on a damp track and everything seemed to go just fine, but I could only tell the basics... the engine ran OK, the tires didn't fall off, it turned left and right, the brakes slowed the car down, the shifter worked, and my seating position was acceptable.
I sat out the next 2 sessions while the track dried, then the sun came out and the rest of the weekend was simply GLORIOUS! I went out once more on a dry track and turned a few laps and the car felt GREAT! It was really hard to believe. I was on old tires, but this was a non-points weekend anyway and I decided I just could not afford to buy new tires and "waste" them, despite the 'prestige' that the event holds.
I continued on those same old tires for Saturday's
qualifying - saving my BEST set of OLD tires for the Sunday races.
Although the car ran great (and I managed to drive decently and NOT hit anything
made of CONCRETE!), we ended up qualifying 5th in our group of about 35 (even
numbered) cars, for our heat race. Not bad, I'm thinking, considering the
issues we faced after Atlanta. It was also nice to have old friend Tom
Crowder drop by and visit. Tom started racing vees about the same time I did ..
back when we were both young and stupid - at least we've finally managed to shed
the YOUNG part of that . After the days' qualifying, we went to the
where Tom Stephani and Steve Knapp entertained us for a few hours and we visited with some old friends and had a great dinner. Thanks to all the "organizers" that put in so much effort to make this event happen - we had about 65 current type vees and almost 50 vintage vees in attendance. It was REALLY REALLY nice to race and not have to worry about anyone closing on me at 50 MPH and diving in from 4 car lengths back at a turn.
The first 'current vee' group (odd numbered cars) raced Sunday morning and I got to watch a great race. (I don't get to watch many vee races from the sidelines). Brad Stout came out of a 3 year retirement to beat Jeremy Grenier after a race long battle. My heat race started just after lunch. Roger Siebenaler had the pole with Brandon Abbott not far behind. I was sandwiched in between Donnie Isley and Arnie Carbaugh with Russ Stalvey just ahead of Donnie. The start went just fine and I was able to hold my position despite a bit of jumping around as we headed for T1. The next lap, I picked off Donnie and then 2 laps later was able to get Russ. Roger and Brandon had pulled out about a 5 second lead, so I had some work to do. The car was fantastic - even on the old rubber - it even felt better than it had in February ... before the accident and then on new tires. Roger finally gapped Brandon a bit as I reeled Brandon slowly up to my nose. It took about 3 laps, but I was finally able to get position on him into T1 and I took 2nd place - now, only Roger was between me and the win. I put everything I had into it and closed down to about 8 car lengths from the original 12 or so. Then we started catching traffic. I would close a couple of car lengths, and then he would get them back - I'd close 1, he'd open 3. I'd close 3, he'd open 1. Linda tells me the last lap is starting, but it really doesn't matter. Brandon has fallen off behind me and Roger still has 6 or 7 lengths at the line. STILL - not a bad showing for a reborn Bullet! We have a 30 minute break before the main event - the Brundage Cup race with the top 20 cars from both groups. A 40 car vee field - been a while since I was in a race like that!
BRUNDAGE CUP - Grid was based on finishing position in
the heat race + fast lap during that race. Roger led the field, then Brad, then
me, followed by Jeremy, Brandon Abbott and Donnie. I had used up most of
the rubber on my tires, but stuck fast to my guns and just swapped them side for
side... I knew it would be a gamble, but... that's the way it is.
The green waved and I was pretty surprised to time it almost perfectly and the
top 3 held position into T1. Around to the front straight and Roger takes
the lead, with Jeremy and I following in 4th and 3rd. The next lap (it's
only a TEN lap race!), the top 4 have opened a tiny gap. Brad and Roger
swap again, but Jeremy stays in line and we add another few inches over 5th.
The next lap, I get a great run out of T9 and pass both Roger and Brad to take
My short lived lead disappears the following lap as both Brad and Roger pass me again and Jeremy also makes an outside pass into T1 catching me by surprise and demoting me to 4th. I see him in time and we don't lose much distance. I follow around to the carousel and Donnie is the next car back - maybe 7 or 8 lengths. As we come up the hill towards T9, I see Donnie suddenly drop off pace before I have to watch the front again. At the end of the front straight, I take back 3rd from Jeremy and notice that there is a BIG gap behind us. We track around like that for the next 4 laps and I notice my car is sliding more and more through the carousel - the most important turn leading to the finish line. Roger and Brad keep swapping the lead and I am hanging on. Jeremy seems to be having similar problems as me and can only JUST catch me near T1. LAST LAP, says Linda. I know it's going to come down to making a perfect carousel .. Brad, Roger, Me, Jeremy - T5... T6.. carousel, Brad gaps Roger a snick and I close on Roger. Not much slide this time.. I've got a chance... T9... Brad moves right to block as Roger closes, I'm closing on Roger, but just a bit too far back - where's Jeremy? Don't know .. no time to worry about that. Roger goes further right...so does Brad. Roger HITS Brad slightly as he jukes back to the left, I'm still closing, but the gap is just too big. At the line it's Brad, Roger - even with Brad's back tire, ME - almost even with Roger's back tire and Jeremy - almost even with MY back tire.
Photo Credit to Ron Levanduski and StarGazette.com
(that's me on the left, mostly behind the pit wall).
A continuous stream of FV for 4 car lengths... and I finish 3rd again (same position at 45th anniversary race). A GREAT race for Bullet and what a comeback from a crumpled heap against the concrete. I find out later, that Donnie's shifter broke, leaving him stuck in 3rd gear. Special thanks go to Ben Akin of Akins Body Shop in Ila, GA, without whose frame jig Bullet would not have been racing. Still some more work to do before VIR - hopefully, I can get the nose back into semi-decent shape by then.
VIR (Virginia International Raceway)- April - MAJORS event
The tow both ways was good and the practice and qualifying sessions went well. The only real issue we had was BRAKES at T1. It took a couple of sessions to realize that my brake pedal position needed to be adjusted to get Bullet to stop. We also had a minor clutch issue - it was not fully disengaging, making it hard to shift. Still a bit to do in that area. I did get the nose "done", but not "finished". Needs lots of sanding and some more fill here and there, as well as PAINT.
Race 1 - Saturday. The race seemed to go pretty well. We started 3rd, but took the lead on lap 1 and led MOST of the laps. On the LAST lap, however, Donnie pulled the outside pass at the end of the back straight. Seemed a non-event to me, since I was confident that I could pass him back coming to the line on the front straight. Alas, I did NOT do my best coming through Hog Pen and Donnie got a bit too much lead on me. I came up about a car length short at the line for 2nd place as Gary Blanarik finished 3rd behind me.
Race 2 - Sunday. I started 3rd again and went through T1 in 2nd place. Almost immediately, we had a 4 car lead pack - Donnie, myself, Dale Rader and Gary Blanarik. We raced for about 5 laps - swapping the lead amongst us with no one having a clear advantage. However, when the lead FF car caught us, things changed... He came up behind us on the front straight, but elected to hold position as we were jockeying quite a bit going towards T1. I think I was 4th into T1 that lap. He followed until we got to the uphill esses and then started passing .. followed closely by 2nd place FF, and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place F5 - WHAT a string of cars! That mess broke up the lead pack badly with Gary coming out smelling like a rose. When I came out of OakTree onto the back straight, Gary was 1/2 MILE ahead of us ... WAY on up there, with the other 3 of us spread out over about 10 car lengths. At the end of the next lap, the 3 had gotten back together - with me in 2nd, then Donnie and Dale - Gary still "out there". Not much to do, but work together and go after him. It took us about 4 more laps to catch Gary .. but we did it. Donnie and I swapped places a couple of times and Dale took the lead (of our pack) on 1 lap. We eeked in on Gary and caught him with ONE Lap to go. Last lap - Gary still leading. I set up the pass and take the lead going into T14 - only 4 turns to go... DOWN the hill - have to hit 16/17 perfectly this time ... don't screw up like yesterday!... GOT it - good run - glance in mirror coming onto front straight. I see Donnie about 3 car lengths back.. I think I've got it... the line is coming... suddenly, I HEAR someone beside me... Donnie's still in my mirror ?? WHAT? It's GARY!... the line is coming, Gary is inching up.. I've still got it... I've got it... I've.... RATS!!! Gary takes the win by about 4 inches! ARRGGGHHHH! Oh well.. Great race from Gary. He must have had a REALLY PERFECT T16/17 'cause mine was pretty good. No pic or video of that unfortunately (vid camera failed me again). Top 4 cars in about 8 car lengths at the line. Gary, Me, Donnie and Dale. I ended up with fast race lap .. due to running down Gary, and Bullet is in great shape. Next race is Summit Point if I decide to go. I'd like to get that nose done up right by then. and there's still a couple of minor issues on the car I need to attend to. Thanks as always to Hoosier, ButlerEngines.com, RoxannesHeaders.com and QuixoteRacing.com.
Summit Point - May - MAJORS event -
The tow up was good - we spent the night in a parking lot across the street from Linda's brother and had dinner with them. We timed the arrival at the track to 1 hour before registration opened and it worked out just about perfect. We were one of the first ones allowed in and found a decent parking spot with no trouble. Got all set up
and waited for Friday morning's group 3 practice. The weather for the weekend was GREAT. The best I've ever seen at Summit Point. Low temps in the 50's overnight and high's up around 80 during the day - and NO rain!
Practice - I've raced Summit before, but it was almost TEN years ago. I still remembered the general layout, but not the specific 'eccentricities' required to really go FAST. The first session was a chance to re-familarize myself with those 'extended limits' that would be needed. I ran pretty good, but on quite old, Goodyear tires and I found them to be a bit lacking in the grip department. No real problem, but something that would need to be corrected before qualifying. The field was DEEP this weekend with 18 Vees and 4 national champions in the mix. I ended up being 7th fastest (just above mid field ), which was acceptable in my book.
The afternoon session was a qualifying session for both Saturday and Sunday
races - each day would also have its own 15 minute Q session each morning. I
bolted on some "pretty good" Hoosier tires and hoped they would be better.
I guess a lot of racers have similar approaches to the weekend as we went about
1.5 seconds quicker in lap time, but only picked up a single spot on the grid -
for a 6th position grid spot. Still, not a huge problem for me, but an
interesting look into what kind of race to expect - I was 0.8 secs off the pole
and still 6th. We closed up shop and went to the Region supplied dinner
for a nice hot meal - a chance to do some bench racin' and watch some baby
Sat morn Q2 - I pondered this one a bit before deciding to NOT spend more money on tires. Although qualifying is important in a big field, so is having MONEY to race with. Since there was a pretty good gap below 8th place, all I really needed to do was stay in the top 8. I did change 2 tires and picked out a set of 4 to "turn in" when I purchased a new set for Sunday. This session turned out to be REALLY bad - seemed all the fast vees ended up mixed in with the mid-pack F5's and NO ONE could get a decent lap. I was the only car in the top 10 that moved up a spot with a faster time than Friday's - so I start 5th in the afternoon race (good thing I didn't waste $$ on new tires).
Sat Race 1 - I put on my VIR set of tires which still seemed to have pretty good rubber. I would use a new set for Sunday's race. The VIR tires should still be good for another qualifier or 2 after this race. At the green, I got a half decent start, but just barely manged to hang onto my spot going in to T1. Fortunately, we had a split start for both days and would not have to mess with slow F5's ... at least for the most part.
Almost immediately, Gary Kittell started dumping oil in right hand turns, pretty much blinding me and anyone else close behind. On lap 3, he went wide at T3 and I got by and closed back up on the leaders. 2 laps later, I moved up to 3rd and 2 laps after that to 2nd. Bullet was feeling GOOD! (but the pack was still the same 4 cars). Finally, about lap 8, I managed to move into the lead ... for a lap... after which, I was summarily demoted to P4 again, and in the melee, P5 and 6 caught up to me and we had a 6 car lead pack again... no... make that 7 cars.
As the laps wore down, we had a 5 car lead pack - suddenly, Oseth and Rizer are
RIGHT back in there and we have a 7 car lead pack again. Passing on the
straight is getting really difficult as we have that LONG train of cars -
pulling out to pass is quite unproductive. More 'conniving' (out braking)
is in order. In case you aren't aware, having FIVE cars all trying to
outbrake each other at the same turn can get pretty nasty at times. I oscillate
from 5th to 2nd, and back to 7th, then to 3rd as we all jockey for position -
waiting for the other to make a mistake. Suddenly, we're back to a 5 car
lead pack (no idea what happened to the others). We got into lapped traffic at
about this point and things got really ugly when 2 of the slower cars spun in
front of us going through "the chute" (T4 into T5 - VERY high speed and HEAVY
braking) and we stacked up badly. Cars slowed dramatically in front of us
and I was out of view and CLOBBERED Rick Shields in the rear - punching a near
hole in my nose (below) and locking him in 3rd gear. Sorry, Rick - I
didn't do it intentionally (he was quite nice about it after the race). I
also put 2 MORE "scars" on my brand new nose during that race, though I can't
remember exactly how. I figured it must be pretty much DESTROYED, but at
the end of the race, it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared.
Now, we're down to the last few laps. My collision with Rick has gapped me from the lead 3 - Siebnaler, Weisheit, and Oseth. Again.. nothing to do but GO FOR IT! I put together four really good laps and THERE they are. I close back up behind 3rd place, as we go into T5, but .. AIEEEE!! CRAP.. the car pushes like mad.. almost off the track!... get it under CONTROL!.. I manage, but lose another 10 car lengths. Only a couple laps to go... DO IT AGAIN DAG NABIT! I'm closing... closing. LAST LAP. I'm doing all I can ... DOWN the front straight into HEAVY braking at T1.. but they're just too far ahead .. then .. I see Oseth SIDEWAYS in front of me. DODGE!! - I miss him and take 3rd, but give up 5 more car lengths to avoid him. Going around the back side, I close a little behind Weisheit, but not nearly enough - Roger has a couple of car lengths and easily holds it until the checker .. then Jonathan and then me - a distant 3rd. Oseth recovered to finish 4th behind me.
Not quite the win that I hoped for, but not a bad finish at all in this company and I end up with 2nd fastest lap to Steve Oseth.
Sun - Q2. This time I have on NEW SHOES and the weather is perfect for fast times. My main goal is to get the tires scrubbed and to secondarily get a decent lap time. The session went really well (no interference from F5's) and the new tires felt fantastic. Again, I turned my fastest lap of the weekend and 2nd fastest of the session ... but stayed in the same place on the grid (5th). WOW - this is a TOUGH field! Back to the paddock to listen to Crew Chief, Linda, tell me again all the things I need to check and do before the race...
Sunday Race2 - Seems kinda the same to me.. start from the same 5th place spot and hold my position through T1.... oops - OSETH down the inside at the last instant - back to 6th this time... with 7th and 8th RIGHT on my tail. Lap 2 - back up to 5th. 2 laps later, I have an opportunity to take 4th, but opt instead to try to break off the 5 car lead pack - successfully... as we ease away. Bullet is again feeling GOOD - I'm FAST through T10 - just not fast enough to pass anyone before S/F. Set goals ... break off lead pack... be IN lead pack.... be able to pass other lead pack members... pass at RIGHT TIME... WIN race (HEY - this is a GOAL list !). I move up to 4th. The leaders come through and we see lead FF overtaking lead F5 for the overall lead... oops ... back to 5th again, but a good gap to 6th by now.
A little over 2/3 way through the race, the lead FF car laps us again ... and almost immediately BREAKS going down the front straight. We come out of T10 and see standing yellow at S/F as the FF coasts to a stop. Around another lap and as we approach S/F the yellow is still out due to the FF being towed off the side of the track. No one can pass until we are past the disabled car, so we 'pack up' a bit. The guy behind me doesn't see the flag and goes flashing down inside me at T1 - forcing me wide and into the gray .. and I end up dropping 2 tires into the dirt and lose THREE places - ARGGGHHH!! As I recover back onto the track, I can see the leaders already going into T3 - my day might be over, but I might as well do the best I can and go after it! I put in a great lap and take back one of those places .. then another and Weisheit goes off at T1 - now lapped traffic again and I've caught the lead pack and am last of 7 cars again - more lapped traffic and I use him as a 'pick' to claim back my original position (5th). I'm closing fast on the leaders on the front straight and get 3 of them as Oseth takes the lead and I fall in behind him. We're up against the back of one of the slow F5's and he will NOT let us by. Lap after lap, we try - he pulls away on the straights and we crap up behind him as he wallows through the turns. Another lap... it seems that Steve and I can leave the other vees, but the F5 holds us up... CRAP!! Roger gets back by me as it gets uglier and uglier. I get by both Steve and Roger at T1, but Steve gets back inside me at T2 - still behind that blasted F5 - HE'S SCREWING OUR RACE!! We almost run over him at T10 and T1 and T5 every lap - another lap - same thing. Oseth, then me, then Shields. Front straight .. I "feel" a car beside me - who is it? It's RED! Shields? NO .. it's a FF coming through - let him go... thankfully the FF forces the F5 off line and FINALLY Steve gets inside and forces him left as I fill the gap to prevent him from coming back between us. More lapped traffic and Steve pulls a gap. Around to T10 - I get a GREAT T10 and close on Steve - then pass .. as No mistakes... last lap - just lead and don't screw up! Around once more - good T3, good T5 and T6.. around to T10 - Steve's close .. but not close enough. I TAKE THE WIN!! ... *AND* fast lap of the race (0.4 off the lap record).
Quite a nice finish to the (racing part of) the weekend. And another gratifying thing is that I went faster EVERY on track session! With this win, I'm pretty sure I have LOCKED UP the Eastern Conference Championship for the MAJORS - nice to win the first one. That means I don't HAVE to attend the other 2 races.. but I hope to be able to make at least the NJMP race at the end of this month. A little work to do on the car (mostly the NOSE), so we'll see. I'm also leading the nation wide overall points, however quite a number of regions are JUST starting their season now - a lot could change in the next 3 months.
The tow home was somewhat eventful as we developed a problem with the air pump about 4 hours down the road. The main air line (air bags instead of leaf springs and air BRAKES instead of hydraulic) was resting against the frame and wore a hole in the line. We made it to a truck stop for the night and I got up early the next morning and found the problem in the daylight. Took me about an hour to patch it up and get us back on the road to home. No other issues.
At this point, I need to skip the Atlanta event. Just too much to do considering the lost time repairing Bullet after the last Atlanta race.
Road Atlanta (#2) - May - might have to skip this one ?SKIPPED!
New Jersey Motorsports Park - end of May - MAJORS event - Yep - we went
The trip up went quite well until we were about an hour from the track when the INSIDE right rear tire BLEW out on the motorhome. Hmmm.. think this might be where the air leaked out ?
You haven't lived until you've had to change one of those on the side of the road in 100 degree heat! Fortunately, I carry a spare and all the tools required. I won't go into the details, but changing that tire was ONE TOUGH JOB! I guess a new set of tires is on the near horizon (these are 4+ years old - they LOOK good, but ...)
The weather was absolutely beautiful while we were there ..except for the HEAT.
I was shocked to find the overnight lows in the HIGH 70's. The morning sun
had already warmed it up to near or above 90 for our GROUP ONE sessions!
My data system read 102 ambient for the afternoon session on Friday.
The front straight is between the 3 story tower inside the track with S/F directly in front and
the water tower on the outside of the track. This is one of the 2 sets of nice garages.
We have never been here before, but I had run the track on my computer simulator enough to have a decent feel for the track layout. Still, the first session was "orientation" - no need to get carried away and hurt something. The session went decently with me dropping a second or more every lap - at the beginning, several seconds. The fast guys blew by me right off - but that was just fine. I like to have a session by myself at a new track. I was INCENSED, though, when I came off the track and drove to my paddock spot. I didn't notice the DIP as I left the asphalt to my spot and I SMASHED the nose floor to pieces and punched a good size HOLE in the front of my BRAND NEW, FRESHLY PAINTED NOSE!! (no pix - sorry --- I was too mad to think about it!). I brought a spare floor just in case, but had to drag out my fiberglass kit to fix the nose itself. A few hours that I could have used for sunbathing instead. Amazingly, I found myself 5th on the grid - although I was several seconds off the pole time. (we had 11 vees).
The second session was qualifying for the Sunday race. My goal was to lean on the car a bit more, but still be careful. I was pretty successful, but did manage to get carried away a couple of times near the end. My second spin took me slightly off track and into some of the strongest DIRT/DUST I've ever seen. I could not see A THING! inside the cloud - I didn't know if I was on the track or off of it. I'm sure that no one could see me either inside the cloud. Thankfully, I was OFF the track and no one hit me - but Bullet was quite upset and U G L Y!
It took us the rest of the afternoon to CLEAN him up again. My driving suit STILL has dirt and dust in it! And... CRAP if I didn't bust my spare nose floor in the process. Happily, Linda noticed a piece of plastic in the trailer that was big enough for me to build TWO more. I had picked up some 2 more seconds of time on the track and I had the 2nd fastest lap, although I'm still learning.
On Saturday, my cousin Jeff came to spend some time with us (in case I needed help building more nose floors) - he lives about 2 hours from the track. It was nice to visit - we don't get to see each other very often. The morning session was the 2nd qualifier for the afternoon race, so it's about time we settle down and turn some decent laps! The session went well and I managed to NOT spin or go off track and not hit anything either. We improved our time significantly and figured I might even have a shot at the pole. What a shock to find out that I was FOURTH on the grid. I was only 0.3 secs off the pole time, but the top of the field was TIGHT. We had 6 cars in the first 0.5 seconds. This was going to be a heckuva race.
The sun and heat climb as we go over Bullet again - checking everything I can think of .. Then, it's RACE TIME. (last session before lunch). We roll off the grid (split start - FF/F5 in first group - vees are 2nd group) and take the green. No sense in getting too rambunctious right off, so I fall in line and see how the car feels. This is the first session I've had decent tires on the car and I'm not sure how that's going to affect the handling - hopefully it'll be better. I ride in 4th for a couple of laps, then see an opportunity for 3rd, so I go for it. Now - another lap or 2 in 3rd. Bullet seems to be HAPPY. Everything feels GOOD. I take 2nd .. then lose back to 4th again. Then, next lap I get 2 so I'm back in 2nd. Finally, I get in good position on Roger and take the lead. We still have 5 cars in the lead pack, but the pack is beginning to spread a bit.
After another couple of laps (of 20), we are down to 4 cars in the lead pack. 2 laps later, we're down to 3 .. then finally with about 5 laps to go, it's down to Rick Shields and me. That's REALLY nice - now I only have to deal with one car and, if I don't screw up royally, we've got at least a 2nd place finish in hand. Rick and I trade the lead. I practice (as does he) to see if we can get a pass completed after the last turn and before the finish line. I can do it, but it's R E A L L Y close! I don't think he can beat me to the line .. but it would have to do with how well I do the Devil's turn (180 near the end of the lap). My radio isn't working very well. Linda is talking to me, but I can't understand what she's saying. Something in my ear going to T1 .. was that "last lap" ?? can't tell. Anyway, I'm leading so it's OK. We finish the lap and Rick pulls out to pass - no flag - wasn't last lap. Rick goes by and takes the lead. Still can't understand the radio. Is THIS the last lap? Dunno. Around the track - back to the front straight - I set up a good Devil's turn and stay close to Rick. Onto the front straight as I close, then pop out to make the pass .. no flag .. HOWEVER, the starter is holding the ONE TO GO sign .. and I just took the lead . Ok, this is it - DON'T SCREW UP. Rick stays tucked pretty close through 1, 2, 3 as we head down the inside straight. He pulls out and makes an early move at the right hander, then pulls back in line. Hard left coming up. I can HEAR Rick on my left - but can't see him. He's not alongside, but he's close. I hope he's ready because I'm going to TAKE this turn! I turn in - leaving a little extra room on the inside and "whew", Rick backs out. He's got one more shot - at the Devil's turn. I take the inside line and he sets up wide .. I turn right, then back left as the 2 turns meld together. Rick's going for it. I hold my line and keep the position. Come out of the turn and check my mirror .. Rick's well back - he slipped in the turn and lost ground .. I've GOT IT! Onto the front straight and to the CHECKER!! YAAAYY! My first race at NJMP = my first WIN at NJMP! Can't ask for much better than that! (Bullet is PLEASED!!)
NJMP Race1 - Bullet WINS!
The grid for Sunday is best time between Friday afternoon and best race lap on Saturday .. I had fast lap in the race and it was faster than any time turned on Friday ... so BULLET has the pole! No qualifying today - just warmups. The Saturday tires are getting close to DONE, so I put on a new set and scrub them in in the warmup. Cooler today .. only about 80 for that first session, but still climbing rapidly. Jeff came back again today and brought wife Nancy with him. A mini family reunion!
It's getting close to race time. I go over the car one more time and get into my suit. We're looking at the clock wondering how close to scheduled time (9:45a) the race will actually start. No one has heard any calls to the grid. Suddenly, we catch some wisps of the Star Spangled Banner over the PA (almost inaudible where we are parked). GAD ! Linda hears a 'whistle' somewhere off in the distance - is that the 5 minute warning ? LET'S GO!. I'm getting in the car - the CAMERA.. where's the camera? RATS - it's in the RV.. Linda runs to get it - comes back and puts it in its mount. I'm almost belted in as a vee drives by. Start the camera... get gloves on .. cinch up belts. CRANK car .. GO... I get to the grid and some worker steps in front of me and says NO - grid is closed - you are LATE ... and LAST (the guy that drove by me JUST made it). WOW. How cool is that? Sit on pole and now I have to start last because there is no PA where we're parked . Oh well.. it's done now and it's OUR fault, not their's. Just enjoy the race and see how far you can go.
Pace lap .. Warm up tires GOOD. We're going to need to WORK at this one. All set. GREEN/GREEN. Again .. can't get too carried away. There are plenty of laps (22 for today's race). Need to be CAREFUL around the back of the grid. Bad things can happen quickly. I get on the gas and watch the last couple of cars ahead of me. I'm closing .. plenty of room. I can get the last 2 .. no, one more easily. I tuck into 8th for T1 and follow through T3. I get another one into T4. That's most of the slower guys... now it starts to get a lot tougher.
Now and again, I catch glimpses of the lead pack. Looks like it's down to 3 cars already. Where am I? 7th. OK... I see 6th up ahead. Settle down and turn some LAPS! Over the course of 3 laps, I reel 6th in and dispose of him on the front straight. 5th ahead - I catch and pass him into T4 and close right up behind 4th. Back to front straight and I grab 4th. NOW, I see the lead pack .. but they are WAY up there .. what? 4 turns ahead? Still plenty of laps left, but am I closing? 2 more laps .. YEP - I'M CLOSING. I can almost tell ... I'm PRETTY sure I'm closing ... Yep .. nope.. yep. Another lap. I'm REALLY sure I'm closing now .. I think. Another lap .. OK.. NOW, I'm POSITIVE that I'm closing. Now they're only 3 turns ahead. Another lap - something must have happened up front because now I'm just out of the draft. One more lap.. OK.. Jonathan is last car and I'm IN HIS DRAFT this time - he's slightly separated from Roger and Rick. I pull out to pass on the front straight and I'm 3rd. Roger and Rick now up ahead about 30 car lengths - I'm NOT in the draft. Another lap and I'm closing. Around to Devil's turn .. I'm ALMOST in the draft... come one.. GO! Jonathan is hanging close, but stays behind me. Front straight - I ALMOST catch them.. NOW I'm in the draft again. Jonathan's not quite keeping up. Devil's turn again. I'm right on Rick's gearbox - back off a bit ... get a run. Front straight.. I get Rick, but not quite close enough for Roger .. but I'M THERE. Devil's turn again .. set up for a pass on the straight. BAM!! I'm now LEADING the race as the lead FF comes through and almost loses it in front of me. Rick got Roger as well, so it's me, Rick, Roger, Jonathan. Jonathan is still hanging on .. but just by a thread, I think.
Another lap - I lead it all. I can be passed, but it's definitely not "easy" for them. Shield is dirty .. wipe it. Get the camera too (thank goodness!). Lapped car coming up ahead - use him for a draft. Can I get him before T1 and put him between me and the others? I'm closing fast - yes! easily into T1... however, he gets out of the way and lets the others through too. I've got a little gap .. but probably not enough to hold 'em off .. nope. Rick closes up - I can see Roger a couple lengths back and then Jonathan back a few more behind Roger. Front straight. Rick pulls out to pass and goes by. Roger decides he can make it too and pulls out. Jonathan is too far back. Rick goes by... Roger is beside me... I back out a tiny tick to let Roger go by cleanly without slowing me down. Jonathan is still behind me. I turn in to follow Roger ... BANG!! Jonathan PILES into me and flies over the top - taking us both off the track. Instinctively, I jamb it down a gear - glance in the mirror to see if I still have rear tires and wheels and slowly pull away toward the track. Onto the track.. SHAKE the car - recheck the mirrors .. tires LOOK ok, but ARE they? Shield is dusty again - 2 more FF's go by. Wobble the car.. is it OK? Seems OK.. T5 coming up ... WAAAA!!.. doesn't want to turn left. Why? Still don't see anything - don't feel anything. Devil's turn (it's a left).. uuggg.. but I get around it. Front straight. Car SEEMS OK, but still checking. Got brakes .. got throttle. right hand turns feel normal. Left's not so much. OK.. figure out a way. Adjust your line. Make the turn more "right" and less "left" .. (how? - I dunno.. just DO IT!). Ok. Car getting a bit better now. Pack of F5's go by. I can see the leaders up ahead. Am I closing ? Nope.. TRY HARDER ..(but don't crash). Relax a little. We're still in THIRD!! Wow. I'm about 40 car lengths back - I close a bit.. then lose a bit. I have times on my dash, but they're screwed up - can't tell what laptimes we're turning, but Bullet doesn't feel as good as before. And ... basically, that's the way it ended. I couldn't close - I don't yet know what's wrong with Bullet, but something is. I finish a solid 3rd, but well back from winner Roger and 2nd place Rick. Laps after the crash were almost a full second slower.
We get directed to the scales and then impound. I get some water and a cool, damp towel and we "bench race". After a few minutes, Jonathan walks by and looks at me and says "didn't you see me" ?? I said "no - last time I looked you were back too far to consider." and he walks away. We do the victory stand thing ...
Davis hogs the mic
As we stand around after the celebration - waiting to be dismissed from impound, the series Chief Steward calls me aside and tells me that Jonathan has asked for a protest form and may be filing against me. I must say, I am AGHAST! I call it a racing incident .. but then, I drove away .. as did he, but he pitted for a broken suspension. I felt the accident was completely 100% HIS fault - but nothing official yet.
We are dismissed and start loading up to go home. Finally all is done and we are ready to go. I decide I'll pick up the results and double check on the possible protest. No results .. yep.. a protest has been filed. I could go ahead and leave, but I have been (UNofficially) advised, so I hang around a bit and try to find someone to take my side of the story. To shorten this up. I finally was able to present (write) my version of the story but it would be "some time" before the court would be assembled to hear the case. We left for home. I was confident that it would be declared a "racing incident" and was not concerned. I tried to look at my incar video, but the file was somehow corrupted - probably due to the accident - RATS!
One of the awning arms came loose on way home and we had to stop a while to get that secured, but otherwise no issues (I'll actually FIX it later). We stopped for the night and came the rest of the way on Monday (nice to be RETIRED!!). That evening, I decided to check the SCCA website to see if results were posted. Quite a SHOCK to read a brief press release on the race where it said "Davis was penalized for the incident". I checked the results and, sure enough, I was demoted to LAST PLACE! THAT'S ABSURD!!
Well... I'll just shorten this some more too.. Suffice it to say, that I got
really serious about retrieving the broken file from my camera and I was finally
(after 3 days of work) able to recover it. Fortunately, it shows EXACTLY
what happened and it is clear as bell to anyone with at least one eye and half
sense that I am COMPLETELY NOT AT FAULT. Jonathan was still behind me when
I turned in to the corner -- we were well past braking and turn in points and he
simply DOVE down inside me for reasons that are totally unclear to me. We
still had EIGHT laps of racing left at that point. It was a CRAZY STUPID
move! Armed with the video information, I finally convinced myself to
spent the $$$ and file an appeal of my conviction in the SCCA court. They
convicted me with ZERO evidence, but I hope to exonerate myself with clear,
detailed video evidence. It will probably be at least a couple of weeks
before I hear the results of the appeal. If any of you have gotten this
far, you may be curious to actually SEE the video ... and I can do that for you
. Drop over to
to access it - the password is NJMP .
In the DESCRIPTION is a 'blow by blow' timeline of the incident. The complete race is also available now at http://vimeo.com/sd80/njmp-race2-6-2-13 with the same password.
to access it - the password is NJMP .
UPDATE 7/2/13: The court of appeals has FINALLY rendered a decision
on my appeal. You can see it here.
(I won! (the appeal.. not the race))
UPDATE 7/2/13: The court of appeals has FINALLY rendered a decision on my appeal. You can see it here. (I won! (the appeal.. not the race))
I haven't made up my mind about Watkin's Glen yet, but would like to go if we can manage it. A fun track and the conclusion of the Eastern Conference Majors Series (which I have now CLINCHED with my Saturday win!). I have to thank Rollin again at ButlerEngines - the motor was fantastic - as well as the other items that "make it go" - the guys at Hoosier, and JR at RoxannesHeaders.*******************************************************
Barber Double Rational?? Might need to go to this one now...
2013 50th Runoffs Anniversary - Road America, WI
Friday Test Day - went reasonably well. We scrubbed in 2 new sets of tires during the first session and confirmed that the brake shoes I had installed were NOT going to get the job done. On my 3rd lap, the shoe material disintegrated and blew out one of the front wheel cylinders. Since I was just scrubbing tires, I stayed out for another lap since I still had brakes on the rear - I just had to be careful to NOT lock them up and put flat spots on my new tires. After the session, I pulled the wheels off and replaced the "new" shoes with some old ones that I had saved just for this occasion. After that we put on old tires for the remaining sessions and our times seemed ALMOST as good as I expected. All was going well, until the last session when my freshly rebuilt engine let go at the highest speed point on the track. It made expensive sounding noises to end our day. That is my first engine failure for quite a few years, but it came at a bad time.
On Saturday, I swapped engines and put my spare in - should be just as good. We'll find out on Monday.
Monday practice. I had braking issues - the car would STOP ok, but wanted to veer back and forth as it did so. I kept adjusting the brake bias and it seemed to get a little better, but still quite a handfull under heavy braking. The replacement engine did NOT seem to have "the stuff" compared to the guys I ran with. It wasn't terrible, but I was only able to pass a couple of cars and was UNABLE to pass a lot more. This motor just isn't sucking up in the draft like I need it to. The handling seemed decent considering that I was still on old tires. Fresh rubber for tomorrow and we'll know for sure. I made a small change in the suspension setup and we checked alignment, but found nothing to speak of.
Tuesday Q1 - the weather was near perfect and I started FIRST due to leading the national points. I had some cars to work with .. or so I thought. On lap ONE, there was a schmozzle behind me at T7 and several cars spun, hit each other and did other bad things. They brought us all into the pits while they cleaned up the mess and that put me pretty much smack in the middle. The only good news was that the F5's were not on track with us - SCCA split the 2 classes into a 20 minute session for each for Q1 and Q2 and they were first today; but we were spending a good portion of ours in the pits. They gave us 10 minutes at the restart... 3 timed laps. With so little time, there was not much to do but go for it and hope. At least the engine didn't blow up, and at the end, we gridded 5th. Not bad considering all the issues. The car handled well, but I still didn't have top end speed.
Wednesday Q2 - today the vees go first (before the F5's) and I'm thinking I'll have someone to run with again... at the end of lap 1, 2 of the 3 cars in front of me pulled back into the pits and the 3rd car was already 1/2 mile ahead. Oh well.. let someone catch me from behind and see how that works. Nope .. that didn't work either. FOUR caught me at the same time and we ended up in a pack again - too many cars too close to each other. None of us could get a decent time. Fortunately, only 2 cars elsewhere on the track came up with faster times than my Q1 so I only lost 2 spots - now 7th on the grid.
Thursday Q3 - RAIN! It was dry up until 30 minutes before our session and then lightning, thunder and pouring rain entered with a vengence. It stopped about 10 minutes before our session, but the track was thoroughly soaked and I elected NOT to go out. The forecast is for a DRY and sunny race day, so no need to take the risk of getting caught up on someone else's (or my own) accident. The track continued to dry as we watched, but no one was able to break the 3 minute mark.. I'm safe in P7. Friday will be the 1st race day, but nothing for us to do except watch the rest of today and all day tomorrow. OH ... there is that "all cars on front straight" thingie that starts about 3:30...
It was 'a bit disjointed' for a while... but finally the helicopter showed up and it all came together.
We got MOST of the cars out on the front straight for a big picture party. This is the result from the chopper.
That's a LOT of race cars (I'm just in front of the start stand - middle row.. teal car .. can you see me?? )
Apparently, Donnie forgot to tighten some lugnuts and had a little trouble getting back to his paddock spot. After he found a couple lug bolts, some guys came over and picked the car up and held it while Donnie put the wheel back on.
And.. there was ALSO that big 50th Anniversary Celebration Party on Thursday night. Among many awards handed out, they also picked out the highest points scorers across the nation for 6 groups of classes and I was tops in the Small Open Wheel category. They put one name from each category in a hat and drew to win a new Bell helmet with a custom paint job and ... *I WON* .
Peter Calhoun of BG Goodrich congratulates the helmet winner.
It'll be painted by Ryan Young of IndocilArt.com. I have NO artistic talent, so I plan to just let him 'do his thing' - we'll see how it turns out.
On Friday, we watched some other races and I decided I needed to check the brake linings and valve adjustment. I hate to mess with stuff like that with no intervening sessions before the race, but there really was no choice. I had to back the brake adjustment off to remove the drums - checked everything over - seemed adequate for the race - and put it all back together and reset the adjustment. Also checked all the valves and engine timing. I drove it around the paddock afterwards and all seemed fine. Topped off the fuel and we were good to go.
Finally, it's RACE DAY!! We were 2nd group after lunch - following SRF. Linda and I watched the SRF start and the first 3 laps or so, then I suited up and waited till grid time. With 3 laps to go in SRF, it was finally grid time. I drove the car to the grid and noticed that the brake pedal felt 'odd', but there wasn't much to be done about it at that point.
We got the 'one minute sign' and started the pace lap. During the pace lap, I could tell something was "not right" with the brakes. They were working, but the pedal just didn't feel right. Certainly nothing could be done at this point... so I waited for the green and HOPED for the best. Coming up the hill out of T14, I was trying to set my spot and get a good start (we ALWAYS do that, right?) - but, as usual, the guy on my left suddenly zoomed ahead and I floored it even though the green was not yet ... GREEN GREEN... too late . I lost 2 spots (not bad) going into T1 and got one of them back when we bunched up and I muscled my way back up a spot. Good run into T3 and held my own till we got past the Sargento Bridge. I'm a little concerned about my brakes as we fly (110+ MPH) down toward T5, so I back off a little early and lose another spot (I'll get that back later .. yeah, right!). Bullet slows adequately as Gary Kittel goes long (I got the spot back!!) and we stream up the hill to T6 we go. Down towards T8 and I can see Mike Varacins already has a pretty good gap - maybe 10 car lengths as he exits 8. Looks like this is going to be another one of those races for 2nd. It tightens up and WHAM.. the guy in front slows suddenly and .. yep,,, sure enough, my brakes are NOT right - Oooff as I punch him in the rear - CRAP - dinged my nose at least .. I wonder if it's still attached? (I can't see it from the seat). Forge ahead - we're both OK ... around the carousel, through the kink towards Canada. CRAP! Jonathan ... and then Gary get by me. Front straight .. now in 10th I think, but car is feeling pretty good (except for brakes). Standing yellow and SAFETY CAR sign at S/F. Put my hand up waving .. safety car out there somewhere.. At T1 I see a car off and a wrecker - nothing else but no one's slowing down.. BACK in it .. carefully. ... BACK IN IT HARD. Through T3 ... and ..Chuck gets by on the way to T5 - easy on the brakes.. still stopping (that's good), but feeling worse. Chuck and I have lost a LOT of ground since I expected the safety car .. and it didn't show up. We're GREEN now. Thru the kink and I get back by Chuck into Canada. That pack is WAY up there, but Ron Whitson is next - a bridge back to the pack maybe? Back around to SF - now in 10th? - and still showing SAFETY CAR sign.. where the heck is the safety car? I close up to Ron, but can't pass due to the yellow. Into T1 and the wrecker now has the disabled car on the hook and is taking it toward T3. Back down towards T5 and we're green and I can pass Ron - now in 9th?.. we're closing on the pack. Chuck opts to stay with me
and we PUSH to catch the back of the pack. Close now.. only about 10 car lengths coming out of T5... 8 car lengths going into T8. Varacins how has about 20 car lengths lead. Carousel... kink.. Chuck still staying with me ... Canada - we close up about 3 lengths under braking (somehow). 2 more lengths at T14 and I'm starting to smell the draft. S/F is finally GREEN again and Chuck goes by. Suddenly, at T3, we're ON them.. BACK in the pack again . It's pretty ugly ahead of me into T5 as the pack jockeys for position. I tag Chuck coming out of T6 (nose is probably looking pretty bad by now). Into 7 and I can count cars ...hmm... 1, 2, 345, 6, 7, 8, ME! I'm in ninth - VERY close to 8th. I realize, there's NO ONE in my mirror. We have ESTABLISHED the "lead" (for 2nd) pack - it COULD become the true lead pack if Mike has trouble. Messy into Canada - Varacins is no longer in view, but I can see the pack leader (changing 3 or 4 times per lap as cars shuffle). Wow - if I can hang out here, maybe all these guys will take each other OUT?? <greedy smile> Johnson is into the back of Blanarik at T5 and spins off into the grass sans nose. Back to 8th .. I think... and still "in the pack" ... around again - someone dropping oil ahead (wipe shield & camera) .. brakes BAD now. Must make better plans. Back off earlier but protect position (isn't that what they tell the F1 guys on the radio?). Couple more laps go by.. I'm holding position (whatever position it is..) at the back of the pack. I have opportunities to pass, but opt to NOT do so.. getting into the middle of 7 cars at a critical braking point is just NOT a good idea right now. I watch various cars go from 'pack leader' back to "just in front of me" as we count down laps. This is almost fun - just watching the action ... sure wish I could get IN it. Be patient! Just bide your time and stay close. When there's ONE lap to go... if we're anywhere close, we can THINK ABOUT making a move then. More oil .. looks like Brad has a problem - he starting to smoke a LOT in the turns. 5 laps to go now. Towards T1.. YIKES! .. car is all over the place under braking and I lose some ground. I make it all back up ...with almost no brakes into T5. DON'T SCREW UP! GO GO.. Still no one in my mirrors and I'm close. NO BRAKES (almost) into Canada - I'm into the bumpers, but hang onto it. CAREFUL under braking now.. don't lose what you've got. I'm back up to the pack again. 2 more laps .. just hanging on... Gary goes wide out of Canada.. but keeps his foot in it.. CRAP AGAIN - I missed a shift coming out of T14 - ouch! Brad smoking more now, but still running...11 laps done.. now it's time to start thinking about how we want to do this. Brad gets inside Gary in T1, slows him down and I get by... BE CAREFUL - get a good T3.. Yes.. got it.. shift into 4th .. BANG!! Gary goes by as I pull to the left - shut it off and COAST down the hill. Where's the next car? No one in my mirrors, but I need to cross over to the right side to get off the track cleanly.. look.. look... (can't see crap in my mirrors).. hope and move gently to the right.. finally right side of the track.. coasting.. CLEAR.. and through the tire chicane and off the track.. DONE! (seems really QUIET in here)
Somewhere during the race, I managed to pull off the FAST LAP OF THE RACE @ 2:41.007! A small consolation. A real shame it could not have been 0.070 secs faster - THAT would have been a new track record. Mike V won and Roger drafted by Brad on the last lap to take 2nd.
I hate for it to end like this, but .. we had a really good season, won the national points battle, the Eastern Conference Championship, several wins over top competition, got to travel a lot, and did reasonably well at the Runoffs till the motor broke ... and we have a car that rolls into the trailer, although we did have to PUSH it in. An acceptable tow home with only the fuel problem and that's fixed now. Time to sit back a while, assess my financial situation after we get the motors taken care of and wait to try again NEXT YEAR!!
For an "outside" view of the race, check out http://speedcasttv.com/ [website now defunct]. It's not available as I write this, but they should have a video of the FV race up about the 3rd week in October. You can see all of the races available at http://speedcasttv.com/#/races. Actually, the Vee race IS available in the Saturday Replay, but that is the whole day. The vee race starts about 4 1/2 hours into that video - I think the whole thing is just over EIGHT hours. After the video starts, you can skip to anyplace along the time line so you don't have to watch all of it. The FF race is last, and was a pretty good race if you're interested - it starts at about the 7:45 mark.
Post mortem report (partial). I took the front hubs off today to find out
what happened to the brakes. Here's what I found on the right side lower
Seems that half of the shoe decided it didn't want to race. It must have started disintegrating as soon as I put the hub back on. Guess that means I did a really poor job of inspecting it.
Thanks as always to Rollin at ButlerEngines.com, JR at RoxannesHeaders.com and ... Rodney, Mike and Bruce at Hoosier tires (RaceTire.com) and Dietmar at QuixoteRacing.com . Not to forget my wife, Linda, who travels with me to almost every race, and suffers me the joy of racing for all these years!
Regular Season team stats
|Sebring MAJOR#1||1st||1st||22||mixed classes with FM|
|Roebling Road Nat'l||2nd||1st||12||doesn't count for majors|
|COTA MAJOR#2||5th||5th||15||Results revised to 5th|
|Atlanta MAJOR#1||5th||2nd||19||2nd due to FCY|
|Atlanta MAJOR#2||2nd||DNF||0||Broke rear hub|
|50th Anniversary Heat Race||5th||2nd||-||non-points|
|50th Anniversary Brundage||3rd||3rd||-||non-points|
|VIR MAJOR #1||3rd||2nd||19|
|VIR MAJOR #2||3rd||2nd||19|
|Summit Point MAJOR #1||5th||3rd||17|
|Summit Point MAJOR #2||5th||1st||22|
|NJMP MAJOR #1||4th||1st||22|
|NJMP MAJOR #2||1st||3rd||17||appeal won|
|WGI MAJOR #1||5th||4th||16|
|WGI MAJOR #2||7th||9th||11|
|Eastern Conference CHAMPION!|
|Season Total||162||count best 8 races|
Runoffs - Road America - September
Runoffs/Divisional Finishes for the Wedge Racing Team
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