Wedge Racing in 2017
Sebring - January (MAJORS Hoosier Super Tour)
A good trip down - looking forward to an escape from the COLD weather around Atlanta. We left home, running the heater and had to change to AIR CONDITIONING at about the half way point . We stopped in the vicinity of Tampa to meet up with Allan Adderley (FVSilverBullet.com) to pick up a couple new noses. (Somehow, I seem to have destroyed too many recently). We arrived at the track just about the time that registration was opening, signed in and then went to sit in the long line for paddock entry after test day was over. Finally, they opened up and we found a place in the grass just behind the 'tower' building (our usual area of choice) and set up and unloaded Bullet. This would be the first test after the Runoffs concrete contact. Needless to say, I was .. CONCERNED .. whether we had found all the important stuff and gotten it repaired adequately. As group 1, we would find out shortly after the sun came up on Friday morning.
P1 - The track looked good despite heavily overcast skies and threatening rain. We took the track gently for a couple of laps before gradually turning up the wick. By the end of the session, I was feeling pretty good and Bullet was performing quite admirably. It REALLY felt good. At then end of the session, we found ourselves some 5+ seconds faster than anyone else in class. Not bad for a 'first out' after a huge crash.
Q1 - The rain clouds hung heavily over the track all morning and even started to sprinkle rather heavily during lunch just prior to our first qualifying session. I rode on the scooter to a couple of turns to scope the track and, once the rain stopped, the track had dried quickly and was looking pretty good. As the session started, there were a few small puddles here and there around the turns, but nothing that I couldn't drive around. Being VERY careful, I again 'gradually' turned up the laps until we were going as fast as I could manage. Bullet felt great and the engine seemed to be pulling well. I pulled away from all the other Vees, so never had an opportunity to see how we stood against the others on the back straight. At the end of the session, I was pleased to find us well on the pole by some 4+ seconds. The turn out was a bit light and we were missing some top drivers, but .. we did have 2 or 3 that I expected to give me trouble. It all left me a bit confused. Happy.. but still wondering. Anyway, go back over Bullet again to search for anything we might have missed .. or that has worked itself loose on this HUGELY ABUSIVE track surface - large sections of the track are like running down railroad ties!!
Q2 - Saturday morn. Clouds still hanging around and dropping some moisture here and there - but so far no real rain. To conserve my tires, I decided to go out on the Spec Tires that I have been testing. This would be their 12th session on track. At the end of the session, I was about 1 second slower than on Friday afternoon, but still almost 4 seconds ahead of 2nd place. Michael Landon, from Indianapolis, and Russell Fredericks, from New York, both made the trip for the doubles at Homestead last weekend and here at Sebring. They were the class of the field at Homestead and were LURKING back behind me. I was expecting to see a lot more of them when the racing started. Sandy Thalheimer tagged the wall lightly at T1, but was able to back off it and continue. Back in the pits there was little or no damage, so he was still good to go.
Race 1 - Sat afternoon. The skies continued to threaten and we drug out the rain tires to make sure they were aired up and ready to go... but nothing more than a light sprinkle or 2 fell on us. When race time arrived, we had some sun peeking around and things were looking better. At the start, Russell and Michael were right on my tail going into T1, but Michael's motor was a bit off .. and then BLEW UP without completing the first lap. Russell hung around for about 4 laps, but I gradually pulled away until he was no longer in my mirrors. In this race, I was only lapped once, and then only by about the top 5 FF cars. Three caught me at once going into T9, but I was able to point them by with no issues and cruise to the win. Sadly, one of the FF cars tagged Sandy near the end of the race, putting him into the concrete wall and destroying the front of his car. He was forced to load up and head home before the Sunday race and Michael had already headed back to Indianapolis earlier. 2 cars gone .
Race 2 - Sun morning. The skies were still quite cloudy, but the rain held off again. My biggest concern for the race was the SUN. Low on the horizon, it would be shining directly in our eyes from T9 until we turned onto the back straight at T15 unless some clouds were there to block it. On the pace lap, I got the vees a little too far back this time to see when the green came out but Linda called the green on my radio and I held station as Russell did his best to beat me to T1. I guess his engine was off this day too, since he quickly faded and then dropped out on lap 2 - leaving me quite alone at the front. Without a serious threat, it made no sense to beat the car any more than necessary on this truly abusive track, so I focused on hitting proper apexes and leaving speed on the table in the roughest turns .. specifically T1 and T17. I got lapped twice by FF's in this race and it was quite a challenge. The first time they came through, Linda alerted me when they were a few turns behind me and I was able to adjust my pace so that they caught me on the front straight so I could get out of the way. I counted as the pack came by .. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 .. hm... 6, 7...8! cars - by that time, I was WAY outside of the line in T1 and had to knock off another 10 MPH in order to make the turn. Sure glad I had plenty of room to work with. Another pack coming up, so I poured it on so I could stay ahead through the tight stuff... pointed 3 more cars by between T8 and 9 .. and then another 2 in the big T13 sweeper (where I got CLOBBERED last year). Then it was mostly clear for a while as the remaining FF's came through 1 at a time. A few laps later, we did it all again, except the packs were smaller this time. The first pack was only 5 cars and it was easier to 'make room'. Finally the F5 cars started coming through, but Jack Walbran was leading that class handily and they all progressed through with adequate spacing between them. Interestingly, the lead FF and F5 groups both caught me on the LAST lap. The lead FF got the white (one to go) flag behind me, then passed me to take the checker. So I got the checker WITHOUT ever seeing the WHITE. I hadn't considered that possibility until it happened. Fortunately, it had no impact .... this time.
The Sunday podium. I am flanked by most likely the youngest (Megan Gilkes - 16)
and the oldest (Harry Schneider - 85) drivers at the event this weekend. You should
be able to guess which is which .
Pair of nice trophies.
We were able to load Bullet into the trailer, a winner and absolutely UNDAMAGED. Quite a relief! I still have a few things to attend to before heading to NOLA in early March (back to back weekends with Road Atlanta the 2nd weekend), but at least a little time to relax from WORKING ON THE CAR with the full month of February to work with. Linda and I are headed to Colorado for a week of skiing now (if my knee can take it) and I'm looking forward to it.
NOLA - March (MAJORS Hoosier Super Tour) - a month off from Sebring this year...
An additional circuit is planned to mirror below the existing track.
That's a Kart track at the top right. The paddock area is the large paved area just right of center. Track length is 2.75 miles.
Well... a little 'hickup' in the plans this time. I was beginning to feel 'not so good' - like a cold coming on, but figured I could stave it off for the weekend . and hope to recover fully before Road Atlanta the next weekend.. HOWEVER... We left Thursday morning about 8a to avoid the worst of the traffic through Atlanta, almost 2 hours away. All went well through Atlanta and into Alabama... through Montgomery and we stopped for fuel about 1/2 way between Montgomery and Mobile. Leaving the fueling station, we got back on I65 and up to speed for about 4 miles before the steering started to feel 'odd'. I wondered if the outside WIND was picking up, but as I negotiated a curve in the highway, I suddenly got a BAD FEELING. I weaved a bit on the road to confirm that MY POWER STEERING WAS DEAD! Once I realized that, I remembered that the PS was driven by the main hydraulic system PTO directly off the engine (which was obviously running just fine) .. which also drives the COOLING FAN for the C8.3 Cummins motor. My eyes jumped to the temp gauge .. which was normal .. or was it? It started, slowly at first, then rapidly to climb. UH OHH!! I immediately pulled over to see if I was blowing hydraulic fluid everywhere (blown hose?), but NO. No fluid coming out. THIS IS BAD!! We were on the side of the interstate, getting almost blown off into the ditch by every passing tractor/trailer rig. Consulted my laptop map to get the distance to the next exit. 5 MILES. (could be worse). Let the engine cool off for a while and then started it up and 'ran' for the exit. About the time we reached the off ramp my TEMP LIGHT came on and the gauge was climbing past 200 degrees. I decided to go for it - to the top of the ramp and YES ... there a convenience store where I could get off the road. I maneuvered into a 'safe spot' that was mostly out of the way and shut town.
Went inside the store and explained the situation to the attendant and then back out to see if I could find a 'fix'. To make a long story shorter.. I could find nothing. I called my towing service with Progressive insurance and they said they would send a tow truck suitable for my rig and would tow me to a service facility in a small town about 12 miles away. I called the 'service facility' number that they gave me and the phone was DISCONNECTED. Searched the internet on my phone - found the place and the same number .. Still disconnected. Called Progressive back and got to the same person .. explained that the place they were towing me to was non-existent and got nowhere - they INSISTED that it was really there. Not wanting to be towed to a place that was CLOSED, I gave up and cancelled the service call. Spent the next 2 hours (now getting DARK) trying to find a RV/truck service place that was OPEN and ABLE to tow me somewhere reasonable. Finally found ONE GUY that could/would tow me to HIS shop, but would take him 2 more hours to get to me (he was busy). Set that up but continued to search .. to no avail. Waited and WAITED... called him back and he confirmed that he was still coming but would be delayed another couple of hours. He finally arrived at around 11P - spent 30 minutes or so trying to find something fixable and then another 30 minutes dropping the driveshaft, so that he could hook up to tow me back to his shop. That's when I found out his shop was over an hour away .. instead of the 30 minutes or so that I thought. Brewton, AL. We arrived at about 2AM and he dropped us in the lot and headed for home.
(Again .. shortening this story).. The next morning we set about to find THE PROBLEM. Loosened some hoses and decided that the main hydraulic pump was "not pumping". It took his staff about 4 hours to get the old pump off (I was NOT impressed), to find that the input shaft to the pump was BROKEN. I figured all we needed was a new pump. The guy (Mike) ordered a new one .. to be delivered NEXT DAY (which was Saturday - additional cost). Then 'they' all left to go work on other stuff. The next morning (they don't usually work on Saturday) while waiting for the new pump to arrive, I decided to remove the port adapters from the old pump (to install on the new pump) .. and found FOD (Foreign Object Debris - an Air Force term) in both ports. That means that the pump was able to pump FOD into the rest of the system before it died .. meaning that we don't have JUST a pump problem. I took the old pump apart and the insides were LOCKED UP completely - the shaft had SNAPPED OFF when the pump locked up and the PTO drive didn't. Some hours later the new pump arrived .. and.. it was the WRONG ONE and was in no way useable. So.... now we're stuck in Brewton with a bad pump, a system full of FOD and can't possibly do anything else before Monday. I called friend Jim Belay that has a 'summer house' in Pensacola only about an hour away. He offered me his truck which was parked there. All I needed to do was figure a way to get to Pensacola. .. [I'm skipping several more hours of additional aggravation and sadness here, but] eventually, he and his wife decided to DRIVE down to pick up Linda and my trailer so that I could stay until the RV got fixed (Linda had to be back at work on Tuesday morning).
After they all left for home, it dawned on me that I had just sent off pretty
much ALL of my tools (in the trailer) leaving me with little I could do. I
slept fitfully overnight (getting more sick each day - lying on the ground under
the RV), but realized several things ...
1). I was definitely NOT IMPRESSED by the lack of knowledge from either Mike or his staff about RV rigs. Trucks, maybe, but NOT MOTORHOMES.
2). There was NO WAY to get anything even STARTED before Monday.
3). If I decided to leave the rig there and go home, I could easily end up with a $10,000 bill and STILL have a broken RV. (I had NO confidence that they would/could properly clean the system of the FOD).
4). Even if I stayed to oversee everything, I had very limited control over what happened and no access to 'take over' when I didn't like what I was seeing.
So... the only other option was to have the RV towed back home where I could work on it at my leisure .. as time was available. The tow cost would be .. very high...... but at least *I* would be in control. Mike stopped by the shop on Sunday and told him I had decided to tow it home. So, Monday morning we started the process. Right away, I found that his 'out of state' tow truck needed service of it's own, so that added 3 hours before we could start hooking up for the tow. Somewhere around noon the service was done and only then did Mike start getting the needed permits to cross the state line. Getting the permits turned out to add ANOTHER 2 hour wait, so it was 3 PM (4PM in Atlanta) before we got on the road. We finally rolled into my driveway about 9:30p. At least HOME .. still broken, but safe and sound.
Now .. can I make the Atlanta race? I think my truck will pull the trailer.. but I have to add a brake controller before I dare put it on the highway. No way my truck is going to STOP that trailer without it's own brakes. I'm still getting sicker, but not "feeling" that bad .. just coughing a lot mostly, with some burbling in my lungs.
Repair story continued after Road Atlanta report below....
Road Atlanta (#1) - March - MAJORS weekend
More HICKUPS for this weekend too... Not only was I sick with walking pneumonia (I went to the doc on Tuesday after the race and found that out), I found the left side main beam on the race trailer BROKEN! (see pix below) while finishing up the brake controller install on my truck. Almost nothing holding the front and back together. I agonized over it for a while, but ultimately decided that this had not happened suddenly, rather over an extended time. It SHOULD stay together for one more short trip to Road Atlanta and back. I can fix it later, after the race weekend.
I got to the track OK, but feeling pretty miserable and no energy to work on the car .. and the weather was cold and damp, things didn't go well. The weather treated us pretty decently as we had no real RAIN, but it was threatening most of the time. I manage to screw myself together for our only qualifying session on Saturday morning and took the pole. This being a 2 day Majors event, things moved pretty quickly and suddenly it was race time. I felt like crap and it was REALLY tempting to just load the car and go home. The skies were threatening seriously and rain was "in the air" .. but we stayed. I figured we were THERE, and had already turned a wheel, so the entry fee was spent - might as well run the races.
It started decently enough. Mitch took the lead at the green and Donnie passed me on the left even before we could see the start stand (the GREEN was already out for the first 2 classes and we were just too far back to see it). I held my own, dropping into 3rd, then passed for 2nd on the back straight. Mitch had a pretty good lead, but I was slowly reeling him in when DOUBLE YELLOWS came out for 2 cars in the gravel at T1. 2 laps under DY while it started to sprinkle. There were a couple of slow F5's in between Mitch and I as the sprinkles increased. At the restart and he took off before the green, leaving me stuck behind the 2 slow cars. I got by them, but couldn't close on Mitch .. then Donnie passed me again on the back straight ... and I SPUN in a small 'patch' (not quite a puddle) of dampness (aka WATER). I recovered fairly quickly, but lost positions back to 7th. Over the next few laps, I made my way back to 5th but had no 'fight' left in me by this time. On the last lap I lost 5th to Greg Bruns as he drafted by me going into T10A. Oh well...
On Sunday, the weather was looking slightly brighter, but still full overcast and cold (not good for sickies). We had only the one session - the race - and it finally came after a LONG wait. Saturday's times were slow due to the sprinkles, so I was still on the pole and I got a decent start, but we ended up with a 4 car pack for the lead on the back straight. I was feeling even worse by then and ended up 4th ... then 5th ... then 6th ... then 5th ... then 4th .. and then lost 4th to Sherman on the last lap. Bullet seemed to be feeling a bit sick too as I had to fight like the devil to pass.. but could be passed quite easily. At least I didn't spin this time. A pretty disappointing weekend, but what could I really expect feeling the way I did.
Made it back home without incident. Now I sit with pneumonia, a broken RV and a broken trailer. I think I'll just spend the next couple of weeks trying to get well and worry about everything else after that.
After the Atlanta weekend.. and 3 weeks of recovery from pneumonia I finally felt like starting on the motorhome.
The motorhome repair was an unbelievable effort. I first found and ordered the CORRECT hydraulic replacement pump. Then, it was time to start the REAL WORK.
This is some of the FOD from the pump ports
I could not install the new pump until I found the source of the FOD and flushed all the various other parts of the hydraulic system .. and, of course to CLEAN IT ALL OUT. Leaving out most of the details, I had to remove the fan motor ( I had a choice of removing the entire back end of the RV - hydraulic fluid cooler, radiator, charge air cooler (for the turbo), and all of the hoses and support structure for them. (I figured about 2 weeks just to get them out before I could access the fan motor) .. OR.. I could CUT OUT the fan motor support structure from the inside)...
The fan weighs close to 25 lbs alone. With the pump and structure .. more like 60 lbs.
.. and then figure out a way to put it back in with BOLTS .. which is what I decided to do. It was no small job and took several full days of work to 'cut the supports and get it out', develop/build the 'bolt in' structure that would be needed, check it for FOD, flush it out, and 'get it back in and bolted'. But it was still less work than removing/reinstalling all the other stuff.
and the manifold
This is WAY up inside
the main frame rail of the RV.
The gray 'box' with the relief valve sticking out the bottom. (which contains the fluid proportioning valve). Of course, the relief valve had to come out (to clear any FOD) and it took a 26mm deep well socket to get it out. One of the very feel tools that I did not have .. but do now . The proportioning valve is on TOP of the manifold .. requiring that the manifold be REMOVED (several hour job) to get it out and clean it.
Getting the hoses themselves off was also quite the pain - they hadn't been touched in 25 years and it was almost impossible to get a wrench of any sort on many of them (they were all originally installed with NO MOTOR installed). 2 of the hoses, I could never get loose - they were too close to each other to get a wrench of any kind on them - so I had to flush them from the other end of each hose back through the manifold. I just cannot begin to explain the frustration in getting this job done .. but I did. After 2 weeks of working on it every day, I was finally almost done. Then, I opened the hydraulic fluid reservoir and found .. RUST.
HOW it rusted in there is a mystery, but it's also the only source of the original FOD that I came up with. The rust was SO bad that particles of rust had fallen into the bottom of the reservoir... where they (bypassing the filter) apparently got directly sucked into the input port of the main pump.
The pump clearances became clogged with that debris and started to shave off new debris from the inside walls of the (aluminum) pump housing - leading to a rapidly worsening FOD condition that finally locked up the pump and snapped the shaft. So... more parts and delay.. I had to order a replacement reservoir (thank goodness it was still available).
During my repair, I also noted that there were 2 main return lines back to the
reservoir and only ONE of them had a filter on it... so I added a filter into
the other line as well. It was with much trepidation that I finally
reached the point where it was time to CRANK THE ENGINE with all the new/cleaned
parts. Quite scary since there was a reasonable possibility that my brand
new pump (almost $1000) might last only a few seconds if I missed even ONE significant FOD.
I held my breath and cranked and was quite relieved to find PS and cooling fan
both working properly. I drove the RV for about 10 miles (around the
block) and then went back and changed both hydraulic filters again just to be
safe. I HOPE it's all done now.
(I am also happy with my decision to TOW HOME. I have NO belief that this repair could have EVER been done right at the shop where it was.)
The RV is finally fixed (I hope) and I can address the trailer beam issue. Pix and text below...
Gap at top left to floor is about 3/8 inch.
Note significant HOLE at top to access brake wires.
A little larger than it needed to be, I think.
I spent several hours trying to come up with a way to realign the beam before welding it. Everything I tried failed. I really needed to winch the front part of the beam to the ground .. somehow. Couldn't come up with anything, so dropped by my local body shop and asked about using his frame jig again. He said yes, but needed another week to clear out some work. After TWO weeks, as we were getting close, he had a need for his jig and during that work, realized that we really could not get the trailer up onto the jig, since the platform sits about 3 feet off the floor. There is no way I could back the trailer up the relatively steep ramps. So.. back to the 'thinking board'... HOW could I get this done? After sleeping on it another couple of days, I went out to the trailer and just STARED at it (lying on the ground, looking up). After a while, it occurred to me that, if I jack the very back of the beam, with the front supported by the hitch structure, it would tend to make the beam sag in the middle - it MIGHT just realign itself! Well.. NO... it didn't, *BUT*, it did reduce the load and Lee and I were able to put some steel wedges all 'whichaways' to allow use of my digger bar to get some force between the front and rear halves of the beam. After several attempts, we got it to move a bit. Repositioned the wedges again and moved it some more. After about an hour and 5 'adjustment cycles' we had it as close as it was going to get - something less than 1/16 offset. I tack welded it in place so we could remove the wedging plates and digger bar to allow me to fully weld the cracks. I then positioned and welded overlaying plates on either side of the cracks .. then welded the plates to each other. The result is shown below. I'm confident it's stronger than before, but I'll be keeping a close eye on it in the future.
Outside plated over
You can see that the bottom of the rail no longer has the offset shown above.
Inside plated over
This side was VERY difficult to get to. Welding up over your head
underneath a trailer is NO FUN! I also covered most of the access hole.
After 2 bad weekends in a row, I seem to have lost a lot of my 'drive' to go racing .. at least for the moment. Between the RV and the trailer, my energy bucket is depleted. I need to do something else for a while. I'm going to basically write off the season. I didn't really want to go to the Indy Runoffs anyway as I think it's going to be a major fiasco. The older I get, the less it seems worth it to put up with all the CRAP that comes at the Runoffs and the MANY additional restrictions and additional COST of it all. Maybe I'll run the last SEDIV Majors at Roebling on July 4 weekend. I haven't been to that track since the Majors program started since they did not HAVE a Majors event. This will be their first .. and MAYBE I'll feel more like racing again by then. We'll see.
VIR (Virginia International Raceway)- April - MAJORS Hoosier Super Tour event
Skipped for 2017
Roebling Road Majors? - We went!...
Finally started to feel like working on Bullet and actually getting on track again. so we decided to go. The tow was fine (motorhome still working!!! ) and we arrived on Friday evening, signed the release and went hunting for some electricity. It was going to be a HOT weekend and we really needed to have air conditioning. We found a decent spot with a 30 amp outlet available, but it didn't take very long to find out that it was NOT going to work. The track has installed quite a number of new 30A outlets, but not the basic service to support it. They have 200 amp service boxes with 600 amps of service breakers - NOT a good combination and certainly NOT one that will provide proper power service. SO... we had to run the generator anytime we wanted a/c when it was hot. Fortunately, we were able to at least run the a/c at night off the external power after most of the racers were gone for the day. It was really nice that we also met up with Skip and Sandy Weld and so got together to grill some steaks on the barbie and get in some chat time since we had not seen them since 2015 at the Daytona Runoffs. Skip was campaigning his FC in the 'big bore' open wheel group. Their neighbors, Jeff and Roberta, showed up the next morning leading to another long chat session. Good chat sessions ease the tolerance of the extreme heat issues of the weekend.
The first Saturday session was pretty short. A scheduled 20 minute qualifying session that only lasted 3 laps for us. On my 3rd trip into T1, the brake pedal went to the floor ... NO BRAKES! I managed to get control without spinning, but certainly wasn't going to get any fast time. I slowly trundled to T4 where I could go in the 'back door' to the paddock, get back to my spot and find out what happened. It didn't take long. I had brake fluid all over the left front wheel so, an obvious fluid leak of some sort. Tiny bit of "good news" (relatively) was that the stupid crew chief (me) had left the bleeder screw loose and pumped ALL the brake fluid out of the reservoir. An easy fix .. TIGHTEN THE *!@& BLEED SCREW .. ,refill the reservoir, then bleed the brakes again. DONE.
Our next session was Race 1 and I felt a bit uncomfortable about starting the RACE without testing the brakes in some manner. I went to the Chief Steward and requested a hardship lap, which he granted. I got a single 'out/in' lap, but it was enough to shake the brakes out a bit. Things didn't feel exactly right, but they were working. I got a 'pitch' to the right whenever I applied the brakes, but it was controllable and I hoped it would get better.
Race time came and we were 4th on the grid ... some 2 seconds off the pace. At the start, I got snookered a bit, but fell in line in 4th and then started to close heading toward T1. I got by for 3rd but Bullet felt HORRIBLE going through T1 and T2. By the end of lap 1, I new it wasn't going to be a good one. Laura easily took back 3rd and set off to catch Donnie and Mitch as I had already lost several seconds on the twosome. She was able to catch them, leaving me behind in the dust trying to keep the backend of the car behind me and not spin. I found myself in a 3 car battle for 4th with Russ Stalvey and Greg Bruns. Each of us took the lead of our pack and it was going to be tough to "win" 4th. After about 4 laps of 'dicing', Greg went off at T1 and spun into the mud left over from last night's rain. That left Russ and I to battle. In the end, Bullet was stronger than Russ coming onto the front straight and I was able to take that position at the finish. The lead 3 had a great battle amongst themselves - sadly, I was not part of that pack.
I pored over the car after the race trying to find an explanation for the ill handling. I had NEW tires so surely that could not be it. However, I was unable to find anything else. I made a couple of small changes - not expecting any improvement from them. We had a 10 minute qualifier on Sunday morning and I ran it, but still had the same issues and bettered my previous times by only a couple of tenths.. retaining my 4th spot on the grid.
While waiting for race time, I again went over Bullet with a fine toothed comb.. finding NOTHING. My braking was better, but still was getting that 'pitch'. The oversteer seemed to be worse still. Looking over the tires, they LOOKED in great condition, so I saw nothing to gain by changing them. When race time came, I quickly found myself in that same position - getting quickly dropped by the lead 3, but Greg had gone home after yesterday's race and it was down to Russ and myself ... until Megan Gilkes started showing up in my mirror. Now I had another car to worry about, but Russ and Megan were racing each other with me able to hang on a few car lengths ahead of them. On the 2nd to last lap, an FF passed me coming onto the front straight. He progressed on around the track to the carousel where he apparently dropped a tire off the track at 'track out' and SPUN to a stop, CENTER TRACK! As I came through the carousel, I could see dust in the air in front of me, so was wary. I saw the car and the driver looking at me and I moved to the very inside edge of the track to get by. Apparently, he was focused on me and didn't realize that Russ and Megan were close behind as he started to MOVE. Megan got by on the inside - all 4 wheels in the dirt and Russ went to the outside. The FF STOPPED when Megan passed in front of him and caught Russ looking at the right rear wheel of the FF. On my next trip by, the track was 95% blocked with Russ plastered to the side of the FF and the FF wheel lying a bit further up the track near the inside edge. The stewards called for the checker since there was only one more lap to go, but the lead pack of 3 still had to RACE through the incident. Laura was leading and had to come nearly to a complete stop to get by. Donnie had just a bit more of time to get into the right gear and was able to get by her and take the win, with Laura and Mitch right on his tail. I was already safely in 4th.
All in all, the outing was better in some ways, but FAR from 'good'. I didn't spin and I didn't crash, but SOMETHING was still not right with Bullet. Time to get back to the garage and start taking some things apart and see what I can find. It SEEMED like my Butler engine was running just fine and all issues were with the handling ... there must be something I'm missing!.....
Road Atlanta - TEST DAY
Atlanta Region had a July Fry 'non majors' event coming up in 3 weeks, so that seemed like a good place to do some testing. I took all kinds of things apart on Bullet ... still finding nothing really. I decided to change the shock/spring combination though I didn't really think there was a problem there. I also changed the rebound adjustment a bit before the test.
The first test day session was again shortened ... by BRAKES ... AGAIN! On my 4th lap, the pedal went completely to the floor and I had to spin the car to keep from hitting the wall at T7. Trundled my way back to the paddock to find brake fluid all over the left REAR this time. More work! Bullet had NOT felt 'good' during the few laps. Felt like the car really wanted to 'roll over' in the turns, though not nearly as bad as Roebling. I took the LR brakes apart and found a BROKEN wheel cylinder puck.
Never seen that happen before, but am betting it actually broke at Roebling. The inner 'flat' of the puck slot for the shoe was wide enough for the shoe to sit on it .. for the most part and the clearance to the drum was small, so it would not fall off easily. I believe that was the cause of the 'pitch' to the right that I felt at Roebling and I finally hit the brakes hard enough at Atlanta (MUCH more brake intensive than Roebling) to force the shoe off that flat, into the drum where the rotation of the drum cleaned off the entire assembly. The force also BENT the brake shoe - never seen that before either. 1st session lap times were about 3 second off my desired pace.
Reassembled the brakes with some new parts and barely made the 2nd test session. At least the brakes worked, but Bullet still had that 'rolling over' feeling .. and oversteer. The session was good .. in that I made all the laps without incident and 'got comfortable' in the car again, but I was still fighting for my life in almost every corner. I went about 1.5 secs faster this time but still didn't feel 'good' in the car... and still woefully off the pace. I was still on the Roebling tires and took a CLOSE look at them. The fronts seemed fine, but the rears were showing some obvious wear. So, I made another small adjustment the rebound and put on a different set of tires on the rear. The skies were threatening and radar showed RAIN headed our way. I figured my test day was about done, but we waited through lunch to make sure. During lunch, the track also made the decision to KILL my PRIVATE test group (I was the ONLY car on track for the first 2 sessions) and combine my group (me) with the other BIG BORE WINGS open wheel group - making a total still of only 6 cars. I was HOPING I could stay away from them for the most part.
Session 3 stayed dry and I pulled up at the back of the grid for the all open wheel group. I figured I might get a few laps before they started lapping me. The session went WAY better than I had expected. I went another 1.5 secs faster and finally Bullet was feeling like RACE CAR again . The other cars were reasonably respectful and gave me plenty of room as I tuned my driving more and more.
We were fortunate again .. the rain held off as we would be the LAST group of the day. One last shot .. another very small tweak on the suspension and I arrived on the grid ... the ONLY car for the session. After a couple of laps, 2 more cars came out, but I thankfully had no issues with them. Bullet was feeling fantastic. In each session, I added at least 1 MPH more to my top speed going into T10A. I had also made minor carb jet changes the last 2 sessions. I managed to knock another half second off my times and finished the session with 4 consecutive laps within 0.2 seconds of each other - that's less than 1% variation across 4 laps. AND the times were TOP DOG times with no draft .. and on old tires. I'm really hoping that Bullet and I are finally back where we want to be. I'm planning to run the race coming up the 3rd weekend in August (right after the ECLIPSE!) at Barber Motorsports Park. I think I still hold the lap record there so I'll be shooting to meet or beat it and still be able to DRIVE Bullet back into the trailer at the end of the weekend. Linda is having shoulder surgery as I type this, so I'll have to change all my own tires .. hopefully, I can handle that part too!
Barber 'Regional' Races - August
Linda still has her arm in a sling from last month's surgery, so brother Phil volunteered to go with us and help out. The tow over was fine - we stopped by Austell on the way to pick up Phil before heading to the track. We left a little early so we would have time to visit the Barber Museum - quite the place. More motorcycles than anyone can possibly imagine ... along with some pretty fancy historic race cars.
..a small sampling - cars in the foreground and bikes standing and hanging from everywhere!
The only problem with the place is that there are SO MANY things to see, it would take many days to see them all. We had to limit ourselves radically to get back to register for the weekend.
After registration, the track finally opened up for us and we found a decent spot along the front straight. After setup, we grilled some steaks and got a few things ready for next day's racing.
As a 2 day event, race 1 was on Saturday, with race 2 on Sunday. This event includes 3 groups of Track Trials, each of which had 2 sessions on track before our first session. Plenty of time to get ready. After prepping the car, I took some junk tires down to the Hoosier trailers, where the scooter proceeded to DIE on me. Phil and I worked on it for quite some time before giving up. ( after returning home, I found trash in the carburetor and got it running again.)
Finally it's our time to go out for our first qualifying session. Bullet felt great - both handling and engine, but I was still suprised to find that I turned a couple of laps under the lap record time. The only issue we had was the front was a tad too low and we scraped completely through under braking. A ride height adjustment and a new nose floor later, we were ready to go again.
Since I wasn't competing in the SARRC championship this year, I went to the tower and waived my points and finishing position, so we were really just practicing ... except, of course, we were also eyeing the lap record. That record time had stood since Laura Hayes took the record from me back in 2014. Maybe, we had a shot at getting it back? A few hours later, we gridded for the race ... last group of the day. On the grid, I elected to start last, so as to have minimal interference in the actual SARRC race going on around me. Even from last place, at the green, I could tell that Bullet was GOOD. In 2 laps, I passed all but one of the vees, leaving Sherman out ahead of me. I worked on my lines and tried to get the best draft I could from Sherman .. and GOT IT. I broke the old record by just a shmidgen. With a few laps left, I decided to give it another shot and on the last lap, broke the record again setting a final new record of 1:44.616 .. about 0.2 seconds faster than the previous. I was shocked to see the official results and NO lap record for me, so I had to spend some time at T&S working out the details. Seems they changed my CLASS listing since I waived my points. After explaining the situation, they worked with me to get the computer system to properly award my lap record.
SO.. steps 1 (make sure the car is good) and 2 (get lap record back) accomplished!
On Sunday things still went quite well, but nothing as stellar as Satuday. We had no issues, but we just were not quite as fast. Not sure why, but we couldn't get any closer than 1/2 second away from my new lap record. Oh well... it leaves me more room to break it again, if the need arises .
Thanks to Phil for the help this weekend. Linda is getting close to the point where she can start PT and get back to new shape again, but it was nice to have Phil's assistance so she didn't try to do something and hurt herself. Now, it's time to focus on tennis a while before getting back to work on Bullet. I know I at least need to rebuild the right front king pin assembly ... probably find some more stuff too. Next planned race is the ARRC in November, but we MIGHT find someplace to go visit before then. Time will tell.
Runoffs - Indianapolis Road Course - September - I'm NOT planning to go
Will probably run
the Road Atlanta ARRC in November though.
Not sure if I'm going to this one. It's expected to be WAY oversubscribed and I'm not sure if I'll feel like fighting all the battles related to parking and whether or not I'll be allowed to race at all. SCCA has to figure out a WHOLE LOT of things yet, so I'll wait until some answers start coming .... and see how my season progresses before deciding.
Thanks as always to Rollin at ButlerEngines.com, JR at RoxannesHeaders.com and ... Mike, John, Tim 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(EC races in yellow)
|Atlanta MAJOR#1||2nd||6th||15||Sick driver(spin)|
|Atlanta MAJOR#2||2nd||5th||16||Sick driver|
|Roebling MAJOR #1||4th||4th||17||-|
|Roebling MAJOR #2||4th||4th||17||-|
|Season Total SouthEast/Nationwide
4th in Southeastern Conference after missing
|115||count best 8 races|
Runoffs/Divisional Finishes for the Wedge Racing Team
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