Wedge Racing in 2012
Sebring - January (DOUBLE) - Skipped.. as usual
Homestead - January (DOUBLE) - skipped (as usual).
Road - February
Nothing unusual for this event. A nice tow down with just a few sprinkles here and there. A small class of 4 Vees, but it was nice to have 4 competitive cars after last year. Donnie Isley and Mike Leonard are both BACK and racing again and we also have a new national driver from Florida, moving up from regional racing to the 'big show'.
The car was pretty much as it rolled into the trailer after the Runoffs, but I did take it out and clean a couple of things and 'doctored' a nut & bolt or 2. The first session went really well. Mike and I ran together and he is BACK! After numerous problems all last year, he spent a lot of time over the winter getting everything in shape.. including new SILVER BULLET bodywork. The car looks SLICK! He ran great all weekend. Donnie also had his engine troubles from last year behind him and is running good. Donnie got separated from us by a 'troubled' F5 and we didn't cross paths during that first session. The thermometer said it was about 60 degrees... but our bodies said it was in the 40's - the stiff wind put quite a chill on anyone outside. My car was great and I took the fast time .. but, since it was just a practice it meant nothing. Besides, it was only fastest by a few tenths - I always prefer to be fastest by several seconds when possible <big grin>.
The afternoon session was a tad warmer, but still overcast and cool. We continued to have a stiff headwind on the front straight but, otherwise the track was in superb shape. All 4 vees started right together, but newcomer, Duke Waldrop, dropped back on the second lap with issues. M, D and I stayed within about 10 car lengths of each other the entire session and had a great time. My fastest time from this morning not doing me any good, I managed to pull off the THIRD fastest time (of 3) in this session .. but the times were 1:21.5, 1:21.6 and 1:21.7. Not a LOT of difference and BOUND to be a neat race. My cousin, Diane, and her husband, Charlie, came over from Savannah to visit and take us out to dinner so it was nice to see them again, even if they were unable to make it back for race day due to previous plans.
RACE DAY - the weather was great. The wind died down to a light breeze and the temps were up into the mid 60's with broken clouds overhead. We were group 5 - the second group after lunch. Unfortunately, Duke's engine woes got worse as his engine locked up when he tried to start it Sunday morning. With no spare, he was done with the only good news being that it locked up as he tried to start it, rather than when he was doing 6000+ RPM on the track. That left the 3 of us to fight it out - and fight we did! The lone F5 in front of us failed to start on the grid so Mike moved up to the front row beside the lone FF in the group. On the start, I figured I'd be in the best spot just behind Mike, but Donnie didn't agree and he took 2nd spot at T1 behind Mike. I rode for a couple of laps waiting to see how the car felt on the new(er) set of tires. They seemed pretty 'bumpy' on the pace lap and it took them those 2 laps to smooth on out. I took the lead on lap 3, passing both M & D. I held the lead STRONGLY all the way around till we got to the front straight, where I was demoted to 3rd again going into T1. We basically swapped the lead EVERY lap from there on for the next 21 laps as each of us measured the others and plotted strategy... while attempting to NOT crash or drive off the track stupidly. I'm confident that each of us had determined that we did NOT want to be 3rd on that last lap coming to the line - no one was able to successfully pull off a pass for the lead from 3rd. So.. 1st or 2nd was the goal. NOW .. how do we arrange for all 3 cars to be in one of those TWO spots? <grin>. NOT gonna happen. Starting lap 21 (of 23), I took the lead into T1. D & M happily let me have it since that made ME the sitting duck for the last lap pass .. but everyone is still trying to decide which of the 2 top spots is best to START that *last* lap from. Somehow, I ended up with a pretty good gap behind me as we crossed the line at the end of lap 22, but Donnie had a good run and 'SEEMED' to be trying to pass into T1 .. but then he backed out at the last moment. I decided that he was really WANTING to be in second, but was making the attempt to keep Mike from getting in between us... I was OK with that. I figured I had just a tad better shot at holding Donnie off, than I did at trying to pass him coming to the line.
LAST LAP! We trundle around to T5 in single file - everyone thinking about exactly HOW he is going to get to the line first. I *PLANT* it coming out of 5 and run with all my might - Donnie is just a tick further back than he wants.. I get a great run through T6 and hold the inside line through 7, 8 and 9 onto the front straight. I look in my mirrors and can't see either of them (but my mirrors suck anyway), so I duck my head as low as I can (to reduce the wind resistance, of course) and keep it PLANTED. I move a little to try to shorten my line to the finish and KEEP PUSHING! The LINE IS COMING.. I catch site of Donnie in my right mirror .. where's MIKE? - no one on my left that I can see. The line is COMING and...I think I've got it...HOLD ON!.... YES!! I hold on for the win.
I think Donnie was about 1/2 car length back and not sure where Mike was .. but he was CLOSE. That was the final order - Me, Donnie, Mike. Mike ended up with fast lap of the race .. about 0.040 seconds faster than mine - I'm not sure how many inches that is at 100+ MPH, but it's NOT MUCH.
A great race - good car - good competition. 3 different car chassis - 3 Butler Engines, all shod with Goodyear tires - 2 of the 3 with Roxannes Exhaust systems. Nice finish to a great weekend. Hopefully, Duke can rent or borrow an engine since he and his wife are headed to Texas for another race in a week or so. I need to get my backup engine to Rollin for a rebuild before Atlanta, but otherwise things are just fine. I have new (lighter) bodywork to finish fitting to the car, but probably won't get that done in time for Atlanta.
Good tow home and we're safe and getting ready for Atlanta in 2 1/2 weeks.
March - double race
Pretty big crowd for this event = crowded paddock. Oh well, we finally found a place and got set up. We had a couple of 'vistors from the north' this weekend. Dale Rader came down from Pennsylvania and Guy Bellingham drove down all the way from CANADA! That made a decent group of vees - all pretty competitive cars. We were Group 1 and it rained overnight, leaving a pretty damp, but drying track. The first couple of laps were pretty nasty, but after that it got better every lap. I was amazed at how fast I was able to go without spinning off into the concrete (which was my NUMBER ONE GOAL for the session - bring the car back with no damage). I got separated from the rest of the vees, but that was just fine with me. The fewer cars to worry about crashing with, the better. This first qualifier set positions for the Saturday race and I put Bullet on the pole by a significant margin. I had gone out on new sticker (slick) tires, but was still amazed at how good those Goodyears stuck to the damp track considering that we never got any part of a dry line.
The afternoon qualifying session set positions for the Sunday race. The track was completely dry this time and quite HOT - up into the mid 80's under bright sun. The car seemed flawless and Bullet put us on the pole again by a comfortable margin. In this picture, you can see what a very small miscalculation of turn in can do to you. This is Bullet at Turn 3 doing his best motorcycle impression. If you click on it to get the blow up, you can clearly see that BOTH right side tires are OFF THE GROUND! Thanks to ClarkMcInnisPhotography.com for providing trophy pictures of the winning cars.
Saturday morning dawned to more light rain. It started and stopped several times, but the track was just wet - it was the final qualifying session for the afternoon's race, but we elected to sit it out. Nothing to be gained for us by going out in that mess. Donnie went out and turned the fastest Vee time - some 15 seconds slower than my 'damp' time from the day before. It stopped and started several more times though the next 90 minutes as the other groups qualified. Then it started again just a couple of minutes before we left for the grid for our race, so ... RAIN TIRES it was. As messy as rain is, it WAS nice that it was a pretty clear choice of tire for everyone. One FC driver opted for intermediate tires, but we had none, so all Vees were on rains.
It was raining 'decently' on the pace lap and the start was guaranteed to be scary. I opted to stay as far away from everyone as I could and Donnie blasted by me coming out of Turn 1. I just waived and watched him trying to put some of the slower FF's in between he and I. I figured they would all get back by on the back straight and we'd be back together and I was right. I followed him at a safe distance for the first and second lap - then saw my chance when he slipped a bit going into T10A at the end of the back straight. I closed right up behind him on the front straight and made the pass into T1. It was starting to slack up a bit and I had clear track ahead - FINALLY, I was able to see decently! From that point on, there wasn't much to see except for the faster class cars when they lapped me. It stopped raining on the 3rd lap and as the track dried I tried to pick up the pace. I was pulling away from the rest of the vees, but was a bit flustered as each time I tried to go faster, the car just wouldn't respond. I kept getting wider on turn exit - but I did keep trying... to my chagrin when I looped it at T5 with about 4 laps to go. I did get it straightened out and going again without losing the lead, but resigned myself to just finishing the race. The heck with going any faster - no need - just keep it in one piece. And we did, taking the checker several seconds ahead of Donnie, who was several seconds ahead of the others. I'm not sure at what point this picture was taken, but I'm guessing it's about 2/3 of the way ... around lap 12 or so. Thanks to whomever it was that posted the link to this picture on the ApexSpeed forum.
After lunch, as we prepared the car for Sunday's race, I noticed a small crack developing in the left rear brake drum - the last of 4 new drums I had bought a few years ago. Every one of those drums cracked within 4 weekends of being put on the car. I replaced it with a junk yard drum from a 1964 bug ... THAT one won't crack I bet ! <grin> We paddocked next to GT1 driver Richard Grant who offered us shelter under his canopy, so we took advantage in case of additional rain overnight.
Sunday proved to be one of those FANTASTIC racing days - clear, bright, warm - no threats of rain today! I went out on old tires for the morning session and managed to lower my pole time by about a second - remaining clear of the pack. Donnie had big plans to close the gap, but miscalculated T1 a tad on his second lap and wound up about 100 feet off track mired in the gravel - so he would start last. I had a moment of concern about my brakes on the first lap ..but then remembered that I had FORGOTTEN to readjust the brakes after putting on that replacement drum in the rear. The pedal had a LOT of travel... must remember to adjust those brake shoes before the race.
We were the first race after lunch - not quite as hot as Friday afternoon, but still pretty warm, especially for mid-March. At the green, I got a good start and jumped in front of a slow Sports 2000 at T1. I knew he would be slow on the first lap and managed to put about 3 seconds in between myself and the rest of the vees by the time we got to the back straight. The S2 blew by coming out of T7 and I was on my own, but with a good gap. I came under the start stand and looked at my lap time ... a '48! Geezzz. What's up with that? I got to do better. I put my head down and laid out a REALLY good lap for lap2. Got to the line again only to see that it was still just a '46. What's up, I wondered? Meantime, Donnie has worked his way through the other vees and is closing. I drove a well as I could - no mistakes - everything seemed great ... except that I wasn't going fast and Donnie was catching me! In 4 laps he's on me and blows by. I 'attach' myself to his back 'bumper' and stick with him. He seems to be pulling me out of the turns - is something up with my engine? Lapping cars catch us and go by. I stay right with Donnie, but can't pass. In the draft, I can CATCH him, but that's about it ... well... maybe I can pass - but it won't be easy. A lot of things would have to go my way. Still, all I can do is hang on and wait till the last lap. More cars come through as they lap us again. I'm right on Donnie's tail as we go into T1 with a lapping FC right behind me. As we exit the turn, Donnie pulls hard right to make room for the FC - I can't move because the FC is already almost beside me so I stay left up the hill. As the FC goes between us, Donnie hits the brakes and leaves me in 1st (in vee). A HA! Donnie wants to be SECOND on the last lap and he'll have the draft to pass me for the win. RATS! I had that all figured out - now he snookered me. I didn't have MUCH of a chance from 2nd, but certainly I had NO chance with Donnie behind me ready to pounce. However... the race is not over yet. I'm watching .. thinking of the faster cars coming by. Maybe I can catch a draft off of one of them and hold Donnie off. Probably not .. but who knows?? I see smoke in my mirror around Donnie's car. He was dropping some oil when in front of me... Maybe he's having engine trouble? He's further back .. but closes up again. Then Linda is giving me the lap count - 3 laps to go ... then one more lap till the LAST Lap. THEN, Linda comes back with ... "the leader is going to catch you THIS lap. THIS will be the checker lap, *NOT* the next one". Sure enough, Chuck Moran goes screaming by coming out of T7. Hmmmm... Does Donnie know that ?? I watch my mirrors as we crest the hill and start down for T10 - Donnie STAYS BEHIND ME! ... YES... he does *NOT* realize it! Cool!! When we come out from under the bridge and can see the finish line, Donnie can see the checker waving, but it's TOO LATE .. I am under it and WIN the race!! Yaayyyy!! The second win of the weekend.
In impound, I hear that Donnie was backing away from me because *I* was dropping oil - not him. I look at the car and see oil on the right side header (glad it didn't catch on fire!) and wonder... do I have a broken head stud? THAT would explain the lack of power and slow lap times. After getting the car home, I checked and confirmed - YES - broken head stud on number 4 cylinder. AMAZING - I WON a race with a broken head stud! (That's generally a 10-15% or more loss in horsepower.) I'll take LUCK ( and the skill of my ace lap counter, Linda) every time!
I fixed the head stud but will be swapping the motor anyway for VIR next month. I hope the other engine is as good as this one (that is overdue for a rebuild).
With these 2 wins, I have now moved into the lead of the SouthEast Division with 36 points. Hopefully, we can have a good showing at VIR and keep that lead.
(Virginia International Raceway)- April - A DOUBLE race
The tow up went without incident, but trouble started almost immediately after arrival. My leveling jacks on the motorhome failed. I had to fall back to using boards under the tires. Guess I have something to fix when we get back home.
We had a good showing in class for this event - 9 cars -
and we qualified for both races on Friday - the morning session for Saturday's
race and the afternoon session for Sunday. The morning session was
overcast and I figured the track would be pretty good. It was "OK" - not
great (or was it just ME?), and I managed to snag the best time ... till the
last lap when Donnie relegated me to 2nd. But the real shocker came near
the end of the session when I glanced at my CHT (cylinder head temperature) on
the dash - EEEK!! 150 degrees higher than it has been running lately.
WHAT THE HECK is going on?? After the session, I downloaded my data and
double checked the file to make sure I wasn't hallucinating or something .. nope
- it really WAS that hot! Hmmm... I changed the engine since the last
event, but don't recall THAT much difference in the past - guess I better go
LOOK at it, tho' I can't imagine what I'll see. Oops! All of a
sudden, it's pretty obvious. Stupid ME left the right side cooling scoop
at home on the shop floor! I've been thinking about trying a session
without the scoops to see how much they help... no longer need to do that now.
Guess I better get to work! THIS is what the scoop should look like
At this point, I had only about 10 minutes before grid time for the afternoon session, so I just threw a couple of pieces of aluminum at the back of the head to stop the air from just passing through unhindered. It helped quite a bit - knocking the temp down about 75 degrees, but after the session, more work was in order. Q2 went a bit better and I got a decent draft to pull the pole time and kept it this time.
Afterwards, I set about fabricating a better scoop. Just
before dark, I had created THIS menagerie of scrap pieces. The opening where you
see the blue wires on the spark plugs will be closed by the bodywork.
Yep - it's UGLY, but it actually worked pretty well. My temps were back within about 25 degrees of normal - I'm breathing a lot easier now :-).
Sat morning, my cousin Alan and his wife Johnna arrived for their first experience with road racing and FV. Being group 6, we had a bit of time to chat with them and show them around a bit. When it was time, the Q went reasonably well, but neither Donnie nor I could better our Friday time. Some positions changed behind us though. Several people were at VIR for the first time and each session brought significant improvement, but none were able to make it to the front row. Gary Blanarik got closest, with Bob O'Connor and Nuby Neumeister right behind. It looked to be an interesting race.
As usual, all the vees were qualified at the back of the group - but that was fine. It gave us a good shot at having a clean Vee race - at least until the faster classes started lapping us. Formula Mazda was the fastest class - it seemed we would have about 6 or maybe 7 laps to sort ourselves out before they came through the first time .. then we would probably get lapped again on the next to last or last lap (ugh!). We got a good start and Donnie was slightly ahead going into T1, but I outbraked him and took the lead going in. It didn't last long as the track was a bit greasier than I expected and I slid wide and Donnie tucked back inside .. carrying Gary with him. I got back inside Gary going through 2 and into T3. I THOUGHT I was cleanly past as I turned in to 3, but suddenly WHAM! Apparently, Gary was still outside me and we had contact - my RR to his LF. I went off track, but kept my foot in it and brought the car back cleanly onto the track - not sure what Gary did, but when I had a second to check my mirrors, he was still there - both of us running strong, thankfully.
I passed Donnie on the back straight and led all the way to T1, where Donnie again took the point. I stayed behind Donnie for a couple of laps, then tried again - taking the lead at T1 and trying to pull away through the twisty bits. I gained some ground... but Donnie was again able to easily pass on the back straight - this time Gary stayed with him and I dropped to a close 3rd. We stayed pretty much that way - Donnie and I swapping the lead several times. At one point it seemed that we might have broken away from Gary, but when the group leading Mazdas passed us, it slowed us up a tad and suddenly there was Gary again. On the last lap, I was leading with Donnie and Gary right on my tail. Linda warned me that the Mazdas were coming through us again and the leader passed me going into T4 - I could see 2nd place (Mazda) in my mirror and was making plans to let him by coming out of T5. I rounded the corner, glanced in my mirror to see him all over me, then ahead to see an F5 and a Vee right ahead (we are lapping them). Trying to figure where the FM is going, I start by the Vee JUST as the YELLOW FLAG comes into view for Nuby's car off the side - suddenly havoc is looking like DISASTER - I have to hit the brakes - expecting the FM and Donnie to both go right over my head, but fortunately both also saw the flag. Somehow, we all got through there without hitting anyone or any thing. The Mazda blew by after we passed Nuby's car and I was able to get by both the Vee and F5 as did Donnie and Gary. Up the climbing esses, I see the 3rd place Mazda - looks like we're going to get to T8 at the same time (high speed turn). I'm watching for him. Trying to not loose too much ground .. but no! he waits (thanks) and I take the turn unhindered... hmmm.. he waited behind Donnie and Gary too. Oh well... back to business. Down the back straight (where's the Mazda?) - Donnie elects to NOT pass - waiting for the front straight instead. I lead going into Hog Pen (end of back straight) - I figured I had a better chance of holding the lead than passing from T17 to the line any way. As I exit 17, I THINK I have enough of a gap - however, Gary elects to stay with Donnie rather than try to pass me on his own. That combo is coming up fast!.. The line... I lose them in my mirror .. the line is coming ...looks like I've got it... the line... NOW! Oops - Donnie got me by about 4 feet, but a great race none the less. Gary was a VERY close 3rd and ended up with fast lap (when he caught back up to us). (about 1.25 car lengths over 3 cars at the line). The car ran great, nothing is hurt and we get to do it all again tomorrow, though there is talk of rain. Looks like Nuby lost his motor, so will be starting his LONG trip home early instead of racing tomorrow. Linda said that 3rd place Mazda must have seen our 3 car race for the win and decided to just hang back and let us race - he had no shot at catching the 2nd place car anyway. I hunted him down after the race and thanked him for that.
Alan and Johnna got to see a great race and we got to visit more over dinner before they had to head back home.
The rain started about 7:30P Sat eve and it rained pretty steadily all night. I chose to sit out the morning Q and just watch. A couple of Vees went out, including newcomer Chris Elwell, down from Pennsylvania for his first national race. Unfortunately, his weekend ended when his engine suddenly seized at T5. Several of us looked it over back in the paddock, but it was locked up tight - something broken inside - it won't be racing today. Another car lost for the race.
I watched the weather on TV during the day and it looked like we had a CHANCE that the rain would ease up and we might have a dry race. The closer it got to race time, however, the less likely that outcome would be. The rain 'lessened' and 'strengthened', but never really stopped for more than a few minutes. On the grid, it seemed to ALMOST stop, but the mist continued to hang heavy in the air .. then just before we left the grid, the rain started coming down steadily again. Here is a picture of our pace lap just before the Green.
Thanks to David Thompson for posting this on FaceBook.
When the green flag flew, I went into my "survive turn one" mode and dropped from 1st to 3rd.. but I was OK with that this time. Donnie ran into one of the Formula Fords at T1 and it looked critical for a few seconds, but he came back down and both cars continued without further ado - but it did open the door for me to take back the lead, which I did. One of the F500's spun off at T5 and hit the tire wall - not badly, but enough to end his day. The next lap, we dealt with Emergency Vehicles as they extricated the F5 from the impact area and pulled him to relative saftey. By the end of the 2nd lap, it was clear that Donnie and I were alone at the front. We swapped the lead several times over the next few laps... neither of us really wanted to sit in the spray of the other, but if behind, you HAD to stay as close as feasible. In short order we started catching lapped traffic ourselves .. about the time the Mazda's showed up to lap the 2 of us. I finally decided to just stay behind Donnie and deal with the spray. Linda was reeling off the lap count for me as I matched pace with Donnie. The skies continued to darken and visibility got worse and worse. The rain got a little harder, but the humidity was the bad part - my shield and mirrors started to fog, further complicating the lack of visibility. With 2 laps to go, I finally had to open my visor a bit to let some air in... although it is a PITA to get it open, I managed to do so without crashing the car (need to work on that!) and it was the RIGHT thing to do. I couldn't do anything about the mirrors, but at least I could see ahead of me a little better.
LAST LAP. Donnie pours it on and opens a small gap, but I've been better at the top of the climbing esses all along and this time is no different. Coming out of Oak Tree (onto the back straight), I was right where I wanted to be. I passed and took the lead about 2/3 of the way down the straight. Donnie tried the 'pass back' but I closed the door as we came to Hog Pen and we headed down the roller coaster. It was going to be another run like yesterday except that this time it was one on one - mano a mano as they say :-). I came out of T17 as hard as I could and looked to the finish line so very far away. I checked my mirrors and could just barely make out Donnie's car - seemed like I had enough gap (like yesterday) and Donnie wasn't closing as fast... The line is coming.. I look at the now empty mirrors .. WHERE is Donnie? ... all I can do is PUSH HARD!! Hunker down (I'm ALREADY down!)... LEAN FORWARD... The line.. the line.. YES! This time Donnie did NOT get by and I crossed first. Another win for Bullet for 2012. Donnie is a close second with Gary somewhere behind us a bit further back. Not sure if he spun or not, but he did still finish 3rd.
A pretty messy race, but Bullet is unscathed (except for a bit of mud here and there) and rolls into the trailer nicely. A rainy trip for most of the way home, but nearly clear skies as we pull into the driveway at just after midnight. Road Atlanta is (again) next on the schedule. I think I'll put that right side cooling scoop back on the car and LEAVE it there this time :-).
Thanks to Goodyear Tires, Butler Engines and Roxannes Headers for providing great products and service for me to work with.
Summit Point - ?? - TBD - a possibility - if it conflicts with Road Atlanta, I won't go.
Road Atlanta (#2)
- May -
A pretty uneventful weekend - the weather was great, the car was great, the tow wasn't too bad. Cousin Alan and his wife Johnna, as well as SIL Alice were able to join us for the race - always nice to have family interested in what we do. This was a 'Rational' (concurrent National and Regional), but the season is just about over for most in SEDIV and attendance overall was light. Fortunately, Donnie and Mike joined me for our 'last showdown'. I got a good qualifying lap on Saturday morning and took the pole by a decent margin, then sat out Q2 to save my tires. Looks like Goodyear has abdicated the throne to Hoosier and does not plan to make Vee tires any more. Guess I'll HAVE to change over now. Mike and Donnie had a good session and stayed together the entire time. Donnie's best lap was still about 1/2 slower than my morning time - the track was much hotter.
Most of the race was uneventful as well ... except for the end. Mike had an engine problem and dropped out after only 4 laps. That left Donnie and I to deal with the lapping traffic and keep our eyes on each other till the last lap. Donnie and I had talked briefly of the Atlanta lap record. Mike had it and we felt that it rightfully SHOULD belong to one of us. When I ended up leading about about 4 laps, Donnie backed off and made a couple of 'lap record runs'. I saw what he was probably doing, but didn't change my driving. I figured I might get my chance to take a shot later. Donnie did go by on his fastest lap ... and DID snag the lap record by something around a hundredth of a second. Since I was now in second, I tried to set up a lap or 2 myself. The first attempt was blown when lapping traffic came through and I was forced to get out of the way. I had about 3 more shots at it, but Donnie did his best to (successfully) block my attempts at a good lap, so I never really got close. At the end, I made the last lap pass for the lead coming down the hill into T10A. If you lead into 10A, you pretty much HAVE the win .. that is, as long as you are in complete control of your car. Unfortunately, I had to take a defensive inside line into the gray and I slid long at turn in - opening the door for Donnie who was then able to get inside of me at 10B going up the hill to the bridge. It was CLOSE, but with the inside line to the flag, Donnie had me - I really had no chance. Another CLOSE finish between Donnie and I and I came out on top in 4 of 6, so I can't complain too much ... well... I CAN, but I won't . We do still maintain the division lead, with Donnie a mere 6 points behind. We have finished first and second in every race we've attended this year!
That pretty much wraps up the season until the Runoffs. With Mike no longer wanting to share a ride to the June Sprints, I can't afford to go alone on my own, so we'll sit that one out too I guess . There is still the Labor Day race at Barber, but it's pretty close to the Runoffs. I'll just have to wait and see how I feel about it when the time comes.
June Sprints - June (Out of division) - Not in the cards ... too far to go alone.
Barber Double Rational this year.. the points will COUNT this year - Labor Day Weekend - (warmup for Runoffs)
The season schedule is weird in SEDIV - I hadn't been in the race car since
early June, so was feeling a bit 'rusty'. I've been looking forward to
this event for quite a while now - seems like FOREVER since I've been in the
Barber is a 3 day event with Friday and optional qualifying day, but we opted to skip it so we could leave Friday morning and Linda could ride with me. I had done a good bit of service work on the Motorhome, so this would also be it's first outing and a shakedown for the Runoffs trip. All went well with the single failure being the dash A/C didn't blow through the vent properly. A little testing showed that the air was diverted to the windshield, so I knew I had either lost vacuum to the controller or the diverter was stuck. After we arrived, I did a once over and found that I had knocked a vacuum line loose during my work. Reconnecting it fixed the A/C.
Although the turnout was pretty decent, the paddock seemed open and we were able to get a front row spot right across from the false grid - handy for keeping track of when my sessions would be. This weekend was also going to be a test for running without AC power since I opted to save the $$$ and not buy power for the Runoffs this year. It was HOT all weekend, but we survived OK. It should be much cooler in Wisconsin. Otherwise, my little 1000W generator kept up with the things we needed during the day (and it runs almost all day on a single gallon of gas!). BTW - it was nice to see Charlie Rogers back in his car again after sitting out most of last and this year.
We had just a single qualifier and then the race each day and I needed to scrub in some new tires - my first event on Hoosier tires now that Goodyear is out of the picture. I ran sticker tires for the Saturday qualifier and took the pole easily. Under the (my) lap record by a couple of tenths. Hurricane Isaac had been messing with the weather all week and we had broken clouds most of the day. HOWEVER, the skies opened up as the Group 5 cars (we were G6) were about to get the 5 minute warning. There was a bit of lightning around and the officials elected to shut the track down temporarily and bring the corner workers in. The bad part blew over in about 10 minutes, but it was still raining lightly as they sent the workers back out and called G5 to the grid again. They started their race on a totally soaking track with rain still coming down, but not hard. As the race wore on the rain lessened and finally turned to just a sprinkle here and there. There was still quite a bit of water on the track and I struggled with the tire decision. The decision maker was that the only rain tires I had were Goodyear. I had Hoosier decals on the car ... so no contingency .. and GY had no tires to provide anyway. I still needed to scrub in another set of tires ... SO.. at the last second, I made the call for Hoosier slicks. By this time, we were under 5 minutes and I jumped into the car and headed for the grid. I was late and had to start at the back, but that was fine - I would have started back there anyway since I would have to really TIP TOE for the first several laps - I did NOT need to be up at the front in the middle of a bunch of people wearing rain tires on the start. There were 3 of us on slicks (2 vees and a FF) with the rest of the grid all on rains. All 3 of us started at the back.
The start went pretty much how I expected it to, but I was a bit surprised that the rain tire guys really didn't go THAT much faster than I could. Considering how much water was on the track (and still coming down lightly) I was quite pleased with the way the car was handling. Coming in to Charlotte's Web (180 degree turn) for the first time, I was surprised to (barely) see Sherman Engler go down the inside of me ... and keep it on the track. He then knocked off the rest of the vees (there were 6 of us) on the next straight and started disappearing. (Great job, Sherman!) I figured he MUST be on rains and I didn't really need to beat him, so I just maintained my pace. When we got to the next straight (there are FOUR straights at Barber) I was able to pass all of the other vees in quick succession ... except for Sherman who was pulling me by about a second a lap. The rain finally stopped and the track slowly started to drain off. I picked up my pace a bit and stopped Sherman's "departure" at 7 seconds of split. We stayed that way for about 4 laps and then I started to reel him in. I gained 1/2 second... then another full second. Now we're down to 5 seconds. Next lap another second. Now Sherman picked up his pace and we held for a couple more laps. Then, something happened - he must have had a 'moment' - and the split was down to 2 seconds. From there, I gradually closed. I caught him on the next to last lap and passed on the back straight to take the lead in FV. On the last lap, I pulled away by another 3 seconds or so to take a clean win! After the race, I found that Sherman had been on slicks too - WOW - *VERY* impressive driving during the first few laps. A braver guy than ME! They had a photographer at impound and I got a copy of this picture in my trophy.
Me with my new HOOSIER hat! That's Chris Ross's F6 beside me on the rain tires.
Sunday morning was overcast, but the heavy looking clouds seemed gone. Unfortunately, that led to some really HOT temps. It climbed toward 90 as we waited our turn. Another set of new tires - scrubbing in for the Runoffs since I am not testing this year - and we again were under the lap record and took the pole. The rest of the day, while we waited for our race time, I performed 'detail duty' on the car - doing as much prep for the Runoffs as I could. I'm working on new bodywork, but other than that, we are pretty much ready to roll for the long trip. The temp continued to climb and we in the mid 90's when our turn came. My scrubbing all done, I went back to the tires I ran in Saturday's race - no threat of rain this time.
At the start, I took the lead (in Vee) into turn 1 and stretched it from there. My laps were quite consistent - almost all within a couple of tenths of each other .. except when I had to dodge a spinning car, or get out of the way as faster class cars passed me. The race ended and I had well over 1/2 lap margin over second place. The car was great, but times were not good enough for a new lap record - it was just too HOT. I was soaked at impound from head to toe and nearly had a heart attack when the lady at the scales told me I was LIGHT (underweight). I asked "by how much" and she said almost 20 pounds. "NO WAY" I said - we need to reweigh. While repositioning the car, one of the guys noticed that the ramps were actually TOUCHING the scale pads. We moved the ramps a tad and weighed the car again .. THIS time I was good :-).
|Thanks to Chuck Schultz for this pic of Bullet coming onto the front straight. You can see the scoring pylon at the far left and you can see 'Charlotte' the spider (a few of her kids are there too) just over the back of the car in the distance.|
I solidified my lead for the SEDIV championship and brought it home again for the 9th time in the last 10 years. The trip home was good, but it was almost midnight by the time we got there. The car is good and hopefully ready to perform well at Road America in 2 weeks. We'll certainly give it our best shot! Thanks as always to Rollin at ButlerEngines.com, JR at RoxannesHeaders.com and ... now to Rodney and Bruce at Hoosier tires (RaceTire.com) and Dietmar at QuixoteRacing.com .
Regular Season team stats -(Best 7 races)
|Roebling Road||3rd||1st||12||great 3 car race for the win|
|Road Atlanta #1||1st||1st||12||RAIN race|
|Road Atlanta #2||1st||1st||12|
|VIR, Danville, VA #1||2nd||2nd||9x||3 car race for the win
1/2 car length at the line
|VIR, Danville, VA #2||1st||1st||12||RAIN race|
|Road Atlanta #3||1st||2nd||9||inches at the line|
|Barber #1||1st||1st||12||Wet track|
|Season Total||81||dropped a 2nd place finish|
Runoffs - Road America - September
Well.. the Runoffs have come and gone again. We decided to take advantage of the new SCCA shortened schedule - FV had no sessions until late Thursday afternoon and I wasn't testing this year. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, got in with no trouble and found someone in my reserved spot. Somehow he had missed the one he reserved and picked mine... but there wasn't much difference, so we just took HIS spot and called it even .
I had the car all ready to go so we visited a little bit and went over the
car again .. just to be sure. Oh ... and I have NEW bodywork for this
event. Been working on it off and on for some time and FINALLY got done.
It's far from perfect, but pretty much at the limit of my abilities to do
glasswork and paint.
|(yes, the car has a NOSE ...). There really isn't anything different about this bodywork except it is mostly kevlar rather than fiberglass. That is to reduce the weight - not because the CAR needed to loose weight, but because its aging driver wanted lighter bodywork since it has to be completely removed after every session. This body is about 2/3 the weight of the previous one, making that job considerably easier now.|
Q1 - The weather was decent - windy and cool, but on the 2nd lap (first timed lap), 2 cars got together at T3 and one drove away with (apparenly) a missing valve cover. That spread most of a full crankcase of oil from T3 through T5 (HEAVY BRAKING area). After a couple of cars spun at T5, SCCA threw a BLACK FLAG ALL and we trundled around to the pits to sit and wait while the workers cleaned up our mess. After about 11 minutes in the pits, we were let back out - however, adding in the time for the first 2 laps, we didn't have many laps left. In fact, only TWO timed laps. The first timed lap is rarely very good and the checker came out at the end of the second one. I didn't test this year (BIG mistake) and found in those 5 laps that the new Hoosier tires I was running were significantly different from my Goodyears of previous years. The sidewalls are quite a bit stiffer on the Hoosiers changing the effective spring rate of the car. It didn't show up at Barber, where the track and curbs are quite smooth - but here at Road America, the curbs are VISCIOUS and hitting them was simply knocking me completely off line .. WAY off line (and into the grass on a couple of occasions). I managed to avoid an accident at T1 when Jonathan Weisheit hit the brakes a bit before I expected - I was able to dodge to the inside and save the car .. and stay on the track. As it turned out, that was by far my fastest lap and I ended up 4th on the grid. Most of the 'fast guys' ran out of laps before getting a decent time. I knew I was just lucky!
Q2 - Considering that I only got 5 total laps in Q1 and it was my first time on the track for 2012, we elected to NOT do anything to the car based on my 'curb perceptions'. I was hoping that most of the problem was ME and not the car. We had a full session, but I spent most of it trying to determine if it WAS just me, or if I needed to make changes to the car. I never got that 'ideal' lap, but was quite disappointed to find that I also could not get within a second of my 'alone' laptimes from 2011. Seemed every time I tried to set up a lap, something would screw it up - either ME or someone else. Quite a disastrous qualifying with a resultant loss of 5 places on the grid to 9th. The car felt terrible and the braking was bad, my turn in points were all screwed up and ... well.. NOTHING felt right. I was very uncomfortable in the car. The engine felt pretty good, but that was all. I decided that I was going to have to try to change SOMETHING to improve handling. The car was PUSHING very badly in all of the high braking corners as well as T14 leading onto the front straight. To add to that, my data acquisition system, camera and radio all died leaving the grid. Sheesh!
After Q2, I checked my trailer to see what rear springs I might have with me. I had only ONE spring softer than what was on the car and it wasn't the one I wanted. I searched all of the vendors for something better. I COULD get what I wanted, but it being Friday, would require overnight/early AM/Saturday delivery to the tune of well over $300...PLUS the cost of the spring. I decided to try the one I already had. I also checked out my front brake shoes and found that I needed to change at least ONE of the shoes on both wheels. Hopefully, the lack of 'bedding in' would not present a major problem since the other shoe on each side was already properly broken in. That done, I addressed the data/cam/radio situation. Hmmm... they all run off a common switch... and that power comes from the same place ... Hmmmm. Some prudent probing with my trusty VOM showed about 1/2 voltage going to all of those units.... which led to a broken wire from the main battery ... which led me to a depleted backup battery pack. A new set of batteries got everything running again ... which later led to the fortunate discovery that the antenna lead to the radio had gotten disconnected somehow .. and then I replaced that broken wire. Apparently, the wire broke some time ago and I had been running all those items from the little AA backup battery pack since ... whenever it broke.
Q3 - While chatting with a fellow driver ... with Bullet (naked) in my background view, I happened to notice something ODD about the front beam. After he left, I went over and LOOKED closely - realizing that the beam was completely BROKEN at the ride height adjuster. I did a poor job of welding (inadequate penetration) and the weld had cracked ALL THE WAY AROUND. I'm not a 'beam manufacturer', but this did not look good to me. Fortunately, after having a problem finding a TIG welder in the paddock on race day 2011, I had recently equipped my RV with a full (though small) TIG setup - just the ticket for this problem. I unpacked all the equipment while Linda set up a tarp "blind" to block at least most of the CHILLY WIND whipping up through the paddock. I considered removing the beam (estimated 1 additional hour to r&r it) to fix it, but decided that I could leave it attached and still weld about 80% of the way around it - enough for the time being. The repair process went well and the resulting repair seemed good. The question was whether or not it might have an impact on the way the car handled ?? Could this have been a contributor to the 'push' issue in previous sessions?? We'd soon find out.
Another full qualifying session (thankfully) for me to get some decent track time. With the changes I had made (especially the brakes), I did not really want to try running with 'fast guys' right away and I let them go. I ended up with a decent situation in the 1st 2 or 3 laps, but could not "do" anything with them. My timing was still off and the guys I was around seemed to be MUCH more intent on passing me into turns than turning a decent laptime. I finally gave up and decided to run the rest of the session by myself .. unless something fell into my lap (which it didn't). The car did feel better and I was finally coming to grips with braking and turn-in points. The push was not as bad and the car was beginning to become it's old 'comfortable self'. But I still wasn't able to convert any decent laptimes... I dropped another 5 spots on the grid for a 14th starting spot in the race.
Overnight, Linda and I talked about it - with no firm conclusions. Was the engine OK? It FELT pretty good. I was getting pulled out of the turns, but that was probably just ME and my driving ... or handling overall. At the end of the straights, the engine was STRONG. I could pass most anyone I had come across if the situation was right. I didn't MAKE that pass most of the time, but felt the engine was up to the task. Was the transmission OK? That's a tougher call - BUT -- if the engine feels strong at the top end, the gearbox MUST be pretty decent. It would seem logical that, if there was a problem, it would show up more at the top end than the bottom. We fretted about for a while, until there was really not enough TIME left to change either one - not necessarily a bad thing.
I studied the grid - the guys in front of me ... the ones close behind. Are my odds of moving FORWARD higher than the odds of moving BACKWARDS? Who knows? We moved from 16th to 5th in 2009 .. but the field overall was considerably slower. Then we had only 1 car in the '41's and 1 car in the 42's. NOW, we had 2 cars in the 41's and 4 in the 42's. Obviously, more drivers/cars were coming to grips with the eccentricities of Road America. Well... no matter. We have the cards we are dealt and THAT'S what we have to work with - we'll just do the best we can.
RACE! It sure seemed a LONG way to the front from where I was on the
grid, but it was nice to have only VEES - no F500's to deal with.
We came around to the green - I never seem to be able to time these things right - I lost a couple of spots as Donnie Isley came ZOOMING past me (WOW! what a start on his part!). It was really busy as we started to compress near the braking point for T1. Lisa Noble was just in front of me and she moved right looking for a place to go. I decided to take the outside, as it was really obvious that there were going to be LOTS of cars trying to get to that apex. As could be expected, there was contact between several cars and a 'small meelee' broke out. Lisa and I made it through on the outside as Donnie's car mounted that of Dave Scaler and others dodged to avoid. Andrew Abbott spun right behind them and blocked off a large percentage of the track, forcing a number of cars into the grass (see pix from Pepper Bowe at https://plus.google.com/photos/115536590667737338448/albums/5791885984869962209?banner=pwa&authkey=CL3Y5s3Bjqq8aw - THANKS PEPPER!). In the end, I think everyone drove away .. some in various stages of disrepair. Donnie's nosecone left on the track at T2. We continued to race and I managed to get past Lisa and then Jeff Loughead coming out of T3 pulling up behind Dennis Andrade as we approached T5. For some reason, the instant Dennis hit the brakes, his car did a snap spin to the right - I was able to avoid him and still make the turn. As I came up the hill to T6, a waving yellow was shown as Rick Shields' car spun in the middle of the track. [from the SpeedcastTV.com video [["TV" videos should be available for all classes within a couple of weeks at http://www.speedcasttv.com/scca/#/races - the vee race is already there now, but buried at the end of 'Sunday Morning Replay']] , it appears that his rear suspension just BROKE when he hit the brakes.] He was DEAD in the middle of the track - unable to move. As we all somehow avoided Rick's car, double yellows appeared at T7 as control finally gave up and decided we needed more ... uh CONTROL - at least for the moment.
They slowed the FCY lap down to give the workers time to clean up all of the incidents and still have only a single lap of yellow. Coming to the start, the pace car left the track and we set for the restart. About 3 or 4 seconds before the green, I saw this FLASH of yellow in my mirror. I watched what I thought must be Charlie Hearn's car flying into the air, inverting, crashing into and then bouncing off of the concrete wall to my right (several spots behind me, thankfully). I thought... " guess we won't be getting a restart THIS time".. but then... GREEN GREEN as the starter seemed to be thinking ... uh oh... The green was PRESENTED, but not being waved - so we took off again - a good half of the field behind Charlie's car as it came back out near center track. We raced all the way to T5 before another set of double yellows was presented. As we came around, the pace car led us through the pits as Charlie's car and emergency vehicles were blocking most of the front straight. (Charlie was OK - not "uninjured", but nothing serious.)
On the second restart, things went a little smoother. Not QUITE as much furor at T1 and we all got through without incident. It was finally time to start RACING in earnest - however, it was disappointing to watch a lead pack of 4 start getting smaller as we established 2 solid packs. Mike Varacins, Roger Siebenauler, Gary Blanarik and Chris Jennerjahn made haste at the front while my pack consisted of Chuck McCormick, Ron Whitston, Jeff Loughead, Jonathan Weisheit, Andy Pastore, myself, and .... for several laps, Brandon Abbott. All in all, it was a heckuva race from my perspective. The car was starting to feel GOOD for a change and we were holding our own. Our race in the second pack after about 2 more laps, became effectively a CHAMPIONSHIP race. We were racing for the lead ... assuming that front 4 all took each other out. They were no longer in view and not a part of OUR race any more.
We swapped positions on every lap and I managed to put myself where I wanted to be for the last lap. I was 2nd in my pack - behind Jeff coming to Canada - thinking about maybe a last lap pass at S/F. However, the other guys in my pack had similar thoughts. Jonathan was poised for a last lap maneuver on me, but got blocked out by Ron and Andy as they started their passes a little earlier. As we came to the braking point, Ron dove down my inside as Andy tried the outside. I'm not sure exactly where Jonathan was, but I was hoping Andy was ready because *I* had to watch Ron ... and Chuck... and Jeff - I already had too many to watch. Somehow we all got through that turn and it came down to the last one. Chuck was leading, with Jeff right behind - then Ron, me, Jonathan and Andy. T14 onto the front straight. Ron makes his move on Jeff and gets by, but can't quite catch Chuck. I wasn't getting ANYONE, but was fighting to hold what I had. Jonathan came up JUST shy at the line - about 0.04 between us with Andy several seconds back. I don't know what happened from his perspective at Canada, but hope I didn't do anything awry. I'm pretty sure I had no contact with anyone there.
Sooo.... a decent 8th place finish for us (another top 10 - 17 times out of 27 tries). And the car (new body and paint) doesn't have a scratch on it and I drove it into the trailer *AND* we don't have to spend extra HOURS in impound (is that good?? - well, kinda') . The car felt great - even though I wasn't quite up to the task, but I had a great time - no incidents - and we even had a good tow home (except for fuel stops ). Hopefully, I'll be a little more ready next year. The tire situation caught me out as I never expected any problems since it all seemed so good at Barber - lesson learned ... I hope. As always, thanks to those who take the time to read my tomes and those that actually participate in some manner. My program would not be nearly the success it has been without a lot of help from a lot of people - most notably my wife, Linda, who provides radio, dinner, tire changing/checking, wheel torque, laptimes, etc, etc etc, as well as the occasional barmaid service. Rollin at ButlerEngines, Rodney at Hoosier Tires, Dietmar at QuixoteRacing, and JR at Roxannes Headers are a few. I'd also like to give a shout out to all those who helped me in my early years as I developed my knowledge base for this class. Jim Brookshire, Wayne Moore, Bob Lybarger, Jim Scott, Harvey Templeton and SO many others who offered verbal support and passed information to me that just isn't available anywhere else. I am now trying to do my part for the younger guys (and gals) who are involved or interested in our class and sport.
If you have nothing better to do, be sure to check out our Formula Vee website and let me know if you have some suggestions for the site.
Runoffs/Divisional Finishes for the Wedge Racing Team
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