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Brief Reviews of Races... my racing diary

Updated:   Jul 25, 2000

 

The following race summaries are in chronological order. There is a wealth of information contained in these reviews, it cost me a lot of time and money to learn the lessons that I describe on this page. If you're new to racing, you'll find a lot of tips and tricks in these race descriptions.... 

Racing taught me a couple of very important lessons that apply not only to racing, but are equally valid for all aspects of life:

First, in order to excel, you must participate totally, not as an observer chatting with yourself and analyzing during the activity, but with total focus and concentration solely on the task at hand, literally becoming at one with the activity.

Second, in order to excel, you must push yourself beyond comfort, into the region of challenge, staying within your limits of competent performance, but pushing the envelope as far as it will go, as far beyond comfort as you can withstand without recklessness.

 

My First Race - Pikes Peak June 14, 1997:

I survived my first race at Pikes Peak International Raceway!!!! and so did my car.

 My shiny new car, at Pikes Peak, my first race, June 1997..

Pikes Peak is small, but it was fun. Only 1.3 miles, using about 1/4 of the 1 mile oval and the rest was a 40' wide road course with no elevation changes in the infield of the oval.

I qualified 13th, but at the start I got stuck behind a minor wreck (better to stop for it than be in it I suppose) and I was passed by 3 or 4 cars during the time it took to get going full speed again. For the first 10 or 15 laps I was pretty happy with my driving. Then while trying to get setup to pass a guy that I had been chasing for 5 or 6 laps, I banged doorhandles with a DSR in the esses. He was on the outside of me and I guess he didn't think I would be going quite so wide.

My car ran great. It is strong. Sometimes I would screw up in the low speed corners and get 3 car lengths behind the guy I was trying to pass... but after the long sweeping high speed turn (5600 in 4th gear) I would catch him, but I couldn't ever pass him.

At about 100 mph in one of the big sweeping curves the rear end end of my car started getting very loose. I was almost sideways on the track in a curve at 100 mph. Very exciting. I just kept the pedal to the metal, steered where I wanted the car to go and eventually it scrubbed off enough speed sliding sideways that the rear end grabbed ahold again and everything was fine, although I was a bit off my normal line by then.

All in all, it was a great learning experience and good fun.

My Second Race-- Second Creek Raceway, Near Denver, July , 1997:

Qualified 13th and dropped to last place by the time we got to turn one. Ooops. Seems as though it takes a lot of adrenaline at the start. Maybe I need to start drinking coffee.

So, I spent the entire race trying to find some way to pass the car in front of me, but I never found any way to get around Nicole. Very tricky these women.

This racing stuff is not as easy as it looks.


My Third and Fourth Races-- Pueblo Colorado, July 19-20, 1997:

Three days at the Pueblo track and no major damage... Friday was practice all day. I locked up the rears whilst just barely starting to turn into turn 7... spun off the track at 80 mph and into the dirt (no grass, just some sagebrush and fine powdery dirt) after flying over a 2 foot berm (a nasty drop off actually) at the edge of the track. Broke some fiberglass, and damaged my ego. It was late in the day so I didn't bother to go back out on the track after they came and helped me get unstuck.

 

Wheeee..... my third race, at Pueblo.

Saturday morning the car just didn't feel right in practice. After qualifying nearly last in the field, rather than in the middle where I thought I should be, I knew something was wrong. I told Ray, but he just didn't believe me. Seems that every racecar driver always says he needs more power.... I started that race and the problem got even worse... at the end of the straight where I should have 6000 in 4th, I could only get 4900... no stinking power.

After the regional race, in which I finished last, Ray came over and confirmed that he could hear that there actually was something wrong with my car... turns out the timing belt had slipped a tooth and was advanced by one tooth. He had seen that happen before, but it is rare. Probably in my off road excursion a rock got inside the timing belt housing and got wedged into the timing belt (there was what looked like a puncture hole through the belt) and caused it to slip.

So, Saturday was pretty much a complete waste of time, since I couldn't go fast enough to even get good practice.

After Ray found the problem, I went and asked the lord of licensing if I could get a waiver to run in Sunday's National... and he said yes.

So, Sunday was my first National. Joe Bunton from Ft Collins and Cameron Earnshaw from Phoenix were the really hot drivers. I qualified 13th. (So far, every weekend I have been 13th in qualifying.... what does that mean???)

I got a great start, passed 4 cars before turn one and started pulling up tighter to the 8th place car... he kept blocking me through turns 3 and 4.... I pulled up wheel to wheel just before a sharp ( 90 degree) right hander and realized that I had no idea of whether or not I could actually take the corner on that tight inside line at that speed.... I backed off to drop in behind him, but by then another car had taken my former place behind him and I went through the corner side by side with her. Approaching the next turn I knew we could not stay side by side through the next turn, so I let off the throttle and spun off the track.

So, what did I learn???? I recalled (after that silly mistake) reading in Alan Johnson's Driving in Competition book, that he said to get the best possible start and then settle down while the field spreads out a little and some mistakes happen. Protect your position, and plan a strategy. I just got so excited about getting such a great start and being able to catch the 8th place car so easily, that I got too over zealous for my experience...

Gees.... there is so much to learn. It looks so easy, so effortless from the grandstands......


Second Creek - Denver, Colorado, August 16-17, 1997:

Hey this is getting to be really great fun. I am losing some of the nervousness from doing something so new, and I can pay more attention whilst being more relaxed.

On Friday I hired Danny Collins to work with me as a coach and mentor... and I think that I learned quite a bit from Danny. The Friday practice was great fun and I was much more relaxed while driving.

Saturday's regional race was great fun. I kept my position at the start and managed to pass a couple of cars, but then the pack in front just kept going away and the pack behind just kept falling back... I was left all alone just going 'round and 'round and 'round without any playmates. Good fun. I got to race some and didn't fall off the track. I started 13th out of 16 cars and finished 9th. Best lap time was 118.45 sec, a new personal best.

Sunday's regional race was good fun too. I qualified 12th out of 15 cars and finished 10th. Passing is really, really tough when you are with several other cars that are all running the same speed. Basically, you have to wait for, or cause, a momentary lapse of concentration by the driver in front of you and then you must capitalize on his (or her) mistake before the opportunity is lost. Sort of a 100 mph chess game. Good fun... Great fun, but often a bit frustrating. I fell off the racetrack twice, once while watching in my mirrors I missed a corner and drove off the track, into the weeds and back onto the track again... then a lap later I was daydreaming about another possible line through the corner called the boot when I spun and then had to go off the track in order to get the car pointed in the right direction and rejoin the race.



Stapleton Airport - Denver, Colorado, August 30-31, 1997:

Well, that one was quite an adventure for me.

I qualified 8th out of 15 Spec Racer Fords for the National race on Saturday. Qualifying time of 1:56.7 put me in 8th on the grid, 1:53:9 was the pole qualifying time. Slowest car was 2:01. The start was screwed up, the two cars ahead of me should have been side by side, but lined up single-file instead. As the confusion became evident to some behind me, they made a scramble to fill in the empty holes and the green flag came out.

I think two cars got past me at the start, I really pressured one of them down the front straight at 110 to 115 mph. I stayed within inches and it made him nervous. He went into the turn at the end of the straight a bit out of control and spun at about 100 mph right in front of me. I thought I could get around, but he hit me whilst he was spinning. The impact was in the side of my car, where the door would be in an ordinary car. Very loud thump, but I didn't see pieces that looked like any of my car flying in the air so I just maintained speed, around 90 mph through the incident, and headed for the next turn.

Entering the next turn I overtook and passed a slower car that was on a very slow, very tight line into the corner. He apparently did not see me overtake him and he bashed me in the right rear, sending a shower of fiberglass and spinning me at about 80 mph. As soon as I got pointed in the right direction, I took off in chase of the cars that had just passed. The car that hit me was out of the race with badly mangled front end and a very leaky radiator.

Gees, what a messy first lap that was. I got hit in turn 3 and then again in turn 5 of the very first lap. But, that's racing. So off I went in pursuit of the cars that had passed me while I was spinning about. I caught and passed a couple of cars, but spun due to my own lack of attention and had to go off again in pursuit of all those pesky other cars that I had just passed. Again I passed a few, but the race ended with me in 10th position.

But strangely, even with the accidents, it was great fun.


Sunday's National race was less eventful. I qualified 13th out of 15 cars. My qualifying time was 1:55.8, the pole time was 1:52.6. most of the cars were in the 154.3 to 155.6 range. I cut a second off my previous best lap time, but so did everybody else. The start was uneventful for me, off into the first turn we went, going from 3 wide to single file. We made it through 5 turns before a car up ahead spun and clogged up the turn, the car in front of me hit him and knocked off the entire fiberglass tail of the car. I barely missed the wreck and was running about 8th or 9th place for a couple of laps.

Then, while going through a corner at about 80 mph I foolishly decided to count the number of cars ahead of me to see what my position was at that point.... well, that stupid lack of focus led to a spin and I fell back to last place. I re-passed a few cars and ended up in 11th, but I never really had any fun racing against anybody that was my same sort of speed. No damage to the car in this race, but it still wasn't as much fun as yesterday.




Las Vegas, Nevada -- November 8-9, 1997:

What a strange town this Las Vegas is. And what a busy weekend they picked for this race. The NASCAR trucks are running at the big speedway this weekend and there are a couple of large conventions in town. I had trouble getting a room and ended up in a really run-down Super 8 over on the Boulder highway.

Nonetheless, the two days of racing were another good learning experience. It took most of the first day for me to get the track memorized and find decent lines to drive. I qualified 9th out of 15 and managed to finish the race in 8th. Overall I was happy with my driving and excited to be learning a new track fairly quickly. It was also a good experience to have the AS cars in our group. They are really fast on the straight, but we catch them in every corner. For me, that was good practice at getting the inside line in corners. Sometimes it was frustrating to have to pass them several times in a single lap, but I definitely learned from the experience.

It was fun that some of the other SRF drivers had not raced at Las Vegas before, so I had some people to race with in the middle of the pack. On Sunday, I qualified 10th out of 15 and finished 9th. Larry Ferguson chased me around and around and around until I fell off the racetrack exiting turn six. He passed me whilst I was off driving in the gravel, but I got back on course only a couple of feet behind him. I chased him for a lap until he drove off the course at exactly the same spot that I had in the previous lap. So I passed him while he was out in the gravel and held on to my position for the remainder of the race.

Very nice little racetrack, it is a real pity that they do not hold any National races there.

 


Phoenix International--  Phoenix, Arizona --November 15-16, 1997:

This turned out to be a very expensive weekend.... also known as the weekend that I met Bill Thompson, the owner of Winspec Racing.

I had never been to Phoenix International (PIR) before, so the first step was to gradually learn the race course. Saturday was very disappointing to me, since I simply was not going into turn one fast enough to get any decent lap times. By race time on Saturday, it was less that an hour before sunset and the sun was shining directly into our eyes heading into turn one. Unfortunately I had not learned any landmarks for the entry into turn one, which is sort of a blind turn behind a concrete wall. So, with the sun in my eyes, I could not even see where the wall was or where the track turned. Gees, that was frustrating. I drove very conservatively,  that is, very slowly, and got really mad at myself for not learning landmarks. I started 16th out of 19 cars, and I finished 16th. Oh well.

That evening I called my friend Irene and she just told me to stop being ruled by my expectations. That was a breakthrough... such a simple comment, but it was right on target.

Thanks to Irene's comment, Sunday was a much better day, although it turned out to be very expensive. I improved my lap times from the high 1:13's down into the mid 1:12's and was learning to go into turn one at full throttle. The fastest guys were in the 1:10's, but for my first time at that track, and only the 12th race of my entire life, I was happy with the progress.

During qualifying, I was largely working on establishing landmarks for turn-in points and trying different lines through the corners. I was having good fun, and I saw Greg Mayer catching up with me. As Greg passed me, I decided to try to follow him for a lap or two to watch his corner lines. After a lap or two following Greg but unable to keep up with him , I saw Bill Thompson catching up to me. Bill pulled inside of me as we exited turn nine of the road course and entered the oval. Bill and I stayed side-by-side through the oval turns three and four.

pir_hit.jpg (9007 bytes)

As we exited turn four of the oval, Bill just kept getting closer and closer to the side of my car. I tried to give him all the room possible, but I was only a couple of feet from the wall as we started down the straightaway. Abruptly and very forcefully, Bill Thompson in car number 2 simply turned into the side of my car. I just couldn't believe how hard he hit me. Not just a bump or a nudge, but  a really hard hit.

The black marks near the SCCA decal show where Bill Thompson hit my car with his front tire as we exited turn four of the PIR oval and headed down the straightaway. I was in 4th gear, almost ready to shift to fifth when he hit me.

The impact drove me into the concrete wall, causing quite a bit of damage, since we were at about 100 mph when he hit me.

I simply cannot understand what he was trying to do. He hit me really hard, not just a bump or a nudge. We had been side-by-side all the way through turns three and four of the oval. How could he forget I was there???

The abruptness of his sudden turn into the side of my car seems inexplicable. It was not a tap, it was a very sudden and seemingly deliberate turn. I can only imagine two possible explanations: 1) He thought that I was behind him and was trying to break the draft, or 2) he was trying to run me into the wall.

In either case, it shows a driver who apparently cannot be trusted.

My car hit the wall, rebounded slightly and then hit the wall again. The nice red and white paint of the PIR concrete wall received two long stripes of black from my front tire and pieces of fiberglass were scattered for a couple of hundred feet along the track. I stayed buckled in my car until the safety workers appeared on the scene. pir_repr.jpg (17699 bytes)

As I got out of my crumpled car I was very thankful to have no injuries. My left foot hurt a little from impact against the rest pedal and my hand hurt a little from the whipping of the steering wheel. In the paddock, I put ice on my foot and the swelling stopped, and the ice also seemed to help my hand.

Mike and Gilbert, along with Ray LaRue, worked for a little over an hour to get me into the race after the nasty wreck. They replaced the steering knuckles, both tie rods, all the heim joints, put on a new suspension rocker arm, and a new A-arm, replaced two tires and wheels, then they realigned the car and had me ready in time to race. I borrowed another fiberglass nose for the race, since mine was a bit shattered.

It was hard to believe. The crew of LaRue Motor Sports had managed to get me back into the race.

I started 13th out of 18 cars and managed to finish 12th. The car handled fairly well, but the steering box was a bit bent and that made the steering very heavy.

But most importantly, I had some great fun.

 


Firebird Raceway--  Phoenix, Arizona --December 13-14, 1997:firebird.jpg (11976 bytes)

This was the most fun I have had racing. I think I am starting to get the idea of how to drive a racecar. It sounds so easy, but it really is very difficult to learn to stay right at the edge, lap after lap after lap. If you don't get to the edge, you will be too slow. And if you go past the edge, you'll fall off of the racetrack. I had my car setup a bit too tight, so it was understeering too much. The car is much more fun and quite a bit faster when it is just a little bit loose. This weekend we finally got the car handling pretty neutral or slightly loose. It was much more fun to drive that way.

Saturday was uneventful. I spent most of the day learning another new race course. By the end of the day I was feeling pretty good about the car's setup and I finally knew my way around the track. Toward the end of the race, one of the novice drivers (Charlotte Bondurant, wife of Bob Bondurant) who had been in an earlier accident knocking a lot of fiberglass off of the nose of her car, turned into me as I passed her. Rather than hit her very hard, I chose to let off the throttle and spin my car to avoid any nasty accident. It has only been a few months since my first race and I know how busy and how very tiring that first race can be. I lost one position in the race due to that spin, but it was better than hitting her.

Sunday the car was even looser, and after the race we found that the check valve in the fuel cell vent was stuck open and fuel was spilling onto my rear tire during hard cornering. That made it like driving on wet pavement but it was still more fun than having the car set up too tight. The race was slightly marred by a major timing screwup that put two slow cars at the start of the pack. Their qualifying times were in error by some two to four seconds. The more experienced drivers quickly found ways around those two slower cars, but the rest of us spent the entire 20 laps trying to get around them. All in all it was good fun.

 

Phoenix International Raceway (PIR)--  Phoenix, Arizona --January 16-20, 1998

pir_map1.gif (2091 bytes)The weekend before the Phoenix race, another sports car club, called NASA, was running at PIR. I decided that it would be very much to my advantage to get some more PIR tracktime prior to the double national races. So, I signed up for the NASA race weekend and headed off to sunny Phoenix. That annoying el nino storm pattern has been making Arizona wetter than normal, and during the NASA club weekend we got about an inch of rain.

NASA is the acronym for the National Auto Sports Association, headquartered in Richmond CA. Their web site is http://am.net/nasa . I was very impressed by the level of professionalism, the use of transponders for timing and scoring, the excellent safety crews and the excellent corner workers. Despite being a relatively young organization, they have put together an very fine program.

The track is fast and fun. About half of the track uses the banked tri-oval, and the other part is a narrow twisty road course built in the infield. There is a nasty concrete wall all along the outside of the tri-oval, but there is nothing much to hit in most of the infield. The track is 1.51 miles long.

The high temps were in the 50's for the NASA weekend and it was not much fun trying to race in the rain. There was standing water all over the road course, in some areas over an inch deep, making for thrilling hydroplaning. Basically, the weekend sucked and I never got to run at any decent speed to get ready for the double nationals. My fuel vent leaked and poured gas on my wet rear tire,  leading to a spin into a concrete wall and the end of a cold, wet, weekend with some smashed fiberglass and bent aluminum. Oh well.

On Jan 16, there was an SCCA test day at PIR, so I decided to go to that to get some more track time. The weather was very good, sunny and temps in the low 70's. I felt really good and was going pretty fast. I had four 20-minute sessions on the track, and felt that I was ready for the weekend of racing. I was passing a lot of the other cars, so I thought I would probably fit in the middle of the pack.

There were 50 Spec Racer Fords registered for the race, and most of them went faster in qualifying, but I went a lot slower. Oh well.  The fast qualifying time was Lee Fleming at 1:09.795. The first 12 cars were all in the 1:09's and 1:10's. Positions 13 through 33 were all in the 1:11's. I had turned laps around 1:12.5 but was listed as 1:13.17. With a 1:12 I would have grided around 42nd.

In the first race, I started 47th out of 49 cars. I passed about 6 or 8 cars on the straightaway after start, but then one of the cars swerved, hit my front tire and spun me just before turn one. By the time I got the car going again, all of the other cars were out of sight. I chased them, caught them, and started passing the slower cars. I was moving up through the field when I spun in turn nine and everybody drove past me again. Gees. So I chased them again, caught them again and started passing the slower cars again. At the end of the 30 lap race, I finished 37th. I suppose it was fortunate that I started at the back of the pack, so that I could work on passing technique. It is not easy to get past the other cars since we all have the same horsepower and everybody is always going as fast as they can all the time.

For the second race, my qualifying time was still terrible. I started 45th out of 46 cars. As the green flag was waved, I passed several cars on the straightaway after the start, and kept passing cars all through the race. I learned a lot about how to get into position to make a pass, and how to make sure that the other car knows he is being passed. At the end of the the 30 laps, I finished 27th.

 

Phoenix International Raceway (PIR)--  Phoenix, Arizona --Feb 28 - March 1, 1998

Gees, the competition is really tough in the SCCA Southern Pacific Division. The top ten cars were within one second of each other in qualifying. The top 19 cars were all within two seconds of each other. Way in the back of the pack,  I was 2.4 sec behind the car on the pole which put me 21st out of 24 cars in the National race. I was a bit depressed. I really wanted to qualify in the middle of the pack and run hard enough to get a national point. Oh well.

On my first visit to PIR last November,  my best qualifying time was 1:13.6. Then on my second trip to PIR in January, my qualifying time was 1:13.1, and now on my third trip to PIR I qualified at 1:11.9. So, even though my times suck, it is easy to see that there is somewhat of an improvement in lap times with each visit. So, if I go there for about 136 more race, maybe I'll be competitive. The pole time for the National was 1:09.5, so I just need to trim a mere 2.4 seconds off of my lap time. Gees, that is s huge amount of time. I know I can do... I just don't know when.

This was my third event at PIR and I am beginning to understand how to drive this track. All weekend I had problems with my transmission. At times, I just couldn't get it to go into gear, any gear. With this level of competition and my limited driving skills, losing one or two seconds due to a problem is a huge amount of time. There's just no way for me to make up the lost time. I managed to work my way up from starting 20th to finishing 12th on Saturday. So, even though I didn't qualify in the middle of the pack, that is where I finished. The weather was in low 70's and it was a great weekend to be in Arizona.

The silliest thing that I did was in the last lap of the regional race. I had been battling with the 44 car of Dan Harris for several laps and cleverly decided to stay behind him until the last lap. I got inside of him after turn 9 and we ran side by side full throttle into the oval. Just a drag race at his point. I was spending so much time watching his car, trying to figure out if he knew that I was alongside of him, that I forgot to shift out of third gear. I over-revved the engine to 6500 rpm and he started pulling away from me. Aww, gees. He was ahead of me by a foot or two at the finish line. Rats.

 

Firebird Raceway--  Phoenix, Arizona --March 14-15, 1998:

firebd4.jpg (23720 bytes)Who knew?? How could it be pouring rain in mid-March in phoenix??? Ray softened the shocks, put on new tires and off I went. This was my first race in the rain. I'd done a little bit of very conservative practicing in the rain at PIR in January, but this was a race. My brain just doesn't take practice very seriously, but the start of a race really gets my attention.

After about two laps in the rainy Regional race, my glasses fogged up, despite two coats of Rain-X anti-fog stuff right before the race. That stuff just doesn't work. So I tried raising my visor just a little bit to let in some more fresh air. That worked until I got right behind another car and the intense spray got inside my helmet, all over the inside of my visor and all over my glasses. ooops. So, I went into the pits, got a rag, and cleaned off enough of the mess that I could sort of see where I was going. And off again into the fray.

I finished 10th despite the pit stop. I think I could have run about 5th or 6th if I wouldn't have wasted all that time going into the pits to clean the water out of the inside of my helmet. Dear Diary....next time I race in the rain I need to have some soft contacts instead of glasses and carry a clean rag to wipe off the visor. It just takes time to learn these tricks...

firebd3.jpg (24097 bytes)The rain stopped before the National race in the afternoon and the track was essentially dry by the time our race started. I got off to a terrible start, trapped next to the wall, headed straight for the pit lane tire wall, and very nervous. I hit the brakes and lost several positions. I was amazed that the guy behind me, Adam Gelbart, didn't hit me when I hit the brakes. He had an in-car video camera, and my stupidity has now been preserved on video tape for all eternity.

The race was great fun, I really started having more fun on this course, but near the end of the 30 lap race, as the leaders were catching me, I accidentally waved by some other cars that were behind me and lost several positions that I should have been able to defend. Then another car got inside of me in turn one, and I couldn't find him in my mirrors. So I stayed very wide, almost fell off the track and he passed me.

These mirrors are real junk, they have flat lenses, but they really really need to be convex  to reduce the huge blind spots that we end up with.  Oh well. Lessons learned.

 

Second Creek Raceway--  Denver, Colorado --April 5, 1998:

This was the worst day of my 10 months of racing. Absolutely terrible. In practice, my front brakes faded very badly, I had to pump the brakes before every corner or the pedal would just go to the floor. Ray bled the brakes after practice, but the problem was not solved.

scr_frnt.jpg (9925 bytes)In my exuberance to finish in the top ten, I was staying very close behind Steve Stansfield. I guess he must have missed a shift coming out of spectator corner and the nose of my car hit his rear tire. Then a lap later I rubbed doors with Tom Barbour.

I qualified 7th out of 16 spec racers. The first 6 or 7 laps were great fun. I was moving up and felt that I might be able to finish in 4th or 5th. Then the brake fade started again. Essentially, I had no front brakes and was locking up the rear brakes at the end of the high speed sections, particularly on the back straightaway. As the brake fade got worse and worse, I adjusted the brake bias forward but the front brakes just got hotter and the problem got worse and worse. Finally I entered a corner with the back tires still locked up and went off course. Way, way far off course. I only lost a couple of places, but it was very frustrating.

Then, after about 4 or 5 more laps, I locked up the rear brakes going into the same corner, called 88th,  and spun in the corner entry. While spinning, I hit a car, Larry Bolin, that I had just passed. Broke the fiberglass tails of both of our cars. Whilst sitting on the track, trying to get my car restarted, all but one car passed me, dropping me down to 15th place. By the end of the 18 lap race I had worked my way back up to 12th. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Sorry Larry.

So, what did I learn from all this frustration ?? Glad you asked. As I reflect on this disappointing race day, I realize that I learned two things:

First, I learned that I can run with the guys that last summer were light years ahead of me. Last summer I was in the 1:20 range, today I was in the 1:18 range of lap times. Now I know I can be competitive at this track.

Second, I learned that I should have gone to the test day to make certain that my car was running good before the race day. I think that what may have happened,  was due to adjustments that I made in my previous race in rainy Phoenix last month. I now recall that I really cranked the brake bias toward the to the rear when running in the rain but then I never really got the bias reset properly for running in the dry. So, perhaps, I left the car with the brake bias cranked too far forward. Second Creek is always very hard on brakes, but if I started off with the bias too far forward, then on this tight little course, it would overheat the front brakes and then as I fed in more front bias, I just overheated them worse and worse until I had no brakes.

I had some fun, but a lot of frustration. But after a few hundred dollars of fiberglass repairs, I'll be ready for racing at Pueblo at the end of the month.

 

Pueblo Motorsports --  Pueblo, Colorado --April 26, 1998:

Oh my, there is so much to learn. Gees, I hate to be so dumb. It doesn't rain much here in Colorado during the racing season, but it sure did this weekend. On Sunday morning it was raining and by noon the temperature was an abysmal 39 degrees. Fortunately it wasn't snowing. Since this was just a regional, I didn't want to buy any new tires. That was probably mistake number one. My old tires just didn't have any grip in the wet.

Because it was raining so hard at practice time, I skipped practice, hoping that the rain would stop and then life would be good. That was mistake number two. Without the rain practice time, I never did get the brake bias set right and spent the rest of the day locking up the rear tires and spinning around in the corners.

Many people had the good sense to skip this event. Some just didn't show up when they saw the weather, and then there were trailers loaded with cars leaving the track during practice time. But not me. I started the race 8th out of 8 cars and made it up to 4th place going into the first turn. I tried to stay inside into turn one, but it was very wet down there and I locked up the brakes, slid and banged doors with the third place car. Basically, he kept me from sliding off the track.  By the time I collected my car and my wits, I was back in 7th place. Then, near the end of the first lap, I locked up the rear brakes and spun. Next thing ya know I was back in 8th place. And I just stayed there, trying to learn to drive in the wet without destroying anything.

So what was the big lesson out of all of that??? It is very, very important to make certain that you adjust the brake bias such that the rear brakes will never lock up. Not under any conditions. Never ever. The mistake that I made, was to neglect the effects of engine compression.  The engine compression braking at high rpm is very significant. If you set the brake bias at 4500 rpm and then later try braking from 6000 rpm you will lock up the rear brakes. Thou shalt not lock up the rears.   There is very little clue in the wet that the rears are locked... it all seems fine until you start to turn in and then you spin very quickly.

I have to go write that on the blackboard 500 times... I will set the brake bias very carefully and make certain that I will not lock up the rear brakes,  I will set the brake bias very carefully and make certain that I will not lock up the rear brakes,  I will set the brake bias very carefully and make certain that I will not lock up the rear brakes,  I will set the brake bias very, very, very carefully and make certain that I will never ever lock up the rear brakes...

 

Stapleton --  Denver, Colorado --May 2-3, 1998:

staple_1.jpg (16907 bytes)Hey, no rain this time. Wonderful.

Stapleton is a high speed airport course with a couple of third gear turns, but mostly fourth and fifth gear. I went to an open track test day on Friday to learn the course. I slid sideways into a stack of tires in the new chicane and kinda shattered the tail, bent the rear upright and flat spotted a formerly good set of tires.   Ooops. There went $1200....

For the regional race of Saturday, I qualified 13th out of 20 spec racers. The race was great fun. Tom Shonka kept trying to find a way past me me for lap after lap and I really enjoyed racing with him. Tom got stuck behind Wells Dickson after I passed Wells going into turn three. I headed off to try to catch the next car, but couldn't catch Adam before the end of the race, so I finished 7th.

For the National race on Sunday, I just could not get it through my thick skull that they had decided to change the racecourse. Overnight, the "powers that be" had decided to alter three of the turns, so they simply moved the cones and presto it was a different racecourse. My brain just kept on driving the old course, which had tighter, and therefore slower,  turns. The new course was two or three seconds faster, but I qualified at my same old speed. Gees, what a creature of habit...

I qualified 17th out of 20 spec racers and knew I could eventually learn to drive the new course at a reasonable speed. But it took half of the race for me to catch on to those new turns. I managed to work my way up to 10th by the end of the race.

Early in the race, right after Kim Knapp spun in the chicane, the traffic was three abreast heading down the back straightaway. Robert Funk was sandwiched between my car and a red car. I was almost into the cones on the right side of the track, so I couldn't give him any more room without mowing down the cones. We banged doorhandles and it felt for a moment like our cars were hooked together somehow. Weird feeling at 90 mph. It crossed my mind that the corner workers might have to hose down our cars like two dogs stuck together out in the front yard. 

Dear Diary:.. I've just gotta learn to qualify better.

 

Pikes Peak Raceway - - May 30-31, 1998:

Well, the short version of my story is that I had a crappy weekend and am thinking about selling the car.

The regional on Saturday did not go well. I knew I could run much faster than my qualifying time, and set out to work up thru the pack. I had worked my way past three cars and was setting up Ron Jacobs for a nice clean pass when we had a little problem.  At about 5200 rpm in 4th gear I was overtaking him on the back straightaway. I really thought that I had him setup for the pass and I was gaining on him at a tremendous rate. He was staying on a normal line into the next turn and I had just enough room to get by on the outside. Then, he unexpectedly changed his line and hit the brakes. In an instant I was driving over his right rear tire with my left front.

It was one of those racing incidents... I didn't think he'd change his line so drastically as we entered the corner, I didn't think he would brake so early and he didn't look in his mirrors.

I went airborne... they say I was about 5 feet in the air. I may have set a new spec racer record for "getting air".

It was a very bad landing. Not like an airplane... no stick to pull back on... it was a very hard landing. The landing bent the right front heim and bent the left front suspension rocker arm. And quite a bit of fiberglass fell off too...

In Sunday's race, I finished 12th of 18, but the car still was not handling right and I couldn't get any speed on the straightaways. On Sunday the understeer was so severe that I simply could not get through the right-hand turns with any reasonable speed. The two left turns were fine, but the right turns were all but impossible. I tried all sorts of different lines to try to find a way to gain some speed, but I never found any way to overcome the understeer. I found several new ways to go slower... but never did find any that were faster. Oh well.

 

Second Creek -- July 4-5, 1998;

Another crappy weekend. So far, the entire Colorado racing season has been a real disappointing and frustrating experience.

On Saturday, I kept trying to get by without buying new tires, and just couldn't get any grip on the track. I qualified poorly and started near the back of the pack.  After only a few laps of the race, the car ahead of me spun in the kamikaze turn. As she was spinning, I hit her left front with my left front at about 80 mph. Pretty much sheared off the left front corners of both cars. That was my first ever DNF. Oh well.

On Sunday, I bought a new set of tires and they really gripped the track. I felt like I could go thru the corners much faster, but something was gradually reducing my engine's power. Every lap I was going slower and slower. Ordinarily, we are in 4th gear on the front and back straightaways, but my car was accelerating so slowly that I never got out of 3rd gear. Needless to say, motoring along in 3rd gear whilst everyone else is in 4th gear is a significant disadvantage. I started 14th of 17 and finished 14th.

I had noticed in pre-grid that the car would hardly idle, it kept dropping down to almost zero rpm and then revving itself up, so I just held it at 2000 rpm and assumed that the problem would clear itself.... but apparently not. At the end of the race, my exhaust pipe was almost white inside, instead of the dark chocolate brown/black that it normally runs. Looks like some sort of lean mixture problem. Maybe something happened in Saturday's accident to clog the fuel filter or maybe something damaged the fuel pump. Rats. My times fell to 4 seconds off the race pace, with the best I could do being 1:21 and 1:22 laps. Terrible.

I went down to Second Creek for a test day during the week after the race, and drove one of LaRue's rent-a-racers for five or six laps, getting down to 1:18 by the third lap... so, I have regained some faith that I can drive the car, and am further convinced that my terrible race lap times were due to something wrong with my car.

Finally, later in the week after the race, we found that the mass airflow sensor for the fuel injection system had failed. It may well be the cause for my terrible times at both Pikes Peak and Second Creek.

 

Second Creek -- Aug 15-16, 1998;

Well this really, really sucks.

Up at 5 AM, quick shower, good breakfast and off to Denver I go. Went thru registration, went to tech, put the hot lap timer back on my car... and it was 8 AM, time to go practice.

I hopped into the car , started it up and headed for the pre-grid area... but my engine (or is a motor?) well, whatever it should be, it was neither. It was just missing terribly, no power, maybe 30 or 40 horsepower, maybe not that much. Sounded like an ignition problem... sounded like a car with the distributor put in wrong.

The car idled fine. Hold it at 2000 rpm and it is just as smooth as can be. But try to blip the throttle and it just stumbles, and misfires. Try to drive the car and it stumbles and misfires at any rpm ( it ran so poorly I probably never went over 4000).

After that terrible Second Creek race last month, Ray LaRue put on a new set of plug wires and then hooked up his fancy Snap-On computer tester and we went thru all of the tests. The tester said there was a bad MAF and we replaced it, but my car had very poor throttle response, it just sounded terrible. Blipping the throttle just got hesitation and misfiring. Ray said he'd look into it... but obviously he never found the problem.. or forgot to hunt for the problem.

Ray was not at Second Creek, he was down at the Pikes Peak Pro race, so my car just sat there all day whilst the other boys and girls had a great race. This is terrible. Ray had a substitute mechanic for at the track for us, but Ron never did find the problem

We pulled the recently replaced sparkplugs to see if I cracked an insulator... nope...Plug wires and sparkplugs seemed ok on the ohmmeter.

Replaced the EEC module. Nope.

Replaced the coil pack. Nope...

Replaced the module the drives the coil... Nope.

Put on a new MAF sensor, since the problem started after replacing a MAF about 3 weeks ago. Nope.

Put a pressure gauge on the fuel manifold. Nope... Missing terrible with 39 psi.

Drained the gas tank and refilled it. Nope.

Replaced the battery. Nope. 

Replaced both of those little relays. Nope.

Gees.... it must be something.....

P.S.  Sept 1, 1998. Ray found the problem a week or so after the race; the new spark plug wires were defective. He put on yet another new set of plug wires and the engine is back to normal now. We ran the car on a DynoJet chassis dyno today and the engine is running great.

Stapleton, Double National -- September 5-6, 1998;

Well , the good news is that my car is running well. We dyno'd the car during the week and the engine is running great. I did three practice sessions on Friday and was ready to race.

For the first National on Saturday, I finally managed to qualify in a reasonable position... 8th out of 24. Early in the race I managed to get past two of the cars ahead of me and then one of the front pack dropped out, so I ended up 5th. I spent most of my time racing with Craig Reeder and Ray Curry. In retrospect, we probably wasted too much time passing and re-passing each other, letting the three front runners get away from us. But it was good fun.

Cool. My first National points, in a race with a lot of very tough competition. That was really, really good fun.

The bad news is that on Saturday night I could hardly sleep, still so full of adreneline. Woke up drowsy and not feeling sharp on Sunday morning. And I never felt sharp all day. Just not connected, not really present. Qualified poorly for Sunday's National , back at 17th out of 23. I managed to pass a couple of people, but finished 12th. The harder I tried, the slower I got. I was just going too slow in the corners, way too slow.

I really need to find a way to motivate myself to qualify better. Being back so far in the field increases the probability of being involved in somebody else's accident and makes it very difficult to ever catch up with the lead pack. So, I've just gotta qualify better.

On the first lap of Sunday's race, I just missed being backed into by a car spinning in turn 5. It all looks so distant and placid in these two frames of video, but in real time, at about 80 mph it all happens very, very quickly. Here are a couple of frames of my in-car video, negotiating turn 5 whilst Hutch pirouettes so gracefully and cars scatter from side to side (the vertical bars on the left side of the video are reflections from the late afternoon sun getting into the camera lens) :

spin_59a.jpg (7042 bytes) spin_59b.jpg (7483 bytes)

 

 

 

 



On Saturday I was having great fun, not really concerned with the outcome, just having fun. On Sunday I was tired, trying too hard and never really in sync with the car. Oh well. At least I finally got my first National points... that alone is a breakthrough. And I got to race with some very good drivers. That's progress.

My data aquisition system says that I was exiting turn one 3 mph slower and exiting turn nine 6 mph slower on Sunday, as compared to my better performance on Saturday. I was not even close to being on the edge on Sunday and my results showed it. I was two seconds a lap slower on Sunday... that's an average speed difference of just 1.8 mph... Gees...I just needed to get my average speed up 1.8 mph and I would have been back in there with the front runners. Oh well.... next year.

 

Phoenix PIR, Double Regional -- November 14-15, 1998;

At Phoenix International, my best lap time only improved from 1:11.5 last spring to 1:11.3 this trip. Not enough improvement to be very satisfying. I was far more consistent in my lap times on this trip, I could run those times lap after lap, but I never really improved. Never got any really hot laps.

I was very disappointed in my inability to drive anywhere close to the edge. I was consistently too safe, too far from the edge, too comfortable. Rats. The leaders were in the low 1:10's and the back of the pack in the 1:19's. And I was just stuck in my mediocre 1:11's .

On Saturday, I started 12th out of  29 cars and got passed by about 5 cars on the start. I managed to work my way back up to 13th by the end of the race. I had some really great racing with Mark Brenden, we passed each other back and forth quite a few times. It was great fun, but I really, really wanted to be up front racing with the guys like Javier, Ron, Mike and Craig.

I started 16th on Sunday, then was attacked from the rear by Dan Harris after about 2 laps. He knocked us both out of the race. It was just one of those racing deals. I was waiting patiently, following Wiersma slowly thru the infield, waiting to get him on the next lap between turns one and two where I felt I could get a good clean pass. But I guess Dan got bored with my plan.

Dan tried to dive inside me in turn 9. I saw him, and felt I left him plenty of room to race, but he was just going way too fast to enter the turn. So he basically went straight and hit me very hard in the left rear and I spun. I tried to continue, but my car had so much rear toe out that it was too scary to drive on the oval. So I parked it.

That's the fun of racing...

 

Phoenix Firebird, Double Regional -- December 12-13, 1998;

Not much of an improvement in my lap times at Firebird. This is my third weekend at Firebird, and I thought that I would do pretty good. My first goal was to qualify and race in the 1:06's. I achieved that goal with a qualifying time of 1:06.7 and a race lap of 1:06.9 on Saturday. The pole time was 1:05.2, so although my goal was realistic and achievable, it was only good enough to be gridded in 9th and finish in 10th out of 24 spec racers.

firebird_nikki_working.jpg (17965 bytes)So, my next goal was to get into the low 1:06's on Sunday. However, I simply drove terribly on Sunday. The car was very loose and I did not have enough sense to soften the rear bar or reduce the rear tire pressures. it just didn't make sense, the car handled so nicely on Saturday, but on Sunday it was sliding all over the racetrack. My brain was overwhelmed and I failed to take any usefiul action to solve the problem. So, my Sunday qualifying time dropped back to a 1:07.4 and I was stuck back in 14th place for the start.

I never saw a race start that was so messed up. The first episode of flying fiberglass occurred on the front straight only a few seconds after the green flag. Apparently third place Ed Raby hit the rear of second place Darren Pritt and sent Darren sliding sideways in the middle of the dash into turn one. Cars scattered in every direction trying to avoid each other.

In all the confusion, I went along the outside wall and got past several cars. I considered crowding past Jeff Smith, but decided to fall in behind him and be ready to take advantage of the any other situations. At that point, I was ahead of Ron Blake and alongside Raby going into turn one.

As we went into turn one, I could see smoke, and then saw Mac Busby sliding backwards across the track. Jeff Smith, who was right in front of me, T-boned Mac and their two cars slid off the track together into the gravel. It was a pretty hard hit.

In the first of the following two video frames, you can just barely see that there is a white car sideways across the track, and Jeff has locked up his brakes. In the second video frame, Jeff has thumped Mac and the two slid off the side of the track together. The impact was probably at only about 40 mph, and neither driver was injured, although they were both out of the race. (I forgot to clean the dirt off of the video camera lens after practice and qualifying, so these pictures are looking thru a lot of dust and dirt... The data superimposed on the video is from my homemade data acquisition system.)

firebird_mac_1.jpg (9955 bytes)             firebird_mac_2.jpg (10014 bytes)

To keep out of that wreck, I hit the brakes and turned to avoid them. From the data superimposed on my video, I was cornering at about 0.7 g's and braking at 0.9 g's to keep from joining them.  Unfortunately, I slowed down so much that virtually the entire field got past me on the inside while I was getting past the wreck. So, one instant I had worked up to about 8th or 9th, and in the next instant I was in about 15 or 16th place. Oh well.

The next two or three laps were under caution, following the pace car whlst they cleaned up the fiberglass shards and checked out the drivers. After that I drove terribly. Very tentative, much too cautious to be competetive. I was trying to work my way back up when a car spun in front of me in the tower turn, I was forced to stop to avoid him and three or four more cars got past me. Rats.

It could have been worse... it could have been better.

firebird_bernie_cooking.jpg (18243 bytes)                     firebird_kim_on_patrol.jpg (18606 bytes)     

 

Phoenix International Raceway -- April 10- 11, 1999;

This was my first race on the puzzling, slippery, short-lived BFG tires. I had a terrible time. The rear tires quickly overheated and got extremely slippery. I found that the BFG tires require very, very smooth driving, sort of like driving in the rain. If you are super smooth and don't overheat the rear tires, then the lap times are almost as good as we got on Yokohama tires, but if you are not super smooth you will be rewarded with spins and slow lap times.

On Saturday my race ended early with a DNF when the throttle cable broke.

On Sunday on qualified a terrible 20th out of 22 cars.  I spun twice during the race. In a spin that began under braking after turn one, the engine died, vapor locked,  and would not restart until the entire field had driven past me. I worked my way up, and spun again. By the end, I managed to work my way up to a pathetic 16 place finish.

I found that I need to learn to be a much, much smoother driver in order to finish well on these BFG tires. Maybe these crappy tires will actually force me to become a better driver.

 

Pikes Peak International Raceway -- May 29-30, 1999 -- Double National

Pikes_peak_roadway_sm.jpg (18325 bytes)The picture at the right is the dumb road sign at the exit to Pikes Peak International Raceway... I guess the state signmakers are not race fans....

It was here at Pikes Peak Raceway in June of 1997 that I was in my first race.  Now, after two seasons of racing, I am certainly a better driver, but not nearly as good as I expected to be. Like most every other driver, I was sure that I could make a car go as fast as anyone else. But, it's not quite that easy.

This was the first time that the SCCA has been able to schedule a practice day before the race weekend at Pikes Peak Raceway. But, I decided not to do the practice day, partly because of the the costs and partly because I thought that I would do better without being so tired from running three days in a row. Bad mistake. It turned out that the track actually did not require new tires, so the costs were not as high as I feared, and I really needed the practice no matter how tired I would have been. Oh well.

I really needed the practice session Saturday morning. However, the drive pin fell out of the rear u-joint in my shift linkage after only three or four laps, leaving me sitting along the track watching everyone else practice. La Rue had just replaced the shifter u-joint, but apparently whoever did the work didn't put in the drive pin properly and it cost me an entire practice session. That sucked. I really needed the practice on these BFGs.

I put on sticker tires for Saturday qualifying and promptly slid off the track several times on laps 4 and 5. The sticker tires were much slipperier than the old, used tires on this track. After 8 or ten laps they were starting to get as good as the used tires. The pole sitter and race winner Darren Pritt did not run sticker tires, because he found that his lap times were so good on old tires. This is bizarre, but true. It seems that some tracks such as Phoenix Firebird  require new BFGs to go fast and that after a few heat cycles the tires are useless on that track. But now we've found that other tracks, like Pikes Peak, are not so fussy and that tires with 5 or 6 heat cycles are just as fast as sticker tires. Strange. I qualified 11th out of 18 cars.

Me at Pikes Peak - jpg (22644 bytes)In the Saturday National race, the cars were quickly strung out. Entering turn three two cars spun in front of me and Gary Vogel slipped by on the inside. I then spent most of the race trying to find a way to get around him. We were very close to the same speed, but I was a few tenths faster and wanted to get past him. I passed him and thought I was pulling a good lead on him. I glanced in my mirrors and saw a purple car that I thought was Gary a hundred yards behind me as I was entering turn three. My front brakes were getting hot so I decided to brake early and try to let them cool down a little bit.Well, the purple car that I had seen was not Gary. Rats, he was right on my tail, and when I started braking early he blew past me into turn three. We had a nice little battle whilst the rest of the field drove away from us. I finally got past him again and finished 8th.

On Sunday I qualified a bit better at 8th out of 17 cars. I screwed up on the start and let a couple of cars get past me. I finally caught Carl Wells and tried for lap after lap after lap to get around him. The field bunched up slightly when Darren Pritt lost it in turn one and spun like a top out of turn one and into the outer wall. Finally on the 34th out of 35 laps I got around him entering turn one and finished in 7th.after_the_race_sm.jpg (15064 bytes)

For me, the good news is that in this, my third racing season, I have finally managed to start off the Colorado racing season season with a few National points in each of the races. That is promising.

The bad news is that I am still much too passive at the start and I am not pushing hard enough in the early laps. Gotta work on that.

In retrospect, I think that I was a bit intimidated by some of the guys that I was racing with. In 1997 when I started racing, I was in awe of the speed of some of these guys and now I'm racing in the middle of them. It overwhelmed me a bit... but now that experience is over and I can get on with racing to beat them... not just riding around out there.

 

Pueblo  -- June 19-20, 1999 -- Double Regional

For this double regional at Pueblo, which I think is Colorado's best racetrack, we only had 9 spec racers. It was warm, just around 90 deg, mostly sunny. Great weekend for racing. We started nearly two hours late on Saturday because there were not enough corner workers to start the racing.

I didn't go to the practice day on Friday, but started on the pole on Saturday and finshed second behind Ray LaRue... gees he's fast. This was my first pole start and my first podium finish. We were running laps about 2 sec off of the old record. Ray used to have the lap record there, so he does know the track. I couldn't quite keep up with Ray, but by the finish of the race, the third place car was over 1/2 mile behind me. My first trophy!

pueblo_start_1.jpg (10467 bytes)Johnny Santo-Spiritos showed up on Sunday to get some seat-time to get ready for the pro race on the Pikes Peak oval next weekend. He followed me for lap after lap in qualifying and then took a bonzai shot at a bettter lap time on the final lap and got a qualifying lap time .3 sec faster than me. Rats. I started 4th and finished 4th on Sunday. And I was disappointed!

pueblo_start.jpg (11294 bytes)On the start on Sunday, I hit the throttle just a bit late and Ray started pulling away like I was tied to a stump. I drafted up on him, as you see in the picture at the right, and wanted to try to bump draft him down the front straight, but I was afraid that I was closing in much too fast, so I backed off a hair... oops, way too much backing off... I went backwards like an elevator with no cable. shit. No guts, no glory. And after that I had my hands full just driving consistently enough to protect my 4th place.

pueblo_dust.jpg (9296 bytes)The high plains dust at Pueblo gets really thick whenever anybody gets off track. The picture to the left was my view as I headed downhill from turn 4 into turn 5. All I could see ahead was a brown cloud. I kept my foot in it and fortunately for me the formula Ford that made the cloud was safely perched on top of a hill, out of my way, about 100 feet off the course when I went by.

So, the good news is that I'm finally catching on to getting better qualifying times, and on this particular weekend I managed to beat the guys who were running mid pack two years ago when I started. There were times that I thought I could never be as fast as they were. Maybe I can.

I went there to win, and while I didn't quite reach that goal (yet) I came pretty close.

My car had been idling at 2500 rpm and the inside of the exhaust pipe was white. The idle valve was not the source of the idle problem, so I asked Ray to loan me a new "brain box" and it cured both problems. But it caused a new problem... guess how much that computer costs...??? I knew it would be ridiculous, so I figured that it might be $300 or $400 dollars.... well, that is not even close. For the magic touch of Roush, that "brain box" sells for fourteen hundred dollars! What crooks !

 

Pueblo  -- July 3-4, 1999 -- Regional/National

Wow it was hot at Pueblo for our Regional/National on July 3-4. Temps in the low 100's each day. I managed to qualify on the outside pole with a time 0.05 sec off of the pole sitter, Steve Stansfield's,  time for the race on Saturday. I was pleased with that.

On the start, I was easily pulling past Steve heading towards turn one when he mysteriously got a sudden burst of acceleration and blew by me. Closely followed by Ray LaRue.... turns out that Ray was bump drafting Steve to get past me...ohhhh rats. I was running second with Ray LaRue hot on my tail.

There was one corner that I was locking up the brakes and the tail of the car was very loose. Ray would pull up on me every lap in that corner and then I'd pull away in the next two corners to keep him behind me. I thought that if I could brake deeper in that turn 7,  then he could not catch me. So I cranked in some front brake bias. But the next lap it was not any better. So I cranked in some more front bias. But the next lap it was not any better so I cranked in some more front bias.... lap after lap I cranked in more front bias, probably about 3/4 or maybe a full turn total, and finally I spun and killed the engine.... I ended up 6th out of 17 cars.


On Sunday I just could not get in the groove. I qualified 5th and got a terrible start. Everybody but me went to full throttle before the green flag, so the front bunch drove away from me and I got passed by the two rows behind me. oops.

One of the guys that got past me on the start was a complete idiot all weekend and spun right in front of me in turn 3, I went off course thru the weeds to avoid him and partially clogged up the radiator with grass. The water temp was high but I kept on going. Later, that same idiot was trying to race with the people who were lapping him, doing nothing but screwing up their races.

pueblo_july4_3.jpg (6070 bytes)I made it back up to 5th place and was lapping a back-marker who ran me into the weeds again. I got enough more crap into the radiator screen to pretty much end all air flow. This time the engine temp headed for 260 or 270 and the car had no power, it sounded like it was running on 3 cylinders and would not rev above 4000. I ran one lap that way but the temp was continuing to increase. So, on the last lap, while running in 5th place, I pulled off the track and shut it down. Rats.

When the engine was restarted later, there was anitfreeze smell in the exhaust and bubbles in the coolant bottle. Looks like I've blown the head gasket.

 

Pueblo  -- July 16, 1999 --  Friday -- Practice before the Regional/National

Well, that practice didn't work out exactly the way I had planned. It was just an open track day at Pueblo, not an SCCA practice, so the were no corner workers, no flags, no emergency crews.

I had really studied my data logger graphs and decided that I was not braking hard enough when going straight and that I was not using hard enough braking whilst trail braking. So I went to the practice day at Pueblo on Friday to fix those problems. Within a few laps I had cut nearly a full second off of my lap times. I was turning lap times that nobody else was able to match that morning.

That part went exactly as planned. I was being a better driver and was rewarded with better lap times. I was sure that I could shave off another few tenths, so I headed back out for another session just after noon. On my third lap, just as I was going for a really fast lap, I crested the hill after turn 5, drove to my turn-in point, and then looked to my right, into turn 6 ...and there was Ray Curry in his Formula Mazda, sitting sideways in the middle of the corner.

My first thought was that I would kill him if I hit him broadside in the corner, so I decided in that instant that I had to go into the grass and somehow go behind him. But, as soon as I lifted at about 4200 rpm in 4th gear entering turn 6, the rear end came out and I went spinning into the weeds. I almost missed him.... almost, but not quite.

Once I started spinning, the prairie dust was so thick that I could not see anything . I was just along for the ride. Then came the sudden, "thwack" and I knew just where I was. As the dust settled, fiberglass was scattered all over, and Ray's right rear wheel and tire were obviously destroyed. and my car was quite a mess, but it was still running. So, I put my car in gear and drove slowly toward the pits with pan dragging, antifreeze spewing and left front wheel wobbling so badly I thought it might fall off before I could get into the paddock.

pueblo_fender.jpg (16124 bytes)One entire "fender" was gone, the radiator and pan were wadded up, tie rod and ball joints destroyed. And then, to add injury to insult, my left foot hurt, and my right shin was bleeding and swollen. I put ice on every place that hurt while the LaRue crew spent nearly 4 hours repairing the car.

But when I went back out, my heart nearly pounded right out of my chest every time I crested that hill after that. After the wreck, my lap times instantly got 2 seconds worse and my foot was really getting painful. My poor innocent left foot must have gotten folded in half as the impact of the crash jammed it under the rest pedal.

When I woke up Saturday morning after a restless night due to the pain from my foot, I found that my neck was sore, both of my shoulders had black and blue marks from the shoulder harness, both of my hands hurt from the steering wheel whipping, my abdomen was sore and my foot was very painful, very swollen and turning an ugly redish purple.

So, after turning my best-ever lap times at Pueblo, I decided that I did not want to risk any further injury to my apparently broken foot, and I headed home to get my foot x-rayed.  Rats.

Great fun, this racing stuff..... sometimes.

 

Pikes Peak -- August 21-22, 1999

I thought this was gonna but my big weekend. I had SCCA Enterprises do a top rebuilt on my engine and the power was excellent. And Ray LaRue had just done a complete $1000+ rebuild on my tranny. I now had 103 HP on the DynoJet chassis dyno, which was a full 3 HP gain over the best my engine had ever been. I was ready to go. But right before Saturday morning's practice session I asked LaRue to change my tranny fluid to 2 quarts of B&M Trick Shift. After the ATF was changed, I headed for the track... ready to put in some good laps.

The transmission lasted only one lap before an oil filler retaining screw which someone had dropped inside the tranny came flying out thru the side of the tranny. ATF everywhere. Quite a mess. So, I missed practice and qualifying whilst they pulled the engine and put in a shiny new transmission. I started the regional race from last position, and didn't finish too much better. I needed the seat time that I had missed in practice and qualifying. Everybody else was getting considerably faster each session as they learned the track, but I was two sessions behind, since I missed practice and qualifying.

On Sunday I managed to qualify 8th out of 14. Considering I had missed two track sessions on Saturday, my times were pretty good, but I just couldn't learn all the tricks fast enough to get up front. Oh well. The Sunday National was a 35 lap race, so I'd have plenty of time to catch people.

I got a terrible start. I got on the throttle just a hair early, had to back off, then the flag came out and everybody drove away from me. It took a few laps to work my way past Steve Ott and get back up to 8th place. I was gaining about 1/2 sec a lap on Ray LaRue and John Brumder, so I thought I'd catch them and do battle in about 6 or 8 laps. Then, with no warning, the engine just quit. Dead quiet. The engine just quit!   Awww gees.... this poor old car is so unreliable. I don't know if these problems are due to poor maintenance, or just racing luck.

A couple of weeks later I sold the car.