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Race Daddy!

August 19, 2012

I’m officially worn out from my first NASA race weekend at Mid Ohio. I neglected to book a hotel for Thursday night so Friday morning i left at 2am and arrived at the track bright and early, hoping to get my car tech inspected first thing. Well i guess only the HPDE easy techs get done in the morning, so off to Mid Ohio comp school for the rest of the day. The first two sessions on track were nice and wet but finally the track started drying out in the middle of the day. Finished school and ran two fake races and did good enough that i earned my certificate- name spelled wrong- but i did it either way. Saturday started wet again, the rest of the spec guys showed up and practice went rather smoothly for a slippery track full of 50+ cars. Qualifying was an hour or so later and i managed to grid fourth of 13 in our group, not bad! Then i slid off turn seven into the gravel trap. Once the wrecker pulled me out i stopped in the paddock to weigh my car- 2775lbs- about 175lbs over the minimum weight requirement. Back in the pit i decided to start pulling extras from the car, headlights out first. Neal went out for a ride in my car to give me some pointers during the HPDE, and i hardly even noticed that the gravel had knocked the power steering belt off the front of the motor. Once back in the pit, i decided that if i didnt miss the power steering that much, it wasn’t necessary. Off comes the pump, lines, reservoir, cooler and fluids. While i was at it i felt that the passenger seat and harnesses were due to leave as well. Back to the scales- 2680- i had dropped almost 100lbs from the car in under an hour.  Four hours later, after playing with some other cars and pacing around the pit we were on the grid, ready for my first real race.

A rolling start is intense. After a lap one of the spec guys lost it coming out of Madness and some quick maneuvering was required. Amazingly he caught back up and passed me within that lap! The GTS cars started catching up and passing which is like sitting on the side of the highway. Its hard to concentrate on your race when you are driving off line to allow faster cars to safely pass. I had to take a wide line into the keyhole for a couple faster approaching cars when another spec car got past me in the train. Lesson learned, i’ll take my line and let the faster guys work their way around. A few laps in i realized i hadn’t dropped the tire pressures from that morning which was very cold, the car had started skating around badly on my hot, overinflated rear tires. I had a few “oh crap!” moments, one super Tokyo drift over madness which was received well by the crowds watching behind the fence, and a spin a lap or so later coming out of madness which was scary but resulted in no loss of grass or position. By the end of the race fourty minutes later i was totally soaked in sweat but glad to have finished the race in one piece, and in FIFTH!! Not bad for my first real race. The guy who spun out ended up taking the checkered, followed by Sam in the grey car i have posted up building on this blog, and Neal Agran who had driven the Dragon a few times in my other blog.

The next day was much nicer out, the sun was shining and we set out for practice on a much drier note. I spent some time just practicing lines and making adjustments to the car so i was a little further back in the grid for qualifying. During qualifying i was getting quite loose in a few spots again even with the tire pressured dropped, so before the race i dropped the rear sway bar tension down some. Under the car i noticed my trans covered in blue Swepco fluid, probably the reason why i smelled gear oil during the race yesterday. Looks like my new front seal didn’t quite take so now I’ll be pulling the trans again to fix that. 😦  Before the race my buddy Alan showed up with his wife and kids and headed over to the top of Madness to sit with my wife, mother in law, sister in law and daughter who were watching as well. No pressure! This time i qualified fifth place so my start was on the right side of the back straight, giving me a slight advantage in the first corner. The flag dropped and we headed down to turn 7 – or so i call it- full speed ahead. I managed to drop in front of the sixth place guy and was doing pretty good keeping up with the pack for a good lap or so. Once again Shannon in the red spec car sneaked past me at the key hole and the race was on. About twenty minutes in i was still chasing Shannon when coming down the back straight i got whacked in the left rear quarter by a quick approaching 911 who “i guess” didn’t realize we were on the left side of the track and tried a pass on the left. I slowed for turn seven then once i realized everyone was still moving, got back on the throttle and the chase resumed. Coming out of the carousel onto the front straight i saw the white flag waving. One lap left, if im going to pass this guy it will have to be now. Nose to tail i almost pushed the red car through turn one and up towards the key hole. I waited for the brake zone and once he turned in i ducked inside on the curbing and pulled up next to him. Down the back straight we had a spec drag race towards turn 7 and since i was on the right again, i had the advantage. At the end of the straight he braked before i did and i ducked in front of him. Sliding and drifting the rest of the track i almost lost it coming out of Thunder Valley, two tires in the dirt, but recovered and slid into the carousel  and out onto the front straight with him inches off my bumper. I managed to hold him off and took the checker, fifth place once again. I couldn’t wait to watch my video when i got home, but unfortunately my video died right after my accident. Exciting stuff anyways. Besides the awesome time on the track i met quite a few new people in the spec camp, and hung out with a few i already knew from other track events. These pics were taken by Eric Kuhn’s wife, thanks for those since i neglected to take any myself. Already pumped to sign up for my next two races in October, Road America here we come!

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