Saturday May 17th:
This was the first time on the track for the year and we had several things to sort out. We had to completely rebuild the car after our season ending crash last year. This included new front frame rails, suspension, and some rear suspension. We built the front end much lighter then it had been and this allowed the car to scale much better. This means my weight percentages were much different then I had run before. I ran some hot laps but the track was too wet to really feel what the car was doing. So I basically used the heat race as just a practice session. I started 8th and finished 8th as I just felt the car out to see how it would handle and respond. It handled well, but the engine ran hot (230 degrees), this had me a little concerned since we have never had a heating problem.
Another first is the fact that I had to run a consolation (consi) race. The top four from each heat transfer to the main, and the top four from the consi transfer. I have always transferred from the heat race and have never missed a feature. But I knew the consequences of hanging back in the heat race. The worst part was they lined me up 15th of 22 cars for the consi (only a 10 lap race!) I had my work cut out for me, passing 11 cars in 10 laps on a 3/8 mile track can be difficult, especially when the competition is tough. I made it to 6th and was passing the 5th place car at the stripe, but that still would not have been good enough, I needed a couple more laps to make the top four. The car once again ran hot.
All in all I feel very good about the night, the car is straight and very fast. The handling is very good, but we will put it back on the scales to make sure the settings have not changed. We have opened a few more holes in the front of the car and are reconfiguring some of our cooling lines to hopefully cure the heat problem. We checked the motor over very well and examined the spent oil, all looks fine there. It appears we just have a cooling system problem to resolve. We will check the timing and do a plug check next week to make sure we are not too lean.
Saturday May 24th:
This night had a little of everything! We won a race, but by the end of the night I had been backwards twice and both rear fenders were completely caved in. In the heat race where I started 8th and was on my way to the front. I was up to 5th when the 4th place car spun in front of me, I had nowhere to go and spun down to the infield to avoid hitting him. No harm done to the car, but since I spun I had to restart from the back (12th). I got back to 7th, but not good enough for a transfer spot.
This meant I had to run the Consolation race. I started 5th in this race, took the lead on lap 3 and never looked back. I will post the victory lane pictures when I get them. Now it was time for the Feature. I lined up 14th in the 18 car field (2 cars had scratched from the field) but as we accelerated through turns 3 and 4 to take the green flag I hit a patch of water or oil and the car spun so fast I did not even have a chance to react. I went about 270 degrees around and a car plowed into my right rear quarter panel. The car was not hurt other then the rear quarter, but I had to start on the tail of the field. I worked my way up to 10th when a car rammed me in the left rear fender and turned me sideways in turn 2. I saved the car from spinning all the way around, but lost 4 spots in the incident. I managed to get back to 11th by the end of the race.
Overall the night was pretty good as the car ran strong and we got a win. The motor still runs a little hot, but not nearly as hot as last week. We are going to modify the radiator mounts this week to try to position the radiator for better air flow. The body work is already complete.
Saturday June 7th:
This was really a very uneventful night. In some ways that good (the car is not wrecked!), and in some ways that's bad (we did not win!) I lined up 4th in the heat race and dropped to fifth on the start. About mid way through the race I passed the fourth place car and held on to the transfer spot. In the feature I started 14th again and worked my way up to 8th running right up on the cushion. Then we had a series of caution flags and on each restart I tried different lines to get past the next two cars that were running close together. On the last restart I tried going right to the bottom of the track, bad move, there was nothing down there and I lost 4 spots. I shot back to the top the first opening I got. I was able to work back up to 9th before the end of the race.
The competition has really stepped up this year. We are still working to get the car better through the turns. We are making some spring and track bar (Panhard bar) adjustments. We are also considering a gear change as we can afford another 500 RPM's without a problem. This will make the car quicker off the turns. One good note is it appears we have our heating problem solved. We stood the radiator up a little more and ducted the air a little better and the engine is running at an acceptable temp now.
Saturday June 14th:
This was the best night we've had all year, but it could have been better if we had one more lap in the feature! In the heat race I started 4th and got banged around a little on the start and fell to 6th. Once we got spread out a little I made my way to 2nd. The caution came out and I had one of the top competitors if front of me so I knew he would be tough to get past. Two laps back under green we I was still in second when a car slid off the track and came back on in front of both of us. The leader decided to go high to get around him. I dove low into 3 and drove under both of them. That was the break I needed, you gotta take advantage of lapped traffic when you can. This win transferred us to the feature.
In the feature I started 5th. The track was in very bad shape, very rough and extremely dry/slick. I watched the UMP race before ours and decided to tighten the car up just before going out. A little spring and air pressure adjustment and I hoped the car would work. It worked perfectly! We had the fastest car on the track. Two laps in we had a caution and I was still in 5th, but this aligned field in single file. I dove right to the bottom on the restart knowing that if my adjustments worked I could get around the bottom of the track. I drove past the 4th place car easily, but had to work on 3rd and 2nd for several laps. When I got to 2nd there were at least 5 car lengths between me and the leader. I needed a caution, but it did not come so I drove as hard as I could and with one lap to go I was one car length behind him. He heard me under him in the back stretch and cut down to block me, I shot high into turn three and as he slide up I dove low out of turn 4 and we were door to door at the finish. I needed 10 more feet as I was going past him, but he won by about a foot! If I had only one more lap I would have won! We will try again next week.
Saturday June 28th
This night was even better then June 14th, we won the feature! The weather was beautiful with sun and 85 degree temps. We lined up 7th for the heat race and quickly moved to fourth. Then on the last lap I was running third when the two leaders touched coming off turn 2 and the leader spun, I avoided him and went on to take second.
It was good that I took second, as luck would have it they lined the second place drivers from the heats in the top four spots for the feature. This put me on the pole position (number 1 starting spot) with a tough field of 20 cars to chase me. The track was very dry/slick again so I ran the same setup as two weeks ago. The car worked great and I quickly built a big lead on the start. Then the caution came out, but on the restart I again pulled a big lead. But when the next caution came out some very good cars had made their way to the front. I had to push even harder as they were breathing down my neck! I could hear them beside and behind me, but I managed to stay in front to the end! Our first feature win of 1997 felt great and was very much needed after the bad year we had last year and a long winter rebuilding the car.
Saturday July 5th
Another beautiful day for racing with sunny skies and 75 degree temp. We started 3rd in the heat race and I was fairly confident I would win it if I could get by the pole sitter on the start. As luck would have it I went low on the start and so did he. As we both soon found out there was no traction down there and we got passed by several cars outside before we could jump back in line. It was one groove racing and I ended up a disappointing 6th. In the consolation race I started 5th and ran much better with a 2nd place finish to transfer to the feature.
I lined up all the way back in 18th for the feature. I know starting this far back that I really needed to watch for accidents and avoid them. That plan worked great as by mid race attrition had taken its toll as there had been 4 accidents and I found myself in 10th. The car was handling extremely well and I was able to run the low line under several cars and ended up 6th. I could have moved up more, but simply ran out of laps. But I am very happy with a 6th coming from 18th.
Saturday July 12th
Yet another beautiful day for racing with lots of sun, just a little hot and humid (85 degrees.) We started 4th in the heat race and ended up 3rd. I did a little damage to my right rear quarter panel when I misjudged a slide job and slide the car into the front of another car, but that still moved me from fourth to third. I was very glad I did not have to run the Consolation race. What a mess, 24 cars started that race and only 6 finished. Two cars were completely destroyed in the race.
Our feature was not as bad, but did have several cautions. I started 10th, but starting in the middle of the pack I ran a little cautious the first couple laps and shuffled back to 12th. Sure enough there was a crash on the third lap and I was NOT in it. That got the field into single file for the restart, then I started working my way to the front. I avoided a couple more crashes before the end of the race and made it to 6th without damage. The track was very tricky and difficult to drive as the grooves were not well defined, this was the main reason for so many cautions. I would call this a good night as we stayed out of trouble and made a move to front with a top ten finish.
Saturday July 19th
In the heat race I started 3rd, moved to second, then battled hard with the third place car for several laps before I decided to let him have the spot, it is only a heat race and does not pay anything. Since third is still a transfer spot I did not see the sense in possibly crashing over 2nd place.
As it worked out, finishing 3rd put me on the pole position for the Feature. It was my race to loose and it was a one groove race track. I knew if I got in the groove and stayed there I would win. Well that looked like the right plan as I pulled away to a big lead off the start, and after the first two cautions. But on the third caution the second place car played a mind game with me by bumping me from behind just before the restart. I knew I had the faster car and could hold them off, and I am usually the one playing those mind games so I knew not to let it bother me. But on the first lap after the restart I was trying to pull away from the pack again and tried too hard! I went into turn one a little too fast and slid up out of the groove, two cars passed me before I could get back in the groove. Now these two cars were going into the turns slower then I do and holding me up, but on a one groove track I could not find a way around them. I was door to door with second and bumping him in the turns, but could not get by. At the very end one car that figured out how to run the upper rim worked his way around the outside of me and beat me by a nose at the finish.
Overall we had a very good night and I had the fastest car on the track, even the guy that passed me at the end would not have passed me if the two cars in front of me had not been holding me up. I made one little rare slip and that cost me the race. I am one of the most consistent drivers and everyone said they were surprised to see me make even that small mistake. But that's racing and nobody is perfect! The car is not damaged and there is always next week.
Saturday August 2nd
Another good night at the races with warm sunny skies. A little on the humid side, but that kept some moisture in the track. We started 3rd in the heat race and moved to second on the first lap. I tried getting by the leader several times on the low side but could not make the pass stick.
In the feature I lined up 6th and worked my way down to the low groove where I knew I could get good bite. But I got stuck behind a slower car and fell to 9th. I moved back up and managed to go around the outside and within 2 laps was back to 4th. I was working on the top 3 and driving into the turns very hard trying to get under them and make the pass. This ended up costing me a position as I drove in too hard and opened the door for the 5th place car to get under me. I tucked back in behind him, but could not get back around him. I ended up 5th, but that is not bad with a 2nd in the heat that made two top five finishes for the night.
Saturday August 9th
With rain threatening we made the trip to the track, but the clouds passed without a drop of rain and it was a warm and muggy night. I started 6th in my heat race and while everybody was trying to work low or high I drove right in the middle and for several laps we were 3 wide all the way around. But the middle worked and I made my way to the front by mid race and stayed there for the win.
There are about 10-12 cars in our class that are fairly even and starting position often means everything. For this feature all the top 12 cars were very even. The track was in very poor shape since the entire track was black and dry/slick. With no bite to be had anywhere it was a follow the leader race with everyone just trying to hold their position. There was only one caution as the outside pole sitter spun on the second lap, that moved me to 8th (where I stayed.) There really was no passing as even the front three finishers started in the first two rows! This was actually a very boring race since nobody could pass, the heat race was much more fun.
Saturday August 23rd
With beautiful sunny skies and mild temps it was another great day for racing. I was a little tired after playing in a sponsors golf outing all day, but after a week off I was ready for some racing. I lined up 3rd in the first heat race of the night. The track was still fairly wet except in the high groove. I stuck my nose right up under the pole sitter on the start and we both were able to move ahead of the outside pole sitter (I did bend the right rear fender when I leaned on him to make a hole.) From there I tried to get around the leader but could not find a good line and I had to settle for second.
Normally the starting positions for the feature are determined by your heat race finish with an drawn inversion. But tonight they decided the have the top three from each heat race draw for position (the forth place and consi transfers started in the back.) I drew the first number and drew a number 2!!! This gave me the outside pole for the feature. The track was dry slick and I knew the high line would not be good for me as I set my car up to run low. On the initial start the pole sitter jumped the start and slid up in front of me, but cheaters never prove as he spun in the first turn and I dove under him. We had a complete restart and since he was warned about jumping he stayed in line this time. I beat him from the start and was in the lead. I tried the high groove, but as I suspected the car was too loose there. So I went to the low groove and it was even worse as I could not get good traction off the turn. I lost a couple positions while down low and was in third. I moved to the middle of the track where nobody usually runs and the car hooked up great. By the time I found this groove I was several car lengths behind the two front cars who were nose to tail. With one lap to go I had caught the leaders and was right behind the second place car. I pulled along side him in the backstretch, drove into turn three hard and got good bite off turn four to take second place by a couple feet. The car was so fast in that middle groove that if I had run there the whole race I would not have lost those spots and would have won the race. But that's racing and I now know where to run the next time the track is in that condition. Finding the right groove is one of the challenges with dirt track racing. The track changes from week to week, race to race, and sometimes even lap to lap!
Saturday August 30th
I drew number 29 at the gate and I knew that would mean a 3rd row starting spot for the heat race. When the line-up was posted, sure enough I was in the third row of the first heat. The problem with being in the first heat is the track is not completely run in and it was a one lane track, this makes it nearly impossible to pass. I knew I would need to get to the front on the start or I was stuck in 5th or 6th. Luckily for me the pole sitter wiggled a little on the start and the whole inside line had to check-up, this allowed me to move from 6th to 3rd right at the start. I was faster then the second place car and the blue and red paint all over the nose of my car proved that. But even with me loosening him up every turn, he held the one good line and I could not get a run around him. Third did transfer me to the feature.
The feature was fairly uneventful. We drew the number 9 starting spot and knew it would be a tough race as all the cars in front of me were very good cars. The track was tacky and fast and made for some good racing. I moved to 6th in the first couple laps, then all of a sudden my car started pushing real bad. No matter what I did I could not get the car to take a set going into the turns. I managed to get to 5th on a restart and then just held on until the end. I could smell gear lube while at post race inspection. When I got back to the truck we looked under the car and the left rear brake assembly was coated with gear lube. The hub seal had gone bad and with oil all over that brake it was not working. In dirt track racing we generally put more rear brake in the car and tap the brakes to set the car on corner entry. Without a left rear brake I had more front brake, so when I tapped the brake pedal to set the car it just drove straight up the track instead of turning sideways. We have already disassembled it and replaced the seal and the car is ready for next weekend.
Saturday September 6th
It was season championship night and it was exciting! I do not run for points and therefore am not in the bid for the season championship. However, Oakshade only gives out trophies at mid-season and season championship nights. That trophy looked very good to me and would look great in my new house. I drew number 4 at the gate, which was a good start as this would put me on the pole of one of the four heat races. I started on the pole of the third heat and lead it flag to flag for the win. This was fun, but the feature was the best one I have been in all year.
I drew the number 5 starting position for the feature. We only ran a few laps before the first caution and I was running 6th. But now we were in single file and I was able to start my charge to the front. I moved up to third before the next caution bunched the field back up. I had the 1996 track champion (Jeff Brown) in second and the soon to be 1997 track champion (Mike McKnight) in the lead. On the restart I dove to the bottom and swept past both of them and took the lead! I led the next 8 laps before Jeff was able to work around me for the lead, he pulled this years points runner up (Rob Lieff) with him. I found myself in third again. A couple laps later Jeff cut a tire and had to pull off. This left me in a two car battle for the lead. The caution came out with just two laps remaining. I had been having great restarts and if I could do it again I could retake the lead. My plan worked perfectly as I swept under the leader and took the lead. I stayed in the bottom groove because the car was so fast down there (that is how I made my way to the front.) But Robs' car was working very well up high and that allowed him to carry more momentum off the turns and he pulled even with me at the white flag. I drove the car right on the edge the last lap, and we were door to door all the way around, but his momentum allowed him to beat me to the line by just a few feet.
Well I did not get the trophy, but that kind of racing is fantastic! We still have one more week of racing left at Oakshade. The points are finished now, so the track is running for fun next week, but as I said I do not race for points, I just race to have fun and win every week!
Saturday September 13th
This night turned out to be a real joke, and not a good joke! It was supposed to be just a fun night for the Sportsman cars since the points were over. I especially felt bad for the UMP Late Models since it was their season championship night. The track management had tore the track up and put way too much water on it for a cool damp night. No matter how hard they tried they could not get the track packed and nearly two hours after the scheduled start of racing they finally had one line around the track worked in enough to race on. That obviously does not make for good racing when you cannot pass. If you went high you slid off the track or into the wall, if you went low you simply spun in the sloppy mud. It was follow the leader racing and where you started is where you finished, unless of course someone in front of you slid off the track! This is the first time I have seen this track in that bad of shape and I hope it is the last.
We generally have 40+ Sportsman cars in the pits. So the process of elimination with only 4 cars from each heat and the consi tends to weed out the slower cars and you know you will be running with fast cars in the feature. Well tonight we only had 22 Sportsman cars in the pits, so they decided the heat races would help determine you feature starting position, but everybody would get to start the feature. Keep this in mind as you read on.
How did we do? Well, I started second in my heat race and guess what, I finished second! I drew number 1 for the feature which started me on the inside pole position. I thought I was safe, out in front early I could stay out of trouble and should cruise to victory. On the start the outside pole sitter got the jump because the one good groove on the track was the outside, so the outside pole sitter actually had a better starting spot then I did because he was able to get traction. I was running second and my car was handling perfectly. I was pushing the leader and waiting for him to mess up and slide high so I could get under him. We had already started to come up on lapped traffic just a few laps into the race, but luckily the caution came out! On the restart I went back to work on the leader, but in less then two laps we had already caught the back of the field (lapped cars!) The biggest problem was that the track was one lane wide and of course the lapped cars were in that lane! I saw four slow cars ahead as I entered turn three and paced myself down the front stretch figuring to time it just right and pass all four of them coming out of turn 2 and down the backstretch. We went into turn 1 and suddenly the first of the four cars got sideways and all them slammed on the brakes! WHOA, the leader shot off the top of the turn to avoid hitting them, but I had already set my car for the turn and could not avoid them, I ran hard into the back of the slower car, then the car behind me ran into the side of me and bent my rim and destroyed my tire! It was a domino effect as this took out the front 4 cars. The car that was in fifth at that time went on to win the race.
I had the race in the bag, and to add insult to injury, I later found out the leader at the time of the accident had a tire go flat just before the accident and would have had to pull off anyway and I would have taken the lead automatically! With my car running so strong and on a one groove track I surely would have cruised to the win. The flag man black flagged the three slow cars after the accident because they were too slow, but it was a little too late for me. The car is not hurt bad, left rear rim and tire are junk, the front bumper and some sheet metal got bent a little, but that's not too bad. We will have to take the rear end housing out and check it for straightness, but that is regular winter maintenance.
I know this is a long highlight, but it was the last night of the season. It was also my first (and last) DNF (did not finish) of the season since it was the last night of racing. I hope you have enjoyed following Kendall Racing this season. Keep checking in because I will be adding more pictures and remodeling my page this winter. I will also give a season summary with statistics in a couple weeks.