Saturday May 6th
Ok, enough prelude to the season. Here is how it started. It was hot today, 85 degrees and sunny. The track was in great shape, even in hotlaps you could run high or low. I drew outside front row of the first heat race. The pole sitter and I ran the first lap side by side, but coming off turn 4 he had me cleared and slid up to take the lead. My car had a slight push from the middle of the corner out that was causing me to have to check up coming off the turns. But I still finished second.
We started 8th in the feature. The track was super smooth from top to bottom. On the start it was pretty dusty as we were all packed up tight. So I took it easy the first lap to let things settle out. I had lost a couple spot on the start and was back to 10th. But I moved down to the low groove on the race track and started working my way back up toward the front. At the first caution I had made my way to 6th. The car was really running well and hooked up on the low groove and I soon found myself up to 2nd and in a very good door to door fight for the lead with the car that won my heat race. We had a great race. It was really exciting in the car and must have been fun for the fans to watch. We were going back and forth for the top spot, but I was finally able to pull ahead with about 5 laps to go. I was hoping it would stay green and I could just cruise to the finish. But the caution came out with 3 to go. I figured Chris (the track champion the last 2 years in a row) was probably in second and going to really give me a run. My car was hooked up better then it ever has been running the low groove and in those last three laps I really drove hard (almost too hard once in turns 1 and 2, almost spun it!) to keep him behind me. It was enough and I held on to win my first feature of the 2000 season.
Saturday May 13th
Saturday night was COLD!!!!! I think it was in the 30's, could not even get the motor to warm up! I started on the pole of the first heat. But the cold air would not allow the water (they put water on the track to keep the dust down) to evaporate or soak in. We tried to run the water in, but there was only one good line when we started the race and that was high. Knowing that if I went low into turn one I would slide into the guy on the outside, I elected to check up right at the start, let him get the jump, then jump in line behind him. Sometimes you just have to drive smart, not push the issue for the win, and settle for second and transfer to the feature. I pulled 8th again for the feature. I had to tape off part of the nose to get the engine to build heat. The track was black and slippery in the high line, but the low line was damp from cool moisture coming back up. The cold weather made the track a little different than I remember it ever being. But that is the beauty of dirt track racing, the track changes from week to week. I started high and could not get down until I was about 12th, then I got back to 8th before the caution. Then moved to 7th on the restart, then 6th, but by now the top 5 had broken away. I had open track and tried EVERY line on the track to find a fast line for my car, but just could not get the car to work well in any line. The nose would wash up the track anywhere I went. I just drove it out to take 6th.
Saturday May 27th
Another cool and very damp night. The track held moisture well....a little too well. Only one lane really developed, the high line where everyone ran. That is a little out of character for Oakshade, the track is very wide and most nights there is at least 3 lines to race in. But with the cool damp air only the top line came in. This made passing VERY difficult. I started 6th in the heat race and was tring the outside and inside of the 5th place car (I had to make top 5 to transfer to the feature), I lost a position each time. Well, I could see I was going to have to run the consi race, I just hope more lines develope. Started 8th in the consi and moved up to 6th right on the start as we tried to sort ourselves out. The front 5 cars were fast and the moist air had kept any other lines from drying out. I stayed in 6th for a while hoping someone in front would have a problem. But late in the race I could see that was not going to happen, so I had nothing too loose. I was 6th and not in the top 5 to transfer to the feature. It was time to try to make something happen. I dove low couple times, but just could not find any traction. Then we had a caution with 3 to go. This was the break I was hoping for. If the line did not go and I dove the bottom maybe I could pick up a spot or two. I also knew that if it did not work I would loose some spots, but that did not matter as 6th or worse puts you on the trailer anyway. On the restart I dove the bottom really hard and held the pedal down and slid out into traffic coming off turn 2, but the line had taken off fast and I did not make the pass. I tried to squeeze in and bumped the 5th place car, cutting my right front tire. I did loose 6th too as I knew I would if my slide job did not work. But that was all I could do. So for the first time since May 17th, 1997 (49 nights of racing) we did not make the feature. That is racing! The weather prevented the track from coming in and I could not make things happen without risking destroying the car. We are taking a couple weekends off to go to Bristol and watch the big boys play on dirt at Bristol. We will go back after it in a few weeks!
Saturday June 17th
You may have noticed a couple things odd about this write-up. First, we took a couple weeks off. I have been racing for 10 years now and during that time have not taken a weekend off to go on a summer vacation with my family. My wife wanted to go this year and since I am not running for points, I told her I would...but there was a catch! She wanted to take the kids to Disneyworld in Florida. The catch was we had to go the first week in June. That way we could stop in Bristol both weekends and catch the HAT LM race and the WoO Sprint shows at Bristol Motor Speedway on dirt. She actually said that was OK! So we took 10 days, I saw both weekends at Bristol, four days with the kids at Disney, and one day in Daytona to see Daytona USA, the beach, and take a ride around the speedway in a "be Petty" ride. That ride was a rush!
Anyway, the other odd thing is two dates listed for this race weekend. We ran heat races on the 17th, then the track lost power when a transformer went out. We ran the features on the 24th before the regular show on the 24th was to start, but shortly after the makeup feature the skies opened up and we did not get any of the regular show in. In the heat race on the 17th I started 3rd, but the only line on the track that had dried out was the high line. I jumped high and in line on the start and was in 3rd. Top 4 draw for the feature and 5th starts back in the pack in the feature. My original plan was to ride it out in 3rd and just take the draw position. But going into turn 3 on the first lap the second place car slowed quickly and I thought he broke, so I dove low to avoid running into him. But I got into the wet clay and he went back by along with another car. Now I am in 4th, but not content, I try the bottom on purpose this time and loose another spot to 5th. This is not good! I want to draw! So on a late race restart I shoot to the bottom and slide out of turn four and land in the 4th position. I just rode it out from there to get the transfer spot.
I was the second to last person to draw and there was a 1 and a 5 left to choose from...50% chance of starting on the pole! I drew the 5 of course. Then the lights went out
and we had to run the feature on the 24th. This bummed me out, the track was nice and run in on the 17th and that would have made for good 3 wide racing. But on the 24th we
were the first feature out. The track was awesome fast for our race! This is good, but that means the high line is the fastest way around and it is tougher to get out of line and
complete a pass. I ran 4th most of the race and was getting my nose along side the car in 3rd, but did not want to go in under him for fear that I would slide up into him and take us
both out. We had a full nights program left to run and I did not want to crash in this first feature. So I drove smart and held my line. On the last turn of the last lap the 5th place
car decided to try going into turn three hard down low. He came up and pushed me off the top of the track. I checked up and saved the car to finish 5th. Then the rain came and washed out the
rest of the night.
Saturday July 1st
We started 7th in the heat race and had to make top 3 to draw for position for the feature and 4th would get me a 16th place starting spot in the feature. The race went caution free and the two leaders had a pretty good lead. I worked my way up to 3rd and would need a caution to catch the leaders. I figured I that since I had started in the last row and passed up to 3rd I eased up a little and figured to settle into 3rd and take the draw position. Bad move, one car I had passed found a good line and on the last lap got a good run off the top and took 3rd at the line! This meant I had to start 16th in the feature. I knew I had my work cut out for me.
I had one of my main sponsors there (Town and Country Kitchen Warehouse owner Tom Buell) to watch the races. I made a couple adjustments to the car and knew the car was handling well enough that if I could avoid getting caught up in a crash, I could have a good finish. The race started and the car was flawless! I did not count, but my dad and sponsor did. They said that coming off turn 4 to complete lap 1 I had passed 6 cars and was up to about 10th. The car was really hooked up. But coming by the flagstand a pair of cars came down across the track and the first one hit me square in the passengers door and took out my right rear tire. That turned me nose first into the other car. I limped the car back to the pits with a flat tire. Two other crews were there to help my dad change the tire. The caution was long due to the amount of cars in the crash. It was also to be a complete restart. I was hoping to get the tire changed and back out. It would have happened, but the rim was bent so badly it covered the lug nuts and they could not get the wheel off the car! By the time we pryed the wheel away the race was back underway and we were done. None of the damage was too bad and the car is back straight and ready to race again next week. At least we looked good for one lap for my sponsors! :o) I did pick up some new pictures. Check back later this week and I will have them posted.
Saturday July 8th
Saturday night the weather was not the best at the start of the nigh, but cleared up for features. It was sprinkling during my heat race and a dirt track with water coming down makes it a little slippery! I had another bad draw and had to start 9th of 10 cars. I end up 8th in as passing was pretty tough. Have to run the consi again. I started 7th in the consi and what an awesome race for the fans! I was up to 4th at one point when the 3rd place car got out of shape and I tagged him a little with the RF corner. He saved the car, but I got shuffled back to 6th again. I got back to 5th and was going to ride it out, but on the last restart the 6th place car passed me a little early. Going into 3 on the last lap we were 3 wide for 4-6 positions. I come off 4 and just held the hammer to the floor! Tires lit and leaning on the guy next to me with my RR quarter, but I was determined to get by him coming to the flag. I crossed the line sideways and spun down into the infield! I did not make the pass and was 6th! But the officials came right over to the car after the race and said they penelized the other guy 2 positions for the jump on the last restart and I was 5th! YESSSS!
So now I start 20th out of 20 cars in a
15 lap feature, but the track was in great shape and there would be room for passing.
I stayed in 20th for 2 laps while sparks
flew, tires got cut, smoke, cars bouncing off the wall
all ahead of me. They finally got strung out and I started
my way to the front. We had a few cautions to bunch the field back up and
my car really worked flawlessly. I managed to make it to 5th before running out of laps.
Saturday July 22nd
I had a racing buddy from Iowa in town with me this weekend. Since I have been drawing such bad numbers at the gate, I decided he could not do any worse, so I let him draw. He did not do worse, but did not do much better! :o) He drew a 61 out of 74. This put me 10th out of 11 cars in the heat race. The track was super fast and tacky all the way around. This makes passing tough because the groove is so fast. I did manage to make it to 5th. Top 5 transfer, but only top 4 get to draw for the pole and top 12 feature spots. So I had to start 13th in the feature, but at least I was locked in and would not have to run the consi.
In the feature I had the top 2 in points starting right in front of me. So my plan was to follow them to the front and then battle with them. It worked for a while as all three of us made our way into the top 6 before the car in front of me tangled with another car and they spun. I slid sideways into the front bumper of one car as he spun, but luckily it just smashed in the door and did not hit either wheel. I kept going and was in 4th. On the restart I moved to 3rd and had to work hard to get past the second place car. By the time I had cleared him the leader was a full straight away in front of me. I ran as hard as I could and managed to close it down to a half straight. I was hoping for a caution and I got one for a spun car. Chris was leading the race and has won the last 5 features in a row. I have not been able to get up there to challenge with him in any of those 5 wins. I was hoping I had something for him and could race him hard for the win. But when the green fell Chris stepped up the pace a little and my handling just was not as good as before the caution as I was having to use brake to turn the car. I was likely pushing it too hard and overdriving the car. Chris got away and won it without a fight. I am happy with a second coming from 13th, but I need to do some work to get it dialed in and beat Chris! But congrats to Chris, 6 in a row is pretty darn dominant.
Saturday August 12th
Finally pulled a good number at the gate, a 19. I started outside the front row of the 3rd heat race. The track was really fast in the high line and still a little wet low. I knew I had to get the lead at the start and being on the outside I was able to do this. I led the whole race and won it.
I pulled a good number for the feature too, a 4. This started me outside the second row. The track had stayed moist up high and was fast, the bottom was tacky, but the top was better. I was in forth for the first lap, then made my way under the 3rd place car and as the 2nd place car tried the bottom, I swept around the outside and into second. The leader, Brad Wade, had started on the pole and was running very well. We came up on lapped traffic and I was hoping they would hold him up enough that I could make a run low. But just then the caution came out and bunched us back up. I shot low on the restart knowing that it may not be fast enough to complete the pass, but I had to try it. We came off turn 4 door to door, but his momentum carried him past me. I jumped in line behind him, but could not make another run at him the rest of the race. It was Brad's first ever feature win and he did a good job, congrats to him.
Saturday August 19th
The heat race was like a mini feature tonight. A lot of fast cars were in my heat race including the top 2 in points. I jumped into the lead coming off the second turn on the first lap, but in turn 3 the points leader passed me for the lead and that is the way we stayed for the rest of the race. I made the transfer to the feature.
I lined up 8th for the feature and man was it a fast race! I tried running my line around the bottom, but could tell something was not right, the car just would not handle. I kept washing up off the bottom and the car was loose coming off the corners. I was in 4th, but really being pushed by the 5th place car, so I moved up a lane to see if the car was better up there and to let him by since I knew my car was not handling well. I held on to finish 5th. When I got the car home and did my weekly inspections I found the problem. The RR spring was not seated in the coil over mount. This affects ride height and weight percentages! This would make the car looser! So I fixed that and checked the setup on the car. We should be back in shape for championship night coming up on 8/26/00.
Saturday September 1st
We kept the numbers we drew last week so I started on the pole of the 4th heat. I had a pretty good lead until the caution came out and bunched us up. On the first lap of the restart the second place car poked his nose up along side me, so I pushed it harder and went on to win the race.
Feature draw...I drew a 12! Starting mid pack is not fun because it is easy to get caught up in an early crash. My plan was to slide to the bottom with the car starting inside me as I knew he would go low on the start. I start down but a car hit my left rear and turned me sideways, I saved the car but was back to about 16th now. Then going into turn one on lap 2, someone spins right down into my line and I hit the brakes, then get slammed from behind and around I go. I did not hit anything and all the guy behind had hit was the bumper, no damage. So I refire, but now I have to start on the tail, which was 18th at this point. My car was handling extremely well and I knew that if I could stay out of anymore wrecks I could at least make the top 10. I moved to 12th, then 8th, and on the final restart I was 6th. I got to 4th and then caught the 2nd and 3rd place cars who were in a heated battle up high. I worked under them and coming off turn 4 to the checkers we were 3 wide for positions 2-4! They had momentum and the outside guy was 1/2 car ahead of the middle car who was 1/2 car ahead of me. So I took a close 4th and if I had one more lap I know I think I would have made it to 2nd. All in all it was a good night as we got a heat win and even with getting involved in a crash I have no real damage to speak of, and managed to make a bad start into a strong finish.