Saturday May 19th
First off, my hats off the the crew at Oakshade. I understand that the track was under water Saturday morning. They worked all day to pump it out and prepare the track and the track was in good shape at race time. Well, the car was pretty for pictures anyway! And, in the words of Bobby LeBonte, "The car drove like a garbage truck!" This is a brand new car for me this year and it is WAY different then my old car. I did not have any practice laps, took too long at Tech. Passed tech and choose to start at the back of the heat race so that I could run some test laps. The car pushed very bad, I could not even turn the car. I started 9th, finished 6th. This finish put me on the outside front row of the Consi. I choose to take that starting spot. On the start my foot slipped off the gas pedal, that happened about 3 times last night, I need to adjust the pedal a bit. But I ran second for about 3 laps, then a lapped car spun collected the leader! I am now the leader of the race. I had to work really hard to get the car to turn, but I was managing to stay up front. On the last lap I came up on slow traffic, I ducked under one and the other was low so I moved up. The car moved up in front of me, so I started down to go under him and the guy in second body slammed the left side of my car and passed me. Messed up all the left side of the car and bent both rims. But I finished 2nd. I knew I needed to do something, so I made some adjustments and put on some different tires. I started 17th in the feature. I was going to just take it easy and get seat time. Well, this time the car was WAAAAYYYYY out of the park! I could not turn it at all. Then on the second lap I come off turn four and it would not turn away from the wall.....you guessed it, right side of the car into the wall! I ran one more lap and just parked it. The car was completely undrivable. That is the first time in 11 years of racing I have hit the wall on my own. There will be some major changes made to this car this week. We have to come up with a setup that is at least close, then I can drive it and tweek it. Rough way to start the year with our new car. But we will get it sorted out and get back on track.
Saturday June 9th
I made quite a few changes since the first night out. We are a lot closer, but have more work to do. I started 4th in the second heat race. The car was a little tight going in and a bit too loose coming out of the corners. I managed to pull a 2nd out of the heat race. I changed the right rear tire for the feature to cut the tire stagger and tighten up the car coming off the corners. I drew the pole for the feature, but knew that the car would have to be right on if I was going to keep it out front. The outside front row driver got the jump on me as the inside line was a little wet entering turn one. I jumped up into second and ran there until Brad Wade (second in points) worked under me. Then Chris Smith (points leader) worked by me. I expected to see them! The car was still off on entry, too tight. Exit was better with less stagger though. The car running third slid high in turn 2 and I managed to slip under him and into 3rd. I held the position for the rest of the 25 lap feature. We have made several more changes this week, hopefully in the right direction. We are close, but I could not keep pace with the 2 leaders at the end of the race, so I have some more work to do. A few more weeks of tweaking and I hope we will be dialed in.
Saturday June 16th
We started dead last in the first heat and the track was a little damp yet and tough to pass on. I finished 7th and only the top 5 transfer. But the car seemed pretty good, my latest changes seemed to have helped. I made a few more adjustments for the consi race. We started 4th in the consi, made the pass for the lead about halfway throught and won it! The car was pretty loose off, but we were a lot closer. I made a few more adjustments for the feature, one major one that I thought would really help the car (and it did). We started 16th in the feature. After narrowly missing a couple accidents early, I made my way to the top ten by mid race. The last 5 or 6 laps went caution free. I managed to make my way to 2nd and Chris Smith (3 time champ) was leading by about 4 car lengths. Chris started on the outside of the front row and had about a 4 car length lead. I drove as hard as I could in hopes I would have enough laps to give him a race for the win. I got to within about a car length of him, but unfortunantly, I ran out of laps to give him a challenge. I think we now have the car dialed in pretty well. I still plan to make a few more adjustments to get the car just right. But we have made the car a TON better then it was the first night out this year.
Saturday June 23rd
Well, I drew another bad number for the heat race and started 8th. The car was a little too tight on entry and was pushing. The track was also pretty wet. They had it ready earlier in the day, but it rained for 3 hours prior to race time and made a mess of the track. The officials did a good job getting it dry enough to race on, but passing was very tough in the heat races. We started 8th and finished 8th. Had to run the Consi again and started 8th in that race. The track was coming around and passing was better as we managed to pull off a 4th place finish. By feature time the track was smoother and tacky from top to bottom. This made for some good 3 and 4 wide racing. We had to start 18th our of 20 cars. A couple early accidents helped me gain a couple spots and bunched the field up. We managed to make it to 7th at the finish. Not a bad night overall, but the car was pushing all night, even with some adjustment. We plan to try a few new things with the setup.
Saturday June 30th
We made a major change to the setup on the car this week and I was not sure how the car was going to work. In hot laps the car was a little tight, so I took a couple turns of wedge out and that helped. We lined up 3rd in the 3rd heat race. The top groove never got packed and was quite rough, so everybody was running the middle. I picked my line on the pace lap so I knew where to enter turn one to try getting under the pole sitter and into the lead. We get the green, I jump under the pole sitter and throw the car into turn one. OH NO!!! The water truck had followed the field on the pace lap and sprayed water right where I was running! I could see the shine as I entered the corner, but too late, around I went and was just along for the ride. The guy behind me had the same idea I did and we did syncronized spins. I did not hit anything and was able to continue. But, they make us go to the tail if you are involved in a caution on the start.
Note: The track officials have been doing a GREAT JOB with the track all year, so I do not want to critisize them! The preparation is good and not spraying water on it between races lets the dust blow off and the track come in. Guys, please go back to that! It makes it tough to race when you hit water on the first lap that was not there on the pace lap...nothing like hitting fresh ice at 90 mph!
Anyway, they send me and the other guy to the tail. So now I am starting 8th in an 8 lap heat. I took one lap to feel the car out to see if it would handle, it felt good, so I started moving up. I made it all the way to 2nd and was working on the leader when the checkers flew.
Now here is where the fun begins. I drew a 10 for the feature. Racers Connection, the local racing parts store and American Made Chassis dealer (the chassis I run) has a "Tail Start Challenge" running for the Sportsman class. Every week they up the pot by $50. The rules are, if you are to start in the top 10 and you choose to scratch and start 20th and you WIN, you get the pot and one free tire. Well, the pot is up to $400 plus the free tire. With the track the way it was for the heat race with the top rough, I figured I had a shot since I like the bottom of the track. Plus my car worked well on the bottom in the heat race. So, I decide to take the challenge!
Wouldn't you know it, at intermission they bring out the grader and grade the track totally smooth top to bottom and put water on the fresh grade. Now the top groove is super fast as it has not been run on all night. I agree with the officials doing this. The track just never packed down well for some reason and that was rough on the cars. Plus, Oakshade is a fun place to watch good 3 and 4 wide racing. With no top groove, the track was narrow. So my hats off to the officials for working so hard at intermission to get the track smooth and create a good show for the fans. However, that pretty much killed my chances of pulling this off! My only chance of going from 20th to 1st in a 15 lap feature was if the track was narrow and dry slick. But I had made the decision to do it and there was no turning back. Plus, it was good for my sponsors and for Racers Connection as it put a spotlight on our car. Well, the bottom was good, but so was the top. I made my way all the way to 6th by the end of the race. The top 5 was made up of the top 5 in points and they were all running very fast nose to tail on the top. I would probably not have been able to get past them on the bottom. It was fun to see if I could do it and it made it exciting for me and the fans. I will try it again if I draw a 10 this year! I am not sure it can really be done in this extremely competitive class, but it is fun to take the challenge.
Saturday July 7th
The night started with a good draw at the gate, a 6. This put me on the front row outside for the heat race. One the start I jumped into the lead. The race went caution free and I lead flag to flag for the win. Had another decent draw for the feature and started 7th. The track was in great shape and really fast. Most of the fastest guys in the class had also drawn good numbers and started in the top 5. I managed to pass a couple cars, but the everyone ran strong and smooth so passing was tough. I managed to hang on for a 5th place finish.
Saturday July 28th
Well, it has been a couple weeks since we ran last. The 14th was a special for the UMP Latemodels at our track, so the Sportsman class did not run. The 21st we had thunderstorms and were rained out. Tonight our gate draw was very bad, a 66. This put me 11th in an 11 car heat race. The track was awesome fast! I managed to catch a couple good breaks early and was in 7th at the first caution. I worked my way past a couple more by the end and finished 7th. In that shuffle I had some pretty solid contact with another car, bending the left rear rim and the whole left rear corner of the car. We spent most of intermission repairing the car for the feature. I drew a 5th place starting spot for the feature and the track was in really good shape for me to run the line I like. On the start I ducked low and jumped to 4th. The top 3 drivers in points started 1,3,4 in front of me and were now running 1,2,3 in front of me. I started working under the 3rd place car. I was working the low line to get under him when I found a wet and slippery spot in turn 2! I guess I was running lower then the latemodels ran because the spot did not get run in. I hit that slippery spot and around I went! I was bummed! I now had to restart on the tail of the field. At the next caution I was up to 10th and the car felt great and was really hooking up well on the bottom of the track. I was hoping to salvage a top 5 finish. But, 2 laps back under green and I was working the bottom under the 8th place car when I dove too low again and hit that same spot! Guess what....around I went again! I cannot believe I hit the same spot, I should have learned the first time! Well, at our track if you cause 2 cautions you are disqualified, so I was done for the night. In 11 years of racing I have only spun out on my own once, tonight I did it twice in the same race! Really stinks since I had a good starting spot and the car was handling very well. But, I hit that same spot twice as it was in the line I like to run to get under people. Oh well, that is racing. We will go after them again next week.
Saturday August 4th
I had a special spectator in the stands tonight. My 84 year old grandfather came to the races tonight for the first time. I drew a 5 at the gate, that meant a good starting spot for me in the heat race. I started on the pole of the 4th heat race. I jumped in the lead on the start, but had the 3 time champion and current points leader right on my back bumper. Chris put his nose along side me a couple times, but the track was pretty much one lane and fast, I managed to hold on for the win. This made the whole night worth while! I went and got my granfather out of the stands for the victory lane picture. He really enjoyed that and will love the picture. I started 8th in the feature and was hoping to have a good shot at getting to the front. The track had gone very dry and slick up high, so I thought I could make some progress low. But on the start the whole inside row of cars went to the bottom and I was hung out to dry. The car needed more rear brake as it was pushing pretty badly in the middle. Finally a caution, I was still in 8th as I had passed a couple and been passed by a couple before I could get low. I turned the rear brake up and that helped. The worst part was the fact that the entire field had the same idea I did, run low where there was some traction. This made passing very tough. I did manage to get by a couple more cars by the end of the race, but the best I could do was a 6th. We only have a couple weeks left in the season and I want to try some setup changes. Our results could suffer, but the results have not been as good as I would like thus far. I am going to try some new setups and see if I can something that will really makes the car faster. This is more in an effort to find a setup for next year.
Saturday August 11th
The night started with a bad draw, a 70. This put me at the tail of the heat race. We put a completely new setup under the car for tonight and I was not sure how it was going to work. The car has been tight all year, tonight I was actually too loose off. I had accomplished fixing the tight problem, but perhaps went a bit too far. I made it up to 7th in the heat and had to run the Consi for a shot at the feature. Between races I made another spring change and a couple more adjustments and they helped the car a ton. In the Consi I started 5th and on the start got under the cars in front of me and got to the lead in a couple laps. The race went caution free and I led the rest of the race. This put me 16th in the lineup for the feature. The track had taken on two distinct lines during the racing tonight. That was odd since the track generally gets racey from top to bottom. But tonight there was a top groove and bottom groove, but nothing in the middle. On the start I got to the bottom, but had heavy traffic running the bottom. I moved up to the middle, but just could not get any bite in the loose dirt. After a few laps I found a place in line on the top groove, but it was a traffic jam too. Finally the caution came out about halfway through. On the restart, most of the cars stayed high, so I went low and was able to start moving up, but had very little time left to get very far. I only made it up to 11th. This was frustrating since my car really did feel better then it has all year and was fast. I just could not get through traffic. The only way to get there was to push people out of the way and I simply do not like doing that...what comes around goes around. I am a week late writing this. I went to the track this week (August 18th) with high hopes as I made a couple more minor adjustments that would only make the car even better. But once we got to the track and ready to race, the skies opened up and shut us down. Rained out again.
Saturday September 1st
I drew a 23 at the gate, that put me 3rd in the first heat race. I tried to go under the front row on the start, but could not get traction low and had to fall in line 3rd. That is the way we stayed to the finish. We drew a 7th place starting spot for the feature. The track looks really good for the feature, wide and smooth. On the start I get a good jump up to 4th and the car is handling very well! But a caution comes out and we have to line up for a complete restart, back to 7th. On the restart I made it to 5th and 2 laps in I run down into turn 1 and the D1 car comes down in front of me. I locked the brakes trying not to hit him and this killing the motor, but I still hit him and the guy behind me hit me. I let off the brakes, hit the gas and the car refires without stopping. The caution comes out for a spin somewhere else on the track. I lost some positions in that scuffle, but the caution came out before we completed that lap. I was 5th on the last completed lap, so I should get my 5th place spot back. But for some reason they lined me back up in 10th. The race restarts and I make my way back to 4th before the next caution. We have yet another caution and on the restart I made a move to 2nd...but the yellow flies before we complete that lap, so I have to go back to 4th. On the restart, the third place car blocked my line this time. He is holding me up a little, he is making it past the 2nd place car and when he clears him he slides up in front of him between 3 and 4! I pass them both in turns 3 and 4, but coming off turn 4 the white flag is out! No way this can be almost over! I am 3 car lengths behind the leader! I throw it into turn 1 and come out of turn 2 about 2 carlengths back. I throw it hard into turn 3, but it is not enough and I finished second by about a car length. After the race I found out the race went too long on time and they shortened it by 3 laps. I was bummed! I think we would have had a great race for the lead and the win in those last three laps. But we will never know and I will settle for second.
That concludes my season at Oakshade for the year. They are running a couple more races, but I am going to start preparing my car for Dealers Choice, a big 4 day show at Butler Motor Speedway at the end of September. I am a little disappointed with this year. It was sort of a rebuilding year with this new car. It is the first time in 5 years I have been skunked on feature wins. We had a couple heat and consi wins and a couple close seconds in features. But I finally found a setup I like and should be able to come out running strong in 2002.
Saturday September 29th
Dealers Choice is the season FUNally for the racing season. It is a HUGE 5 day show held at Butler Motor Speedway and promoted by the Marc Time Racing News. The show involves 8 classes of race cars and draws a few hundred cars. It is a lot of fun with campfires, parties, and lots of racing. I ran in the Pro Stock class which is simalar to our Sportsman Class at Oakshade. We went up on Tuesday in the rain. It rained out practice Tuesday and first round qualifying on Wednesday. The rain stopped on Thursday and we were able to qualify. I have not run Butler since 1995 and really wanted the practice to find a setup. But we did not get any practice and my first lap on the track was on the clock...two laps of qualifying. The car was VERY loose, but I still managed to qualify 6th out of 50 cars. The top 10 qualifyers are locked into the Feature event and are to run the fast car Friday night special. I made some big changes to the car to tighten it up and put on my pavement tires. Yes, pavement tires. It is a dirt track, but is EXTREMELY abrasive...like 60 grit sandpaper! In two laps of qualifying I destroyed a set of dirt tires....took the rubber right off them! Started 5th in the Friday night special, moved up to 3rd, but late in the race I slipped coming off turn 4 and two cars passed me to put me back to 5th. That is where I finished. We did not have to run the Odd/Even qualifyer since we were locked in, but I made a gear change and some more chassis changes and wanted to test them, so I ran it. Started 22nd out of 25 cars. I planned to just run a few laps and pull off. But the car was fast and felt good, so I started passing cars. I was passing for 8th late in the race when I got to low going into turn 3 and hit loose dirt. This threw the car to the right! I shot up the track while spinning around and flew off the track backward! Never felt anything like that before! But no harm done, just fired the motor back up and went back out in about 20th. Made it up to 12th at the finish. We liked up 5th for the feature and I thought staying on the bottom would be the best way to go. I had the gear for it and the car was setup to run the bottom. Right on the start we lost about 10 spots though! The pole sitter had a problem on the start and held up the inside row, I fell to about 14th or 15th before I could get out from behind him and around him. Butler is only 2 cars wide on the front straight, so getting bottled up is bad! I made my way back up to 9th late in the race, but in a last lap race with the 10th place car I got nosed out and finished 10th. All in all it was a lot of fun. We ran decent and loaded the car straight, so that made the weekend a success. Now it is time to rebuild the car for next year. See you then.