Saturday May 4th
Welcome to another exciting season of racing with us. We made a bunch of changes to our car over the winter. The car was new to us last year, and I ran it just as I bought it. But this winter I rebuilt the front suspension to get better geometry, replaced the rear spring rod with a 5th arm setup, and made a few other improvements. I knew these changes would make the car drive different. I figured it to be tighter with the 5th arm, so I set the car up loose. Well, I went too loose and it would not turn in and was way loose off. Not enough left rear bite.
In the heat race we lined up 5th. The first night out, the track is green for the season, so we really only had one racing groove that had smoothed out. Pretty much just had to fall in line, finished 6th. Good enough for a transfer spot. But the car was WAY tight in and WAY loose off. I put 4 rounds of bite in the car for the feature. We lined up 9th for the feature and the track was still much the same. It was just too cold and damp for the track to dry out and smooth out. It will get better as the warm summer days come. The track crew did a great job trying to get the track smoothed, including grading it at intermission. But it just would not come in tonight. On the drop of the green I moved to 6th, but then we had a caution and complete restart. On the restart, I again made it to 6th, but 3 laps in the 5th place car lost it in front of me, I checked up and one car went by. I was in 7th, no caution. I tried the high side to get around the 6th place car, but it was just too rough and by the time I decided to move back down, the car behind me had pulled up along side and I had to fall to 8th. This is where we finished. The car was better, but still not very good. This week we made more changes and scaled the car again. It should be better the next time out.
Saturday May 18th
The night started right as I drew the pole position for the 4th heat race. I thought I had a good chance of staying up front and getting a heat race win. We started the race and I jumped into the lead. But when I went into the first turn and hit the gas, the car pushed REALLY bad! The car had such a bad power push I could barely drive it. I fell to second on the first lap and stayed there. I knew I had some major work to do for the feature. So we changed a shock, changed a bar angle on the rearend, and took a bunch of left rear bite out.
We lined up 11th for the feature. The car was better, but still not very good through the middle of the corners. We had multiple restarts as everytime we tried to get the race going, someone would crash. By the time we actually got started, attrition had me lined up 7th! That is where I stayed until the last lap. I just could not get the car to go through the corner fast enough to move up and for the last few laps I had a good door to door battle with the 8th place car and he nosed me out for 7th at the finish. So I became the 8th place car! So we are still searching for the handle on this car. We made a ton of changes this week. They say to only change one thing at a time, but we are too far off for that, we are looking for a setup that will at least get us close. So this week we changed springs, shocks, bar angles, weight percentages, and moved weight around on the car. All things that should help the car roll better through the corners. We will hit something close and tweak from there.
Saturday June 1st
The night started right...I drew the pole for the heat again. The car handled very well in hot laps, so the new setup seemed to be good. I changed a TON of stuff on the car this week trying to find a setup that worked. In the heat race we lined up on the pole and took the lead on the start. About halfway through we had a caution and on the restart the current track champion got a good run on the bottom and managed to get by. I ran second the rest of the race.
I had another good draw for the feature...outside front row! On the start I jumped out in front and my gameplan was to go to the bottom where I like to run. But I went to the middle and the car did not feel right, so I moved back to the top...never sticking to my plan to go to the bottom. About 6 laps in the track champ passed me low. I then moved to the bottom and the car was great. I stayed right with the leader and actually got my nose up to his door a couple times late in the race, but could not get by him. We ended up 2nd and I was very happy with the finish and the setup. The car finally handles very well!
Saturday June 8th
Oakshade put on a special for Sportsmans tonight. We ran Twin 25's, basically 2 25 lap features back to back with an invert. We qualified tonight and I qualified 6th. Lined up 6th in the 3rd heat race. I took the lead coming off turn 4 to complete just the 2nd lap and led the rest of it to the win.
Lined up 8th in the first feature. The top groove was fast and the bottom was not going to work with the top being so fast, so stayed high. I run about 8th for about 5-6 laps, then lost a couple spots. I was taking it easy a little as I knew we had a long race and another run...needed to be patient! About halfway through the bottom groove started looking good so I moved down. I made my way to 4th and was racing for 3rd on the last lap when the second place car spun out, I had to check up and finished 3rd. I was very pleased with a 3rd.
Feature number 2 I start 7th. They very lightly watered the track to keep the dust down, so the bottom was a little wet, but not bad. My gameplan was to go to the bottom and stay there the whole race. On the start I went to the bottom and it was a little slippery and I backed up to about 10th in the first 5 laps. But I was patient and persistant that I was going to run that line in and make it work! By lap 7 or 8 I had done it, the bottom was working for me. I got up to second and made the pass for the lead, but the caution came out. I have to go back to 2nd. On the restart the leader blocked me low. I get a run off 4 and made the pass...caution, put back to 2nd again! On the restart Devin Shiels(51) goes high and passes us both! So after Devin went by, I got back to 2nd and started chasing him down. At the white flag he had 1 car length on me. I drove very hard into turn 1, came out with my nose at his door down the back stretch. I drive it into turn 3 as hard as I can and we come off turn 4 door to door! I got a great bite coming off turn 4 and Devin hit a dry spot and could not get a good bite. I shot out of turn 4 and beat him by just a few feet! I only led one lap, that was the one that counted! That was a fun race! Devin raced me very clean and we had a great battle to the end! I think I found a setup I really like on this car!
Saturday June 15th
After last weekend...this weekend seemed pretty uneventful. We started 6th in the heat race and quickly moved to 3rd and finished 3rd. I drew a 10 for the feature lineup. The feature went caution free so the feild really got stretched out. The 2 leaders were way out in front. The next 5 of us were fighting for 3rd-8th. We had a good battle going and in the end I ended up 5th. Not a bad night, a couple top 5 finishs and the car is still in one piece! We made a few changes for next week, trying to find a little more speed. Check back and see if we went the right way. The car has been handling well, but I am always looking for a little more....5th place is not as good as winning!
Saturday June 22nd
Well, we took the changes we made back off the car! I guess if it is not broke, I should not try to fix it. We did OK in our heat race by starting 5th and winning that. But that was mainly because I had a good start and got to the front early. Once out in front I just had to hold my line. The car was OK, but not as good as it has been. We drew a 6 for the feature. The track was in great shape and we moved right up to 4th. But I was having a hard time getting around the third place car who was trying to run low. I tried going high around him, but the car would not work up there and a couple cars got under me. The 3rd place guy ended up loosing his driveshaft about mid-race and fell out of the race. Unfortunantly, the officials did not see the driveshaft and it laid on the track right in the line into turn 3. I kept driving in high to avoid it, but several guys hit it and it was in 3 peices by the end of the race. The race again went caution free and I just held on for 7th. The car was way too loose off the corners, so I put it back like it was the last few weeks.
Saturday June 29th
We started 6th in the heat race and it was a fast race. I only managed to gain one position, but that was where I needed to be to draw for my starting spot in the feature. We started 5th in the feature and after a handful of laps I had made my way to the front. We led the race for a few laps before the track champion pulled along side. I ran harder and tried to hold him off, we ran a good door to door race for a few laps, but I could not hold him off and we held on for second place. Time for a few more changes though, gotta get to where we can keep him behind us!!
Saturday July 6th
We made a few changes to the car this week including some spring changes and a shock change. The setup is designed to help us be faster on a dry slick track. Unfortunantly I drew the pole for the first heat race and the track was very wet and heavy that early in the evening. I was not sure how the car was going to handle so I took the first few laps easy, but that cost me. Again, this was a very fast heat race and I quickly fell to 3rd. After a restart I fell back to 5th and on the final lap fell to 6th and out of the transfer spot. The car was just too tight in the middle of the corners. I left the setup alone though, the track will come to my setup. We started on the pole of the consilation race and led it flag to flag for the win. That placed us 15th in the starting linup for the feature. Now the setup was working. I moved up to 10th fairly quickly, but had to work very hard to get around the next 2 cars and that took several laps. I finally cleared them and moved to 8th, but I needed a caution as I was 1/4 track behind 7th place. The car handled very well and I caught the lead pack of cars just in time for the race to end. So we finished up 8th. Not a bad run from 15th, the car was pretty good, just had a difficult time with traffic. No more changes this week, I will continue to work with the setup I have and drive this setup better.
Saturday July 19th
Well, tonight started bad and ended worse. I drew 73 at the gate, had to start last in my heat race. Only made it to 6th and had to run the Consolation race to make the main. I did manage to win the Consi, but that was the high point of the night. The track was very slick tonight, probably more slick then I have seen it in a while. Not sure why, if it was fresh clay or just the weather, the surface just really went slick. I had to "dance" a lot on the throttle in the heat race to keep the car under me. I was a little nervous about the feature because some of the newer drivers may not be prepared for how slick it was. Don't get me wrong, the track was prepared just fine by the track crews, it just went slick. At the start of the race there was a multi-car pileup, I managed to miss that. On the complete restart though...I was not so fortunate. I went into turn one and coming through turn 2 one of the new guys in our class lost it and came down into my RF. (I am not mad at him, he just lost it on the slick track, part of racing) The hit turned me head on into one of the implement tires that lines the inside of the track. I hit it SO hard it pushed the front nose and bumper straight up into the air and the tire stood right up...under my car! I was pointed straight up at the sky...counting the stars! When the tire came back down I came down on top of it and bounced on over it. I knew the car was hurt...I could read the writing on the nose of the car, it was about 2 feet in the air and pointed straight up. I was able to drive it back to the trailer, but it will cost a good bit of money and time to fix. I had to order a new radiator, front suspension parts, bumper and a few other things. We will have it all fixed up and back on track this weekend though. Pretty wild ride, but nobody's fault, just one of those racing deals.
Saturday July 27th
Under threatening sky's, we went to the track tonight...but I think we would have been better off just staying home. We started 4th in our heat race and the track was still pretty wet and rough. The damp air with no sunshine made the track stay heavy and the bumps did not get run in very well. On the start I hung back a bit knowing the track was going to be hard to drive on and there would be some early crashes. It did not take long and there were 2 crashes on just the second lap...both in front of me. I had backed up to about 6th at that point. On the restart I managed to start moving back up and made my way back to 3rd by the end of the heat race. Rain moved in shortly before intermission, but it did not last long. The track crews did a nice job getting the track run in again and ready to race. Since it had just rained, they did not water down the track at intermission so it was in great shape for the features! The UMP Late Models ran their feature and my dad told me the track looked great, lots of bite and about 3-4 good racing lanes. The track crew decided to put a little water on the track just before our race. But, the track was already moist and with the humid air it was holding its moisture. So the extra water just made the surface pure slime. I don't think the track crew realized this would happen as they have been doing a great job all year and have not been watering after features start, they have been just letting the track harden and come in nice and wide. There was no traction anywhere and on the intial start everyone slide into eachother as we went into turn 1 and I got the front an rear of my car banged up pretty good. One car spun and we had a complete restart. On the restart, same thing happened and we all got single file around the top. There was only one groove to run, the top grove. I was running 11th right on the start and all I really had to do was stay in line there if I wanted to finish there, nobody could pass if you stayed in one racing groove. But I am not the kind to just follow the leader, so I started trying to work under the cars in front of me, but there was no traction and cars started getting around me on the outside since they had the good line now. I fell back to 14th by the finish, but it really makes no difference, 11th or 14th, at least I know I tried to make things happen and pass.
Saturday August 3rd
It was a beautiful night for racing with temps in the mid 80's and sunshine. We started 8th in the 3rd heat race. We were running 6th and needed to make it to the top 5 to transfer. About halfway through the 4th place car got a little sideways in turn 1 and checked up, the 5th place car bumped him and turned him around, but this flattened the 5th place car's tire. This moved me up to 4th. In the final few laps I was able to make the pass on the third place car and finish 3rd. We lined up 9th in the feature. The track was perfect for racing! My hats off to the track crew, the track was a little bumpy in the heat races, but they cleaned it up nice for the features and did not water it too heavily before the feature events. This allowed the track to come in nicely and made for good 4 wide racing! On the start I moved to 8th, then to 6th. But we had a caution and I was moved back to 8th since we had not completed a lap after my pass to 6th. On the restart I moved to 6th again, but another caution moved me to 8th again. We had another restart and again I shot up to 6th, but we had yet another caution and I had to line up 8th again. But on the next restart the 7th place car moved down and blocked me going into turn 3 and I had to work around the outside of him over the next couple laps and moved back to 6th. I made the pass for 5th about halfway through, but now the top 4 had a full straight away lead over me. I started gaining ground on them, but needed a caution to bunch the field back up. But we ran the rest of the way under green flag racing and I ended up 5th. Not a bad run, the car handled well, just could not get good track position.
Saturday August 10th
The night started just like it has the last few weeks....with a poor draw for my heat race starting position. Started 5th in the heat race and we ran a caution free race, I finished 5th. This meant I had to start 13th in the feature. The track was awesome for the feature. I started moving up, but the field quickly strung out in front of me. We ran another caution free feature and I could only make it up to 7th by the end. The car was pretty good, just need a little more sidebite.
Saturday August 17th
Well, this could just about be a repeat of last week! Drew one number off from last weeks draw at the gate. Started 5th again in the feature and probably would have finished 5th had it not been for a late race accident between the 2nd and 3rd place cars. That moved me to 3rd. This put me in the draw for the feature. There are 12 numbers to draw from for the feature. Staying consistant with my poor draws lately, I drew a 12! So I started 12th in the feature. With the extremely competitive Sportsman class this year, track position is everything. I lost a couple positions on the start as things were messy on the first lap with people running over eachother. I just backed off a little and tried to stay clean. I then started trying to move back up. Again we had a caution free feature and it was all I could do to make it to 9th. The car was better this week, we made some changes last week to get more sidebite and it worked. I do not plan to change it again now, it is handling well. The driver just needs to drive it harder and get used to this setup.
Saturday August 24th
The night started with the same bad draw at the gate, a 69. I even let my dad draw since my luck has been so bad drawing numbers. This meant we had to start at the tail of our heat race. The track was in great shape with good grip top to bottom. I moved past a few cars, then a caution took out another. At the final caution I was 7th and in the closing laps I moved up to 4th, good enough for a transfer spot and a redraw for the feature. I had my dad pull our feature starting spot too. Much better, a three, inside the second row. I had a plan all worked out on how to jump into the lead right on the start. I hoped the pole sitter would slide up and leave me the bottom line, it worked perfectly as he entered turn one and slid up the track. What I did not expect was the outside front row driver to make a hard left turn behind the pole sitter and right down to the bottom line in front of me! I had to hit the brakes hard to avoid hitting him and when I did, the guy outside me slipped by me as well! So now I am in 4th coming out of turn 2 on the first lap! That was not the plan! A lap later the track champ passed me and move his way up to the lead. The four of us running for 2nd-5th had a great battle going! We were 3 wide a few times racing for position. But the 4th place car kept blocking the low line and I could not find a way around him. With 2 to go he blocked me hard going into turn three and I had to brake to avoid hitting him. When I did, that let Fisher in the 4 car get his nose under me and take 5th away. So we ended up 6th. No complaints though, it is all part of racing.
Saturday August 31st
The night started with a good draw for the heat race, a 4. That was good enough for the pole of the second heat race. On the start I jumped into the lead. But as I entered turn 3 the top line had fresh water on it and I had to really back pedal to avoid sliding off the track. Tim Fisher made a nice move to the bottom when he saw the water and he executed a nice clean slide job to take the lead. After the first lap all the water was run in and we had a nice tacky surface. I stayed right with Tim the rest of the race, but we were pretty equal in speed, so I could not make a bid for the lead and finished 2nd. We did not draw so well for the feature, an 8. On the start we all pretty much got in line for a lap. I moved down to the middle to try getting under the car in front of me. It was still a little slippery in the middle yet from the water put down during intermission to keep the dust down. But after a few laps of several of us running it the surface tacked up and was SUPER fast. At the first caution I was in 9th as I had dropped a couple spots trying to work in that middle line. But after that caution that line was good and I started moving back up. I made my way up to 5th and was 3 wide with the 3rd and 4th place cars in the last turn, but just could not get the run to pass them and we ended up 5th. It was a really fun race, when that middle line tacked up the car was really hooked up and fun to drive. I think our setup is really good right now...of course there are only 2 races left in the season at Oakshade. But we will be running Dealers Choice at the end of September at Ionia Raceway Park near Lansing, MI.
Saturday September 7th
It was Championship night...coulda won, shoulda won, woulda won...but made a bad decision in the feature. Now, for the rest of the story...
Started 6th in my heat race. We had a pretty rocky start and I got bounced around a little, bending up a good bit of sheet metal and a wheel, but I made my way up to 2nd by the end of the race.
I drew a 2 for the feature! That is the absolute best starting spot I could have! The track was PERFECT for the feature! Smooth as concrete and tacky bottom to top. So the high line would be the fastest way around. On the start the pole sitter stayed with me all the way to turn 3, but coming off 4 I just pulled away. The car was really HOOKED up and felt great. I could hear someone right behind me though...but who? It was Devin and he is fast. Devin could not get any closer then about 1-2 car lengths from me and he and I had stretched out a decent lead on 3rd. Six laps in and there is a spin. Ok, I have a decision to make. I did not know it was Devin behind me (no mirrors remember), but I knew it had to be him or Red since they started in row 2. Under caution I looked at the low line and it looked really tacky. The top line was good and I was fast up there, but so many times at our track, the lead is the worst place to be on restarts! The second place car will shoot across the bottom (shortest distance between 2 points) and slide up to take away the lead. So usually the best thing to do if you are leading is shoot the bottom to block that move, then slide back to the top coming off 4. Well, should I do that and protect the bottom? Or should I just stay high and try to get a good start. I choose to shoot the bottom and protect that line. That proved to be the completely wrong move. Coming off turn 4 as I started to drift up off the bottom Devin came shooting by on the outside to take the lead! I was mad at myself for trying that low line! We were pretty equal in speed because I stayed about 1 car length behind him, but could not get a run on him. But then we came up on lapped traffic. I see the lapped cars and hit the bottom to get a run under Devin. We come off turn 4 side by side and drag race to turn 1! I thought I would be able to get by him now, but he put on a heavy block going into turn 1 and I checked up so we both would not crash! No big deal...he is the leader and can choose his line. We had a good tight race going until turn 2 of lap 19 when a car got loose in front of us and shot down toward Devin's door...Devin squeaked by, but the car came across in front of me and I had to nearly stop to avoid hitting him. That let Devin get away and he won by about 6 car lengths. I still ended up 2nd and got a real nice trophie for that. Not a bad night of racing, but a bummer to be that close to winning and loose it due to the driver making a bad decision. But that is all part of racing, you have to make decisions and take chances.
A big Congrats to Devin on winning the championship feature and to Chris Smith for winning his 5th consecutive Sportsman Track Championship!
Saturday September 21st
Well, our season ended on a rather sour note...or sour engine if you prefer. We went into the night looking forward to some fun races and getting ready for the following weekend at Dealers Choice. They held a special race tonight for 2002 feature winners. We started the 6 feature winners nose to tail by points, so I started 3rd. The car seemed to be a little down on power, but was handling well. I fell to 4th about halfway through as Chris Smith passed me, that is where I finished. The engine temp was 220 degrees after that race. The engine has not run over 200 all year. We started 4th in the heat race and got up to 2nd, but just 2 laps to go I had to shut the engine off...at 260 degrees! Once it cooled down we filled the water back up and started the engine. It ran...but vibrated and made a rattling sound, so I just shut it off and loaded it up. This was the end to our season. I am not sure if we blew a head gasket or damaged a bearing. The engine will get the normal rebuild this winter and we will find out what happened. We will also have a backup engine for next year. I hated missing Dealers Choice, it is always fun racing. The season is over and it really was a lot of fun. We started out running just so-so, then got the car handling very well, but then started having bad starting spots and bad finishes. Our class has become so competitive that track position on the start is extremely important. The year ended on a good note with a good run in the championship feature...but ultimately on a bad note with the engine damage. But at least I shut it off before it blew up, so it is salvageable and rebuildable. We will give it another shot in 2003!