Saturday June 24th
Welcome to another exciting year of racing! The season is 4 weeks old and I am just now finding time to sit down and update this website! So much of the details of these first 3 recaps will be left out...mainly because they have slipped out of the memory bank! :o) We made many changes to the car for 2004, including the header system. The V6 sounding mad chipmunk sound is now gone, replaced by the sound of conventional Late Model headers.
The night started on a good note as we started on the pole of the first heat race. I jumped out into the lead on the start and went on to win. As luck would have it, I drew the pole for the feature too! But as luck would not have it...the handling was just not there! The car was just too tight in and way too free off the corners. Could not hold off the pack and fell back to 7th. A few guys bounced me around pretty good trying to get by! But I guess that was my fault for being too darn slow! We made some changes to the setup after the first night.
Saturday May 8th
We started on the outside of the front row in the heat race tonight. Again I jumped out to an early lead and went on to win my second heat race of the 2004 season. I drew a 10 for the feature though, mid-pack! On the start we were all bunched up and as I went down into turn 3, they were all checking up in front of me. I hit the brakes, the car behind me did not and turned me around. The car stalled sitting sideways on the track. I saw the 73 coming at my drivers door, so I put my head down and closed my eyes! After 4-5 hard hits, it finally stopped. When I looked up, it was a 5 car pileup with one car sitting on top of my engine! All the bodywork was tore off the front of the car. I was not hurt and luckily, the damage to the car was mainly bodywork and the front bumper. The only other bent part was the centerlink on the steering. We spent 6 straight nights till midnight in the shop rebuilding the car for the next week. We made it out...missing some of the graphics, but we were back on the track. So if you see a few pictures with no graphics on the front of the car, they are from May 15th.
Saturday May 15th
After a hard week of work, we were back on track. Tonight I started 4th in the heat race. I thought I would be able to stay in the top 3, but on the start I tried to squeeze down to avoid hitting the fresh water in the high line that the water truck had put down. But the inside row pushed up and pushed me into the water, I slid to the top of the track and had to slow down to keep the car on the track. In that move I fell all the way back to 10th! Worked back to 7th, but needed a top 5 to transfer. Had to run the consi for the first time in almost 2 years. Started 5th in the consi and finished 3rd. Started 18th in the feature and with the help of a few cautions and a car that was working pretty well in the bottom line, I made it up to 7th. Car is still too tight in and loose off, working on that some more.
Saturday May 29th
Drew the 4th starting spot in the heat race again tonight. But the outside pole sitter did not show up, so I was able to start second. Joe Derback was starting on the pole and he is quick. I was hoping to get a good start, but Joe got a nice jump on the start and took the lead. I followed closely and looked inside a couple times, but in the heat race, a second is as good as first with the redraw, so I just took it easy and brought it home safely. Drew an 8 for the feature. I got a good start and squeezed right up the middle on the start! There was a crash on lap 2 and I was up to 5th. But once we were single file and running the bottom, I found that my car still had that darn tight in, loose off condition! I was chasing it up the track coming off every corner. By the end of the race a few cars had managed to work under me coming off the corners and I finished a disappointing 7th...again! This week we are making a BUNCH of changes...springs, bar angles, spring locations, even building some new mounting points for some bars! We need to find a setup that is closer and then we can tweak!
Saturday June 4th
The night started on a good note with a heat race win. We started 5th in the 3rd heat race. It took about 2 laps to get the the lead and we pulled away to a nice lead and victory. Drew the 9th starting spot for the feature. The track had really dried out and slicked up. It was really tricky to keep the car under you as there was really very little traction. This made it very difficult to do much passing. We were only able to move up one spot to 8th. Other then one car, Brian Fisher who started 7th and finished 2nd, not many of the rest of us moved up much. The car that started outside the front row won the race. But that is dirt track racing...you never know what to expect, the track will be different every week depending on the weather and number of laps run on it during the night. Keeps it interesting and fun!
Saturday June 19th
The night started with a fast heat race. I lined up 6th in the heat and when thing shook out and we got in line I was still sixth. Managed to pass a couple to make it to 4th, the last transfer spot for the feature. This meant I had to line up 15th out of 20 cars in the feature. The race was clean at first and I was pretty much racing the cars that started around me. But then there was a series of spins and cautions. This allowed me to pick my way past a few as we all were lined up on the restarts. This along with the attrition of spinning cars allowed me to make my way all the way to a 6th place finish. Not a bad night coming from 15th.
Saturday June 26th
Finally drew a good number at the gate, at 3. This put me on the pole of the third heat. Again, a very fast heat though. But I was starting out front. I had made more changes to my setup for tonight. The car was good in hotlaps and it turned out to be equally as good in the heat race. I managed to hold the rest of the field off to win the heat race. I drew a 3 for the feature too... another good draw! I thought I had a decent shot at staying in the top 3 and maybe if things went my way, I could pull off a win. I planned to run the low line from the start. But when we pulled on the track it looked quite wet down there. Since the rule is that if you spin on the first lap you go to the rear, I decided not to risk spinning in the water. So I tried the middle to high line. This was fairly fast, but I had a car in front of me that was making himself quite wide and hard to pass. A few cars snuck under me low after that lined dried out, moving me back to 7th. I decided to go down there and try it. It worked and I held onto the 7th place finish. This was very disappointing actually. The car worked OK, I just selected the wrong lines. I should have went with my original plan of going low on the start and staying there. My conservative side got the best of me I guess. I am changing a few more things this week, getting closer on the setup now. Getting tired of these 7th place finishes though!
Saturday July 3rd
Drew poorly at the window, started 5th in my heat. On the start I fell in line 5th. Top 4 transfer, top 3 redraw (4th place car starts 13th in the main.) I tried high and low for 4th, but was not getting it done! Coming to the white flag I was still in 5th. But coming off turn 4 to the white flag, the car in 3rd spun out! That moved me to 4th and the last transfer spot. So I had to start 13th, but I was in the main. Started 13th in the feature. The track was smooth, black and very dry slick. I went low right away and shot up to about 10th. But then a car got totally sideways in front of me and I checked up and turned right to avoid a T-bone with him. He got it straight and before I could get back in the gas, 3 cars had passed me in the low line freight train! Back to 13th again!. So I went to the top to try that line. Ran there for about 1 lap and gave up on that! I could not see the top line I wanted to run! It was just too dusty to see the transition in the track. I was affriad I would miss it and fly off the track. Went back low. Ran door to door for 12th for a while, but could not get by, so we ended up right where we started, 13th. The race went without a caution, so that made it hard to make up ground when the feild became spread out. Good clean racing though.
Saturday July 10th
I drew a 74 at the gate...the worst you can draw! So I started 11th out of 11 cars in the 3rd heat. Top 3 redraw, top 4 transfer. So I wanted at least a 4th. On the start I moved up to 6th, but was fighting hard for 5th when the caution came out. On the restart I got a great restart low and within a lap I cleared 4th and 5th to move into 4th coming to the white flag. I shot high and flew into turn 1. Almost ran right into the back of the 3rd place car when they all checked up! I should have stayed low, I probably could have moved to 2nd or 3rd. Shot the bottom in turn 3 and came off 4 side by side for 3rd, but could not complete the pass. Now I had to start 15th in the feature.
Track was great for the feature! Tacky and brown top to bottom. Started 15th and worked by a couple cars early. But then I came up on a car that just gave me fits. I tried to pass, low, high, cross over moves, etc. He just kept cutting me off no matter where I went. Finally, he gave me enough of a hole that I cleared him to move to 10th. The 9th place car was was running low, so I went to the high side and on the last lap passed him coming through 3/4 to take 9th. We ran 20 laps this week! Thank you Oakshade for giving us more laps in our feature. Only had 1 caution in 20 laps this week and that was for a single car spin. So another clean race. We are off this coming weekend because of summer nationals at Oakshade for the Super Late Models.
Saturday July 24th
We started 4th in the heat race and made my way to 2nd in an uneventful caution free race. Once again I had a bad redraw, we drew an 11 out of 12. The car seemed to be working well though, the changes I made during the week were working. Caution came out after one complete lap, we were 10th. On the restart I managed to work under a couple cars and then fought with the 47 car for about 5 laps before I could pull him off turn 2. But I had no idea what place I was in! The next car was almost a half track ahead! The leaders had broken away. I figured I was maybe 5th or 6th. Caution came out (thankfully!) with about 6 to go. When I pulled up to the leaders, to my surprise, I was in 3rd! On the restart I moved to 2nd but was 3 lengths behind the leader. One lap later and the caution flew again. I dove low into 3 on the restart and we drag raced off 4 to the green...now Ray knew I was there! He cut me off hard going into turn 1, right across my nose. I did not want to hit him and crash us both, so I lifted and was patient. Going through 1-2 he pushed up a little off the bottom and I got under him to take the lead! But going into turn 3 he drove it in really deep and got door to door with me coming off turn 4, but I led the lap. We went into 1 side by side again and drag race off 2. We get to turn 3 and I lifted a little early so I would not slide into him when he pinched me...that was the costly move. He went in deeper and turned HARD across my nose block me! I had to choose to hit him in the door or brake. I was patient, I hit the brakes cut my momentum. Coming off 4 the white flag was out! I tried hard to get back by, but he blocked me the whole last lap and beat me by a few feet at the finish! Looking back, I probably should have leaned on him when he blocked me. But I like to drive clean and expect the same in return. Sometimes nice guys finish last...or at least 2nd. There is always next week.
Saturday July 31st
We drew a good number at the gate tonight and started on the pole of the second heat race. We jumped out to an early lead and went on to win the heat race. In the redraw though...again I drew a bad number, 11 again. We started 11th in the feature and just a lap in there was a caution, then another, then another. Full moon outside and everybody was crashing! Our races are 20 laps or 15 minutes, whichever comes first. Normally, this is not a problem. But we had 10 cautions in the race and after 11 minutes we still only had 5 laps in. So, at the end of 15 minutes we had run 8 green flag laps and the race was over, checkered flag flew. On the first lap I had hit some fresh water going into turn one and gotten a little too sideways. This allowed a few cars to pass me and I fell to about 15th. We managed to make it back to 10th in the laps we had, but with limited laps we could not make up anymore spots. Glad it will not be full moon next week!
Saturday August 7th
We started 7th in the first heat. On the start I take it really easy into turn one as I could see the track was still wet on the surface and would be slippery. We fell back to 9th on the first lap just trying to stay out of trouble. Others did not take it quite so easy. A car spun, collected another car and he rolled over! Red flag. With the red flag, the track had time to absorb the water and was now nice and tacky. We managed to move up to 5th by the finish. This this tranferred me to the feature, but I would have to start 13th. I just cannot get a good starting spot. Starting 13 in the feature, the track was pretty dry slick as a lot of races had been run on the track tonight. On the start I made my way up a little and at the first caution I was 11th. Restart and we ran like a train right around the bottom, hard to pass. I went to the middle and started to pass a couple cars, but could not make it stick and dropped back low. Got by a couple more cars to get to 8th. Stayed in 8th the entire second half of the race, that is where we finished.
Saturday August 14th
Started 4th in my heat race. First lap of the race the pole sitter pushed up the track and slammed into my left front wheel and bent my steering linkages. He bounced off me and then hit me again in the left rear wheel and spinning me into the infield! That flattened my left rear tire. I pitted, but while changing the tire, the jack hit a rear suspension part and bent it. When I went back on the track the car would not steer correctly and felt really funny. So I parked it. Too much was bent to fix at the track so we loaded up and took it home.
Saturday August 21st
Started 7th in my heat race. Had to make top 5 to transfer to the main, top 4 to redraw for a starting spot. I got up to 5th and then really had to work hard to pass the 4th place car. But I did manage to get by and finish 4th. Then, finally, after 6 weeks of starting outside the top 10, I drew a good number, the pole! (front row inside) I thought I had a reasonable chance to win it too, the car was driving well. However, I did not anticipate what was going to happen on the start. The track crew put some light water down between races to help keep the dust down. This is usually fine as we get it run in before we take the green. This time, however, we could have used one more pace lap to run it in. When I got to the cone in turn four and took the green flag, I hit the gas and my tires were in water! I spun the tires and almost spun the car! I had to back off the gas to collect the car and the front 3 cars outside of me went past me. Then while I was collecting the car, another car went by! So by the end of lap 1 I was already back to 5th. Not the way I wanted to start this race. I was hoping for a caution and restart, but did not get it. I was running 5th when the two cars in front of me came together hard! I lifted and went high to avoid piling into them. When I did, two more cars snuck under me low! A couple cars were hooked up high and passed on the high side... at one point I was all the way back to 10th. But I adjusted my line to the high line and got back by the two cars that had passed me on the bottom. We ended up a disappointing 8th. Just not my night...but typical of my luck this year. Bad draws, then when I get a good draw, I have a situation that I cannot control. Three more weeks left. Hoping for a good run and to get a win in the next few weeks.
Saturday August 28th
The area had lots of rain over the last few days and the track was very wet. They probably should have cancelled, but I have to hand it to the track crews, they worked hard to get a show in with the conditions they had. We started 8th in the FIRST heat race. It was truely a 1 lane track, with all the water the crew just could not get anymore then that worked in. We finished 8th in the heat, pretty much single file racing unless you moved someone out of the way or they slid out of your way. We started 10th in the consi, only the top 5 would go onto the feature. The track was getting a little better, there was almost 2 grooves to race on now. This is just not typical of Oakshade, normally you can go 4-5 cars wide! The whole line was running high so I went to the middle where it was still a little wet and slick. The car was actually working very well. I managed to move all the way to 5th with a few laps to go. I came up on the 4th place car and when I went to go under him, he came down to try getting under a lapped car. He could not clear the lapped car and openned up the top lane. The car I had gone under for 5th slipped outside of both of us! This moved me back to 6th again and they ran side by side in the 2 lanes for the last lap. So I was stuck, could not pass them and finished 6th. So for the first time in about 5 years, we did not make the feature. Really was just a bad track due to all the rain, not much you can do about it and that is part of dirt track racing. Even the 2nd place UMP Late Model runner who needed to make the feature for a shot at the championship did not make the feature. Just got caught up running in the back of the pack with nowhere to pass. So I don't feel too badly. Plus, a lot of cars ended up tore up in the feature and my car was safer sitting in the pits!
Saturday September 4th
We finally drew a good number for our heat race tonight so I started on the pole (1st) of the first heat race. The track was super fast, as was the race! There were 7 of the top 10 cars in points in my race! I had to get out front early and run hard. I managed to get the lead going into turn one and in a caution free race I led every lap for the win. Started 9th in the feature. Had a good lineup of cars in front of me so I knew I would have to really run hard to stay with them and hopefully get by a few. But, the race would be short for me. Coming off turn 2 on the very first lap, the car in the second row turned sideways. This started a chain reaction crash as the car behind him ran into him, then the guy in front of me hit him, I hit the guy in front of me, the guy behind me hit me! So the car had a broken radiator, bumper, front suspension, and significant body damage. I watched the rest of the race from the infield.
Saturday September 11th
We started 4th in the heat race. On the first lap a car spun in front of me. I slowed to avoid him and fell to 8th as most of the cars went around the outside. This should have been a complete restart since it was on the first lap...it always it. But, I guess this was the exception as they just lined us up nose to tail. So we had to come from 8th to the top 3 if we wanted to redraw for the feature. I knew I had to make top 3 so I really pushed the car hard and within 3 laps we were back up to 3rd. The front two cars were having a great battle for the lead and I knew I was locked into the feature by being in 3rd. So I set the cruise control and finished 3rd. Started 9th once again in the feature. Knowing how last week ended, I was a little more cautious on the start...I wanted to be there at the end! After a couple laps I was in 10th, but we were strung out and the racing was cleaner. So I started moving forward. We had a series of cautions right toward the end of the race. With a couple crashes and a good handling car I made it up to 5th by the end of the race. Finally another top 5 this year. They have been hard to come by this year. After last week's accident I did not have any red nose cones left, so I put my 2002 Monte Carlo nose back on the car...had to pull it out of the weeds! It is white. The first 13 years I raced my cars had white nose cones. This year I decided to change that, I think I will go back to white. This has been the worst season I have had in 14 years of racing now. Twin 25's are next weekend. We are the reigning and two time champion of the event. The way we have been running this year I am not real confident, the competition is far more then it has ever been. But hopefully lady luck has saved all my good luck and packed it into one night.
Saturday September 18th
Drew 57 at the gate, tonight that only dictated where you were going to qualify. This meant a late qualifying run and the track was a little dry and slick late in qualifying. Qualified at 17.126 seconds, 8th fastest. We started 7th in the heat race and made our way to 4th, but then fell back and finished 5th. Only top 4 transfer to the Twin 25's! We would have to run the consi to attempt to transfer to the Twins. We started outside front row in the first consi. There were 2 consi's, so you HAD to finish 1 or 2 to transfer! On the first lap the pole sitter slide up in front of me going into turn one, I stay on the gas..but he brakes! BAM, I ram him in the rearend. No damage, but almost wrecked us both. The inside row two car passed us both to take the lead! Now I am in 3rd and need to get back to the top 2. I made my way to the bottom line and the car was awesome fast down there. Within a few laps we had taken the lead and went on to the consi win. To be very honest, it made no difference what I did in the Twins at that point! My wife and kids (who have not been to the track in 6 years), a sponsor, and lots of friends joined me in victory lane. Yes, only a consi, but to the kids, it was really cool! Just being able to have a victory lane pic with my kids made the whole night complete. We had to start 17th in the Twin 25's. But we had 50 laps of racing to run, so I knew if I was patient and stayed out of trouble, I could work my way forward and get a decent finish. I ran a lap or two easy waiting for things to calm down and string out a bit, then started moving. The car was awesome fast, very much like it was in the consi. I could go anywhere and move up. I made it to 8th before the first caution flew. Not bad, about halfway through and I came from 17th to 8th under green. On the restart I moved to 7th, two laps later the caution came out. On the restart the car in 6th spun right in front of me on the first lap back under green, I dodged him and the caution came out...now I am 6th. I am really struggling to get by the 5th place car though. We are faster, but he is making his car really wide. I finally got a decent run to go around him when he slid up in front of me. I hit the brakes so I would not run into him. But when I did, the car behind me did not lift and WHAM! He hit me really HARD! Around I went right in front of 14 cars! I managed to do a 270 degree spin before the car stopped. Luckily there was a lane above and below me and everyone avoided me! I refire and tag onto the back of the field...now in last place! That is typical of my 2004 luck! Good car, bad luck. I hear the LR fender rubbing the tire hard and can smell tire smoke, so I knew the fender was rubbing the tire. I hope it holds together for the rest of the race, and it does. We got back to 11th by the end. Chris Keller won the first race...his first feature win of the year...great job Chris! Now onto the second 25...
Pit stop. We refuel, pull out the fender, and change rear tires. A little stagger change and wedge adjustment and we go back onto the track. Restarted 6th after the invert. I again was really cautious for the first 3-4 laps as everyone banged fenders and tried to get in line! I fell to 8th early on. But then I moved back to 6th. About 6 laps in I see the two cars fighting for 2nd get together and spin, I shoot low and miss it, but by the end 7 cars were in the mass pile-up! Three of them had been in front of me! So after the crash I am 3rd! On the restart I run 3rd for a while, Both cars are really fast, they are the 2004 points champion and 2003 points champion now running first and second. I knew I would not get them unless they had a problem. This set of tires with the added wedge just did not work the same. I could not get the car to come off the corner the same, way too loose. I fell to 4th as one car found a fast line up high. With about 3 to go, I see a nose peeking under me. It was Mike, a good friend of mine and he clearly had his car hooked up better then I did, so I moved up and let him go by to race for the win. Now I am 5th. Mike did move all the way to 2nd in the last 3 laps...he was hooked up! That is how we finished...I pulled a 5th place finish out of it.
Not a bad night overall. Got a victory picture, ran REALLY strong in the first 25 and would have made top 5 had I not been spun out. Ran well in the second race and had a top 5. I am OK with that! I can think of worse ways it could have ended up after seeing that 7 car pile-up! One more race weekend...October 2nd and 3rd at Ionia Raceway Park in Michigan.
October 2nd and 3rd
This was just a fun weekend of racing. We went up on Friday night, setup camp and had a nice camp fire. Saturday afternoon were the heat races. I had never been on this track. It is a big fast half mile track. Hot laps were a blast! Nice and tacky and I could really fly through the corners and had some serious speed down the straights. We started 10th in the heat race and moved to 8th early. We were working on the 7th place car when all of a sudden he snapped sideways right in front of me! I tried to go outside to miss him, but clipped him with the left front corner of the car. The great track crews pulled the bodywork away from the tire and sent me on my way. I knew something was wrong, my steering was not right. But I was still rolling and going to finish the race if possible. Had to go to the tail for the restart. But the track was fast and even with the front suspension damage, we were able to make our way back to 9th before the finish. Top 8 redrew for the feature...so I missed it by one spot. This basically meant I had to line up 9th in the feature. I had been running my Oakshade tires all weekend to this point and they were working OK. On Sunday the sun came out and it was windy. The track dried out early and during the first couple races took some rubber. I had another set of Oakshade tires on...pretty soft compound tires. When we lined up for the race I noticed most of the cars had pavement tires on! Very hard tires! I knew I was in trouble. Having never run the track, I had selected the wrong tires. When I pulled onto the track for the start I knew I was in real trouble. The track was black and abrasive! But, nothing I could do now but run it and hope for the best. On the start the car was good...for about 3 laps! That is about how long the tires had good bite edges. I faded back and with the help of some attrition managed to finish 10th. But the last 10 laps were scary! I had not tread left, so I was just sliding around like a car with bald tires on fresh ice! I was just trying not to spin out. After the race I looked at the tires and they were bald...totally! I wore 1/4 inch of rubber off the tires in a 20 lap race! Well, I know what tires to bring next year! No matter what, the weekend was fun and we had a great time.