Saturday May 9th
Well the first night was not too bad overall. We ran some hot laps and the car had soft brakes and ran hot. When we took the hood off after hot laps we had oil everywhere under the hood. A bolt had been left out of the front of the block and sprayed oil on everything. Of course, on a dirt track, dirt stuck to all that oil making a huge mess (I spent hours cleaning it today!) We opened the front a little to help the cooling, then bled the brakes and that fixed them, and we put a bolt in the front of the block and that fixed our oil leak. The car handled well in hot laps on a tacky track.
We lined up 6th in the heat race and moved to 3rd on the first lap. About mid-race we moved past the 2nd place car and began working on the leader. The car really was not that good as it was so loose off the turns I could not get a good run off the turn. I would pull along side the leader going in the turn, but could not get the car off the turn and he would pull away. I got a good run on the last lap and we crossed the line nearly door to door...but he won by a nose.
We drew the pole (number 1 starting position) for the feature and the track was VERY dry slick. Starting in the front on a track like that is the best. But even with a wedge and air pressure adjustment the car still was way too loose off the turns and I lost the lead right at the start. I did get door to door a few times but could not get by. Late in the race my tires really started to overheat from spinning while trying to get traction off the turns and I got passed by the 3rd place car (3R) with just 3 laps to go. The leader (78x) then lost a cylinder on the last lap and 3R won the race. The 78x car held on for second and we came home a respectable 3rd with a very poor handling race car. The front did prove to be the place to be as there were 6 caution flags in the race for spins and crashes behind us. This was the first race of the season and we have shaken down the bugs and can start fine tuning the handling. We did run hot again in the feature so we made some modifications to the nose today to tunnel the air better and that should help.
Saturday May 16th
We made several adjustments to the car this week to try to make it better and it worked. We are still a little loose, but with 85 degree temps outside we did not run hot, so that is fixed. We will take a little more stagger out this week to tighten it up just a touch more and it should be even better. We started 6th in the heat race and after 2 laps were running a strong 5th. But I had 4 very good cars ahead of me and they only take the top 4 to the main. The track was VERY dry slick and I tried running high, low, and in the middle, but could not get a line to work past any of them. Finally with just a few laps to go I decided to go really low, I had to try something, I had nothing to loose as I was not in a transfer position. It worked, I found good bite and moved up to third by the end of the race.
I drew the number 8 starting spot for the feature. The track was as black as pavement and slippery as wet ice for the feature. I felt if I could get to the bottom like I did in the heat race I could get to the front. I lost a couple spots on the start as I looked for an opening to the bottom of the track. I got down to the bottom as soon as I could and started making my way to the front. I got to 4th before the only caution of the race came out. On the restart I moved to 3rd and started after the leaders. They has started 1st and 3rd respectively. I caught them with just a few laps to go and managed to pull along side the leader in the turns a few times, but they had the momentum off the top of the turn and would pull back out on me. But I was making up ground every turn. I was very disappointed to see the white flag. I needed more laps. At the finish I was door to door with the second place car, but he beat me by a nose. Third is not bad though, especially coming from eighth on a dry slick track.
Saturday May 23rd
As of tonight, our car is not as pretty as it was the first night! First war wounds of the season. The track was not very well packed at race time and there was basically only one lane to run on. I started outside the front row of the first heat, I knew that if I had to run the first heat this was the place to be because I was in the one good line and could get away early and lead the race. Well, the pole sitter knew I would do this so he jumped the start and slid up in front of me in turn 4 coming around to take the green flag, he tried so hard that he crossed it up in front of me, I checked up and 3 cars went by. I flew down the front stretch and into turn one but one of the cars spun and the car ahead of me hit him, I had nowhere to go and ran into the back of that car, his nose whipped around and hit the door of my car. It basically bent in the right front corner and passenger door. I made a quick stop at the pit and my dad pulled the fender off the tire so I could continue. But they threw the green before I got back to the front row, so I ended up starting 5th. The race went caution free from there and I made it to third. The damage appeared only cosmetic as the car ran well. We spent a couple hours in between races bending the bumper and fender back enough to get the hood back on right and keep the fender off the tire. We also checked the front suspension out and checked toe out to make sure nothing was bent. I went right under his car and it even bent the hood pin over on the right front, but did not crack the fiberglass hood, it bent quite a bit without breaking.
I started 5th in the feature and moved up to 3rd within a couple laps and ran most of the race in 3rd, before falling to 4th. The car was not hooked up very well off the turns and I was trying to run too low on the track. I moved up a lane on the restart and the car was much better as I was pushing the leaders, but could not get by. We managed a 3rd and a 4th with a bent up car, not too bad for the night. Still trying to find the elusive first win of 1998, it is coming. We spent all day Sunday and Memorial Day rebuilding the door bar, nurf bar, and front bumper. We got the body looking very close to new and the car looks good and is race ready again. We also performed our standard weekly maintenance which is a list of about 30 things that we do and check. But that keeps us at the front each weekend. I may try a softer right rear spring this week to get the car to roll and transfer more weight to the right rear and see if I can't plant that tire better coming off the turns.
Saturday May 30th
We led only one lap tonight...the last lap!!!
The night started with a 6th place start in the heat race and I ran 6th most of the race. With 2 laps to go I moved to 5th, and coming off turn four to the checkered flag I managed to make the pass for forth. This was the last transfer spot to make the feature.
We lined up 14th in the 20 car field for the feature. Our class is an extremely competitive class and nearly everyone in the feature is capable of winning on any given night. I really figured I would be happy to stay out of trouble and make the top ten starting so far back. But the car was flawless as I started picking my way to the front. At a mid-race caution I was up to 6th and really felt like with the car working so well I could make it to the front if I did not run out of laps first. These are only 15 lap features and I started 14th. The caution again flew with 2 laps to go and I had made it to 2nd. When the race restarted I moved up along side the leader and we were door to door at the white flag. I got good bite off both turns and was a car length ahead at the checkered flag. This was a great way to win our first race of the year. I have never won a race from so deep in the field, but the car handled fantastic and the track had come to me and my setup just worked.
Saturday June 6th
We started 3rd in our heat race, and we had a very fast heat race as 7 of the top 10 in points were in our heat. The 7 of us put on quite a show too with only the top 4 transferring to the main, all 7 of us wanted to be in the top 4. I fell to 4th, then moved back up to 3rd, and then fell back to 4th and held onto the spot. A dirt track is much different at feature time then it is at heat race time. I have my car setup for the feature, not the heat race. So we struggle a little in the heats as the car does not handle the best. By feature time the track usually comes to me and my setup works.
We had to start 16th out of 20 cars in the feature. With only a 15 lap race, I had to pass more then one car per lap this week. It did not start out well as I got boxed in on the start with a slow car in front of me and one inside me (and the wall outside me.) I fell all the way to 19th in the first three laps before I finally got a hole and managed to get under these cars and in the clear. Now I only had 12 laps left and had to pass 18 cars! I moved up to 15th before the caution came out on lap 5. Then on the restart I got by a couple and a few laps later was up to 9th, but the 8th place car was nearly a half lap ahead of me! I drove as hard as I could and really needed a caution to bunch us back up, but it did not happen. So in 4 laps I made up the distance and started working on the 8th place car, I managed to get by him and the 7th place car and get up beside the 6th place car, but could not complete the pass and ended up 7th. The car really was flawless again, but we just had too much ground to make up and spotted the field a few laps getting boxed in at the beginning of the race. But that is the risk of starting that far back and at least we made the top 10 and avoided any accidents. We are looking forward to next week and hopefully a better starting spot, that is two weeks in a row that we had to start toward the back.
You would have thought tonight was Friday the 13th. We did start out with a pretty dominating run in the heat race. We started 6th and quickly moved up to second. The I got my nose under the leader once so he moved down to block me because he knew I always run low on the track. But to his surprise (and mine) I decided if he was going to take my line away I would move up to the top of the track. I used the cushion and ran around the outside of him to take the lead. It was smooth sailing from there.
The feature was a different story. I started 6th in this race also and the track was just the way it has been the last couple weeks so I was felt that I had a real good chance at winning. But as we were coming down the back stretch double file (before the race) I started to get this bad feeling inside like something was going to happen. Well as we started to accelerate through turns 3 and 4 the driver on the inside of the row behind me decided he was going to win this 20 lap race on the first lap. He drove in way to hard and slid up, pushing me off the top of the track, I lost about 5 spots before collecting it and getting back in line. All of a sudden right at the green flag the same guy that pushed me off the track lost it and turned sideways right in front of me. With nowhere to go I hit him right in the passengers door, two cars hit me from behind and sent me spinning toward the infield. Two more cars hit me as I spun. The only part of the car still straight was the passengers door. The front of the car was all smashed and the radiator was broken. All the front suspension was bent and broken including ball joints, A-arms, tie rods, etc. The rest of the damage was mainly sheet metal and tubing that did its job and bent to protect the frame and driver. A couple of the tires and one rim were destroyed. I did try to pull an Earnhardt move. As the wrecker was preparing to hook up the car I walked around it and noticed all the tires still held air (some were leaking though), so I waved off the wrecker, got back in and fired it up. But when I tried to go, the front suspension was so broke it would not steer. Good thing because the radiator was also leaking. We stripped the body and straightened everything back out, ordered a bunch of new parts, and unbolted the front bumper and will bolt on a new one. A couple nights reassembling this week and setup the car on Saturday and we will be ready to go again this coming Saturday.
Saturday June 20th
This was a very gratifying night! After spending about 30 hours and several hundred dollars rebuilding the car from the big crash last week, we needed a boost in our moral and confidence. We spent all day Saturday running the car through a complete setup, but I was not real happy with it because 2 of my "golden" (the combination was perfect) of tires that were working so well were cut in the crash. I worked out a combination that was close, but could not hit the exact same stagger. I got my percentages where I wanted them, but the ride height is off in one corner.
We ran hot laps and the car handled absolutely terrible. I came in and we re-squared the car and reset the toe out. Then took a turn of wedge out to loosen it up. We started on the pole of the heat race and led it flag to flag with no cautions. This was a fast heat too with 6 of the cars being top competitors. The 1996 points champion gave me a good run and managed to get his nose up along side of me twice, but I was able to hold him off. The car was still off, a little loose now.
After a little more adjustment on the chassis, we started 3rd in the feature and I felt comfortable with all the guys around me as all the front 3 rows were top competitors and I knew we would get a clean start. But I also knew I had my work cutout for me in such company. I jumped to the bottom on the start hoping for a run under the front row and into the lead, but the pole sitter went for the same line. He did not get a good run down there and we both dropped back to 4th and 5th respectively. I ran 5th the first half of the race and just could not get the car to work like I wanted it to. But as the race went on my tires got better and my setup came to me as the tires changed with heat. The leaders tires came on too strong and his car started pushing badly. This caused the cars behind him to have to check up and in 2 laps I had passed them and was in the lead. My car was working pretty well, but is still a tick off from how good it was before the crash last week. But I was able to pull out to about a 12 car length lead by the end to take the win. We are going to run the complete setup again this week and try to get it dialed it to where it was before the crash. It is OK now, but it can be better.
Saturday July 4th
The heat race should have been a good one for me. I started 8th and shot to 4th, but coming off turn 4 it felt like something broke and my tach went way up, I went into turn 1 and it still felt really funny and had no bite, I figured I either spun a tire off or broke the rear end. So I pulled off. We checked EVERYTHING, even pulled the center section in the rear and found no problem. What happened? They had sprayed water on the track right before our race and I was spinning in the water and it felt like something was broke.
Started 5th in the consolation race. This was to be a very strong race as all the top 4 in points (myself in forth) had not transferred and were in this consi. Only 2 were transferring to the main, so I told my dad "I have to win this race." On the start I shot to the bottom and took the lead on the second lap and held on for the win and the transfer to the main.
They always run the UMP Late Models or Sprints first after intermission so the track is dry slick when we get out there and that is what my car is set up for. Well tonight was a big UMP show so I expected nothing different. But at the last minute they called us up and wanted to run us before the UMP show. They had over watered the track and this would have been a problem for the big show, so they made us go out and race on a track that was nowhere near race ready (very muddy!) You could not even touch the gas pedal without spinning, it was that bad. Well we started the race and everyone just followed each other around the track slowly for the first half of the race, then one line had become race-able, but only one line so you could not pass. It was not fun racing for us and could not have been a good show for the fans. It was not racing, just 20 cars sliding around in the mud trying not to crash.
Saturday July 11th
Much better racing program tonight! Started on the pole of the heat race and won it with no major problems. We drew the 9th starting spot for the feature. I was happy with this. I would like to have started closer to the front, but at least I was on the inside so I could get low and into my grove right away. Moved up to 6th fairly quickly and worked on 5th for 2 laps and just when I got around him the caution flag came out. I had not been ahead of him for a complete lap so I knew he would be put back in 5th, but to my surprise they put two more cars in front of me that I had passed 2 laps earlier. I think the scorers in the tower got a little confused, so this dropped me back to 8th. On the restart I shot to the bottom and started moving toward the front. At the next caution I was up to forth, the points leader (started 6th) was now leading the race. When the race restarted I was held up for 2 laps by a car trying to run low, he finally slid up and I got under him and moved up to 2nd. The leader was running the high line so I had the bottom clear to make a run at the lead, but the caution came out again. Here is where I really messed up. We do not have mirrors of any kind, so you cannot see who is behind you. Everybody I race against knows I run the bottom line when the track gets dry and slick. Well, I decided to play a little mind game and psych out the leader by pulling along side him under caution to let him know I was there in hopes that he would try too hard and make a mistake. Well, that cost me the race! Instead of psyching him out, he knew I was there and moved down to block me and ran low the last 3 laps of the race so that I could not get under him. I knew I could not run high with the track that slippery, so I just pushed him real hard down low hoping he would slide up. He gave me a couple small openings, but closed them before I could get a good run on him. My car was running really well and I know I could have got passed him if I had not let him know it was me behind him so he could block me. That was very smart racing by him, and a very poor plan by me. You can bet I will not try that psych move again, it took my element of surprise away.
Saturday July 18th
Another good night for racing, warm and sunny. We started outside the front row for the heat race and jumped into the lead right away. The race went caution free and we lead it start to finish for the win. I drew number 9 again for the feature. The driver on the pole is one of our better drivers and has a real fast car. So I made him my focus for the race, I needed to catch him first, then try to pass him. I moved up to 4th fairly quickly, but by the time I got there the front 3 had broke away from the pack and I knew if I did not get a caution I could not catch them before the end of the race. The caution did finally come out for debris on the track after 10 of the 15 laps. I needed the caution, but it would have been better if it had come out one lap earlier. On the restart I moved up to 3rd, then took a couple laps to get to 2nd. The leader was now in sight, but several car lengths ahead. I was making up a car length per lap on him, but the white flag came out and I was still 2 car lengths behind him. I pushed it to the very edge on the last lap and coming off turn 4 to the checkered flag I had about a half car length lead, but he had the momentum on the outside and nosed me out by 6 inches at the finish! I needed one more lap to have completed the pass and take the win. Not a bad night overall taking a first and a second with no damage to the car. I have to say the last few weeks have been extremely clean races and shows that this class has a lot of talented and smart drivers. It is fun to be able to run a clean race, finish well, and still have all the fenders on the car.
Saturday July 25th
The weather was a little chilly for a July night and this made for a fast track. With the cool temps the track stayed fairly tacky all night. We ran in the first heat race and it was really a one groove race track. We started 5th in the heat race and I made my way to 3rd, but the front two were waging a pretty good battle for the lead and using most of the track, so I just sat back and waited to see if they would take each other out. They didn't and I ended up 3rd, but that did transfer me to the feature.
Started 5th in the feature also, and I really felt we had a very good chance of winning this race. On the start I followed the car in front of me low and under the pole position car, I was in 3rd already. But coming through turn 3 and 4 to complete the first lap a rookie driver in a truck tried to put his six foot wide truck in a two foot wide hole under me and pushed me up the track, I had to check up to keep the car under me and then got tagged from behind. No major damage to the car, but this did cost me 5 spots and sent me back to 8th. Now I was playing catch-up the rest of the race. The rest of the race was pretty clean and I worked my way back to 5th.
Saturday August 1st
Tonight was a pretty special night. It was my fathers birthday for one thing, but it was also Charlie Vareeke Memorial night with trophies to the winner. Charlie was the long time track photographer who died a couple years ago from Cancer. I knew Charlie well and have a lot of good memories of him laughing, which he seemed to be doing most of the time. I really wanted one of those trophies with Charlie's name on it.
We started 2nd in the heat race and the track was a one lane track. We all just stayed single file for the entire race. We started 8th in the feature and the track was very dry and slick. I got to the bottom groove right away and was not making much progress at first. But then my tires got some heat in them and started to stick well. I quickly started moving up, but time was running out and the race did go caution free after one complete restart. I got to second and passed the leader, but on the next lap he worked back up next to me and we were having a good side by side battle. Then we came up on lapped traffic and they were running his line. We got passed a couple and then came to the white flag still door to door. But we came up on 3 lapped cars going into turn one, I shot under them and they held him up enough for me to pull away and take the win! We won on fathers day this year and now on my fathers birthday. And I got that trophy on my mantle with Charlie's name on it, I am sure he was smiling!
Saturday August 8th
The track was pretty wet tonight, we had 7 inches of rain in the last 3-4 days and there was standing water everywhere. This also meant the track had a lot of moisture in it. We started 2nd in our heat race and the track was a one lane track again, we just had to get in line and run. We drew a 3rd place starting spot for the feature and I had high expectations. Given that we have won features from 14th and 8th starting spots this year, I really expected to be able to get to the lead pretty quickly. But much to my unpleasant surprise I fell from 3rd to 7th in the first 3 laps. On a typical night the track gets so dry slick in the top groove and the bottom groove is run in pretty well. The top looked fairly dry slick, so I jumped down to the bottom. The track was good on the bottom except the exit of the turn was still pretty wet and slippery, so I could not get a run off the turns and the outside line just drove by me like a freight train. I jumped up in line as soon as I got an opening and I got back around one car and then the third place car hit the wall and the leader broke, so I ended up in forth. Not a bad run, just not up to my expectations. The track did not come to me for the setup I run. All the moisture made it a different track then we have run on all year.
Saturday August 22nd
Pretty hot and sticky tonight with skies threatening to open up. Started 6th in the heat race and got a great jump on the start and was zipping around the outside. I got up to 3rd on the first lap and was outside the second place car when he slid up and pushed me off the top of the track. I saved the car and pulled it back in line in 6th position. The race went caution free and by the end I had managed to make my way back to 4th which I needed to do to make the transfer to the Feature. This would, however, relegate me to the 13th starting spot.
Feature- rains did come and washed us out! Features to be run next Saturday night followed immediately by Championship night for all divisions. Check back next week for the completion of this nights racing and of the Championship races.
Saturday September 5th
Last night of the season. We first had to run our makeup features from 8/22. I started 13th in that race and made my way to 3rd by the end of the race. This was a very sloppy race, too many guys getting stupid on the last night of the season and there were ton of crashes. I managed to avoid the carnage and only had to pass about 5 cars to make up 10 spots! But that is part of racing, staying out of trouble.
Started 5th in the nights heat race and moved quickly to 3rd. I caught the second place car on the last lap and tried a pass on the bottom, but could not get by and finished 3rd. I started 5th in the feature and tried to go to the bottom of the track on the start, but to my surprise the officials had watered the bottom of the track just before we went out and it was soupy! I lost a couple spots and then another car drilled me in the left rear and sent me into a spin. Luckily nobody hit me, but the hit must have damaged something in the drive train as the car developed a vibration that got worse as the race went on. I had to restart the race in 19th. I was not real happy to say the least and drove the wheels off the car. Again, being the last feature for the year the drivers were getting a little stupid and I only had to pass about 10 cars and I made it to 5th with just 4 laps to go and we had a caution. The vibration had gotten worse, but the engine was fine and the car was handling well. On the restart the leader pulled off with a cut tire, I went to work on 3rd place now, but with 3 to go the vibration became very violent and I knew something was going to come apart if I pushed it, so I backed off and nursed the car to a 4th place finish. We have not looked to see if we can find a problem yet, but I think I might have had a U-joint going bad.
I have not talked about points all year, but we were in a very tight battle for the championship! To find out how we finished the points, check out our Season Wrap-up page to read about the points battle and get an overall summary of how our season went.