Saturday May 1st
We went racing with very high hopes tonight, but a lot of questions because we made a lot of changes to our car over the winter. I was a little nervous about the car handling the way I wanted it to. Did not get any hot laps, so the heat race was the test, first time on the track for the year! Started third, moved to second, just riding along feeling out the car to see how it was handling. One guy was pushing me hard so I let him go so I could concentrate on the cars performance. Only had to make top five to transfer to the main. Car felt a little tight going into the turns during the heat race but I knew it would be OK for the feature because the track would be more dry /slick and a tighter setup would be fine, so I made no adjustments.
Started outside the front row (2nd) in the feature. Great spot to be in, right up front. Got a good jump on the start and shot into the lead. Led the first 5 laps and the car was awesome, a real rocket. It was a little loose coming off and started to get worse as the race went on. Then the car seemed to slow down and was loosing power. A couple cars got under me, so I decided to hit the low line where I had been so successful running in 1998. Bad move, car did not work at all down there and I was totally hung out to dry. Just like the Cup guys on a restrictor plate track. The train was going by on the outside and I could not find a hole in line. Fell all the way back to 9th by the end of the race.
A MAJOR disappointment and that is the most spots I have lost on the race track in a feature since 1993! I knew something was wrong since the car was slowing down. The brake pedal had gone soft during the race. Well, today the car would not even roll. The brakes were seized up on all four wheels! We rebuilt the entire brake system this winter, but something must be wrong with the master cylinders and they are not letting the pressure off the brakes. I will order 2 new ones tomorrow and put them on. It is hard enough to compete in this class with out trying to race with the brakes applied! The pedal went soft because the brakes got so hot they boiled the fluid. We will make some fixes this week and I am going to make some major setup changes. The car just did not work like it did last year. I have a real good idea why and we will adjust. Hopefully, with out the brakes locked up and with the handling fixed we can bounce back next weekend.
Saturday May 8th
With the brakes fixed and the car having an all new setup for this week, we headed back to the track again with high hopes. It rained all the way to the track and we called on the way to make sure we were still racing. No rain at the track, just very cold and windy. I had to start 9th in the heat race and was not able to make my way to the front. Started 4th in the consi, just had to stay top 5 to transfer to the main, I finished 3rd. Feature time, I started 18th due to having transferred from the consi. Started very patient since I knew there would be crashes and if I could take advantage of the attrition I could make some ground. After the first caution I started picking my way toward the front. Made a decent charge up to 7th from my 18th place starting spot. Not too bad for a 15 lap race. Not the win or top five I was hoping for, but the car ran very strong and handled like a dream.
Saturday May 15th
The track tonight was very fast. We started outside the front row in the heat race, jumped into the lead right at the start and never looked back. The race was caution free and running around the top of the track on a tacky track, we were flying! Started 5th in the feature (3rd row inside.) We moved to third on the first lap, then had a VERY good battle for second with Amy Clair. Amy is the only female driver in our class. She pretty much tried to stay out of the way and learn last year in her first year, but Amy is learning fast. We raced door to door for 3 laps before I could wrestle the spot away from her. Now I was in second, but the leader, who had started outside front row, was nearly a half lap ahead of me. I knew I could not catch him without a caution or something to slow him down. No caution came as the race went caution free. But, the leader got into lapped traffic and that slowed him down enough for me to catch him within a few laps. On the second to the last lap I passed him for the lead on the back stretch and led the last lap to take the win. It was pretty exciting and very gratifying after starting the season with a couple feature finishes out of the top 5. I must say I felt a little bad passing the leader. He has been racing for 9 years, same as I have, and he has yet to win a feature. He wanted to win it very badly and I knew it, but we are all out there to win, that is the name of the game.
Saturday May 29th
Started 8th in the heat race and worked my way up to 3rd. Started 7th in the feature, fell to 11th while trying to make something happen (I hate to play follow the leader!), but I only managed to make my way back to 6th.
Saturday June 5th
Started 4th in the heat race and we were the first heat on the track. I ran third most of the race and that is where I finished. We started 10th in the feature and the track was VERY fast. I searched every square inch of that track trying to find a groove that would be fast enough to work past the cars running the fast line, but could not find one. The only way I was going to pass the guy in front of me was to knock him out of the way and I don't drive like that. So I got by a couple and finished 7th. Season is not starting as well as the 1998 season did, but we are working on getting back to consistent top 5 finishes.
Saturday June 12th
Started 8th in the heat race. On the start I let the car inside me slide up into turn one, then I took a hard left and ran down off the banking in turn 2 and went from 9th to 3rd before we got to turn 3! It was simply because they were all scrambling to avoid banging cars and I got a good run under the whole mess. Just ran the race out in 3rd. In the feature we once again started 10th. I had left my tacky track tire combination on the car because it was cool and humid, so I figured the track would hold the moisture and be tacky even after the sprint car race. We had to have 3 complete restarts due to accidents on the first lap. One the final restart I got a good run clear up by the wall and swept around a couple rows and I rode the top of the track into turn one, got tapped in the left rear going into turn one, but saved the car and kept going. I was in 6th after the first lap and I was in line. The last two weeks I have searched for a groove and lost spots doing it. So this week I decided to just ride it out and stay in line. By the end of the race two of the cars in front of me had spun and I finished 4th.
Saturday June 19th
I let my father draw my number at the gate since I have been drawing really bad numbers and having to start at the back of the heat races. He did a good job and drew a number 8, that got me a front row outside starting spot in the first heat. The pole sitter slid into my door going into the first turn and pushed me high, I had to check up and fall in line behind him. Running second I was pushing the leader hard and on the fourth lap I was setting him up for a pass going into turn one, but just as I went into turn one on the 3rd place car tagged my left rear quarter and spun me out. I had to restart the race at the tail (10th place). I was so mad I was determined to get back to the top 4 at least and hopefully the top 3 to be able to draw for the pole in the feature. I took some risks and crazy moves that I usually do not take, but in four laps I made it back to 3rd! I should have let my dad draw for my feature starting spot too! Of 12 numbers to draw from I drew number 12! So I am starting 12th in a 20 car field and I hate starting right in the middle of the pack. I took it easy going into the first turn and was able to get right down to my line and the car was perfect! I moved up 4 spots in the first lap and knew that the way the car was running I could make it to the front and challenge for the win. But, coming off turn 2 on the second lap a car spun down the track right in front of me and I did not even have time to touch the brake pedal, I hit him right square in the passengers door! Needless to say that ended my night, it destroyed the front of the car and broke the radiator. We will be back on the track next week!
Saturday June 26th
Started 7th in my heat race and ran 4th for a while until the second place car started pushing in the middle of the turns. That allowed me to get under the 2nd and 3rd place cars to grab second spot by the end of the race. Started 9th in the feature and worked my way up to second with last years points champion in the lead. Chris and I are good friends and I was looking forward to a good hard fight with him for the win. We had just that and put on a great show for the crowd. I got under him with 3 laps to go and took the lead, but the caution came out on that lap and I had to restart in second. Chris knew what he had to do, the same thing I would have done, a little blocking! We still ran door to door a couple times in the last few laps but I just could not get past him again. It was a very exciting and fun race, if that caution had not come out we would have won the race, but as they say, "That's racing and there is always next week!"
Saturday July 3rd
Mother nature tried to steel the show Saturday night. The racing had to be delayed an hour to get the track back into racing shape, but after some work the track was race ready again. Mother nature lost! Started 5th in my heat race, but got caught up in a mess of traffic right at the start and fell to 8th. But a 3 car pileup right ahead of me, that I managed to miss (other then a scrape down the drivers door) I moved to 4th. Really wanted 3rd so I could draw for the pole, but could not get a good run and finished 4th. That transferred me to a 14th starting spot in the feature. This did not bother me too much, just had to race hard to try to get to the front and drive defensively to avoid crashes. Track had a lot of tack all the way around but I managed to work under some guys and with a little help from a couple spins up front and I managed to finish 7th. I am pretty happy with that. Starting 14th in a tough field of cars in a 15 lap race makes for some hard but fun racing.
Saturday July 10th
Weather was fantastic for racing, not too hot and sunny. Started 4th in my heat race and after a few laps was still running fourth. I really did not want to finish in 4th, that would mean a 14th place start in the feature again! I was not sure I could get enough traction on the bottom, but I had to try it, could not just ride 4th. It worked great and I moved from 4th to 2nd on the restart. Worked on the leader for a few laps and he was using a lot of track so I was having a tough time finding a line around him. Finally as we took the white flag I got along side him, he slipped a little in turn 2 and I took the lead on the backstretch to take the win. Started 4th in the feature also. Got a lucky break on the start as the pole car broke on the start (sorry Todd, lucky for us, not for you!) and that held up the inside line a little and I was able to move right into second. The car leading the race was running very well on the high side of the track. I went right to the bottom to try to catch him, but it was not working. Caution came out and on the restart I got under him for the lead, but the caution came right back out and I had to go back to second. I tried the same move several other restarts, but he knew it was coming and I could not get by again. I tried the bottom, tried the middle and finally tried the top. His car was working well on top so I figured I would try it, I was not catching him anywhere else on the track. Bad move though. I should have stayed on the bottom. I was not catching him, but without mirrors, little did I know I was holding off the rest of the field at least. When I moved to the top I lost some speed and one car got under me and moved me back to 3rd. I decided to ride it out and hang on for 3rd since my car just was not working that well. Time for a some setup work! Congratulations to Casey Noonan on the night. He is a young driver and won his heat and the feature both. I think it was his first Sportsman feature win, good job Casey, you found a line on that track and really hooked up!
Saturday July 24th
Started 8th in the heat race and with 5 heat races only the top 3 were to transfer. I made my way to 4th and was having a great battle with 2nd and 3rd. I would have made top 3, but just as I was working past the 2nd and 3rd place cars, the 5th place car tagged me and spun me out. There was then a loud noise coming from the rear of the car so I took it to the pits. We had a fender rubbing on the tire and that was the noise. We took it off, straightened it, and riveted it back on. This meant we had to run the consolation race. They were only taking the top 2 cars to the feature and I was starting 10th. The race started and I went right to work trying to get by on the bottom. At the first caution I had made it to 5th. I managed to sweep up to 3rd on the restart, but that was not going to be good enough. I did make it to second and the transfer spot. As feature time approached there was lightning flashing all around us and just as the UMP Superlate Model feature ended, the skis opened up, the winds and lightning hit and we all took cover. The storm knocked out power to the track and with heavy rain, we were done for the night. We will run the feature next week before the nights regular program.
Saturday August 14th
We started the night by making up the features from July 24th. I started 19th of 20 cars in that race and the track was fast from top to bottom, made for some great 3 and 4 wide racing. I worked my way up to 6th by the end of the 15 lap event. The car ran well, but when I came in after the race there was oil all over under the rear of the car. The rear center section was leaking oil from somewhere so we had to change it and put a different gear in. Started 3rd in the heat race and moved to second on the first lap. The current points leader was leading the race and running very strong. I managed to get along side him on the restarts, but could not get by him. I was happy with second though, that transferred me to the feature. Started 6th in the feature, fell to 8th on the start as the outside line did not get a good start. I made my way back to 6th, then back to 8th and finally back to sixth. The track was really smooth and fast and I found that the low line was not working as well as I was hoping it would, but I was holding my own. Then with 12 of the 15 laps in the car in front of me got loose coming off turn 4 and spun in front of me. I had nowhere to go, so my only choice was to cut the wheel and hold the brakes. I did get the car slid to a stop without hitting anything, but had to refire the engine and drive away. This meant I had to restart the race on the tail (last place). I tried to pick up a few spots, but with only a few laps left I was not going to be able to get back to the front. We finished the feature in 14th. A tough race, but the car is still straight and well, that's racing!
Saturday August 21st
We started 5th in the 3rd heat race of 5 heat races for our class. I worked my way to the front and made the pass for the lead just a couple laps from the end to take the win. My dad drew my number for the feature because I was over talking to my engine builder. I think I need to let him draw more often, he drew the number 2 starting spot! The track was in great shape with lots of traction. The pole sitter is a good racer and I knew that whoever got the lead going into the first turn would likely lead the whole thing. The pole sitter did a good job getting me on the start as he took off a couple car lengths early, but he starts the race being on the pole. So he got the jump going into turn one and I chased him hard. I got my tires warm enough to get my nose up along side his door a couple times in the corners, but could not get by him. Then the cautions started and we could only run a few laps between cautions. With no long runs I could not get my tires warmed back up enough to get a run at him. He ran a very smooth race and would have been difficult to pass. Would have liked to sweep the night again, but at least it was better then last week.
Saturday August 28th
We started 3rd in the final Sportsman heat race of the night and moved to second on the first lap. That was all I could get though as I could not track down the race leader and we finished second. I drew the sixth starting spot for the feature. I watched the UMP race closely and saw that many guys were using the bottom groove and going to the front. I knew I had to try to run that groove if I could, it looked to be the best groove tonight. On the start I managed to get right to the bottom groove and at the end of the first lap I was up to 3rd. The caution came out on the second lap and on the restart I moved up to 2nd. I had to work hard to get by the leader, but managed to get ahead of him. The race again was slowed by several cautions, but I was able to keep the car in the low groove and stay ahead of the pack to take the win. It was Championship Feature night (the last night for points) so there was a nice trophy waiting for me in victory lane. It was a very good night and a great way to end the points season. We will finish the next few weeks at Oakshade in the non-points races, so check back next week.
Saturday September 4th
We started 10th in the heat race tonight, just drew a bad number at the gate. I had my nose along side another driver on the backstretch trying to make it to the top five and a transfer spot. The other driver made a move to the inside to pass the car in front of him and his bumper hit my front wheel turning me directly into the infield. No big deal, he did not know I was under him, just one of those racing deals. I just drove back out of the infield and finished the race 8th. Had to run the consolation race to try to transfer to the feature. We started 8th in the consolation race and with a quick move to the bottom I headed for the front. Got the lead a few laps in and drove to victory and a transfer to the feature. I had to start 16th in the feature due to transferring from the consi. The track was really fast with lots of bite in the high groove. I tried to make the bottom work once, but the top was just too fast. I passed a couple cars and attrition helped a little as I avoided the accidents and came home 10th. Not a bad night overall, I was happy to get a top 10 in the feature after starting that far back in the pack.
Saturday September 11th
The night started out on the right foot tonight. I drew a good enough number at the gate to start outside the front row for the heat race. I got the lead on the start and was able to lead it flag to flag for the win. Then even better, I drew a 2 for the feature and was starting outside front row for that too! Again, I managed to get the early lead. I normally run the low line at Oakshade because my car hooks up better there. But I decided after winning the heat race on the top line, I would stay there when I was in front in the feature. Well, on the restart after the first caution I stayed high and Chris (track champ) pulled off a clean slide job on me. I thought about going to the bottom to get back under him, but is just did not look like it would stick down there. So I stayed high for now and followed Chris and thinking I would try a slide job back later. But soon I saw a nose under me on the bottom. Someone else was running the low line. I tucked it down to the bottom, but coming off I could not hold the car down and he got under me and took the line. Now third I knew my car was just not working that well. I was holding on to third, but a few laps later I once again slid up off the bottom and the forth place car got his nose under me and took the line. The fifth place car was glued to his rear bumper and he got by me too! I tucked back in behind him and stayed with him, but could not make the pass. I was not real pleased with this finish. The two features I have won this year I have started 5th and 6th and had to make my way to the front, tonight I was handed the front and went backwards. Time for a few changes for next week, it is the last night of the season!
Saturday September 18th
Last night of racing for 1999. I got in line to hot lap when we got there and the car quit..dead! Pushed back to the trailer, checked a few things and the ignition box had died! We had 15 minutes till our heat race! I quickly swapped boxes and put my spare in the car. Got in, fired it up and pulled out for the heat race. Started 5th and made it to second. Drew a 9 for the feature. The feature started well as I made it to 5th, then to 3rd. But I was not getting by the leaders by running the bottom, so I moved to the top, bad move, the car pushed bad on the top and I lost 2 spots to guys running the bottom, so I went back to the bottom and was having a good battle for 4th with 3 laps to go. Coming off turn 2 the car sputtered and stalled, I had lost fuel pressure! It appears the fuel pump died! We have not had a single mechanical failure all year! We do meticulous maintenance on our car weekly to make sure every nut an bolt is tight and everything is right. The ignition box only had 6 shows on it and the fuel pump is replaced every year, so it had only this season on it! But both decided to fail in the same night. At least it happened after the points season was done and we have all winter to get it ready again for Y2000! See you all next season!