11/23/99Not much new going on. We have the car going to Pete's for some TLC. The Sportsman rules meeting is next week, so we'll have to wait and see what comes of that before we can finalize any plans for next year.
10/24/99Got some new pics from Syracuse on the picture page!
10/23/99For some reason I thought I was done for the year, but I guess you never know. Friday morning found me at Middletown for Eastern States weekend, albeit a little light on help, with only Joe File showing up to give me a hand. (Thanks Joe!) We kinda did our own deal since we were unable to park next to Ronnie's hauler. The track was nothing like it was when we went down at the beginning of the year for Brett's school. It was a lot like Malta was a few weeks ago, very slick top to bottom. I registered with both the 358's and the big blocks, to get as much track time as possible. I ended up timing 56th out of 94 with the big blocks, struggling to find a decent setup for the track. We made some minor changes to get ready for the 358 timetrials. The car was much better, and I ended up timing 13th out of 88 cars. That put me on the pole in the 7th heat on Saturday. The original start of the heat was called back for me jumping the green. The second attempt was waved off as well, I think the guy starting on the outside of me was making me look bad, he just wasn't keeping up. And to add to that, I had Jimmy Horton shoving my back bumper so hard I almost had my brakes locked up. Anyway, after a couple of yellows, Jimmy was along side of me for a restart and left me when the green flew. I ended up finishing 2nd. The feature had me starting 22nd. Once again when the green fell, the dust was unbelievable. I wonder if you get used to that? Ended up getting banged around pretty good going into turn one, and then all hell broke loose in turn 3. Someone turned Brett around at the front of the pack and there were cars everywhere when I got there. Unfortunately Ronnie was one of the casualties. The next restart was just as bad, except this time it was me who got into turn 1 too hot. After bouncing off a couple of cars, I was able to get the car straightened out and start racing. It was a one groove track for the most part, and it was a matter of just keeping the car straight and trying to not lose any positions. I think I was running around 28th or so when the yellow came out on lap 42? and just about the entire field came into the pits for the mandatory stop. The advantage here was that we didn't need to take fuel, and we ended up picking up about 10 spots. I restarted in 20th and got a good run around turn1 as the cars on the inside got all jumbled up. Turns out that I ended up passing 10 cars, putting me in 10th place. I ran there for a little while, till a couple of guys got me. I think I was running 13th, just ahead of Steve Paine, when the engine started laying down at full throttle. I end up pulling in on lap 109 with a dead battery, finishing 27th.
10/10/99The last two weeks have been flat out, preparing for Syracuse. And judging by the results I think it was a pretty successful week. The first surprise of the week was an amazingly uneventful trip through the inspection line with 5 (6 if you count Jeff Trombley's mod) cars. I don't ever remember it being less painless. Wednesday started off with showers that cleared by afternoon. Because I registered my car as a modified, I was able to take advantage of an extra day of practice, not to mention 2 extra chances to time trial. The car was great right off the trailer, the only thing lacking was a driver with some experience. Each set of warm-ups got quicker as the day went on. Finally it was time trial time. My attempt was a blistering 33.976, 3 seconds off the pole time set by Dave Blaney. Of course I'm thinkin' that I'm going as fast as I possibly can, couldn't possibly go any faster. Yea, right. Thursday was a great day,weather wise. The track was unbelievably fast. My inexperience once again was a factor in the second day mod time trials. This time I turned a 31.76, putting me 75th out of 85, only 2.5 seconds off of the fast time that Brett set. Next up was 358 time trials. Unfortunately I turned about the same time that I ran earlier, putting me 27th out of 52, 1.5 seconds off the pace set by Pete Bicknell. Friday was also a great day. The big deal of the day for me was running Dave's car in the last triple 20 to try and get some fuel mileage readings. I hung back till the leaders lapped me, then picked up the pace and followed Billy Decker and Pat Ward around for 4 or 5 laps before I pulled in. WOW! What an unbelievable car. Absolutely amazing. Plus I was able to follow those guys around for a while which definitely helped me in my heat race. I started 14th in the heat, next to Kenny Brightbill. On the original start I realize that my radio isn't working and it takes me a few laps to figure out what was wrong so that I can hear Bryan spotting for me. It's not too long before I realize the the conservative approach is definitely not the hot ticket. Bryan gets me revved up and at least I'm keeping up with the guys that I'm racing with. I get involved in a couple of incidents, both in the 3rd turn. The first one I was able to get through with no damage, but the second one bends my axle, tie rod, and radius rod, and looses me about 5 positions. Once we're back up to speed the car is actually not too bad. I pass a few more cars and end up 11th. Saturday was the big day. Once again the weather is perfect. I start 25th, right behind Kenny Tremont. As we come down to take the green the dust starts rising, and before I get to the flagger, I can't see a thing. Fortunately no one wrecks anyone, but Bobby Varin ends up spinning in turn 2. Because the restart is single file, the next start is much better. I start to find my rhythm, and *I* think that I'm pretty fast, but Bryan keeps telling me to go into each turn a little bit deeper every lap. It isn't long before the strategy that we decided on at the beginning of the day started to play out. Because we started so far back, and my chances of finishing in the top 5 were pretty slim, we decided to max out the pit window and run till lap 100 before pitting. And sure enough around lap 42 I was the leader of the race. Sort of. Because of some scoring screw-up that DIRT couldn't figure out, they left Doug Hoffman in front of me. Which is pretty hard to understand, since he had pitted TWICE and I hadn't pitted at all and he never passed me on the race track. So I ran behind Doug for a bunch of laps picking up my lap times about 4 tenths from what I was running before, through the half-way, and up till lap 87 when Bicknell passed me. We made our stop soon after that, and finished out the race in 14th place. Jeff Trombley did a great job, finishing 4th with the 358 motor that we built. Rain was the order of the day Sunday, delaying the start of the race 3 hours. At the drop of the green Dave sets off and absolutely smokes the rest of the field, getting almost 3/4's of a lap lead at times over 2nd place Steve Paine. We make out first stop on lap 54, changing two rears and taking on fuel. We nail the stop, coming in the pits first and leaving first. The next 40 laps went by quickly and Dave gets back into the top 10 when we make our 2nd stop on lap 96. This stop was going to be fuel only, but the car was a little loose, so we quickly put a bigger spoiler on. That seemed to help the car a little bit, but it still wasn't as good as it was earlier. In hindsight, it would have probably been better to take new rubber instead of the spoiler change. Not long after that, we're back in the top 5, and soon we're running 2nd behind Kenny Tremont. Lap after lap goes by, but it seems like we don't really have enough car to make a run at him. And then the right rear blew on lap 153. Dave ended up hitting something on the track, bending the right front wheel, the axle, and blowing both right side tires. At this point we're a couple of laps down and the boys make the decision to pull it in. The untold story of the day is a fantastic performance by Ronnie Johnson, who ran a great race, finishing 4th and grabbing rookie of the race honors.