9/19/99And the wheels keep of turnin'... The big deal this week was the $25,000 to win show at Malta. Friday night was time trials on a very heavy race track after all the storms in the area passed through last week. Definitely something very new for me, for sure, especially racing with the modifieds instead of the Sportsman.. But at least we got better each time we went out on the track. The good news was that Ronnie was wicked fast with the new 358 Mopar that we just put together. And when the dust settled, it was Ronnie on the Pole for the race Sunday. I ended up timing 28th out of about 50 cars, with some heavy hitters behind me. Not too bad I guess. Saturday was heat races. The track was completely different than the night before, totally slick from top to bottom. And I thought the 'Valley was slippery! I roll off 5th in the heat and get up as far as third. After a few restarts on the outside, I get shuffled back to 5th, which is where I finish. Good enough to get into the show on Sunday. Once again the track is different than the day before. Instead of turning the whole track, they only turned a car wide groove at the top, making it a very difficult one groove track. The Last Chance race was caution fest as a result. I start 25th in the first 50. It doesn't take too long for trouble to rear it's ugly head. Halfway down the front straight on the original start it's so dusty you can't see the rear bumper of the guy 6 inches in front of you. I get slowed down for the 1st turn, but the guys behind me run right over me, spinning me out. It isn't long after the restart before the leaders are on me. Once they pass me though, I stay running with the top 6. I end up finishing 27th. The whole field now has to draw for their starting position in the next 50. I pull 19th. Of course we make some changes to the car before the 2nd feature, and it isn't long after the drop of the green that I realize we took a mediocre car and made it worse. Once again I finish 27th. So we try some different stuff yet again for the 3rd feature. After the redraw ( I pull 12th) the battery dies and I can't get the car started. So now I roll off from the rear after a push start. Wouldn't you figure, the car is way better, the best it's been in two days. I start passing cars and am actually doing pretty decent, when five laps form the end, the battery totally gives up causing the engine to quit. Disappointing results, but invaluable experience. 9/10/99
And I thought last week was busy....
The easy part was getting my car ready for Saturday. The hard part was trying to get the new 358 motor done and getting a car ready to put it in. Everyone worked right up till the last minute getting the 358 car finished for Billy Decker to run in the Race of Kings. My plans were to switch gears and tires and run both the Sportsman and 358 races. An up-front starting spot helped me win the 2nd sportsman heat race which started me 2nd in the feature, inside of Hawley Smith. Hawley gets out front on the original start and several restarts early in the race. Each time we both check out on the rest of the field. I'm trying to conserve my tires a little bit, since the feature is 30 laps this week. About halfway through, I start reeling Hawley in, and on lap 15 I get a great run on the inside of turn one to try and get past him. There's a couple of lap cars on the inside, but I can't move up too much because I tried to leave Hawley a lane in case I didn't have him cleared. Just as I go to pass the lap car, he moves up a little bit and I get into him with my left front. This causes me to slow down and the car gets a little bit sideways, and that was enough to cause Hawley to run through my right rear. I end up with a flat tire and some sheetmetal damage. A quick pitstop, then I fall in at the rear with half the feature left to try and do something. There's just not enough time left, and I end up with a 13th place finish. On the 358 side, I got pretty lucky in the beginning. I draw #4 for the 8th heat. As I'm sitting in line ready to go out for the feature, the guy starting on the pole can't get his engine started. That puts me on the point. Man, it was a really neat deal to be able to run my car with big tires and some gear. The car is just about perfect, and we win the heat by a fairly large margin. That puts me in 8th for the Race of Kings feature. At the drop of the green I can tell right away that the car is awesome! I grab a couple of spots in the first few laps and then fall in line in 5th. For the first 20 laps or so I'm able to run 5th or 6th, not using the car very hard at all. Unfortunately, a few laps later something hits the left front brake line and rips it off. I get into the pits where the crew puts a pair of visegips on the line so I can still have a brake pedal. Needless to say, it was interesting driving the car with no left front brake. I'm able to do a halfway decent job, until about lap 70 when the front panhard bar snaps in two. Now it's a struggle to just get the car around, but we end up finishing all the laps, coming in 18th or so. The plan for Sunday was to run the 77 car like I did at Syracuse. Ronnie was using that car in the Race of Kings and was going to switch the motors Saturday night. Unfortunately he got turned around on the frontstretch. and ended up rolling the car. So that kinda eliminated that plan. I figured that I would just be a spectator for the 200. As it turns out, it was quite the opposite case. We thought that if I got an up-front starting spot in one of the heats, I might be able to get my car into the show. And wouldn't you know, I pull #2 out of the can. I try to get a little jump on the original start, but the motor in my car was no match for the big blocks. And they end up pummeling me. I start 7th in the consi, figuring on just getting some more laps. Some cars pass me and I actually pass some back, finishing in 7th, two spots out of qualifying. I head down to the pit shack to find out if there's any way I can get in the race, and they end up taking two more cars out of each consi. Unbelievable, getting into the 200 with my Sportsman car! I roll off dead last and actually do a halfway decent job of keeping up. Around lap 50 I get tangled up with Frank Cozze, hooking bumpers on the backstretch. This causes me to go a lap down, and I fall into line in 6th for the restart. Now the track is starting to come to me and having the small motor is not quite the liability it was when there was more grip. I run lap times only a tenth or two off of the big guns that I'm racing with. I really start to get comfortable, when around lap 65, my throttle stick wide open going into turn three. Somehow I get the car locked down to the inside without to much damage to myself or anyone else around me. Just about the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. So unfortunately, the results do not show how well the weekend really was. The extra laps I was able to run were invaluable experience.
There's way too much going on this week. Another late week motor building scramble to get ready to race The regular season ended Saturday night at the 'Valley. Once again the modifieds were acting up, and true to form, the Sportsman class went green to checkers. I started the feature 9th, one spot behind George Marcus. Man, was that guy on a mission! I try to keep up, but he checks out. By half way, I'm in 3rd behind George and Bobby Knipe. Unfortunately, the track is pretty used up at this point, as were my tires. I try several different lines trying to get past Bobby, but I can't get the job done. Once again I finish 9th in points, not too bad considering 3 DNF's and a DQ. On a lighter note, I made my modified debut this night. The results were not exactly what I was hoping for (smacking the wall a couple of times in the heat!). I end up starting 6th in the consi and get quickly up to 2nd. The car ends up with a real bad push with 2 to go, and Ron Blake ends up getting me for second, leaving me one spot out of qualifying for the feature. Monday finds us all at the NYS Fairgrounds. Ronnie, Dave Blaney and myself. After going to Syracuse for over 15 years it was a pretty neat feeling getting around the track in a modified. Not to mention intimidating. I end up a couple of spots out of qualifying for the feature there too. But at least I got a couple of laps around the Moody Mile just in case we make it there in October. Dave had a pretty crummy day, breaking a left front brake line about 25 laps into the feature. He was riding around brakeless in 7th with about 8 to go when some of the front runners started having tire problems. It looked like we were going to get a top 6 when the caution came out with 4 to go. On the restart he popped a right rear tire, wrecking any chances of a good finish. Should be pretty interesting 4 weeks from now.... :)