We're off to Syracuse yet again this week. Not driving this year, instead I'll be working on Jack's crew. Looks like Ronnie has a great opportunity for the rest of the year picking up the Sweetners Plus ride that used to be Danny Johnson's. Hopefully we'll return with some good news.
Lots of new pics.
It looks like this bonus race at the end of the year is kind to us. Last year we won it, and gave it away at the scales, being 13 lbs. light. This year things started off a little hectic. Todd and Jimmy had weddings to go to, so I was a lone soldier for a while at the beginning of the night. Had to mount some tires, and had to search for some tires. Larry had no right fronts, and all the stuff I had was junk. Fortunately Roy let me have an older tire he had been using for the last couple of years! So I was rushing around, trying to get out for warm-ups, and wouldn't you know the right front I had just mounted went flat on pit road. No warm-ups for me! Went to the drivers meeting to draw and picked 4th in the 1st heat. I thought that that was a pretty good omen, we usually could get to the front from there. The guy in front of me was from another track, and when they dropped the green, he never took off. By the time I got through 2, I was dead last. Not what you want with a heads up start in the feature. Still only a seven lap heat race, so I had my work cut out for me. And on top of that the car was terrible, set up for a slick track, and we were racing on a surface that had as much bite as we've had all year. I made the best of it and managed to get to 3rd before it was over. We all seen this movie before, changed a whole bunch of stuff on the car before hot laps. And that did the trick. Started 7th in the feature, and I thought I was going to have some serious work to do to catch the fast guys in front of me. Right from the start the car worked awesome. We passed 6th, 5th, and 4th pretty quickly. That put me behind Artie and Bobby. I took a couple of runs at Bobby, I could get next to him but couldn't quite pull off the pass. We settled in there till the first caution. I fortunate to maintain my position on the inside row restart and continued to follow Bobby, trying the high line for a while. We had a couple more cautions, but I could never mount a serious charge. The last caution flew on lap 22. I got a great run on Bobby in turn one and when he pushed up the track I was able to squeak ahead. I had 7 laps to try and reel in Artie, but the best I could do was maybe a 1/2 a car length a lap or so. With 2 to go, he started smoking, and I started trying a little bit harder. I moved to the bottom of the track and started picking up some ground. Artie started weaving down the straights, trying to block any moves. On the last lap I blew it into 3 and came out of 4 wheel to wheel with Artie and beat him to the checkers by about 2 feet. What a wild, wild race.
Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug. We put the 358 motor that Dave Blaney ran a couple of months ago in my car for the Race of Kings Saturday. Rolled off the trailer not too good, but Jimmy and I put our heads together and made a few changes before time trials. I went out about 20th or so, and wouldn't you know I caught up to the car in front of me and had to pass him. Clicked off 2 laps, the second of which turned out to be 5th fastest, when the engine let go in a big way. Broke the crank as I crossed the start finish line, locking up the rear wheels and almost sending me into the 1st turn wall. So I was thinking my day was over, when we got the bright idea to run back to Troy and grab my Sportsman engine and try and make the show. Todd and RJ ran back to Troy while Jimmy and I yanked the mortally wounded engine out and pulled a bunch of gear. By the time they got back to the track, I had missed the heat race that I was to start on the pole for. We quickly got the motor in and fell into last place on the grid in the last consi. I think I started 13th, and 10 laps later I was 5th. I was actually pretty surprised at how well we ran, considering how much gear and horsepower we were giving up to the other guys. I thought my night was over at that point since they were only taking 2 out of each consi, but apparently Howard took pity on me and added me to the field. So there I was, starting 35th, with the entire field in front of me. I got right to work at the start and we were making pretty good progress. The air was thick with dust and calcium, I had to wipe my shield several times each lap. We made pretty good progress, I have no idea where in the field I was, but I was peddling as fast as I could. Just about half way I think we were 25th or so with the leaders rapidly catching up to me. I was having a hard time passing the guy in front of me at that point, and coming off of 2 I ended up running into the back of him, causing me to spin. I kept my foot to the floor and did a 360 right in front of the leaders. Fortunately I pretty much escaped without any serious damage, but went a lap down. We ran with the leaders for the remainder of the race and ended up 16th. Well, actually it was 15th, because Todd Wilkinson got DQ'ed for an illegal carb. So all in all, I would have to call it an extremely successful night. I can't thank my guys enough for the outstanding effort they all put in, we did a serious amount of work in a short time and it was nice to get a positive result for all our efforts. It turns out that we have one last race this coming weekend, a 30 lap $1,000 to win show at the 'Valley.
Sunday Tony did an excellent job coming from deep in the field, 28th I believe, to finish 7th. He was one of the few guys that passed a serious amount of cars during the race. The 28th starting spot pretty much spelled out our strategy, so we decided to go nearly half way before we pitted for tires and fuel. The one groove track kinda limited us in the end, Kenny was holding us up pretty bad toward the waning laps, but Tony just couldn't get around him. Smoke did a great job, and the guys pulled off a great pit stop.
Well it's all over now. We got to within 3 points of nipping Roy for 4th in the points. This has been by far the best year I've had since I started. If it wasn't for a little brain fade on the driver's part, we might have had a chance to mix it up with Bobby and Sparky and Art for the points lead. Regardless, it was a great effort to build on and I can't thank Jimmy, John, RJ, and Todd enough for all their help during the year.
As for the evening's events, well let's just say it was an interesting night. We rolled off the trailer total junk. The track was totally different than last week, and we were out to lunch. We made some changes for the heat, but the car was no better, and the driver was even worse. I ended up near the back of the pack at the finish, one of the poorest performances I've had in a long time. I had some pretty heavy contact with Lorne during the heat, so we had some front end damage to take care of as well as some of the changes we were trying for hot laps. The car was a little bit better, but we were still not good. So Jimmy and I got to work. We changed front springs, rear bars, front and rear panhard bars, stagger, and some other stuff that I can't even remember right now. It would have been hard to make the car worse. :) I started the feature 18th, and the race quickly turned into a crash fest. We didn't even make it off the 4th turn for the green. Somehow I managed to not be involved, but I did lose a few spots. There were several more cautions before we made it to lap 3, and I made good use of them, manage to get myself up to 6th. On the next restart I had a good run behind Frankie going through 1 and 2 and he either checked up or ran into some slick stuff, and I promptly ran into his back bumper. The car took off toward the wall, and as I slipped up to the top, half the field went by me. Of course there was another wreck, and at that point we went to single file restarts, with me around 14th. So we pulled the belts a little tighter and went to work. I think I passed about 8 or 9 cars before the next caution came out on lap 9. In the next few laps I moved up to 3rd behind Bobby and Sparky. Needless to say, the changes we made before the feature totally transformed the car. I ran those guys down on an open track, and in the last 5 laps you could have thrown a blanket over the 3 of us. I made a couple of runs at Sparky while he was busy working Bobby, and on the last lap I was able to get a wheel past him on the outside coming off of 2. So naturally he turned into me, felt like he was gonna stick me into the wall. I wasn't able to get close enough to do anything else before the checkers fell. If I had passed Sparky for 2nd, Bobby would have won the points. I guess on one hand you could say that you do what you have to do to protect your points lead, but I know if the situation was reversed, and it was Bobby I was racing with, we would have never touched. At least it was a hell of a show from where I was sitting. We're looking to try and run the Race of Kings next week and skipping the Sportsman show. We'll see how the week goes.