2015 title text.gif (4012 bytes)
2015 title date.gif (1988 bytes)
80 BR-aug2014.JPG (467944 bytes)

armond3-04.jpg (27681 bytes)
My Father
-always with me-
Armond Wickham

1923 to 2006

CrashPad&Lumbar-2in-sm.jpg (81932 bytes)
The Crash Pad Website

Sprintdudes.com.png (49734 bytes)
Check out this New
Sprint Results Site

-Photos-
click on photo for larger view

dave canandaigua 2015.jpg (365955 bytes)
Canandaigua after the heat.

80 Canadaigua 2015.jpg (346573 bytes)
Slick trackin' in the heat race.

80+514 Brewerton 7-1-15web.jpg (35479 bytes)
James Hanson 514 Brewerton 7-1-15

80+28#1 Brewerton 7-1-15web.jpg (41837 bytes)
Brewerton squeeze #1

80+28#2 Brewerton 7-1-15web.jpg (36870 bytes)
Squeeze #2

80+28#3 Brewerton 7-1-15web.jpg (41769 bytes)
Squeeze #3

80+28#4 Brewerton 7-1-15web.jpg (37845 bytes)
Squeeze #4

Dave Brewerton 7-1-15web.jpg (37801 bytes)
At Brewerton Driver's meeting

80+Barger+stands LittleValley 7-3-15.jpg (95566 bytes)
Little Valley

80+Barger Little Valley7-3-15.jpg (144436 bytes)
Little Valley 3&4 with Barger

80 #1 Eriez 7-5-15.jpg (90836 bytes)
Eriez 7-5-15

2015  Wrap Up

As the new year approaches, some time has passed to reflect on the past season. As always, I would have liked results to be better but it was acceptable, considering...

Compared to the previous year where I was upside down in three of eight races and had one night where I was towed in three times and used up two front ends and only made three racing laps all night, this year was far better.

Overall, we didn’t crash at all, got into most of the races we went to and just kept trying stuff to do better.
However, I’ve still been slow and seldom found a setup that worked for me and how I’m driving. There were a few OK runs at tracks where we usually do well like Stateline, Eriez and Brockville, but my hometown track continues to be a bust as I just can’t get around Brewerton competitively. I had a bad draw but a good run at Weedsport but didn’t make the show. Fonda was a surprise with a sticky track and a flat out run that got me into the feature. The last race at Rolling Wheels was plagued by motor problems that I caught in time to avoid disaster, but still was costly to repair.

But in the end we had fun chasing the combination to solve the puzzle.  So the plan for next year is to run with the Patriots where it makes sense.

ESS has changed their qualifying rules and based on our past experience and speed, we will have no chance to start up front in a heat race and therefore a very slim chance of qualifying. Before, ESS was open draw with a gambler’s shot at a good starting spot but now it is based on hot lap times with the fast at the front. My hot laps have not been very hot.   I’m sure they won’t miss me.

On the equipment front, I have two complete cars together at the shop and one additional motor at Jimmy D’s for a complete rebuild and upgrade.  That motor will now have titanium valves for more RPM, a different cam and better injectors. We are expecting an increase in HP on the dyno from a motor that started out as a dog. But to be honest, motor power hasn’t been our biggest problem. We’ve been beat by 305 motors that are two hundred HP less than us. The big problem is handling... getting in, through and out of the corners is where speed is. No amount of motor can overcome slow corner speeds.

From the chassis side of things, we’ve tried everything we can think of to improve. The car just never seems stuck and wants to slide up the track if I drive in harder. But the problem isn’t the pieces we’re using because it’s all good, or new, or measured, or dyno’d or calibrated stuff. We’re just not making the right adjustments AND I’m not driving it right. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong or what I need to do different or how, but it seems to all come down to driving and setup for me. When the car sticks and I’m comfortable, I can run flat out.

I could really use a driving coach at this point and then the setups we’ve tried, or new setups might work. I could use video from the stands to see where I’m failing. Typically, people want to work with someone who’s succeeding but if somebody wants to take credit for turning a team around, my program is available.

It’s odd that in racing there aren’t many driving coaches. There are crew chiefs that manage cars but I haven’t heard much of drivers being coached...    outside of badgering fathers and their underage drivers.

I think there is a lot that can be improved if a driver can look back and review a race with a coach. Football teams and coaches review game tapes to see what went right and wrong so that the players have a view of what was happening around them. A better understanding of a play from the grandstand view can be blended with the experience on the field. The mind’s eye is then broadened to a greater understanding of each action and how it relates to the bigger picture.

It can be the same with racing. A grandstand view of the car and how it moves relative to the track and cars around it, can add insight to the driver’s memory of the sights and feel they experienced at that point.  The way the other drivers positioned their cars provides important clues to how racing lines that are better or worse. I know it would help me to see where I was losing ground and where I was faster and translate that into seat of the pants changes in driving. But at this point, for all my experience, I struggle to figure out what to do, or what to change and confidence erodes as performance lags. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but if the dog is ready to learn, it’s time to show him the way.

So if somebody thinks they can help and wants to do more than make a suggestion and walk away, let’s talk. A new season approaches.

The Wheels, Syracuse and The Wheels 10/9 to 10/11/15.
Last race of the season. I had been avoiding Rolling Wheels because I thought we didn't have enough motor but when the Patriots ran there earlier this season I decided to go and had a strong motor in the car. The car didn't get through the turns fast enough and the motor didn't help. So now after changing cars and a good run at Fonda with a less powerful motor, we thought we'd see how it would work at The Wheels.

It was Super Dirt Week. The last one at the Syracuse mile and fans from all over the east came to see the last race on the big track. Five days of mile qualifying and racing during the day were supplemented with racing at the local tracks each night.

On Tuesday, the night before things got going on the mile, Utica Rome had ESS sprints along with the modifieds. We didn't go but there were 23 sprints at that mid-week October show so we expected all those cars and more at The Wheels.

Twenty nine showed up from Jersey to Quebec on a day that had a 100% forecast of rain that would taper off in the afternoon. The rain had stopped about one, but the sky was still filled with black clouds for the rest of the afternoon. Greg and I got to the track at three to get a dry pit spot or rather a pit spot that was not a mud hole. We left trailer closed up until nearer race time, second guessing the dark sky. It was in the low fifties with a cold light wind that reminded us of so many rainy cold Dirt Week days of past.

You can't have Dirt Week without some cold and rain though there are always some nice warm sunny days too. October weather can have dramatic swings as air masses from Canada stir with warm drafts from the south.

Finally we unloaded and set the car up for a track that had received half an inch of rain before noon. Only two packer trucks were making laps on the 5/8 so we expected it would be barely ready at race time and would probably be pretty sticky though the heats. This track was the first to have Glenn Donnelly's new two million dollar Syndi surface, a mix of waxes and binders added as a liquid to the clay to keep clay particles together to form less dust.

It's also supposed to be better against the weather and have less tire wear with bite. Hopefully they packed it in tight before the weather and it wouldn't have absorbed too much water. Just as I was getting ready to get in the car to start for heat in motor, it started to mist. The mist continued and turned to a heavy dense mist of tiny rain drops that continued for a couple hours until the track was so far gone that they called it and rescheduled for Sunday nite, after the big 200 lap modified race at the mile.

I was surprised that they didn't just cancel the race completely as all the fans at the mile would be heading home after a full week and long day already in the stands. We packed up and rolled the dripping car into the trailer, ready to go for Sunday nite.

Saturday was a happy/sad day for Greg and I. I bought tickets for us to sit in the stands for the last time at the Syracuse mile and watch the last Dirt Champ Car race along with a 150 lap small block modified race plus now all the racing that had been rained out on Friday. The new Saturday schedule put cars on the track at 8am and had Champ Car practice at 9am so we got up early to take in the full day.

As we arrived and parked, we could hear the engines of cars idling around the track. As we walked near the fourth turn tunnel we could see it was the Champ Cars so we walked over to the fence. Where we ended up standing was at the hauler's track crossing gate which was about waist high. It was a thirty foot long break in the wall with a low steel frame gate.

We stood there, too close to the track and  they dropped the green and we watched the cars run through four and on to the straight. We were sure that security would chase us away but no one seemed to be bothered by the dozen of us standing at the edge of the track. The surface was fresh and had bite and a wet loose cushion.

Drivers were running the bottom, middle and cushion. Tails hung out with tires spinning and standing tall like dragsters, grinding bite out of the smooth, flat corners. It was the classic view of drivers hard on the throttle, tail wide, against the background of the crash chuncked concrete wall with Armco fencing above and fairground buildings beyond.

Never again will we see this. It will soon be a piece of history kept alive only by digital capture and story-telling as the great fairgrounds miles are slowly disappearing in the name of progress and financial gain. This mile was built in 1826 and added auto racing to this horse track in 1903. The second oldest continuously operating race track in the country had seen all the greats. I watched Hertibise, Unsers, Andretti, Foyt, Bettenhausen, Reakes, Kotary, Swift, Reutimen, Johnsons, Kinser, Swindell, and Wolfgang race at this track, the last three I watched from the cockpit.

The mile is special... the speed, the sounds of an engine's long wind echoing off the far fairground's buildings, the grandeur of size, the dedicated crowd. If Cathedrals were built to inspire awe in the faithful.... fairgrounds dirt miles are the Cathedrals of Speed and this will be the loss of one that I've grown up with. It leaves a hole that can only be filled with memories, pictures and stories.

While we stood watching the Champ Cars at speed, hearing the echoing power and smelling the exhausted methanol, we were happy and awe inspired. I took pictures and video to remember that short time when we were as close as could be to the action at the end of a mile. I had tears from excitement and tears from sorrow and a lump in my throat.

When the cars slowed Greg and I watched as the pointed tails rolled into the pits and we headed to the grandstand for our last overview of a full day of racing at 'The Fair', just like we did with our fathers since we were in strollers.

I would have loved to take a few more fast laps on that track but I would have to settle for the 5/8 down the road, another track where my father and I spent many nites and one that was almost lost over bumbling management. Through a contortion of failed ownerships, The Wheels is now owned by the new Glenn Donnelly corporation that also owns the half mile track he is building to host Super Dirt Week next year.

Glenn sold Dirt and Dirt Week and his interest in Rolling Wheels nearly 10 years ago and now has The Wheels and Dirt Week and a new facility back under his control. People got tired of his control before but now are glad to see him in charge again because they know that he can make it work.

Sunday was sunny and clear like Saturday but fifteen degrees warmer than the fifty two windy high of Friday and Saturday. We unloaded to a pit of thirty one 360 sprints and three or four hundred fans. The night before at The Wheels, six thousand fans watched the World of Outlaws Sprints and witnessed the fasted speed that WoO had ever recorded on any track.

The Friday rain soaked the track just right and the cool temps made power for a 145+ mph lap in time trials. The Wheels is now the fastest dirt track on record, even faster than Pauch's sprint car 144mph on the Syracuse Mile. Of course it depends on how you measure the length of the track, so when you divide by the time you get the speed... but it was still fast.

This night, only eleven small block modifieds showed up for their high paying race. They had seen action on the mile every day and every night for 5 days already. They had enough. The track was a watered version of last night's Outlaw surface that quickly peeled off in hot laps.

Flat out laps soon required some finesse to stay out of the marbles. Water puddles at the bottom made for altered lines. I started fifth in my heat and caught the puddle out of four. It turned the car toward the infield and set me on a very low line down the front straight.

I tried to keep pace but had to enter one so low that I had to brake and when I did, the car pushed like a truck in one and by the time I got it collected, I was ninth and then a couple laps latter I caught the puddle out of two and lost two more spots. The bottom of one and two had great bite and was a fast line until the exit where the puddle spun the tires and turned the car and all momentum was lost on the back straight.

The motor sounded a little flat to me during the heat but Greg said it sounded OK where he stood. It sounded fuel flat to me. I didn't have a dialajet in the car as I had in the past with this motor and that would have helped me to see if changing fuel would make a difference.

Usually it's not fuel but it sure sounded that way. On the other side of the coin was the water temp that was running near 220. In the past this motor had always run 180 or 190 but I thought it might be high because I was running flat out like last race or only partially lifting. So I pondered fuel and actually changed pills three times before I went back out for the B main.

I wanted to try leaner but the temp suggested that it wanted more fuel. I thought richer but it didn't act like it was starving. I had run the valves and checked the plugs during last week and after checking dyno sheets I had set the high speed bypass to turn on a little bit sooner but there was just no clear clue about what was going on.

Something seemed off a bit but I didn't know what. I started seventh in the B and I thought I might have a shot at qualifying as the car handled pretty good once I got going in the heat. Off the start I ran seventh and was right on sixth and then one lap in coming out of two the motor tone went flatter and lost a little more power.

I ran another lap and it was bogging coming out of four so I took it to the pits. Could be a broken valve spring or loose rocker arm. Hopefully I stopped before there was any major damage. Whatever it is, I've got all winter to figure it out and two other good motors to start next season.

Fonda 9-25-15
The regular season ends on Labor Day weekend and traditionally Greg and I
would make our way to Stateline and Eriez for the holiday capper to the
schedule. But this year with all the turmoil of Stateline’s sale and
repossession and a mid- summer second race at these tracks, there was no
Patriot race for Labor Day weekend.

ESS had rescheduled a rainout at Brewerton which we went to but we weren’t
ready to hang it up yet.

After the Brewerton race I was still trying to figure out what we needed to
do to get faster. I’ve tried a lot of things and can’t seem to get a
handle on it. Best I can figure is that we’re the same as we used to be
but everyone else got faster. Even so, I have better equipment than years
before and we shouldn’t be consistently as far off as we’ve been.

It had been building in my mind for the past month or so, to put the other
car together and see if there was a difference. The other car was a new
Maxim frame that we raced for about six races at the beginning of 2014 and
bent up the front end in a big crash at McKean, Pa. That night at McKean
we had hit on some changes for the feature that really worked and I was
moving forward. After it was fixed by Rick at LPS, it has been sitting in
the shop with boxes of all new running gear waiting to be assembled. It
was time.

The ESS race at Fonda was a couple of weeks out. It had been a while since
I’d been there. As the season wound down we decided Fonda and
Rolling Wheels in October would be worth a shot.

For a couple of weeks, after work each nite, I put the car together and
finished with a setup that picked up where we left off with the other car.
I felt that we were making some progress with the other car but couldn’t
hit on anything that really stuck.

I left the other car completely together and put a spare motor in the new
car. The seat was the only thing that moved. The spare motor had
a season of laps on it and did not have the horsepower of the
motor we had been using but our handling had been so bad that the extra
power didn’t matter and couldn’t make up for poor handling. Corner speed is
everything.

Summer had officially ended a couple days before we headed to Fonda.
Leaves were just starting to change as we approached the end of the warmest
September on record and there had been little rain over the past few weeks.
This Friday was a breezy, bright, sunny, mid-seventies day with a lower sun
angle that created the long fall shadows. Fall races always have a different
feel.

Fonda is a place with lots of racing history. I remember Pete Gillette
talking about Fonda when I was ten and delivering newspapers to his gas
station where he kept his stock car.

The old fairgrounds track still has the traditional long, wooden, covered
grandstand where Whip and I sat and watched a URC race one year,
not realizing that one of those cars would be our first sprint car the next year.

In my past races at Fonda, the track has always been dry and slick. One
year there had been extreme rain for a couple weeks and in the floods, the
river next to the track had risen to cover the track with 6 feet (yes
really) of water on Tuesday. But by that weekend it had receded and we
raced. That year we set up the car expecting a heavy track from
saturating water but by the end of hot laps the surface was dry and dusty.
I learned at that point that there was no guessing what a track would be
like based on the weather leading up to the race.

One year the track took rubber mid race and everyone ground off four tires
in the bottom parade of pushing cars. The cushion-brave spit dust from
the rear tires as they lost positions trying to race the powdery top.
I expected dry and hoped it would not rubber up.

This race was part of a two day show with sprints and limited modifieds on
Friday and then a big block modified 100 lap race on Saturday.
Without the high powered modifieds on Friday, the surface would take less
of a beating but it was still a wild guess what the track would be like.

We unloaded to a pit of 28 strong teams. Everyone has good stuff now.
We had primed the motor but had not fired it.
I pushed off to get heat in the motor and Greg would check
for leaks. As soon as the motor fired and I was rolling back to the
trailer, fuel stated dribbling out of a fitting at the shutoff valve
to the injectors. At this point it is a small amount but it’s a stream. I
don’t want to shut down the motor because then I can’t be sure the problem
will be fixed if it’s just loose but the fitting seems tight as I wiggle
the hose.

All the while I worry about fire but drive back to the trailer and once I
get Greg’s attention, get some wrenches to tighten the fitting while still sitting in
the running car.  The fitting is tight so I shut off the motor and Greg brings the
bin of spare hoses. I replace the short hose and we go back to refire.
This time the motor fires and there is no leak. As the motor comes up to
temp it is running rough on the right bank but clears as I raise the RPM.
There is an imbalance between the injector butterflies but there isn’t time
to mess with it now.

As the motor builds heat, we roll out for hot laps. It’s a new car assembly
so there is always some uncertainty. Is everything tight and right?
The motor is a bit rough at idle but clears and takes off as they drop
the green. I get a feel for the car in one and two and next time around
I can drive in without lifting.

Four more flat out laps and the car feels really good.
The track has some bite from top to bottom. A low cushion of wet clay
chunks is building. There won’t be much track use before our 3rd heat
so we leave the car as is and adjust air pressure to compensate for
buildup.

My 33 draw puts me mid pack in the nine car heat. Starting fifth means
I’m qualified if I can hold the position or only lose one. As we enter
three for the start the motor is stumbling from the slow pace. I hold the brake
hard and add throttle to try to clear the motor with load but when my foot
goes down out of four, the motor stumbles and then clears as I lose two
spots going into one. I drive in on the bottom in seventh and from there run flat
out following the car ahead with no chance to pass. It’s all momentum and
flat out is all I’ve got.

A yellow creates another double file start.
This time I keep burping the throttle to clear the motor. The guy next to
me must think I’m some kind of impatient jerk as we round the third turn and
I keep gunning it. When we hit the line, my foot goes down and the car goes
forward beating the car on the outside as I race into one, again stuck 7th
in line. The track was drying a bit in the middle but still had a great
cushion and good bottom. I know if I had figured out the stumbling on the
original start I could have held my fifth or sixth but, I finish one spot
out and we’re headed for the B.

I start third in the nine car B, taking four. I make a small shock change
and added a turn to the left front for some RR bite. The rear would break
loose a bit between the turns and I had pulled the wing back about 3 inches
to balance the car. We changed gears to a higher gear to try to get
more top speed out of this flat out track.

The motor temp was running two-twenty which was considerably higher than
the normal one-eighty I we usually see. Running the motor wide open,
without lifting was making more heat.I pulled the protective honeycomb
from in front of the radiator to let the air pass easier and changed the
pill to the next size richer.

I was starting the B inside of Doug Emery’s strong #33, that has won so
many races with Freisen in recent years. Freisen was in Jessica’s car tonite.
Emery had a modified regular in the seat.

I bop the throttle up to the line and we take off side by side,
headed for one. He runs the cushion and I run a tight line, flat out on
the bottom and come out of two a close fourth. From that point it’s 10
flat out laps. The car sticks and I try some different lines but don’t
find one better than the other.

The entry of four has a depression that I can miss low or really high.
You can’t see it. It’s several car lengths long.
It’s mid corner with the tail is hung out when you go through it. The car
first settles and then rises up, sometimes breaking the tires loose enough
to rev the motor and then the car drifts out against the cushion. We are
already at the valve float limit of this motor so I try to stay out of that
hole.

Lap by lap my line gets more efficient and I can let the car drive itself.
This square-ish half mile is still really fast. I never see a nose. I finish
fourth and make the show.

What a relief to finally make an ESS race and earn my way in. 25 laps
ahead and starting last.

Greg and I discuss the setup and decide to take out a little stagger and
change gears again to the next higher gear. I make a scoop in front of
the radiator box with the roll cage sun visor to help get more air to the
water. No other changes other than lowering the air pressure to
compensate for the expected buildup, based on what we found after the B.
Starting last with one provisional starter behind me, I was ready to race.

I bopped the throttle around three and took off with the pack heading for
one. Surprisingly, the two cars ahead lifted and I drove in past one and
inside of the other. For the first few laps I was racing hard with the
pack of cars around me. One lap I went in wide and ran the cushion
following the 33 and passing but we both found ourselves rooster-tailing
the loose cushion out of two and waiting for bite. The low line worked best
for me, the middle was getting black slick. There was really good bite
down low coming out of the turns.

The next car ahead was Jeff Cook. He was holding me up. I showed him my
nose and next lap he went to the bottom but then the car started to turn
up the track like something had broken. At the same instant, leader Freisen
passed me on the cushion and had to jump the cushion and squeak between
Cook and the wall. That was all I saw and then the red came out as I
entered three. Cook had taken another nasty ride.

About a month and a half ago, at Can Am, Jeff got wheel banged by another
car and went off track between turns three and four.
The car became airborne off the top of the banking and landed wheels down
headed for the pits where he car slammed into the LF of a push truck,
ripping the rear out of the sprint and the front wheel off the truck.
The massive high speed impact broke Cook’s back, ribs,
punctured his lung and caused other internal injuries. I was surprised to
see him back in the car a couple weeks ago.

My race had been clean. The car worked great, I could pass some cars on
the restarts going in. The track had dried out but still had bite, though
now I had to throttle the corner and time it with the tacky spots coming
out.

The car turned in so good that I had to actually turn away from the
bottom a bit at times to keep from getting into the inside tires.
The 25 laps were fun to drive and it felt good to be able to race. We
finished sixteenth from twenty second with a couple of drop outs. Car was
in one piece and we covered expenses. Considering how we've been, this
is like a win.

We still have a ways to go though. After looking at my transponder lap
times, I see that I am still a second or more off pace of the leaders even
when flat out. At least for this night I could race with the pack at the
back. I don’t know what we’re missing but we’ll try something different
next race.

Brewerton 9-4-15
It’s a mile from home so it’s an easy tow. It’s an ESS race so it’s tough competition. They charge thirty five bucks at the back gate making it expensive to get in. There are usually a lot of cars because it’s a central location. It’s a holiday weekend and that boosts car counts. For some reason, I can’t get around this place to save my butt.

So last time we were here they called the race at 4:30 due to impending rain but the rain went all around until after 10pm. This was the reschedule date and weather was perfect. The track held moisture this time and made for a racy track throughout the heats. I drew 60 out of 75 and started ninth in a ten car heat taking six.

We were trying something different for set up. The car was OK but I couldn’t pass. I tried top, bottom and middle. Ran on the car ahead but couldn’t make a move.

That put me eighth in a fourteen car B main. We made a big change in bars to try something we had discussed during the week. The track was drier and the setup helped some but it was still a struggle. I passed one and got passed by another, held off the ones behind and finished out of qualifying.

I might have made it with a better draw but it is what it is. We need to do something different to get going.

Brockville 8-22-15
The 2015 season is winding down. The regular season American races for the Patriots are over and a few ESS races remain. The Patriot Canada series winds up with this weekends events. This track is a couple hours up the road, depending on the line at customs.

Last time we spent nearly an hour in line at the border waiting to cross. So we left an hour early this time. When we got to the boarder there were only two cars at each booth and we were through in about five minutes. I guess it’s the end of vacation season too.

I have a certain level of comfort at this track after running here a couple of times each year. The nicely banked three-eights mile has no walls around the turns or the back straight. They grade the banking to a point, literally with equal banking on the back side, including the back straight, so if you get too wide, you go over the banking, but the back side is covered with clay and cars race around the reverse banking to crawl back up on track.

In the pit pass line, I talked to Rick Wilson. He’d been running modifieds weekly but was running his sprint tonite. He said the track has been different every week. In the past I’ve seen bite, slick, dry, rough, and cushions of various kinds but always at the rim. There had been some rain during the week but today was a pleasant low eighties with low humidity. This is the only place where we have to take mosquito spray.

My best racing and driving in recent years was here a couple of years ago. The last couple of times here, I’ve tried to duplicate it. Last time I used the setup that worked so good before but had a car that didn’t hook up. Rick had asked me why the car sat so low. I told him about my great night with that setup and how I had run with him when he was third but I was a lap down. My lap times that night were third fastest after I found the line. He shrugged.

I’ve concluded that that fast night was due to a track that was fast and abrasive. It may have had a little rubber down. I completely used up both rear tires and ended the night bald. I remembered Rick’s comment and tonite used a different set up with a little more ride height and a package I had used at Weedsport.

There was a short field of cars for some reason. None of the cars from the SOS group showed up and even some of the locals we’re there. There was a Canadian point series to decide this weekend and some of the top players were missing. Maybe it’s burnout at the end of summer and the same reason there wasn’t a line at the border. The low car count was good for me though, it took the pressure off qualifying.

When we hit the track for hot laps, the track was wet and fast. I laid down three flat out laps. The car turned in, stuck, and drove off like it was supposed to. I ran the cushion and checked a lap on the bottom. This could be a night with some bite. For the heat, I made one small adjustment for the expected dryer track.

My pill draw put me at the end of heat one. There were a couple of cars that I had a shot at but they were up front. The pack strung out quickly and I ran in line with one car behind. The track had changed. The middle had some slick spots that turned the car sideways. The setup was not good for this surface and the car was a handful. I pulled the wing back and used the cushion to hold the rear.

About mid-way I leaned on the cushion and it had moved nearer the rim during the race. I went over the top and raced around the back side to re-enter near the end of the back straight. It was a rooster tail excursion that kept me on the lead lap. So I finished last but would run a dash scramble for feature starting spot.

The dash was a good time to try some changes to the setup. I thought may more RR weight would help with less LR shock tie down. I started last in the dash and the rear felt looser as the track was slicker. I ran the bottom and stayed with the pack making one spot forward for the feature line up. Greg was seeing more than two pounds of pressure build up in the RR. That was high for what we usually see on these glacier surfaces but this place had always been more abrasive. The LR only built a pound.

Greg and I discussed the options and we decided to try the opposite. We took out stagger, cranked in some LR weight and took out the RR weight that I had added and softened all the shocks. The cushion would be gone and the bottom would be our best shot. We were up after a 30 lap modified race. I was starting thirteenth.

The feature took off and didn’t have much dust. I gave some room at the start to a car that was already being aggressive on the pace laps. I didn’t need any wheel banging and wasn’t sure if he’d make it through the first lap. Fortunately he did and as the pack strung out I cleared a car off the bottom and kept touch with the cars ahead.

There were two that I felt I could race if I could get to them but I couldn’t find the bite. I had nothing to lose so I tried a dozen ways to drive corners to see if there was something I was missing. I tried the bottom , arcing in to the bottom, diamond the middle, kick the rear out at entry, early pedal coming out, full pedal corner, over entry and slide up, even pedal in the corner, no brakes, hard brake entry... hard brake entry, roll the bottom and hard pedal out seem to gain the most ground but it was a struggle.

Rick was committed to the top and was not much better than me on this night. Very unusual as he is usually a threat to win. He went over the top three times would end up behind me and then race the top beside me as I ran the bottom.

We finished together, I ended up eleventh. I was no better than the cars ahead but the setup change was an improvement over the heat and dash. I would have like to try again but go further with the LR weight.

Cornwall was the next night and we did not plan to go there... I’ve never gone there. It’s another hour up the road and Sunday night and a heavy fast quarter mile. It never sounded like the kind of track for me. The series needed cars for the race and we were offered a room if we’d stay and race. After I declined, I talked to Greg and he said OK so we followed to the hotel.

Once there, we were told there were no rooms. None in Brockville or Cornwall. We had no overnite stuff, sleeping bags or mattresses. If we had, I would have headed to Cornwall, parked in their parking lot, rolled the car out of the trailer and set up camp inside. But we didn’t have a place to stay so we headed home. Only a few more races for us this season.

Brewerton and Weedsport 8-14-15 / 8-16-15
These two tracks are almost clones of each other.

The original quarter mile ovals at these places were stretched to third
miles back in the 60’s or 70’s. The change was done by sweeping the back
stretch out into an arc that made turns two and three into big sweepers and
a backstretch where you still hung it out in a big D shape..

However, to keep it cheap, the first and fourth turn and front straight
remained the same. This made the first turn a nearly square ninety and
the fourth turn a tight square at the end of the third turn sweeper. To
add to the challenge, the surface is a hard packed clay that slicks up and
can have little bite. To their credit, the tracks usually have a racy
cushion and two or three wide racing that is more about drivers and setup
than horsepower and money.

Brewerton has been a sore spot for me. Only a mile from home, I’ve gone
there since before I was born. I never raced there until ’05 or so and
have never gotten the hang of the place. It’s been a struggle and
usually a disappointment. Making the challenge worse is that all the races are
ESS sanction which has a plentiful following of tough well equipped teams.

So this Friday I had the car set up for a slick track with some extreme
adjustments for something different to try that might help with the side
bite I always lacked there. The weather was iffy and on a past occasion a
rain storm just before the race created a track that was heavy, sticky and
had a killer cushion.

They dumped eleven cars that night and I was one of them. So it looked
like rain was coming but the storm cells were popping up and disappearing
like targets in a video game as they moved down the thruway from Buffalo
and Rochester. More nasty stuff popped up over Lake Ontario and headed
through Oswego. It was hard to tell if it was going to rain or not but
the track owner decided that there was too much rain coming and pulled the plug
while we sat in the pits at 4:30 in the hot sun. It never rained until
10:30 that night. Many had towed several hours, Kevin Eckert came in from
Indy to watch and there was much grumbling.

So on to Sunday night and Weedsport. I left the same setup on the car
expecting the same old Weedsport. Some years ago when Glenn Donnelly
owned the place, he got it designated as the Cayuga County Fairground and
each year would put on the county fair on the grounds. The speedway has
been known as The Cayuga County Fair Speedway since. When I was young, my
father and I spent many Sunday nights watching the Dirt Modifieds and
occasional URC sprints run there, just 45 minutes from home. I had raced
some Outlaw shows there back when, and more recently, it was a regular
stop on the local sprint schedules for years.

When Donnelly sold his Dirt operation to World Racing Group, they ran the
track for a number of years and then after realizing they didn’t know how
to make any money running a track, they leased it and after figuring out that
they don’t know how to work with a leasee, they finally sold the place.
The new owner is a Nascar Cup team owner who also has several Dirt Modified
teams. He converted some buildings to shops for his Dirt teams and spent
a lot of money to revamp the track. The new owner changed the name back to
Weedsport Speedway as it has always been to me.

The changes were welcome to the run down track. They have reconfigured
the back stretch to be a straight instead of an arc. The first turn is a
little more forgiving on entry, with a little dog leg to the second
turn, although it doesn’t race that way. Three and four race like a
paperclip and are pretty symmetrical making the exit of four more pointed
at the straight than at the wall. All in all it races like a short paperclip
oval and is much better than before..

The one thing they did that looks really nice but is not so good for racing
is that they lined the outside with very tall concrete walls and have
concrete walls on the inside except for the front stretch.

When Donnelly had the track there were no walls except for the front straight. If you
spun or got wide you would spin or just collect the car but now if you slip
wide you waack the wall and break something. Walls slow down the show
because of the damage they cause that has to be towed in.  It costs racers
money and some may run out of money and not be able to race for a while so
track loses cars.
The walls make this track very narrow to race on.

They also replaced all the grandstands with very nice new and built new concessions
below with OK food prices. There are VIP suites at the top and an
excellent PA system. The pits are now located off turn four instead of
next to turn one making track entry and exit much better. All the fencing
is new, they have a tech building, a covered scale and a row of Nascar
style garages at the back of the pits. So much was changed that it is really a
brand new, completely different track where the old one used to be.
With all this investment, the track is only used for special races about six or
eight times a year.

The track surface was changed two or three times by the new owner. The
slick clay that they had earlier this year had two hundred loads of red
clay added for more bite. When we got there, the track was wet and I was told
they were adding water continuously since early morning. Then before they packed it
in they tilled it up a couple inches and added more water. I’ve been
fooled by all this stuff before and when I think it’s going to be tacky, it
goes dry quickly.

We had hot laps after one class of crate modifieds. I went out in the
second session and the track was still wet. A cushion was built about two
lanes up and it was full of heavy, chunky clumps that didn’t move much with
a sprint car. I was careful but I could feel the car laying over hard on
the RR and lifting the front end. The car danced and hopped and felt like
it could bicycle easily. So I ran out my laps and came in with some
changes in mind. I lowered the back and added some tilt back into it.
Greg adjusted air pressures and I went to the draw.

With 75 numbers in the bucket and 34 cars in the pits, I drew 72...
effectively a grandstand pass. That put me last in the third heat, 12 to
start, 6 to qualify, a narrow racing groove and a killer cushion.

In the race, the only ones I could see that made any headway were
wheel bangers and bronco riders and that didn’t suit me or my setup.
I could stay on the car ahead and did pass one that got out of shape but
that was it.

The car was better with the setup changes we made but we were in the
sixteen car B main, four to qualify and I would start 8th. Good runners that had
trouble in their heat or a bad draw would start ahead of me but I would
give it all I could.

We didn’t change the setup but adjusted air pressures a
bit. The track crew graded the cushion off and watered the track so now I
didn’t know what to expect.

On the start we packed into the first turn. The groove was wider, there
was a low cushion and the middle was ok. I battled one car coming out of
two and chased down the next. I couldn’t get an opening on the bottom so
I tried the outside. I could catch him going in but couldn’t beat him out.

I hopped the cushion in one and got a bite so next lap I drove in above
the cushion and tried it. I got a good run on the outside but that put me at
the top of three which was really choppy. I lost ground and caught back
up on the outside of one and two but went low through three and four.

I was on it mid corner and as I came out of four, caught a tacky patch and
did a huge wheely. All I could see was black sky. I lifted and set the
front end down but stagger had turned me toward the infield and it was a
struggle to get the car to turn right in the wet clay on the inside of the
track, but I got back on track without losing a spot. There was a couple
of laps to go and I made some ground on the car ahead but ended up 7th,
didn’t qualify but ran a good race.

I would like to have run the Amain and could have used the seat time. The
track still had a choppy cushion in one and three and four but it had
widened out some and was smooth and dry across the bottom with patches of
bite. I think with some laps I would have improved more.

The A, however, had 9 cautions, three of which were red and I probably would have gotten
collected in one of them as aggressive as you had to race this track.
There weren’t many consecutive laps, so the packs never got strung out.
The narrow track, the walls, the choppy cushion
and the restart packs all contributed to contact and destruction.

All in all I had a racy Bmain, had fun and gained some confidence, rolled
the car in the trailer and can mostly blame the finishes on a bad draw.

Black Rock 8-7-15
It was a nice day with partly cloudy skies and comfortable mid 70s
temperatures as we headed to the track. Greg and I were headed to a
familiar place, a track where I felt comfortable. Our last trip there
ended on the interstate with a flat tire on the truck and a spare holder
that stubbornly held the tire in place so long that we would have been too
late getting there and rain was coming.

With some confidence that we were gaining on setup. Although we have not
been fast here recently, I like the track. The current clay has some bite
and the symmetrical, wide turns give everyone room to race. The things I
don’t like here is the dust and the blinding sun that lines up on the front
straight.

The car was very good in hot laps. The track had some moisture and the
car turned in and stuck pretty good. We were able to maintain the gap on some
pretty good cars and pass a couple.

We didn’t change much for the heat race but a 25 laps sportsman modified
feature before our first heat start took a lot more out of the track than I
expected. It was now dried out slick and there was no cushion, just dusty
marbles. I was really concerned with the sun that was about to set.  It
was bright and glaring out of a cloudless sky just above the horizon. I’d
lost a car here before when the leader spun when blinded and collected two
cars and then I blindly drove into the middle of it.

Fortuneately, the sun was angled behind the stands and low enough to shadow
the straight so only turn four had a bit of sun. It was tough to get any
bite with the setup we had but I was able to hold my 7th place starting
position out of 9 starters.

With 22 cars present, everyone would start but I would be 20th. Greg and
I discussed the heat and made some changes to keep the tires from spinning
coming out, and tighten the car up a bit... a little more RR weight and
less stagger and a softer shock package.

The A main took off in cloud of dust into the first turn. The pack at the
back fanned out but the middle and top had nothing. I stuck my nose in
but didn’t have room to move. After a couple laps, the car hooked up better
as the tires came in but it was the same for the cars ahead. I could close
some laps and lose a bit on others. I had nothing more than the 5 cars ahead
of me and we all ran nose to tail on the bottom, no one able to pass. A
little past half way we started to get lapped. The leaders were right on
the bottom too and would nose under coming out and roll the bottom going in
with more side bite than my car had.

We ended up 17th at the end and ran with the pack, whole race. It was a
finish, the car was balanced but we needed more sidebite to do any passing.

I tried to run the line and speed of the leaders when they would get by but
the car would just wash up. We were OK, not great, but we tried some
things and got some information.

Woodhull 7-29-15
It’s a high banked paperclip. Usually slick as ice with a little bite left on top and bottom. You’d think the top would be fast with the high banking but it’s not. The leaders will get up there to get around the pack that jams up on the bottom, but the cushion gets kicked up over the top and cars that run that pencil line of what’s left are always flirting with a spin in the grass.

As I write this I realize the difference between here and a place like Eldora is that the wall at Eldora and other similar places, can hold some cushion as the bits kicked up will bounce off the wall, drop to the track and usually form something where the track meets the wall even if it’s a foot or two wide. Tracks without walls like Woodhull and Brockville have straight up banking that ends at a lip instead of rolling off to a flat top. When the cushion gets kicked over the top, it’s gone, down the back side of the hill.

I have continued to be junk in the heats and just can’t seem to get a setup on the car that gives me any confidence to hammer the corner. I called a couple of friends that I knew would help to see what they might suggest for setup. Dave Ely offered a left leaning, stiff right package for the banking that would probably work on a track that had more corner speed and surface bite. After pondering for a day on how to drive that setup for here and looking over Greg’s previous notes that showed low RPMs of 2500 against 7700 in the straights, I had a lot of doubts. This setup looked good for a big half but there was too much stop and go on this paperclip. We had tried something similar before and skated.

I called George Suprick to get some ideas from him. Our discussions led to a soft setup that would let the car turn in under braking and transfer to get off. Driving on this track is like driving a rally car. You have to throw the back end out to get in and then throttle out across the corner.

The problems are that if you enter too wide, you leave the bottom open for someone to charge into the hole between you and the bottom. If you aim low for the bottom, you have to brake harder and then set hard and wait to get around the entry part of the corner. Protecting the bottom entry is important and then getting on the throttle mid corner to get off and stay low is about the only way to pass. Usually the corner exits get slick in the middle as everyone throttles out and slides up off the bottom with spinning tires in the same groove. There is bite down low but you have to wait until you are nearly lined up on the straight to get it. The middle usually gets slick and the top just keeps creeping to the edge making it a balancing challenge.

The weather was good, in the low 80s and muggy. There was a chance of rain but nothing showing on radar. A few sprinkles dotted the ground a couple times during the evening. It was the lucky edge of a cloud we could see that was watering crops one mountain range over.

They had heavily watered the track for the sprints, knowing that they always drive the moisture out of the surface. Hot laps was slimey slick. I tried middle and bottom but just slid around and then tried the top where some cushion was starting to form. Leaning on the cushion was the only way I could get around but I had no feel of the track and the cushion was just a band- aid for a skating car. I was really discouraged. I was in the third heat, on the pole next to George and we discussed the track and what we thought we might see by then and what to do with the car. I made some large changes to the blocking and tire pressures for the heat.

I had no confidence in the car for the heat and it took a couple laps to figure out how to get the car around. It was not fast enough on the bottom or middle to stay ahead. After falling back I went to the cushion. There was enough there on entry but it was already near the top edge of the banking by mid corner and I had to go easy to stay below the edge until the straight. It was crappy handling and made for crappy driving.

I ended up in the dash but only because there were only 18 cars. The dash gave me four laps try something. We changed the weight distribution again, tucked in the RR an inch and lowered the tire pressures a bit more. This time the car was better, and even a bit tight from the RR offset change.

For the feature, Greg moved the RR out part way and I changed the weight again.

I was cautious for the first few laps of the feature as I watched the pack ahead banging wheels in the dust. As things settled down and tires came in, I was able to charge the corners harder and found that I could pick it up earlier than expected. There was no really icy groove coming out like there usually is here. There was decent bite in the corners bottom and low. The heavy dust cleared and I was able to race with the pack. The track stayed good and was consistent for the whole race.

About 10 laps in a known squirrel had his off track event and collected another car in his spin. Fortunately for me, they towed him in so that I didn’t have to deal with his wreckless aggressiveness from the back. Late in the race I did get lapped but once passed, they did not run away. They were also running the bottom which surprised me as I thought they would have found a way to run middle or top. I watched their line and glowing rotors. The leaders were using a lot of brake so I tried going deeper and harder on the brakes but it just upset things and I could not get more out of the car.

We finished 15th, had a decent car for the main and rolled the car in the trailer. It was a good run for me and I felt in control of the car and racy. I need to find more speed and a confident setup for the heats now.

Rolling Wheels 7-23-15
The two year long rollercoaster of the Rolling Wheels circus finally concluded this summer. World Racing Group –WRG- (the owners of the World of Outlaws) correctly concluded that they were not good race track operators.

The original goal of Boundless Motorsports (original name of WRG) was to become the country’s short track ‘nascar’ and control all of short track racing in the country. The bought up racetracks in various places and bought DIRT Motorsports from Glenn Donnely (who controlled Weedsport, Rolling Wheels, Canandaigua, and Orange County in ownership or lease). Boundless was also going to build a multimillion dollar motorsports facility in Texas, where it’s largest investor was located. So they ran the tracks they had along with the sanctions they had bought (including DIRT, the World of Outlaws sprints and they created World of Outlaw latemodels) and continually lost money.

They went public with a stock offering that as I remember floated in the $20 to $50 range for a while. But as they kept losing money they devalued the stock to give new big money investors a bigger share of the pie. I was interested in what was going on and bought 5000 share of Boundless or Dirt or whatever they were called at the time. By that time the shares were worth $.05 per share so the 5000 shares cost a little more than a right rear tire. The company continued to lose money at about two to five million per year and kept bringing in new investor money to cover the losses and in the process kept diluting the share price until after a few years my 5000 shares were liquidated and I got $5.00 yes five dollars. I’ve bought new tires and cut them or crashed them in a few laps or wore them out to zero value in a race or two so in comparison this racing money lasted for quite a while and gave me a few chuckles when reading their hyped up newsletters and SEC statements.

They changed CEOs like underwear, changed the corporate name a few times and moved their headquarters all over the place, finally settling in Charlotte, NC.

Over time, I’m sure they saw that they could make money with the sanctions (with no physical assets) but the tracks had expenses like taxes, upkeep, labor and utilities. In fact when they went to sell Weedsport (ie Cayuga County Speedway) there was an unpaid $70,000 water bill (they say a broken underground pipe leak but the county said it was accumulated unpaid bills for years). In the end I believe they paid the full amount to clear the title to sell the track.

Early on they dropped the leases for Orange County and Canandaigua and after some years tried leasing out Weedsport and then let it set idle for a couple of years after they made demands on the leasee to run only WRG approved tires and he walked. They continued running special races at Rolling Wheels.

Now somewhat stable as World Racing Group they started to find buyers for their tracks. Weedsport went to a wealthy Nascar team owner who also owns a few top Dirt Modified teams that run in Central NY. Weedsport which had been Donnelly’s headquarters and regular Sunday night anchor has now become specials only.

Lernerville, near Pittsburg went to local business owners/racers who knew the value of the track to the community and knew enough to leave well enough alone. They continue to operate weekly on Fridays like the place has for years.

The NYS fairgrounds is another story. Probably their most successful track, the once a year lease of the mile track for Super Dirt Week brought in a huge number of cars and fans and a significant influx of cash to the local economy. However, when the Republican County Executive, endorsed the Democratic Governor for re-election, the Gov, after easily winning the election,  tossed $50 million to the County Exec to remodel the fairgrounds to her liking and her liking did not include a one mile dirt racetrack. So 2015 will be the last Super Dirt Week on the mile, and last race on the second oldest continuously running race track in the US. After the race the grandstands will be torn down and the track will be plowed under for horse barns, hockey rink and RV sites.

So this brings us to Rolling Wheels Raceway. One of the nicest facilities and largest short tracks, a real 5/8 mile, in New York State. It has been running specials only for decades. Back in the 70’s it ran weekly on Fridays but one night when The Wheels rained, out the owner went to paved Spencer Speedway to watch and was killed when a car got over the wall and into the stands. The family then partnered with Donnelly who ran it for years until he sold DIRT to Boundless, aka World Racing Group with RWR as part of the deal.

A couple of years ago, at the spring motorsports show in Syracuse (at the NYS fairgrounds) a guy with a card table, banner, and schedule/poster showed up to announce that he (well actually he was a front for the investors) had bought Rolling Wheels and was going to run high paying races for Modifieds and 360 Sprints about every other week on Sundays.

That turned into circus act one when the buyers never closed the deal and there were lots of stories about the buyers who would not identify themselves. WRG ran races at the track in 2014. Act two, a year later, they do close the deal and another card table, banner and handouts with conflicting big purse races scheduled, shows up at the motorsports show with a different wacko that makes a lot of noise and pisses off everyone. By the end of the show the person they announced as GM of the track quit along with the PR person and all five sanction groups that were on the schedule pulled out. A lot of wind was blown but no storm followed and soon it looked like this track would not run and it was uncertain if it would remain a racetrack.

Glenn Donnelly had said in interviews that he was not interested in RWR because he was in the middle of building a $50 million Central New York Motorsports Park CNYMP in Brewerton that will have a 2 mile road course and half mile dirt track, garages, 15,000 seat grand stand, 300 seat resturant,  etc. By late spring he realized that the wacko that was guiding the rudder at RWR could drive that ship into conflict with his half mile’s specials only plans. So a deal was struck and the owners of RWR became investors in the CNYMP by contribution of their property, i.e., Rolling Wheels Raceway. Now Donnelly is in control of RW as CEO and owner of CNYMP who is now the owner of RWR.

So after all of this, one of the dates on the original RWR schedule was a Thurday night in July with Big Block Modifieds and 360 sprints. I hadn’t been there for a few years but now with Donnelly in charge and a $2 million infusion of a new synthetic dirt additive to fix the dusty, icy track surface (SYNDI) and a Patriot sanction, I decided to go. There could be either 17 cars or 40 but I figured probably about 30... there were 27 and it was about and even mixture of the best ESS, Patriot, SOS, and URC cars.

I drew a 44 out of 50, started last in the heat and finished there. My setup was OK but not as good as the others so we made some changes for the Bmain and the car was a lot better but so were the others. Started seventh, finished there and they took four.

It was fun running the track again and the surface did have quite a bit of bite, didn’t wear tires unreasonably and was less dusty but not dustless. They will have to work on the dust part and the early morning finish (12:30 am) for a weeknite show. Otherwise it was a well run show and it was good to know that RWR is alive and well.

Brockville 7-18-15
This place has been up and down for me... and quite literally that way the last time I was here. At that race a bad RR shock and a rough track sent me end over end off the first turn during hot laps. The race before that I was the third quickest car in the A main.

It was that previous race in 2012 that has stuck in my mind. It was the best I’ve felt in a race car in many years. That night during the feature I found a line that worked with the setup and the car was fast and racy. The only problem was that I started in the back and got lapped before I figured it out. That race gave me confidence that I could be competitive with the right setup.

So on this night, the plan was to use the same 2012 setup from the start hoping to qualify better and have a shot at a good starting spot for the feature and a good finish at the end. With no other sanctioned races and good weather on a very warm Saturday night, I expected that 30 cars or more would show up. Instead, to my surprise, there were only 20 for some reason. That was good for me and took the qualifying pressure off. Now it was a matter of making the most of my heat race with the setup that worked so good before.

A good draw put me on the outside of the front row in heat three. The car was good in hot laps with a push that would be neutralized by the drying track and the heats of the other classes before ours. Behind me in the line up were three very good cars. The others I should be able to stay ahead of.

The first few laps of the heat went OK. The track had already gotten slick in the middle with a shallow cushion of cast off marbles. I tried running middle and top like I had on that night I was fast, but the slick middle didn’t have bite and the top was marbley loose for me.

About mid race I was third and trying to hold off a strong car on the bottom. I got into one too hard in the slick and the car just slid up the banking and went over the top of the banking and off track. I kept control in the grass and raced around the outside of the track and got back on in the back stretch just behind the last place car. So here we go again. Now spooked and pissed, I run the bottom, can’t pass and finish last.

That’s the way my heats have been going. I’m trying like hell to not screw up the heats but something always seems to happen. It’s either driving or setup that gives me trouble.

So I will start in the next to last row in the Feature. Greg and I get the car ready for the feature and hope for the best. Normally I would make some changes that I think would compensate for what I felt on track in the heat but I have to use the 2012 setup to know if the good run I had before was that setup alone or if track conditions were part of the deal.

Also on my mind is the last race I ran here. After the end over end flip in hot laps, we had been able to get the car ready to run the feature and in that race, the cars at the back were crazy, spun in front of me and collected me twice in the first laps of the feature. That night I ran three laps total for the whole race night and used up two front axles along with a wing and a bunch of other parts.

I was starting a row behind a known squirrel and had to keep watch that she wouldn’t take me out. On the start we all got through the first lap without problem and started to string out. The squirrel was overdriving the top and I went to the bottom. The middle that had worked so well in the 2012 race had gone full slick and my car had nothing there. The bottom had some bite but I couldn’t get enough advantage to make any head way. The squirrel spun off the track three times during the race. (she was told to go to the pits after two spins but stayed out anyway). Some fast cars went off track came back on just in front of me so I followed their lines to see if I could match their speed as they moved through the pack in front of me, but I just didn’t have the side bite to match their corner speed and was only able to stay with the back of my pack.

So I ended pretty much where I started at 19th, car in one piece and some ideas on what would have worked better on this smooth, slick, no cushion track for when we return in a month. Or course next time the track will be different and that’s the variable that makes this a sport of educated guesses instead of science.

Brewerton,  Little Valley, Eriez 7-15

Little Valley  7-3-15
I have raced here before, back when I was first getting started in open
wheel cars after go karts.   It was '73 or ’74 when I ran a midget at the
race that was held during the Cattaraugus County Fair.    I remember the
very hot, humid, sunny, August day with the Super Midget Racing Club. 
The race was the  big event of the day for the fair.  
A full field of cars pitted in the infield grass of the paperclip
half mile.   The track surface was some kind of gray granular dirt that was not
clay.  

By feature time, the surface was hard with a narrow groove at the
bottom and a powdery cushion of material scuffed up by the cars.  
On the pace lap I remember looking at the left front of the car beside me
as we were lining up two abreast for the start.   He had to drive in the
cushion and his tire was cutting through it like driving in four inches of
snow.  

It was an old fairgrounds track made for horses and having a car
race during the fair.  It was the very tail end of an era from decades ago
where midgets were barnstorming races at the county fairs.  It was a model
familiar to the old guard owners of the Super Midget Club, Dutch Shafer and
Carl Miller.  The large covered grandstands completed the picture.

That race was so dusty I couldn’t see the car ahead..   I finished third or fourth at
that race.    It was my best midget finish.
Don Gillete had raced there in his sprint car with URC back when I was ten
or so and delivered newspapers to his dad’s Shell Station.   I had overheard
stories about the place long before I ever saw it.

So tonite it was time for me to run there again at the opposite end of a career,
now in a sprint car with the Patriot Sprint Group, .  The four hour tow
for Greg and I was mostly interstate.   On the way, traffic was slowed for an
accident and when we got to the flashing lights we saw Sammy Reakes trailer
and dually way off the road, at the end of skidmarks, down the banking and in the weeds.   
A wheel had broken on the truck and left for parts unknown, putting them in a jackknifed spin.  

Their die hard race spirit and series point lead had them on the phone to a friend
who was headed their way with his dually while the tow truck winched the
trailer back on the road leaving their truck in the weeds for someone to tow later.   
They made it to the track during the driver’s meeting and had a good run, despite
everything in the trailer, including the car, being thrown about during the off-
roading.

 When we arrived, at the fairgrounds gate, they signed us in and we headed
onto the fairgrounds in a pit area like I’ve never experienced!   Cars and
rigs were parked everywhere around the fairground’s many animal buildings and
barns and paddocks.   Rigs were in riding corals, on roadways or paths,
under trees, in the grass, between buildings and some in buildings or under
open roofed areas.   It was crazy.   Latemodels and stock cars were
scattered everywhere.   We zig-zagged around, trying to find a place to
park when we rounded the corner of a building and saw a sprint car so we headed
there and found a road where all the sprints were pitted.  We pulled in next
to George Suprick.

The grounds were absolutely rural county fair.   The track, a flat,  half
mile,  paperclip is shaped just like Martinsville.   Walls on the outside
and nicely manicured grass on the empty infield.   The beautiful huge
covered grandstand spanned the last half of the front straightaway across
from where the cars were pitted off the backstretch.   Even though they now race
the track weekly, entering and exiting the track off two was a total jammed up
cluster for the sprints.

We were looking for setup clues from others that had run there before.

We had just run an ESS race at Brewerton two nights before and the only
thing I could say about that race was that we tried something different, 
sucked,   and did not qualify.  In the heat I did dodge a big wreck as I squeezed between
a flipping car and the wall. 

I had no clue what setup to use here and no baseline to work from.  
I was hoping that George would throw me a bone and
help me get going.  The locals said they had put down new clay this year
but it would still be slick and dry.  George told me what he was doing and we
discussed what might work for me.    We changed gears and bars, shocks and
tilt during the night but never found a way to be fast through the corners.

I tried high, low and middle but would get passed high or low.   We just
weren’t fast in the corners and couldn’t make up for it despite the very
long straights.

Fortunately there was just a full field of cars so everyone raced and I was
in the A main, starting at the back.   I ran at the back end, trying as hard as possible
or too hard to stay with the pack but just didn’t have enough corner speed.    It
was a discouraging laps down run but it was a finish and money to
cover expenses to the next race.

On Saturday there was supposed to be a Patriot race at Stateline where we
usually go pretty good.   However, the new owner/promoter had already run the
place in the ground financially and closed it down after the Patriots and Outlaws
and other sanctions pulled out and creditors were not being paid.

That left us with an off day to prep at Zimbardi’s shop after a night’s sleep at
the Holiday Out.   Around ten in the morning, Suprick pulled in when he saw
my car and was invited by Tim Zimbardi to wash and prep with the rest of
us.  

We spent the day cleaning, fixing and adjusting while we discussed last
night’s experiences and second guesses.   I found a  huge open crack on the
inboard rear brake rotor.  The brakes had been soft last night but not
because of this.   I was lucky that the rotor didn’t come apart and create
bigger problems!  I replaced the rotor and bled the brakes with a complete
replacement of fluid.   A new brake pedal linkage location was being tried
to make my left foot more comfortable. 

That evening George, Clint, Greg and I went to the Casino restaurant down
the road for dinner, and sat there trading stories for hours after.   We
forgot that the towns people were lining the streets for a huge fireworks
show when we went in and missed it.

Eriez  7-5-15
Sunday morning we woke up, said our thanks to Zimbardis for their Holiday Out
accommodations and headed to Erie Pa and the four tenths oval where they
leave the pits open for overnight camping early setup.   We pulled in next
to Suprick’s rig and unloaded.  We’ve run Eriez quite a bit and pretty much
know what to expect but it doesn’t stop us from going to the edge of the
track and pondering how much moisture there is, and how the bright sun and
wind will dry it out.   It's a racer's duty.   The moisture is never deep here and
it’s usually dusty but smooth.

Based on last race’s bad setup and George’s input we tried something new
here.   The softer setup was an attempt to get the car to transfer to the
right rear for more sidebite and mid corner speed.  The balance for us is
trying to get the car to stick without being too tight and having the front
end push. 

At the start of the heat, the brakes were soft and I had to give myself a
little more gap.   Then on the next lap, Zimbardi gets beside me coming out
of four and dives to the bottom right in front of me and then has to slow
quickly for the cars ahead.   I pushed the brake pedal to the torque plate
and wasn’t slowing quick enough so I had to turn right to avoid climbing
over him.  

The car went up the track and by the time I got it collected, I
was in the loose stuff and everyone had driven by.  I was lucky not to get
hit but fortunately, I had built a little gap to the car behind and everyone
was headed for the bottom and not the racing line I crossed.

It was a tough heat full of the best cars and I figured I was good for fifth
if things went well...   but things didn’t so I ran last.  
I did close on the cars ahead but couldn’t pass and that was the
only good from that heat.   Everyone made the A main but I would
start last again.

In the pits we scrambled to solve the brake problem.   I changed fluid
again and changed the brake linkage back to the long travel
position.   It is not comfortable in this position and I have to be careful
not to drag the brake in the straights and glow the rotor.
I have to bend my ankle and lift my leg to stay off the brake but that’s
better than not having brakes.  This way a stab can lock up the rear tires.

At the start of the A, the car felt good and the brakes worked good.   That
allowed me to charge the corner and brake hard.   The back end would step
out controllably giving me a better line into the corner.   They had
changed the grading of the inside of the turns some and created a reverse angle on
the infield side.   That worked great because there were no big tires to
hit and with the left front on that grading,  it loaded the RR and made the car
corner better.  

However, everyone was using that line so it was tough to
pass unless you could get a nose under coming off or if someone slipped up.  
I tried the outside a couple times but was not fast enough there and I almost got
passed but found enough bite out by the wall to stay ahead.

Mid way through the race I was one car back from Suprick and had gotten a
nose in on the car ahead a couple times.   I really wanted to get behind
George and thought I might have a shot to race him but a car spun ahead of
him and he locked up and slid in and I dodged by.

On the restart he was behind me and after a few laps showed his nose just
at my RR.   I wasn’t going to chop him so I ran into three only crowding his
line.   He had the bite off and cleared me.   We both passed the next car
in line and he made a couple more spots before it was over.   I ran on the
next car but just lacked enough to get the nose in.

So we ended up 15th which wasn’t too bad from last and passed some cars and
didn’t get lapped.   Those were all improvements over the season so far and
the car was in one piece.   We’ve usually been good at Eriez.  Tonite was a
little different because we used that inside grading as a crutch.   We are
still not good on the slick stuff but we might have learned something from
this run to try for next time.

Black Rock, Stateline, Eriez 5-2015

Black Rock

     Last week we were headed to Black Rock when a tire went down on the truck. Greg and I quickly got everything out to make the change. The spare is under the bed with the crank down cable set up to hold it in place. Luckily it was not rusted but the cable wound out and the tire did not come down. The cross bar at the center of the wheel was still being held and it looked like the shaft had rusted up into a sleeve. So after an hour and a half of beating, prying and jacking on the thing I finally got two crescent wrenches and folded the cross bar so the tire would come down over it. We had jacks holding it so that it wouldn't drop on my face while I was on my back struggling with the wrenches. Turns out that there is a hook on that metal shaft and a crazy way that you have to drop the tire with the jack. This is not mentioned on the jacking instructions but we found out online the next day. Put the tire on and aired it up with the compressor and figured at this point we would not get to the track until after hot laps and would start last all night, and probably not make the feature... plus there was rain headed right at the track on the radar... And we were tired and really dirty from crawling around in the road shoulder dirt so we just went home.

I didn't want to spend a couple hundred on a wasted night. Turns out that they raced after an hour and a half delay and had a low car count so we would have raced. But the track was slime with one fast groove and no passing so no big loss.

StateLine
    This had always been a good track for me. The long straights and tight turns make it possible to pass off the bottom and beat the other car to the next turn. This was the Patriots first race in a couple of years, since the owner died and the track was sold. The new owner has lots of hype and some money but word from the locals was that there were problems with the track and bad checks had been given to drivers at payout. The surface had been rough and dusty in previous weeks. Things ran smooth this night, however, as there had not been any changes to the personnel and the Patriots already had the purse on deposit. The track still had some problems though. There was too much water down to start with (probably an attempt to contain the dust) but that just led to ruts. There were some leftover dips in the straights and the bottom of two and entry to one from the previous weeks that got the cars upset. Apparently the clay was gone and they were down to gravel so more grading would have turned up more stones. I drew pole for heat 3. The cloudless sky allowed a direct view of the sun from the middle of one and two to 6 car lengths out. For me it was total blindness. I couldn't see the wall or the big tire in the infield. I had a visor on the car but when the front end lifted, the helmet shield was just a bright glare. Turn two also had a sloppy bottom and ruts and ridges with a slick top and marbles to the wall. My plan was to start late in the starting box off four. It is my option when to fire between the two lines sixty feet apart. Everyone seems to go right at the first line. The way I've been running I need every advantage and wanted to get to the first turn alone. So the plan was to fire late and catch the outside car off guard. Sometimes they will get on it, see that they are jumping and then lift and then I'll punch it and get a good jump. So we get to the first line and the outside guy goes. I take off but I'm a car length back. Yellow off turn two, they send the outside car back a row and we go again. Same play and this guy also jumps but they don't call this one back and we race into one, I'm boxed in on the bottom as we hit the slime and ruts in total blindness. The car behind me taps the rear bumper and nearly spins me out. By the time I collect it I'm last. I run at the back of the pack and finish but the sun makes it tough for me to get through two with any speed.

The short field of cars starts me at the back of the A main with some hot dogs that crashed together in their heat. The track is still rough but dried up and the sun is down. At the start it is a pack of cars in front of me, bouncing around and off each other as they all try to beat each other through the ruts of one and two. There is a slick groove with a marbly cushion at the top. Three and four have a wide dry middle with a wet bottom and I can get round the bottom and off four with the best of them. Starting behind me due to a crash in his heat was George Suprick. I expected him to pass early and be gone. I'd try to follow if I could keep up. A couple laps in he showed his nose in three but I drove away out of four. About ten laps in he got by on the inside of one and we raced down the back stretch and next lap I passed him back around the outside in the middle of the banking. I was amazed that I passed him on the outside but my car was fairly good and I was getting a better feel for a line that would work with this setup. With five to go, a couple cars spun between three and four just ahead of me. A car on the bottom was sliding sideways to avoid the two and another car was trying to squeeze between the wall and one of the spun cars. I locked up the brakes to see which hole was going to open and right behind me was George. He didn't see the mess and drilled me square in the rear bumper.

Then the top opened and I headed around the top of the spun cars. On the restart I was only able to follow the car ahead. I finished fourteenth and ahead of George but we were both in the back. Afterwards he was kind and didn't say that his car was junk but I know he would normally have been much faster and been in the top ten. In any case, I was with the pack at the end, on the lead lap and missed a bunch of accidents. It's good to roll the car on the trailer and get some laps in and some money.

Eriez
    After spending the night at Zimbardi's shop we got up and washed the car and replaced the mangled rear bumper. The tank was punched in a bit but that would have to wait till we got home. For now it didn't matter. We got a bite of breakfast from the Zimbardi's as Kyle Drum cleaned up his car at the shop. His car was beat from all the wheel banging that was going on the night before. Wing parts were bent, front wing twisted, nerf bar bent and some other stuff. The cars didn't end up where you steered them on last night's rough track. There was a dip in the front straight that would set the car over a width or point the front end toward the wall depending on which rear tire hooked it. Tempers were hot in the pits after the race and some punches were thrown, some fines paid and wrecked racecars were put back on wheels so they could be loaded into the trailer. However, this was a new race day morning and it was Indy 500 day and we hit the road about noon for the hour plus tow to Eriez Speedway. The Satellite radio in the truck let us listen to the 500 broadcast as we rolled from southern NYS to Lake Erie. Paul Page and the cast of corner announcers brought back the memories that Greg and I had of listening to the 500 on radio as kids, back when the Unsers, Andretti, Rutherford, Parnelli and Foyt handled the last roadsters around the speedway. These were sprint car guys that earned the Speedway ride through talent and results on the paved and dirt short tracks of America. Listening to the race on the way to Erie with a sprint car in tow has become an annual tradition for us. Once at the track we parked next to George Suprick, opened the doors of the truck and turned up the radio for all to hear the 500. George and his crew listened but the rest of the pits hardly cared that a bunch of foreigners in formula one look alike cars were racing. We were in a pit full of sprint cars, all laid out with the routine maintenance being done but there was no connections for this younger generation to what had once been the biggest race of all. The pathway had been cut many years ago and although Bryan Clauson (current USAC sprint champ) was in the field, it was a token start in a field of rides for money with only one bumped, under funded car.

Sprint car racing lives on because it continues to be as exciting to watch as it is to drive. Nascar is where the ladder leads now...if you have the connections and some money or real talent. Exceptional driver do still get snatched up and put on the big tracks in the taxi cabs and that will keep Steve Kinser's 20 World of Outlaw Championships record from ever being matched. For the field of drivers at Eriez tonight it was just the next race.

We left the setup the same as we started the night before. We were trying some ideas that Tom Taber suggested and just before hot laps he stopped by and said "crank some RR weight into it". It was something to try.

Hot laps went OK and we were ready for the heat with this setup. It was hard to tell how much moisture would be left for our Heat. I was planning to at least hold my fourth place starting spot to the end but the track was drier than expected and the car was tight in and loose off and didn't stick middle. I quickly slid to the back again. Tom told me I had to drive it in harder but I didn't feel it. We backed up his suggestion about half way and discussed the planned changes and he agreed.

Starting last in the feature made this a test session. After the second lap crash where Collins took out another car again, I had a single file restart that would hopefully have less dust. On the first two laps, the dust was so bad that I could not see the cars in front of me. At least the track was smooth tonite. As we circled under caution I saw three cars ahead that I should be able to pass and set that goal. The race went from there to the end and I worked the bottom but could not get an edge on the cars in front of me. I guess the leaders had a hard time getting by and when I finally got lapped I tried their line and got a bit better and ran third in line for a few laps. Then third showed his nose and I let him go. at the end I decided to try the cushion and made some more time on the car in front of me but I was still not fast enough at the end to be where we needed to be. I need to be solid in the heat and shoot for top ten in the feature. I'm trying different things and working toward that next step back toward the front.

Canandaigua 5-2-15
First night out and ready to go. This would be the first road trip for
the enclosed trailer. Things went well at Fulton so I didn’t expect any
issues other than gas mileage. The truck towed the rig without problem but
I could feel the extra weight. Gas mileage dropped about 10% from what we
were getting with the open trailer.

As payback for our relentlessly cold, snowy winter, the weather was great.
The temps were comfortable all evening even after sundown. Greg and I
rolled into the pits and found a spot next to George Suprick. 27 cars
filled the sprint pit area.

This place is always hard packed from the start. A half inch of wet clay
is all you get on top of the smooth slick surface. We had a soft setup in
the car for the expected conditions. From what we learned at the Fulton
test session, I thought we were on the right track.

Hot laps went well. The car was stable and I was gaining a bit on the car
ahead. The draw would start me 4th in the third heat with six
transferring to the A main. There was one car ahead of me that I felt I
could beat and two cars behind that would be coming by.

At the start I tried to pick up the cushion of one going in. The middle
had already slicked off and there was a little left, tight on the bottom.
The cushion was really only some darker brown clay with the loose stuff
scattered to the top from the earlier heats. It was already out to the
wall coming out of two. Following the cushion in three lead to an icy
slick exit. The car drove like it was on ice. I put the wing in the
trunk
and it helped a bit but there was no side bite and I got passed early. I
tried the bottom and was not much better. When the leader lapped me I
tried to follow his tracks but he was somehow able to get through the
middle without skating up the banking. We were out to lunch and slow again.

In the pits we threw a big change to the setup. We changed all the shocks
to softer ones, changed to a softer RR bar, added some RR weight, took out
tilt and dropped air pressures.

I started last in the eight car B main and they were taking four. Unless
we got amazing or others had problems, this would be a test session for us.

The changes didn’t help much. The track got slicker and we were still
skating. I don’t know what we were missing but we were way off. I
couldn’t drive it any faster.

We watched the feature and headed home. Next race is Woodhull but I’ve
never been good there and they have added new clay that the locals say is
much slicker than before. Doesn’t sound like a good option for us right
now so we’ll probably skip that race and head to the next.

Fulton Practice Session. 4-18-15
         Finally after the coldest winter on record and the last melting of my snow pile from plowing,  just yesterday, a perfectly nice day happened. The past few year's test and tune days have gotten rained out or snowed out so having 65 degrees, bright sun and a breeze felt great.

This was the first to be back in the car since I dumped it in the heat at Brewerton, the week after the Kevin Ward incident. That was my third time upside down in eight races on a bad luck streak that wouldn't quit. My luck changed over the winter and I expect it to carry through to racing.

This was also the first time I have EVER used an enclosed trailer! Last fall I decided to join the 21st Century and hide everything in a box. The trailer is older but solid. It's 24 ft with a raised roof so the wing stays on the car. It's heavier and pokes a bigger hole in the air than the open trialer so it will be less fuel efficient to tow but the at track advantages may be worth it.

The route to Fulton is all back roads and the trailer tows nice. At the track it was good to work out of the trailer, have some shade from the sun and wind and tools and parts organized. There are some difficulties when I'm working alone but I will work something out over time.

At the track there were 8 classes of cars and 7 sprint cars. The track was very dry as expected and dusty to the point of not being able to see.   Coming out of four, I couldn't see the wall or the car entering one but it was very smooth. I guess they need to do this to get a base packed in for the season.

They didn't give us much time once we got into the pits to get ready. Greg and I were still getting used to the changes in routine that happen because of the trailer and the time off.   I expected the dry track and had put a soft setup for a slick track on the car in the shop.

Everything went well and like riding a bike, it all came back to me entering the first turn at speed. The bottom had some wet sticky, the middle was black slick, a couple car widths wide that transitioned to loose dry marbles. I wanted to get the car good on the slick so I ran laps with different entries. The car was crossed up by mid corner and spinning coming off. There wasn't much side bite, letting the car skate across the slick exit of the turns. I tried a couple laps on the very bottom but wasn't fast there as I got passed on the outside.

In the pits Greg and I talked over what to try and decided to take out a turn of tilt, go to a 4/4 RR shock and use easy up shocks on the front. We had gained much more tire pressure than expected so I had been on higher pressures than needed for this kind of track. Greg dropped the pressures quite a bit for the next time out.

The changes really helped. I could get the car pitched a bit before the corner and stay in the throttle through the turn. It was controllable allowing me to steer to get to the bottom, mid corner. It needed a bit more stick in the RR and it was still spinning coming off but much improved through the corners.

In the pits I talked to Jason Barney about what I was doing and what I felt. He won both races here last year and was running right on the bottom in both sessions. He suggested I try a pair of his gas shocks on the rear. I tucked the RR in " for the last session.

The track was about the same but the bottom was used up. The car was not as good at entry and I struggled in the corners. It was about the same as the first session. Not what I expected. I talked to Jason after and he said those shocks were his medium setup, not the full slick setup. I think I needed his whole package and not just a piece to really experience what he had.

All in all, a good test session for me. I was very encouraged by the second session with a good feel of the car and the track and a more aggressive corner entry. We'll see if I can find more speed this season with driving and setup.

 

Getting Ready
           Since last season never got going, we'll start over.  Wings, motors and cars are ready to take on 2015.  Need crew, driving coach and some good luck.   Even growing a four leaf clover in a flower pot to help.   Driver is doing aerobics and strength training classes.