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My Father
-always with me-
Armond Wickham

1923 to 2006

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Rolling Wheels

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Red hot rotor

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Runnin' down
the top dog

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Tony Stewart, Justin Barger & Dave at Black Rock driver's meeting.

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Black Rock

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Race shop

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Crank & rod damage

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Loose oil pump pickup-missing bolt

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Wheelie at Brewerton

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Fulton race 5-3-08

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Fulton test

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Fulton test

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Weedsport 10-10-08
End of the season brings on the big races. This Friday night event was a first for ASCS and World Racing Group (DIRT) as part of two nights of sprint car racing during Super Dirt Week. WRG scheduled this race as part of the nightly action for fans to go to after a day of Modified qualifying at the Syracuse Mile.

This was the final points race in the ASCS season but because of the URC/ESS/ASCS race the next night, many teams from the other series came a day early to run this $2000 to win race as well. With 48 really good cars in the pits, the draw was everything. At the ASCS trailer they cranked the bingo ball drum and out rolled a 50 out of 50 numbers in the drum. Only thing left to know was what heat I would start last in. Turned out to be the first heat.

Now weather would not be an issue at this race. The unusual forecast was, for this huge mass of high pressure to provide clear skies and temps in the mid 70's during the day for the whole weekend. Absolutely perfect weather. The track surface was a cushion comb-over that they watered and ran in with the packers. Under that was the icy glaze from the previous night's racing. There were two other small car classes running with us, but nothing that would move any dirt.

When the sprints hit the track, that loose cushion dirt that they had watered and packed into the groove, that 3 inches of heavy wet clay that didn't bond to the hard pan underneath, started peeling up in big clumps. One and two had these irregular lumps that rolled up out of the tacky surface, just up off the bottom groove. This stuff takes out radiators and oil lines if you hit it wrong. Three and four had a field of choppy lumps that covered most of the turn. You had to either run really tight on the bottom or way out around the rough spots. Some would go right through the rough stuff but it was hard on equipment.

With this tacky track, the heat provided little opportunity to pass but I finished 7th after a couple of cars dropped out, and I got by another.

Two B mains were next and we started 7th in the first one with 3 to qualify. The car had been pushy, despite 15" of stagger so we didn't make any changes, expecting the track to come to us. The track was a little better but still really rough in three and four. About mid way in the race, as I entered three on the throttle and adding brakes, the car suddenly turned sideways. I lifted to collect it but the car wasn't steering right. Then another car drove over the left rear, but left me undamaged as I drove forward and was able to get the car into the infield without tearing up anything else.

I got out of the car and looked over the damage to find the LF radius rod bent and broken, the axle moved back and the LF torsion arm had dropped off the axle so the frame was on the ground. The LF shock eye had pulled out and the LR shock mounting stud was sheared off. All that and I hadn't hit anything with the LF. Really not too much damage, considering that three cars behind me were all towed in also.

We looked over the car and what apparently happened was that when I applied the brakes,  the LF jerked over the rough track, it overloaded the LF radius rod which bent and broke and then I lost steering when the axle moved back and it turned the car sideways. I was lucky that the cars behind didn't run over me any worse than they did. It was the end of our night, so we made the few repairs and loaded up.

Our tow job was only one of a continuous parade of tow trucks that dragged or suspended damaged race cars back to the pits. Every race had crashes. It was a tough night on equipment.

Rolling Wheels 10-11-08
The last race of the season for me is the URC/ESS/ASCS challenge race. The $3000 to win race coupled with perfect weather drew cars from every quarter. Huge rigs filled the pits as 76 teams had made their way to this event. The support class was 305 sprints and they had 30 cars as well.

The previous night's racing here, left us with a smooth track that was watered and packed in early. The moisture usually doesn't hold at this track, but the long straights and wide corners provide plenty of room to race when it gets slick.   It's fast and fun to run this big 5/8 mile. Hot laps were flat out for everyone as a nice cushion came in early. The car was neutral and seemed pretty good.

At the URC trailer I drew for a starting spot... 24. Not bad out of 100, that would put us near the front of a heat and give us a chance to make the show. When the lineup was posted I looked to see who else was in the heat. It was a frickin all-star heat... Current URC champion along with  ASCS second in points,  and other strong ESS and URC cars, AND last year's URC championship car with a driver from Florida, a champion of several series, nationally known for dominating the south.

We started 4th in the first heat. As we came out of four at the green the pack took off and the car inside of me got a good bite and pulled a half car length on me and then immediately moved out to the wall. The boys from Jersey don't cut you any slack. I checked up to avoid  getting pinched into the wall and disaster as he chopped me off.  When I backed out, I then got passed by the Florida champion. So now I was fifth, and probably headed to the B-main unless something happened ahead of me.

I had a good gap back to the next cars and kept that gap for half the race but then the red came out for a tangle behind me. As they cleared the track, the cold night air cooled my tires but the pressures didn't drop. On the restart, the car was not the same. Three and four were like ice to me. I tried top, bottom and middle, either on the brakes or drive in hard..., the tires would not stick and I dropped back several spots. We just didn't need that red. Maybe it's time to go to bleeders for more consistent tire pressures.

It was another "parade of tow trucks night", as they carried cars back to the pits by the cage in every race. They tore up a bunch of cars. There were three B-mains coming up, with 18 cars each and two to qualify from each. Lots of strong cars to battle and no more than tow money to run the B and not make it. We would have started far enough back that we were only putting ourselves at risk of someone else's problems and more laps on the motor so we decided to save the race ready car for the winter rebuild instead of taking a chance, on this destructive night.

We watched a good race and left with a car in one piece which was more than about a quarter or more of the total 106 teams there, could claim. Yeah, full moon... Time to think about next season.

Update  10-2-08
It's been a while since I've put anything here so here's an update on what we've been up to. This has been the season of rain. I haven't counted the number of races that have rained out but it's a pretty big percentage of our schedule. A couple were made up but many were lost. We towed to several dead ends and some rainouts where we did get a race in the next night. There were a bunch that we didn't even load up for because of the weather and some that were called early in the day.

The ASCS Patriot group put together a good schedule which included a number of high paying shows. The big money brought in many top teams and if you are not on top of your game, those nights are just losers so we didn't plan to go to a few races where even good teams struggle to qualify. The luck of the draw means so much that it can make or break you right there. With the price of gas and tolls, there wasn't much lure to head for an event where you wouldn't get to race. After all the reason we do this is for the fun of racing and enough money to keep things going.

Our last race at Stateline was an improvement over the earlier part of the season. We found that the changes we made, substantially helped make the car more competitive and driveable. Replacing the torsion bars completed the equipment changes that were needed. Then we had to start over with setup because we had gotten way off track trying to compensate for the bars that didn't work.

One other thing that we changed was the front brake pads. A seeming simple item, apparently the pads I had been using had too much bite and would nearly lock up the LF getting into the corner. This would make the car push. The harder pads are now more balanced with the rear brakes and slow the LF, while the rear is braking harder. It helps loosen the rear getting in, a little bit and now the LF pulls the car to the left, helping it turn in. It was a small change in parts but made a big difference in handling. That entry push, was the big problem that ruined a good start in the heat race at Brewerton.

It's tough to work through problems when there is so much time between races. When I raced weekly in PA, the number of races we've run this season would have been completed in a few weeks.

Of course the other major change was getting our good motor back in the car. We wasted Fulton and Canandiagua races to motor troubles and then ran the spare. The spare did surprisingly well on slick tracks but wasted another race night when it blew up at Weedsport. The autopsy of that motor left few organs to transplant. Efforts to rebuild it revealed that two cylinder bores were cracked (junk the block) along with the junk crank and two junk rods and pistons. It turns out that it is more cost effective to go with new rods and pistons, than it would be to buy replacements to the set and adapt them to what remained. The heads on the motor were freshened at the engine shop and will be sold along with the rods and pistons.

So the spare will be a new bottom end matched up with a new set of ASCS heads, the injectors from the blown up motor, a new cam, new oil pump and pan and use the lifters and rockers from the blown motor. Not much left from a motor that only finished a few races for us. The replacement motor will be done by Jimmy D and will be solid, simple and competitive.

In the shop there has been some progress as we have put together some spare front axle assemblies, cleaned up parts to sell and worked on odds and ends.

What remains this season is races at Weedsport on Friday 10/10 and Rolling Wheels on 10/11.

Stateline 8-23-08
Twice rained out, we already had over a thousand miles invested in this race. This was the site of the first Patriot race and has been the site of one or two events each year since. For some reason we usually do well here. Maybe it's because the track shape rewards bottom feeders.

The track is a true paperclip with long straights and a tight turn around. The corners race like a bull ring but there's enough length in the straights for passing so you can get beside a car before you get to the corner. The banking allows two or three groove racing.

The weather this time was clear, hot and humid. We had two features to run... one from the first rainout where we got the heats in and then another complete show. The track packed in well but was kind of lumpy and the sprint feature was put on the track after only a couple of late model heats had been run, so the track still had good bite and a cushion about half way up the banking.

Where the bottom of the banking meets the higher slope of the infield there is a V and it was slop and puddles at each corner. In past races, the inside groove would crawl up into the infield and LF then LR and eventually RF tires would end up on the infield slope with the RR planted into the V at the base of the track banking. It got so bad last year that I ran the corner with only the RR on the actual track and got passed on the inside by a car in the grass! And the worst part was that he wasn't set back for passing in the infield.

That was not going to happen tonight. The sloppy infield and puddles in the V were barriers to bite and corner speed. That was a good place to pick up a huge push or spin out.

The results of the heats we ran in June put me on the outside of row five with a full field of cars to start. The outside line would keep me out of the puddles but wary of cars that would catch the puddle and push up. Normally the track slicks off at the exit of two and four but this was early in the night and there was still good bite at the top.

At the drop of the green I charged into one on the outside, three wide, and got off the corner close to the wall. The pack stayed bunched together and I stayed on the cushion in three and four. Even though we had set the car up loose enough for the tight turns, the cushion was sticky and the car pushed coming out of four. I had to back off and wait for the front end to settle down and turn the car. On lap two there was a caution and I had lost a couple of spots on the original start, so I was restarting twelfth.

On the restart I went low into one, just above the slop and puddles and got a good bite coming out, passing a car going into three. I realized that for me, at this track, I was faster working the bottom and continued running down cars and working under them through the corners.

The puddles at the bottom of the turns would sometimes get splashed by someone's LF and turn that part of the corner to ice. I started running a line that would set the car into the corner hard and let it drift up and diamond around the area where the water was. It would get the car lined up with the sticky bottom coming out and that would give me a lot of bite at the first part of the straight.
I worked on cars for several laps, that were running the top, to get by. I would get by them and they would pull ahead and then I would nose back, running side by side, top and bottom. The bottom still had bite and the top had a drying cushion, but leaving the corners was getting slicker on top and my Jimmy D motor really delivered off the bottom.

On one lap, a car I was passing got loose coming off two and his LF dove into my RR pretty hard. As I came off he corner, I concentrated on the RR to sense if there was a cut tire or bent wheel. I kept going, chasing down the cars ahead. The race ran without caution to the end and I made it up to seventh from twelfth on that restart. I may have gotten a couple more spots if the race had gone longer or if there were cautions but for the way we've been running this season and last, it was good to be moving forward and racing again.

All race long the car felt good, turned in, stuck, and had good forward bite. We have been running the same basic setup that we ran since we put these new torsion bars in and now we are able to fine tune it. The car responds to the changes now in a way that makes sense and we are starting to re-learn how to make the car fast. We're not at all there yet and the driver needs to catch up also but we're building confidence with every lap.

In the pits, we only had a few minutes before our heat. I had drawn number one... pole of the first heat. There were only a few things I wanted to change and as we worked on the car I noticed that the RR radius rod was bent and rubbing the inside of the tire. It was damage from the wheel banging incident. The W-link and everything else was OK so Greg and I measured the length of the bent part and replaced the radius rod. So there you go, we set these cars up really careful to make sure that the rear is square and does not have any binds and then something like this happens which knocks everything out of whack and I couldn't tell the difference during the race. It's part of the mystery of why these cars work sometimes and not other times.

The heat was a fun race. I ran the inside and the other front row starter ran the outside and we were that way for half the race until he really started to figure out his line and make the most of it. I ended up second and that put us in the redraw for the top eight starting spots for the feature.

Finally Greg and I had some time to catch our breath. For me, I had been going steady since I woke up. I hadn't eaten much all day and the heavy traffic on the roads wasn't very relaxing either. Greg and I discussed the changes, finished the work and then I got a hot dog and sat down.

The track was now getting slick on top but the bottom still had some bite to work with. The cushion was dirty loose and up to the rim of the banking, near the wall. You could start to see some black in the middle of the turns but it wasn't rubber down, just slick. I drew fifth starting spot for the feature so I would be able to use the low line on the start. We tightened the car up for the slicker corner entry.

On the start, we all charged into one. I went in harder than the car would hold on the cold, low tire pressure. The car skated up the track about a half car width and then I saw the nose of a car on the bottom. As we worked through the corner and my car started to hookup, the car on the inside got by and one more on the outside. It took a couple of laps before the RR tire really started to work and then the car started to move. I ran down one car and battled several laps before I got by and cleared him and then closed on another car, half a lap ahead.

This car was one that was on a roll with many recent wins and top five finishes. The well financed team raced every race possible in the northeast and he was coming to me. Lap after lap I reeled him in until we were side by side for several laps and I finally cleared him with only a few laps to go.

We approached a lapped car that was running my line on the bottom and the only way I could get by was around the outside. As I drove in to the corners on his RR, out in the middle of the slick stuff, there just wasn't enough bite to pass coming out.

The car I had passed was now beside me on the outside and the three of us battled for several laps until the car on the outside got by and in the next turn the lapped car slipped up and I shot under him. At the line, I was sixth but it was a strong run for us and satisfying to have caught and passed one of the top cars in the series.

For more great pictures of the event from Jay Fish, visit the link below and view the slide show...

Tomorrow night we're scheduled for Humberstone Speedway.
We packed up our stuff and loaded the car for a short tow to Zimbardi's shop where we spent the night. For some reason, neither Greg nor I slept very well and got up Sunday morning to wash and prep the car for that night's race in Canada.

There wasn't much to do but it did take a while to clean the slop off the car that accumulated from running the bottom the night before. Greg and I attacked our list of check and changes and had the car ready to go by early afternoon.

On the way to the track we stopped at a restaurant and had a good meal and that helped a lot to get our energy level back. We were running on adrenaline and little sleep but crossed the border into Canada ready to race at this one third mile, Humberstone Speedway.

A dozen teams were lined up outside the gates waiting for the pit shack to open when the dark curtain of heavy rain appeared across the open fields, in the distance. When it got to us, it made puddles into lakes and didn't let up. It was 4:30 but it was over. We wanted to race and continue to build on our success from the night before but the rain out brought some relief from long hot day, hard work and lack of sleep from the day before. After all we aren't twenty something anymore, not that, that stops us.....

One good thing about racing in Canada is that when you come back to the US at midnight, there is no line at customs. At 5:00 pm on Sunday night, however, the line is an hour long.

Black Rock  8-8-08
Our series ran this track weekly, several years ago and for many years has hosted regular and high paying sprint car races each year. Located only 10 miles from Watkins Glen, they have always tried to lure some of the many race fans in town for the Nascar races, to the track for a night of sprint car action on dirt.

This year an ASCS Patriot race was in place with $5000 going to the winner. Also on the card were DIRT's big block modifieds and a special race with some Nascar media people and David Reutiman. On the sprint car side, Tony Stewart decided to show up with Jimmy Carr as crew chief, to race against the locals. The car was brought east in one of the Donny Schatz semi rigs for this race and the 360 challenge race hosted by Williams Grove for the Kasey Kahne foundation, the following Tuesday.

The near daily rains in the notheast this year had rained out qualifying at the Glen and was threatening our race as well. Most everyone there had driven through rain on the way to the track and large billowing clouds with curtains of rain could be seen in the distance with spotlights of sunshine glaring down through the holes. The cool 70 degrees made the august day seem more like october but that was a relief from some of the 90 degree humid days we've seen this summer. The threatening weather had trimmed the car count to 28.

After the driver's meeting the modifieds headed to the track for hot laps and the rain began. It lasted about a half hour with 10 minutes of heavy watering. After it was over, they let the rain run off the banking for 45 minutes before they worked the remaining water into the already prepared surface. It took another 45 minutes to get the track to the point where modifieds and then sprints were put on the track to roll it in.

The black clay was thick and smooth and packed in hard as a small but lumpy cushion developed in the upper groove. The track was fast and smooth in hot laps and the skies were mostly sunny with scattered black jumbos casting shadows of threat to the racing. A decent crowd half filled the stands at this well maintained one-third mile facility.

Pill draw put me last in a second heat that contained many of the top cars. Tony started near the front of the first heat.

I knew that starting in the back meant that I would have to load the visor with lots of tear offs. As the pack headed out of four the wet clay packed the visor from cars going low. I grabbed a tear off as I headed for one and the three wide pack in the turn. It strung out as we left the second turn and left me to chase the car ahead. Our fresh Jimmy D motor was strong but the flat-out, fast track made for follow the leader racing. The car was very nicely balanced and turned in and stuck like it should. I got more confidence as I continued to feel the soft edge of the setup. I tried the cushion a bit but found that the middle was fast and had plenty of bite. One car dropped out of our heat which helped with passing points but still put us in a 9th starting spot in the B main. Tony ran a strong third in his heat and made it in the top 8 redraw.

Greg and I had set the car up to be loose for this wet track and now as the wet was being kicked off, the surface was getting down to dryer clay but still fast, with good bite. We made a few changes to tighten the car, being careful not over do it.

The B had some strong cars at the front and a few opportunities behind them. As we charged the first turn, I pulled a tearoff and hooked up on the bottom from my inside row starting spot. What had been sloppy was now working in and fast... I passed one car. During the next couple of laps I got by a couple more and by the end of the B, we were fifth. I had really tried to catch the car in fourth and got close but ran out of laps.

I rolled into the pits and we started loading up. We had the shocks off for trailering and most stuff put away when I decided to walk over to the Patriot's trailer to find that they were taking six from the B instead of four as I had thought. I ran back to the car and shouted to Greg, we're in the show, so get the shocks on and lets make some changes. There wasn't much time so we chased around to get everything done and pushed out onto the track to start in the last row of the feature.

I made some progress past several cars in the first few laps and then there was a caution at lap 7. On the restart, I got plastered coming out of four and by the time I pulled the tearoff and setup for the corner, I had lost what I gained. Over the remaining laps, I made up those spots and a few more and was still closing on cars ahead when the checker came out. We ended up eighteenth but we were competitive, passed cars and the car felt good and handled well. There were some other things we could have changed to make us better but now, at least, we are headed in the right direction. The new bars and the strong motor have made a big difference.

After the race I went to the Patriot trailer for payoff and waited as they randomly teched top finishing cars. I saw on the board that Tony finished seventh from his fifth starting spot. All night, Tony had been just one of the guys. He packed the track after the rain and hung out and talked with racers near by. A dozen people in a arc at the back of the car watched his every move but for the most part in the pits, it was just another car and driver, with a big rig and even shot.

They were having a problem with tech on the winning car and in the end the car was disqualified (move us to seventeenth).

The information is still sketchy but the disqualified motor was a Jimmy D motor and the head's intake ports were found to be out of spec. I know Jimmy and he definitely is not the kind of guy who would try to pull a "fast one". In fact, after the clamp down on heads last year by all northeast series, Jimmy made copies of the test gauges so he could check the heads coming through his shop and he found some that wouldn't pass. Many of those teams bought new heads. The disqualification was a surprise to everyone including Jimmy and has caused quite a stir with all involved, including me, wondering if the heads I have will pass tech in the field. There will be more fall out from this as more than a dozen teams get their motors through this channel.

To complicate matters further, the tech inspector has been car owner, motor builder, crew member and close friend of the driver of the winning car over the years and is now building a motor for the car that finished second. It appears that the second place team (who runs ESS and Patriots races) put up money to protest the car that won and of course with the third and fourth place finishers being cars that showed up at this $5000 to win race from URC instead of running the URC race a few hours away there was some inter-series rivalries in play. With URC slamming the hammer down on illegal heads last season and many teams in that series having to re-tool, there was much credibility at stake in the tech showdown in the pits.

You can see photos from this race taken by Jay Fish at:

Jay is a great photographer and loves the sprint cars. He makes it to most of the sprint races around Central New York and posts them on the site. Check out his coverage of other events. He brings the human side to the event with driver portraits along with track action. One of the nicest guys I've met, he's become a good friend at the races.

Weedsport Speedway  7-28-08
(well that's what it always had been until they changed it to Cayuga County Fair Speedway when the county fair was moved to the speedway grounds). Weedsport has been around for a long time. I raced there with the Outlaws and URC, way back when, and the Patriot Sprints have been there a few times over the past several years. This race put 32 cars in the pits on a warm summer night that carried a small threat of rain. Greg and I had discussed going to the Genesee Speedway race the night before but the increasing chance of rain at that track brought us to the decision that we couldn't afford to make a long tow to another rain out. But as it turned out, they did get that show in, despite the stuff all around them on the radar.

Anyway, Weedsport is almost identical to Brewerton (or the other way around) and we were so bad at Brewerton that we had to do something to fix the handling. The only thing in the handling department that we haven't replaced is the torsion bars. The ones we have been using were new last year but... well torsion bars are a mystery.

There's lots of companies making sprint bars and if you talk to 10 racers you get 10 answers about what brand is best or worst and what a bad bar in a car does. I've also talked to several bar manufacturers and a couple manufacturers of torsion bar dynos. A year ago I took all of my torsion bars to a friends race shop that had a torsion bar dyno and after getting some erroneous results found that the expensive dyno would flex and what I was actually reading was the spring rate of the bar plus the spring rate of the dyno frame. To make a long story short, I put all the bars we have on the shelf and bought new ones. There were about three brands that I felt I could trust based on discussions with some teams that are consistently successful. Corky at National Parts Peddler came through and got a good deal for us and dropped the bars off during the week.

So now everything should be a known quantity about the suspension... new frame, new bars, measured shocks... Ok, I have to tell you about the new shock we got. We ordered a couple of new shocks last spring and one of them was screwed up inside when we dyno'd it. It was lucky that we found that problem because when you buy a new anything, you expect it to operate as expected and we would have been so screwed up if we had put it on the car.... So that shock was sent back to the manufacturer and they fixed it, sent it back this week and tried to charge us for the repair. After some discussion, they reluctantly accepted that it had a manufacturing defect when we got it.

They send a dyno sheet with the shock but this adjustable shock has 6 settings and they only checked it on the two lowest settings. Well that sucks, if you don't have a dyno. Fortunately, my friends in PA do have a dyno and checked it for me. The results were marginal. It is adjustable from a "6" rate to "11" rate (these are arbitrary numbers used by shock mfgrs to denote the stiffness).

This shock rated correctly as a 6 when adjusted to 6 but each setting beyond that was about 50% or more higher than it should have been so that by the time you got to setting 11 it was more like 18 and that's stiff enough for a loaded dump truck, not a 1300 lb sprint car. What we ended up with is a shock that is over twice as stiff as it should be at the high end and although linear, it is hugely stiff. So knowing this, the real 6 to 11 range is covered by adjusting from the 6 to 8 setting, but it's even more screwed up than that because at each setting, the 1 inch per second rate increases normally but the 3 inch per second rate increases nearly exponentially. That just makes things more complicated. We can use the shock in the low settings and I think it will do what we want it to do but I'm so fed up with expensive new stuff being junk that I'm probably going to get rid of all our shocks and buy a few of the ridiculously expensive custom shocks because that's the only way I can be sure of getting something that is what it should be. The fast guys have all migrated to the high end shocks and I guess we will have to also. The proliferation of shock dyno's will hopefully make the shock manufacturers honest or go out of business. I would stay with the simple, standard, shock if they were usable but out of the 37 shocks we have, there are only a handful that come close to being right or anything that we can use... including brand new ones!

Greg and I spent an evening putting the new torsion bars in the car with a setup that we think will work for the hard 90 degree turn at the end of the front straight, to eliminate the corner entry push we had at Brewerton.

I picked up our good motor from Jimmy D but didn't have time to put it in the car and we decided to run the backup motor one more race. With the slick track that usually develops at Weedsport, we thought the softer motor might actually work better, like taking gear out to keep the tires hooked up.

At the track, the moisture was holding to make a sticky surface for the heats. The car had worked good in hot laps and we were ready for the pole starting position we had in heat #2, thanks to a pill draw of 4. The eventual feature winner started outside of me and when we both got on it coming out of four, he pulled 4 car lengths on me... it was all motor (note: soft motor not so good on tacky track).

I stayed in second until a caution and then on the restart I got into one a little to hard and skated up off the bottom. I had to wait for the car to hook up as I drifted up into the slick groove and watched the third place car work the tacky bottom under me. I raced in to the third turn in third and finished there. That put us in the dash. The Patriot format takes the top 8 in passing points and has them draw for feature starting position. 9th through 14th run a dash for some extra money, to get a chance to try out some setup changes and race for starting positions 9 to 14.

In the 4 lap dash we stared 5th of 6 with a bunch of good cars that had bad draws from the heats. I ran 5th for three laps and then coming out of two the car lost power and started shaking in a way you only recognize if you have had a motor come apart before. It's a feeling I haven't felt since the late 80's. We've been very lucky with motors and this is the first real blown motor since I started racing again.

This motor had not felt very crisp all night but that wasn't the cause of the trouble. I've never had the pan off since I bought it used, but from the times I've run it, it was clear that the pan didn't have very good oil control. Sometimes on braking at corner entry I would see the oil light flash. I would glance at the oil pressure and see that it was around 30 lbs. On this night I saw it happen a couple of times in the heat race as the car loaded into the sweeping, closing radius, third turn. I added some oil before the dash, to raise the level in the pan, but the damage must have already been done. The track was fast in the heat and I could get around three and four, almost without lifting. Either the oil was all up in the top of the engine and didn't drain back fast enough or it was sloshing forward over the baffles, and the pick up sucked some air with the motor under full load at high RPM.

When I rolled to a stop in the infield, Greg picked me up with the 4-wheeler and pushed me back to the trailer. I could tell by the smell that we had burned a bearing... all that was left was to look for the hole. Greg had the hood off but I knew the problem was down below. I got the flashlight... it was either #3 or #4 rod that came apart... you could tell by where the finger sized hole was in the side of the pan, next to the bottom of the block.

Monday morning update: The inside looked just like I expected... #4 rod was cut off at the knees up in the piston and the rest of it was in the pan. The crank had hammered the pieces enough that the crank was scrap. Without taking it completely apart yet, it looks like two rods, two pistons and the crank are the major losses.

As I took a wider look I noticed that the oil pick up on the wet sump pump was flopping around. The bolt that holds it in place had backed out of the oil pump and the bolt was laying in the pan along with the remains of the rod. Another weird part was the angle bolt from a main bearing cap had come out and was in the pan but not the cap next to the damage, it was the next one back. The other bolt on that cap was loose but the two studs were tight. So what was that about? The bolt was perfect and had not been hit so it looks like it just fell out.

The real killer here I think is the bolt that came out of the bracket that held the oil pump pick up in place. Without the bolt, that pick up could swing around and the tube could slide forward in the inlet hole in the pump. It looks like the loose pickup allowed the pump to suck air, either at the pickup inlet or at the pump inlet. Or maybe the pickup would suck down to the bottom of the pan and restrict the amount of oil flow. Either way, that looks like the reason for the oil pressure light and the oil starvation that caused the bearing to burn up. Then the crank hammered the loose rod apart and when the rod finally came off the crank, the cylinder fires and the piston is pushed down into the crank and that let the crank wack the side of the remainder of the rod, knocking out a section of the bottom of the cylinder in the block and slamming the piston back up the cylinder in to the valves and head. I'll take a look at the heads and valve train later.

The opposite cylinder always gets beat up with these failures as parts are kicked around by the crankshaft blender for a few seconds. At 6000 rpm, it's rotating at 100 times per second so the explosive damage cycle doesn't give much warning or last very long. The damage appears to be isolated to cylinders 3 and 4. I screwed the bolt, that was in the pan, back into the oil pump and found that it was short and only engaged a couple of threads. There was no room for a lock washer and the assembler had not used loctite or safety wired the bolt. It appears that the root cause of the failure is the loose pickup caused by poor assembly. I bought this motor complete and used it as I got it.

So at this point, I have a fresh strong motor to drop in a car that seems to be handling better. The spare motor did get us through a few races but was in need of a power upgrade. I'll salvage the pieces from the bottom end and have Jimmy D put another motor together with what's left of this spare and use the new ASCS heads that I picked up last fall. When we're done we will have a good strong second motor.

Brewerton, 7-14-08
I've never raced here, even though it's about a mile from the house.   They ran sprints, weekly, at Brewerton the year that I moved to PA. They have scheduled ESS and Patriot races here over the past few years and each one got rained out. This day it rained for about three hours around noon but cleared off by mid afternoon and the radar showed clear skies following. At the track the pits were muddy and the track looked pretty good despite the rain. Without modifieds to run the track in, they put the sprints on the track and it rolled in nice, quickly.

For the heavy track we put fifteen inches of stagger on the car and loosened up the chassis as much as we could.  I went out in the second set of hot laps and was surprised how smooth the track was and how little was being scuffed off. The track was sticky but the cushion was loose and not very deep. Even with everything we did to loosen up the car, it was still too tight. Going into one, the car pushed straight on and wouldn't turn in. I tried the cushion and the front end pushed up over the cushion and trying to come off the corner in the loose stuff was not fast. We expected that the track would loosen up some for the heat. There wasn't much we could do to loosen the car getting in so we didn't change the car.

I drew a 16 and that put us outside of the second row in heat one. I felt that I had a good chance to finish first or second. At the green I charge into one on the cushion and the car pushes bad and I loose a couple spots. Next lap, when I drive into one and turn, the car goes straight up the banking and over the cushion. It went straight for so long that I thought it wasn't going to turn at all! I had to get it slowed way down to get it to turn above the cushion and by then everyone had gone by. I went to the bottom and tried some things but couldn't get back past anyone.

Greg, Whip and I discussed what to do. We'd have to run the B main and do something to make the car better. The track was getting drier and the cushion was at the top of the track and very loose. The track was coming to us but still had lots of bite. There wasn't much we could do to loosen the car more than it was.  We had a bunch of stagger and had the car tied down with shocks to help the car turn in. That corner entry push was a real puzzle. So after a lot of head scratching, we decided to not take a chance on being too loose because the track was going to get looser.  So we left the setup alone but went to a lower gear to get off the corner better. 10 cars in the B and 6 qualify. We started 5th.

Into the first turn I raced side by side with the car on the outside but as the front end started to push up off the bottom, I had to back out to keep from getting into the outside car and he pulled ahead. The rest of the race I could get under the car in front but couldn't get by. We finished 6th and would start last in the feature.

Greg, Whip and I scratched our heads some more but didn't have a good answer or much time. We made a few small changes, but left the setup the same because we didn't want to make it any tighter. This setup _should_ make the car loose getting in and so far it had not been a problem coming out so all we could do was hope the track would come to us.

Starting last in the feature, you have to make sure that you dodge any problems that happen in front of you. In the first turn of the first lap a couple of cars got together and after the clean up we had a clean restart. The car was still tight-in and so I had to either go in really slow to stay on the bottom or throw it in... neither way was fast.  I was a little better than some of the cars in front of me and passed some cars but we weren't as fast as the leaders, we got lapped and finished 15th. I had fun running the track and felt good about driving hard, racing and passing cars but we still have to get a combination that works better than this, to run up front.

Our primary motor will be back from Jimmy D's shop in a week.

Eriez 6-22-08
Being on the road is common place for many teams but we are really geared toward the one night stands. This is race day two for us this weekend.  Zimbardi's have been great about giving us a place to sleep and their shop to work out of when we are in the area.

After washing the car, we make some changes to the motor and check the chassis set up. We find a like new tire in their dead tire pile that they won't use because it has a pin hole in it. I can fix that... we've run patched tires before without problems. One more tire choice to put on the trailer.

The forecast remains 50/50 and radar shows storm cells heading for the track but we're here to race and head further west to Eriez Speedway. We ran this track at the end of May and had a good race except for a push that was caused by a rough ridge in the groove and what we think was a chassis setup that allowed the RF shock to bottom out in the ruts. The resulting RF bounding and push cost us a lot of positions. We changed the setup for this race with extra attention to the RF shock travel.

At the pit gate, it was sprinkling and dark clouds were at our back. We waited outside until the last minute and then decided that the clearing skies might give us a chance to race. The promoter was going to get us on the track as soon as possible and gave us a hot lap session on the freshly packed track. The surface was in very good shape and scuffed off to a smooth wide surface. I drew a 19 but ended up in a difficult heat.

I started third but couldn't hold off two very strong cars that took the cushion past in one and two. I could stay with them but on a track with good bite, everyone was fast and the fast guys didn't even make any more progress.

The weather cleared and at feature time, the track was smooth and dry but still had good bite. I would start 15th. At the drop of the green we charged into turn one... I was on the lookout for trouble, as the outside row had to deal with a dry loose cushion. I planned an escape route off the bottom. There was some wheel banging but everyone made it through.

Down the backstretch I got together with the car beside me. We were both lucky that neither of us got over the other's tire. The nerf bar did its job but took a beating. In the row in front of me was the squirrel from the night before and he drove this track the same as he had, the last... high on the squirrel meter (see Stateline below) . I went to the top and could get a run at him going in, but the top of two and four had nothing to match the bite he got off the bottom. I was a bit faster than him but not enough to make a charge that would get fully beside him enough to make him change his line. Again I had to wait for a mistake as we ran nose to tail.

This motor was definitely different from the other motor and needed more gear. We had gone one set lower and debated going one more set lower but didn't really know how the motor would work out in the feature. We decided that the track would slick off and that the higher gear might be better. As it turned out, the track did slick off, coming out of the corners, but we still could have used more gear. I tried top, bottom and middle but never found a faster line.

On the last lap, turn four, the squirrel made a mistake and got out of shape coming to the checker. I drove up beside him and passed him as we crossed the line. At least that's how it looked to me but in the end, I was about a foot short. If that had happened a lap sooner, I would have cleared him in turn one and had the satisfaction of finishing ahead of him but ... We finished 13th.

I didn't make much headway during the feature but no one ahead of me did either. The race went mostly without incident. Except for a late caution, the leaders were only 1/2 lap ahead all race which wasn't much further to the front than a single file restart. The track was good and everyone was fast, but for us, a little more gear might have helped get by the squirrel and maybe the next car. This chassis is now working pretty good and now that we know what our shocks really are, we are able to actually make adjustments that do what we think they should do. With this car I can run different lines without wondering where the car is going to go.

Stateline 6-21-08
It's a long tow for us to this paperclip, one third mile. The weather for the whole weekend was 50/50 and there was no way of knowing what the weather would be at race time. The two race weekend at least would give us a good chance of getting one of the shows in, at one of the tracks.

This would be the first outing for the spare motor. It has been sitting "in waiting" for a couple of years. We've been lucky to not have motor trouble since we had Jimmy D build the primary motor for us. This spare is an unknown, however, but based on the parts it has in it, we expect it to be acceptable. We've been to this track a number of times and realize that the tight turns and long straights could be a competitive challenge for the motor. But it's better than nothing and we'll adjust to it's ability.

At the track the weather is threatening. The track had been tore up and watered and is rough as a corn field. The plan is to hustle our races through before it rains. We hit the raw track in hot laps and peel back some of the clumps in the turns and rattle down the lumpy straights. The motor is really pretty good. It's a little soft coming off the corners but that might work out ok, as this track usually gets slick at corner exits later on.

The sky is black and there is lightening in a storm that passes close-by but misses us. The promoter runs two classes of heats and then sends us out. My draw of 45 puts us last in the heat. On the start I pass one car on the outside and chase the next car in line. He's a rookie with us but has a lot of experience in mini sprints. His young aggression is either geared to block me or is just wild driving. Either way, he he's pushing the needle high, on the squirrel meter.

When I get a run on the outside coming out, he goes to the wall and I have to back out. He swings wide into the corners and then cuts across the bottom cutting me off when I dive in low. The only safe way is to drive in on the top and try to beat him through the corner. The bottom is very tacky and he always gets a good bite coming out. I could drive in deep, very low but if I don't get in deep enough to make him stay high, he'll just chop me in the middle.

On top of all of this is the rough track that is throwing the cars off their line as they push and twitch and dart in the corners. Unless this guy makes a mistake and leaves a hole, it's not worth tangling with him as everyone will make the feature. Our effort in the heat will start us 12th in the feature. Officials come around and tell us that we are up in 15 minutes following the third heat. Greg and I discuss the car and the track and make some changes.

Huge, billowing clouds, tower over the grandstands as the temperature drops and the wind shifts toward us. The big drops start coming and Greg and I finish getting everything out of the weather. In ten minutes the track is lost and everyone is heading out. The promoter agreed to bring us back next week for the feature and a new complete show. We head to Zimbardi's where we will sleep and work on the car the next day.

Canadaigua 6-7-08
Last week the ASCS Patriots had a race scheduled for Merritville in Ontario Canada, just over the border from Niagara Falls. There's been a lot of talk about the border crossings becoming difficult, not the getting into Canada part, but for Americans coming home from Canada after a night of racing. The problem is with US customs and it's not consistent at all locations. It has been tossed around the pits that you may need a broker ($250 fee) to bring your stuff back into the country or you may have to have a complete inventory of what's in the trailer when you cross that is checked when you come back. I don't know if they have the same problem with a pickup towing a race car on an open trailer as they have with the semi rigs some teams have, but it's just one more thing that makes things uncertain and difficult..

We looked at the weather all week and saw a forecast of rain for the Friday night show. We already towed 3 hrs to one rain out this season so as the weekend approached, the threat of rain continued to be forecast, and Greg and I decided not to take a chance on this one. As it turned out, a storm came through on Friday afternoon and they pulled the plug early. Score one for us.

This week we headed to Canadaigua, only a couple of hours to the west for us. This was day two of sauna room weather with temps in the 90's and humidity not far behind. The AC works in the truck so it was comfortable on the road (actually, it works because I came up with a timer to cycle the compressor on and off in a bypass circuit to replace what isn't working on the dash). 29 cars showed up for this Sprint Car event that was supported with 3 other classes. Putting the ASCS Patriots on top of the card with some support classes is a major endorsement of the series as Canadaigua is a track that is leased and promoted by WRGI (World Racing Group Inc., formerly DIRT, Inc., etc), the owners of The World of Outlaws, etc. It was a warm, clear night and the stands were 80% full. It was a good crowd and they had come to see sprint cars while the regular DIRT modifieds were on tour somewhere.

Without a bunch of heavy, big block modifieds to over work this big half mile, and with the high humidity, the track surface was pretty good. The water they spread doesn't soak much into the glaze from last week's race but is held in place by the inch of loose cushion that they had graded back across the glaze.

I always get my motor started and warmed up in the pits before any high speed laps but for some reason at this track they won't let you start your motor on the track and let it run in the pits. The NY tracks don't understand sprint cars and expect that three laps on the track is enough to warm up a dead cold motor. To get around this at all other tracks, I try to be the first in line for the first hot lap session, get pushed off and then pull back into the pits and wait in line, with the motor running, for the second session. By the time I get to the track for the second session, the motor is up to temp and the oil pressure has dropped indicating that the oil has warmed up too. But even with the motor warmed up, as soon as the car moves on the track, the water temp goes way down as air moves through the radiator. I set the motor up so that it will cool on cautions so it doesn't warm up much just running slow around the track.

So I was first out for the second session and tried to get some heat in the motor but even with a lean setting on the dialajet, it was colder than it should be when they dropped the green for our two quick laps. The car felt pretty good on the tacky track and we decided to not change anything for the heat.

My draw of 19 wasn't too bad and it put me 4th in the third heat. Turn four at this track is very narrow. As you enter four, the inside wall to the peak of the shallow banking is only two cars wide at the most. Then it's flat and then it actually has negative banking toward the outside wall. The track looks really wide there until you look at turn, four from between the turns. The other thing that happens on four is that a nasty ridge builds up above the bottom groove, early, that is right in the middle of the second groove. If you hit it wrong with the RR, it turns the car toward the outside wall. Starting on the outside of row two, and behind and beside rookies, made me a bit cautious as we charged toward that ridge at the start of the heat. I laid back a bit at the start off four to make sure I had some room in case anyone got squirreled up coming out of four and ended up in a tangle in front of me.. The start went OK and I drove into one on the outside. The tacky surface gave a good run to the car on the bottom and I fell in line in fourth. A couple of laps later, the third place car spun in front of me and I went low and avoided him as he backed up the slight banking of the wide turn two. On the restart I ran a tight third and then started to see oil and smoke coming out of the hood. The engine didn't feel much different and I thought that maybe a valve cover gasket was leaking so with only had a few laps left so I decided to back off some and finish so that I'd have a shot at being qualified for the feature and deal with the engine problem in the pits. The oil got worse and when the race ended, I was out of tearoffs.

In the pits, Greg pulled the hood off and started removing spark plugs. I got my helmet off and pulled out the leak tester to find out what was going on in the cylinders. Jimmy D, the engine builder, was at the track and showed up immediately. The oil had come out of the breathers and coated every thing on the top side of the motor. I checked cylinders on the left side and none showed any serious problems but when I got to #6, on the right side, there was no compression to even find top dead center. So we burned or scuffed a piston or destroyed the rings or something in that cylinder. Could have been due to the lack of warm up before hot laps or it could have been a weakening due to the timing problems I had earlier is the season but certainly the lack of warmup didn't help. This is my first motor failure in 5 yrs and over 60 races on this motor (two Jimmy D rebuilds with rings and bearings, the only new parts needed). This has been a very good motor and I've tried to be good to it.

Greg and I loaded up and watched the feature from the stands. I didn't want to take the green for the feature and risk further motor damage, even though I was still qualified to start. The track made for a good race with a slick middle, some bite on the bottom and a nice cushion that the leaders could banzai without lifting. The fans saw a good race with lots of passing.

I pulled the motor Sunday morning and dropped it off Monday at noon for Jimmy to work on. Hopefully it's not damaged too much and we can get parts quickly.

In the meantime, I have a spare motor that we picked up from Zimbardi a couple of years ago. We had it in the spare car and have started it but never raced it so we plan to drop it into the car we've been racing and give it a try.

Eriez   5-25-08   
Eriez is a nice little 3/8 near Erie PA.  We ran there last year and had a
decent race.   There was an ESS race also the same day at Utica Rome but
they usually get 40 cars there and our ASCS group was in need of cars for
this race so we figured it would be better to travel three more hours here
and with the early start, we'd get home at a decent hour.    Our luck held
as I drew a  22 and that started me on the outside pole for the heat.

They had watered the track but didn't run it in and by the time they got
the place ready it was an hour late.    They ran our heats as the second
class and the track was a little sloppy around the edges but generally it
was a pretty fast track.   At the start I drove in on top but the bottom
had lots of bite and the inside two cars got by coming out of two.  I
dropped in line and finished third.  

The draw mean everything.    Again we
were in the redraw and pulled a ball out of a bag on the front stretch.  I
drew 7th stating spot (balancing out my pole starting spot from the night
before).   After we drew, we threw the tennis balls into the crowd where
the person catching them could redeem them for ASCS Patriot stuff at the
ASCS sovenier trailer.    One kid kept chasing all the balls and was never
in the right section so I pointed to him and lobbed and underhand slow ball
over the fence to him.  I'm sure I have a lifetime fan.

The start of the feature was hairy as the second row outside starter drove
in to hard and half spun and parked it on the cushion, collecting about 4
other cars.  I snuck through on the bottom and restarted 5th.   The track
was drying out and the car was working pretty good.   I ran the bottom
figuring if someone could get by on the top, let them try and I might go up
there if I looked like it worked.  But instead, there was a rutty ridge a
car width off the bottom of one. that was the bigger challenge. 
If I pitched the car right and drove across it or if I got in low and slow and
got the RR up against it , I could get out of two really good.  But if the
car drifted up  a  foot or two and the right front got into that ridge, the
RF tire would basketball like crazy and I'd loose the front end and push up
the corner.  I tried going up higher and lost ground to the car ahead and
saw a nose up under me coming out.   It was tricky enough that it screwed
me up enough times to drop me back to 9th and then I lost another spot when
I got trapped behind a lapped car and didn't want to dive out into the
outside lane and get creamed.  

As I entered three I drove around the
lapper on the cushion and decided to set sail on the high cushion, for the
car that got by.  Surprisingly, the car worked really good there and after
a few laps of building confidence I drove into three around the top and was
even coming off four to the checkers and beat him by half a car at the

The last few laps were the most important of the weekend and built some
confidence in the car.  I should have gone to the top earlier and I might
have come back on some of the lost positions.   The bottom isn't working
for me like it used to so maybe it's time to go to the top and just get
fast up there.

We rolled the car on the trailer, dog tired and hungry.  We made enough
both nights to cover expenses and get us home.   The four hour tow was all
interstate and got us in about 2am, adrenaline gone and ready to sleep.
Monday was a holiday, but monday night was a World of Outlaws race at
Rolling Wheels, 45 minutes away.  How could I stay away.

Woodhull  5-24-08
The weather finally broke the rain pattern and we had a weekend
with no rain predicted.   The rain out from the previous week was
rescheduled for this one-third mile paperclip near the southern boarder of
NYS.   This place is out in the boonies.   We raced there for the first
time last season and had a pretty good run.

I drew a 16 pill that put me on the pole of the heat.  This season the draw
is starting to come our way for a change.   Greg had the car ready for a
track that still had some moisture in it.  I tried to win the race into one
but the middle was fast and had momentum out of two.   This track has long
straights, tight hairpin turns and high banking.  It looks like you can fly
around the banking but the fastest way is typically around the bottom when
it dries out.   Everything worked good, motor, brakes, chassis.   We
finished second in the heat.

The ASCS Patriot qualifying procedure now is for the top 8 in passing
points to redraw for top eight starting positions. 9 thru 14 in p-p run a
dash that pays some extra $ and gives those cars some extra track time and
a possible scramble in their starting position.  15 through 18 next and the
rest of the 29 cars there, run the B main.  I drew the pole and felt pretty
good about a top 5 finish.

At the start I jumped ahead but had a strong challenge on the outside.   He
outran me down the back stretch and I dropped into second.   I stayed on
the bottom and felt pretty strong getting in and off the corners.  The
track still had some moisture and a few cars were able to get enough bite
coming off the turns in the middle that they worked by.   About half way,
we had a caution and I was fifth.   With the pack now bunched up, I thought
there might be a chance to challenge one of the cars ahead if two of them
got racing side by side but on the restart the leaders just stayed in line.

The track was now really drying out.   Greg and I had consiously made a
descision to not get the car too tight.   We had good forward bite and I
had pulled a wheelie in hot laps and in the heat.   I was being a bit
careful coming out, not to fly the front end.   As the race progressed, the
track got dryer and I got looser and cars started getting by.   About two
laps from the end, two cars right ahead of me got together in the middle of
the back straight.  One car came off the bottom and broke the back end
loose about half way down the straight.   He squirelled up into the other
car and couldn't get away.  The other car got wacked in the front end by
the first car's RR and in trying to stay on track and avoid being sent into
the weeds, broke the LF radius rod.  

I saw it happen and knew that with
the axle pushed back the car was going to the left.   I backed off and let
him go and he flew into the infield and hit one of the huge tires that
marked the inside of the third turn.   The tire had LOTS of muddy water in
it and it shot out toward the track and I drove through it while it was
still in the air.    It slimed the whole car, including me and my visor.   I
couldn't see anything and now in the corner, I backed off while trying to
grab a tear off.   When I finally could see, I was being passed by cars on
both sides.  

They finally threw the yellow but I had lost a lot of ground.
I stayed on the lead lap and when the race ended, we were credited with
10th.  The whole left side of the car was race-track-brown and you couldn't
read a word

Greg and I discussed what we could have done to be better and have some
ideas for next time.

After the race we headed for Zimbardi's shop, about half way to the next
night's race at Erie PA, three hours away.   They were great to let us
sleep in their nicely set up tractor of their tow rig. Saved half the price
of a tire for us.   We hit the bunks about 3 am and got up early the next
morning to wash the car and go through the setup and do other maintenance
things.   We finished about 1:30 and hit the road, got a bite to eat on the
fly and headed for the 3pm gates and 5pm races that night in northwestern

Woodhull 5-17-08
It looked like rain for saturday all week.  Forecast was 70% chance but then Saturday afternoon the storms were breaking up and moving through early in the day so we left at 1:30 on the three hour journey as the forecast changed to 20% chance for Saturday night. 

I drew a 2 pill and would start on the pole for the heat. 

It rained before we ever got on the track.  We towed home.

Fulton 5-3-08
It hasn't gone as planned so far.  I made changes to the engine by
switching to a different set of injectors and have since had trouble
getting the motor to run right.  It sure seems like a fuel problem...  so that
is where I've been focusing.    It only makes sense as this is all I've

The test sessions run off fast and the limited time between runs makes it
hard to do much broad thinking.  The few times on the track don't provide
many chances to try different things.
So with the motor stumbling and breaking up it sure was a weird one to
diagnose.  It seemed like it was really rich at low end and really lean at
high end.   I had pre-adjusted things ready to swap into the fuel system
for the tests and we tried them all.  When on the track, I swept the
dial-a-jet over a wide range of pill settings.
With all the changes, I could make the engine run different, but never much
better.   I figured that I just couldn't hit the combination or that there
was something I just didn't know about that would fix it, so after the test
at Fulton I was ready for the dyno.
I called H&G and talked to Gus and he could take me in a couple of weeks.
Gus is really sharp on these ASCS motors and I wanted to go back there with
this motor so that I could compare the new numbers with the ones from
before on this motor.
The ASCS opener would happen at Fulton before I could get to the dyno.  I
discussed the problem with Gus and he made some suggestions that I put in
place to try at the race.
It looked like a certain rainout for days but as the time to leave for the
track arrived, it was uncertain when it would rain.   At the track it
hadn't rained and the weather didn't look to bad.   Even with all the
threatening weather, 34 cars showed up.
The track was already worked in but the moisture wasn't very deep, as
usual.   I drew a 21 which put us 3rd in the second of four heats.   I told
Greg that if the motor wasn't right, I was pulling in.    I buzzed a corner
after I was pushed off and the motor still stumbled  but I thought it might
have enough power to race so I lined up third.  In one lap I was last.  I
tried some different pill settings for a lap or two and pulled in.  "We're
parked", I told Greg.  " I am out of ideas.  We're going to have to go to the
Cousin Tommy started third in his heat and passed some stout cars to win
the heat, despite several restarts.   When he pulled into the pits he found
the RR birdcage (axle bearing and housing) had complete come apart and was
dangling on the damaged axle.   He had a spare rear but no birdcages and
neither did I so Greg jacked up the car and we removed ours to use, as they
scrambled to get Tommy's car back together.
It's amazing that when minor adjustments seem to make a difference that a
car can run as good as his did with everything screwed up.
All the qualifying races were run and as they lined up for the feature, the
rain finally came and put and end to the night.   Greg and I drove home,
unloaded the car and pulled the motor.
Sunday morning I got up and went into the shop to get everything cleaned up
and ready to load up for a trip to PA next weekend for my scheduled day
long session with Gus and his dyno at H&G.   Gus is a great guy to work
with.  You do all the work on the motor and that way you learn what your
adjustments do when you see the results of a run.  Gus has been at this
long enough that he's seen most everything and can really guide you toward
a solution without a lot of guessing and dead ends.   He's one of the best
engine builders I've worked with (and this isn't even his engine).
I decided to go though everything on the motor and make up a pre-dyno sheet
with all the settings and specs so that Gus could look it over while I'm
mounting the engine on the dyno.   I pressure washed the engine and then
checked the valves settings, springs, leak tested the cylinders and barrel
valve, cleaned the nozzles, checked spark gap and timing and    ...wait a
minute...  the timing was way off.  I checked again and again and pondered
what I found.
Son of a .......
Setting the ignition timing can be tricky but it's one of the things that I
can do in my sleep.  I've set it in the shop for years and it's always been
perfect at the track.  Timing has never been an issue for me.   I've shown
many people my method. I'm proud of how Duval and I quickly changed mags
and set the timing during a red flag at Port Royal once.
What stupidity.  Double stupidity... once for screwing up and again for not
checking.    Apparently with all the focus and aggravation of getting this
injection to fit along with the fact that I didn't have to touch a mag
since last summer, I wasn't paying attention and turned the mag the wrong
way to find the "points opening" position.   I usually then double check
the timing by turning the motor over slowly and making sure that the points
open right on the timing mark.    I should have checked timing when the
motor didn't run right at Brewerton.
But it's easy to get focused on something and rule out other variables.  If
the motors doesn't run right, what changed?  Well the obvious answer is...
the Injectors... so that must be where the problem is... right?
 Well yeah, but I had the mag out too!   It's not like I didn't think about
the mag.  I've had mags go bad just sitting in a box over the winter, but I
didn't think that changing mags would solve the problem because it didn't
feel like an ignition problem to me.   I also thought about changing fuel
pumps but everything ran ok last year and I removed all the fuel and filled
the pump with Mystery Oil for the winter so I really didn't suspect it
Of course if I had changed mags, I probably would have set the timing
correctly on the replacement and then figured the other one was bad and
sent it out for rebuild.   I would have either spent money on unneeded
shipping and testing where they find nothing wrong or they would have
replaced the coil, points and condenser, figuring that something was
intermittent and charged me $500.
I know that when I have a problem where everything seems right but
something is wrong that I have to take nothing for granted.    That's when
I have to step back and
"Assume Nothing - Check Everything".
Maybe I should add Change Everything too.....     or not.

April 2008
Testing Updates     It's been busy around here and there really hasn't been much racing news from my shop. Greg and I have been getting the 2008 car ready and finished it just in time for the practice session at Brewerton. Funny how any task will consume all the time allotted. There are still a lot of projects that I expected to do last winter but I ran out of winter.

One thing that I did get to do was dyno all of my shocks and chart them against the standards set up by the shock companies. The results... they shouldn't bother to stamp a shock rate on the part. They were all over the place. The rates might be close at one shaft speed but way different from what it should be, at another. The differences in actual pounds of force were off by 50% to 200%. I even tested some brand new shocks and they were close at one speed but way off at others. One wasn't even close.

The shock manufacturers apparently design a shock, determine what parts it took to make the prototype and than mass produce those pieces for shock production. Apparently the problem is that when the things are assembled there are enough small differences that the manufactured ones vary. Now, some of the shocks are coming with dyno sheets but even at that, they are only close at one shaft speed. It's like a grab bag sale. You buy a shock but you don't know what you have until you open the bag and test it.

My feeling on this is that we will use what we have based on the rates that they really are instead of what they were supposed to be. I tested 33 shocks and did not find any that we wanted for LF or LR. All the rest of the shocks were combinations that we might be able to use on the right side but even there, we only had a handful that actually measured out to be what we wanted. What we did find was that the one adjustable unit we had, actually allowed us to set it to what we wanted. The team whose dyno I used had found the same thing about adjustables being much more consistent at different speeds.

The adjustables have pluses and minuses. The plus is that one adjustable can replace 4 or 5 standard shocks. The minus is that they cost twice or more what a regular shock costs. I guess you would spend less in total for a bunch of adjustables if you were starting from scratch. The other minus here is that if you crash the shock, you loose twice as much and wipe out a bunch of shock rate choices. The performance issues are really the main consideration though and having shocks that are what you expect them to be is very important. So we ordered some left side adjustables.

Another unknown for this season is the different set of injectors that we put on our primary motor. If it gets more air in the cylinder, then it should need more fuel (and make more power). But it's never that simple. There will be different amounts of air volume, but the amount of the change will vary with rpm. Setting up the fuel system is best done on the dyno but can be pretty close by the seat of your pants testing on the track.

So test day comes at Brewerton. Usually the track is dry and not fast (as it was last time we did opening day practice) so we set up for slick. Of course the track was wet and heavy.

First session on the track and the motor was way off. Nothing off the turns and crackling at the end of the short straights. I tried different dial-a-jet settings and that really didn't make it any better. I was hoping that the dialajet would give me some clues. A cushion was building in the turns and my slick setup let the car bicycle in turn one. I stayed away from the cushion after that.

Not much time in the pits but I made some changes to the barrel valve and high speed bypass valve and we loosened the car up a bit. Next session- motor was not much better so we made some more adjustments. Last session and it was still way off.

In the shop I measured the settings we had gone to on the barrel valve and bypass and got on the phone with Gus at H&G, (where we had dyno'd the engine last). He gave me some ideas of what to try so we decided to go to Fulton for their test session.

I hadn't rained for more than a week and when we got there, it was clear that they hadn't put much water on the track and after about 5 laps of the modifieds on the track, the dust was billowing so bad that you couldn't see the cars. It was ridiculous. 

Fortunately there were only 3 sprints but even at that, I stayed back a half lap and still couldn't see when I got to the turn. Even with a light wind, it didn't clear the corner. The dust was as bad as the worst blinding snow storm I can remember.   The picture shows the dust when you could see.

We tried a lot of fuel changes and got a lot better but never got the motor completely right and then we ran out of time and they shut down the session and everyone left.

After some more discussions with Gus with the info from the tests, I have a better idea of what to do and I think it will be right for the first race at Fulton on May 3rd. Gus's dyno is down for repairs right now but will be fixed after the Fulton race. If I can't get the motor dialed in at Fulton, then it's off to PA with the motor the next weekend (no race scheduled).

A positive note from Fulton was the handling. This and Brewerton was the first time out with the new chassis and it felt great. Even on this loose, dry surface, I could really drive it in hard and it stuck pretty good and came off pretty good. It was balanced and neutral even though we were so busy working on engine adjustments that we never had time to play with the chassis outside of dropping RR air pressure.

All in all, I was encouraged by the handling and made progress in the right direction with the engine. The handling improvements I will chalk up to the new frame and shock choices based on real measurement. I think we will be OK to race.

March 2008
First practice is coming soon and we've been working on getting things finished up.

The main project has been putting the car together on the new frame. It is surprising how this 2008 chassis is identical to the 2002 that we used last year. It means that no one has found anything that makes the cars faster. I think that is a good thing. One of the strengths of the sprint car is it's longevity. The saturation of technology has leveled the playing field. The chassis has been refined for so long that no one has found anything better and everyone has settled on a similar configuration.

There are a few builders that will continually experiment to try to come up with something that will make the car faster but no one has built a "killer" car yet. If they did, it would be copied in a few months and then everyone who could afford to change would have one. And that's the problem that has been avoided so far. If a chassis becomes uncompetitive, it loses it's value. Teams must spend to get the latest. That may be enough for some teams to just quit racing and other teams to just remain uncompetitive. With things remaining stable (and without rules having to force the issue) teams can concentrate on racing on the track instead of in the shop or at the bank. Stability is a good thing for the sport.

On the other front, it seems that there are always gains to be made in horsepower. When ASCS began with it's spec head and 2 3/16 injector, motors were about 600 to 625 hp. Now they are up to about 710 hp while using the same spec heads. That's about where 410s were 10 years ago. Changes in the injectors have improved the efficiency on the intake side and cams have followed to take advantage of the increased air flow. Refinements continue and improvements have not hit a wall yet. So each year, motor builders are getting a little more out of the same basic motor.

What all of this means for our team is that we are making some changes in hopes of gaining the slight improvement we need to get to the front. Yes we want to be faster than the other cars and for us we feel that a fresh frame will work better for us so that our adjustments will work better. The frame we were using was perfectly straight but we couldn't make our setups work, so we are making a change. The old frame may work fine for someone else's setup and driving style.

Greg has fabricated some fresh side panels and a new radiator box, screen and guard. We've rebuilt some damaged wings and freshened up the running gear for the new car. By mid March, we're ready for the motor. We picked up a different set of injectors for the motor that should give us more power than the set we had been using. Typically putting a set of injectors on the motor is a pretty straight forward process..... but not this time.

The Kinsler injectors are different from the Hilborn injectors in many ways. There is a lot of quality in the way the Kinsler set is made. The three piece design makes installation more involved and time consuming but matches up better with the ports in the head. There is a separate injector body for the right and left bank and a cover plate that goes between them to cover the lifter valley. The cover has to be bolted to the block and the side gap to the injectors is filled with silicone.

On our motor, the bolt holes in the cover, just barely landed on the rails of the block and it took a lot of work to align the cover so that holes could be drilled and tapped in the block at the edge of those rails. Also, a slot had to be machined in each injector body for a center feed water line that comes out of the heads. It was a very involved process to set up the mill to cut that 3/4 " slot. Then with the pieces clean and on the bench, silicone is applied where the parts will meet and the parts are put on the motor and the silicone allowed to cure. Then the injectors are removed and more silicone is applied to gasket surfaces for final installation. Then the barrel valve, linkages and lines are installed. Sounds simple but there is a lot of cleaning and tinkering and it is very time consuming. Took a very long day's worth of work, over a couple of days, to finish. So now with the injectors fully installed, I drop the magneto ignition in and it wouldn't go. After looking things over, I found that the hole for the mag was misaligned with the rest of the pathway in the block. Not by much but it will probably take .050 to clear. Also, the mag hits the left bank of the injectors.

What a bummer.

Everything has to come apart, silicone scraped off all surfaces, the cover plate slotted on the mill and the injector body clearanced with a die grinder. all parts cleaned and put back together. Nothin's easy.

So work continues as we get ready for the upcoming season. Big worries ahead are the price of gas and methanol fuel. Fuel has gone from 2.30 to $4.00 per gal. The price of gas (fortunately not diesel for us) is always a big part of the cost to race for us with many races four to 5 hour tows. For now all the effort is confined to the shop but soon we'll be on the dirt.

February 2008
The off season projects are under way as we get ready for the 2008 season.
February brings lots of snow to our area while sprint car racing gets
started in Florida. Season openers for Pennsylvania are scheduled for the
end of February and the first race in NYS is the second week of April.

We have been working on our equipment a step at a time. The first project
was to do some internal structural repairs to a couple of top wings.
After removing the lower skin and doing some straightening and reinforcing
of the framework, those wings were put back together and are ready to go.
We always have a few wings ready for the season and usually use up a
couple, despite our best efforts.

Next project is putting a car together on the 2008 J&J frame we have. We
are updating the car we ran last year with a fresh frame that is newly
powder coated (black). This frame is a deal that our sponsor Corky
Stockham at the National Parts Peddler worked out for us. All of the
running gear is getting freshened up for the new car and we are in the
process of putting it all together.

We also dropped our trailer off for Steve Miller to straighten and
reinforce. The miles we've towed with tires, tools, ATV, fuel and race car
has created a little sag that he will undo on his frame machine at his auto
repair business in Mexico, NY. Steve has fielded SuperModifieds at Oswego
for many years and has been an innovator with lots of unique ideas and
designs. The thing that stands out about Steve for me is his
restoration of Indy Roadsters.

When the rear engine cars replaced the Roadster at Indy, those cars ended up becoming supermodifieds at Oswego and other tracks around the country.
The standard car at Oswego through the late 60's and 70s was an old indy
roadster with a rollcage and big block Chevy. Steve's experience with those
cars led to the opportunity to restore old Indy Roasters. I don't know
his total now but he's done a bunch of them for different owners and some of them have been been on the track again at Indy for many of the "history days" at the speedway and on display in the museum at the track.

Steve has been doing this restoration work for many years and has learned the arts of the fabrication methods of the of the day from many of the original car builders that are still around.  There were only a hundred or so Indy Roadsters ever built and Steve's work is an extremely important part of the history of Indy racing.  

January 2008  
Well it's time to put the 2007 season behind us.   Actually that will
finally happen when we go to the ASCS Patriot banquet on December 1st.
Our 10th place finish in points is really the best part of our year.   We
ran all but four of the ASCS shows, so we could have been higher in points if we had gone to every race.

Looking back on the season I guess the most satisfying race for me was the
one at Eriez in western PA.  I started dead last and passed a lot of cars.
We received the hard charger award for that race and it put us fourth in
cars passed up to that halfway point of the season.   It was one of the few
nights that the car worked pretty good and I felt good about my hard
driving.   The down side of last season was the bad draws that started us
at the back at nearly every race,  the two tip overs that destroyed good
wings and fortunately little else and that stupid frame bending crash at
Evans Mills that could have been prevented.   The never ending struggle to
get the car to work was frustrating, but looking back, we gained a lot of
information and have some new understandings about how things affect
handling.   In review, I've been second guessing my driving style and
expect to make some changes there too.   We'll take what we learned and
apply it toward next year.
I guess the bottom line is that we race to have fun and it's no secret that
finishing at the front is more fun and that's the goal for the upcoming

NOW for 2008, we are getting an early start with many projects already underway.   October and November have been a time to evaluate our cars, motors and equipment and acquire the new bits and pieces we need to be fast and ready for next season.

We are putting a car together on a brand new J&J chassis for 08.   It is
expected that a new car will be more workable and respond to setups and
changes more predictably.  The second car that we built last winter will
remain as a backup in case of catastrophe.   The color scheme will remain
the same for the most part.

Both motors will have some upgrades done to them.   The Jimmy D motor will be getting a new set of larger injectors with the expectation of more horsepower in the higher RPM range.  The motor has always been strong but there was more to be had and this is a change that will make a significant improvement.  It's a good thing any time you can bolt on horsepower.
The second motor had a good set of Brodix heads that were legal for ASCS competition if used with an ASCS gasket.  2007 was the last year for "gasket motors" with ASCS or ESS so those heads are coming off and a brand new set of ASCS heads from Jereco Engines in PA will go in place along with a cam change to match up with the heads.    This should give us a strong
second ASCS engine as a backup.

On the shop side of things, we put a new Lincoln 225 TIG welder in place
and sold the Airco TIG that I bought from Ben Cook Racing many years ago.
Ben used that welder to create lots of racecars during the years that he
had it and it served me very well, although I never could master the
technique that he had for making beautiful welds.   The new TIG makes it
easier for me to make acceptable welds with my part time skills.   My stuff
stays together OK but I need practice to make it pretty.

Another item that we have replaced is our 4 wheeler.  The one we had did
the job in most cases but was lacking in power when we had to push the car
up a hill.   The new (used) unit is small like the Outlaws are using now
but should have enough power to get the job done for us.  Small and light
is the key with our open trailer.

I spend half a day (actually all night) on my annual trek at the Silver
Springs Flea Market in Harrisburg PA.   There were hundreds of race teams
there with all sorts of new and used parts for sale.  There were probably
100 sprint teams.  My mission was to take my list of needed parts and scour
the grounds to find pieces that we need to...    fill in, replace broken,
or improve our stock of parts.  This is a competition for me...  finding
the right parts at the right price before someone else buys it and it's

So Tommy Wickham (ESS driver), Rick Dumigan (Sprint Car Owner) and I went to the flea market with a large enclosed trailer and I searched and bought
from 8pm friday to about 9am Saturday and we loaded the 28ft trailer with
wings and front axle assemblies and all manner of parts.    In the shop we
will go through everything and check it for unseen damage, clean it, polish
it and make repairs if necessary so that the parts will be on hand and
ready if needed during the season.  That flea market provides our team with
what we need at a price we can afford, and that keeps us racing.

Other projects include testing and documenting all of our shocks on the
dyno.  I also have the opportunity to use a torsion bar dyno as well which
should shed some light on good bars, bad bars and in between.     All in
all, there will be plenty to do this winter and that makes the winter go
fast.    With all the changes we're making it should make us go fast in the
summer too.