More Racing 2004

Team 180 (the blog)
I have changed my number for this season to avoid conflicts with other # 80 cars.  It's my old go kart number.  Below are the stories of each of the races this season (most recent at the top).  The plan is to run the Patriot schedule and mostly Black Rock.  I think it will be good for us to have a regular Saturday night track to get dialed in to.  The stories are the ups and downs of one team and my view of the race.

Port Royal Speedway  9-6-04 

Last year I didn't do it but for a year I have been thinking that if the car was competitive and in one piece at the end of my racing season, I will take the guys to Port Royal and race the Labor Day race again.

This year was 20 yrs since I won that race.  It's not the National Open but it is and has been an important race in PA.  It's a tradition that dates back 54 years now and packs the stands with regular as well as casual fans.  It's part of the Juniata (pronounced june -ee-ata) County Fair that celebrates 150 years of bringing area residents together for fun and competition.  It's the daytime Labor Day Classic at the Fair.

There is something special about a race at a fair.  There is an air of excitement and importance.  From the pits you can see the ferris wheels sweep above the grandstands.  The wandering crowd can't ignore the noise, smell and excitement of the methanol burning cars and track announcer.  It reminds me of my childhood when we would go to the NYS fair and see the Big Cars (now silver crown) run on the mile at Syracuse.  The brightly painted cars were dirt versions of the Indy cars that had raced in May.  The drivers were the same Indy drivers.  The next day, the best stock car drivers from around the state would come together for a frightening, dusty race for the NYS championship title.  The capable announcer gave importance and color to the event as they announced names you had only seen in the racing papers, from cities and states you had only seen on maps.

So this little county fair race race in PA has special meaning for me.  No other races are running so all the best come to claim the win or their fair share of the expanded purse.  We only made a few changes to our car from the saturday race to give us all the unrestricted power the engine could deliver.  We loaded up and towed the 300 miles south, 6 guys in an extended cab pickup.

About 50 miles down the road, the truck seemed to be lacking power and had used a 1/4 tank of gas.  We had seen black smoke coming out of the exhaust.  I pulled into a rest area and tried to figure out what was going on.  We disconnected the battery to let the computer reset and hit the road again.  It would be alright for a while and then lose power again.  Turning the motor off for 5 minutes helped so we did that as  needed and got lots of gas.  Fortunately the truck would still go 60 on the flats and we were going down a day early and staying with my in-laws about 20 miles from the track so we had time.

The next morning we headed out early and got a good pit spot near the track entrance at the forth turn.  Not far for the guys to push but we found that there were lots of 4 wheelers ready to move us at the first push out of the car.

The track was being watered and run in and it was a comb over.  They had left the smooth surface under the loose cushion dirt that they graded back over it.  It was clearly going to be a dry slick track.

Now we were definately out of our league.  We pulled in with our open trailer (the only one) and were surrounded by tractor-trailer rigs with the best teams in the area and some from Ohio.  These are the guys who have beat the outlaws so it's fair to say that they are some of the best in the world.  Lots of money, new tires, light cars, stout engines.  We had a 360cid steel block engine against the 410cid aluminum top of the line engines and we were about 150 lbs heavier on used tires.  I would just be happy to make the show.

This was a reunion of sorts for me.  I wanted to run this track again.  I still consider it my home track.  I ran there for years, did well and it was the place we always went back to when we got lost on our setup.  Duval and I seemed to get the car right, there.  There were lots of people who stopped by and said hi.  Drivers that I had raced with that were retired, had their kids in a car or were still racing.  Some of the officials were the same friendly faces I remembered from years ago.  And familiar fans and rail birds wandered by in the pits.  It brought back lots of great memories of this place and the people and let me give my crew guys a chance to experience what it was like to race in PA.

We had the car set up the same as it had run most of the season and in warmups it was pretty close and even though there was a little bite in the track we were fast enough to keep up.  I only got two fast laps to get used to the place again. The crew changed gears for the drying track.

The heats were lined up by the draw and dad drew #35.  His luck finally ran out.  That started us 6th in the second heat.  When we came out of four I stayed with the pack and headed to the bottom of one.  A car on the outside swept down across my nose and I had to pinch the car to keep from being hit.  The car was a bit loose and the back end came around.  I stood on it and did a 360 and kept going.  They threw the yellow and I joined the back of the complete restart.  I was pissed at myself for doing that but only ended up one row back.  I pulled the wing back the last little bit left in the adjustment and ran the rest of the race with a pretty good handling car. 

The track was dusty loose but the tires still had some bite and I could in into the corners nearly as good as the guys that raced there every week.    The heats all strung out and it was pretty much a finish where you start race.  Everyone went to the bottom and it was really tough for anyone to pass on the outside.

As I was hoping and expecting there were only 25 cars.  The big names will always show up but lots of racers don't like these slick daytime races.  The track  put eveyone in the feature.  A good starting spot in the heat may have given us the opportunity to start further up but with our 7th place heat finish I was starting 20th.

Start of the feature.  I'm the last car in the picture on the outside (white).

The feature started and the pack charged into  turn one.  I was expecting a spinner in the middle of the corner but we all got through OK.  I stood on it coming out of two  and stayed low to get a hold of the moist reddish brown clay as the others drifted out into the blue groove that had formed.   I could stay with the car ahead me and was actually gaining on him! after about 10 laps I finally got under him coming out of  two and dove in under him in three.  He had nothing to get a hold of and I passed him coming out of four.  Yeah, I passed a 410!  I couldn't believe that now right at my front bumper was the number 7 of Keith Kauffman.  Keith has raced Port for decades and has hundreds of wins and 11 championships there.  Apparently he had a bad draw in his heat also.  I was able to run with him, gain on some laps, loose on others but never had quite enough to get up under him.

This is the view I had of Kauffman 7 and the pack during most of the race.

About this time, the temp light came on.  I don't know why.  The motor was running hot and that was not normal.  I turned the dial-a-jet to full rich to cool the motor and that flattened the power.  About the same time, the track started to take rubber in the corners on the line where everyone's RR was running.  Keith and the pack he was racing started pulling away.   As we got to the end the track was really getting faster through the corners and with my now flat motor, I got passed back by the car I had passed earlier and one other.  Bummer.

We finished the flag to flag race in 21st ahead of a few of the 410s.  The tires had worked good, the RR was about smooth but had good heat and pressure build up.
This is about what I expected.  The draw made a big difference for everyone.  Kauffman finished 19th, Keel who had won the previous saturday finished 16th, Dewease was 7th.  It was one lane on the bottom and there wasn't  a way to pass.  I had expected this and that is why I chose to run this race.  The dry slick track brought the 410s down to my level and the starting draw gave me a chance.  I'm not sure where we would have ended up if everything had gone my way.  There was no way that I had enough to win the thing but if I had started in the front of the heat, think I could have stayed in the top 4 and redrawn for the feature.  If I had started up front in the feature and the motor hadn't had it's problem, I think we could have held on for 10th. 

A lot of racing is luck.  Every race you hope or expect things to fall your way.  If they don't, there's another race and like the gambler that keeps dropping coins in the slot, we'll keep coming back for another shot at it.

I accomplished what I set out to do.  We ran the race, finished, made some money, rolled the car on the trailer, reunited with old friends and enjoyed the experience.

Black Rock 9-4-04

The weather was great for a change and the track had one of it's best crowds of the  year.  Dad drew #10 and that put us 4th in the second heat.

They had wet the track more than normal or at least more than they had all year and  it took a while for the stock cars to get it run in.  When I went out in hot laps it was tacky and the car worked good, but everyone works good on a sticky track.

In the heat, the track had dried some but still had good bite.  They dropped the flag and I ran in on the outside.  Down the back straight I ran outside of the third place car and passed him around the outside of four.  I finished the race in third  and was closing on second and that put us in the draw for the feature.

Every race pretty much was a finish where you started event.  The track was good for everyone and it was tough to pass. 

Dad drew #4 for the feature and we felt pretty confident of a top 5 finish.  I've been fooled by this track before and decided that it was going to dry out like always despite the earlier moisture.  We put the dry setup on the car.

As we pushed out for the feature everything was dripping with dew.  It was cool, in the 60's, and damp.   I looked at the track and the surface was wet.  Too late to change anything now but I still thought that once we got going the place would dry out.

As we charged into the first turn the car hooked up I held my 4th place starting spot coming out of two.  When I set the car into three it hooked up and then pushed the front end right to the top where the loose cushion let me break the rear loose and get the car turned.  In the process, I lost three spots.  There was only one caution at lap one.  I ran in seventh for most of the race but as we got down to the last 5 laps the car got tighter and pushed up in one and I fell back.  There was four of us running together and we were catching some of the early front runners.  I could have picked up one or two more spots if we had more laps but in the end we finished 10th.  Kind of disappointing considering our good starting spot and all.  But the car was in one piece and made it possible to go to the Port Royal Race on Labor Day.

Heat win at Black Rock

New Addition

You have to take advantage of opportunities when they pop up.  We've been thinking of getting a different car for next year and at Can Am I talked to a guy that had a 2003 Maxim available.  He was bringing it back from North Carolina and he called when he got to my exit.  Greg, Ryan, Jeff and I looked it over pretty good and decided that it was a good deal so I bought it and rolled it into the garage.  The J&J will be run a couple more times this year and then it will be sold.  I hate to see it go but we wanted to try a Maxim chassis.  If I could afford to I'd keep our present car because it has been so reliable and now we have a setup that works about everywhere but we think there might be that little bit more that we need, in a newer car.  You never know.

Black Rock 8-27-04

Rained out.  The weather radar looked bad but it was far enough away that we had to leave before the rain might happen.   We got within 20 minutes of the track and it was sunny but they cancelled.

Can Am Speedway 8-21-04

The rain passed through and by noon the clouds were breaking into clear skies for the night of racing at this northern NY track.  This is a 5/8 mile with wide sweeping turns and wide straight, no walls except in front of the stands.  The owners are doing a good job with this place and it shows in the car count, 39 sprints along with Big Block Modifieds, IMCA cars, and Sportsman.

The track can be rough but this night they had done a comb-over of last week's cushion and even the heavy sheep's-foot roller didn't penetrate an inch.   Under that inch of wet clay was a smooth hard packed surface that never had a rut or bump all nite.

All of our events ran after the DIRT Modifeds and Sportsman (DIRT Mods with smaller motors).  The track had surprising bite and I could run nearly wide open all the way around, just  lifiting in the middle of the turn to set the car to come out.  The tach showed that we needed more gear so Ryan and Jeff changed gears.   Greg, Rodney and I discussed what we thought the track would do and decided to leave the stagger as it was and change pressures and shocks.

Dad did his part for the night by drawing #4.  That put us on the pole for the 4th heat.  At the start of the heat I rolled the speed up evenly through the third and fourth turns and hit the straight running.  Our starting proceedure is "to be even when we pass the cone" located between the turn and the flagman on the front straight.  I had jumped way ahead and so I actually backed off a bit to let the outside pole car catch up, so I wouldn't get called for jumping.  At the cone I was on it and gone.  By lap 2 they told me I had half a straightaway on second and at the end, I was ahead by a straight.  The car worked good and I was able keep my momentum up with the engine running in the upper RPMs all the way around, just braking while on the throttle to get in to the corners.

In all of the heats the track still had good bite and once the running order sorted out in the first lap, everybody was hooked up and most finished close to where they started.

The heat win put us in a 4 lap Dash for Cash.  I'm not a big fan of the Dash.  It's too short to really race and in one that I was in a few years ago, we got crashed and ruined our chances in the feature.  I was starting fourth in this one and figured I would use it to try other lines on the track that I hadn't used in the heat.  I found the middle was getting slick but still had some bite and the top was a long way around and had a loose cushion that was like marbles and would set the car sideway.

I spoke to one of the Mod drivers to see what the track was like after his feature and he said it was slick top to bottom and no bite.  We set up for full slick, soft shocks, angled the wing up, dropped air pressures.

Dad drew 8th starting spot for the A-Main.   An evenly tough field of cars in the rows ahead and behind.  If the track was really slick, I would play the bottom game and try to get bite coming out and beat them in the drag race  to the turn, but the track had already taken some rubber.  When we pushed the cars out on to the track, my tires squealed as  the stagger tire skidded behind the rotation of the RR. 

At the start I got into one and headed for the bottom passing one car as I came out of two.  The car got faster lap after lap as the tires heated up but so did everyone else.  It was a fun race with about 5 of us in a group running bottom and top.  I would get by one car on one lap and he would get back by on the next.  I could really run the car into the turns hard and it stuck but in the middle of the turn it  would unload and I'd have to reset it to get out. I could catch the car ahead and get under him but he was off the corner before me.  We were either a little off on stagger or too soft on the shocks.  That little "set" in the middle, ended up being a car length delay before I could get out of the turn.  It wasn't too bad if I got in just right but if I was off my line a bit the delay was worse.

Toward the end of the race I had lost the battle with three cars and finished 10th.  The track had bite thoughout the race and actually got better late in the race as it took rubber.  My bottom game didn't work because no one was spinning the tires coming out and although I could close on them,  I didn't have enough steam to clear them in the straight.

All in all it was a good nite.  I had thought we were good for a top five, but a heat win, a top 10 finish and the car in one piece is a good night.  We also learned some more about our car setup and our shock package for big tracks.  As always, it's great to have a dedicated crew that I can trust completely and have fun with.

Fulton Speedway 7-04 racing with good friend Howard Singer 26.

Fulton Speedway 7-04 racing with another good friend Don Adamczyk 21 and Tim Zimbardi 82

Black Rock 8-7-04

It's been a strange summer weather wise.  Middle of summer, August is usually hot and humid.  This saturday it was 68 and breezy.  It felt cold and people wore sweatshirts and jackets like at those late season races.  The track was packed in, yet when the latemodels came in after hot laps there was mud dropping out of the wheel wells.  The track was obviously much wetter than normal and we adjusted the car accordingly and waited for the second hot lap session.  By the time I got on the track it was fully packed in and fast.

Not to be fooled by the early tackiness, we set the car up for a dry track for the heat.  Dad drew #5 so we had the pole in heat 3.  It was a loaded heat with most of the strong cars out of the 31 in the pits.  The goal was to stay in the top 4 so that Dad could re-draw for our A-main starting spot. 

On the start I would not let the outside car get a wheel ahead as we sped up between three and four.  I beat him to turn one and took the bottom, he went to the top and I never saw him again.  The heat went flag to flag and the car worked the best it had all season.  The track was smooth and drying but still had bite everywhere.  I could run down the straight and turn in on the throttle, then lift about 1/4 throttle and get back on it between the turns.  The motor pulled hard coming out.  I finished with a half straightaway lead, winning the heat over many of the best cars.  It felt good to win but the best feeling was getting the car to work that good.

It's easy to be fooled in to thinking that you are hooked up when the track has some bite.  On a track like that, everyone handles and it's easy to drive.  Ususally strong engines show their stuff when the track has bite except when you can carry the momentum all the way around not changing RPM that much.

We set the car up for full slick for the feature.  Partly because this car needs to be fully tight and also because I expected the track to glaze some.  I would compensate with the wing if it was too tight.  Dad drew anther #5 out of the hat so we were to start inside of row three.  Most of the stronger cars were behind us but the cars in front of us were no pushovers.

On the start I got through one and was even with my outside starter but pulled past him through three and four.  After completing a lap the caution came out.  I was 5th and the car was working good but not great.  I adjusted the wing a bit. On the restart one car got by in turn one.  My car didn't set in like I expected and the front end took a big push.  I had to wait for it.  By the time I got going I had lost a lot of ground.  Lap after lap I was reeling him back in gaining about half a car length or so per straight and just as I got within a car length and was planning how to pass, the yellow came out.  On the restart the front pushed again and I lost another spot coming out of two.  Now the track was getting slick coming out of the turns and I could just stay with the front pack.  Two to go another caution.  On the restart I really tried to keep the car from pushing but not get the backend loose getting into one.  I got up even with the car ahead of me and really had a shot to get by but the front pushed up on the next lap and the car behind me got by.  I finished 7th.

Any top 10 is a good finish and it's always good to roll the car on the  trailer but I was disappointed that I didn't stay in the top 5.  We didn't have enough to win but could have gotten by at least one of the cars ahead.  As the track changed from dry to slick the car was loose in places and tight in others.  It seemed like it took the tires a couple of turns to loosen up after a restart.  It was really tight at first and then would be OK.  I'm still trying to figure out if it was the tires, or the slower first lap speed on restarts, or me.

Black Rock 6-31-04 

Rain was forcast for the weekend and a band of showers moved over the track in the morning.  Actually it had rained some every day all week.  I had a chance to talk to the man that prepares the track and he said that after the races last week, they decided to fix the holes that were developing at the entry of one and three.  These depressions dig out, where you set the RR, getting into the corners.  They are wide and a car length or longer and obviously they are right in the groove.  When you go through them, the car bottoms out and then doesn't always go where you planned. 

It's good that they were fixing it but they chose the wrong week.  They tore up the clay, 1 ft deep, so that they could re-shape the surface but the rains came after they opened the track surface and with it raining all week, the track was saturated.  The track was mush and wouldn't pack so with a continuing threat of rain for saturday night, they cancelled early.

Fulton 7-24-04

Perfect night for racing.  Sunny and 70.
Fulton Speedway is a nice facility just north of Syracuse and it ususally draws lots of cars to this race.  We unloaded and I took a walk out to look at the track.  It was ready to go but not very wet.  They had received a lot of rain a week back and the track got saturated and was really rough.  So this week they had to let it dry and pack in. This place is usually slick but this week it would be like ice.

We went out in hot laps with a dry setup and the car worked well.  Dad drew #35 so it was going to be an uphill battle all night.  37 cars were on hand for 4 heats, 5 to qualify, 3 to redraw for the first 12 starting spots in the A-main.

We threw most everything we had for a slick setup on the car for our 1st heat, 7th starting spot.  It would be very tough to pass and some may not expect the place to get really slick this early.  Three other classes of heats went before us and pretty much glazed the place and pushed the cushion way up to the top of the turns.  It's a looong way around the top so I planned to chase the bottom.

Drop of the green and I charge to turn one and hard on the brakes as we all slow to what seems a crawl getting in.  Some cars drift up off the bottom but most get on it as soon as they can to get off the turn.  I wait and keep the car very low as I round the last tractor tire marking the inside. 

Along the inside edge of the track, where no one has raced, it's still wet.  While the other cars are spinning up off the second turn, I got a hold of the bottom and passed one car getting to three.  I did the same thing all race and ended up 4th.  I really tried to get to third for the redraw but they had gotten too far away while I was working on the cars I passed.  I was just happy to qualify in the heat.  The B-main had 16 cars in it and they only were taking 2.

I watched the other heats and although some made headway in the middle or on the outside, it looked to everyone like the bottom was going to be the quickest way around.

The A-main followed two classes of modifieds' 20 and 35 lap features.  We raised the wing way up, softened the rear, easy up shocks on the front, extra fuel in the tank for rear weight, but left in the low gear.  We were starting 13th but I still planned on finding what might be left coming out of the turns on the bottom.

We started 13th in the A and coming out of two the car in front of me stayed real low in the straight.  I went lower.  There was still room between me and the grass but the bite was so good that I passed one car before I got to three.  Running that low I really had to slow the car to get into the corner and then it was a really tight turn in.

As the race progressed, I was passing a car every other lap or so.  It was kind of surprising that no one else was trying this line but it was a really strange racing line.  As I came out of the corner, the car in front of me would get on the throttle and pull away by one or two car lengths and head out toward the middle of the straight.  I would still be getting around the turn until I was lined up on the straight and when I stood on it, the front lifted, the tires dug in and the car accellerated like a rocket, compared to the other cars I was running with. 

There was a caution about half way because someone clipped one of the 4th turn tractor tires and it ended up on the track.  When they put the tire back they put it out about 2 ft farther than  before and that made it really hard to get to the good bite in the front straight.  I was so low that I had to actually drift out to the right to get in line with the entry of the 1st turn.  The low line was wearing out.

Toward the end of the race I had made it to 5th and with 3 to go, after a couple of cautions, one of the cars that had started behind me came up on the outside of me in the 1st turn and was still even coming off.  I was amazed that he was getting enough bite to drive through the middle of the slick stuff and get by.  I could just see the nose of another car way up at the top of the banked turn, on the last laps but I was able to stay ahead to the end.

The bottom line I had been running got used up during the race as others began to use it after I passed them.  It was a strange race for me.  The car worked pretty good and the gear was great for the slow start, drag races I was doing each straight.  We ended up sixth which was a victory for us on a track like this.  There were some big semi rigs, hauling cars that didn't qualify, that packed up and rolled out of the pits just before the A-main lined up.


Black Rock 7-17-04

The car worked well last week and finally had enough side bite to able to get though the corners, fast, at Black Rock.  After our second place finish last week, we decided not to make any changes and started out in hot laps pretty much the same as the car ran in last weeks A-main.  There is still a bit more to be had from this car but now it's a matter of refinement and second guessing what the track will do.

Dad drew #9 for the heat and that started us outside of the front row, heat three.  We ran a strong second in the heat and that put us in a position to re-draw for our starting spot in the feature. 

Dad drew #5 for the A-main, inside of row three.  I looked over the line up and figured that there were a couple of cars in front of us that we could get by and a couple that would be hard to catch.  The next row behind was a pair of three time feature winners.  Directly behind me on the inside was a driver that was strong and smooth and seldom got in tangles.  On the outside of that row was a driver that is wild and on the edge much of the time.  He had won the last three in a row and I figured his level of confidence would be really high and he would charge to the front.  I mentioned this to the crew and we just hoped we could stay out of his way.

Lightning was flashing in the night sky and when they pushed me off I felt a rain drop on my face before I closed the visor.  I thought that I needed to be very aware of the track conditions and that if the car felt funny that it might be rain.  No need to crash the car in the rain if they didn't throw the yellow soon enough.

They started the race right away and as we charged the first turn, I had to wait for the second row car in front of me.  I chased him out of two and the yellow flew.  On the complete restart the car hooked up on the bottom in one and when I was ready to get on it, I had to wait to get to the second turn before the car in front of me took off. 

We charged down the back straight.  I would have gone deeper into three but had to let off a touch early for the car in front of me as he went for the bottom too.  Just as I got the car set into three, I felt the car jerk hard and turn right. 

I got drilled in the RR by the wild man in the row behind me.  It tore the tire open and as the RR went instantly flat, the LR power turned the car and I headed for the top of the turn.  Then I saw the front end of the offending car as he catapult over the RR and rolled over the edge of the banking.  Somehow we cut across traffic and didn't collect the rest of the field. 

I gathered the car and drove around to the pits.  My crew and guys from three other cars worked quickly to get a new RR on the car and a four wheeler behind me.  I could see the flagman and saw the white flag for the restart as the new RR slid on.  They kept hurrying in case it was another bad start but the lap counter went to 1 lap complete so it pointless to go back out.

We loaded up and watched the rest of the race.  Everyone ran the bottom and a few could run the middle.  My guess is that we would have ended up between 5th and 7th.  Some would have gotten by and we could have passed a couple.  The car that started behind me won, the car that started beside him, ran over my RR, flipped and finished last.  But that's the way he races - win or die trying. We were 23rd.  After the checkered flew, and the cars got back to the pits and the rain came down.

Looking things over in the shop, it appears that the tire was the only thing damaged.  The wheel is OK and the rest of the car seems to be OK.

That's racin'.

Black Rock 7-10-04 

Well, we finally kicked some sprint car butt!  Our second place finish this week at Black Rock was like a win for us!  It felt good to run up front and have the car and engine working so good.

We have been analyzing our problems each week and trying something different the following race to improve the car.  Little by little we have been learning what this car needs, to get around Black Rock, and it came together pretty well on Saturday night.

The biggest problem each week has been the draw.  This week Dad drew #10 which put us outside of the front row in the third heat.  We set the car up for a slick track.  In the heat the car was a little loose at the start and I was passed by two cars early on.  I pulled the wing back some and got the car better for a 4th place finish.  It was just another case of misjudging what the car needed for the track condition but we were close and learned from the race.

The top 4 heat finishers re-draw for starting position in the A-main and again we were lucky with Dad pulling #2!  That put me outside, front row for the feature... our best starting spot all year.   The crew made a few changes to the stagger, pressures and wing height to get ready for the A-main.  (Rodney sprained his ankle real bad last week in the pits at Weedsport, is on crutches and decided not to go this week...  bummmer, wish he had been here for the fun,  after all the work he has put into the team.)

The car on the pole had won the last two races at Canadaigua and Weedsport.  He was dialed in and on a roll.  He liked to run the top and we have been best on the bottom.  Behind him was one of the cars that passed me in the heat.  ESS had the night off so there were some additional strong cars in the field (30 cars in the pits tonite).

As we came to the third turn for the start I pulled my front wheels ahead of his and stayed that way through the turns.  Out of four we both took off and he pulled ahead as we passed the cone and he cleared me as we got to the first turn.  I had intended to stay outside of him and run the top but now behind him I dove to the bottom.  Coming out of two he had a few car lengths but I was staying with him as we entered three. 

The first laps ticked off quickly.  The leader caught lapped traffic about lap 7 and I started closing on him.  He got through the first three lap cars and the caution came out.  The lapped cars went around to the tail of the field.  On the restart I lined up tight on the leader in three and stayed with him as we came out of four.  The car was working well on the bottom and I decided that if someone was going to pass they would have to go around the outside and my only chance to pass was on the bottom.  I had no idea what had been going on behind me but I thought I might get swarmed in one with everyone bunched up.  The score board showed the winner of my heat and one of the cars that got by in the heat lined up behind me. 

I drove deep into one, carried the car in on the throttle.  The car had been hooking up really well tonite.  I could get into the turns by just lifting to half throttle and then getting back on it as I entered two or four.  There was good forward bite as I came out and according to what I'm told, the leader and I pulled away from the rest of the field. 

There were restarts on lap 7, 12 15 and 18.  After the second restart I decided that my line was working and that no one was going to get by if I didn't screw up.  I never saw a nose all night.  I could turn the car and float it into the turns and it the back end started to hang, it would straighten out when I stood on it.  Late in the race it started to slick up coming out of four but the car still stuck and went forward. 

In the past, I've led a number of races going away and broke or crashed and given wins to second best cars.  I've run second lots of times and the leader never broke.  The thought went through my mind that he might break and give me the win but he was smooth and consistant we were second.

I didn't have enough to pass the leader but I could run in under him on the restarts and ended up running a few car lengths back once we got going.  The car worked great but there is still improvement to be made.

As I have said about the past races, this is a very equalizing track.  There are two or three grooves and room to pass but there is not a big difference between the guys running up front and the guys in 12th.  Luck of the draw has a big effect on the outcome. If we had started last in the heat and feature as we have most of the season the past, we'd been lucky to make it to 12th or even make the show (The B had cars that had won and finished second and third in past few races).  This night we had a good draw and a really good car for the track conditions.  We never passed a car but we didn't get passed (pulled away!).  We were able to run this race on a 6 race old, last year's RR and a castoff LR that we dragged back from the Outlaw show at Rolling Wheels Raceway in June.  New tires might have worked better early on but I don't think we would have been enough better on stickers to win. 

My goal, when I got back into racing, was to be competitive without spending a forture.  We have massaged this "flea market" car and motor and all the used parts into a competitive car that beat some 2004 chassis' and some Gearte and other name motors.  Our little open trailer and pickup get lost between the semi trucks and large enclosed trailers but that didn't stop the fans from finding us after the races.  We are really proud of this finish.  With the right circumstances (and luck) we might just pull off a win.


Weedsport (Cayuga Co Speedway)    7-4-04
We had trouble at Canadaigua the night before.  I woke up early and checked everything in the motor now that we had the drive train fixed.  Leak test was very good so no bent valves.  Valve lash was where it should be and all push rods were straight.  The plugs all looked great.  I could see through all the nozzles but blew them out and reinstalled them.  The only thing left was the mag.  This mag had been OK since we put it in after the last race at Canandaigua, the end of May.  The other Mag had come back from French Grimes and was still in the box.  I checked the timing on this mag - OK, and then installed the fresh mag.

At the track, the motor started and sounded much crisper.  In warmups it had good power, so wegot the motor fixed .  The track was already dry and this place usually gets very slick.  We put the feature setup on for the heat.

Dad drew #42 so we started at the back of the second heat.  I tried to get to 4th but ended up 6th.  The only way around was at the bottom.  There was a loose cushion but even the hot dogs in the first heat couldn't make it work.

Shortly after the heat race, Rodney (crew) stepped down off the trailer onto uneven ground and really messed up his ankle.  It was swollen up and looked like half a baseball shoved down your sock.  We got the safety crew and they scooped him up in the ambulance and took him to the hospital for X-rays.

The feature was a matter of everyone staying at the bottom and trying not to let anyone get under them.  I tried pinching the exit of the turn to get to the little moisture, way low, coming out of four but that went away quick.  Turn one is tight and I'd sweep into it and catch the bottom, right at the inside wall where there was something for the LR to get a hold of but that made it slow getting to two and a tight turn to use the bottom coming out.  The other way was to turn in  and drift up to the middle of one and two and make a straight line down the banking and across two to catch the bottom.  I could get up to the car ahead of me but if I went in as deep as he did, down as low as I was, I would have pushed up into him so we diced all race.  One lap I finally got under him in four and coming out, he cut down and hit my RF with his LR and turned me sideways into the infield.  Somehow it didn't spin and I was able to get straightened out and get back on it losing one spot in the process.  No big deal...   we were about where we started and finished 18th.

Although this was a terrible finish, we felt some satisfaction in that the car worked really good.  We had fixed all the problems from the night before and got the car to handle as good as anyone on this really slick track.  The car that got by when I got turned sideways finished just in front of us and was the winner at Black Rock a few weeks ago.

After the races, we talked to Rodney on his cell phone.  The ankle was sprained, bad.  His wife had gone to the hospital to pick him up.  We headed for home.

Canandaigua   7-3-04

The draw was good to us this time.  Dad drew #8.
During the week we put some fuel tank foam rubber (made for fuel cells) in the tank to try and reduce the slosh problems so that the pickup wouldn't suck air with 7 gallons still in the tank.  The engine stumbles when a slug of air hits the injectors so we have been racing with twice as much fuel as we will use, even on a night with a lot of cautions.  We don't need to carry lots of extra fuel weight.

In warmups the car didn't start right away and it hit me that we had let air into the fuel line when we had the tank off and the fuel line apart.  By the second turn the pump had picked up the prime and the engine smoothed out.  When they dropped the green, the engine was missing and flat.  I figured that the foam might have been restricting the inlet somehow so when I came back to the pits we  drained the tank and removed it from the car.  I took the bottom plate off and removed the foam.  We  got everything back together in time for our 1st heat start.

We were in the first heat and it was already dried out.  I started 4th and was running forth.  The engine was much better.  I got into three a little deep and the car got loose and I lost a spot to finish 5th.  That qualified us for the A-main with a 13th starting spot.

In the A-main the engine was flat right from the start.  It acted like one cylinder wasn't fully firing.  The track turned to ice and I kept running with the flat engine.  I was actually able to get under the car in front of me in the corners a few times, but the engine didn't have anything in the straight.  I was able to hold position but couldn't make any headway.  When I ran the bottom but the engine wouldn't pull out of the corners.  I tried the top but it was a long way around.  Between one and two there was a patch that had some traction right in the middle.  One car was on top and another on the bottom so I kept trying the middle but it was really slick coming out.

With three laps to go, right at the end of the front straight, the engine reved and there was no drive.  I was headed toward the middle but with the car now slowing, I moved toward the outside to get out of the way.  Just at that time, the car that had been racing behind me was headed for the top and climbed my RR.  I saw the bottom of his car as he went over...  I coasted to a stop between the turns and out of the way as the red came out.

Somehow there was no damage to my car, except that it was in gear and the engine was still running.  I shut off the engine and a push truck took me back to the pits.  We ended up 18th.  This is the first race we have fallen out of with a mechanical problem. 

When we got home at 1am,  we unloaded the car and unbolted the torque tube because we thought the drive shaft came out again but everything there was OK.  We pulled the rear cover and found the quick change gears were stripped.   It was a set of used gears and that's the chance you take to save some $$$.  We cleaned out the metal chips and put everything back together and planned to work on the motor problem in the morning so that we could make the Weedsport race that night.

Black Rock 6-26-04

In racing there are always ups and downs... with fewer ups.  It's how well you are able to overcome the obstacles, that can help make up for the hand you're dealt.

When Dad drew good starting spots last week we decided to have him continue until his luck ran out.  While he went to draw, the crew was going over the car making sure everything was tight.  Rodney was tightening the front wheels when one of the nuts wouldn't tighten.  I checked it with him and we found that one of the three studs was stripped in the hub. We dragged out the helicoils and locktite and cleaned up the hole and inserted a helicoil and reinstalled the stud.
Dad came back from the draw with a high number that put us 6th in the third heat.  We pushed the car out to get it started for warmups.  When they dropped the green in warmups I ran about a lap and half and it jumped out of gear.  They pushed me into the pits.  I put the car in gear and it was locked in so I got in line for the second warmup session and the car started without a problem.  I figured that I didn't get it all the way in the first time.  They dropped the green and in half a lap it popped out again and I rolled into the pits.

Fortunately I didn't over rev the engine but there was something wrong between the engine and the rear.  I figured we'd be lucky to patch it together enough just to start the B-main and take a lap to get tow money.  The crew moved quickly to get the car up on jack stands and start removing the ball joint and torque tube.  Once the ball was back I could see the end of the drive shaft all the way up into the yoke of the U-Joint.  When we pulled the torque tube off the rear, the drive shaft was not engaged into the rear although it was lined up with the internal coupler. 

There never was a spring at the front of the drive shaft to keep it pushed back into the rear.  As we looked closer, there was a disc that was wedged against yoke with a rubber plug behind it.  The disc was a cap on the splined shank of the ujoint and the rubber insert had been the spacer.  The crew worked on getting everything apart and cleaned and I went searching for a driveshaft/ujoint spring.  This would be hard to find.  No one carries a spare one of these.  This driveshaft was really too short.

I went from team to team.  No one had the part but several offered ideas.  Then I came back to our car to look things over again.  One team brought over a brake rebuild kit that had a spring in it that looked like it would work and then it struck me.  We need to take up as much as 2 inches of shaft travel at the Ujoint, and there had been a rubber insert there so I went to my box of shock parts and found an old shock mount rubber that we sometimes used as a shock bump rubber.  It was the perfect diameter and length.  It fit tight and I hammered it into the splined ujoint sleeve.  We put the drive shaft in and it had just enough end play.  

The crew greased things and put the shaft and torque tube back in place.  We were ready to race with time to spare.  We were lucky that the problem happened in warmups and not in last weeks feature (4th place finish) or this week's races.

We were in the third heat and the track was drying out.  I started 6th and passed for 5th at the start.  I was challenging for 4th each lap and finally got inside for 4th when the yellow came out and put me back to 5th with 2 laps left.  I wanted 4th or better to be able to redraw for the feature starting spot.  5th or 6th made the feature but 4th or better meant we had a luck of the draw chance at the pole to 12th. 

We charged into one at the green and the guy I had been holding off up to this point flew in on the little cushion at the top, hooked up and passed me and the car ahead of me.  I ended up 6th.  We didn't have to run the B-main but it meant that we would start 18th.  If the yellow had not come out, we would have finished 4th and that could have made a lot of difference in the feature, either good or bad.

The crew made some adjustments to the stagger and wing for the A-main.
At the start of the feature, the pack hauled into one, three wide.  I was in the middle heading for the bottom when this huge hole opened up in the middle.  I stood on it and then saw a car sideways in the middle of two, another car hung out on the top...  I got on the brakes and headed for the bottom.  The cars in front of me were already crashing into the inside concrete wall and as turned right, I dodged them, one was flipping on my left as I squeezed by.  I knew cars were sideways on top and could hook up and come across the track into me.  I stayed next to the flipping car and snuck between them and made a right under and around the sideways car in two and other cars sideways at the top between the turns.  It was a track blocking red flag mess.

It happened in front of me and around me and somehow I drove through it all.  If I had qualified 4th in the heat I might have been in the middle of it or with me there, the draw could have been all different and the accident may not have started.  Who knows how it might have gone but getting through that mess was a giant chunk of good luck for us.

After a complete restart and a lap two spinner, the race went to the checker.  I was running behind a car that ran side by side with another car running the middle and top.  When I closed up on them there was nowhere to pass.  Finally the car on the bottom cleared the other car and I passed as well and then we reeled in the next car, a straightaway ahead.  We caught him, passed a lapped car on the way but ran out of laps to get by.  We were quicker than the car we caught and I had some chances to get by the car in front of me but couldn't make it stick.  He needed to make a mistake but didn't.  Another caution would have helped us both.

The guy that got by us in the heat, started at the front and won the race.  That car has been working good and is fast.  The young driver is smooth and runs clean and hard when we've been together on the track.  We ended up 12th on the lead lap.  The car worked good but still needs improvement to be able to pass like we need to.  The rules and the track surface are a great equalizer.  That mid pack of cars is very equal and seem to finish close to the starting order if they don't mess up.  The racing is good two or three groove and it's all equal leaving much of the outcome biased by the luck of the draw. 

Black Rock 6-19

Our luck at the draw for starting position in the heats has been miserable.  After the last
bad draw we decided to let my father do it, the next time, and he drew a number that put
us outside of the front row, third heat.

This track has been a real challenge to get a hold of and talking with a number of other
drivers, they are stumped too.  Some are so tight that they can't get the car to turn and
others are so loose that they can't get the car through the corners with out spinning. 
We've been hacking away at our problem with changes every week and got the car
working better in the feature last week.

We have been setting the car up for a sticky track in warm-ups and every week the car
has been way too loose.  We did it again this week and I've decided that there is not a lot
of difference between the track we start out on and the track we race on, or maybe it's
just this car.  It just does not like stagger. 

One other change we made this week was with front tire air pressures to try and stop the
front from flying on rough spots.

The car worked well in the heat, and although I lost one spot as the 3rd place starter got by
on the start, we finished third and made the feature in the heat.  There were some good
cars behind us that stayed there.

Top 4 in each of the heats redraw for starting spots in the A-Main and so I sent Dad in
again and he drew 4th.   This is a welcome change compared to the 23rd starting spot the
last two times out.  We made some stagger, and tire pressure changes from the heat and
we were ready to race.

The A-main lineup had the two top cars starting on the front row and a good solid car to
my inside.  The row behind me were cars that I felt I could outrun.  The race was pretty
uneventful at the front.  There was a complete restart and then 2 to 4 laps at a time as cars
kept spinning in turn four.  As the race progressed I basically ran with the car ahead of
me and got beside him once but was not able to pass.  The middle and top were loosing
bite as the race went on but I was still getting good bite off the  bottom so I decided to
stay low.  If someone was going to get by, they were going to have to go around the
outside.  One car did come cleanly along side getting into one and I came off even but he
was able to get through three and four quicker and got by.  Later in the race one of the
front row starters, running ahead of me, tangled with a lapped car and was towed to the
pits.  The crew saw smoke coming from our car and they were worried that we might
drop out or blow up.   We ended up fourth.  In the pits we found that a side cover bolt had
come loose and gear lube was leaking onto the hot brake rotor.  It smoked but it didn't
affect the braking. 

Fourth was a really good finish for us.  Several good cars started behind us and we stayed
ahead and could pull away on the many restarts.  The car worked good on the bottom and
had great forward bite coming out.   I could get in pretty good most times but sometimes
the front end would wash out, and then getting on the throttle in the middle of the corner,
the back end would get loose.  It was a challenge to drive the car and keep the balance
between getting in tight and still be able to hit the tacky line getting off.  The car is still
not right and we would have been in trouble if the bottom dried up.  The car went through
the middle but still doesn't have enough side bite to pass there or on the cushionless top. 

The field is pretty equal...  The Hoosier D-15 RR, ASCS heads, weight minimum and
track surface have leveled the playing field.  If we had started 12th we would have had a
hard time getting past about 8th.  Starting position means a lot here and the draw gives
everyone a random chance at a good starting spot.

So our fourth place finish was good for us.  It proved that we could run up front if given
the chance but we know that there is still a lot of improvement needed to beat the
competition.   We'll make some more changes for next week to refine the setup.

Black Rock 6-12
I spoke to the scorer about last week's finish and he showed me the scorring
sheets and explained the finishing order.  So with the yellow/checker finish we
were 14th.
The good news was that I improved my postition more than anyone else and was
given the Hard Charger Award for the night!  They presented the award $$ this
week on the front straight, after the B main and I drew the 50/50 ticket for a
lucky fan.  Looked like a good crowd.

This is the first week that we have raced with out the threat of rain.  It
was a sunny clear day and they had the track worked in and ready to go.
Our on going handling difficulties at this track have made each race night
a test session.  We have been trying to sort out this car and increase side
bite with changes each week.  This week we put on a different RR bird cage
with a lowered W-link mount.  We have already installed brand new bars and
shocks and changed height, tilt, rake, lead, stagger and pressures, gear
and we've straightened out the engine problem we had at Canandaigua.
The car keeps getting better but is still lacking.
I am also working with the driver to see if that's the problem
(I'm the driver on the track but the owner in the pits).
Another change is that I sent Greg in to draw for our starting position.
We've drawn a poor qualifying position every time we've been here.  Greg
kept the streak alive and pulled 35 so we started 8th in the second heat of
10 good cars, take 6.  Competition here is pretty equal.   There
are about 6 or 8 cars that could win on a given night, a group in the mid pack that can
finish 5th to 15th and some at the back.  We have been falling some where
in the mid pack.  If we start ahead of other mid pack cars they mostly
can't pass.  If we start behind them we can only pass a few.  It really puts
a premium on starting position, luck, setup and driving.
The car felt good in warm-ups, with the wet track and low cushion.  We
tightened the car for the heat.  There was one really good runner behind me
and other good mid pack cars in front.   I couldn't make headway and lost
one spot to finish 9th.   The car was ok in the corners but not great.  We
decided to change something for the B-Main.
Greg had an idea to change the RF bar so the guys did that and a few other
things for our feature setup.  I start 8th in the B, out of 10, they take 6.  The car
that was to start ahead of me had run poorly in his heat so I figured I
could get by but better yet, he didn't show.  So I started 6th and finished
6th and made the A main.
Starting at the back of the A meant watching out for the first lap spinners and
tangles.  We had a couple of restarts in the first two laps.  The track was still
good during the feature and I was able to pass a couple of cars on the bottom
and moved to the middle and found that the car hooked up pretty good there.
  I passed a couple more cars and as we got down to two to go I went to the
outside of two cars running side by side in the straight.  As we entered the first
turn, the car I thought was going to run the middle, decided to go to the pits
and pulled in front of me and slowed.  I was all over the brakes and ran over
his RR.  The front end flew in the air and I was able to back out of it and the
front end set back down. 
While I was collecting the car, three cars got back by me and I couldn't catch
them in the lap and a half left.  We ended up 14th.
The car worked better later in the race.  It looks like we may be getting closer
to a good setup.

Dick Hench
I read tonite (6/8) of the passing of Dick Hench.  Dick was a top sprint car mechanic long before I started racing sprints and was still involved this season.  He had wrenched for most all of the top owners in Central PA and for many of the top drivers.  His setups won lots of races and championships over the years. 

I first met him when I bought a car from Harold Chubb that Dick took care of.  I was learning and had the car all screwed up.  I talked to Dick at the track and he said "Bring it over to my house tomorrow morning and we'll take a look at it".  I unloaded the car the next morning in Dick's garage and he said "What'd ya do to that" as he looked at the W-link.  "That thing's gotta rattle so you can hear it when you running through the pits".  I had taken all of the play out of it.

Dick set up the car but told me what he was doing and how it would affect the car.  Next night at the track the car was totally different and much faster.

This past spring I was at Williams Grove, around Easter, and stopped by Lucas' Wolfe's car to talk to Randy Wolfe.  He invited me up to the roof of the trailer to watch the races and there was Dick - Randy's long time friend and consultant.    I hadn't seen Dick for 20 years but he hadn't changed a bit.  Still quiet, still coining phrases (rocks were goonies), still a total racer.  I talked to him about what he was doing and he told me about his son Rick and a limited sprint that they were racing. 

That night I told Dick that story of him helping me years ago and how I still use the stuff he taught me then.  I thanked him for teaching me his stuff and he said "That's what it's all about".  I was really glad I got to hang out with Dick and Randy that night.  Dick has always been a fixture for me...  always there...  always a part of sprint car racing in PA. It never crossed my mind that, that night would be the last time I'd get to talk to him.

  • HENCHCRAFT) We mourn the loss of our father and founder as racing has lost a true legend. Dick Hench has turned his final wrench, but his passion and competitive spirit will be carried on and adorned by the many fans, friends, and fellow competitors that have been inspired by his love for the sport. Thank you all for your thoughts, your prayers, and condolences as we deal with this most difficult time. Services will be held at the Highland Presbyterian Church, Newport. Viewing will be Tues. from 6pm to 8pm, and the funeral service will be Wed. at 11am. There will be a time for visitation on Wed. starting at 10am. Contributions may be made to the Gift of Life Donor Program, In Memory of Richard Hench, 2000 Hamilton Street, Suite 201, Philadelphia, PA 19130.6/7

    Black Rock 6-5-04
    It looked like rain again all day.  The forecast said rain and the radar had big splotches of green heading for the track but when we got there it hadn't rained at all and didn't rain all night.  The track can't get a break and fans aren't taking a chance on a rain out.

    We changed the Magneto and plugs during the week to fix the flat high RPMs on the motor.  We also changed to a lower gear than last time for Black Rock.

    I drew another crap number and that made it an uphill battle all night.  There are quite a few good cars and the rules make everyone pretty equal.  Some finish well one week and do not qualify the next.

    In warmups we tried some different things and with the track already drying we were too loose.  The motor was back to normal.

    The crew changed the stagger and shocks and we went out for the heat with our basic feature setup.  I started 8th (out of ten), 6 to qualify (30 cars in the pits).  The track had a ridge around the turns about a car width off the bottom.  The middle was slick and there was a little loose cushion at the top.  I could use the ridge like a cushion if I got into the corner just right but the front end would push sometimes if I missed the line.  If the RF got on that rough ridge it would bounce the front into the air and I had to wait for the front end to come down and hook up.  Everyone was fast and there were some fast cars behind me. I struggled with the car and finished 9th.

    We didn't have a lot of change to throw at the car for the B-Main but we changed pressures and wing angle and RF shock.  I started 8th in the B and was able to drive by three cars early on, to finish 5th.  The car was much better mostly because the track came to our setup.

    There wasn't a lot of time to get ready for the feature so the crew went over the car and we made a few more changes.  We are still searching for the right setup but each time on the track we are getting better.

    In the feature I started 23rd.  I figured that the best way around for me would be on the bottom because the little bit I ventured up into the next groove there was less bite with this car and I did all my passing on the bottom in the B.  The way things have gone at this track, there was a good chance that cars would get tangled up in the first turn.  It would be tough to come from the back with the car as it is so the best approach was to stay out of trouble and let things string out a bit. 

    By the end of the first lap the three wide wheel banging had stopped and I started working on the car in front of me.  As I passed a few of the cars ahead of me, the car got better.  There were a couple of spins and cautions mid way in the race. During the race I was only able to run with the pack but didn't have enough to get by.  Some laps I'd get along side and other laps they'd pull away.  By the end of the race I was 14th. 

    We are getting better with the chassis each week but we still have a way to go.  More changes to try for next week.


    Canandaigua 5-29-04 
    The weather was clear but cool with no rain in the forcast for a change.
    The best way to explain this race is to describe the luck.

    Bad luck - At the draw I picked the highest number.  That meant last in the third heat, 6 to qualify.

    Good luck - the third heat had nine cars, the other two heats had 10.  29 cars in the pits.

    Bad luck - no push overs in my heat, all good cars.

    We had a bit of a setup change on the bars and had all new Sanders X bars in the car.  New bars along with the new Shocks will eliminate any doubt in the active suspension parts as we continue to chase the setup.

    The track was a typical comb-over.  This is where they grade last week's cushion down over the glazed surface, water it and run it in.  Doing this means that the track will be smooth like the previous week.
    The 2 inches of loose dirt on top of the glaze will hold water in place so it can soak into the glaze instead of just running off.  The bad part is that the loose material and the packed glazed surface usually don't "knit".

    It was clear in warmups that the heavy, wet clay on top was getting peeled off and thrown out of the one lane of now smooth damp groove at the bottom.  The wet clay was coming up in 10 lb, loaf of bread, sized clumps that made a second groove rough and choppy.  The stock and modified classes ran their heats first so by sprint heat time the track was a groove and a half wide with a low, heavy, choppy cushion.

    I figured that the only way I was going to pass was to run the cushion and drive in on the outside or the car ahead of me.  The track was drying but still wet enough to have bite and everyone was fast.  Early in the heat a car went up in smoke as I entered turn 1.  I had passed one car and was chasing the car ahead of me but what I would gain in one turn, I would lose in another.  We had tightened the car up from warmups and it was pretty good getting in and there was still bite coming out. 

    Bad Luck -About half way through the heat, coming out of four, I either got over the cushion or the car in front of me threw up some big clumps.  I hit something so hard that it knocked both feet off the floor pan and it took a couple of seconds to gather myself up and get going again.  It really felt like it stopped the car, HARD, like running into another car but with no warning!

    Good Luck - I went through one and two and the red was out for a car that got over.  I was told that the car bicycled when it hit the cushion and flipped.  As I sat there waiting for a push truck there was a little steam coming from the left side.  Sometimes a splash of water on the headers will make steam but when I asked the official that came up to lock the car in gear, to look at the radiator, he said there was a stream of water running out of it.  I had them push me to the pits.

    Bad luck - There were 6 cars left on the track so we didn't qualify by default and in the pits the radiator and all the protective metal in front of it was stuffed back against the pulleys on the motor.  The radiator, shroud and nose were destroyed.

    The crew went to work digging 30 lbs of clay clumps out of the front of the radiator mess.  There were 3 clumps, each the size of a loaf of bread, wet and heavy.  I don't know how they got so high unless they were thrown up by the car ahead of me but I didn't see them.  One of the clumps crushed the stubby nose in front of the radiator, dead center.  The bottom of that nose is 18" off the track and may have been higher with chassis lift at that point.

    Good luck - In the pits other cars were beating floor panels back down and others were fixing damage to their radiator shrouds.  One car got hit as hard as ours and pushed the radiator into the oil pump and broke the belt and put a hole in the oil tank.  That car lost all the water and oil pressure and blew the motor.  That's the car that stopped early in my heat.  We were lucky that the red came out so that I didn't continue to race the motor with out water and cook it.

    Good luck -We scrambled to get the car ready for the B main.  Rick Dumigan had a spare radiator that he was able to loan to me along with some sheet aluminum. Greg fabricated a new radiator shroud while Rodney put fittings in the radiator and Jeff checked the rest of the car for damage.  Dad and I cobbed the screen back together with tie wraps.

    The mounts were broken so the radiator and shroud were held in with tie wraps and rubber straps.  We made it to the B-main and ran a strong third, they took four.

    Now we had some time to check things over and work on setup for the feature.  The track was drying but the bottom was still good so I decided to run the bottom from our 21st starting spot. 

    In the feature the car worked pretty good and came off the bottom strong.  The groove was really slick coming out of the turns and I was able to pass cars down below the groove each lap.  By a 9th lap caution I was up to 12th and moving forward. 

    On the restart some of the cars I had passed, used the cushion to come even with me.  As the race progressed, the car or the groove went away and the motor wasn't pulling.  Over the remaining laps I lost much of what I had gained and ended up 17th. 

    We are still checking out the motor at the shop.  I  think it is a bad mag.

    Bad Luck - After the feature we found that the RR shock mount pin was broken off so we had no RR shock.  The cushion was really rough in the heat and possibly when I hit the clumps the RR may have gone over a big lump too and fractured the pin.  That was part of the handling going away.

    Good luck - It was a lower shock mount so the shock just dangled.  Had it been the top mount, the shock would have beat up itself and everything near it, or worse. 

    You'll have those nights, that's racing, could have been worse...  yep, for all that went wrong it could have been a lot worse and a lot more expensive.  The crew was great, other racers helped us out, we made the show, learned some more about the setup we've been chasing and got some money to put things back together.

    Bad luck - Good luck - A few things went real wrong but other things worked in our favor.  We survived Canandaigua.

    Black Rock 5-22-04
    It's the second rainiest May on record here, with waves of storms sweeping over the state every two or three days.  We studied the radar saturday morning and saw that there was a dry patch headed toward southern NY so despite the 50% chance of rain forecast for saturday night, we thought there would be time to race.

    When we got to the track we were told that it hadn't rained there at all that day, the surface was ready and it finally looked like we would get a race in. 

    We had made some changes to the setup during the week and it was time to see how they would work.  In warmups the car was loose.  Not real bad but for a wet track it should have been stuck much better.  We discussed the options and the crew made the changes.

    ESS did not have a race this night and with everyone itchy to race, there were 38 cars in the pits.  Four heats with 9 good cars in ours.  I had drawn a number that put us 4th in the 3rd heat, 5 to qualify.

    The track was already drying by heat time with a little loose cushion right at the top.  The car was better but still loose so I couldn't get on it early in the corners like I need to.  Still it was better than it had been at this track and was raceable.  The pack strung out and I got passed late in the race so we ended up 5th but made the show.

    There wasn't much left to change, to tighten the car up other than shocks and stagger.  The crew went over the car and made the shock changes while I went for a tire.  Rodney and Jeff mounted the new LR while I watched the 17 car B-main and saw the track get dryer and dusty.  Passing was difficult.

    Lightning had moved in just before the 'B' and a few drops fell so the show was moved along quickly.  The lightning continued all around and overhead for over an hour while the features ran.  I would start our feature in 19th.

    There had been some spins in the 'B' and I expected that someone on the bottom would go around so as we took the green, I headed for the middle of turn one, hoping to get by the bottom row and have an out if something happened.  The cars on the bottom bobbled in the middle of the solid pack of cars that resulted in two cars on the cushion getting together with one on it's side.  The restart got one lap in and then with a single file re-start the race got going.  The car was much better in the feature.  We had tightened it up enough now, so that I had to move the wing forward to get rid of a slight push.  The smooth track allowed 3 wide racing but it was difficult to get an advantage on anyone.  I was able to hold my own and did some passing but got passed as well as things settled out.

    Near the end of the race I came out of two on the cushion and right on my line at the beginning of the straight was a car that was nearly stopped.  That part of the track tends to carry you out toward the wall and I had to react quickly to the left to get by without hitting him or getting crossed up.  Then entering three, I saw a car spin between the turns and dodged him.  With all the lifting and dodging for stuff right in front of me, I had slowed and got passed by several cars.  I was sure that the yellow had to have been out for the stopped car on the backstretch but he apparently got off the track and the race kept going.

    In the end we finished 18th and finally finished a race this year without damage.  We learned more about what this car needs at this place and we are getting faster... that was the main accomplishment of the night.  

    On the way home, about a half hour up the road we hit a blinding downpour and it rained all the way back.

    Rain 5-15-04
    Rained all day.

    Rain 5-8-04
    Black Rock rained out.  Radar showed rain coming so we saved the cost of the 2 hr tow and put it toward parts.

    Afton 5-7-04
    Racers don't forget and last season's race at Afton was memorable.  Besides running 10th and being posted as 11th at the end, the track was terrible.  Last years track was loose dirt, rough and rutty and the car even bottomed out in the straightaways from lumps and holes.  They didn't care enough to put the grader on the track.  So with Afton on the schedule (fri 5/7) this early in the season you can add typical spring time conditions (rough) and I'm not interested.  

    5-9-04 Turns our that my decision was right.  They said the track was worse than last year.  Lots of cars beat up by the track. Good miss.

    Black Rock 5-1-04
    It's been a difficult start to the season for us so far. Mechanically everything is working OK but we are still searching for the right setup and trying to stay out of trouble. We are making progess on the setup part but the other...

    On the setup front, Black Rock is somehow different for us, than most of the other tracks we have run and it has been a real challenge to get the car to work and feel comfortable. We tried some substantial changes in the setup this week and it really worked well. The car was raceable now but still needs some refinement to make it fast.

    The weather forecast was 30% chance of scattered T-showers early and 50% later, otherwise it was a beautiful 75 degree night. The track was sloppy when we got there and it took an extra hour and lots of racecar laps to work it in but when we got to race on it, it was tacky and fast and smooth.

    With the new setup we were guessing what the car needed for stagger and wing and got a clue in warmups and made some changes in stagger for the heat. The car was still a bit loose getting in, not too bad getting off but still lacking some side bite. We were in the second heat and it had most of the fast cars in it, making it tough to qualify if things weren't just right. On the first lap I was able to hold my own running the bottom and on the second lap there was a spin behind me in turn four. We restarted the race and got a few laps further into it when the car that had spun... (this is how it was told to me) came charging into the first turn way over his head and slammed HARD into my left rear and left side of the car. "HOLY SH*T, what the HELL was that?" The car pitched around but I was able to drive away and headed for the pits. The LR tire was torn open and the wheel ruined, nerf bar broken away and a new hole in the same side panel of the wing that we had repaired last week when a guy ran into the left side (on that rough track).  Fortunately he didn't hit the steering box.  When we got the car in the shop we found that the W-Link was all wadded up and the torque tube was bent.  Also the rear wing support was bent.  To replace it all with new would be well over $1000.  We worked several nights to repair as much as we could and replaced what was junk with some spares parts we have.  The rear looks OK.  We are hoping that nothing got broken that we didn't find.

    The guy that hit me and I are friends and we'd talked before the race. I don't know what his problem was but he spun twice in warmups, spun on the second lap of the heat and then drilled me a ton after that. It's odd but the only crash I had last year was when he hit me in the rear and spun me into another car in the first race of last season. I hope he calms down a bit and races instead of crashing. At least I hope he's more careful around me, anyway.

    They restarted the race as I drove to the pits on the flat and about 3 minutes later it poured down rain. I would have liked to see the rain about 5 minutes sooner! We scrambled around to get everything put away and get stuff covered (one of the few disadvantages of an open trailer, but at least we don't have to take the wing off to load the car :)

    Did you every ride with 5 other guys in an extended cab pickup for two hours with everybody is sitting in wet underwear?

    Black Rock 4-24-04

    First race of the season is always loaded with uncertainty. I wanted to go to one of the practice sessions at some track to shake down the car (and driver) but my job sent me out of town the week before the race and other test opportunities rained out. So the race was cold turkey for us.

    I talked to some of the guys that had run the Friday night practice and they said the track was great, real smooth.... but that was last night.

    My first laps were warmups. The track was wet and I expected that the first warmup session would be tacky so we had a bunch of stagger on and the car was really loose.

    We cut down the stagger for the heat and tightened the chassis a bit but it was still loose and I was going backwards. A couple of laps in and two cars spun in front of me and I tapped one with the LF trying to avoid the tangle. Another car spun in front of me later in the heat but in the end, I qualified for the feature.

    The track had lots of moisture in it but it wasn't sticky. The clay kind of smooths over and the tires leave a print but don't seem to have bite. The car seemed stagger loose so we put on our largest LR tire and reduced the stagger even more.

    In the feature, we stared 14th and the car worked much better ,but it still wasn't sticking like it needed to. Coming off the corners it got slick and the tires would spin unless I really tucked the car down low coming out but then there wasn't much corner exit speed and I couldn't make any headway.

    The worst part of the race was the track conditions. I guess you'd call it typical spring time conditions. It was really rough in the turns. Actually it was worse than rough. One lap I drove in on the bottom of three, a bit higher than the previous laps and caught the mounds that had developed there and the front frame dug in and then the car flew through the air as the tires went over it. It landed so hard that I thought I had a flat RR so I let off. As I went down the front straight it felt ok so I continued to race but lost a lot of spots before I could get going.

    The only place I could run and not beat the car to death was on the bottom but I tried the top on the last few laps to see if there was another way around. On the last lap, a car that had been running behind me must have caught that same mound inside of me in three. All I saw was the bottom of his car and tires as he came from behind and ran over the LR with his RF and RR tires up against the left side of the roll cage. As I was on the brakes, he quickly continued over my LF and vaulted over the front of the car and out over the 4th turn banking.

    I finished (16th) but had some damage to the wings and hood that took most of the week to repair.

    The track was as bad as I have ever raced on. I can't blame the track owner because I don't think that it was a preparation problem. I think that there is still so much ground water in the soil that as we ran on the track we kneaded the heavy clay into mounds and moguls like skiers do. I walked the track after the race and there wasn't anywhere where the track actually tore up. All the lumps and bumps were made where the clay was pushed in and squeezed up. Some of the mounds were the size of a mattress and as thick. It was still spongy like heavy stiff bread dough. The weird thing about the surface is that it didn't race like it's tacky although my sneakers made prints on the clay in the turns after the race.

    Some guys have more money than me and bounced the cars through the turns but it's a long season and I wasn't going to pound on the car first time out. Hopefully the track will stiffen up this week and stay smooth.

    Black Rock was a problem track for me last season and so far we aren't much better. So we made some changes to the chassis setup for next week.



    March 15 2004

    Here's some pictures of the car and the shop.

    Armond assembles parts at the bench.

    Engine and parts in the background.

    Rodney and Jeff assemble and adjust rear suspension.

    Engine in the bag, injectors on the bench.

    Greg makes and lightens parts on the mill.

    Final assembly of the J&J chassis.



    March 1 2004

    Winter is coming to an end but we still have a foot of snow on the ground.  Work has progressed since last fall in the new garage.  We finished the insulation and drywall and got all of the shop equipment working (although they need to be painted).   Last years motor has just a few races since being freshened, but we will go through it again and a new motor is in the works. 

    We stripped the car to the frame and did repairs and rebuilds to the parts and pieces.  Now we are putting the car back together and building new spares.

    The same crew will be working on the car at the track and in the shop.

    Jeff is cutting out some brackets on the band saw.
    (NO, the shop walls are not pink, just a jpeg color compression :)

    We will be ready for the April opener at Black Rock Speedway.


    Winter 2003 - 2004

    A year ago I decided to get back into sprint car racing.  In October 02, I had just bought a used sprint car and didn't have a garage, truck or trailer and I wasn't sure where I would be able to race.  A lot has happened in a year. 

    2003 was a building year.  I built a race shop next to the house last spring and worked out of it all summer.  This fall I have worked on finishing the inside and getting the rest of the shop equipment setup.

    This winter we are working on freshening the car and building a motor.

    The 2004 racing schedule is the big news so far.  The Patriots Sprint Group proved to be all it promised.  We had great races at a lot of different tracks.  Our 12th place in points, ( and

    we did not go to25% of the races) relates to consistant finishes and some good runs.

    With Boundless Motor Sports buying DIRT and the Outlaws, and Charlie Capara buying three tracks, there has been a lot of politics going on.  Black Rock Speedway decided to drop its friday night DIRT modified show and go to Saturday night with Sprint Cars.  This is a huge step for sprint car racing in New York State.  Until now there has never been a NYS track that ran sprints on Saturday night on a weekly basis (a couple of tracks have run sprints on Friday nights in the past) and the track is one of the best facilities in the state. 

    There is lots of speculation about what may happen with Dirt and Sprints now that Boundless will control both.  It looks like Black Rock decided that now is the time to make a move.  BR will remain part of DIRT but the sprints will be sanctioned by the Patriot Sprint Group, effectively giving the traveling group a home track.

    So our plan is to run Black Rock and the closer Patriot road shows.  Looks like a great schedule for us for '04. 

    Last season I expected to run some ESS shows but we only made it to one race and had motor trouble at that one.  For us, the ESS schedule is very difficult.  Lots of Friday night races, 3 to 5 hour tows to most of the tracks and a tail of the field starting spot if you miss a race.

    So this is the Blog (web log) for the upcoming season.  News as it happens.....

    I checked with the Patriots about my number 80 and found that Dan Deming already registered it for '04.  Last year I registered the number first and they (the old owner of the Patriots) also registered Deming as 80 so I ended up running 80w again.  So this year I am thinking about using my original go kart number of 180 (if we can fit it and make it look good). 




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