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2006 Wrap up
With the holiday season at hand and the new year just around the corner,
it's time to wrap up 2006 and look toward a new season.
This past year has been a mix of highs and lows.
Early in the season we had some pretty good runs.
A fourth at Stateline was our best finish and
from 17th to 8th at Rolling Wheels was our best and most satisfying race.
The fifth at McKean was a good finish when we needed some confidence. Our
4th place standing in the points, part way though the season was the best
record that we've had so far in the past several years of racing. The
motor ran great and we had the parts and pieces we needed to make it to the
end of the season. We never fell out of a race with a mechanical failure.
Greg Moteyunas has been a key to everything we do well. He is the crew
chief in the pits and makes sure that everything gets done so that I don't
have to worry about the car being ready. We've worked together long
enough that we know each other's thoughts. We discuss setups and the
competition and work together in the shop year round, to get ready for the
next race. His part is as important as any part of the race car in being
competitive at the track. Greg's contribution is greatly appreciated by
As a racer you seem to not be able to forget the disappointments and 2006
had plenty. Aside from the difficulties and breakdowns of the tow
vehicles, the discouragements of not qualifying for some shows had me
questioning our ability to race. We got lost on setups at times and
couldn't hit our ass. Dave Ely has become a very good friend and helped
point us in the right direction. The frustration of bad runs was
overshadowed by miserable crashes.
After our great runs early in the
season we came upon a bad luck streak that we couldn't shake. I've been
through it in the past and no matter how I've analyzed it, tried to work
around it, or beat it, a bad luck streak is something you have to just
race through. Each time things would go bad we would optimistically get
ready for the next race with deeper preparation and commitment to be
careful but race hard.
Toward the end of the season we were on the hook
four times in three races. We got upside down twice and bent the frame
twice really trashing one car. No doubt it could have been worse and
fortunately I didn't get hurt. There are lots of things that could have
happened and didn't and we are thankful for that.
Of course the biggest set back was the loss of my father. Since I came
back to Brewerton from full time racing in Pennsylvania in the late '80s,
my father and I have lived next to each other and worked together in his
hardware store and at home. We went to a lot of races together as fans and
he was at every race I ran since 2000 when I got back into it. He never
had any grandchildren so I was the kid. Dad was always fixing something
and liked to work on his 'turn of the last century', make and break engines
with the big flywheels. He loved racing and was a major fan going from
everything from formula one to go kart races. He loved to snow ski and
snowmobile and did the same thing on water with his boat, when the snow
melted. Before I came along, he did his part in WWII as a flight engineer
on air-sea rescue planes. He liked things mechanical and was great help
working on the race cars with me.
I miss him not being next door, keeping an eye on the properties. I miss
him not showing up at the shop ready to make parts, take stuff apart, make
repairs. I miss not working on his projects. I will miss him and the
happiness he would have had, when we finally get our wins.
Everyone have a Great Holiday.
On to 2007 and better times.
Silver Springs Racer's Flea Market 11-5-06
The end of the season brings on new tasks. Initially, focus swings to
winterizing everything around home that has been put off in favor of
getting the racecar ready for the next event. Then November brings on the
flea market season.
For the past few years, Dad would always go along and stay with the table full of
thing we had for sale but for our team, and this is also the time when we stock up
for next year. This year I will be buying only. With flea market prices at 10
cents to 50
cents on the dollar, it's hard to pass up finding new, nearly new, used or
repairable parts that we can use for next year. It's important for me to
buy brand new parts for areas that make a difference in performance or critical
strength, however, most stuff works just as well used as it does new and
new parts are used once you race them anyway. Lots of teams don't want to
be bothered with repairs and nearly give stuff away that only needs a
little effort to make it good as new.
This year we ended the season with a complete car in tact, and a spare
motor. Tommy had taken his and my damaged (now spare) frames to LPS racers
where Rick would replace the part of the frame from the radiator forward on
my chassis and the rear section of Tommy's. We will put our second frame
back together this winter as a second car.
Tom Bashford (driver Nick's, father), Tommy and myself took one rig (Tom B's
enclosed trailer) and left on Friday late afternoon for the huge Silver
Springs racer's flea market that was now relocated to the large paved
parking lot at the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex. This gathering is
primarily Sprint, Mini sprint, karts, and some latemodels with big teams
from all over showing up with everything from complete cars to individual
parts for sale. No one was supposed to enter the grounds until midnight
with selling to start at 6am, but as in the past, many teams showed up
early and instead of leaving them lined up at the gate and along the road,
they let them in to park and setup.
When we arrived at 11pm Friday night there were nearly 100 teams already
there. Stuff was out on tables at the back of their trailers, generators
running, lights on, stuff for sale. When our truck stopped, I hopped out,
got my two wheeled cart and started looking for the stuff on my list. I
found a couple of near perfect top wings real cheap and brought them back
to our trailer to find that Tommy and Tom B each had a couple of wings
also. We loaded them to the front of the trailer and headed back
The trailer is now half full.
More teams keep arriving all night. I would find some things that I
needed at one end of the giant layout, head back to our trailer and see
that a new row of stuff was being set up at the other end. This is a
competition. When something good is sold, it's gone. Early bird gets the
worm. It is aggravating to hear about a great deal on a part you missed
out on. There was no wind but the temperature kept dropping. I walked up
and down the rows all night, heavy jacket, hood wrapped tight, gloves and
long underwear, looking for the best price or condition of the things I
needed. I was buying and searching and sometimes found myself looking at
the same parts on the same tables over and over, occasionally seeing
something I had over looked before.
Just before sun up, the few puddles on the pavement froze. As the sky
brightened, teams were now entering in a steady line, headed for a new
unused area of the lot with stuff to sell. More ground to cover, the
buying crowd was now filling the isles. As I was looking over the parts
on one team's tables I realized that I had come upon the team that I had
bought our spare frame from last year. They now had another J&J frame for
sale that they had kept as a spare for themselves last season. It was the
best of their used stuff. They offered it to me at a price that was half of
what it cost for LPS repairs on my other frame and lots less than I had
paid for my other frames or the price of a new one. It was straight and
looked in good condition and it was cheap enough that I couldn't pass it
up. We rearranged all the stuff in the trailer so that we could fit it in
and still have room for the other two frames that we had to pick up at LPS
before heading home. I kept bringing more stuff to pack in.
I didn't find everything I was after but I found most of it. The project
for the winter is to assemble the second car, repair damaged or worn parts,
fabricate some new pieces and get spares ready. That will make it easier
next summer to deal with a problem and not have to scramble around looking
for parts or pay prices I can't afford for new stuff when things go wrong.
There's one more flea market at Kreitz Speed Equipment on Thanksgiving
weekend where I'll finish my shopping for the season.
We already have a long list of projects for the winter and we'll have fun
putting it all together and racing it next season. If you are in the
neighborhood and would like to join in the fun, drop me an email. I'll
train you in the Way of the Sprint Car.
10-7-06 Rolling Wheels Raceway
You never know what weather you will get in October. It's usually cold and rainy
and you're hoping that your race day fits into a dry window. Most events on the previous
weekend were called after half way when the drizzling rain swept the eastern states. That
opened up a giant clear hole of cloudless skies and warm temperatures... perfect fall
weather for now traditional 360 sprint race at DIRT motorports owned, Rolling Wheels
The event has grown over the past few years to include
URC, ESS and the Patriot Group. As the car counts have increased, there has been less and
less need for a support class and the decision this year to make it a sprint only event
was supported with the perfect week of weather. Sixty nine cars showed up for the $3000 to
win event which would be the Saturday night entertainment for the Super Dirt Week crowd in
town for the big modified race at the Syracuse fairgrounds mile. The stands were full,
like they were for the Outlaw race in June.
The heats for this race were lined up by an open draw.
Six heats of eleven or twelve cars and three to qualify. They ran a 75 lap modified race
on this track the night before and although it would be smooth, it was certain to be slick
to icy. As I stood at the edge of the turn I could see that it was wet but the packer tire
ribs didn't penetrate. There was little depth to the moisture in the hard packed surface.
The draw would be make or break for most teams. The long straights on this 5/8 oval demand
a strong engine. The slick corners and corner exits mean that setup is critical and
finding a line with some bite could make the difference in getting by.
As the drivers meeting ended, sixty nine drivers got in
line to draw a number out of the hat. I was near the back of the line and as I approached
the official I asked if they left any good numbers. He said sure and as I looked down at
his clip board, I saw the lowest numbers open. I reached into the hat and picked through a
few of the folded papers as I focused on the number one on the clipboard sheet. I pulled
it out and said "number one" making a joke as I started to open it. As I
unfolded the paper square, there it was... number 1. The sudden realization that we had a
chance at making the show hit like a ton of bricks. We would start on the pole of heat #1.
Sure we were there to race but we knew where we stood
in the pecking order. We were there for the Patriot show up points, because it was close,
because I like this track and we did well there at the Patriot race earlier this year.
Yeah we were there to race but there were dozens of teams there to win and had brought the
resources to back it up like teams with three cars, new tires, fresh motors, ringer
drivers... Plus this is a grudge match of sorts with the three organizations wanting to
beat the other two for bragging rights.
Yeah we were there to race, keep the car in one piece
and see how we could stack up against the rest. It's a personal or team test of
strength... a measure of ability to beat as many other teams as we can. The pressure was
on now. It didn't make a lot of difference in what we wanted to do with the car but we had
to make the most of what we had. Being short on funds, we were running tires that had seen
several races (to be honest, more like half a season). The grooves were deep
but the compound was probably toughened up a bit with all the temperature cycles they had
Hot laps were disappointing. We were out in the second
group so that we were on a track that was worked in a bit. Our session had two yellows and
I never got a complete lap in. I hadn't raced in a month and was a bit tentative with this
recently assembled car at this fast track. I wanted to make sure it went straight on the
straightaways and turned as expected. I'd have to find out in the heat. On the pole with a
friend and successful veteran along side I picked up the pace in three. Usually that works
to get both cars up to speed as we get to four but the guy on the outside of the front row
took that to mean go and he stood on it and beat me to the starting cone in four.
By rights they should have thrown the yellow and told
us "side by side at the cone in four" on the radio but they seldom bring back a
start. It was my stupid approach to the start. I should have jumped on it and tried to get
the jump on the field instead of expecting a fair start. The bottom was already slick and
the rest of the night nearly all of the starts were won by the outside row at the cone. I
fell in line in second and drove comfortably into one, protecting the bottom but getting
on it as soon as there was bite. Coming out of two was fast. The track hadn't dried out
yet. I could run the middle at both ends. As the tires came in and I gained confidence in
the side bite, I drove in harder. I closed on the leader as he ran the top, in three and
four, but lost ground in one and two.
Halfway through the race, a car drove by on the very
bottom between three and four. The defending PSG series champion was hooked up that much
better and was able to exit the turn a bit faster. He took the lead and I continued to
follow the second place car. Coming out of four for the white flag, I was battling with a
car on the outside. He pulled ahead and I tried to get past him coming out of two and
going into three but just didn't have enough scoot. I ended up following him across the
line for 4th, one spot out of qualifying and on the pole for the B main.
The car was stable and pretty well balanced. We had the
same setup on that worked for us earlier in the year with the other chassis. Knowing what
we found out from the heat, we would have been better if we had changed some shocks and
tire pressures but we didn't want to be too tight. The track still had bite but we needed
better corner speed. New tires probably would have helped just enough. We made our changes
for our B main. The had a 14 car B for each pair of the 6 heats. With this number of cars
on hand, every race was packed with good cars. Every driver knew that they had to finish
passing the cars that they hadn't been able to in the heats.
The heats had strung out pretty quickly, which is
typical of long-straight ovals. If you could get out ahead of the pack they couldn't catch
you. 12 lap B. The track is slicker but still has bite. The guy on the outside of the
front row has been leading at the green at each start. The bottom of four is very slick.
This time I jump on it between the turns and we get to the forth turn together but he
keeps me pinned down and I have to back pedal to keep from drifting out into him. I fall
in line in second and drive deep into one on the bottom. The cold tires don't hook up as
well as they will but it's the same for everyone. The car drifts across the turn, tires
spinning and hooks up best on the higher side of two. After a few laps, there is a yellow
and the gap I had back to third is gone.
On the restart I drove in to one and the car drifted
off the bottom and hooked up high in two. I lost enough time drifting that I got passed at
the end of the back straight. The track was really changing now and my line was getting
very slick. I tried higher but was afraid some one would sneak in on the bottom. I tried
very low. Another caution. Late in the race, I set the car into one and hit a slick patch
that hadn't been there before the lap before. The back came around and I had to wait for
it to hook up. It screwed up my line in the corner as the car drifted across the now slick
middle to the outside of turn two. A car on the cushion turned under me and beat me out of
two. I held position for the last few laps of the race and finished forth. Very
disappointing. We had every opportunity to qualify. We still out ran and
pulled away from a bunch of good cars. Dad would have said" Not too bad
considering that there were lots of good cars behind you at the end that you out
It was a respectable showing against a very strong
field of car on a very fast track. Greg and I diagnosed what changes we would have made if
we had it to do again. I know that I would liked to have had 20 laps of driving practice
before the race and new tires but the art of the sport is educated guessing and being
sharp at the drop of the green. Back when I was racing three times a week I was always
sharp but now with some age and long layoffs between races it takes a few laps to get up
to speed. There is nothing that builds confidence like turning the car in and having it
stick. That comes from getting to know the cars and what setups work at what tracks.
This car felt really comfortable. It ran straight and
was pretty neutral in the turns. We are back to a point where we can race and we've got
all winter to get things ready for next year. The plan is to get the good motor freshened,
do some dyno work on the second motor, go through the car we ran at the end of the season
and put the other J&J together as a complete roller. We'll hit the flea markets in a
few weeks. That will keep us busy this winter.
9-26-06 September update
The season comes to a close in a week or so at nearby Rolling Wheels
Raceway on Saturday 10-7. This has been a good track for us and we had a
good run back in early June. It was the last race that Dad got to see and
we came from 17th to 8th, passing a lot of cars. Dad was really happy
that Tuesday night.... the stroke came on the following Sunday morning.
Dad's last week was a good one with a couple of good race finishes for us.
We swam together in the pool for about an hour on Wednesday and discussed
what had gone on at the tracks and worked together in the race shop on
Saturday. He was still having fun.
Since then, the season has had it's ups and downs. We had a good run at
McKean and there were a few nights where we missed the setup completely.
Then, for a while, we couldn't make it past the first turn without
crashing and rain canceled a few other races.
As bad as things were for us this season, we stood 14th in points with ASCS
Patriots at the end of the full point season. At most races there was a
full field of cars so I guess that means that all but 13 other teams had
worse finishes on average or missed more races. The last three races this
season are open events with all the 360 groups participating. The Patriot
group gives 100 show up points for each of those events. There was one
team within 100 points of us that went to the Canadian Nationals (we
didn't) so we dropped to 15th in points. We will go to the last race at
Rolling Wheels with URC, ESS and Patriots and will get the show up points
and we will place us 15th for the season. We were 4th in points when Dad
had the stroke, there are 60 teams on the points roster and we didn't go to
5 shows, so 15th is pretty good. I never chased points but it is fun to
see how we stack up.
The truck got another new transmission sine it blew up coming back from the
last race. It was fully covered under warranty and they paid for the
labor. Apparently something broke inside, as the heat tag didn't show any
overheating. The next race is close by, so it won't get too much of a
test. This fall I have to build a mount for the plow so we can use the
truck to keep the driveway clear. One more job on the list of stuff to do
Tommy took my frame along with his crashed J&J frame to LPS racers a
couple of weeks ago. Hopefully they will be able to get to them by
Thanksgiving when I go to PA and I'll bring them back.
We used up some parts this year so this winter will be a time to get some
spares built or repaired. The plan is to get a steering box and some other
pieces so that we can have a complete spare car ready to go. The Silver
Springs Flea Market has been the place to pick up a lot of what we've
needed and now that the speedway was sold and a Target Store on the site,
the flea market has been moved to the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex. It
will be outside but on a huge paved lot. Dad and I had been going to SS
flea market for the past few years. He was always a lot of help, either
selling the stuff we brought or carrying parts we bought back to our truck.
He always enjoyed the trip and seeing all the stuff that was for sale.
We were able to roll the car on the trailer at the last race, for a change,
so it was just routine maintenance in the shop to get ready for the final
race. The off time has let me catch up on many of the projects that were
put off during the summer.
My mother is 78 but still active. She has been going to horse shows with
my sister, a horse trainer. When my sister and I were growing up, Mom and
my sister were showing horses while Dad and I went racing. My
and I did a 5 mile canoe trip a few weeks ago and she never stopped
paddling. We went around, over and under lots of fallen trees as we
traveled up a winding creek off the nearby river. We have been going out
to eat or doing day trips to different places as we can. She has a rental
house that was vacated last month and she is spending most days there doing
outside and inside painting, cleaning , doing some repairs and shopping for
materials. I have been working with her on the weekends doing the heavier
work. This has been like a part time/ full time job for her. It keeps
her thinking and planning and moving. She's tired at the end of the day
but I think that will keep her strong.
9-9-06 Black Rock Speedway
When you're hot, you're hot and when you're not, you're not. We haven't
been able to finish a race night without crashing for the past three races.
We crashed on first laps, hot laps and B-mains and never even made it to
the feature. It makes you question everything. What's going to happen
next. It's all so unexpected and all so out of your control.
We didn't learn much from the last outing at Utica Rome, except that the
motor was OK and our super soft setup didn't work on a tacky, rough track.
We focused so much on getting the back-up car together that week that we weren't
thinking much about setup... and I was a bit gun shy as well.
So this week, Greg and Whip and I put another front axle assembly in the
car and another front wing and checked out everything else to make sure we
didn't miss some damaged part. We also decided to change bars and go back
to the basic setup that had been suggested to us last time we got lost.
I changed bars and went through the setup completely to put everything back
to a known starting point. For me, this doesn't mean I'll be fast right
out of the box because this is a new chassis that I don't have any
experience with and our basic setup is always a starting point that we
refine at the track in response to what the car needs. So I expected to
be close, but I didn't know what to expect.
We were headed to Black Rock for the Bully Hill 360 National event. The
best from URC, ESS and PSG would be there to compete for the big money and
bragging rights. Every time I've gone to this event, I have not done
well. In the past, I have always drawn a late qualifying number. Back in
the day, I used to be a very good qualifier and looked forward to time
trial races, but recently, we haven't had the car dialed in by qualifying
time and my lap times have been bad. I've tried to compensate and have
over driven the car each time. That only brings on more trouble.
In hot laps the car was good but a little loose. I drew 15, a good
qualifying spot out of the field of 65 cars in the pits. The track was
smooth with loose dirt grinding off and no cushion. We figured the track
would be a little dryer after the 5 hot lap sessions but didn't want to get
it too tight so we changed pressures and wheel spacing and wing and went to
I watched the cars ahead of me and listened as they ran the
laps without lifting... my car hadn't felt good enough for full flat out
during hot laps. The first lap I ran around the high middle of the track.
The gearing was great and the tires would just break loose coming out. I
had to brake and back out to half throttle in the corners and that lap felt
pretty good but wasn't going to b fast.
There was a vein of darker clay down lower and I decided to
try that line on the second lap and expecting a little more help from the
tire coming in I drove into one without lifting.
It was more than the car could handle and it slowly
got more and more sideways. I kept back pedaling until
it finally hooked up just before it was too far gone. That
lap was shot so I just let off and drove to the infield scales instead of
running the second lap.
My first lap felt good but it was slow by comparison to the field and we
were in the D-main. Greg and I made some more changes. I
second in the 12 lap, 15 car race, two to qualify. The pole sitter took
off and I chased him through the first turn. We ran about half of the race nose to
tail when a caution came out for a spin. A lap or so after the restart, the
third place car nosed under me and got a run out of four. He crossed in
front of me and went into one on top. I drove in low getting a good bite
and beating him out of two. We finished second and transferred to the
back of the C-main.
I've done enough of these big events to know what to expect. Sure we came
to race but making the A from the D was a tall order for even the best of
teams. We were coming off a streak of crap luck that we weren't sure had
ended. There's no sense trashing a car while fighting for something like 12th in the
C main and starting at the back of the C, (which was loaded with good talent ,
some squirrels, and a bunch of hard charging optimists) meant that I'd have
to pass 20 cars to get to a top two transfer spot AND if that miraculous
performance were to happen, that would only start me last in the B with a
similar challenge. There was no money to be made in the C and I was quite
happy and relieved that we were finally able to put twelve laps together
without crashing, and be a bit racy in the process.
The temperature suddenly dropped and the skies were getting dark and it
looked like rain was coming. The track got wet from an hour of drizzle.
It looked like a rain out but they ran the track in and it was smooth and fast.
There was some money for starting the C but from last it meant that
everything that might happen, would be in front of me. I would have to
dodge other people's problems with little to gain.
We made some more changes and I started last in the C for a little track time to
test the changes and get a feel for this newly put together car. I let
the field go and then ran a few hard laps and pulled in with the car in one
piece and ready for the next race.
We loaded up, watched the B and A main and headed for home.
About 45 minutes from home, I noticed that the truck engine was running
faster than it had been. To make another long story short, it was another
failed transmission in the truck. This happened to us back in June and I
had the transmission replaced with a remanufactured Jasper.
I babied the throttle and I got within 5 miles of home when it finally broke and we
rolled to a stop. I called cousin Tommy who was 20 minutes behind and he
and his father Jerry (in a separate pickup truck) came to the rescue. We
hooked the trailer to Jerry's truck and we brought the car home and left
the truck on the shoulder. The transmission has a 3 yr 75000 mile
warranty. I"ve put less than 2000 miles on it. It should be
You don't know what can jinx you. I saw all cows standing and thought that
was a good sign. Was thinking that, a jinx? Or when talking to someone
at the track after we loaded up I had said "we were glad to have the car in
one piece. After the way things had been going we were lucky to get to the
track without crashing". Jinx?
At least it's under warranty and Jerry was close behind with an empty
9-3-06 Utica Rome Speedway
Things go in streaks. We had a long streak of finishing races and not
having problems. When luck changes, you have to work though it until it
The Saturday race was rained out and this track is
home and we needed to find out what was going on with the motor last time
out so we went to the ESS race there on Sunday. With only 27 cars on hand
it should be easy to make the show.
It rained all day Saturday as remnants from the Gulf Hurricane moved through.
Sunday was very overcast with pop up showers. We got to the track when
the gates opened at 2:30 and pitted on high ground. The track had lots
more water in it than usual and they were working it hard to get it packed
in. It rained a little bit before hot laps and they worked that water in
When the modifieds went out for hot laps you could see how rough it
was. There was a big hole at the entry to one and the cars just kept
digging it out. I watched the first sprint session and one car went
through the hole and jumped into the air, nose down. He landed and
didn't flip but cleared the banking before he landed. I took note and
looked the corner over pretty close on the slow laps before my session took
It was rough in the middle and looked smoother at the top. At the
green I drove into one, let off and turned in and as I went around the
outside of the hole, the car caught and flew into the air.
The pictures don't show the worst of it.
I don't know what happened
but the car came down on all four and took another bounce as I went
over the banking. I was sure it was going to start flipping but it dropped
down on all four again and finally settled down after a few more bounces.
It had stood up on it's nose like the earlier car and was only held from going over
RF corner. When it stopped I got out and saw the front end on the ground.
They towed me in.
Greg and I worked on the car, digging out the packed in mud and getting
radius rods changed and decided to put in a stiffer RF torsion bar. We
came with a set up on the car for the usual Utica Rome ice rink but with
all the rain, it looked like it was going to keep it's bite and be rough as
hell for the rest of the night. I figured that our soft setup might be partly
It rained again before the heats and they reworked the track. It actually
came in a bit better this time after more packing and grading. Still
overcast and getting dark, we started the racing after a couple hours
We were in the third heat. Eight cars, six to qualify, I start 7th.
Drop of the green and I get on it. The car isn't real stable. I run in
on the bottom but the car doesn't respond real well. It is rough and the
car is jumping a round. I try other lines but can't really run hard. I
don't make any headway and end up 7th and on to the B main.
We find that the RF shock mount bolt was sheared off at the axle mount.
The shock is OK but broke loose during the race. We fix it and make some
more changes quickly and decide to make a RR bar change. It's a big change
and more suited to the rough track.
We change shocks and stagger and just as Greg is tightening
the rear wheel nuts, the car slips off the jack.
It could go two ways. One way and the jack goes toward the rear and the car
comes down. The other way and the jack slides under the floor pan, which
is the way it went and it popped all the rivets on the left side of the pan and bent
the pan up against the brake pedal. Not only did it get pushed up but the
part the wraps around the back of the rear support tube snapped up over top
of it, locking it into place. Just then they started the 4 lap dash and
we're up next. Scrambling around in the dark wet grass, we manage
figure out a solution, cut the tab off that's above the tube and wedge the
floor pan back down.
I jump in and Greg pushes me to the track, all other
cars are pushed off and I'm getting my belts and helmet on and all the
other stuff. They wait for me and I drive up to my third place starting
They throw the green. Bad start. We restart and the outside row
goes by. I can't get around the rough bottom too well and start running
the top. The car really works better up there and now I can start to
drive in harder and keep on the pedal at part throttle going in. Coming
out of four the car takes a big push toward the wall as I get too much bite
and the front end lifts, but when I back off, it still pushes. It finally
hooks up before I meet the wall but this is no fun. I'm chasing the car
but now I'm starting to catch back up to the pack.
I've figured out a way to get the car through the corners with some
speed and control.
I close nearly a full straight on the car ahead and
drive into one on the outside.
I know this guy and he always runs the bottom. It's the last transfer
spot and I'm racin hard to get by. Between the turns I've got a run on
him and as we come out it's a drag race down the back straight. I've got
my LF up to his side nerf bar. He sweeps off the bottom out into the groove and half
down the straight he wiggles and whack.... he jumps over my LF and turns
me sideways. I'm pointed at the outside wall and sliding, left side first.
I'm still sliding and thinking that pretty soon it's going to hook up and
the LR will dig in. I see the other car spinning as he goes off the track
near the end of the straight. I'm still sliding and the car straightens
out. I get off the brakes and can't steer as the car turns left into the
2 ft high pile of sticky wet clay that they scraped off the track and rolled
up at the inside edge.
The car lumbers into it and I get it stopped,
sitting on top of the clay rim. I'm pissed, frustrated, mad, embarrassed,
and out of the show. Second tow in tonight. The only good thing is
I didn't flip. I missed two good chances. This time.... front axle
bent, shock jammed, radius rods, tie rod, drag link, front wing (third one
in three races) all used up.
Greg and I put it together enough to roll it on the trailer. At least we are
only an hour from home. We watch the feature and leave. It's 1:30 am and
they wadded up a few more cars before it was over.
One of the things that we wanted to find out was if the motor problem was
fixed after I found two partially clogged nozzles. As far as I could
tell, it ran OK. This chassis should work the same as the other one but
it was hard to tell on this track. It felt awful but that may just have
been the wrong setup for the conditions. We have some repairs to do this
week and I'll put our basic setup back in the car for the next race, next
Saturday at Black Rock.... Bully Hill Nationals, 60 cars from ESS, URC
and PSG series. I'd just like to break this bad luck streak and finish a feature.
8-30-06 Rebuild Update
Haven't had much time to update our progress here.
I've been spending
evenings in the shop, doing what we ran out of time to do last winter.
Greg and Whip have helped put another car together from the spares that we
did get ready last winter and not use parts from the other car or spares in
the trailer, as much as possible. There are some pieces that we had to
transfer, like the seat and steering box. The J&J frame matches up to the
car that was crashed, so we are using the other car as a template for some
parts that we fabricate. We decided to reuse the hood because it was
lettered and had little damage.
The wings were waded up so we will be using a top wing
that we used in the past.
The other frame isn't bent up too bad. The RF corner got folded up and it
looks pretty good from the radiator back. I'll take it to LPS racers in PA
this fall for repairs and we will put that car back together this winter.
I checked the engine to see what was causing it to run
flat and the only
thing I could actually find wrong was two nozzles that were partially
clogged. I'm not sure if that was the whole problem or not and the only
way to really know is to run the car. The only other thing that it can be
is the mag. The timing was OK and there was no obvious damage to the cap
or other visible areas. It is possible that something inside the mag may
have been jarred loose in the Can Am crash. I want to try it with the
cleaned nozzles first to see if that was the problem. If it still runs
flat, then I'll change the mag. There should be enough time between hot
laps and the heat race at the next race.
The next race was to be at Freedom Speedway on Friday
9/1 but it has been
cancelled so we will go to the race at McKean County PA for the final point
race for the Patriot Group.
We put the same setup on this car that we used on the other car and we
expect that it will work as well as it did before when we ran there. For
now we are concentrating on putting the hardware together.
8-12-06 Black Rock Speedway
With the disappointment and repairs from the last race behind us, Greg
and I headed for Black Rock for the Patriot sanctioned, annual sprint race
that they have been having the on the night before the Nascar race at
Watkins Glen, a few miles down the road from the track. The weather was
perfect with bright sun and temps in the 70s.
We decided to use the slick track setup that we have had in the car for the
past few races and went out in practice for a few quick laps. The car
handled fine but there was something wrong with the motor. It ran OK at
the last track but now it was flat. We were geared to turn 7800 but only
hit 6900 running laps without lifting. It was flat but not missing. We
checked timing and plugs. We replaced a couple of plugs that looked
different but didn't find anything serious. There wasn't much time before
we had to go out... we were in the first heat.
I got a decent draw of 14, so I started 4th in the 9 car heat.
By the time we got on the track, the sun had come down to the top of the
stands and officials box. As we got lined up and came out of three and
into four the sun was directly in our eyes. I could not see anything from
the middle of three and four, until I got the car onto the straight. I
could not see the the wall or the loose dirt on the cushion or the slop and
puddle at the very bottom, so I decided to run the middle of the turn. I
had taped the upper part of the visor but the visor glare and shadows made
it impossible to see. Getting one to go at the flag stand I said to
myself "this isn't going to be good" and pulled the belts extra tight.
Coming off four at the start the motor was still flat and I got passed
going into one. I was passed on the outside by one car as we entered
three, and then turned into the glaring sun. The dust made visibility even
worse but you put the pedal down on faith and hope that everyone is
following their lines and that you can recover from what happens during the
three seconds of blindness. It's crazy but that's the race, the same for
everybody, you're chickenshit if you don't race and nothing happens, and it
puts you in the back of the B main if you pull in. The track wants to keep
things on schedule. The fans, with the sun to their back, want the action
keep going. The motor is still flat and I 'm dropping through the field.
I only stay out in case some drop out or to get the best starting spot I
can for the B main, if it comes to that. I try changing the fuel with the
dial a jet but it doesn't clear up.
I've raced when you can't see before and it is always risky. The dust at
Bloomsburg with the midget was the worst. If something happens, you're in
Next thing I know I'm slammed into the belts, the loud metal on metal chunk
sound and the ghosts of cars pointed the wrong way are silhouetted in the
dusty glare. It all disappears but the noise... BAM... BAM... BAM...
a flash of sun and stands and metal and dirt... and finally a hard slam to
the ground, stopping as hard as I was going fast. Facing the stands, I
had the wind knocked out of me and couldn't make any sound as the officials
came to the car.
My back hurt just below the shoulder blades. It took a
full minute before I had the strength to get my gloves and helmet off. No
pain anywhere but my mid back. The officials and EMTs left me alone and
let me get my breath and get my helmet off. They were very good and didn't
go Barney Fife on me. The EMT checked my back and there were no pressure
points with pain, it just felt like a sore back like what you get from
lifting. They gave me some more time and I got out of the car. I didn't
look around, I just got in the ambulance for the checkup and insurance
When I got back to the pits, Greg and Jeff had the car on jack
stands. The tow crew and done a good job of bringing the remains back
without further damage. The car wasn't as bad as it could have been but
the frame was mangled from the radiator forward, front axle was gone, wing
was gone, tank was pushed in a bit, wheels bent, and other bolt on stuff
bent or broken. The first thing that was obvious was that the frame did
what it was supposed to do. It bent and kinked and stayed together. There
was one place where the tubing broke partway, 1/2 in from the weld but the
other end was kinked into the tube it joined.
There is a big difference
between a J&J and a Maxim. Forces in last year's Maxim crash were in
similar directions but this J&J stayed together where the Maxim shattered
at every joint creating more damage as it came apart. The tow crew came
back and set the car on the trailer. We strapped it down and loaded up.
The feature ran on a very smooth fast track.
There is lots of time to think while you are stripping parts off the frame.
What if's and what to do's fill the mind. The whole thing started when a
car near the front, with a very experienced, successful driver, got loose
on the cushion of four and spun down across the track. He collected two
more cars ahead of me with one already rolling over before I came into it
at full throttle. My end over end cleared the mess and put me ahead of
those cars on the front straight.
If I could have been able to see, I would have
had plenty of time to get slowed and miss it. If the others
could see, the two cars ahead may (or may not) have missed him. The car
that spun might have seen where the loose cushion really was and not spun.
We all want to race and don't want to be considered a complainer. This is
entertainment and the show must go on. It's competition and everyone
faces the same obstacles. The fans come to watch, the racers come to
compete and the officials are there to organize, enforce the rules and keep
As soon as I caught my breath I told the official, leaning
in the car that they should never start a race when the drivers can't see.
They wouldn't race in a heavy fog or if the lights go out and this was no
different. They could have waited until the sun was below the stands.
It's a problem at this track on a sunny day. Maybe they need a later start
time. I've lost two cars because of things that could have been prevented
by official action. I know there is pressure to keep the show moving,
keep the promoter happy, etc, but safety issues are also important and
individual racers do not have the authority to make those decisions.
Racers depend on the officials to oversee conditions for a fair and safe
Enough for the soap box.
I picked up a spare frame last year because if
you race enough you will need it. We should have a spare car together but
we ran out of winter and didn't get it finished. Now we will pick through
the pile of what's left and put another car together. I'll go through the
motor and try to find something at fault and if nothing is clearly wrong,
I'll change mags and send the present one out for test and rebuild. Maybe
something in the mag got jarred loose in the earlier crash. The frame
will be headed to PA this fall for a new front end. No races for a few
weeks so we have some time.
7-27-06 Can Am Speedway
A significant portion of a race night has to do with luck. There is luck
of the draw, luck of whether your heat is easy or full of hot dogs,
mechanical luck, luck in things that can change after you have made your
decisions, luck of being in the right place at the right time....or not.
They say you make your own luck and we have been having bad finishes
recently and need to get out of this rut. You are only as good as
your last race and the best way to be better is go to the
next race. We improved our setup at the last race and really ran
pretty good, but just missed the show so we were ready to try again,
against the uphill battle of ESS's handicapping system.
For the first time in decades, Whip (crew on my midget and first sprint
cars and one time roommate) showed up and helped work on the car one night
this week and came along with us to the track. We were headed back to Can
Am, a big sweeping half mile that is usually smooth but can get slick.
It's the kind of track that I like to run.
We've had mixed results there. In the past we have won a heat, finished
4th in the A-main, got screwed on scoring, had a violent crash, made an
ESS show but had handling problems in the A-main... So tonite I was
optimistic about making the show from the 30 car field. I would start last
in the 10 car, first heat.
We decided to stick with the setup that we used at Utica Rome last Sunday,
thinking that the track would get slick in the feature. In hot laps the
track surface was packed tight and had a lot of bite. It was fast and
smooth. There was a cushion in one and two that was three car widths up
from the bottom. Three and four had a loose dirt cushion that you couldn't
hook up to. We only got a few hot laps but the car was great and worked
going flat out through the turns.
The heat line up had a mix of heavy hitters and some cars that I thought we
could get past if we made the right changes and could get a run on them
early. Starting in the back puts the pressure on to run extra hard. You
have to make your way past a bunch of cars to get a shot at a decent
starting spot for the feature. Make it to 4th and I would start 11th or
12th. Make it to 5th or 6th and I'd start 17th or 18th. 7th or worse and
I'd have to run the B-main, starting the B where I finished in the heat and
starting the feature at the rear if I made the top 4 in the B.
I was on the outside of row 5 in the heat and thought that I would run the
cushion into one and try to pass on the outside coming out of two. In the
back stretch I would see what I had to work with and take my best shot into
three. The pack gets pretty strung out after a lap or two.
Coming to the green, tight up to the car in front of me, we headed off into
one, I drove in hard on the cushion. Ahead of me the pack was solid, with
everyone tight together as one of the front row cars pushed up the track.
He collected the car on the outside behind him, and turned him sideways and
in an instant he was backwards and pointed at me, just one car length
ahead. IN the same instant I was on the brakes and wham, up and over.
I was pl88ed. I got out of the car and was surprised that I had flipped
and didn't damage the wing at all. I got high enough to clear the wing
before it came back down. The front suspension was bent and broken and it
looks like the frame got pushed over some. Didn't look like the axle or
wheels were bent but we will have to go through everything to be sure.
Back in the pits we found the tank mounts were torn out of the tank and not
knowing what else was compromised we loaded up. No sense in scrambling the
car back together just to start last in the B-main. Better that we check
everything over at the shop than stuff it in the wall because something is
broken that we might not find. There really isn't much damage, except
the frame, so hopefully we should be able to get things fixed in a few
nights of work. I guess we were lucky that more stuff wasn't broken.
So another crap finish and another bad night at Can Am. But it wasn't the
track, it was the luck of who was where in the heat, the luck of the line I
decided to take on the start, the luck of the swirl of instantaneous
decisions that were made by everyone as we headed into turn one.....
And it wasn't the cows. At least I don't think so because I didn't notice
any on the way... But then Greg did make mention of them laying down last
week when we drove by a herd, on the way to the last race. I don't know if
the luck of cows has long term effects.
7-23-06 Utica Rome Speedway
After the disappointing run we had on Friday I knew that we had to get back to
basics and figure out what we had done wrong. We also had some ideas that we wanted to
test, so we decided that the best way to work through the problem was... run the car.
ESS had a race at Canandaigua on Saturday and we
usually ran good there so we planned to rework the setup on the car and run that show. The
weather on Saturday washed out that plan so we decided to go to the Sunday evening ESS
race at Utica Rome even though it would be slick. They start earlier there, at 5pm, so
most everything (all 6 classes with two groups of track glazing DIRT modifieds) is run
under the bright sun. The track was smooth for the most part but they didn't water it very
deep. A typical NY track... a non abrasive surface that seals over and has no bite. Utica
Rome is all of that and turns to ice by heat time. The loose cushion gets pushed to the
top of the banking where there is nothing by feature time and a long way around at that.
As I was walking through the pits after the racing was
all over, I thought I'll have to tell Dad about what went on because he didn't come
tonite. Then after that quick thought, was the reality of why he wasn't there.
In the past, if he wasn't able to go, we would always
talk about last nights race, the next day and I would tell him what went on. I would
have told him....
We got there early and it was clear that the place was
going to dry out. I talked to that guy we know that works on a modified there and he said
it was icy every week and would be the same this week. I changed the car back to our
basic setup to make sure we were back to our starting point and in hot laps the car was
neutral and I was able to close on some good cars. One and two were smooth and slick with
bite here and there and three and four was choppy, rough in the bottom two grooves and it
gave something to hook up to. You could still get a hold of the track all the way at the
bottom, but off the bottom it was black, slick and shiny. I tried top, middle and bottom
and figured that we needed to stay low and try to pass coming low off the turns.
This really started out as a test session, but once we
were there, it was a race and an uphill battle, having to start at the back of the heat.
There were 32 cars and we started 8th in a 10 car, third, heat with a lot of heavy
hitters. I looked over the line up and figured that the front row may come back to me but
there was a car behind me that usually gets to the front and I expected to see him too. I
figured that if we were going to make some radical changes, like we had talked about for
an icy track like this, then we should try them in the heat so that we could refine them
in the next race... B-main or feature.... what ever.
Greg and Jeff and I scrambled to change bars, tires,
weight, and shocks after hot laps, to try to overcome the dryer and icier track. I got a
really good start and beat the car inside of me into one. I ran low and got under one car
that slid high in two a few laps later and passed another off the bottom. The car that
slid high got back by on the outside and I raced with the other car for a few laps,
gaining and losing until he was able to get by. I drove in as hard as I could and harder
at times to try to get by. Too hard and the car would drift off the bottom. We ended up
7th. Missed the show by one spot. That put me 3rd starting spot in the 14 car B main. The
car was pretty good but we changed some more stuff and tried to get more side bite and
In the B, I got a good start and figured that the car
in front of me would run the top like he always does but he stayed low and I fell in line
in third. A car drove up on the outside and just worked his way by and that put me in
forth, last to qualify. I ran hard and caught back up to third to the guy that had started
in front of me. I had a shot to try to go around him but then the caution came out with 3
There were a number of good cars in the B. I knew they
were behind me but I hadn't seen them. I knew I had to protect the bottom. I kept low and
drove hard but this guy took a flyer on the last lap on turn three and drove past the car
behind me and got up to me as we came out of four. I was on it but he got a better bite
and had the momentum to beat me to the line. I was 5th and didn't make the feature.
We did this race as a test session but I was racing
hard and we were still very bummed out that we didn't make the show. In one sense it was
good that we ran and learned some things that we had discussed and I feel that we were
competitive in those conditions and that the changes were a big improvement over how we
had been, there before. The car was raceable and predictable and had better side bite with
the changes. We were lacking some in forward bite and had a few other ideas that we would
like to have tried. We rolled the car on the trailer and learned some stuff, so that was
Dad would have said that we did good and were up
against a lot of good cars and we beat some good cars that also didn't make the show. He
would have rationalized it and I would have gotten mad at him for accepting that we didn't
make the race. It's my own ongoing dilemma of balancing bad results with strong
intentions, hard work and desire.... rationalizing and trying not to get depressed when
things don't work out. I was always looking for his approval but needed him to be
disappointed sometimes so that the approval had meaning. He was always supportive and
accommodating and never pushed for more... I guess that's why it was so easy, for everyone
to like him.
7-21-06 Penn Can Speedway
This track is located just over the PA border south of Binghamton, NY in the
mountains of Northeast PA. It is only 8 miles off the interstate but it is out in
the country. I had raced there before and ran well but hadn't been there in 6 yrs or
so. It's a nice smooth, paperclip, 1/3 mile with some banking. The first
and second turn sweep around wider than three and four. The surface
packs tight but the tires grind off a grainy dirt that doesn't make a cushion. In
fact if you get into the stuff out of the groove, it is very loose and takes you wider.
The car wasn't very good in g hot laps so we made some changes but didn't want to get the
car too tight. We've gone to far before and got the car so tight that it wouldn't
turn and had to break it loose and then it was way loose.
I drew 47 out of 50 so that started me last in the heat. We were short a few
cars for various reasons, so there were only two heats... I started last in the
first heat. On the start, I passed two cars on the bottom in the first
and second turns. That put me 6th in the last qualifying spot. One car spun
and I ended up 5th. We were still out to lunch. The other cars were driving
away. If I got on the throttle too early, the car drifted up off the bottom so
I had to wait until I got lined up on the straight and that wasn't fast. The
track was slicker than it looked and we weren't getting a hold of it very well.
Greg, Jeff and I talked over the changes that we thought would make the car work better.
We changed weight, wing, stagger, tilt, front height, gear, shocks and tire
pressures. Our bad draw for the heat meant that we would start up front in the
feature.... outside of the front row. I knew that the bottom
was the fast way around and I had to get to the bottom as soon as possible.
I knew the track was going to be slicker and I hoped that all the changes we
made would make the car better and didn't go too far.
On the start I tried to keep a nose ahead of the pole car and got on it first between the
turns but he pulled me off the bottom and I got to the first turn in third, on the outside
with everyone lined up on the bottom. Into three I tried to get to the bottom but
there were front wheels there. On the outside I lost another spot and finally
dropped in a hole in 5th place. I knew that now I had to stay tight on the
bottom. A car spun and on the restart I drove into one and the car
wouldn't stay on the bottom coming out.
We were still out to lunch on the setup. The car just wasn't getting as
much RR bite as everyone else. I had to slow too much getting in and had to
wait too long getting on the pedal. Other cars would get under me coming out
and I'd loose the spot at the next turn. I was dropping like a rock. I
tried running in harder and the car would drift way up off the bottom. I tried
getting on it sooner in the corner and the car would drift up coming off. I had
nothing... and just rode it out. The 11th place finish was very disappointing.
We had tried something different to try to overcome a corner entry push that I
fought last week. The torsion bar change is one that is being used by another race
team and seemed to help them with the same problem. After the race I
talked over our changes with the other team. They made the same changes that we did
and went a bit further. Their car worked pretty good.
So on the ride home, Greg and Jeff and I talked over what to try next and decided to go
back to the setup and bars we had been using. There are other ways to solve the
corner entry problem and we need to stick to basics. Dad was never upset when
we didn't do well . He knew how much work went into each race and he was just happy
to be part of it. We miss not having him there to talk to but he's always
there in my thoughts.
7-15-06 Brockville, Ont.
This weekend there were two races in Canada at opposite ends of Lake
Ontario. I had to work so we were not able to make the first one at
Oshweken on Friday. The Saturday event was at Brockville, Ont, about an
hour and a half to the north, just across the border and a bit up the St.
Lawrence River. Going through customs is always a concern but the agents
must see a lot of racers at the border each weekend so we showed our ID's
and answered the obvious questions and headed for the track.
On this Saturday night, ESS had a race scheduled as well as SOS (Southern
Ontario Sprints) so there were no invaders and we had a low car count.
Everybody would make the show. The previous night's race had left two
cars badly damaged after flips and one driver with a very sore nose. The
injury came when the driver collected a clod of clay that was lifted into
the air by the car he was following. Sprints have a rock guard across the
front of the cage. We had ours fastened on with one hose clamp on each
side but went to three on each side when a similar large clod came right
through, broke both clamps and hit me in the chest, at a race last year.
This racer's guard was held in place with plastic tie wraps. The clod
slammed into his visor and broke it off it's helmet mounts. His nose was
flattened and streaming blood but not broken. Most all of the tracks we
run are so hard packed that we hardly need tearoffs and the cars stay
pretty clean. But dumb stuff happens when your not looking.
Brockville is a strange track.... a short third, flat around the bottom
and then banked around that. It looks three wide but races two wide and
acts nasty with the cars and drivers that are trying to figure it out.
There is no wall around the top (thankfully) and the cushion goes to the
rim and beyond. The outside of the banking slopes down the same the racing
surface so if you get over the edge, your gone. You can run around the
bottom but you can't go as fast as you can on the banking, if the track
slicks off. If you run in on the banking a little wide, your can follow
the cushion...... right over the top. So there is lots of 'come in
and cut down', or 'go in low and slide up' racing. It makes the track
race like a figure 8 at each end. It's tough enough to race a bunch of
weekend racers, in over powered, open wheeled, cars but when you add the
challenge of this track, you really have to be on your toes (or you're on
It has rained in our area a lot this summer and we had some huge down pours
in the past week but the grounds at this track were dry and dusty. This
day it was in the 90's.... both temp and humidity. Sitting
in the car,
while waiting to get on the track, in a suit and helmet, just wears you
We drew mid pack and started forth in the heat. With only two heats, 6
would go to the inversion. I ran the top and bottom and ended up forth.
The track stayed pretty tacky and fast. I could run in, lift and set the
car and get right back on it. Everyone was fast. I would gain on some
laps and lose some on others.
Missing the previous event put us at the back of the top 12, starting us
11th. Drop of the green and the whole pack ended up in the first turn at
once it seemed. If anyone got crossed up it would have been a mess, but we
got out of two and got a lap in before the first car was over the edge. A
few laps later and another caution. There was lots of wheel banging going
on all over. The track still had bite and was fast for everyone. I went
down the middle of the back straight and set it in for the bottom and got
whacked in the LR as a car tried to dive under going into three. The
caution was out and there sat the car that got pinched. Between passing
cars, getting passed and cars spinning, I had worked my way up to 9th and
was working on 8th.
Cautions would happen when a car would get up on the
outside of another car coming off two, and then when they got to the end of
the straight, would run out of room on the outside or get slapped in the
front end by the RR of the car they were racing, as the two would setup to
enter the corner. It would put the outside car spinning over the top of
the banking. I came out of two and got a good bite off the bottom and
swept out to the middle getting up under the car ahead. As we drove into
three, I set the car and watched as the other car set in, hooked up and
came across my front end.
There is a point where you have committed the
car, you are sideways, drifting toward a point where the tires will hook up
and you can get back on it. During that drift you can't hit the brakes or
throttle or you will slide up, push or spin. You are committed. My RF
slapped his LR and my car pivoted around in a spin. I kept some throttle
and saw a car coming as I was pointed toward traffic. He headed low and
as the front continued around I stood on it. The front end lifted in a
wheelie and the car came around, heading the right way and I raced that
oncoming car out of the turn. I hadn't lost a spot but then the yellow
was out. I thought it was for me until we came around and there was a car
over the banking from a separate incident.
The steering felt wormy at times and I was trying to figure out if there
was a problem during the caution laps. I was up to 8th at this point and
felt confident that I could get by the two cars ahead of me. On the
restart, I got on it and once the car got out of the turn, it headed
everywhere but straight. I was lucky to get it slowed and into the pits
without stuffing the front stretch wall or someone else.
While I was in the pits, the race restarted and the leaders ran down a lapped car who had
been running the top until he saw the passing flag and drove to the bottom
to get out of the way, right in front of the leader who went over his LR
and flipped end over end with second place getting into the mess. A
three car disaster. Drivers were OK but three damaged frames.
In the pits, Greg found a very bent lower radius rod on the RF of our car.
That caused the axle to rotate forward and be pulled back, giving us
negative caster and the LF tire leading the RF... just the opposite of
what you want. Ever try to drive your car in reverse at high speed?
That's about how it felt. We were lucky in a lot of ways. We fixed the
car with a new $10 spare and loaded up. It paid the same from 9th back so
we didn't lose any money either. We were competitive, probably would have
been 6th if we had been able to finish. Dad will always be with me and
was happy just to see us race so I'm sure he liked watching this one.
7-8-06 McKean, PA
Last week we started to get back to our normal routine and occupy our minds
with the things that we set aside in June. The run we had last week was
encouraging and helped us get our heads back into the car and the setups.
It was like starting over again.
Greg and I only had to spend one evening going over the
and found that the LR shock had a skip in it. Apparently there
was a broken gas bag inside, and that would have let the
fluid foam and make the shock really soft. That could have been the reason
for the handling problems last week. Other than that, it didn't take much
work to get things ready for our trek to McKean County, PA.
I had been to the track back in 2000 when I was driving
Rick Dumigan's 90.
Rick, his son Chris, my father and I had made that 4 hr tow to the nice little, third
mile banked track, in the hills of northern PA toward the western end of
the state. It's an old county fairgrounds with a number of buildings and
a new one going up. Signs indicate that there are ongoing events there,
along with a weekly racing program. A tall aluminum grandstand has
replaced an old covered one from years past. We were out in the country.
As we drove to the track, we passed through small towns,
at cross roads, along the country roads,... the map just has small dots in
this area, only a dozen or so miles from the NY/PA line.
The track is one of the nicest surfaces we have run
on... smooth and good bite.
The symmetrical oval has lots of banking for three wide racing, no walls,
except for the front straight, and the inside of the banking is graded to a
rising grassy infield. You could put your LF in the higher level grassy
area and really get a bite around the bottom. The cushion moved up all
night and by feature time it was way up at the top. It was fast at the top
but a long way around.
I drew 31 (of 50) and started 5th in the 9 car first
heat, 6 to qualify.
There was a false start when the flagman and the race director weren't able
to communicate on the radios. One car in the front row got run over and
there were a couple of flat tires. When we finally got going, the car was
real strong and I was able to move up to second. The surface was still
tacky and I was able to run in, lift, set the car and get back on the pedal
getting out. The place was fast in all the grooves and my car ran best
around the middle or cushion but I was able to pass on the bottom.
They put the top 2 from each heat in a dash.
Now that school was out,
Jeff was with us again and he drew the pole for the dash. I never had
much interest in the dash but it was a good time for us to try some setup
things for the feature. We made changes that we thought might be too
extreme, just to see how the car would work, and used the dash as a test
session. The track had dried some but still had plenty of bite. The
changes actually worked well as the track hadn't gotten slick at all. I
got beat off the top coming out of two and ran second. It was really nice
to get the extra dash money at the end of the night, something I hadn't
We put in more gear, as there was still some RPM we
could use in the motor,
and made some other adjustments for the feature. Last time I was here,
the track actually got better, tackier, during the feature. Regulars I
talked to said it would stay about the same. The lighting at this place
is very good but I realized that my visor had enough rock rash that I kept
thinking that it was fogging or dust covered and was worse with tear offs
and as soon as anything was on it. A new visor made a big difference.
Our mid pack draw for the heat gave us a mid top 12
starting spot for the
feature (5th). I was on the inside of row three at the start and we got
three laps in before there was a red for a flip, back in the pack. I had
gotten by two cars in the first couple of laps and was running a strong
third on the bottom. The car in second was also running the bottom but
would go in harder and slide up the track. I could get my nose under his
LR but then he would hook up and diamond the corner, heading for the bite
that was tight in, on the bottom line coming out. I couldn't get up on him far
enough to make him stay wide.
On the restart I ran the bottom and couldn't get by so
I tried the middle line a couple
of times but couldn't keep up and that let the car behind me show his nose. We
side by side for several laps and each corner he would nose in a little
further. This is where you have to have some self control and concentrate
on going in as hard as you can without going in too hard and losing ground
waiting for the tires to hook up or sliding up the track. You just have to
race hard and not get crazy because you are getting passed.
The guy on the inside was good. He has won
several races this season.
He had good control and raced me clean without leaving his line, but he was able to
gain a little each lap. I settled in behind him in forth as he headed to
the outside the second place car I had been battling. As they ran side
by side, I started to reel them in and thought I would be able to get by
the car I had been racing for second if he got rattled enough. We were
coming into heavy lapped traffic with a pack of 5 cars running close. The
two cars I was chasing had to slow a bit and I caught them.... and the
caution came out.
The lapped cars went around to the back and we were in
line again with clear track ahead. On the restart we took off and I could
stay with them but now there was a car on my outside that was buzzing hard
on the cushion. He got by going into three and I held on for 5th.
5th was a good finish for us. I had hoped to go forward and stay there,
but we finished where we started and didn't have any problems so it was a
very good night. I know Dad was there with me and would have been happy -
he wouldn't miss a race.
Truckin'. Getting to the track, for the past few
races, has been a
separate struggle and worth noting. On our way back from Stateline a few
races ago in May, the tranmission went out on the '97 Chevy truck I got this
spring. My cousin Tommy used his truck to tow us to Rolling Wheels for
the next race. Then I relicensed the white Dodge truck I still had, to use until
the Chevy was fixed. I drove it around a bit during the week. When we
headed out of the driveway to go to Can Am, the brakes went to the floor at
the end of the driveway.... rusted brake line. I poured fluid in it headed
to the race... there were only three times I had to stop, each way, to get to the track
When it was time to stop, I shifted down way early and coasted... no brakes.
So this week, we are in the Dodge with good
brakes, heading for McKean.
About an hour from the track we stop to look at the directions. I do a quick walk
and notice a hint of smoke at the back of the truck. There is a puddle on
the ground under the rear bumper but no smoke under the truck. I open the
back window of the truck cap and notice that the bedliner is wet and there
is a little smoke. Turns out that the noisy muffler had come apart at the
back of the muffler and the opening was directed up, to the underside of the
truck bed. It got so hot that it melted the bed liner, melted 2/3 of a
plastic milk crate and melted the plastic cap off of a metal can of brake
fluid, now laying on it's side in the plastic goo. Parts were embedded in
plastic. I went under the truck and pulled the rest of the back of the
muffler off so that it could go straight back and we were on our way. We
arrived... we got home... driving in the driveway with an open muffler at
4:10 am sunday morning.
7-1-06 Can Am
I kept track of what was going on with racing during June just to get a break
from what we were going though. I didn't feel much like racing and didn't even go
into the race shop for three weeks. Everything was ready to load up and go but I
didn't have any motivation.
I got an email from my cousin, who was flying in from
Colorado to be with his grandfather (my uncle on my mother's side who had lost his wife,
my mother's sister, a few months ago). He asked if we were going racing over the 4th
of July weekend. I decided that this would be a good reason go back to the
track and get started again. My cousin and uncle hadn't been to a sprint
car race before.
I had to work on friday (people covered for me while I
took days off in June) and the Patriot race at Ransomville rained out. On Saturday,
ESS had a race at Can Am Speedway about an hour up the road. This is a big ole half
mile with decent banking that races a lot like Port Royal. We have run well there in
the past but last time we were there we had the 'Maxim Disaster'.
As usual at this place, there was an abundace of cars,
38 or so, and with the ESS handicapping system, we would start last all niight, having
missed several of the ESS races. Hot laps were fast on a tacky surface.
There was a lane and a half that smoothed off and above the cushion it was slime.
Car and motor worked good and it was good to feel the power and bite in the
The track stayed decent throughout the heats, even with
the wind and sun. The high humidity helped keep the track from drying out.
I started 9th in the 4th heat. Five would go the the A-main. The heat
was packed with strong teams... not one soft spot in the whole lineup.
I decided to run the cushion. There were some slick spots already
developing in the groove and one and two were rutty and choppy. I drove
into one at the start, without lifting and picked up the cushion going in. The car
hooked up and I beat the car on the bottom coming out of two. In a couple of laps I
reeled in the next car and got by. A caution brought me up to the back of the
pack and I was able to pick off one more car, running the cushion in one and two.
We ended up 6th but it was a good feeling to be back in the saddle and
able to move forward.
The B-main was loaded... 18 cars. I started
4th , four to qualify. The track hadn't changed much from the heat so we
didn't change much on the car other than a little air pressure and more wing.
Heading into one I picked up the cushion and came out of two in third place.
I was slowly catching second but wouldn't have gotten to him if he
hadn't missed the cushion and slid high. I drove under him and finished the race
second. We made the show from the back. That was a huge
accomplishment for us and my first time back in the car, the fast surface and the strong
field of cars we were up against.
Greg and I didn't have much time as weather was moving
in and they were rushing the show. With the help of Tom and Nick Bashford, who were
there to watch, we made the changes we thought would work for the expected track
conditions. I was planning to run the cushion. The track was getting
slicker so we took out some stagger and gear and changed a shock.
I started 22nd of 26 cars. At the start I
put the car on the cushion coming out of four and there was nothing there for me.
The car just skated loose up the track and I actually got passed by the row
behind me coming out of four. It was similar in one and two. Going into
three, I was trailing a pack of cars that went into three, three-wide. It
didn't work and two cars started flipping. The bottom was open and I drove though as
one of the cars continued flipping for several hundred feet toward the pits (no walls).
I looked over the track really well when they pushed me off for the
restart. At the green, I stayed in line and tried the bottom. The
car was pushy getting in sometimes or would break loose sideways at other times.
We just missed the setup completely. I tried the cushion again
and slid high and the middle was slick and I was sideways. By lap 14, I was
lapped and clearly in the way so I pulled off and parked the car. It was in one
piece and ready to race again. That's not the way I had pictured my feature
run, but overall not a bad night for our first time back. It was a busy night.
I missed not having Dad there to get the lineups but I know he's always with me at
the races and was happy with the way we made the show. Dad wouldh't miss a
Wow, it's been a month since I put anything here and what a lousy month it has
been. I spent June at the hospital visiting my father with my mother and sister and
we went through the ordeal of seeing his disabilities from the stroke and sickness from
hospital infections. The weeks that he survived gave us time to work through the
hopelesness and helplesness of the situation and accept the reality of losing my father.
The funeral was difficult but I was able to handle it better than I expected.
The really hard part hasn't fully sunk in. I have flashes of thought
that I need to tell Dad this or Dad will want that or Dad would like to go there...
Then I remember... and I talk to him... and I
know that he will always be with me doing the fun stuff.
I want to thank everyone who was there for us
throughout this episode. The hospital staff was terrific and helped to provide
a soft landing for my father and my family. We really appreciate all the support
that we got from family and friends as well as all of the cards and messages we recieved
from so many and all those that thought of us and were concerned. We were all along
for the ride and could do nothing but watch and wait. We know that everyone
goes through stuff like this and many times it's much more difficult. We were lucky
in some ways. Dad went the way he wanted... fully capable of having fun
right up to the end.
6-3-06 Hill Raceway
Sunday morning I got up to get ready to tow to a race on Sunday night. My
father and Greg and I were going to a track about 4 hours away that
we hadn't been to before....a little quarter mile in north western PA near the NY border.
Last week end was a good one with a 4th and a run from 17th to 8th.
I had the phone line tied up checking the weather on the computer when my
sister showed up at the door and told me that an ambulance was on the way
for my father. He was on the floor in the bathroom at his house, a few
hundred feet up the driveway from my house. My mother had found him a few
minutes earlier and called my sister who lives a mile down the road. She
Dad was unresponsive but vitals were OK. He was taken to the hospital and
admitted into the stroke care unit within the hour. They evaluated him,
scanned him and found a blockage and gave him a heavy duty blood thinner to
break down the clot in the brain.
He has remained stable and improved slightly but has lost his right side.
He slept all day but was able to respond to questions but can not talk and
only opens his eyes for short times as of tonite.
He pulls the covers up and uses his left hand normally and we are hoping for
more improvement in the next few days as his body gets over the initial
Armond worked on the race car in the shop each
Dad is 83 but yesterday he was 100%. He rototilled the garden on Friday,
ran the bulldozer and riding mower this week, went swimming with me on
Wednesday. We worked on the race car on thursday night and saturday.
Last tuesday he went to a race with us and took care of getting
us signed in, drawing for our starting position, getting line ups and
signing for the payoff. He didn't miss much during the races and we
discussed where I was getting beat and where we were fast. He is always active
and ready to go anywhere, anytime.
That's all over now and I miss him already. Mom is handling this like a
nurse and is capable of working with the situation. I'm sure it will be
months before there is any chance of bringing him home. Dad owned a local
hardware store all his life but Mom drove school bus and has good health
insurance that will cover through physical therapy at least. My sister and
I will obviously help as this all unfolds.
This really sucks. I've known that there would come a time when things like this
happen with my parents but it's still hard to accept.
5-31-06 I never chased points but this is too good to ignore. I'll
enjoy it as long as it lasts!
Current Bobcat of Buffalo ASCS Patriot
Sprint Group Points (Top Ten): 1. Chuck
Hebing 611, 2. Bryan Howland 595, 3. Rich Swarthout 571, 4. Dave Wickham 559, 5. Don
Adamczyk 515, 6. Nick Bashford 511, 7. Geoff Quackenbush 487, 8. Jared Zimbardi 485, 9.
Jeff Cook 455, 10. Brad Knab 439....
Rolling Wheels 5-30-06
It is a good change to race close to home again. I watched lots of races at this track
over the years and always liked racing here. The place is owned by DIRT (owner of the
Outlaws) and the race is a special program with World of Outlaw sprints and the ASCS
Patriot Sprint Group. The two separate shows had full fields with 27 PSG 360s.
We won hot laps (ha ha). The car was hooked and the
motor was fast. We pulled away from those behind us and closed on good cars ahead. The
track was tacky, smooth and fast top to bottom.
We were in the second heat and would run after Outlaw
time trials. I checked the track and it didn't look much different than our hot lap
session so we didn't make any changes. As it turned out the track did lose some bite and
we should have adjusted and taken out a bit of stagger. We started 4th in a 9 car heat
that was full of good cars. We were a bit loose coming out as the turn exits started to
We were off just enough that I got beat coming off once
and getting in once and dropped back to a 6th place finish. This place has iced up in the
past but even after more races later in the night, it was still fast. We were racing after
the Outlaws so it was a good guess where the track would be. We set up soft for the slick
track but didn't make changes that were too drastic. The air temp was in the 90s and
really humid. The motor ran hotter in the heat race than it had in the past so I took out
the honeycomb protector in front of the radiator and richened the engine just a tad. We
would start 17th in the feature and I felt pretty confident in the setup.
On the start, the motor was a little rich as the temp
was low. I was able to pass a couple of cars in one and two as the car got good bite right
around the bottom. There was a red, early on, for two cars that got together after one had
spun. I just missed the flipping car and was able to brake and steer low. On the restart I
saw that I had now moved to 10th. The car was great getting into three on the bottom and
coming off low but there were two cars running side by side in front of me and neither one
could clear the other. It was frustrating. I had to back off to keep from running over
them but I didn't dare stick my nose in because they were trying so hard to beat each
other that they were all over the track.
I used up half the race waiting for these two and
finally passed them and the yellow came out. It was actually another red but they don't
have any red lights on the track. I finally stopped after I had made a lap. I saw the car
flip in turn one. It was an easy over and I thought that they might be trying to move the
show along and not stop the cars. I have been stung before and seen others penalized for
stopping on the track when they thought there should be a red and only a yellow was flown.
I've gotten screwed enough doing the right thing that I know that I have to race after the
yellow and not stop until everyone else does. It's not safe, but you have to take care of
Anyway, on the restart the two were in line and I got a
run out of four on the start and was able to get past just after the cone. Then I picked
off another couple of cars and got chopped by another and one of the cars got back by.
Toward the end I went up to the cushion and found lots of bite on the cushion and just
below and passed a few cars around the outside. I ran out of laps to pass the car in 7th
that I caught.
17th to 8th was a great run for us. I was a lot
of fun racing, no matter where I finished.
I like those big fast tracks for some reason. I've
always run better on them than the short tight places. This 5/8 is a lot like Williams
Grove. There are no walls except for the front straight and there is plenty of room in the
turns. Except that sometimes it glazes over, it is a great place to race. It's an odd duck
in that they have only run special races there for years instead of having a weekly
schedule. It must work because DIRT is still following that format. I'd like to race there
weekly. The car was great in the feature. I could really drive it in deep and it stuck.
When I got on the throttle it moved forward and didn't want to spin out so I was able to
get on it a lot earlier. That's the secret to fast and we are making headway.
Stateline Speedway 5-27-06
It's a long tow to the far west corner of the state to a nice 3/8 paper clip shaped,
banked, oval, south of Jamestown, NY. The pits there are always crowded with six classes
of cars and then they added our 23 sprint teams. The stands filled with fans ready to
start the holiday weekend.
When we had been here before, the place really slicked
up coming out of the turns. The sun was bright and hot and they had put a lot of water on
the track so it was the usual guessing game on setup. After hot laps we made a couple of
changes but tried not to over do it. This would be the first test for a new setup that
goes back to basics for us.
The track was rough and had good bite. The car was
improved on corner entry and I was able to get by some cars before the end of the heat for
a 3rd place finish. That put us in the top 12 inversion where we would start 6th in the
feature. Greg and I discussed what the car was doing and what we thought the track would
do and came up with the changes to make. Greg got after the tires and I changed shocks.
When the flag dropped, the inside row got through one
and two faster and I came out of two in 7th. Within a couple of laps, the leaders got
tangled with the pole sitter going to the pits on the hook and outside pole going to the
rear. With only one other caution, I kept the pressure on the car ahead working the bottom
as he worked the middle. If I got beside him coming out he would run the middle of the
straight, keeping me pinched, getting into the corners. Finally after a number of tries I
was able to dive under him getting into three and came out even. At the end of the
straight I turned in when he did and got a bite coming out to finally pass him.
We had been battling for over half the race and I
didn't have much time left as I was catching the third place car. When I got to him, we
came up on a lapped car. He got by on the high side and I pinched in around the bottom. We
passed the lapped car coming out of four for the checkered and I didn't have enough
momentum to get by so we ended up forth. This was our best finish in some time and it felt
good to get to the front again and have a car that was balanced and had good power and
bite. The track stayed better than we expected despite racing after the latemodel feature.
There was no cushion but there was some tacky stuff on the bottom. The middle and corner
exits never slicked up like we expected so some of our adjustments made the car tight in
the middle of the corners. We might have been a little quicker if we had kept the car a
bit looser. We are much closer with the setups now and getting a better feel for the range
of adjustment that we need to make as the track dries. This is very encouraging and it was
The only downside of the whole weekend was the rainout
at Brewerton and on
the way home from Stateline, at 4am, about 20 miles from home
(fortunately), the transmission on the truck started slipping and within a
mile or so, at 30 mph on the NYS thruway, we were dead in the water.
There was no oil on the tranny dip stick but the bottom of the truck and
trailer were well oiled. We raised the hood and smelled the cooked
transmission. I had a few quarts in the back and it was enough to get us
to an all night gas station where we got some more and filled it. We went
at 30 mph through the back roads. The transmission is toast. An expense
I don't need.
Brewerton Speedway 5-26-06
It rained early and often with more on the way and they cancelled about noon.
It rained in the morning and was raining early in the afternoon with 25 mph winds
so they cancelled early.
The month of May is packed with races for us. April was warm and dry
(warmest April on record) and May has been just the opposite. It has been
windy and cold with storm systems that have hung over the northeast for a
week at a time with some rain every day.
Saturday started out wet but there was a patch of clearing that made it's
way to the track in Canandaigua early in the day and lasted through the
night that let us race. We guessed that the track would be heavier than
normal with all the rain that there had been during the week but once at
the track a quick look and I was sure it would slick up like always.
During the week I set the car up to the specs we had been working with and
it hot laps the car was pretty good. The track was already starting to get
slick in the turns but there was still bite at the top and bottom.
We started 3rd in the first heat and came out of the second turn in fourth
as the car on the cushion got a good bite off the top. I went to the top
and finished the race there. The bottom was tacky but the middle of the
turns and the entries started getting glazed. One lap as I came into three
on the throttle, the rear tires broke loose from torque and spun. It put
the car sideways for a second. It was a weird feeling to break the tires
loose at the end of the straight. The fourth place finish put us in the
top 12 inversion. With 22 cars drawing and our heat draw being a good one,
we would start further back in the feature. As the draws and qualifiers
fell out, we ended up starting 6th in the feature.
Going into one was fast and the bottom line was fastest. The car was pretty
good but was still a little lacking getting in. I some cars got by and I got back
by some. The last half of the race I was running side by side with another car.
Some laps I would get ahead of him and other laps he would get ahead of me.
He was better on top in one and two and I was better in three and four. It was a lot
of fun racing like that on this wide track. The car ran great with no problems but
we just needed to be a bit faster in places. The top was a long way around, the
middle was slick and icy and there was some bite right on the bottom. The
bottom worked best for me. We ended up 11th, on the lead lap.
We discussed the setup with another team and came up
with some different ideas
to try. The setup we have been running has been stable and pretty well balanced,
but we haven't been able to improve much with it. So we are going to try something
that is back to basics for a race or two to learn the differences between the two setups.
We are bound to learn something and hopefully get a little quicker.
Albany Saratoga 5-12-06
This weekend we were planning to go to the ESS race at Albany Saratoga on
Friday but it rained the night before and there was rain forecast for
Friday night. We were ready to leave and checked with the track to find
that they had just cancelled. It was good that they cancelled early,
saving us the cost of gas and thruway tolls.
McKean County Raceway 5-13-06
Saturday's plan was to run the ASCS-PSG race at McKean County in north
western PA. I've been there before and it is a nice little banked 1/3 mile
that can have two grooves. The weather was nice at our shop but the radar
and forecast for the track location was marginal. Again it rained the
night before and with high probabilities of rain forecast, they also called
the race by noon. That was another welcome early call, saving a 4 hour tow
and thruway tolls in the opposite direction from Friday's race.
So we are ready to go for next week at Canadaigua and Weedsport.
I've had some good runs at Fulton and we've been looking forward to getting back here (no
race there last year). The track is a wide, banked, symmetrical, short half with walls all
around, but far back away from the groove in the turns. Typically this track gets dry and
hard during hot laps and then glazes over in the heats so that by feature time it is very
slick and hard to get a grip. The cushion is fast but moves up during the night until it
is so far around the top, that crawling around the bottom is faster. The turn exits get
like ice but if you can hug tight to the bottom at corner exit, there is some moisture and
bite in the surface.
In hot laps we were too tight. Rains during the morning
helped the track stay tacky. It looked like the track would still be good for our second
heat race even though the DIRT big block modifieds would race first. We took out some
wing, and adjusted stagger and air pressures.
With 46 sprint cars in the pits, things would have to
go right to even make the feature. I drew 48 and that put us 8th in the 12 car heat with 5
to qualify. On the start of the race, one of the cars up front, broke a wheel and drove
into another car and the two of them cartwheeled through the turn. This took out one very
good car and one other that started in front of me so I restarted 6th. On the next lap a
car in front of me spun and on the restart I was 5th. Making the show meant not getting
passed and the bottom was working for me. As the race progressed, I got under two more
cars and finished 3rd. The middle groove was getting slick and the top was getting to be
the long way around.
Mike Johnson Photo
Third in the heat meant that we were in the top 12 and
would redraw for our top 12 starting spot in the feature. I drew 6th. We now had a good
starting point for a top 10 and maybe top 5. The car worked good and I was pretty
I watched the track in the B-Mains and talked to a
couple of drivers about the surface. Tommy won one of the two B mains and would start near
the back of the feature. It was hard to get a read from these guys about what the track
was doing. The big block modifieds were going out before us so they would certainly dry
out the track and push the cushion further back making the bottom the fast way around.
There have been times where I've fooled myself into thinking that there might be bite in
the track because of earlier rain etc, but the track always dries out. Greg and I talked
it over. This place always gets icy. Others weren't setting up for the slick track I
expected and I thought that would be my advantage. We made the car soft and adjusted for
as much forward bite as we could, like we did for Utica Rome last week. Although last
week's finish was not good because we got trapped behind a spinning car, the car worked
good and I was able to pass.
So Greg and I set the car up for the typical glazed
slick track that we always find here hoping that I had outsmarted the field. When we
pushed out onto the track for the feature, I could see that I was in trouble. The third
turn was still moist with a few glazed patches. The bottom was real good and wider than
expected. My only chance was that the sprints would use up the bite and my car would come
We were too tight. I couldn't get the car into the
corner without breaking it loose and then I had to wait for it to hook up again so I could
get on it getting out. It was ok but not very well balanced. I was losing spots on
restarts and trying to make it up in the straights. The motor pulls a ton and with all the
adjustments we made for forward bite, it was lifting the front enough that when there was
LR bite, it would turn the car toward the outside wall coming out and I had to back pedal
to stay out of trouble. We would have been good if we had left the car the way it was in
the heat but I stewed about the setup for an hour and even had to stop myself from making
So I struggled through the feature, getting passed
where I should have been passing. I am very disappointed with how I ran in the feature. We
weren't fast but it was all my fault for missing the setup by so much. It's not very often
that a track holds moisture when there is a constant wind but somehow this one did. And
with every race we're learning more about this car and what it is capable of and what it
By the end of the race I had tried the middle and got
passed and the bottom and got passed by cars on the cushion and even the middle. On the
bottom, I couldn't get in the corner very well but could get off pretty well but by then
the other car was gone. So I figured that I had nothing to lose at this point, and I went
to the cushion for the last five laps. The car handled pretty good up there but it was a
long way around and easy to get tripped up. In the end we were 19th and rolled the car on
the trailer. 19 cars loaded up before the feature and some from the back of the tow truck
so it could have been worse but I'm still bummed that I didn't make the most of our good
starting position at a nearby track.
Utica Rome Speedway 4-30-06
Last season nearby Utica Rome Speedway scheduled a final race for all their
classes plus a 100 lap super stock and PSG sprint race. It was rained out
after the heats and rescheduled for Apr30-06.
Normally, spring time events have rough tracks but UR was smooth and it
slicked off quickly during the heats under a bright mid afternoon sun.
They tore up the track and added water after the heats to put some bite
back but that soon turned to dust and you couldn't see anything. Most of
the bad dusty stuff was ground off by the time our feature hit the track
and fortunately the breeze blew the dust away from spectators and pits.
We got there at 11:30am for hot laps at 1:30 and racing to begin at 2.
They took an hour to redo the track after the heats and we left after our
feature at 9:30pm. They were just starting the 100 lapper for the other
cars at that time. The fans had to be uncomfortable sitting for all that
The car and motor worked great. With the track having the traction of an
ice rink, it was really tricky to find something to get a hold of. I
started second in the first heat (Dad drew a 5) and there was some bite in
the track at the top and very bottom.
The car wouldn't stay down so I carefully ran the cushion. It's very easy
to end up over the banking (no wall) and in the grass or bushes (as one car
did in our heat). The cushion was the long way around and there was some
bite coming out but I lost a couple spots to cars at the bottom after a
couple of restarts. Finishing in the top four put us in the top 12 redraw
for the feature.
This was the first race where my inverted redraw idea was tried. Some
liked it, some didn't. I started up front in the heat so it was clear that
I would start around 9th to 12th in the feature. We actually started 8th,
cousin Tommy started 7th, next to me. The car that started on the pole of
my heat and the pole cars of the other heats easily qualified in the top
four of their heat and with this system, they started behind me. Seems
like pretty fair trades. Guys that started at the back of their heats and
made it to the top 4 started at the front of the feature.
Coming out of four on the start, everyone was spinning tires and we headed
for the first turn in a ball of dust. I ran through the high middle from
my outside row and got beat by some cars coming off the bottom. As the
race progressed, I headed for the bottom as there was nothing left at the
top that I could use. Some tried it up there and were fast but others
ended up going over the top. The best passing was tight on the bottom
coming out of four. If the car in front, missed that rail of moisture
around the inside, you could drive under him and pass, but then the tires
would break loose. After a while, I was able to back pedal after launching
off the tacky patch, so that the tires wouldn't spin and then a little past
there I could get back on it again. It was a tricky track.
I had been running 9th late in the race when a car spun in front of me. I
got on the brakes and slowed to avoid him but there were cars getting
through on the top and the bottom. I was lined up on him along with
another car in front of me. If I pulled out to get around, I would have
gotten hit by faster moving cars and I figured that the caution would be
out and they would go back to the previous lap. But NOooo. The guy loops
it and stays on the throttle and loops it again as we are closing in on
him, and then takes off. No need for a yellow but I went from 9th to about
20th and was still behind the spinner. With only a few laps left, I passed
Tommy, and some other cars and then, the spinner from before, spun again
but parked it this time so there was a caution with only two to go. I
passed one car but then missed the bottom just enough on four that I got
passed before the line. So we ended up 15th and rolled the car on the
trailer. Not a very impressive finish position, but I was happy with the
way the car worked and with the motor. We now have something to work with
and will be able to improve the setup and driving confidence. Next week is
Fulton... another slick track.
Today we learned that Brewerton and Fulton
have been sold. Nothing is known to date, more that what's in this article.
Fink sells two local speedways Saturday,
April 29, 2006 By John Hill Contributing writer
Harvey and Joan Fink, along with their son David, sold the Brewerton and
Fulton speedways this week after running the two tracks for more than a decade. The new
owners, Don Wetros, a New York City resident, and Rich and Charlene Fox of Greenwich,
Conn., took over operation of the two DIRT MotorSports tracks earlier this week.
T.J. Fitzgibbons, a Fulton racer who retired this year after winning that
track's DIRT pro stock championship, and race car builder Art Halliday will run the weekly
operation of both tracks for the new owners.
"This whole thing happened just this week and David (Fink) sat in for
us with the lawyers when the papers were signed," Harvey Fink explained Friday night
at the Brewerton track, which his family has owned for more than 15 years.
"Until this week, when the new owners came to us, I figured we were
going to continue running both tracks the rest of the year," Fink said.
Fink said his family would continue to operate the two speedways as long as the new
owners wish them to. The current employees who operate and maintain the two tracks will be
retained, Fitzgibbons said.
||Brewerton Practice 4-18-06
We went to the open practice session at Brewerton Speedway to get some laps on this track
before the ESS race there in May. I have never raced there, even though the
track is about a mile from where I've lived all my life. My father remembers going
there in the '40s and watching midgets run every Sunday. I've been going there
since before I was born. Back in the early 50's Nascar had two races there, one was
won by Lee Petty.
Now it has the top DIRT modified drivers racing
every Friday night with 3 other classes.
The place has passed through a dozen hands and went from a dirt 1/4 to a paved 1/4 and
then in the 70's reworked into a 1/3 D shaped banked dirt track.
The track looks tricky but drives easier than it looks. The first turn is
a tight 90 with good banking that progresses into an opening radius turn
two. After you have pitched the car around turn one you can get right on
it coming out and let the car drift out as the track sweeps out into the
short back straight. Three and 4 are just the opposite. You can
deep into three as the back straight sweeps into the tightening corner of
turn 4. There is proper banking and enough width that there are three
lines though this end of the track. Turn four is a tight, rounded turn
with banking that brings you onto the front straight without a fight. The
banking makes this track shape work and makes the racing fun to watch.
There is usually a cushion at the top of the banking and it is slick at the
We used the same setup we had at Fulton and it worked well here too. At
this track we pulled away from the five other cars that were there so we
are definitely fast. Both tracks were tacky so it was easy to make the
car work. Our motor ran perfect. I had put the dial a jet back in the
car to try some different fuel setting for the colder temps but when I
pushed off to start the car there was a leak around the adjusting shaft.
In the shop I had to take the thing apart because one of the springs that
holds the pills in place had gotten hung up under the internal barrel, when
someone had turned the knob when there were no pills in it.
Then I must have messed up the seal taking it apart so I'll have to rebuild
that before I use it again. For the most part, the fuel situation doesn't seem
to be a problem now that we know what to do.
So now we are ready to race. We have found a couple of mechanical bugs and
have a head start on how the car will work and the I have some laps in the
Back at the shop, we'll work on some modifications to the trailer and get
the spare car ready.
This was the report on the Brewerton Practice:
TUE NIGHT PRACTICE.....7 SPRINTERS....NICE TRACK
#11 JOE MIDDLEMISS.....MOTOR TROUBLES.
#45 COBRA CAR....POWER STEERING TROUBLES
#33 PATERSON SPRINTER WITH DOUG EMERY IN THE SEAT
#75 TOM WICKHAM
#91 SEAN O'DEA
#80 "STUNT DRIVER" DAVE WICKHAM
#36 MIKE "LEMON ICE" STELTER
News and thoughts on Sprints in NYS.
This year we are planning to follow the Patriot tour for the most part but
ESS has quite a few races that nearby that we plan to run so we have joined
both groups. The schedules for the two series' only have four conflicting
dates so it is possible for some teams to run both series and only miss two
races in each series. It is likely that there will be 40 or 50 cars at
Having said that, there are some dates that are at opposite ends of the
state on following days. This makes these races six to ten hours apart and
means towing all night and not having any problems with the car that will
take time to repair. It is not uncommon for the Outlaws or NST or Allstars
to tow all night, and I did my share of racing night after night on the
road, but it's not something that the teams around here are used to. I'm
sure a few will try running both and others will stay loyal to their series
(for points and political reasons) and some will pick and choose when there
are holes in their schedule.
One of the changes that has happened this year is that Tom Taber and his
associates have sold the Patriot Sprint Group to ASCS (American Sprint Car
Series). ASCS is a 15 yr old organization that has been a leader in 360
sprint car racing. They are the ones that originally came up with a
restrictor intake gasket that limited engine horsepower and that led to the
ASCS spec head which has become the standard for 360 sprint engines. ASCS
had acquired or started eight other series around the country and this year
created a national tour that will be a 360 sprint version of the World of
Outlaws model. ASCS wanted a presence in the north east and after trying
to negotiate with ESS, PSG and URC to place some national races in this
region, took the opportunity to buy PSG (Patriots). This has generated
some strong concern with the other eastern groups as everyone is afraid of
turf wars. Also new this year is an eastern NYS based 305 cid sprint
group... another element that has churned the waters. The 305 group runs
the same sprint chassis but with a very limited (450 hp) engine. It is
supposed to be a low budget option for sprint racing and has a very low
purse. A few promoters have signed this group in place of the other sprint
series (of course this is what went on when the Patriots started out with a
purse that was half of the ESS promoter fee). On top of all this was the
change by URC from being a club for 40+yrs to being owned by the prime
mover in the group, Bob Miller. Bob has bigger plans for URC and didn't
need ASCS in his neighborhood. URC is sanctioning a high paying open 360
event at Williams Grove this year that will possibly draw 100 cars from as
far as Florida to Canada. One other local sprint race date was lost when
DIRT booked USAC wingless sprints for a show at Canandaigua.
Anyway, as you can see, there is progress, concern and turmoil in NYS and
eastern sprint car groups. One of the changes that ASCS has made is that
the existing Patriot web site will not be supported any longer. All news
and results will now be located on the ASCS web site under the regional
groups. So far that is the only real change that ASCS has implemented. At
a recent meeting with ASCS president Emmett Hahn and Patriot racers and
officials, he said he is going to leave everything "as is" as far as the
rules and procedures that have been in place and proposed for '06. Tom
Taber will still be overseeing the operation and all officials will remain
as before. I suspect that there may be more impact from the buyout in '07.
If they are smart they will grow what is here instead of changing what has
been built that everyone is comfortable with.
Fulton Test Session
We had our first outing with the car at the Fulton test. Right out of the
box the motor was crisp and the chassis worked really good. The plan was
to use our baseline setup, work out the bugs and get some laps for the
We had the dyno settings in place for the motor and had no problems with
the power plant. It came off the corner with lots of power and it pulled
just as hard for the length of the straights. I don't think we have more
power than anyone but I'm sure we have as much as anyone. There was no
hint of the stumbling problem we had last season. A change of nozzle and
some fuel curve tuning really sharpened the response.
The only real bug came in the first session. Near the end of the session,
the car spun in 2 and then wouldn't steer correctly to get going again.
I stopped the car off the track and they towed it in. We found a problem
with the LF brake rotor. The outer edge of the aluminum rotor had rubbed
on the caliper and a build up of metal jambed the rotor so that it wouldn't
turn, locking up the wheel.
We pulled the hub assembly apart and replaced the rotor with a steel one
for a second session.
The brakes worked very good and I was getting more up to speed as I got
more laps. The track was slick on the bottom but had a rough choppy
cushion and some rough spots coming out. It was still tacky and the car
had a bit of push in it getting in and getting out of the corners. I
tried above the cushion and through the slick spots to see what the car was
going to do.
For the third session, we changed some weight and tire pressures. The car
was not as tight and I could run in harder. At the end of the session I
went into one on the bottom to try the slick part of the corner. The front
end pushed across the track and as I got out into the cushion, I stood on
it to turn the car and head down the back straight. The car swapped ends
immediately and headed backward on marbles. There was no bite and I was
headed for the wall at a high rate of speed! As I looked over my shoulder
I saw the pit exit openning and let off the brake a bit and steered a bit
to line up on it. The car flew through the hole backwards at 50 or 60 and
slid down the ramp to the pits. It happened too quick to be scared and
after it was over there was not reason to be. I ended up enough out of
the way that the cars coming off the track had room to get by.
I was totally surprised by the lack of bite in what looked like heavy
cushion. I had run through there before and thought I knew what was
there. I was totally lucky to line up on the pit exit. It would be hard
to do it again although I've seen it happen a few times over the years I
have watched there. I hope I didn't use up all my luck there. I hope it
means that I will have good luck this season.
This report ended up on Mike Lauterborn's site:
Fulton speedway practice......5 sprint cars........... George Ely, Tom & Dave Wickham, Gordy Button, Sean O'Dea, and
Jason Barney. Saw the most amazing thing, Dave Wickham got loose going in turn one and
stayed on the gas till it went around and somehow (I don't know how) went backwards down
the off ramp on turn two and did not hit a thing. it looked like it was going to be real
bad and then he disappeared and ended up on the drag strip. It was
That's not the kind of amazing lap I had in mind.
I'm pretty happy with the car.
It is stable, hooks up coming out, and has
lots of side bite (except when I screw up and stick it in the marbles).
We made some changes that shed some new light on setup
that should be very helpful this year. We still have some fine tuning to
do to get the car to roll through the corners but we're very close right
now (at least for these laps) and should be able to get the car better.
March was a busy month and things are coming together. We have changed the
paint scheme and are waiting for lettering to be ready.
||We have gone through the car to clean and rebuild
everything. Spares are ready and we will soon be able to assemble the spare
chassis. Changes to the car for this season are small updates. We installed a
Randy Lajoie seat system with helmet rests and shoulder supports on both sides. We
had to make some special brackets to tie it into the cage supports.We are going to try a
scoop nose piece instead of the stubby nose. We hear reports from others that the
scoop creates front down force.
This extra front force ends up being transfered to the
rear with the top wing position
to balance the car out again. There is a little fabrication needed to
adapt our existing hoods to the new nose.
We built a new dash with all the gauges and wiring on a smaller piece that
can come off and go with the motor with just two dzus. This will simplify
motor changes or moving a motor to the other chassis.
This year we have a couple of spare rear ends and drive lines as well as
multiples of all of the bolt on stuff. Having it usually means you won't
need it... but you never know.
The Dodge truck we used last year has been replaced with a Chevy which will
hopefully drive better and get better mileage. We have a little work to
do to adapt it for our use but it should work out OK.
We have not had a 4 wheeler to push the car around the pits before. We
have been able to get away with out one because the the PSG guys were
pretty good about getting us on the track with their machines. This year
we picked up a small ATV that will fit on the trailer and not weigh things
down. It should make life easier for the crew and make us less dependant
The season will get under way with our first race at Utica Rome on 4/30 and
a practice session at Brewerton on 4/18.
Since we finished work on the motor on the
dyno, we have been concentrating on getting the chassis ready. The next major project was
getting the body work ready to paint and getting the paint work done. We are going back to
a white car with some red striping. We got a few hoods and a couple of tanks finished and
now we need to get the lettering done.
Greg has been working on new sheet metal parts like the
dash, side panels and radiator box. We will make multiples of them for the spare car. Jeff
has been working on cleaning parts and spares. Rodney, Jeff and Greg dropped the motor in
this week and connected the plumbing and linkage. Armond has been cutting tubing and
machining the pieces for some new wing mounts and Pete has helped put thing together.
Jerry Wickham has stepped up again to help us out by doing most of the paint work and
supplying us with a lot of shop supplies, oil and filters.
There are still a lot of things we want to do. We have
received new bearings to rebuild one of the spare rears and we plan to get the spare car
ready in case it is needed. The spare motor sits, ready to go.
This winter I picked up a different truck for hauling
the crew and trailer and a new four wheeler to push the car around the pits (a first for
The 2006 PSG schedule is centered much more to the west
of NYS than it has been in the past. There are more races in northwestern PA and
southwestern NYS and some races conflict with work so we won't be able to make all the
races on this year's schedule. The PSG schedule is good for the teams in that south west
NYS area but for me and the other racers nearby it, will make for some 4+ hour tows.
The ESS schedule has some very close-by events on it's schedule and there are few
conflicts between the schedules of the two groups. That may mean high car counts at many
races. Our original plan was to race close to home, so it's hard to pass up some of the
nearby ESS races. PSG will still remain our primary group and we plan to make as many PSG
races as possible and as usual, we'll have to work around weather, repairs and finances.
Tommy Wickham (second cousin) raced sprints for the first time last year. His past
experience in micros made the transition easy. He was very competitive right from the
beginning. He made some rookie mistakes and had some bad mechanical luck but showed that
he has the ability to win. He and his father dove in head first this winter and bought a
43 ft trailer and a really nice car and used but state of the art Jimmy Dee motor to go
along with the car and motor from last season.
Tommy plans to run the ESS schedule this season with
his eye on rookie of the year. He picked a tough year as there is another racer with big
dollar backing, a past ESS champion mentor, and a dirt modified championship under her
belt. She will follow in the steps of ESS's Erin Crocker (now driving the Nascar truck
series for Evernham and headed for Cup). Erin won in ESS and was always competitive, then
went on to the Outlaws where she also won. The new ESS female rookie is going to be tough
to beat so Tommy will have to be on his game every race. I plan to help as much as
possible. Look for Tommy in an orange #75.
Motors and the Dyno 2-4-2006
At the end of January, Jeff found a good deal on a 360 motor and we checked it
out and bought it so now we have a spare motor. This will take some of the pressure off,
if there are motor problems with our main primary power plant. It is basically the
same configuration as what we have and will plug in nicely when needed.