|The next year was an Outlaw sanctioned race. We had our fresh Ron Hutter motor and a slotted wing with a flap that we designed, and an air induction hood we developed with AFAB�s Bill Stevic.
This time we started out with 6 inches of stagger and in practice, the car felt like it was on ice. It broke loose and spun the tires coming out of the turns and just kind of floated all over. I was passing cars but I figured that the other guys were just taking it easy. After practice I was talking with several drivers and they all found the track icy and wondered how we got around so quick.
Qualifying was the next day and the track was much better. We didn�t change much and it felt pretty good in early practice. It was cold when I went out for qualifying and I stood on it out of the pits and set it sideways through one and two, wide open, to get some scuff heat in the tires. I lifted for three and the car stuck so I jumped right back on it. As I entered the first turn after getting the green, I half lifted and the car stuck so I stayed on it and never lifted for the next lap and a half.
What a thrill! Running Syracuse without lifting! (Click here) In past years, at all the races I watched, everyone had to back off to get into the turns. Gary Bettenhausen had run his champ car around there without lifting for a few laps, out in the loose stuff, but ended up in the roof of a concession stand in turn one when his right rear dug in and went down... no bead locks then.
I wasn�t the first or last that day to flat foot the mile, but the effort was worth 5th starting position, ahead of Brad Doty and Steve Kinser. Sammy Swindell set a world record for the dirt mile followed by Doug Wolfgang, Jeff Swindell and Bobby Allen.
|The next day was race day. We were pitted in qualifying order, right there with the major names of the sport and all the photographers. Ron Hutter spent time with us and it felt good to be at the front. Although I knew we were out of our league, I knew we would do well in the race, the car felt very good in warmups. The format was 63 miles, 100 km; the first 40 laps yellows count, then they stop the race for
fuel. The second half
was 23 laps, only
|We had new tires on and more mounted for the second half and went through everything on the car. My right hand man, Duval Dressler showed me a worn rubber hood latch and wanted to put a tarp strap across the nose of the hood to be safe. I didn�t want to screw up the air there and decided that the rubber latch would hold so we didn�t strap the
hood. When the green dropped, I fell in line at the front and followed in 5th for a dozen laps. The car was flying and stable and although I couldn�t go any faster than the cars in front of me, no one could pass me either.
Somewhere about half way in the first leg of the race, that hood strap broke and the
lifting force of the front wing broke the one on the other side too and it lifted the nose of the hood up about a foot, to the bottom of the front wing. That caused the part of the hood at the cockpit to come up enough so that I couldn�t see the track. In fact, all I could see was the cage and wing of the car ahead of me, the wall and the guardrail.It screwed up my ability
|to judge getting into the turns and I backed off a bit. Cars passed on the outside going in and I dropped back. |
As we passed the white flag for the first half, I was ready for the break, figured we�d fix the problem and start near the back on the restart and I could make up some spots. Then going into one, Sammy lapped me. I knew right then that I had no chance for a good finish.
During the break we put that tarp strap on the hood, two in fact, and had to start second behind Sammy, one lap down. Sammy took off on the restart. I didn�t have a prayer of ever passing Sammy to get my lap back, but for several laps I ran second in line and no one passed me. I saw the nose of a car in three on the outside a couple of times but then I�d pull away. Finally I let off in three and let them go after Sammy, it was Wolfgang and Kauffman. I dropped to about 5th or 6th in line to let the leaders race, and then stayed there. I was able to run with the front runners but being a lap down, the only positions I could make up were the lapped cars I passed with the leaders. We ended up around 13th for the day and considering everything, that wasn�t too bad. But if I hadn�t been so stubborn about that tarp strap we might have had a top 5 finish on the Syracuse Mile.
What a thrill! Running Syracuse without lifting!
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