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BK Racing 2002 Wrap-Up

Anyone that’s talked to me for more than 20 minutes would not be amazed to hear that I consider myself a goal-oriented person. I’m aware that I need to "enjoy the journey" as much as I focus on the eventual objective (and I try to do that), but striving toward a definable target gives me direction in my life and allows me to measure progress. Perhaps this makes me one dimensional in some aspects, but I believe that doing one thing well is better than doing many things halfway.

Ever since Mike Eakin and I clambered under the chain link fence that separated the unwashed masses (like us) from the paddock area at Road Atlanta in 1971, the underlying dream has been winning an SCCA National Championship. Although such an accomplishment seemed far away during the early years with the Trashwagon and various iterations of the Corvettes that I raced, we made a major step forward when we commisioned MHG-001 (later named "Lucifer") from the shops of Miller Racing in early 2000. My instructions to Johnny were "no club racer in the country will have better equipment", and he delivered in time for the 2000 Runoffs.

Although B.K. Racing had qualified for the Runoffs with Lucifer’s predecessor ("Godzilla"), I had no idea how to run a National Championship level effort. We showed up at Mid-Ohio with essentially a brand new car, qualified 16th and finished 8th, one lap down to the winner. In 2001 we learned a lot more about the car (including how many 8000 RPM shifts the driver can miss before the connecting rods start coming through the oil pan) and began developing the expertise to properly support such a program. We again qualified for the Runoffs but chose not to go since we had no reasonable chance of winning. We’d already shown we could run eighth, so instead of spending $10,000 to (maybe) run fifth, I decided to apply that money toward 2002.

The economic downturn after 9/11 certainly affected the plan, but the emotional trauma of that event also imbued a "go for it now because you may never get another chance" attitude. In late 2001, based on assumptions that the economy had bottomed out and that we’d share weekend expenses with a fellow GT-1 racer, I developed a budget that, if all went well, would fund the bare minimum of events to qualify for the 2002 Runoffs yet allow us to carry a car capable of winning to Mid-Ohio. I knew we had a car and a team capable of doing well, so if the driver was up to the task I felt we had a real chance of standing on the podium. As everyone knows the economy continued to sour, then the expenses were more than estimated and the "sharing" agreement lasted but a single event. We soldiered on regardless.

In March at Road Atlanta we ran in the rain every session, qualified eighth overall and finished second to Paul Newman (NOT a budget-constricted effort). At the June Road Atlanta race we qualified fifth with limited track time, moved up to fourth at the green, then faded to fifth after the driver missed yet another shift and bent all the pushrods. We earned the Runoffs invitation by finishing fourth and third at the two Nationals at Roebling Road in July, but also received a three-race probation after an "ill-advised" attempt at passing a slower car. Since we needed to start preparing Lucifer for his trip to Ohio, I rented a ride in one of Joe Hooker’s school GTA cars and satisfied the probabtion terms at Daytona prior to heading north.

We planned to run the Friday test day prior to the August National at Mid-Ohio to get used to the additional horsepower (we had installed the rebuilt killer engine after running for two seasons with the "mule") and get ready for the Runoffs in September. Johnny Miller was also on hand to turn some laps to give us some feedback on how the car was running - i.e., do we need to work on the car or the driver?

Regular readers of my updates will remember that the throttle stuck on Johnny’s first hot lap and our season ended very abruptly against the tire wall outside Mid-Ohio’s Turn One. We had many offers of help from competitors, but we were already stretching a shoestring budget and having the RF tire sitting in the passenger compartment had a catastrophic impact on my already thin checkbook. We loaded Lucifer up (with a shovel) and headed home.

The good news is the frame is not bent and the high dollar engine was not hurt. The bad news is that just about everything else on the right side of the car is junk. We’ve gotten the cheapest part done (taking it apart) and have sent a lot of stuff off to be checked and/or fixed, but there’s still no real estimate on when we’ll be getting back on the track. We may be running in search of a SARRC (South Atlantic Road Racing Championship) title or we might be limited to a "run just enough to keep the license current" season, plus I’m also mentally preparing myself for the possibility of not road racing at all in 2003. The one thing that IS certain, however, is that unless we hit the Lotto or turn up in the will of a (currently unknown) wealthy relative, B.K. Racing will NOT be going back to the Runoffs next year. I’m not ready to give up on the dream and we may still get there eventually, it just probably won’t be next September.

I guess it’s time to practice enjoying the journey rather than arriving at a destination.

More later as plans progress…