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2013 - Second Quarter

Given that yesterday was July 1, I guess it’s appropriate that this Update (the first one in over two months) cover the second quarter of 2013 for BK Racing.  Short version:

  • At the Road Atlanta TT event I found out there are TWO ends to a ground cable
  • Set a GT2 track record at Michigan International Speedway (not NEARLY as impressive as it sounds, though)
  • First time ever working under a lift – guess what I’m thinking about getting myself for Christmas
  • First time ever driving at Road America – there’s a reason it’s among the top five tracks in North America!

= = = = = = = = =

And as always, the longer (and sometimes more entertaining) version:

My new job as SCCA’s Director of Club Racing meant I was going to be attending a lot of tracks I’ve never seen before, so I decided I’d take Cuervo to a couple of them to race on them as well. I planned to run the Time Trial event at Road Atlanta the weekend of May 17-19 to make sure the repairs we’d done to Cuervo over the winter (transmission, headers, front brakes) functioned properly, but I ended up spending most of Saturday chasing an electrical problem and didn’t get on track. It would start off the booster battery but not the onboard battery so we checked connections and replaced the master switch, then finally pulled the main battery out believing it had a bad cell. I took it to the local Advance Auto Parts in Oakwood where the manager asked if I wanted him to check it out and I replied, “You can check it if you want, but I KNOW it’s toast!” Well it ends up the battery had more cold cranking amps than new so the manager (nice kid, but then most people in parts stores are kids to me nowadays <g>) said he’d be glad to charge me $100 for a new battery but it wouldn’t solve my problems. He suggested I check all the connections again, so I headed back to the track scratching my head even more.

I had called myself checking all of the connections previously but figured I’d check them one more time. I asked my paddock neighbor Hal Musler (longtime NEDiv GT-1 driver that’s now living in the Carolinas but is also interested in GTA) to have him look over my shoulder. As he went back to his rig to get his glasses I took the opportunity to trace the ground wire from the battery to where it’s bolted to the chassis and found the nut on that end was finger tight! I then called out “Nevermind!” to Hal, but by the time I cleaned the connection and got everything back together the last TT session on Saturday was rolling off the grid. It rained all day Sunday so I didn’t run either of those sessions (as Sterling Moss once said, “The only thing dumber than racing in the rain is PRACTICING in the rain”) but I felt pretty confident we were taking a solid car north the next weekend.

May 23-26 was the first road race at Michigan International Speedway in over 20 years (also part of the US Majors Tour). I did some nickel & dime maintenance on Cuervo, (re)loaded up and left town around 10 AM on Thursday, then before getting to Canton I discovered a problem with the (recently repaired) LR wheel seal on the dually – my first clue something was amiss was smoke pouring out from under the fender as I was applying the brakes going down the hill to I-575 on GA-140. I turned around, dropped the trailer in the Publix parking lot, and took the dually to the guys that did the original work (Hickory Flat Highway Automotive). To their credit they found and fixed the problem at no charge. That delayed me getting out of town until 4:00 PM, so I drove until after midnight to stop north of Cincinnati for the evening, then I made it to the track by 1:00 on Friday. Harriett flew in and (after I found the actual motel we were staying in rather than the one right by the track with the same name) we had a nice dinner and explored Jackson MI. Quaint little place and very scenic, but it gets cold there in the winter!

I went out for the first session on Saturday and quickly found out the clutch was slipping some - it would go “okay” but I had to ease into the throttle rather than matting it like I normally would. I was still hitting the rev limiter in fourth (almost 160 mph) before the start/finish line on the oval and the engine sounded funny (like it was running on seven cylinders) but I was getting faster each lap before deciding to pull in halfway through the 20-minute session. After checking the qualifying sheets we found my 1:25.643 was good for 15th out of the 23 cars that took times. I couldn't find any plug wires off and there didn't seem to be any shorts in the wires, so we put the 8000 chip in box #2 (easier and cleaner than changing the rear gear) and bled the brakes to get ready for the race.

There was no quick fix for the clutch, so since I was the only car in GT2 I chose to start from the back rather than risk messing up anyone else's race. On the pace lap I radioed Harriett that it appeared my right ear plug had fallen out (she asked what the impact of that was - just that it would be harder for me to hear her), but in retrospect it was the beginning of the exhaust system coming apart.

Harriett called the green from atop the control tower (where the NASCAR spotters stand) and even though I "mosey-ed" to Turn 1 I still managed to pass three cars before I got there. Harriett called out "there are cars everywhere in One!", and from my viewpoint there was so much dirt in the air I wondered if I'd somehow gotten involved in a tractor pull!!! <g> I made it through all that just fine and kept picking off cars (mainly on the banking plus a couple in the infield), so by the time it was over I was up to ninth overall, first car one lap down. Ends up my best race lap was a 1:22.845 that I turned on the last lap of the race, and since this was the first event on the new configuration I'm now the GT2 record-holder at MIS (and also got to do a victory lap!). We also figured I was hitting almost 170 mph before braking for Turn One and quite a few people commented that "you looked comfortable on the banking". To my credit, I did NOT reply, “Well duh, it’s a stock car so it SHOULD look comfortable on the banking!” <g> And while we do indeed hold the GT2 record at MIS (at least until a real GT2 car shows up), it should also be pointed out that I also have the twenty SLOWEST laps ever turned there by a GT2 driver as well.

After getting back from my Victory Lap, doing the Victory Circle thing (it was lonely up on the podium by myself but I still said a few words for the assembled masses) and getting through Tech (weighed 2833 against a 2830 minimum) we found the exhaust between the collector and the muffler was completely gone! Given the slipping clutch and being in a one-car class (and already having my name in the record books), we loaded up and skipped Sunday's races.

I left Jackson around 9:00 AM EDT Monday and rolled into Lawrence KS just after 9 PM CDT. The original plan was to leave the trailer in Des Moines and pick it up on the way to the June Sprints in two weeks (June 12), but given the need for repairs I took it all the way to Kansas me. Tuesday afternoon I took the car over to (fellow SCCA staff member) John Bauer’s shop and put Cuervo on a lift for the first time ever. A number of people have told me I need to get a lift for my shop but I never seriously considered it because (1) I figured they wouldn’t raise the car high enough for me to work under it and (2) I’m hard-headed about things. It ends up we had everything apart and were inspecting the clutch within 45 minutes where normally it would take twice as long to get to that point, and as an added bonus I wasn’t covered in grime from rolling around under the car. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks! We got everything back together the following weekend, and after lunch on June 12 I rolled out of Topeka heading for Elkhart Lake, WI, to participate in the 58th running of the Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints.

I first watched racing at Road America back in 1983 and have attended multiple events (including the Runoffs) there in the ensuing years, but this would be the first time I’d ever actually driven the 14-turn, 4.0 mile course. In my first 25-minute session on Friday I did my out lap, picked up the pace a bit on the first hot lap, then ran out of talent and spun the car at Turn 13 (narrowly missing the tire wall) on the next lap. After cleaning out my drawers I was halfway through my fourth lap when they did a Black Flag All and brought the entire field (less the car that had blown an engine going into Turn 12) into the pits. They quickly decided it would take longer to clean up the oil than we had left in the session, so they threw the checker with us on pit road. When I got back to the pits (having NO unsullied lap to my credit) fellow SCCA staffer Eric Prill asked, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” Even though I had NO idea what I was doing out there I quickly replied:

 . “There’s a reason Road America is a bucket list track!”

Eric simply nodded and agreed that summed it up pretty well. <g>

Over the rest of the weekend I got faster each session and in the race I continued to improve just about every lap before ending up 5th of nine in GT-2. Unfortunately I was still about ten seconds a lap off where I felt I should have been, which means I was WAY too tentative in the corners. I’m pretty sure I haven’t forgotten how to drive in the six months since the 2012 ARRC by GRM, so anyone that claims Road America is only about horsepower has NO CLUE what they’re talking about. What I did learn (other than I was overslowing the car way too much) is I really don’t need to try and work an event and race with no crew to help support my efforts, but when I can do it right I’ll definitely get back to Elkhart Lake – it’s one of those tracks than makes what we do so enjoyable!

July 13 will mark my one year anniversary working for SCCA, so I guess I ought to do a quick recap of how that’s been. While on the job in the last twelve months I’ve attended races at Heartland Park (KS), Charlotte (NC), Barber (AL), the Runoffs (WI), the ARRC by GRM (Road Atlanta), Sebring (FL), Auto Club Speedway (CA), Circuit of the America (TX), Road Atlanta (duh!), Hallett (OK), VIR (VA), MIS (MI), NJMP (New Jersey), and Road America (WI). I’ve also attended conventions/conferences in Reno (NPDiv), upper state New York (NEDiv), Jekyll Island (SEDiv), Las Vegas (National Convention), and Cleveland (NEOhio), and in my spare time I’ve averaged nine days each month in the home offices in Topeka. At every one of those places I’ve been working with people as passionate about racing as I am, and most of you know my mind is ALWAYS racing. As my buddy Don Atwell reminded last November, despite temporary frustrations and setbacks, “It’s definitely better than having a REAL job!” <g>

Harriett was in San Diego this past weekend, so tomorrow we’re going to meet up in Portland for the Fourth and a long weekend together.  For those of you who care, here’s the current schedule we’ve got planned for the remainder of the 2013 BK Racing season: 

Jul 3-7

Portland OR

Assist with the Portland (Oregon) round of the US Majors Tour

Aug 2-4

St. Louis MO

Race & Assist with the Gateway round of the US Majors Tour

Aug 16-18

Charlotte NC

Race “Daylight Into Darkness” Double SARRC at CMS (tentative)

Sep 14-22

Elkhart Lake WI

Assist with the 50th SCCA Runoffs

Oct 4-6

Savannah GA

Race the SARRC Invitational Challenge at Roebling Road (tentative)

Nov 1-3

Braselton GA

Race the 20th ARRC by GRM at Road Atlanta

Nov 9-10

West Palm Beach FL

Conduct research at PBIR regarding 2014 US Majors Tour

See y’all at the track…