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2013 - Third Quarter

Yes, I fully understand the month of October is really part of Quarter #4 on most calendars but I’ve been busy.

Topics for this report include:

  • Celebrating July Fourth at the Majors weekend in Portland, OR (Harriett joined me for that one)
  • Sharing Cuervo with six-time National Champion Mike Lewis at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis
  • Attending Road America for the 50th running of the SCCA National Championship event – the best Runoffs EVER!!!
  • Plans for the rest of 2013
  • Plans for 2014

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Cuervo was halfway across the country in Kansas at the time so I did briefly think about hauling him out to Portland for the final Western Conference event of the 2013 US Majors Tour, but cooler heads prevailed and I flew instead. Harriett was attending a business conference in San Diego the weekend before, so she took a couple of days enjoying Southern California before joining me for the July 5-7 Majors weekend hosted by the Oregon Region at Portland International Raceway. PIR is in the flood plain of the Columbia River that separates Oregon from Washington, and the night of the Fourth we sat huddled on the levee behind our hotel and were able to see probably fifteen fireworks displays up and down the river. And I say “huddled” because even with the long-sleeved sweatshirts we’d bought that afternoon it was windy and maybe fifty-five degrees – definitely NOT like any July 4 evening I’ve ever spent before. The weather was great otherwise (sunny and dry all four days) and the day before heading to the track we made a sightseeing trip up the Columbia (hiked to Bridal Veil Falls) and then around Mt. Hood (stopping at the famous Timberline Lodge – the ski lifts were in operation and people were still skiing and snowboarding) before returning to Portland. I’ve seen races at PIR on TV but this was the first time I’d actually been there, so I got to do a couple of laps during the track touring sessions on Sunday and was very impressed with the facility. Beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery, excellent racing, and a great team of folks out there to work with – I’m already making plans to return in 2014.

I spent July 19-27 in Topeka and during that time took Cuervo over to Jesse Prather Racing to get ready for the final event of the 2013 US Majors Tour at Gateway the first weekend in August. Longtime readers may remember I was disappointed with my performance at the June Sprints (ten seconds slower than I felt I should have been) so after checking a few things out we strapped Cuervo to Jesse’s chassis dyno to see what we had. Three pulls from 4000 to redline yielded horsepower numbers within two hp of each other and a max of 419.7.  It was running just a tad rich and Jesse said we could probably pick up 10 hp with a bit of tuning, but it showed I can’t explain my poor times at Road America as being 100 hp down from usual. We did find out the tach reads about 600 rpm higher than actual revs so I’ve actually been short-shifting the car all this time – at least that’s my excuse NOW! <g>

Shortly before leaving for St. Louis I got an e-mail from six-time National Champion Mike Lewis wondering if I was racing at Gateway (I was), if Cuervo was GT-1 legal (he is), and if I was willing to discuss sharing the ride there (again, I was). It ends up Mike was third in the GT-1 nationwide points race and could win that mythical nationwide championship with a first or second at Gateway. He was going to be in St. Louis for a meeting the following Monday and there was only one other GT-1 signed up to race, so even though Cuervo is not competitive with a “real” GT-1 car he thought he could accomplish both objectives in one trip. I did advise him that a GTA car is a LOT less sophisticated than the Trans-Am Jaguar he normally wheels, but he was cool with that. We finally decided he’s run the car on Saturday and then we’d make a decision on our Sunday plans once we knew where things were points-wise. And while Mike’s 6’4” he did acknowledge I was one of the few people in SCCA that could bust his chops about needing a booster seat to see over the dash. <g>

Michael Major was the other GT-1 entry in a VERY nice fourth-generation Camaro and, as expected, qualified on the pole with a 1:06.903. Even though it was Mike’s first session ever in a GTA car he was outside pole with a 1:07.219 while Jerry Onks’ T-1 Corvette and Keith Moody’s GTA Monte Carlo (running in GT-2) made up the second row with a 1:07.246 and a 1:07.498 respectively. Todd Napieralski’s 2010 T-1 Camaro was the final car in the 1:07’s with a 1:07.520 followed by the rest of the 20 car field. With the top five cars qualifying within a second it looked like it’d be a great race.

Since the plug on Mike’s helmet didn’t match my radios we got out my old-fashioned flip board so I could inform him of what was going on during the race. He needed to finish half of the scheduled 28 laps to earn even second-place points (which would tie him for the nationwide title) so I was going to give him an “arms across my waist” signal to let him know when we reached that point. That all became moot when he got a great start and led the field into Turn One, then as they came into view coming through NASCAR Four he was five seconds ahead! It ends up Major’s Camaro had loaded up at the start and then Keith looped it in the infield on the first lap, so both those situations created the huge gap as traffic backed up behind them. Mike ran off a string of 1:07 laps to extend his lead and at the halfway point the gap was ten seconds to second place and over twenty to Major’s second-place GT-1 car. Although I was pretty sure Mike would keep going anyway I was standing at the pit wall wind-milling like a third-base coach waving in the winning run in the World Series! Mike obviously understood my signal, stayed out, and ended up taking first overall by a 13-second margin. I have to admit I was almost as happy watching him win in my race car as I would have been driving it myself!

With Mike’s mission accomplished I was going to race on Sunday. Unfortunately my services were needed as announcer at the Majors podium so I decided I’d just run Sunday morning’s 10-lap qualifying race and work the rest of the day. Since I had no time from Saturday I started from the back and moved pretty quickly through the field to finish fourth overall, second in GT-2. The race was shortened to seven laps when an ASedan driver tried re-arranging a tire wall in the infield and the stewards decided it would take longer to clean up than we had left on the 20-minute clock. We only got five green flag laps and I ended up with a best lap of 1:08.636, so I didn’t feel too bad about how I did. We were experimenting with the AiM data boxes we planned to use at the Runoffs to support performance balancing in some of our newer classes, so it was interesting to compare Mike’s times with mine. It was quickly apparent I was more comfortable with the car and was getting on the gas sooner coming out of the corners while he was using track knowledge (and talent) to carry more speed into the corners. I was actually carrying slightly more speed going into One, then we’d hit the brakes at the same time and stop at the same rate, but he would come off the brakes sooner. It also became apparent there’s a reason Mike has six SCCA National Championships to his name. <g>

I had tentatively planned to run the “Daylight Into Darkness” Double SARRC at Charlotte Motor Speedway the weekend of Aug 17-18, but after blowing two trailer tires (and finding a third that was separating) coming back from St. Louis and seeing rain predicted for the CMS weekend I left Cuervo at home. I did drive up on Saturday to watch and also worked the Double SARRC at Barber over Labor Day weekend, then flew back to KS to drive the SCCA equipment truck to Road America for the 50th running of the Runoffs.

We were in Wisconsin for twelve days but everyone on the National Staff agrees this was the “Best Runoffs Ever!” The action on the track was as closely contested and exciting as ever, but the off-track adventures are what made it stand out. Among the off-track actions we had two visits from the local sheriff regarding vandalism by crews after partaking in adult beverages (one of the transgressors was caught because of corn stalks still stuck in the grille of their rental car), one race car burned to the ground from a freak electrical short at 2 AM, the Thursday night celebration where the top ten Runoffs moments were presented, the usual drama in the Tech shed, and then the equipment truck breaking down just south of Des Moines on the way back to Topeka. The highlight of the week, however, was successfully assembling over 500 race cars on the front straight with the drivers standing alongside while the helicopter flew over to record things for posterity (http://www.autoweek.com/article/20130920/motorsports/130929975). Yes there was some grumbling about shortening sessions on Thursday to allow time to get everyone in position, but afterwards most people were remarking about how awesome it was! 

Afterwards I also found this great video about the event – it REALLY explains why we do what we do: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnAc7yYjjPE) 

After getting back from KS I made a day trip to Roebling Road to spectate at the 2013 SARRC Invitational Challenge. I don’t have the resources (time, money, talent) to compete for a National Championship, but that trip to Savannah is important because it “reminded” me I really need to make at least one more run at a SARRC championship before I hang up my helmet for good.

Plans for the rest of 2013:

Nov 1-3

Braselton GA

Race at the 20th ARRC by GRM at Road Atlanta (also 2014 SARRC race)

Nov 8-10

Pittsburgh PA

Attend the NEDiv  Mini-Convention

Dec 3-10

Topeka KS

December BoD meetings

Dec 11-15

Indianapolis IN

PRI Show and CRB meeting

In 2014 I’ll be making multiple trips to Kansas and attending at least three conventions as part of my job. We’re also currently looking at going to (at least) 13 race weekends across the country to support/promote the Majors series, plus we’ll be conducting the first Runoffs on the West Coast since 1968 (at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) in October. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for racing myself and granted making plans is the best way to amuse the racing gods, but right now BK Racing is looking to compete at the following events next year:

May 9-11

Danville VA


Jun 27-29

Savannah GA

Roebling Road Double SARRC

Jul 11-13

Braselton GA

Road Atlanta Double SARRC

Aug 15-17

Charlotte NC

Charlotte Motor Speedway Double SARRC

Sep 26-28

Daytona Beach FL

2014 SARRC Invitational Challenge

Oct 30-Nov 2

Braselton GA

21st ARRC at Road Atlanta

As always, let me know if you’d like more information about any of these weekends.

See y’all at the track…