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2004 ARRC

Been slow getting the report out after running the ARRC at Road Atlanta last weekend.  We came in second on Saturday, third on Sunday - but then that's the way the year's been going.

Also found out this afternoon that I came in second (of four) in the Area 12 Director's election.  Kaye Fairer won with 585 votes, I had 426, Phil Creighton 332 and Rick Cone 247.  Thank you to those who supported me and I ask you to give that same support to Kaye.

Here's the report from ARRC 2004:

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2004 has not been particularly kind to the B.K. Racing / Cool Shirt Corvette. We started the year with high hopes of contending for the GT-1 SARRC Championship, but the broken crankshaft at VIR followed by the bone-headed driver spinning out of the lead on the last lap at Barber pretty much put paid to that idea. We skipped the SIC even though we’d qualified and decided to end the season with the American Road Race of Champions and the Cool Shirt SuperPro Shootout at Road Atlanta over the first weekend in November.

We were the defending SPO champions, but the Pro race on Sunday was attracting some pretty serious SPO hardware and we knew it’d be tough to defend that title. The bank account couldn’t stand new tires for the weekend in any case, so we decided to use some BFGs that we had scarfed from Paul Newman’s 2002 Runoffs effort (no, he did NOT autograph them, but I still may offer them on E-Bay anyway <g>). Given those constraints, we pretty much decided we were running for the FAST award – Fastest Auto on Sh***y Tires (unlike Junior, I can’t afford the 25 points OR the $10,000).

Fifty-four (54!) SPO, GTA, TCC and ITE cars entered in the Group Six race, which meant getting a clean lap during either of Friday’s qualifying sessions would be next to impossible. Our goal therefore was to get a decent lap without jeopardizing the car and just be in a position to see the green flag for Saturday’s sprint race. We turned a 1: 31.3 in the second session, which was good enough for third on the grid (behind John Finger and Dan Shaver) and the car was still in one piece, so we accomplished what we set out to do. More importantly, we confirmed that Mike Harrison’s work on Meredith (the TransAm engine) had resolved the oil pressure problems we experienced at Barber. It was a pretty happy group that dined at the Oakwood Buffalo’s.

Saturday morning we bolted on the "better" set of BFGs, then went out during the morning warm-up to see how they would behave. Unfortunately, our driver (yours truly) forgot the lesson learned at last year’s ARRC and tried to go too fast, too soon on cold tires. I was chasing Chris Ingle out of Turn 5 on the second lap, got into the throttle and immediately become an old pair of blue jeans caught in the spin cycle of Momma’s washing machine. Chris said he counted three full spins before he went out of sight over the hill toward Six, but I’m thinking I went around four times before kissing the concrete barrier on drivers’ right with the right rear corner of the car. I do know that I ended up backwards in the grass facing uphill toward the traffic coming over the hill out of Five. Cold racing slicks on dew-covered grass don’t generate a lot of traction, so I ended up backing all the way down to the Turn Six corner station, did a three-point turn when I found a gap in traffic, then trundled back to the pits to assess the damage. Oh yeah, and the Turn Six workers gave me a ticket for (1) going the wrong way on a one-way street and (2) damaging flora and fauna.

At any rate, Dennis McClintock & Mike Eakin started taking the car apart while Data (Eric Bartel) & I went back to the shop to get the spare rear bumper and deck. It took some creative modification since those parts had never been on this chassis, but with everyone working together we managed to get everything assembled and the car ready about fifteen minutes before the call to grid for Saturday afternoon’s race. With my son Pete reminding me over the radio that "you’re on cold tires, Pinhead", we went out for the pace lap.

Mindful of last year’s start and the experience that morning, I was conservative at the green and slotted into fourth going into Turn 1 behind Finger, Shaver and Gene Felton in his ex-NASCAR Caterpillar Monte Carlo. Richard Grant pulled alongside me on the back straight, but I had the preferred line going into 10A and got by both he and Felton under braking. John pulled in on the second lap (saving his tires for Sunday’s money race) as I turned my best lap of 1:30.549 trying to chase down Dan. One lap later we went full-course caution followed by a black flag all while our intrepid corner workers cleaned up cars (and vital fluids) scattered about the track.

I timed the restart perfectly, but unfortunately I missed the shift from second to third (got neutral, which is better than getting first), so Richard and Gene both got around me before we got to Turn One. I passed Gene again under braking for Ten, but on the next lap I perfected the old second to fifth shift coming out of Seven and Gene got by once more. By now I had the 10A braking move down so I got back around him for the third and final time. Richard and Dan had a major battle at the front until Dan’s steering column came loose, so I inherited second place at the end, thirty seconds behind Richard.

The highlight of Sunday for me was qualifying. We bolted on our "best" set of BFGs and, after warming them up properly this time, ran three sub-30 laps in a row, the best of which was a 1:28.5 that left me third on the grid yet again. I was cautious at the green yet again and was fifth into Turn One behind John Finger, Richard Grant, Dan Shaver and Bill Smith. It was a fairly lonely race but I moved up to third at the end after Richard blew his engine and Bill dropped out around lap fifteen. We did manage to keep from being lapped by John and turned a best lap of 1: 31.315. That was the best we had on this particular day, but after the 28 in qualifying I AM anxious to head back to Road Atlanta with a wing and a set of sticker Goodyears to see what we can do when everything’s right.

Plans are already underway for the 2005 version of the Shootout with the primary goal being having twenty or more cars start the race. We had 16 pre-registered this year, but attrition on Saturday and other plans meant only nine took the green in the afternoon. It was still a pretty decent show for the first year, but it’d be so much better with double (or triple) the cars. But then as the Chicago Cubs fans say, "Wait ‘till next year!"

See y’all at the track…