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2008 ARRC by GRM

Atlanta Region SCCA conducted the Fifteenth edition of the American Race of Champions Presented by Grassroots Motorsports over the weekend of November 7-9 and three weeks later I’m finally writing my story about the weekend. To this point other activities have clouded my brain functions (not that it takes a WHOLE lot to do that) so I’ve given up trying to be clever or entertaining with my report. Instead I’ll just start typing and see what comes out.

To that point, here’s my report of the weekend while wearing my various hats:

Hat #1 – Event Organizer

As Competition Director for Atlanta Region I’m responsible for the planning and organization of the event, and on the whole the weekend went pretty well. We had 224 cars contest the sprint races, which represents about a 12% reduction from the previous four years’ average, while the total weekend count of 338 entries was a 14% drop. Given the current economic climate this was not unexpected, plus losing 40 FE entries when that class was invited to the Runoffs didn’t help.

I haven’t seen the final spectator counts for the weekend, but it certainly seemed like we had a LOT of people watching this year. On Saturday afternoon I asked the folks at the gate how things were going, and other than them having to go back to the office to get more spectator tickets they thought things were fine! The Track Touring sessions at lunch on both Friday and Saturday went over well (we filled the entire track with participants on Saturday), and we had close to fifty drivers take part in the PDX program on Sunday.

We made two format changes designed to encourage more participation and one worked while the other didn’t. We split out SSM from ASM thinking some of the Miata drivers would want to double-dip between the classes, but it ends up no one did. That change also required crowding nine races into a day where we’d run eight in previous years, and that ended up causing additional problems. We’ll go back to eight groups for 2009.

2008 also marked the first appearance by FST (Formula First) at the ARRC by GRM and they were an unqualified success. Adding FST allowed us to split CF out from the other single-seat cars, which made the racing in BOTH groups better. The FST guys brought thirteen cars and a lot of enthusiasm to the event, their race was one of the best of the weekend, and we’ll certainly invite them to come back next year!

We still have some things we need to work on – Impound procedures and efficiency, split start communication, better planning of the socials, trying to teach some drivers that patience is a virtue, etc. – but all in all the weekend went pretty well. I’m not sure how much the economy will impact 2009 participation, but we’re working to keep the ARRC by GRM as a destination event on the SCCA calendar.

Hat #2 – GTA Proponent

As the Associate Pastor of the First Church of GTA-Southeast I was very pleased that we had twenty-one (21) GTA cars race over the weekend. That’s one more than we had in 2007 and a 100% increase vs. the 2004-2007 average. We had a good mix of the various drivetrain/chassis combinations represented, three drivers were under the GTA track record, and (as evidenced by fourteen cars turning their best lap within a three-second window) the competition was fierce throughout the field. People are beginning to understand that GTA provides the best bang for the buck out there, and we’ll continue to spread the gospel.

The bummer is that once again the Big Noise race was checkered short of the scheduled race distance. Two cars got together at the apex of Turn 12 which partially blocked the track, left damaged cars in an impact zone, and dislodged the tire bundles protecting the concrete wall at the exit of the Turn. The situation was exacerbated by the compressed schedule (see Hat #1) and the stewards threw the checker because they knew it would take longer than the time available to get the track ready for racing again. I can only tell my fellow drivers that I feel your frustration and steps are already being taken to prevent this result in 2009!

Hat (helmet) #3 – Driver of the B.K. Racing Monte Cuervo

The weekend of Nov 1-2 we had taken the re-built, re-bodied, and re-painted #57 to the Roebling Road time trial event as a shake-down run after crashing 200 yards after the green flag back in July (do a YouTube search on “2008 Road Atlanta SARRC Butch” for the in-car video from that incident). Even with finding (and fixing) some issues with the car we still ran within .3 of a second of the GTA track record on old tires, so we were feeling pretty good.

During the first qualifying session on Friday morning we ran faster than we’d ever gone at Road Atlanta, and our 1:32.397 was good for third on the GTA grid. The afternoon session was more disjointed as it sprinkled rain while we sat on the false grid, so I didn’t get a clean lap until later in the session yet still ran a 1:32.625 to back up my morning time. We also had some smoke coming out from under the hood on the cool-off lap which ended up being a loose oil line. It ends up Ron Keith and Bob Davis went faster during the second session, so the GTA grid ended up:

 

Pos

Car #

Driver

Car Configuration

Best Time

1

06

Bob Stretch

ASA, upgraded LS-1

1.29.664

2

66

Ron Keith

ASA, base LS-1

1.31.762

3

2

Ron Fariss

LMS, restricted engine

1.31.877

4

79

Bob Davis

LMS, ZZ-4 Fast Burn 385

1.32.390

5

57

Butch Kummer

ASA, traditional engine

1.32.397

6

22

Gregg Rodgers

ASA, base LS-1

1.32.461

7

77

Tony Amico

ASA, traditional engine

1.32.556

8

17

Rudy Revak

ASA, traditional engine

1.32.866

9

00

Jay Marshall

ASA, upgraded LS-1

1.33.040

10

5

Doug Harrington

ASA, base LS-1

1.33.418

11

8

Roger Reuse

LMS, restricted engine

1.33.763

12

35

B.J. Holley

LMS, Open engine

1.34.848

13

7

Tom Graham

ASA, traditional engine

1.35.188

14

59

Randy Walker

ASA, upgraded LS-1

1.35.240

15

81

Tom Boldry

ASA, base LS-1

1.35.989

16

93

Randy Keith

ASA, base LS-1

1.36.955

17

11

Stacy Rodgers

ASA, base LS-1

1.37.276

18

4

Bobby Reuse

LMS, restricted engine

1.37.352

19

19

Steve Dunn

LMS, restricted engine

1.39.462

20

71

Steve Graham

LMS, restricted engine

1.43.763

21

34

Preston Fowler

ASA, traditional engine

-no time-

 

Bob Stretch certainly had legs on the field, but the racing from there on back looked like it would be extremely competitive. And as they say (and Bob will be the first to admit), winning in qualifying is NOT the same as winning in the race!

Given my most recent experience at Road Atlanta I was probably tentative as we came to take the green and Gregg got by me on the outside as we went into Turn One. I got a good run through Turn Twelve as we finished that lap to return the favor and was back to fifth in class. Bob Stretch and Ron Fariss had pretty much checked out, but I turned my fastest lap of the race on lap two at a 1:32.516 (which is also the fastest race lap I’ve ever turned in a GTA car at Road Atlanta) and was hanging tough behind Ron Keith and Bob Davis. As we came out of Turn Seven on lap three, however, I missed a shift and Gregg was able to get by. Tony Amico also got a run and was beside me as we were greeted by waving yellow flags in the braking zone at Turn Ten. Ends up Bob Stretch had run off into the edge of the gravel at Ten (we learned later he had a tire go down), so I was able to keep Tony behind me to maintain fifth in class for laps three and four.

Jay Marshall had gotten by Tony and showed his nose in Turn Seven on lap five, then made a very nice over/under move to get by me under braking for Turn Ten at the end of the straight. I then ran wide of the exit of Turn Twelve and both Tony and Roger Reuse got by into Turn One, then later that lap Tommy Graham motored right by between Turns Five and Six. As we finished lap six I was now running ninth in GTA and there was still a train of cars behind me. Clearly this was NOT the way I had planned for the race to go!

I got into Turn One too deeply as we started lap seven which let both Doug Harrington and B.J. Holley by as we went up the hill to Turn Three. I have NEVER been passed by B.J. (<g>), so I began to wonder just WTF was going on? Was something wrong with the engine? Had I run the tires off? Had I forgotten how to drive after lap two? Dennis and Harriett were on the radio saying “Engage Maverick, engage!” while I was trundling around the track thinking “Talk to me, Goose, talk to me.” I almost pulled in but I seemed to be keeping a gap back to Randy Walker’s orange #59 so I decided to stay out.

As we got to Turn Three on lap eight I saw the red and yellow Mustang of overall leader Kerry Alexander coming in the mirrors. I waved Kerry by as we swept through the left-handed portion of Turn Four, but being the two-time National Champion that he is Kerry apparently waited until the turn-in down the hill to complete the pass. I tucked in on his bumper as we went through the single-file Lower Esses and was maybe two or three car lengths behind as we got to the braking zone for Turn Five. Just as I got off the brakes to turn in at Five I was pounded square in the rear by Zach Monette in the second-place #99 Camaro. Zach and Randy got by while I recovered at the exit of Five, then I waved Stacy Rodgers by on the back straight after I slowed to try and assess the damage to Cuervo. Jim Matheson was spotting for us from 10A and radioed he couldn’t see body damage, then Dennis and Harriett reported from the front stretch that things seemed okay to them as well. As we finished lap eight I’m now thirteenth in GT and I’ve got an ailing and battered car, but I continue to soldier on.

I got a spot back when Tom Graham spun (I think in Ten), then on lap nine I missed another shift  between Five and Six so Bobby Reuse got by along with third place overall Gene Felton. Fourth place overall Dave Machavern lapped me between Six and Seven, then as we finished the lap Tony was in the gravel at the entry to Turn 12. I was back to twelfth in class with designs on trying to gain a spot back from Bobby, but as we finished lap nine (lap ten for the leaders) there was a waving yellow at Eleven for the crash between Zach Monette and Roger Reuse. Bobby and I both slowed for that incident just as the Double Yellows came out, so we maintained position for a lap and a half until we caught the Pace Car with the field in tow at Turn Six. As we finished that lap (lap thirteen for the leaders) the Starter threw the checkered flag so our official finishing position was eleventh in GTA and twentieth overall. Not exactly the kind of finish that elicits a phone call from Roger Penske on Monday morning, and certainly not what I’m used to!

After getting back to our paddock spot I was still pretty livid about Zach running into me and examining the car did nothing to assuage that anger. He hit me hard enough to destroy the fuel cell can, but I was dealing with a bunch of irate drivers whose championship race was shortened yet again and Zach had enough issues to deal with after the incident with Roger so I chose not to file a protest – a move I now regret. In subsequent discussions with his dad (who had not seen Zach’s in-car since it was sent to Topeka as part of the protest filed by Roger), Zach said I was blocking him so he “hit you once to let you know he was there, then moved you out of the way when you wouldn’t let him by.” Now I’ll admit I’ve only been racing with SCCA since 1984, but (1) driving the racing line through the lower Esses at Road Atlanta is decidedly NOT blocking and (2) I’ve yet to see the portion of the GCR that makes it permissible to “move people out of the way” even if they ARE blocking!

Afterwards the stewards found both drivers at fault for the incident which shortened the race – Zach for not avoiding contact and Roger for not providing racing room.

At any rate, the final positions in GTA at the 2008 ARRC by GRM follow:

 

Pos

Car #

Driver

Car Configuration

Laps

Best Time

1

2

Ron Fariss

LMS, restricted engine

13

1.30.284

2

79

Bob Davis

LMS, ZZ-4 Fast Burn 385

13

1.31.380

3

22

Gregg Rodgers

ASA, base LS-1

13

1.31.985

4

66

Ron Keith

ASA, base LS-1

13

1.31.979

5

00

Jay Marshall

ASA, upgraded LS-1

12

1.31.815

6

5

Doug Harrington

ASA, base LS-1

12

1.32.812

7

35

B.J. Holley

LMS, Open engine

12

1.33.685

8

59

Randy Walker

ASA, upgraded LS-1

12

1.34.439

9

11

Stacy Rodgers

ASA, base LS-1

12

1.33.474

10

4

Bobby Reuse

LMS, restricted engine

12

1.33.928

11

57

Butch Kummer

ASA, traditional engine

12

1.32.516

12

7

Tom Graham

ASA, traditional engine

12

1.33.233

13

71

Steve Graham

LMS, restricted engine

12

1.36.105

14

19

Steve Dunn

LMS, restricted engine

12

1.35.922

15

81

Tom Boldry

ASA, base LS-1

12

1.36.444

16

34

Preston Fowler

ASA, traditional engine

12

1.36.903

17

8

Roger Reuse

LMS, restricted engine

9

1.31.873

18

77

Tony Amico

ASA, traditional engine

8

1.31.896

DNF

93

Randy Keith

ASA, base LS-1

5

1.36.368

DNF

17

Rudy Revak

ASA, traditional engine

4

1.34.569

DNF

06

Bob Stretch

ASA, upgraded LS-1

3

1.30.184 *

 

Bob Stretch, Ron Fariss and Bob Davis were all under the old GTA track record, and Bob Stretch is now the new record holder.

A couple of weeks after the race we found Cuervo's alternator was not working which had a negative effect on horsepower as the voltage dropped. Had we fully charged the battery before the race we no doubt would have finished better (and probably would not have been in a position to get tagged by the #99 car).

Hat #4 – Applicant for President of SCCA

Those who have been paying attention in the past month may remember that I submitted my name for consideration as President of SCCA. I did a phone interview with the Selection Committee the Thursday before the ARRC and felt pretty good about my chances, plus talking with a number of people at the track I found a lot of support for my candidacy. Although I’ve since found out that I am not among the top three candidates invited to address the entire Board of Directors the first weekend in December, I DO appreciate the positive comments I received from you. Being a “glass half full kind of guy”, the good news is I don’t have to think about moving to Kansas any more and the better news (maybe) is I’ll still be around to organize Atlanta Region events in 2009. Obviously the racing gods aren’t done with me here in Atlanta just yet!

See y’all at the track…