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2013 ARRC by GRM

It’s strange that Road Atlanta is my home track yet our first time running there this year was the first weekend in November at the 20th Annual American Road Race of Champions Presented by Grassroots Motorsports (the ARRC by GRM). It was a very successful weekend for BK Racing, and even though I’m no longer actively involved in organizing the event it again demonstrated that Atlanta Region “gets it” when it comes to conducting events.

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Cuervo was still in one piece after surviving the Majors events at MIS, Road America and St. Louis, so Data (Eric Bartel), Steve Boettcher, and I only had to spend a couple of evenings getting him ready for Road Atlanta. Besides general maintenance we cleaned out the Cool Shirt lines and Data even waxed everything to remove the black marks caused by tire boogers, so he was as prepared as he’s ever been going into an event. Although I still serve in a consultant role to Atlanta Region Competition Director Nick Voigt, 2013 was the first time in over seven years that I had no event responsibilities to divide my attention. Harriett & I loaded everything up on Tuesday evening, then I headed up to Road Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon to set things up. After getting to the track and getting power to our paddock spot (thanks to fellow competitor Randy Walker), I didn’t even bother unloading that evening. Instead I got there at a relatively leisurely pace on Thursday, which prompted Tony Ave to text me that I was missing the drivers’ meeting for the test day. My reply “It’s not my event!” became our mantra for the weekend.

On Thursday morning I unloaded and set up our paddock spot, then went across track to Appalachian Tire to have some fresh Hoosier 3035s mounted. I only ran the last session of the day on Thursday (Road Atlanta is one of the few tracks I’ve run that pro-rates the cost based on how many sessions are left in the day) and had no one to take lap times for me, but I was able to bed the new set of CarboTech brake pads, nothing fell off, and the wheels were all pointed in the correct direction after the session. Around 6:30 PM Mike Eakin (aka – the Purple Frog) showed up at the track so we buttoned everything up for the evening and retired to Buffalo’s in Oakwood to bench race and tell lies (but I repeat myself). Mike and I have known each other twice as long as we haven’t – we first met my freshman year at FSU in 1968 – and after all these years we STILL can find stuff to talk about.

On Friday it rained in the morning before clearing around noon, so we didn’t even bother taking Cuervo off jack stands until lunchtime. Frog & I bled the brakes, added fuel, and set tire pressures, then waited around for the afternoon 15-minute qualifying session. Earlier in October I’d gotten an e-mail from Jay Gomer of Winder who wanted information about getting started in road racing, so when he showed up I/we also spent some time talking to him about some of the options available to him. I did caution him that everyone he talked to would try to sell him a car, and sure enough he was propositioned multiple times over the next two days. Bottom line is he’s made plans to do the Roebling Road SCCA school next February in one of OPM’s rental Miatas, then he’ll figure out where to go from there. And during all this time I STILL didn’t have to worry about how the event was going because “it’s not my event!”

With thirty-three ground-pounders in our run group I knew getting a clean lap in qualifying was paramount, but I was unsuccessful in doing so. I did manage a 1:34.764 while dealing with traffic, then the session was cut short when Randy Walker broke a left front spindle and collected the concrete wall on driver’s left entering Turn 10. Although it was three seconds more than I expected my time was good for thirteenth overall and third (of nine) in GTA behind Randy’s 2010 Camaro and Bob Davis’ Late Model Monte Carlo. As I told Frog as we prepped Cuervo for Saturday’s championship race, “We’re close enough to see the green.”

Since we were the last race on Saturday afternoon I spent much of the morning socializing and seeing how things were going, then after lunch we started getting ready for the race. Randy got his Camaro back together but it still wasn’t right during the warm-up session, so he would not be racing. Marshall McLeod heard what sounded like a rod knock while warming their car up so we were down to seven GTA cars for the race – Bob Davis, us, Andrew Rains, Robby Boyett, Andrew Trought, Vernon Smith, and Jim Matheson. I got to the grid early and while wishing my fellow drivers good luck noticed Bob had incorrect tires on his car. Knowing that Tech would be checking tires after the race I told Frog and Harriett (she was spotting for me at Turn 10) there was no reason to wreck Cuervo trying to finish in front of the #19 car – all we needed to do was not get passed by another GTA car in the next twenty laps.

We got a wave-off the first time down the hill because (I later found out) the two cars on the front row were mixing it up as they came through Turn 12. We got the green the next time around and I slotted in behind Bob, then as I was coming out of Turn 7 Harriett called over the radio that a car was on fire at 10-B! The stewards immediately went Full Course Yellow and then Black Flag All once the pace car was out, so per the GCR the field was reset back to the end of lap 1 (i.e. – the original grid order). After the course was cleared we again got a two-by-two restart and I actually beat Bob to Turn 1 and in retrospect could have taken the inside line, but remembering the long-term goal I backed out early and let him by. Joel Vandiver also got by me in his ITO Challenger then ran side-by-side with Bob through the Esses. Here’s that second start from Joel’s perspective: http://vimeo.com/78537775

I got past Joel on the back straight and stayed close enough to Bob to keep him honest, then about lap 4 we again went FCY when Matt Isbell went off driver’s right at Three and crunched the nose of his very nice V8-powered Datsun Z-car. After the pack formed up we spent two laps behind the pace car before getting our third green flag of the race. I again had a pretty good run on Bob and probably could have made a low-percentage move into One, but again it wasn’t necessary. I also had a rearview mirror full of the #25 Impala of Andrew Trought (his first time at Road Atlanta, by the way) so cooler heads prevailed. Bob and I ran pretty much nose-to-tail for another 3-4 laps as we slowly pulled away from Andrew, then just as I was thinking maybe it was time to turn the wick up Harriett radioed that we had a local yellow at Turn 10 for two GT-1 cars in the gravel trap. I was surprised that we didn’t go FCY but next lap coming into 10-A Frog called out that we were racing to the checker! With all the carnage the stewards had shortened our race to 13 laps because it would take longer to clear the track than we had time left on the clock. I was disappointed we didn’t get to race the full distance so I could take a serious shot at passing Bob, but I also understand the call – if people can’t stay on the track it’s tough to have a good, safe race!

Bob got to take the victory lap and stand on the top step of the podium, then after the race was relegated to last in class because of non-compliant tires. Some of you may think the Tech guys were picking nits, but when you have a class (like GTA) that’s tire-limited it can make a very real difference. If you think it’s okay for someone to run a tire that’s “slightly faster” then it should be okay to run “slightly underweight”, or with “slightly more horsepower”. If I’m not required to follow the rules of golf (and everyone else is) I can beat Tiger Woods every weekend! <g> Andrew Trought moved up to second in GTA while Andrew Rains was elevated to third (his first drive ever in a GTA car), then they were followed home by Robby Boyett, Vernon Smith, and Jim Matheson. Besides receiving first-place points BK Racing also managed to turn the fastest GTA race lap at a 1:32.921, so even though we didn’t get the gold medal or the checkered flag I felt pretty good about the weekend.

Saturday night Frog, Tony Briggs, his brother-in-law (also Mike), and I closed down the social before retiring to our paddock spot for more beverages, then the next morning Eakin and I loaded everything up. Since this was our last race weekend of the year we drained the radiator before rolling Cuervo into the trailer so there’s been no real rush to unload things. I’ll probably get to that this weekend and then put Cuervo back into the trailer while I reorganize the shop over the winter. I’m guessing about next March we’ll get serious about preparing for a run at our fourth SARRC GTA championship, and Frog has offered to come spend a couple of weeks as we do a frame-up freshening. Based on how we did at Road Atlanta I’m not ready to hang up my helmet just yet! <g>

In 2014 I’ll be making multiple trips to Kansas and attending at least three conventions as part of my job. I’m also currently looking at going to (at least) 13 race weekends across the country to support/promote SCCA’s US Majors Tour, plus I’ll be part of the team 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

VIR Double SARRC

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 13-14

Robbinsville NC

Chase the Dragon Hillclimb (T)

Sep 26-28

Daytona Beach FL

2014 SARRC Invitational Challenge

Oct 30-Nov 2

Braselton GA

21st ARRC at Road Atlanta

See y’all at the track…