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Carolina Motorsports Park Double SARRC
           
Short story – first race weekend since wrecking the car at Road Atlanta in November; second in GTA on Saturday, first on Sunday.   
           
Next race is the Nashville Superspeedway Double SARRC the weekend of June 14 & 15 (race both days and get to work/watch a 3-Hour IT race Saturday evening under the lights). Let me know if you need more information about that weekend.
           
And now, for (both) you hardcore BK Racing fans, the longer version...
           
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Those of you that have been around me even a short period of time know I’m a “list-oriented” person. There are a number of reasons for this, but I’ve found over the years that if I maintain an accurate list of things I need to do then the only thing I have to remember is where I put the list! Anal retentive? Some say so, but it works for me.
           
The weekend of May 23-25 was the first competition event for the BK Racing Monte Cuervo since our short-lived outing at the ARRC by GRM last November. Central Carolina Region’s annual “Memorial Madness” Double SARRC would be our first step toward possibly defending our 2006 & 2007 GTA Championships, and I was anxious to see if I’d forgotten how to drive in the past six months. To that end, the last two items I wrote on my list before leaving for Carolina Motorsports Park (just north of the thriving metropolis of Lugoff, SC) were:
  • win both SARRC GTA races
  • set new GTA track qualifying record (1:40.663 by Tony Amico
  • set new GTA track race record (1:42.712 by Dave Price)
Although I accomplished three of my four goals, it ends up I should have been more specific!
           
We skipped Friday’s test day, but CCR had scheduled a 15-minute practice session Saturday morning so we went out on old tires to knock some rust off and become familiar with the new track configuration in Turns 12 through 14. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t go faster than the mid-1:44’s, but we checked the car over (it was fine) and bolted on the sticker tires for the first qualifying session anyway.
           
There were only sixteen cars in the group (six of them GTA’s), so getting a clean lap wasn’t too much of a challenge. Harriett called out “1:39.4” on my first hot lap and I had started catching traffic on the next lap, so I came in to have Dennis check the tire pressures. Harriett continued to time Dave Price and Steve Magowen, and when she radioed that Dave was in the low 1:39’s as well I figured I needed to give it another shot. I came out of the pits just in front of Dave, which was a pretty good indicator of how we were doing. I didn’t go any faster so my official time of 1:39.414 was indeed a new GTA qualifying record, but Dave turned a 1:38.671 while chasing me down so my “record” was short-lived. As I said, I need to be more specific in stating my goals next time!
           
As we rolled off the grid for Saturday afternoon’s race it was Dave in third overall, myself next to him, Steve Magowen to my left in fifth (1:41.362), then Mark Tcherkezian, Gene Copeland, and BJ Holley (BJ had problems starting the engine and had to drop to the back of the field). The proximity of the start stand to Turn One at CMP has caused a number of first lap wrecks in the past, and even though the Starter threw a very late green (as he’d said he would do at the Drivers’ Meeting) we added to the count. The first two rows made it through the corner side-by-side, but Steve Magowen got crossed up, spun counter-clockwise, and tagged my LR bumper with the side of his RR tire. All I knew is that I’d gotten bumped by someone as I dropped in behind David (still in fourth place overall), the car was running fine, and there was a pretty big gap behind me as we all filed into the Carousel the first time.
           
We turn just over 140 mph on the back straight, and as we came up to the right-handed “Kink” the first time David was carrying a bit too much speed and pushed off the outside of the track on exit. He made a nice recovery (I’ve been there and know the trick is “just don’t do anything in a hurry”) but had to slow slightly, so I stayed in it and dove inside him. Observers said I had all four tires smoking as I threw out the anchor for the left-handed “Hook” that follows, but I really think it was just the fronts. The car stuck, however, and we were through for third overall and first in GTA. I turned a 1:41.422 on lap 4 (which was under the GTA record), but was unable to shake David off my tail. We were dead even on the straights and I could pull away slightly on the left-handers, but he was getting through the right-handed Carousel and Turn 8 MUCH better than I was. On lap 6 (of 14) David got a good run on me and moved to my right into the Turn 8 braking zone. I saw him coming and could have taken a defensive line, but it was obvious he was faster than I was and it was too early in the race to wear the car out trying to keep him behind me. I hung with him for a couple of laps hoping he’d make a(nother) mistake, but Dave’s too good a driver to get rattled by someone in his mirrors. He also continued to lower my (unrecorded) lap record a couple of times before finally dropping it to a 1:40.164 on lap 13.
           
Steve recovered from his spin to run as high as fifth in GTA, but lost a cylinder around lap three and pulled in after 8 laps, then Gene came in a lap later with a slipping clutch.  The final finishing order in GTA (with best race lap) was:
  1. Dave Price – 1:40.164 (new GTA record)
  2. Butch Kummer – 1:41.422
  3. Mark Tcherkezian – 1:43.592
  4. BJ Holley – 1:43.048
  5.  Gene Copeland – 1:44.781
  6.  Steve Magowen – 1:44.705
Dave & I congratulated each other on a great race in Impound (“THIS is what GTA racing is all about”), then I had to go see the SOM about the metal-to-metal contact at the start.  
           
Q - What is your side of the story?  
A - I took the green, maintained my spot, turned in at Turn 1, and got tagged on my left rear. I didn’t know at the time who hit me.  
           
Q - Now that you do know who hit you, do you want to file a protest?
A - Do I want to file a protest against a guy who hit my LR with his RR while spinning? No. If Steve had nailed my rear bumper with the NOSE of his car I might get upset, but this was the closest thing to “one of them racin’ deals” that I can imagine.
           
As an aside, they had a pretty bad wreck in a following race where somebody on the eighth row tried to win the race going into Turn One and tore up some cars pretty badly (not his, however). I’m not sure of the outcome of THAT inquiry by the SOM, but I do know Steve Eckerich (CCR’s Competition Director) has agreed they will start races from the back straight like SCR does at their future events.
           
I was pretty bummed about being first loser and had pretty much resigned myself to racing for second place on Sunday, but on the way back to the motel Dennis calmly asked, “So how was the car handling?” After thinking about it for a moment (and after realizing I HADN’T thought about it up to that point), we mapped out a plan to not only patch the damage to the rear bumper but also make a couple of minor changes that should make the car faster. The driver and team approached Sunday with heightened enthusiasm!
           
Steve and Gene had gone home with a bent valve and slipping clutch respectively, so we had four GTA cars left for Sunday’s battle. Between the changes we made to Cuervo and the driver concentrating on carrying more speed through Turn 8 (where Dave was killing me on Saturday), we qualified first in GTA and fourth overall with a 1:39.124 – faster than we’d gone on Saturday on sticker tires. Between getting more comfortable with his new car and bolting on a new set of tires BJ ran a 1:41.435 for sixth overall followed by Dave at a 1:41.527 and Mark at 1:43.357 (seventh & eighth overall). At the green (no incidents this time) I slotted into fourth with BJ right on my bumper, then Wayne Cabaniss in his SPO Corvette followed by Dave. I managed to get by Bill Smith’s monster ’55 Belair for a couple of laps which gave me some breathing room back to BJ, then going through the Carousel on lap three BJ spun and wasn’t able to get started again. We later kidded him about struggling with that corner so he must have decided to park there so he could see how the rest of us were taking it! <g>
           
I was holding Bill up on the straights so I pointed him by between T-12 and T-14 as we finished lap three, then pretty much maintained the gap back to Dave for the remaining laps. Dennis & Harriett were giving me both lap times and the interval on the radio, so even when Dave got by Wayne on lap 8 I pretty much knew I could take home the win if I didn’t make any mistakes. Dave later said he was hoping to gain on me in T-8 like he had on Saturday, but wasn’t able to do so. We were showing almost 500 RPM more at the exit of the corner (about 8 mph), so it IS possible for old dogs to learn new tricks! I crossed under the checker just under two seconds ahead of Dave with Mark another fourteen seconds back. The GTA finishing order was:
  1. Butch Kummer – 1:41.527
  2. Dave Price – 1:41.291
  3. Mark Tcherkezian – 1:43.309
  4. BJ Holley – 1:42.889
We didn’t get both wins, but the driver hadn’t forgotten how to buckle the seatbelts over the winter, we were competitive, and a 2-1 doesn’t hurt us in the chase for the 2008 GTA title. Next event is the “Heart of Dixie” Double SARRC at Nashville SuperSpeedway on Father’s Day weekend, so we’ll see where we stand after that. Thanks to the Central Carolinas Region SCCA for a great event, plus heartfelt gratitude to Dennis McClintock and Harriett Kummer for their help this weekend as well. I’m just happy I didn’t let you guys down.
           
See y’all at the track…