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Still Racing After All These Years (Part VIII)    by Butch Kummer

As I was packing to leave for the Mid-Ohio Competition school and National points events the weekend of August 25-27, Donnie Parks stopped by the house to drop off a course diagram and talked about the track from a Corvette driver’s perspective. The last thing he said as he drove off was "make us proud". What I’m reminded of right now is, "if it was easy, anyone could do it". This was also to be the debut of my new ride, but I took Godzilla (my current car) in case the new car was not ready (and it wasn’t). That ended up being a good thing, because running that track for the first time and learning a new car would have been overwhelming.

In the past three seasons (19 races), I have had two incidents involving other cars - at Road Atlanta last Labor Day (a Porsche took me out) and at Savannah earlier this year (tapped by a Mustang but continued). At the school on Friday I had two – one with a Sports 2000 racer and another with a Formula Mazda. Both were overtaking me at right hand corners in the midst of the "busy" section of the track. I saw the S2000 just as I smacked it as I turned into the corner and I didn’t know the color of the Mazda until Harriett & I watched their first practice session Saturday morning (i.e. – they’re so low I never saw either one). If you can visualize a 135-pound running back getting thumped by a 300-pound lineman, you’re pretty close to the results here. Godzilla had some body damage and is bruised up a bit, but I drove back to the pits after both incidents. The S2 made it back under it's own power after getting hauled out of the gravel trap while the Mazda lost his left front corner and came back on a hook. In restrospect, it made me very gunshy and tentative the rest of the weekend.

We also were having problems with the transmission on Friday and didn't want to take the two hours to swap them then, so I ran using third & fourth all that day. After patching the connection to the starter and bleeding the brakes twice, the final (mid-afternoon) incident with the Mazda meant I got a total of twelve laps at speed - the best being a 1:37.80. I was pretty bummed (about the fibreglass damage and being a moving chicane), I still needed to change transmissions and my back was hurting (strained it earlier in the week). I was ready to cut my losses and come on home when I called John Miller to see if there was a snowball’s chance in Hell of the new car being ready. There wasn't, but he also said a 1:37 wasn't that bad so we went over and timed the other GT-1 in the 34's & 35's. Then another student (a buddy of the Mazda driver) gave me a pep talk about just making some laps and getting some race experience there, so we (Harriett & I) patched things together with cable ties, pop rivets and duct tape, changed the transmission and bled the brakes again.

On Saturday I did three laps during the practice session to check things out (best was 1:43.26), then ran out of talent at the end of the straight and decided to bring the car in while it was still in one piece. We changed tires for qualifying, ran four laps and came in for Harriett to check the pressures, then went back out. Traffic was much lighter the last ten minutes of the session and I ran a best of 1:40.706 - good for 23rd (of 32) overall and 14th of the 17 GT-1 cars. At least I had survived the experience without getting hit or hitting anyone. Maybe the "If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you!" sticker on the back helped.

Our race on Sunday was scheduled for 3:30, so Harriett & I did a bit of sight-seeing and hit a couple of yard sales that morning. That part of the country is really beautiful (rolling hills, nicely manicured lawns, old barns, etc.), but then we were also there during their best part of the year. We were reminded of that when we noticed a sign at the Lexington city limits – "Parking on the street not allowed when snowfall exceeds 6 inches".

During the race I passed the GT-1 Camaro beside me on the start, then dropped in behind three GT-3 cars (didn't want to mess up their race even though I could have passed one or two on the straight). I ran a 1:39.502 on lap 2 backed up with a 1:40.01 on lap 3, then the transmission started acting up again. Ends up I looped the car in the Carrousel finishing lap 6, restarted and made a couple of slow(er) laps to check things out, but something in the rear end didn't feel right (I thought maybe a tire was going down). It wasn't, so I wish now I had gone back to the third & fourth gear only technique to see if it was the rear end or the transmission, but I put it on the trailer instead. On the official results, I was 26th overall.

We finished loading up, picked up our rescued Greyhound (Daytona) from the motel, dropped Harriett off at the Columbus airport, then drove to Richmond, KY, on Sunday night. I got to Johnson City right at noon on Monday and, while the new car is certainly coming along, it will NOT be ready for the Labor Day weekend at Road Atlanta. What we're now looking at is a test day at Kershaw, SC, on 9/11. If I have problems getting up to speed, we're also looking at more testing and maybe running the Regional at Mid-Ohio on Sept. 23,24 before the Runoffs.

My next local event is the Solo I at Peach State Speedway near Commerce on Sept. 9. I'll probably patch Godzilla back together for that event (poor guy is a poster child for the "prevent car abuse" campaign), but we'll see.

See you at the track…