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Nashville Double SARRC
Short story:
A challenging yet rewarding weekend at the Nashville SuperSpeedway hosted by a great bunch of people from the Chattanooga and Tennessee Valley Regions. We now have three SARRC wins in 2009 and the next event is another Double SARRC the weekend of July 18,19 at Road Atlanta.
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The longer story:
Before I leave for each race weekend I usually write down the goals I want to accomplish at that event. We currently hold the GTA track record at Nashville Superspeedway at a 1:06.070 and we went faster than that at last May’s Track Trial, so on Wednesday, June 24, I wrote:
  • secure two more SARRC wins
  • break the GTA race record
Ends up I/we only accomplished the first of those two goals, but it was still a very satisfying weekend for the BK Racing effort.
Those who’ve paid attention to my past ramblings may recall that we drove all the way to Summit Point, WV, just so we could blow up an engine on May 30. After a few phone calls and some cogitation, we worked a deal with Lee Schwartz of FlowTech Racing Heads & Engines (828-650-6606 in Asheville, NC) to take one of his older “traditional” GTA engines and make one good engine out of two. It’s difficult to tell what actually initiated things at Summit Point, but the bottom line was we popped the head off the #3 intake valve, which obliterated that combustion chamber and destroyed the top of the piston, which scattered shrapnel throughout the rest of the engine, etc. Lee’s first words to me after he got it apart were, “I guess your Daddy taught you that if you were gonna do something, make sure you do it right!” I’m pretty sure we were able to use at least one of the old valve cover nuts on the new engine, so it’s not like EVERYTHING was trashed. <g> 
On the evening of June 9 I met Lee in Greenville to drop off the blown engine. There were some minor setbacks, but Lee busted his butt and had the new engine fresh off the dyno when I picked it up on June 17, and we (Jim Matheson, Steve Boetcher, Eric Bartel (Data), Dennis McClintock & me) had everything installed and loaded in the trailer on June 25. Data, Dennis & I pulled out of Woodstock at 5:00 PM on Friday, June 26, signed in and unloaded everything at the track by 7:45, and then met Lee at the motel in Lebanon around 9:00 CDT that evening.
Lee performed some more wizardry on the engine Saturday morning and it sounded great, so we buttoned everything up and I went out to qualify for that afternoon’s race. I could quickly tell that something wasn’t right (it didn’t sound good and was sluggish accelerating), so I made one lap just to get a time and brought the car back in. Ends up my 1:08.263 was good for third overall of the ten cars in the field with second place GTA driver Chris Matheson (making his first ever SARRC start) right beside me on the grid.
After checking everything it was possible to check (valve lash, compression, timing, spark plugs, etc.), we kinda decided the carburetor might be messed up so we changed that out and got ready for the race. Again, the car sounded great while running on jack stands in the garage, so we were SURE we’d found the problem! Lee also assured me there was nothing mechanical wrong with the engine, so it wouldn’t hurt to continue to run it even if it wasn’t perfect.
I got a good jump at the green to pass pole-sitter Jerry Onks and followed “Wild Bill” Smith into Turn One, but it was again obvious things weren’t right. I waved Jerry by as we started lap 2, slowly built about a five-second lead over Chris, and then maintained that interval by watching to see where he was when I was coming out of Turn Two. Chris did a good job but eventually dropped out with a cut tire on lap 15, which was also about the time the top two cars lapped me. With Chris out I slowed even further and let Ricky Thompson by in his ITR BMW, but I had gotten the class win at that point and overall position didn’t matter. In Impound Data pointed out that cord was showing almost halfway around the RF tire, so it was probably a good idea I’d backed off at the end!
After letting things cool off a bit (including ourselves) we jumped into trying to diagnose what was going on with the engine. Lee checked the valves again and they hadn’t changed, but the plugs looked inconsistent so we started thinking it was the plugs, the MSD box (which was too hot to touch at the end of the race), the cap and rotor, or maybe the coil. Dennis got on the internet and found a parts store that had what we needed near where he planned to have dinner with his son (and was open until 9:00), so we formulated a plan and headed off to dinner.
Sunday morning Dennis set about installing the new MSD box, Data wired the coil and hooked up the distributor, and Lee gapped the plugs, and checked the valve lash yet again. They did let me help out by holding the light while they worked, then while changing out the distributor cap Lee noticed some chaffing on the top of the plug wires. It looked like they had been arcing to the new air box I’d built so we fabricated an insulated pad that would eliminate that circuit. We also scared up two used tires from Jim Matheson that he graciously allowed us to use to replace the ones of ours that had air showing through the tread surface.
I could immediately tell a difference during Sunday’s qualifying session. I only ran three laps because I didn’t want to abuse the tires before the race, but we turned a 1:06.9 lap which put us outside pole next to Wild Bill. Jerry had gone home so the next car back was Charlie Moseley at a 1:10 with the rest of the eight-car field bunched within three seconds of him. Bill and I are in different classes, so we agreed we’d race each other hard but remember to have fun.
I’m not sure what earned us a wave-off the first time under the Start stand, but we got the green the next pass so Bill & I had a great drag race to Turn One. We were dead even as we got to the braking zone, but Bill held the inside so I backed off and let him go through first. He got a little squirrelly (Bill? Squirrelly?) coming onto the front straight so I got by him to officially lead that lap before he blew back by into Turn One. Bill led the next two laps and was pulling away, but then he overcooked it into Turn One as we started lap 6. I got alongside and went side-by-side with him through the “Dolly Parton Curves”, so I had the inside line emptying onto the back straight and took the lead into the Chicane. Data reported over the radio that Bill was slowing, and sure enough it ends up he was stuck in third gear. I pulled away at about three seconds a lap while maintaining a balance between speed and keeping the tires under the car, plus I was cognizant of the great battles the other guys were having and tried not to interfere with those as I came up on them. At the checkers I’d lapped everyone but Bill and might have gotten him if we’d gone another lap. Our best lap in the race was a 1:07.100 so we didn’t break my GTA record, but all in all it was a VERY rewarding finish to what had been a harried weekend!
Besides thanking Dennis, Data, and Lee (who earned the nickname “Professor”), I’d also like to thank the Chattanooga and Tennessee Valley Regions for taking a chance and continuing to host this race weekend. They realize NSS is not a historic track like Road Atlanta, VIR, Sebring, or Daytona, so they know they need to go the extra mile in making things as stress-free and friendly as they possibly can for the competitors. I personally enjoy the track (running 155 mph on the front straight gets your attention QUICKLY!), but it’s also a real pleasure working with those folks as they build their competition program. Southern hospitality may not have been invented in Nashville, but those folks sure do practice it! Thanks for letting us come out and play, and I’ll be there next year for sure.
The next scheduled competition outings for BK Racing are the July 18 & 19 Double SARRC at Road Atlanta followed two weeks later by a trip to Mid-Ohio for Round Six of the GTA National Tour. If you want information about either of those weekends, be sure and let me know.
See y’all at the track…