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Nashville Super Speedway Double SARRC

Short story (for those of you with ADD):

It was a GREAT (!!!) weekend on multiple levels. Next event is the SARRC Invitation Challenge at Roebling Road (Savannah) the weekend of Sept. 23 & 24, then we'll start getting ready for Road Atlanta Nov. 9-12.

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Longer story:

Atlanta Region has "owned" the Labor Day weekend on the Southeast Division SCCA racing calendar for a number of years. Up through 2003 we would run a three-day Double SARRC at Road Atlanta that was one of the best-attended and premier events in this part of the country. I first participated at that event back in 1984 (pause for fond memories of "The Dip"), but I'm pretty sure it had been going on since the early 70's. In 2004 the AMA used their financial influence to usurp that weekend on Road Atlanta's calendar and we were forced to move the event to Atlanta Motor Speedway. A number of factors contributed to low attendance that year, then in 2005 it became apparent the last week of August that we simply didn't have the necessary support to adequately conduct the event so we made the very difficult decision to cancel the race one week before it was scheduled to happen. Perhaps the racing gods were telling us something, because an event called Katrina blew through town later that week and pretty much disrupted life as we knew it for a while.

Longtime readers may remember that Eric Bartel (aka - "Data") and I, at the urging of Bill Perry, shared Cuervo at the Chattanooga Region's Track Trials event at the Nashville SuperSpeedway in October 2005. Part of the motivation was to reward Data for all the help he's given me over the years, but I also wanted to see if the facility was a viable venue for our Labor Day events. I found the track to be short and twisty in places, but it also had high speed sections and was certainly wide enough to allow side-by-side action by cars of equal performance. There were some serious logistical issues to be overcome putting on an event 250 miles away from our home base, but it was a moot point since the track was already booked the first weekend in September by another organization. Bill Perry was not to be denied, however, and when he called in January to tell me the conflicting event had been moved the wheels of change were set into motion. The plan was adjusted as things bumped along and obstacles were overcome, but despite some concerns that again reduced attendance (like most people, racers don't like change) the 2006 version of the Atlanta Region Labor Day races were held on the east side of Nashville, TN.

The bottom line is we took a small hit to the bottom line ("just doing my part to maintain the region's not-for-profit status, Ma'am") but all indications are we'll be running Nashville again. Everyone I talked to was extremely pleased with how the event went. Initially there was some concern among officials about how the track would race (mostly among those that had never driven the track in anger, which was everyone but me), but the racers and workers had positive reviews regarding the layout and "raciness" of the track. At 1.41 miles that take most cars just over 1 minute to navigate it's shorter than any other track we have in SEDiv, but it has handling sections, top-end sections, and threshold braking sections (more on that later). The racing was excellent and, perhaps more important, you can see pretty much the entire track from anywhere inside the facility. We watched Saturday afternoon's Pro-IT race flag-to-flag from atop our trailer and it was exciting to be able to follow multiple races all around the track.

On a personal note, I was the only GTA car entered so all I needed to do was complete 11 laps of the 22-lap SARRC race on Sunday to get our fifth win of the season. To save wear and tear on the car we decided to skip the seven-lap qualifying race on Sunday morning and instead start from the back of the 11 car field of SPO, AS, GT-2, T-1 and T-2 cars. I knew we didn't have anything for the front-row SPO cars (Todd Carter's Pontiac and Bob Mayer's Corvette), but it would be fun to see how many people I could pass as the race unfolded. Ends up starting at the back was so much fun I decided to do it TWICE!

Harriett & Data called the race from the NASCAR spotter's stand high atop the control tower, so I can't even lie about what happened. The green flag came out and I was eighth as we crossed the start line the first time (you can pass as soon as the green is displayed under SCCA rules), then moved up to fifth before we got to the TIGHT decreasing left-hander that is Turn One. I followed the Corvettes of Jerry Onks and Ed McClain through the twisty bits, then powered by Jerry on the front straight to take fourth overall as we finished lap #1. What happened next (for all to see) is subject to interpretation:

  1. My braking markers had been knocked down by earlier races (yeah, blame it on the IT guys!)
  2. Ed's car was smoking slightly and I couldn't see (still not MY fault)
  3. The oil from Ed's car got on my front tires (so how come nobody else screwed up?)
  4. They changed the track since the last time I went through there (not very damn likely)
  5. I didn't have time to properly warm the tires (and everybody else did?)
  6. I got greedy and made a low-percentage move too early in the race (getting warmer)
  7. I ran out of talent (NOW you're talking!)     

Ed moved left to protect the inside line as he should and I tried to go around the outside to take third place under braking for Turn One. After sailing off the outside of the track surface (and waking up everyone in the Control Tower) I briefly thought about continuing on around the oval, but since I was the one who wrote the Supps any argument that I didn't know the rules would likely fall on deaf ears. Following proper procedures I turned Cuervo around so I could re-join from where I went off, stalled the engine for good measure, lost twenty seconds in the process and let the entire field go by. So much for getting a phone call from Roger Penske on Monday!

Bottom line is I moved my way back up to fifth overall, first (and last) in GTA, first car one lap down (I moved over for Todd and then Bob as they came by on lap 19). We did manage to run faster than we'd qualified (and faster than we did last year as well) to establish the GTA track record at a 1:06.070. Only Todd and Bob had faster best laps (1:04.095 and 1:04.554 respectively), so had I not gotten greedy I would have had a decent shot at finishing third overall (but then I wouldn't have stories to tell my grandkids, would I?).

We still got that all important fifth SARRC win, so now Steve Magowen and I are tied with five wins and a second going into the SARRC Invitational Challenge in two weeks (Sept. 23, 24). Whichever one of us finishes ahead of the other at Roebling Road will become the 2006 SARRC GTA champion, so we'll be doing everything we can to make Cuervo (and the driver) as reliable as possible in the interim. We'll finish 2006 with the American Road Race of Champions Nov. 9-12 at Road Atlanta, then if we have any money left over we might head to Central Florida to have Thanksgiving dinner with Mom and run the annual Turkey Trot race at Sebring.

Thanks to all who helped make our first road racing event at NSS a rousing success. As Bill Perry said earlier this week, putting on a good event is almost as satisfying as winning a race.

See y'all at the track...