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Nashville Super Speedway Double SARRC

2010 marked our fifth year of running road races at the Nashville SuperSpeedway, plus it was the Third Annual Heart of Dixie event co-hosted by the Tennessee Valley and Chattanooga SCCA Regions. Once again those folks reminded us what Southern Hospitality is all about. Attendance was up somewhat over 2009, so hopefully it will continue to grow in the future.

Short story – first in GTA and first overall on Saturday after a great race with Bobby Reuse, second in GTA and third overall after an equally great race with Bobby. We also loaded a running race car in the trailer at the end of the weekend, and that’s always a good thing.

And, as always, here’s the longer story:

Those whose short-term memory remains unaffected by the social culture prevalent in the 70’s will remember that our last outing at VIR ended up with a broken race car and a disconsolate driver. Fifteen days at BJ Holley’s Race Car Spa in Jackson, GA (404-379-9200) had Cuervo better than new, and two weeks of restorative liquids therapy had the driver feeling like himself as well. I picked the car up while returning from Hutchinson Island on June 13, so we had a week to do the final prep prior to the Father’s Day weekend in Nashville.

Even though it wasn’t a V8 Stock Car weekend (more on that later), we still had five GTA cars pre-registered for the races. Longtime NASCAR competitor Butch Miller was hoping to make his GTA debut, but he wasn’t able to get his medical information updated in time. Jim & Chris Matheson have been fighting oil control and overheating issues in their LS-1 powered machine and thought they had those solved, then testing on Friday indicated otherwise. Both of the Reuse Racing late models made it to the track, but Roger’s son was playing in a baseball tournament over the weekend and those conflicts meant Roger didn’t get to drive either day. Therefore we ended up with two GTA cars (Bobby Reuse and myself) and Bill Smith’s monster ’55 Chevy to uphold the honor of the stock cars.

There was a serious thunderstorm Saturday morning so neither Bobby nor I both chose to go out. That meant we’d start near the back of the ten car Big Noise field, but with twenty-two laps on the 1.41 mile course we figured we’d have ample opportunity to move up a couple of spots. Bobby got to the grid before I did, so he ended up eighth and I was ninth – it was purely an accident but being on the inside for the start is almost always better.

Harriett called a perfect green and I was up to fourth place going into Turn One, then picked two more cars off and finished lap 1 in second place behind Bill Smith. Bobby took a couple of laps to get up to speed, but by lap four he had cleared Charlie Moseley’s SPO Corvette and Data reported he was about eight seconds behind me on the track. Bill pulled over on the back straight with a flat RR tire on lap six, so Bobby & I were now running first and second overall. Data continued to call out the (shrinking) interval, but I could also keep a visual check by seeing where the silver #89 was when I made the hard right of Turn 1-A (part of the “Dolly Parton Curves” per our track announcer, Scott Dobler). I was pedaling as fast as I could, but Bobby kept closing the gap until he was right on my bumper around lap ten. As we finished lap 12 Bobby got a better run onto the front straight and had a wheel at my passenger side door going into Turn One, but I maintained my inside line and kept the lead.  Data came on the radio to remind me I was “doing great” and that we were working lap 13 (of 22).  I’m pretty sure I replied, “<expletive deleted>,  I’m not sure I can keep him back there for ten more laps!!!”

I wasn’t going to give up first place without a fight, however, so I continued running the defensive (inside) line and used traffic where I could to create a buffer. Throughout the whole process I don’t believe Bobby was ever more than two car lengths back, but he was having to race on a longer track so I managed to keep the lead. At the end I went under the checkered flag 1.025 seconds to the good, so we managed to get our first SARRC win for 2010. I ended up with a best lap of 1:08.064 (on lap 2) while Bobby turned a 1:07.706 while still catching up with me on lap ten. Our last ten laps of the race we were within half a second of each other on every lap. I was seriously tuckered out, but it was GREAT racing!!!

On Sunday we both bolted on the sticker Hoosier 3035’s that we hadn’t been able to use on Saturday because of the rain. We also talked about the sophisticated passing technique demonstrated by the NASCAR drivers during Saturday afternoon’s Nationwide race at Road America – if you’re within five car lengths of the car in front of you just dive bomb the next corner and knock the crap out him if he doesn’t get out the way! I guess that’s acceptable behavior if you’re a “professional” driver running on somebody else’s money, but I’m glad SCCA doesn’t allow such shenanigans.

During Sunday’s qualifying session I took a couple of laps to (a) warm up the tires, (b) bed the new CarboTech front pads we’d installed, and (c) find a gap in traffic. On lap three I got a clean lap and laid down a 1:05.993 that ended up being good enough for the overall pole. I stayed out a couple more laps but didn’t go any quicker, then retired to pit road while Data & Harriett kept track of Bobby’s times. They reported he ran a 1:06.4, then he went behind the pit wall before returning to the track. After getting back on track he felt a vibration (caused by a lost u-joint cap, we found out afterwards) and had to get towed in without completing a lap. When the grid sheet came out they had his best lap at a 6:46.842, but we ALL knew that wasn’t correct. It ends up his transponder is on the same circuit as his rear end cooler, and he forgot to turn it on initially so he never got an official time. Based on how we’d run on Saturday the stewards lined him up third on the grid (Bill was beside me on the front row). Yes, the GCR says he should have started at the rear, but that really had no bearing on the eventual outcome.

At the green Bill beat all of us into Turn One and I immediately went into defensive mode again. We were running two seconds a lap faster than we had on Saturday (gotta love those new tires!) but as we finished lap four Bobby got a better launch onto the front straight. This time we went side-by-side into the braking zone for Turn One and Bobby stayed on it a tick longer to take the lead in GTA. Over the next four laps he pulled out about a two second lead, but little did he know I was cooling my tires to take a run at him (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! <g>).

I started whittling away at his lead, then on lap twelve they threw a full course caution to retrieve Tim Smith’s cherry Shelby Mustang that had stopped at a precarious spot in the Dolly Parton curves. This closed the field back up and we took the green again to start lap 16. 

Bill Smith waved both of us by in Turn One so I wondered if he was having another problem with his car, but two laps later he came roaring back by to claim the overall lead again. Bobby and I were running close together and I could carry more speed into the Bus Stop chicane (yes, Larry, I KNOW no bus stops there but that’s what everyone calls it – get over it! <g>), but he was getting onto the gas sooner on the warm-up road leading onto oval. He broke my GTA track record (a 1:06.070 set back in Sept 2006) with a 1:05.925 on lap 17, then I almost matched that with a 1:06.190 on lap 21. At the end he crossed the finish line 1.4 seconds ahead of us, almost a mirror image of how we’d finished on Saturday. Again I was seriously tuckered out, but (again) it was GREAT racing!

I understand Nashville is a long haul for folks from Florida and the Carolinas, but both the SCCA organizers plus the track personnel are a joy to work with and there’s something about stock cars on a NASCAR oval that just sounds right. Yes it’s a tight track in spots, but we were geared for 153 mph and turned every bit of that coming off the banking going into Turn One. You can see 90% of the track from the infield stands, and they also open up the outside grandstands so you can see everything that’s happening if you want. Heck, you can even go up on top of the Tower where the spotters stand for the Nationwide and Truck races. All in all, it’s a fun track, it features close racing, and it ought to be part of the V8SC series.

See y’all at the track…