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Road Atlanta July SARRC

Short story – first (of NINE!) in GTA, fifth overall. The BK Racing Monte Cuervo is now third in the 2007 GTA points race (six points out of first) so we’re still in control of our own destiny regarding repeating as GTA SARRC Champions.

Next road race is the “Music City Double-Barreled Shootout” at Nashville SuperSpeedway the weekend of Sept 1 & 2. This will be a double SARRC, double Mid-Am (MiDiv’s regional racing series) and will be the last opportunity to earn SARRC points before the SARRC Invitational Challenge at Roebling. Chattanooga Region is hosting a test day on Friday, then we qualify and race on both Saturday and Sunday (leaving Monday is a travel/vacation day). We’re expecting 200+ cars for the weekend, the grandstands will be open for spectators (unlike most of our races, you can see the ENTIRE track), and the NSS staff is an absolute joy to work with. Let me know if you need more information about that weekend.

And now the l-o-n-g-e-r version...

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I know y’all get tired of me telling you how great the racing is in the GTA class, but this article will be different. The racing in GTA is still fabulous, but at Road Atlanta we had a preview of how competitive the class will be once the 2008 rules are adopted. I’ve already ordered a new thesaurus so I’ll be able to develop an adequate vocabulary to describe the action. Until that comes in, however, I’ll have to go with the old Jeff Gordon standby:

AWESOME!!!

Dennis (McClintock) and I figured the morning qualifying session would be the faster of the two, so we put on a new set of Hoosier 3035’s, drained all but four gallons of gas out of the tank and left the bleeder screws loose on the brake calipers so the stinking brakes wouldn’t slow me down in the corners. <g> There were nine GTA cars entered in the 43 car Big Bore field, so getting a clean lap was also paramount. Cunning, strategy (coming down pit road to find a gap in traffic), and old-fashioned luck resulted in a clean lap and we managed to turn a 1:35.356 that ended up putting us sixth on the grid, first in GTA. It wasn’t a stellar, ohmigod-I’m-gonna-die lap, but it WAS a fairly solid one. I felt a mid-34 was possible, but smacking the wall would have been possible as well. For the second session we bolted on the four heat-cycle tires from Barber, filled the tank, and played with some suspension settings to see how they would affect the handling. We slowed down about four seconds, but I also spent most of the session playing “asphalt dyno” with some of the cars we’ll be competing against both this year and in 2008. It’s not quantified data, but it looks like we’ve got a pretty level playing field defined right now.

Saturday evening’s social was our annual Worker Appreciation party and fund-raiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. A number of really ugly men dressed up as really ugly women (your faithful scribe included), then solicited donations (bribes) from the party-goers if we’d stay away from them. It was all in good fun and we ended up collecting over $2000 for the Foundation with (that fluffy-headed ‘ho) Fletcher leading the way yet again. As we left the track that evening the skies were clear with absolutely no hint of rain.

When Harriett & I woke up Sunday morning it was pouring down rain in Woodstock, and it continued to rain almost the entire trip to the track. It was about Oakwood that I remembered we had not deployed the downspouts on the awning the previous evening, so I was hoping against hope that (a) it wasn’t raining at the track or (b) someone had seen water collecting in the tarp and unfolded the drains. Alas, neither hope was realized. As I drove to our paddock spot I was greeted by Dennis trying to dismantle what was left of our mangled, ripped, and shredded awning.  NOT the way I needed to start the morning!

It rained during most of the ECR event, then continued off and on during the PDX from 10:00 until 12:30. Since we were the first race after lunch I got Richard Anderson to relieve me as “Control” for the last thirty minutes of the PDX so I could get ready for our race. I’ve often said working corners gives me an advantage as a driver, and this time working the PDX let me know that there was a dry line developing all around the race track. Did this give me an advantage by knowing the slicks rather than rain tires were called for? Yes.  Does every driver have the opportunity to help out with the PDX and thus gain that same advantage? Yes, yes they do!

Scott Murphy and Grant Leadbetter chose not to race, so I rolled off the grid in fourth place behind Ron Fariss in his GT-1 Camaro, Bob Davis in the #19 SPO stock car (which will be legal for GTA in the 2008 SARRC season), and Bob Mayer in his BP Corvette. There were seven cars between me and Randy Gay, Tony Amico, and Zach Monette who were all clustered in the high 1:37’s. I told Dennis and Harriett to let me know if the #1, #77, #18 (those three) or the #72 (Steve Magowen) started moving through the pack.

I got a pretty good start but everyone was tentative going into Turn One because the track was still pretty damp (and we were all on slicks). I was third behind Ron & Bob Davis going down through the Esses, then got a good launch out of Seven and passed Bob on the back straight to move into second overall followed by Chris Neufeld (GT-3 Mazda) and Terry Giles in his honking GT-1 Corvette. As we dove into One to start lap two I caught a glimpse of the blue #18 in the mirror and wondered how in the heck Zach had made up that much ground?!? I even got on the radio and asked Harriett who was IN the #18 – I thought maybe Zach had opted not to run because of the rain and Kurt Roehrig was driving the car.

As we finished lap two the blue 18 was all over my bumper, then drove right by me as we turned into One to start lap three! It didn’t matter who was driving, I was now SECOND in GTA! Chris Neufeld also got by me as we headed toward Three, so I was slowly figuring out that maybe the track was dryer than it looked. Both Zach & Chris had gotten by me pretty easily, plus my mirrors were now filled with the white Monte Carlos #1 and #19, so I decided it was time to start pedaling just a bit faster!

I picked up the pace on Lap 4 and was closing on Chris as we went down the back straight on Lap 5 when the double yellows came out so the corner workers could tend to Ed McClain’s BP Corvette that was parked against the concrete barrier exiting Turn Seven. It took four laps to secure that situation, so we got the green flag again as we came around to complete Lap 9. I got by Chris as we went into Turn One, he fought back as we went through Three, then I was able to pull away on the back straight as the track started drying out. I was now third overall, second in GTA (behind Zach), and was closing slightly on Zach while trying to keep both Randy and Bob Davis behind me. Zach was maybe a car length faster down the back straight and I was closing in Ten and One, but it would have been a BOLD move to try and get by him at that point. Zach was driving well, particularly for his third event ever in a GTA car, and was taking the smart (defensive) line into the corners. The laps were winding down and I’d pretty much resigned myself to second place being better than trashing two cars trying a low-percentage move for first.

As we finished Lap 13 Terry Giles finally got his South Florida 310 wound up and went by me on the back straight before slotting in behind Zach as we turned in at Turn Ten. Bob Monette in his GT-1 Corvette made a great move to pass both Bob Davis and myself going into Turn One two turns later. I went from third overall to fifth overall in half a lap and now had two cars between myself and Zach, plus Bob Davis and Randy are still on my bumper as well! Harriett & Dennis were concerned that my radio was broken because I wasn’t saying anything, but I was too damn BUSY to talk right then! <g>

As this freight train of horsepower and noise moved up the hill thru Two Terry moved to the right of Zach to take second place. This put Terry in an awkward position to make Three, and he locked up the tires and slid off the outside of the corner toward the motorcycle chicane. We all continued around Turn Four while Terry went through the mud, then came back on the track right in front of Zach, which Zach didn’t expect. Zach locked up the brakes, they touched, and Zach ended up on the short end of the deal as he spun and stalled the car. Terry continued followed by Bob Monette, myself, Bob Davis, Randy, Marshall McLeod (SPO stock car), and Bob Mayer in hot pursuit.  Those seven cars were covered by less than three seconds at that point!

Terry and Bob Monette checked out on the back straight (I later learned that Bob out-braked Terry by going to the 150 marker into Ten) leaving the rest of us one more lap to sort things out for fourth overall. As we got into Seven on the last lap I went in a bit hot and rode up on the curbing at the exit, which allowed Bob Davis to get alongside me down the back straight. We matched each other almost exactly as we both accelerated up to our top speeds approaching 160 mph before heading down the hill toward Turn Ten. I could have taken Bob in deeper than I did but we were in different classes so there was no sense in taking a chance on tearing up both our cars for a meaningless position. Besides, as long as Bob was beside me then Randy (who also got a run when I bobbled out of Seven) wouldn’t be able to get past. Yeah – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! <g>

At the checkers it was Ron Fariss leading Bob Monette and Terry Giles by about twenty seconds, then another three seconds back to Bob Davis, myself, Randy Gay, Marshall McLeod and Bob Mayer. The five of us were covered by just over two seconds, so we were essentially nose to tail as we went under the flag. Great stuff to participate in, and I’m told it was a great show to watch as well! And under the 2008 rules fourth thru seventh place would also have all been GTA cars, which would have made it even MORE exciting. As I told Bob Davis in Impound, had we been racing for the class win the ol’ BK Racing Monte Cuervo would have been a LITTLE w-i-d-e-r on that last lap. <g>

Hard luck award of the weekend goes to Zach Monette, who probably would have won GTA if not for the incident in the Esses - the Kid (he’s twenty-one) is coming and all us Old Farts need to be watching our mirrors. Randy Gay is the real deal as well and will be a contender at the SIC, while Tony Amico made great strides on a track he’d never seen to finish third in GTA, tenth overall. This win gives us three SARRC wins to go with the second at Barber and third at CMP with the double race weekend at Nashville yet to go. We’re currently third in GTA points (behind Tony and Wayne Quick) and continue to have a fighting chance to defend our 2006 SARRC GTA title.

Next event is the Double at Nashville the weekend of Sept. 1 & 2, then the “2008 GTA Preview” at Roebling the next weekend leading up to the SARRC Invitational on Sept. 22 & 23.  Let me know if you’d like information about any of those events.

See y’all at the track…