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As far as the B.K. Racing weekend at Savannah in July of 2002, "so many stories, so little time":

Short story - fifth on Saturday, third on Sunday. We're easily qualified for the Runoffs, so now the work begins to get the car ready. It won't be QUITE as extensive as the rebuild we did over the winter, but it'll be close. As crew chief Mike Eakin said in impound after Sunday's race, the driver's door was the only undamaged body panel prior to that race and I managed to nail it when Chuck Piazza and I got together in Turn One. Luckily the corner workers saw it as an "unavoidable incident" (which is the same as "just one of them racin' deals"), so I managed to get my first race (of three) on probation signed off.

Longer version (but not nearly as long as it COULD be):

The plan for Race 1 was to run conservatively and just get a finish. We had BFG's hardest compound tires on the car and had geared it very tall to keep from turning the engine too tight (I was concerned about unseen damage from my missed shift at Road Atlanta). When we went out Friday afternoon for the single qualifying session the car felt more sluggish than it should even with the tall gears, plus is sounded like it was missing, but I stayed out for a couple of laps just to get a time, then came into the pits so the guys could check things over. Ends up a Chevy V-8 doesn't run too well using a 1-8-2-3-6-5-7-4 firing order, and it perked up considerably once that was corrected. Phil Simms had popped his engine in the morning session when he got second instead of fourth on the front straight, but they got it changed out just in time to make the grid for the single qualifying sessions. He was still better off than John Baucom who failed to make the session with their newly re-bodied and rebuilt Jaguar and would have to start from the back. Race 1 qualifying:

 

CP

OA

Car #

Name

Car

Best Lap

1

1

46

Bill Bentley

Camaro

1.12.076

2

2

24

Phil Simms

Corvette

1.12.924

3

3

5

Chuck Piazza

Camaro

1.14.536

4

4

57

Butch Kummer

Corvette

1.16.400

5

12

34

David Barr

Panoz GTS

1.22.992

6

26

86

John Baucom

Jaguar XJR

- nt -

 

I knew I didn't have anything for Bill and/or Phil, but the plan for the race was to hang close to Chuck for 11 laps to get my third finish for the year, then see if I had anything left to move up. The plan worked pretty well as I kept him in sight (maybe three seconds back) until lap 12, then started slowly reeling him in. It all went away, however, when Chuck got by an AS Camaro coming out of Two and I tried to follow him through two corners later. I thought I had enough on the Camaro to "claim" my right to the racing surface, but he thought otherwise (or simply didn't see me) and went for the apex, so we touched and both went into the weeds. We both eventually rejoined the race, but our tango in the timbers allowed Baucom to get by in his Jag, so I ended up fifth in GT-1, fifth overall. They also ended up shortening the race by four laps because of carnage on the course, not the least of which was a T-1 Corvette parked on the porch of the worker’s station inside Turn 6 – on TOP of the banking!

Final results of Race 1:

 

CP

OA

Car #

Name

Car

Laps

Best Lap

1

1

24

Phil Simms

Corvette

19

1.12.152

2

2

46

Bill Bentley

Camaro

19

1.12.502

3

3

5

Chuck Piazza

Camaro

19

1.14.776

4

4

86

John Baucom

Jaguar XJR

18

1.14.366

5

5

57

Butch Kummer

Corvette

18

1.16.047

6

6

34

David Barr

Panoz GTS

18

- -

 

Ends up the Camaro driver took umbrage at my use of the chrome horn and protested me for willful & wanton dangerous driving, failure to avoid contact when overtaking, reckless endangerment and not washing my hands after going to the bathroom. I stuck to my story of having a wheel at his door then backing out when it became obvious he didn't see me, but the Stewards saw it otherwise. I was found guilty and sentenced to probation for three races, which means I'd better not err again or they could suspend me. I also had to surrender my license and my face was on wanted posters all over the paddock and in the Men's room (and maybe in the Women's room - I don't know). Once the SOM's rendered their verdict I apologized to the Camaro driver (we've raced together in the past and will have to again in the future), he accepted, then I spent the rest of the day rear-ending people in the paddock with the 4-wheeler.

So we finished fifth and we're in the Runoffs as long as we take the green on Sunday (getting our fourth start). The crew had repaired most of the bodywork damage while I was in SCCA Jail and I had a much better set of tires for Sunday, but we decided it wasn't worth the effort (particularly with the heat - 101.3 on the trailer thermometer) to re-gear the transmission. We qualified on the same (worn out) tires we had used on Saturday and ended up fifth overall, fourth in GT-1 with a 1:16.229. Bentley had loaded up to head to Watkins Glen the next weekend, so Race 2 qualifying was:

 

CP

OA

Car #

Name

Car

Best Lap

1

1

24

Phil Simms

Corvette

1.10.954

2

2

86

John Baucom

Jaguar XJR

1.12.890

3

3

5

Chuck Piazza

Camaro

1.14.794

4

5

57

Butch Kummer

Corvette

1.16.229

5

11

1

Eddie Mady

Panoz GTS

1.19.399

 

Everybody (except Phil) moved up a spot when Baucom went home to get ready for the Cleveland T/A round next weekend. We bolted on the better set of tires, threw away the 6500 rpm rev limit and got ready to rock & roll - - just as the rain started.

And THEN the lightning started in a major way. A transformer over by the Tech Shed was hit just as Eddie was reaching for a timesheet at the adjacent bulletin board, so he got his hair permanently curled by Mother Nature. He's okay and ended up running the race that afternoon, but it was literally a shocking experience for him. At any rate, the storm shut everything down for over an hour, so the Stewards declared all races would be 25 minutes instead of 23 laps. Group Two (we were Group Seven) ran in the rain, but it then stopped and we planned on a dry race again.

Bottom line is that Sunday's race was probably the most fun I've had with my pants on in ten years. Phil again checked out, but Chuck and I were running virtually identical lap times the entire race. He pulled me about a car length and a half down the front straight, but his Camaro had a pretty bad push and I'd close up on the back side and be right on his bumper again coming out of Eight (the sweeper onto the front straight). I finally got the break I needed when we came up on another AS Camaro going into One, Chuck checked up and I dove to the inside of both of them. That pinched down my entry to the corner and I slid about half a car width wider than normal exiting, so Chuck & I touched side to side - - and I'm on probation! While I'm formulating my opening defense argument Eric Bartel comes on the radio and says Turn One called it in as "unavoidable contact", so I started breathing again. In the meantime, Chuck's still on my butt and we're running 14's in traffic, diving past lapped cars in the corners and passing three wide down the front straight. Serious, SERIOUS grins!

Perhaps we'd have had a different outcome if it had only been a 25-minute race, but we're pretty sure they forgot to start the race clock at the green. As I finished lap 20 (20 laps at a 1:15 pace is pretty damn close to 25 minutes), the cockpit started filling with smoke and it felt like the engine started seizing up, so I backed down to keep it running until the checker and waved Chuck by. It was time to take that engine out anyway, but I sure wish it could have waited a couple more laps!

The final order was Phil, Chuck & myself and we'd all lapped Eddie who was seventh overall (the lightning had knocked out the transponder strip so we have no best lap times). Chuck & I talked in impound and both agreed that it was a LOT of fun. He apologized for rubbing me, I apologized for rubbing him and we're both looking forward to the next time we're on the track together. Don't know when that will be, but he's a class act and I definitely enjoyed racing with him.

Our next scheduled weekend is the Mid-Ohio National August 22-24 as a tune up for the Runoffs, but we've got a lot of work to do (new engine, freshen everything up, repair bodywork, etc.) in the interim to get it ready. I'm also looking into renting a ride to do a double regional at Daytona the first weekend in August to satisfy the terms of my probation, but haven't decided for sure on that as yet.

See y’all at the track…