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2007 SARRC Invitational Challenge (Repeat Champions!)

Short story – sometimes a win is elegant, sometimes it’s by a wide margin and relatively easy, sometimes it’s hard-fought and comes down to the wire, and then there are times it’s so ugly you almost can’t believe it really happened. We were VERY lucky, but BK Racing has successfully defended the SARRC GTA Championship. The next event might be the ARRC at Road Atlanta November 9 & 10, but we’ll have to see how things shake out between now and then.

And now the longer, uglier version...

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After the Nashville weekend there were five drivers left with a mathematical chance of winning the 2007 SARRC GTA title. Because the SARRC Invitational counts double points added to the six best finishes during the season, the 48 points available for winning would allow any of the following to be champion depending on how things played out at Savannah:

  1. BK Racing – 140 points
  2. Wayne Quick – 125 points
  3. Tony Amico – 115 points
  4. Steve Magowen – 105 points
  5. Tom Graham – 96 points

 All five of us were among the ten GTA cars signed up for the event (not bad for the class’ second year in existence!), but Steve apparently couldn’t get his engine repaired after his problems at Nashville and he was a no-show for the weekend. We quickly figured out Tom’s only chance of taking the title would be to win while we failed to earn any points, but Wayne and Tony were definitely in the hunt should we falter even slightly. If we finished third we’d be champions regardless of what anyone else did, so the focus in the three weeks between Nashville and the SIC was on making the BK Racing Monte Cuervo as reliable as possible. We even skipped the 2008 GTA “test race” at Roebling Road on Sept 8 & 9 rather than taking a chance on tearing something up only two weeks before the championship showdown. As you’ll soon see, sometimes it IS better to be lucky than good!

We also skipped the Friday test day, then ran the minimum number of laps necessary during the first qualifying session on Saturday to scrub in the new set of Hoosier 3035’s and get a decent lap on the books. It wasn’t a killer lap by any means, but it was good for third in GTA and tenth overall so we were right where we needed to be. We planned on using the second session to bed the new CarboTech brake pads, but a steady rain that started right after lunch killed that plan. Therefore the GTA field was set as follows:

 

Name

Best Lap

Overall

Tom Graham

1:15.482

7th

George Lutich

1:16.396

9th

Butch Kummer

1:16.947

10th

Jay Marshall

1:18.188

13th

Randy Gay

1:18.570

18th

Wayne Quick

1:19.894

22nd

B.J. Holley

1:20.448

23rd

Tony Amico

No time

31st

Tony had been turning laps in the 1:18’s during the first session, but then experienced an up-close and personal encounter with the inside retaining wall coming onto the front straight late in the session. The wreck bent the frame, so he elected to go to a back-up car and then didn’t turn a full lap in the rain (he went out but came right back in because he couldn’t see!). He WOULD be a contender for Sunday’s race, however. The major topic of conversation as we adjourned to the Shell House on Saturday night was the weather forecast for Sunday.

The track was still damp on Sunday morning but the rain had stopped, so we decided to use the warm-up to bed the brake pads for the race. There was a single twenty minute session for all the closed-wheel cars and we shared the track with what seemed to be all the Spec Miatas on the eastern seaboard (there were actually “only” 44 cars in the group so it just SEEMED like the Miatas out-numbered the Love Bugs in the vicinity <g>). I did manage to get a clean run out of Turn Eight and partway down the front straight on one lap and felt a stumble as we accelerated, but it cleaned out coming onto Pit Road so we figured the engine had loaded up while we were trundling along with the cast of thousands. We still had four hours before our race, so Dennis (McClintock) pulled the plugs to check them as part of getting Cuervo ready for the race. The engine fired and sounded crisp after that, so we went on to other things.

We were the last race of the afternoon, but a number of the earlier participants had elected to stick around for the always entertaining Big Bore race. Besides the GTA points battle, the SPO title would be decided between Bill Smith and Lee Arnold (tied with 144 points each) and the GT-1 leaders Terry Giles and Jeff Bailey were separated by only four points. Bill was on the pole with Terry alongside, then Lee right behind Terry and Jeff just one more row back. Throw in the other monster cars that came down to be a part of the biggest SARRC race of the year and it promised to be a heckuva show.

The BK Racing Monte Cuervo sounded fine on the grid, but as we rolled out to start the pace lap I could tell the engine stumble from the morning had NOT gone away. The car kept running, but it was definitely down on at least one cylinder so the mindset quickly switched from contending to surviving. I figured I could still run sub-1:20’s even on seven cylinders, so all hopes for the championship were not lost. We got a break when the starter didn’t like the looks of the field as we came out of Turn Eight the first time (apparently the back rows were still forming up), so the start was waved off. Under SCCA rules that lap still counts, so it was one down, fourteen to go.

We got the green the second time by, Harriett called “green, green, green!” over the radio, I mashed the gas – and the car seemed to slow down! I guess I should be glad SCCA doesn’t have the Safety Car follow the field for the first lap like Formula One does, because it would REALLY have been embarrassing had the ambulance passed me before we got to Turn One. The guys behind me were alert and no one got into me (it probably helped that I had the left two tires in the dirt the entire length of the front straight) and I’m pretty sure I was dead last before we got to Turn Three. Chris Ingle (SEDIV T-1 National Champion) was spotting for me from atop our trailer outside Turn Five and asked if it might work better in a different gear. I don’t recall my exact response, but it was probably along the lines of “I haven’t suddenly forgotten how to drive!” I may also have expressed my heartfelt desire that his parents would be friendly should they ever meet again after the night he was conceived.

Under SCCA rules you have to complete half the laps of the overall winner to be classified as a finisher and earn points, and since you round down for an odd number of laps I knew we needed to finish at least seven laps. Harriett kept me informed of my lap count and gave me approximate lap times (I think she had switched over to using the sundial at that point), and she, Chris, and Dennis let me know when faster traffic (which was everyone on the track) was approaching. I found myself wishing I had one of those big “We’re Number One!” foam fingers so I could point everyone by, but they must have seen me okay since most everyone waved back as they blew past me. It WAS interesting that it appeared a lot of them were using just their middle finger to wave though. <g>

After completing lap seven I came down Pit Road and Dennis dove under the hood to see if he could see anything obviously wrong. As I was sitting there B.J. drove past me and went behind the wall, so I realized if we could complete two more laps we could move up to seventh in GTA instead of eighth. That was only two more points, but I didn’t know if those points would make the difference between being Champ or Chump. Dennis quickly put the hood back down, I got the engine started (it sounded REALLY bad) and we rejoined the race. We managed to finish three more laps before the checkers, got lapped at least once more by the leaders (Bill Smith won SPO and Terry Giles won GT-1), and I got to experience the thrill of going all the way to the ‘2’ marker in Turn One before hitting the brakes like the formula cars do!

Ends up Jay won GTA then Tom, Wayne, Tony (from his 31st starting spot), Randy, George, myself, and B.J.  I tried doing the math in my head while Dennis towed me back to our paddock area, then confirmed the numbers once we got back. Tom got 40 points for second, Wayne earned 34 for third, Tony 30 for fourth, and we received 24 points for seventh. Add all those to our Best Six total coming in and we ended up taking the GTA Championship by five points! Had Wayne managed to finish second, he would have been champion by one point. After all the smoke had settled (according to my calculations), the top seven finishers in the 2007 SARRC GTA championship race are:

 

Name

Best Six

SIC

Final

BK Racing

140

24

164

Wayne Quick

125

34

159

Tony Amico

115

30

145

Tom Graham

96

40

136

Jay Marshall

68

48

116

Randy Gay

78

28

106

Steve Magowen

105

0

105

As always, racing is a team effort and not just about one person. A number of people have helped me off and on throughout the year including Mike Eakin, Dave & Linda Goebel, Mike Hearn, Chris Ingle, and Eric Roberts. The two stalwarts of the team, however, have been Harriett Kummer and Dennis McClintock. Harriett has taken on additional roles this year to include calling the green, keeping lap times for both myself and competitors during both qualifying and the race, and relaying that information to me while I’m on the track. And now that she’s done some time behind the wheel herself (she completed Henry Gilbert’s Corvette School on Tuesday and Wednesday), she’ll have an even better idea of what I need to know when I’m out there. I’m just honored that she chooses to spend time with me.

I also could not have made it this year without Dennis.  He drives over an hour one way to the house at least once a week to work on the car, he’s been to every race with us in 2007, he’s an excellent mechanic, and he’s an absolute joy to work with. We kid him about winning the team’s Energizer Bunny award every season because he’s ALWAYS finding something to stay busy with. He says he views our efforts as “therapy” and never fails to thank me for letting him work on the race car when leaving each evening. I’m not sure what I do to deserve his friendship, but I plan to keep on doing it as long as he’ll let me. Thanks for wanting to work on my car.

Our next event is the American Road Race of Champions Presented by Grassroots Motorsports on Nov. 9-11 at Road Atlanta. Unlike most race weekends we’ll qualify on Friday and race on Saturday afternoon, but I’m expecting over twenty GTA cars to attend from all over the country with over fifty cars in the Big Bore group. This will also be the final V8 Stock Car and AV8SS points events for 2007 as well, so we’ve got all the makings of a show you won’t want to miss! You can visit the website at www.ARRC-Online.com or let me know if you need more information.

See y’all at the track…