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2012 Season Wrap-Up

In my last Update I mentioned these will be coming less often due to my new job with SCCA, but I certainly didn’t know it would be six months between chapters. I don’t see the workload being reduced anytime soon, but since the National Office is officially closed until January 2 I thought I’d take some time to bring all (both) my avid readers up to date on our BK Racing activities.

Short story – fourth of nine GTA cars at Charlotte Race #1, second of nine at Charlotte Race #2 (both on August 18), a forgettable Labor Day weekend at Barber (other than Pete, Heather and the four granddaughters visiting), and fourth of ten GTA cars at the ARRC by GRM in November. We’ve got some work to do on Cuervo to get him ready for 2013, but for the first time in two years it does NOT involve either chassis pieces or body panels!

And as always, here's the longer story:

Charlotte Motor Speedway – 8/18

We hadn’t run the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway since 2006 and didn’t get to run last year when Central Carolinas Region ran the first “Daylight Into Darkness” Double SARRC, so it was important to me that we make it this year. Because local ordinance prohibits race engines before noon on Sunday the unique format has both Big Noise races on Saturday, the second of which is at dusk under the track lights. It’s not quite as spectacular as forty-three Cup cars running 180 mph on National TV, but for a bunch of club racers it’s a pretty neat show.

Unfortunately the Saturday afternoon race was cut short (to three laps) due to a major wreck that took out five cars. The following videos are from three of the cars involved.

Video #1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QqhSI44wvM) is from the #22 SPO car, Ken Morgan. Remember we’re running slightly north of 160 mph as we brake for Turn 1 into the infield where Ken got a little behind in his steering, lost it, and ran head on into barrier on driver’s right. Try not to wince when he hits.

Video #2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy23B8YITS0) is from the #11 GTA car, John Morgan (Ken’s son). Again this gives you an idea of just how fast things happen. If you look closely off to the left just before John hits Ricky you might notice a wheel and tire flying about twenty feet in the air – that’s the LF from Bob Monette’s Camaro!

Video #3 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SouQqiF9N6E&feature=plcp) is from Ricky Sanders' #19 car (the meat in the sandwich). It’s this video that I’ll reference for most of my narrative:

Ricky had qualified on the outside of the front row but locked the brakes up going into T-1 after the green, putting him to the back of the pack. When the video starts halfway thru lap 2 the Corvette in front of him (Paige Monette) is stuck in second gear, which is why he almost rear ends her coming onto the banking. Diving into the infield on lap 3 Ricky has to move left to avoid the winged wonder that overshot T-1, then that car comes back past him on the banking and AGAIN overshoots the braking zone into T-1 (you can always tell a Big Noise driver, but you can't tell him much)!

Next car he passes is the #11 of John Morgan, which is also the second impact at the end. As we enter onto the banking at the 2:45 mark it's me in the red GTA 57, Tad Segars (SPO 71), Willie Mullins (SPO 5), Bob Monette (blue GT-1 Camaro), and Ricky's GTA car. Around the 3:04 mark Tad gets by me on the back straight while Willie & Bob leave Ricky and close up on my rear bumper (SPO & GT-1 cars have considerably more power than GTA cars do - 700+ vs. 500).

The wreck starts at the 3:18 mark, right about the time Ricky downshifts from fourth to third. The #22 has impacted the wall drivers' right heading into the infield and the next three cars (Randy Walker in the red 21, Tad, and myself) slide by on the left as the 22 is coming back across the track. Bob is looking inside Willie when Willie moves left to avoid the wreck, putting Bob into the Jersey barrier on the left at just about the same time Ricky hits Ken. The second impact is when John (#11) nails Ricky just behind the driver's door. Five cars were taken out at that point, Jersey barriers were moved, and the track was 90% blocked so the race was black-flagged. Time expired before everything could get cleaned up so the race was checkered while we sat on Pit Road, thus we came in fourth of the nine GTA cars in a three lap race.

Again, all drivers were fine physically if not fiscally. What really impressed me is how fast Ricky got out of his car less than 16 seconds after everything stopped moving from the second hit. Granted he's got a LOT of circle track experience (local short tracks, Craftsman Trucks and a couple of Busch rides in the early 2000's) and I know folks tell us to practice getting out blindfolded, but I think I really need to do this before we take Cuervo to the track again. That could EASILY have been me hitting Ken!

None of the five cars were able to continue, but Ricky and his crew got their back-up car out of the trailer and began prepping it for Race #2. I got a clean lap early in qualifying and managed a 1:17.895 (almost two seconds faster than I’d gone in the earlier sessions), which put me second in GTA right behind Bob Davis, fifth overall. 

It was dusk and our cars were shining under the track lights when we rolled off the grid for Race #2 – I don’t know what it looked like from outside the car, but it was pretty damn spectacular from where I was sitting! At the green I dropped Bob like sixth period French (apparently his engine loaded up and stumbled when the flag flew) and ran fourth overall for a couple of laps. I ran my best lap of the day (1:17.352) on lap 2 and was running solid 18s & 19s while maintaining the gap back to Roger Reuse in the second place GTA car, so I let some SPO & GT-1 cars go by (no sense messing their race up or taking a chance on hurting Cuervo). About lap 7 I noticed a car with a white hood slowly getting bigger in the mirror, but I thought it was an SPO car so I didn’t worry about it. As we finished lap 9, however, Ricky Sanders dove under me under braking for Turn One and took the lead in GTA after starting at the back of the field in his back-up car! I don’t know that I could have held him off had I known it was him, but I certainly could have made him pass me on the OUTSIDE rather than giving him the inside into the corner. <g> At any rate, he pulled about a two second lead and throttled back to maintain that to the checkers so I ended up right where I’d started – second in GTA and fifth overall. All in all not a bad day of racing.

Barber Motorsports Park – 8/31-9/02

I don’t know if I dislike Barber because I don’t run well there or if I don’t run well there because I dislike the track layout, but whatever the cause/correlation, I don’t run well at Barber. The facility is gorgeous, the event is well-run, and we have a great time everywhere except when I’m on the track, but I don’t run well at Barber. I qualified second (of four in GTA) on Saturday and kept up with Steve Magowen for the first few laps of the race, then was dropping back when Robbie Boyett drove around my OUTSIDE in Turn 2 to demote me to third in class. That took all the wind out of my sails, so I waved the next two cars by (including Hayes Flynn in the fourth GTA car) and pretty much just drove around the rest of the race. Robbie broke something before the checkers and Hayes was moved to last in class in Impound for being underweight so I eventually was given second place in GTA, but I really didn’t earn it.

My son Pete and his family (wife Heather and daughters Ashley, Samantha, Haley, and Mackenzie) had come up from Pensacola for the weekend, so Harriett and I repaired to the local Mexican restaurant to console GrandPa Butch and celebrate Samantha’s 13th birthday. As I mentioned before, spending time with them made the whole weekend worthwhile.

Pete & I got back to the track early Sunday morning and softened the suspension to see what difference that would make and it DID seem like the car was more consistent if not any faster. I again qualified second in class behind Steve, but he checked out early and after a major brake lock-up going into the Museum Turn trying to keep Hayes behind me I again backed off and cruised to the checkers. Hayes was again underweight in Impound but so was I (by seven pounds), so I ended up third of three in GTA. Again (and stop me if you’ve heard this), I just don’t run well at Barber.

2012 Runoffs – Elkhart Lake, WI – 9/16-9/23

I didn’t race at the Runoffs, but it was the first time I’ve attended as a member of the National Staff so I wanted to mention it. I was in meetings dealing with the Majors program or in the Tech Shed most of the week and didn’t get to see as much of the racing as I usually do, but while overall participation levels were down slightly from 2011 (and there’s lots of opinions as to why) the on-track racing was some of the best I’ve ever seen. What I’ve surmised is that the folks who attend the Runoffs “just for the experience” opted to stay at home but most of those that felt they had a legitimate shot at winning attended. 2013 is the 50th running of the SCCA’s National Championship event and also the last one on the current contract with Road America, so it really should be a special event. Even if I wasn’t going to be there as part of my job I’d make plans to attend.

ARRC by GRM – 11/2-11/4

The 2012 American Road Race of Champions Presented by Grassroots Motorsports was the final weekend of BK Racing’s 2012 season and also my last event as Competition Director of Atlanta Region. As an added bonus to those of a Ground Pounder persuasion it was also the first year of what will hopefully become a long term partnership between the Atlanta Region and the recently revived Trans-Am Series. Participation was down somewhat from prior years, but spectator attendance was at a five-year high so the Trans-Am name DOES have some cachet among the racing public.

Data wasn’t able to make it for Friday’s qualifying sessions so Nick Voigt (who will also be replacing me as Competition Director) helped me out. As we were idling on the grid getting ready to roll out for the morning session I was fiddling with a loose indicator light on the dash when the engine suddenly shut off. It took Nick & I about five minutes to find the fuse I’d blown when the light shorted out, so I strapped back in and rolled onto the track with enough time for four laps. I concentrated on warming the tires and finding a gap in traffic, but the track seemed extremely greasy so I never did try for an all-out lap. I was running pretty well compared to most of the cars around me, so when Nick called out a 1:35.6 backed up by a 1:36 I felt like that was just about all that was out there. The lap was good enough for second of ten in GTA behind Cameron Lawrence (TA2 Rookie of the Year in Trans-Am) and sixth overall, but I also figured we’d have to go back out in the afternoon when the track would be faster.

We run a unique format at the ARRC by GRM where the second qualifying session for the Big Noise cars is actually a six-lap race. Finishing position is only meaningful to those interested in Crane Cams V8 Stock Car points, but if you turn a faster race lap than you did in Session #1 then that time is used for the Championship race on Saturday. A number of people don’t like that format, but if you’re wanting to get a clean lap it’s a LOT easier to do it during that six-lap race than it is during a standard qualifying session where the cars are more spread out from the get-go. Because I was already out of the hunt for the Crane Cams series I chose to start from the back and made sure I warmed the tires adequately prior to going for a hot lap (I’m not sure, but I MIGHT have radioed Nick, “I’m getting ready to drop the hammer, Harry!” <g>). Even with catching a little bit of traffic my second hot lap was a 1:33.290 backed up with a 1:33.9, but both Cameron and Randy Walker went faster as well so I ended up third in GTA, tenth overall.

Things were pretty congested for the first few laps of Saturday’s 20-lap race, so I concentrated on staying with Randy while trying to keep Cameron in sight. That worked for about three laps but I slowly lost touch, then around lap eight or so things got really loud inside the car. I figured out the muffler had come loose from the headers but Cuervo still seemed to be running strong, so I turned the volume up on the stereo and kept going. Then around lap twelve I noticed it was harder to downshift at the end of the back straight and the brake pedal got really long so I was having to hit the brakes earlier and earlier. About lap fourteen Bobby Kennedy passed me going into Turn 1 (demoting me to fourth in GTA), then as I was coming down the hill toward the checkered flag I started hearing all sorts of expensive mechanical noises emanating from the firewall. At first I thought I’d blown the engine but quickly figured out it was the transmission instead (the smell of 90-weight plus the gear box full of neutrals helped me pin that down). I felt pretty good about the finish given the challenges we faced, and my chief regret is I wasn’t able to wave to the corner workers during my last race as Competition Director.

Our 2013 plans are still somewhat up in the air, but I do hope to run a couple of Majors events interspersed with my duties at Director of Club Racing. I’ll be spending a lot of time at the race track working with people who are just as passionate about this sport (and club) as I am and getting paid to do so, so I’m CERTAINLY not complaining! <g>

See y’all at the track…