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Executive Summary:

Mission accomplished. The goal going into the weekend was to “turn a wheel” at our third Majors weekend to satisfy the final requirement necessary to earn an invitation to the 2015 Runoffs at Daytona, and we accomplished that just by rolling down pit road for the first qualifying session on Friday morning. Everything from that point on was gravy! 

Longer version:

Longtime readers who don’t suffer short-term memory issues may recall that after the Road Atlanta Majors we had accumulated enough finishes (4) and points (56), but as a final step we needed to “turn a wheel” at a third Majors weekend to satisfy all the requirements to earn a 2015 Runoffs invitation in GT2. What that means is I needed to record at least one official lap sometime during the April 17-19 VIR Spring Sprints weekend, so the plan was to run hard but not take any chances in traffic. We also planned to go back in three weeks for their SARRC/MARRS weekend, and since VIR is about an eight-hour tow from the BK Racing shops in Woodstock a secondary goal was to NOT have to bring the trailer back home to fix the car. As I wrote in the Executive Summary, “Mission accomplished”.

Given those objectives we decided to skip the test day on Thursday (it rained most of the day anyway), and when crew chief Jay (Gomer) & I got to the track late that afternoon the place was PACKED. After a quick pass around the paved sections revealed no empty spots large enough for our small-by-Majors-standards rig, we opted to set up shop off the left of the main road leading up to Grid. We were in the dirt and didn’t have access to power, but it was convenient to everything we needed (Grid, Tech, the Tower, gas pumps, bathrooms, etc.) and we made it work. After getting everything set up and making a few social calls, we headed to dinner and then called it a day.

While Friday morning’s 20-minute qualifying session was uneventful for BK Racing, the same was not true for everyone else in Group 5. Even though the rain had stopped before the first group went out, by the start of our 10:30 session the track was still damp off-line and certainly in the grass off the track surface (which I had NO intention of visiting!). On the out lap I saw at least two cars off track, one of which was sideways at the apex of Hogpen (the right-hander leading onto the front straight), then as I came by the Tower to start my first hot lap we were officially qualified for the Runoffs! The next lap I turned a 2:19.8 while trying to find/create something of a gap in traffic, then on the next (third) lap they black-flagged the session due to even MORE cars off the track (as we made our way back to pit road there was yet another car straddling the rumble strips at the apex of Hogpen with mud all over the track from where he’d gone off and tried to rejoin). Most of the cars were stopping on Pit Road to adjust tire pressures and/or make other changes, so I proceeded on to Pit Control and was second in line to go back out. Apparently there were a lot of cars off the road because it was taking quite a while to clean everything up, so I asked Jay if he’d started a session clock when we went out. He had and there were about eight minutes left when they gave us a two-minute warning. That would have allowed us to make maybe two laps at speed (in mixed traffic) and we’d already accomplished our goal for the weekend, so when they waved us back out I turned right instead of going straight and went to Impound. Obviously we were the first to arrive, so naturally I asked what we’d won for finishing first?!? <g>

Given that we’d accomplished the weekend goal and had nothing to gain by going out again, we skipped the afternoon qualifying session and instead made the trip to Tony Ave Racing in Maiden, NC, to have some face-to-face discussions about the next BK Racing project, a tube frame ’63 Corvette split-window coupe. Not that it really mattered, but based on our single 2:19.770 lap in the first session we lined up 21st overall (11th in GT2) for Saturday’s race, but since it was a split start there were a number of T1 and AS cars starting behind me with faster lap times. All weekend long people were asking me if I was racing this weekend (as opposed to officiating in some capacity) and I’d reply, “Not racing per se, but I AM driving around kinda fast while making sure I stay out of everyone’s way!”

One of the nice things about not being an SCCA official any longer is I don’t have to show up at the track at oh-dark-thirty every morning. Jay and I met in the lobby of the motel at 8:00, had a nice breakfast at the Hwy 58 Café on the way to the track and still arrived in plenty of time to finish prepping Cuervo for our Saturday afternoon race. I got a pretty good start and moved up a couple of spots going into Turn One, then dropped in to follow Stewart Bachman’s GT1 Corvette while things settled down. I did notice that Stewart was having problems staying on the track and backed off a bit going into the Uphill Esses to give myself some room while he figured things out. As the following video shows, however, he never really came to grips (pun intended) with the track, got behind in his steering, and spun off driver’s left. Those who have run VIR know the Uphill Esses are a BUSY part of the track (we’re running right at 130 mph thru there) so I didn’t want to take my eyes off the road, but in my peripheral vision next lap by I thought I saw something parked off to the left and wondered how a worker got her/his car out there. For the next few laps I went at it pretty hard when I could, but I was always watching my mirrors to make sure I didn’t mess up any of the faster cars coming up behind me. I let a few go by that I might have raced with under different circumstances, so it wasn’t until they called for a Full Course Yellow (again for multiple cars off in multiple places around the track) and I caught up with the pack that I realized Stewart’s Corvette was parked ON TOP of the guardrail on driver’s left before South Bend! I don’t know if he had problems with the car or what, but I remember thinking as we went by behind the pace car that he’d picked one helluva place to park just to see how everyone else was handling that section of the track. <g>

Here’s the video of the first few laps of Saturday’s race, but pay particular attention to the first lap starting around 0:40: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvphRz-9KEo&feature=youtu.be

The clock was winding down on our 25-minute timed race, so I was very surprised when Jay told me they planned to go green with only one lap left. The leaders in GT2 were right behind me on the track (I’d been lapped by the overall leaders but they had not) and I didn’t want to mess with their race, so as we came around Hogpen I moved far right to go down Pit Road and motioned for them to pass me on the left. I proceeded through the pits and rejoined before Start/Finish, then pretty much held station until we took the checkered flag next time by. Even with the conservative driving and excursion down Pit Road we ended up 10th in GT2 and 24th (of 42) overall with a fastest official race lap at 2:09.670. That’s about five seconds slower than we’d been the last time I’d driven VIR back in May 2010, but we accomplished what we set out to do so it was a good weekend. The forecast for Sunday called for rain, so Jay & I loaded everything up and headed back to Danville for the evening.

A couple of folks have asked (not in these exact words but I know what they meant – I questioned it, too) why I was so f*cking slow compared to 2010. The track configuration has changed slightly while the pavement has aged, but I believe overall it’s a wash in terms of total lap times. We were running the same top speeds as before so I don’t believe it’s a mechanical issue, but (with apologies to David Letterman) here are my top ten excuses for being five seconds slower than we were five years ago:

10.    Given my “I’m just here to drive around and get a Runoffs invitation” approach for the weekend, I’m confident I was not pushing the limits on ANY of my laps.

 9.     Since we didn’t want to bring the car back to Atlanta before returning for the Mother’s Day weekend SARRC/MARRS event, we had added enough ballast to get Jay up to the GTA minimum weight of 2800 pounds. He currently weighs 100 pounds less than I do, so that means I was running at least 70 pounds over the GT2 minimum weight (2830#).

 8.     The 2010 time was on sticker Hoosier 3035’s and this time we were on 4-cycle 3045’s, which are 1” taller and slightly harder. We changed the set-up to account for the difference in diameter, but I don’t know how much difference the harder compound and additional heat cycles make. Jay will be on sticker 3045’s in May, so that will tell us something.

 7.     We didn’t run the test day on Thursday and only ran two laps during Friday qualifying, so my first real hot laps were during Saturday’s race. It’s obvious from the in-car video that I was NOT comfortable (smooth) until at least the fourth lap of the race, and shortly after that I was backing off in places to let faster traffic by. It’s also apparent I was not sailing the car into the corners like I do when I’m on top of my game.

 6.     His head is big enough already so I’m not sure I should say this, but I didn’t have Chris Ingle there to push (and coach) me like he did back in 2010.

 5.     We didn’t download data (I’m not sure we even GOT data), so I have no idea what my TBL (theoretical best lap) would have been.

 4.     After we get back from this coming event we’ve got almost two months before the next one (July 4-5 at Roebling Road), so we’re going to have the shocks checked. We might have a bad one(s) that’s hurting us in the corners.

 3.     When we had the car on the set-up platform the weekend before the event we found it has 3/16” of toe-in in the rear end (about 1/8” too much), no doubt a result of my Joey Chitwood Thrill Show audition at Road Atlanta earlier this year. That didn’t appear to affect the top end, but I wonder what affect it might have had in cornering. During the break we’ll pull the rear end and get it straightened out (literally) as well.

 2.     When Jay took tire pressures after the race we had 21 in the fronts and 22 in the rears, which is 3-4 pounds lower than we like to run. In thinking back I remember the car was “mushy” in the corners and I wondered if I used the tires up, but in retrospect they may never have gotten up to operating temperature (which would create a similar sensation). We used the same starting pressures as we did at Road Atlanta with the same tires, but perhaps the tires don’t build as much heat at VIR as they do at Road Atlanta? We’ll start with higher pressures in May and see what happens

And the #1 reason I was five seconds slower than 5 year ago:

 1.     Now that I’m 65 and on Medicare, I’ve forgotten how to drive without my left turn signal on! <g>

Current BK Racing plans for the rest of 2015:

  • May 9-10 – VIR Double SARRC (Jay)
  • July 4-5 – Roebling Road Double SARRC (Jay)
  • July 25-26 – Road Atlanta Double SARRC (Jay)
  • August 15-16 – Charlotte Double SARRC (Jay)
  • September 21-27 – SCCA Runoffs ® at Daytona (Butch)
  • October 10-11 – SARRC Invitational Challenge at Roebling Road (Jay)
  • November 6-8 – ARRC at Road Atlanta (TBD)

As always, let me know if you want further information about any of these weekends.

See y’all at the track…