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VIR National – Aug 11 & 12, 2001

There are three things that stick in my mind about the National race at Virginia International Raceway last weekend - - the heat, my wreck and the track. Since I always tend to eat my vegetables first and leave the steak for last, I’ll attack them in that order here as well.

We just thought it was hot at Road Atlanta last June when the thermometer on the trailer read 97 degrees at race time. At VIR (which is just east of Danville), the temperature on Saturday was 98 degrees with a track temperature of 130, while on Sunday it was 100 and 127 respectively. Had it not been for my Chill Factor Products cool system that pumps fresh air to my helmet and cooling water to my body, things would have been nearly unbearable in the car. The switch on the dash is labeled ‘A/C’ and I used it often.

The wreck was one of those things that remind you why we have checklists. The car was finally running pretty well after we found some burned plug wires on Friday afternoon and I was coming out of the Oak Tree hairpin onto the long back straight. I had just shifted into fifth gear at about 130 mph (actually 133 according to the CDS software) when I realized the car was easing toward the left side of the track even though I wanted to stay on the right. There’s a brief pause for my brain to interpret the signals it’s receiving, then a bit longer to understand that the car is not responding to steering inputs, so I probably traveled the length of a football field before I started getting on the brakes. Not knowing for sure what was happening (I thought maybe the LF tire had gone down) and not wanting to do anything sudden, I kept applying brakes right up to the point where I impacted the tire wall protecting the worker stand off the left side of the track about three-quarters of the way down the straight. I’m not sure whose eyes were bigger – mine or the folks manning the station.

After we got the car back to the paddock and I returned from Medical (all vital signs were fine, although the odor in my drawers was lingering), my crew chief Mike Eakin suggested that perhaps the car would handle better if the steering column was actually attached to something. When we had re-installed the engine after Road Atlanta I had failed to tighten and safety wire the bolt that locks the lower u-joint to the steering rack. Since I’d really rather not duplicate this experience, that step in now highlighted on the reassembly checklist.

At any rate, the damage was amazingly minor and we had the car back together for qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Although Lucifer now has a rather large Band-Aid on his nose, we ran 12 laps in that session with a best of 2:04.485 (94.566 mph) to place fifth on the grid of 22 cars. The car was running better than it had all weekend and we found a couple of things in the data that could help us go even faster, so we put the best set of tires we had on the car and were looking forward to Sunday’s race. I knew we had nothing for Baucom and Fariss, but thought we might be able to scare Scott and Bruce if things went well.

 

CP

QA

Name

Car

Best Lap

1

1

John Baucom

Mustang

1.55.767

2

2

Ron Fariss

Camaro

1.58.020

3

3

Scott Murphy

Grand Prix

2.00.593

4

4

Bruce Dewey

Camaro

2.01.597

5

5

Butch Kummer

Corvette

2.04.485

6

7

Richard Grant

Camaro

2.10.489

7

10

John McNaughton

Corvette

2.16.138

8

21

Tim Lyons

Camaro

2.48.542

 

Trying to keep it somewhat brief, Tim didn’t make the grid as an exhaust leak had knocked him out after one lap in qualifying and they decided discretion was the better part of valor. After the green, Ron led the first two laps but retired with severe overheating on lap five. John showed why SportsCar picked him for a podium finish at the Runoffs and Scott pretty much checked out as well while my BFG’s were coming up to temp, but I kept Bruce in sight until he pulled into the pits on lap four. Richard came up to challenge me for a while, but I was able to put some traffic between us and pulled away eventually. I was actually catching Scott at the end but "ran out of laps" and finished third overall and third in GT-1. My best official lap was a 2:02.688 on lap 11 (of 14), I ran 5 laps faster than I had qualified (I REALLY need to work on my qualifying skills) and we’ve moved up to fifth in the divisional points battle. A successful weekend by most yardsticks, but particularly so considering the wreck in the first session. The official results:

 

CP

QA

Name

Car

Best Lap

1

1

John Baucom

Mustang

1.55.569

2

2

Scott Murphy

Grand Prix

2.02.203

3

3

Butch Kummer

Corvette

2.02.688

4

4

Richard Grant

Camaro

2.04.769

5

6

John McNaughton

Corvette

2.10.466

dnf

-

Ron Fariss

Camaro

1.55.350

dnf

-

Bruce Dewey

Camaro

2.04.459

dns

-

Tim Lyons

Camaro

- -

 

It took a while to get here in my report, but VIR is absolutely outstanding! It’s a 3.27 course with a variety of turns that challenge all types of cars, adequate straights to reward the engine builders and severe elevation changes that separate the pretenders from the contenders. The facility is absolutely first rate and the community is solidly behind it as well. They are planning to bid for the 2003 Runoffs when the contract comes up for renewal later this year and I think it would be an outstanding place to determine the SCCA’s National Champions. I’ll be back there next year even if the weather forecast calls for 110 degrees!

Right now, however, we need to get Lucifer ready for Mid-Ohio on Aug. 24-26. My entry has been accepted for the Runoffs as well, but we’ll make the decision to go or not based on our results from the National weekend.

See you at the track…