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Lap Around the Sun 2014
I've made a
lot of laps around the sun. More than most of those I try to
My laps have given me broad experience but also narrowed my
Experience helps you know what to do and
what not to do. Some things get ruled out because of
previous results... not realizing that new
combinations of old ideas make a different blend,
disconnected from the past. As the annual laps
continue, things change and they stay the same with the
difference sometimes hidden. It takes time to learn,
re-learn and un-learn. The more laps, the more to churn.
So moving forward is the goal for this
season... by going back to basics.
This year, experience must overcome experience.
Reduce the variables, do what's well known and push deeper
beyond the comfort level. I may not be as good as I
ever was but I know I can be better than I've been. I
do it for the fun of speed, the challenge of improvement,
the connection with friends and my competition with
As my part of the earth now leans toward
the sun again, it's time to roll the dice, solve the puzzle
and play the game for one more round. It's time
to Go Racin'...
usually post the stories of each race just after they
are run. 2014
was so depressing and embarrassing that I wrote the
get the episode out of my head
but decided not put them on the website until I had a
good race to report. That never happened. The racing
season was a downer and it took some
time for me to put it behind me. The only good
part was that I didn't get hurt. So here in the
order of events is
one race teams' battle of 2014.
Session. April 2014
It's spring and
the same as last year, first practice session at Brewerton
4/15 was snowed out. Next session two weeks later was
out. First Patriot race was rained out. Cold, wet and windy
it uncomfortable to work in the pits and to wait and watch
time on the track.
In the car can be the place to warm up. Not from the heat of
engine or exhaust but from adrenaline, physical
tension and working the muscles that aim the machine. Ten
laps in a
sprint can be like ten minutes on a punching bag. Even
simulators can raise a sweat.
Racing equipment sits idle and
ready, tracks may be ready, but parking lots aren't.
weather in the spring is stirred by leftover Canadian winter
slidejob on the warmth and moisture invading from the south.
sun's new angle puts heat into the cold ground. April and
May are a
battle of opposites that breed racing's unpredictable
can pop up and ruin a party. Everyone's optimism for a
will have to wait.
never really got the hang of Woodhull. It's a
say really tight paper clip. The turns are
at the end of long straights. It's like a
running track with triple length
into the corners has been a weak spot there for
The high banked turns are slick, no matter how
they put on it. And even though they over
water it when
the sprints are there, it's still dusty.
So the extra long
cold winter extended into spring and wiped out two
and the first to races leaving me with this track as my
first laps in
the car since Labor day weekend.
The car and
motor were three races old then and preped for racing at
it rained out last fall. The winter
allowed for some
cleaning and spares to be readied but the racecar was
Getting back on track is like riding a bike. It
feels natural but takes me some laps to shake off the rust
the limits. It's not like the simulator where the
resets the game, mistakes on the track are
Three hot laps is all you get before you are lined up in a
pack of cars, all out to get all they can from you and
when they drop the green.
The draw can set the
tone for the night. Hand goes into the bag and
comes out. 49. That puts me last
in the first
heat, 10 cars, six to qualify. The heat had
URC and Patriot Champions, the champ from the year before,
of the first ESS race this season, and a couple other
starting ahead of me. There were a couple of
cars that I
saw as passing targets but they were starting up front.
race started and I tried the bottom and middle and
Could get a nose in but things strung out and I could run
but not get past. The car was good, I just
figure out how to drive it faster.
in a 10 car B main with four to qualify had
I watched the other heats to see who, how and where
that weren't going to qualify were running.
There was a
We didn't change the car much.
A little more wing, lower pressures, half a turn of
the track would be dryer and these changes might help with
My inside starting position put me on the
bottom of one as we charge to the first turn.
I got in
pretty good and it looked like I was going to get a
position or two
coming out when I saw the yellow nose of a car pointed at
me to the
right. I tried to scoot under the spinning
rookie but his
car hooked up and drove into the side of me.
RF clipped him and RR jumped over his front
tipped over, I was luckier and almost got over but
set back down. I got out of
the car and
checked what was broke. W-link, shock pin was
all I could
see wrong. Tires still up but wheels banged up. Too
much to fix before a restart and who knows what else is
I took off the shock and they pushed me back to the
The ESC key is made up of a wallet and
nights in the shop.
The three hour tow got me 3 hot laps, 10
heat laps and the second turn of the B. Not a
start to the season but not a disaster. Greg
and I headed
home after watching the feature.
Reset. New Race.
First time on this track in
30 years. I think '84 or '85 was the last that I
We had always run Port Royal on Saturdays but one year Port
did something that pissed us off so we went to Selinsgrove
next season or two. We were a top 10 car... top 5 on a good
with some seconds and a win back when it was “run what ya
with big small blocks and bigger big block engines, no
no tire rule but most everything else exactly the same as
today. Chassis and parts were mostly home built or locally
built at small
shops, although stuff was also available from national
It has always been a fast track with the rust
red Pennsylvania clay providing good bite without excessive
wear. Engines rule in Pa because of the big fairground half
the Grove's paperclip and Lincoln's sticky banks. A slick
has more bite than hotlaps on a wet track in NY.
to run here again but never had enough motor to feel it was
worthwhile until this season. Family doin's at Teresa's
had us headed to Pa on this weekend anyway and it aligned
with an ESS
points race at this track, just a half hour up the road from
family home so we took the car.
Teresa grew up in a small
town, half way between Port Royal and Selinsgrove. For all
years since I left Pa, we'd round the Selinsgrove third turn
backwards as we'd pass on the road outside the track each
time on the
way from NY to visit her family
I put a basic setup on the car
after scouting the options from some regulars during the
gear they suggested was the same as the one we wore out
weekly back when. Nothing was much different because nothing
much different since then.
I met up with the ESS crew as we
waited in line to get in. The track is one of few left
infield pits and an original fairgrounds covered grandstand.
rows high of armco line the outside and two on the inside...
all the central PA tracks, errant motion is stopped by a
rolled in alone but Denny Gross showed up with some help
could cross the track after hot laps. Duval was there with
he's working with and stopped by to say hi. I was pitted at
forth turn next to the ESS trailer making it easy to get
lineups. My draw was good for a change with a 12 putting me
on the outside
front row of the heat. Hot laps went good with the car on
the sticky surface. It took a lap to get a feel for the car
turns and a couple of laps to find the line at the low
flat out laps. I was slowly reeling in the car ahead the
The familiar ESS format and racers took away some of the
uncertainty of the night but I still didn't know for sure
car and the first turn would be like in my third heat. We
few small changes and took out some stagger for the heat on
I was hoping to drag to the first turn and take the
outside line to lead or to stay in second. The green dropped
the motor didn't take off sharp, despite being in the
dragging the brake up to the line. By mid straight I was
followed in line into the middle of one. The front end did a
to the outside on the two heat old, slicker, middle of the
now there was a car right there on the outside.
I had to
back off a bit to collect the car and then another car got
low. I came out of two in fifth. I was headed for three but
didn't have the momentum of the cars behind and lost two
getting into three. Wow, a little bobble in one and I was
done. It all happened really fast and there was no way to
get it back.
corner and exits were not a problem. I entered a bit low and
up the cushion, moved the wing forward a bit and stuck the
front end. Running the track without lifting is all about
momentum. I was
able to follow the cushion in from the outside wall. The
entered the better it hooked up but it was too late. You
one mistake at this place. The pack strings out and although
catching the next car ahead of me, a solid ESS regular, I
have enough laps to do much with it and we were both in the
engine temp was higher than it had ever been before... just
point where the light was ready to turn on. I didn't want it
I haven't run anywhere where you run flat out for
ten laps like this. There wasn't much that could be done to
cooling so I changed the pill and high speed to be a tad
There was some hope in the B. I was starting fifth with
four to qualify. The cushion had moved out a car width and
something left on the bottom. If I could run the bottom
I might pick off a car out of two.
The same car I followed in
the heat would start in front of me. Despite more effort at
start, the motor still bogged off the line and cleared out
straight. I stayed fifth but raced out of two and got beat
top of two.
I ran my 10 laps in the strung out line. I ran
the cushion and stayed ahead of some and followed others but
not gain. Ran sixth, took four.
My RPM ended up lower than in
the heat and I think that the pill change was the cause, but
motor temp was back where it needed to be. The car ran
comfortable and stuck but to be fast at a place like this
refinement to make the car roll the corner straighter and
It takes a few times here to get the tire pressures and
offsets just right. I probably could have used more gear,
to the radiator, and a little more low speed bypass to
starts. This is a motor and momentum track. Small changes do
to increased speed and handling efficiency. A two thousandth
in fuel here changes the watch. More gear may have centered
better spot in the power band. Brakes were not an issue,
something happens in front of you. The track is actually
drive. There wasn't much to do other than choose a corner
line, the rest took care of itself.
Despite the extreme speed
for a half mile, the place doesn't offer much of a driving
challenge. It's more about not making mistakes and trying to
be efficient. There is no out-breaking or keeping the tires
from spinning while
That was actually a disappointment. Back in the
day you did have to lift a bit to get in and then you could
down on the cushion but the refinements in car and tire have
the car to now be under powered for the track or the track
for these hooked up cars. It's really fun to drive the track
it's really fast. If you run there every week you have to be
up for this.
The flat out laps at 8k rpm only drop to mid or
high 6k. That is asking a lot of the motor. The shorter
tracks need a wide rpm range and smooth cam to get off the
without spinning. Selingsgrove is hard on the motor and hard
equipment... especially if you make a mistake.
The speeds are
so high that most any problem is big. This night took its
half the cars in the pits at the finish. The worst was a
crash in three where two cars flipped putting both drivers
hospital in critical condition. One was helicoptered to the
after they cut the cage off the car to get the unconscious
without more injury. Between the two were: serious head
broken leg, broken back , broken ribs, throat injury and
issues. We almost lost a driver that night. He survived but
never fully recover from the serious hit to the head.
– Memorial Weekend
long tow to a track, just across the southern NY line in the
corner of Pa. We been there a few times and have always
liked to run
this high banked third mile. Last time we were there we ran
the heat but spun in the feature.
We got to the track a
little later than planned and found the pits full but ended
up with a
decent place to park next to some friends. Once Greg and I
unloaded, I took a ride on the four wheeler to look at the
track. The red clay was packed in really tight already and
particularly wet. In the past this place had a near perfect
with bite and a decent cushion.
In fact, last time here it
was nearly flat out in the heat and still fast in the
feature. Remembering that, I had put together a basic setup
at the shop that I
thought would be a good fit for the track speed and bite.
were the opposite.
The track was slick like ice and already
dusty. We didn't have much time before the heat so we took
stagger, dropped pressures, moved offset a bit, raised the
took out some gear.
I started fifth out of eight cars and
got into one on the bottom and passed one car and was lined
up to get
under another but as I put my foot back down, there was no
I sat there spinning my tires off two, I got passed. Three
were no better. I tried a higher line but the car was just
skating. It was so bad off two that I had to back pedal to
keep it from going
over the edge.
Another wasted heat race and fortunately just
enough cars to fill the field so I would start last in the
main. Greg and I hustled a completely different setup on the
car. Changed bars, shocks, weight, stagger and pressures.
started and was really dusty. The track is very well lit but
bright lights just made the dust brighter and harder to see
through. The car was a whole lot better with this setup. I
cars right away.
Got by two or three in the early laps and
started gaining confidence that the car would stick and
harder. Cars were on the bottom so I ran the middle and
the outside. On the fourth lap or so, I drove into three on
outside of a car and held position through the corner,
drive by coming out of four.
As we exited the corner, I was
on the pedal, watching the other car to the left, out of the
of my eye, as we swept out of the turn. The wall was clouded
dust for us at the back of the pack. I had a sense of where
from my line in the corner but misjudged by just a bit.
never saw the wall until the thud of slapping it. It was
enough to knock the front end out of the car. I lost the
and brakes at the flagstand and was now off the throttle but
for the first turn where the wall turns left and I was going
straight. It was a half second flash as the wall came at me
there was nothing I could do but ride this one out. I pulled
tight on the steering wheel. The light gray jersey barrier
black sky as the car dug in and started end over end, out
About six big hits in the dark ended with the car being
stopped by the twenty foot high catch fence. I had poked a
size hole near the top. I was hanging in the belts with the
side of the car against the fence, leaned back some and
vertical on the rear bumper. I felt perfectly ok and
cushioned the impacts were in the seat. I could feel the
working as I had been thrown into the belts and then slammed
seat as the impacts occured. The Crash Pad takes a lot of
sharpness out of any impact.
Now laying on my back, looking
straight up like an astronaut ready for lift off, EMTs
asking if I
was ok, I was stuck in the car until they could figure out a
get to the car, which was in a pocket behind the wall and
Finally they pulled the top wing away and I grabbed
the front of the cage and lifted myself out of the seat and
to stand on the back of the seat and cage and hopped down.
I talked to the EMTs for a minute I went back to the car to
figure out how to get it out of there without more damage.
trucks didn't have a long enough boom to get to the car in
between the wall and fence. Eventually they were able to
car over onto the top of the wall and bring in a roll back
level. With the front end at the back edge of the roll back,
bunch of us lifted the back end up and over the wall and
slid it onto
the flat bed. It probably took a half hour or longer to get
out of there and back to the pits.
The car was surprisingly
intact, considering the number of hits I felt.
said it looked pretty nasty. The rear tires and suspension
undamaged. The front axle, tires and wheels were wiped out
and left side. Wings were wadded and the frame was bent a
bit, ahead of the radiator. Lots of little stuff but from
radiator back it was mostly OK.
I winched the front end onto
the trailer with some people lifting and the rear tires
into place. Greg and I packed up our stuff and headed home.
has been a crap season so far. I hope we are over the bad
back to racing. I'm putting this engine in the older car and
give that a try.
Luck goes in streaks. It's always been
that way for me anyway. This season has been string of bad
far. It has not really gotten started. Early races were
out, then the first race at Woodhull delivers a bad draw and
collected in someone else's spin in the second turn of the
of the B main.
Next race at Selinsgrove, we miss qualifying
but that was possibly a good miss as I would have been in
the part of
the pack where an extremely bad crash occured. Then more
the next race, at McKean, I dump the car over the fence. Now
spending a couple of weeks getting the spare car ready we go
nearby Fulton Speedway where the motor sprays some oil in
and we find that a crack has opened up in the block at the
front motor mount, apparently a remnant of the crash two
weeks ago. We parked it for the night.
The motor is pulled and at the
builder's shop and the first frame is in Pennsylvania
front end fixed.
So far this season I've made three A main
laps, spent lots of time in the shop and added to the pile
Yeah, luck goes in streaks and it seems to last for a
number of races rather than a period of time. It can carry
from the end of one season to the next... but I hope not
I am usually lucky in my bad luck. When things go bad,
they are not as bad as they could be or expect.
So the only
way to get past this streak of bad luck is to work and race
it. What keeps me going is knowing that I can fix what's
can do better and these streaks do end.
My luck has always run in
streaks. When it turns bad, it seems that there is not much
do other than race through it with the optimism that it must
now and things will be better at the next race.
behind me, the back up car ready, the Fulton motor oil leak
solved, it's off to Canada to a track where I ran really
I put last year's setup in the car and Greg and I
towed north in hopes of finally getting the racing in our
An ESS race on the same night split the cars and left
the Patriots with only sixteen cars for the banked 3/8 mile.
track is usually dry slick early on but has some bite in the
clay that wears tires. There were 5 classes of cars on the
for hot laps before we got on track so we just set up for
bright sun was high over turn three when we pushed off and I
see ruts that were packed into the turns. I had my standard
of pro shocks on and adjustments pretty flat off the blocks
bars. They dropped the green and I picked up speed,
local that knew his way around this place.
Drove around one
and two and the car was stuck but kind of bounded through
the holes. Went into the middle of three and the car hooked
up good going in, I
stayed in the pedal and then mid corner, it just snapped
around and I
backed it into the infield.
They pushed me off and I fell in
behind the same car to finish hot laps and try to figure out
do with this track. They drop the green and I follow in the
tracks of the car ahead, a car width down from the top of
Into one and the car jumps out of a rut, takes a
couple bunny hops and now on the other side of the banking,
down and plants the RF into the dirt and pole vaults the car
end a couple of times, landing wheels down way out in the
I... was.... PISSED. What the hell !!! What
have I got to do to get past this string of disasters? I was
ok. Again, I could feel the Crash Pad work through the
crash. I got out
and looked things over. Rear suspension was OK, front axle
done. They put the hook on the front bumper and I rode the
in with one foot on the brakes.
Back in the pits, I was so
disgusted that I was just going to load up and leave but the
owner came by to check on me and said if I could take the
the feature, it paid a lot better than tow money. He was
I could use the money. Plus, he needed cars on the track for
show to keep the promoter happy.
So Greg and I scrambled the
spare front end into the car, replaced shocks, cut away the
damaged part of the wing side panel, put on a new W link,
and added fuel to the dented tank. We got a little help from
teams pitted near us and the Patriot guys and got the car
ready to go
so I could run a test lap with the dash cars.
When I was
getting set up for the track conditions, I looked to see if
I had a
rough track shock for the RR and found an Afco to put there.
took the Pro off, I pushed the shaft down to put it away and
easily and then caught. It was not bent but the internal gas
had broken allowing the piston to move in air instead of
liquid. This shock failure could have been the reason for
the jumpy car, if
it was failed before the crash. None of the shocks on the
used at McKean so it wasn't left over crash damage but it
Anyway, I ran a lap at the back of the dash
and the car felt ok so I went to the pits, ready for the
started last but that was only 16th. The plan was
finish. The track was smoother now that they did some
water and repacking but it still had some holes that upset
The race starts and I stay with the pack at the back. They
fill the track, running side by side and I run half throttle
from running over them.
Nowhere to go yet, just waiting
for a safe opening, a feel of the car and the track. Into
lap two and the two cars right in front of me get crossed up
spins and comes down the track. I lock up, the car turns
and slides hard into the let front of the other car.
I get out and look things over to see
that the only damage is the right side nerf is bent up and
the tire. W link is good and all tires are up. So I get back
they pull the cars apart and push me off for the restart.
drop the green for a single file restart and I follow the
pack into one with its holes, keeping my distance but
touch on the bottom.
One car spins and collects the whole
pack. Dust clouds roll up into the lights.
spinning. I lock up and the car turns sideways sliding
mess. Cars are flipping. Before I can stop, I'm in it and
right side into the front end of a car pointed at me.
SON OF A
This time I get out and find the front axle bent,
front wheel kinked, shocks damaged, header bent and sitting
on top of
the front end of the other car and almost tipped over.
track crew lift the back end of the car and we separate the
without more damage.
On the hook again, riding the nerf bar
and brakes into the pits. Four laps total and two front ends
the night. Is the bad luck over? Won't know till next race.
Yeah, last place money was better than tow money but I'd
off on the trailer.
If not crashing means my luck is changing then
that's about all the good that came out of this race. This
part of an ESS speedweek with 5 races in 5 days, all within
of home. With all the problems I've been having and with
feeling well and considering our performance level, I
decided to just
do Brewerton and Fulton. A rain out at Brewerton a few days
left me with a car in one piece but no track time.
A race at
this track earlier this year was very dry and slick right
git go. This day was sunny, hot and windy. There hadn't been
rain for a couple days so we all expected the typical
slick. But, they must have put more water down this time,
hot laps was rough and choppy where it had not been scuffed
off. Where it was scuffed, it was smooth with some bite.
This was a
tricky track needing a soft setup for the slick but stiffer
chop. It was narrower, faster and rougher than usual.
cars in the pits and a draw of 61 put me at the back of the
heat. Nine cars, 5 qualify, there were some opportunities
I consulted with Jason Barney about setup. He
won here last race. He was concerned too because the track
rough and faster than he had planned for. He was starting on
front row of the heat. I made some changes and got ready. My
was to stay on the bottom, get bite coming out to pass and
Drop of the green, I could stay with the cars at
the back but wasn't any faster. I was only able to pass when
would get upset on the rough spots or cushion. The only
for me was that several cars spun or had problems. Last lap
fifth. A car spins in two and after 3 cautions, they drop
checker and yellow to end this mess and I'm in.
Then.... they decide to race the last lap and they line us
up for the double
file restart. I try but get passed going into one. Sixth
on the pole of the B which fills up with hot shoes that had
in their heats.
I discuss the setup with Jason and soften the
car. The plan is to stay on the bottom and force passing on
outside of the now slicker, wider track.
The cushion is
still rough and 5 car width up the banking.
B starts and the
outside of the front row car jumps me but he's a regular so
don't call it back. I enter one in second and hold on for a
Then entering three, the back end slips out as the
track is really getting slick in spots. I get passed and now
fourth. My line gets slicker and I get slower and can no
hold my position. I pull the wing back but it's not enough,
a wider line and get passed low. I needed more sidebite.
Disgusted, disappointed, discouraged, pissed, I rolled
to the trailer and loaded up. We watched Jason run the
cars, run down the leader and win again.
Black Rock 8/8/14
I didn't race through
July because my mother had a replacement hip installed and I
taking care of her house and things and visiting her through
and rehab. Once things settled down and stablized for her, I
decided to go racing again after more than a month out of
had a phone discussion with George Suprick during the week
went to Black Rock to try to figure out what to do to get
faster. We talked about what he saw of me back at the last
race and the setup he was going to use and what he thought I
We talked about Clint, the driver he's coaching to
see what he felt was the reason why Clint was struggling to
like me. Clint and I have ended up racing each other for
in the back of heats, Bmains and features. Clint has really
equipment with George's setups and help, George is in their
car and is a consistant top 10 competitor.
While he couldn't
really nail down what was lacking, the discussion helped in
self analysis of my driving.
I decided to go to Black Rock
because I felt comfortable at that track and it had new
management. I was hoping for an improvement over past
conditions and programs. It was also Nascar weekend as
Watkins Glen was racing the Cup cars 10
miles down the road and it's a chance to be in a race with
Stewart and others that show up to run the sprints.
and company saved a place for me at Black Rock and helped
Greg's illnesses have kept him at home and left me without
drew a high number and the track was unusually tacky and
fast. There were 27 cars on hand so nine car heats and 6 to
started in the back of a fairly loaded heat and ended there,
to make ground on the car ahead.
Clint was in the heat also
and a couple of cars ahead at the end. He missed qualifying
but George got to watch me a bit and gave me his
couldn't really come up with any suggestions. We agreed that
slow mid corner and discussed what it could be. We discussed
small changes to the setup for the Bmain where I would start
of eight with four going to the main.
The car was stable, the
engine strong, I ran bottom and middle but had no advantage
other cars despite trying hard. With continuing unhappiness
solution in sight, I watched the feature.
Turned out that Tony
didn't show up to race his sprint car here as he has done
past half dozen years. Don't know why.
Last year, earlier
in the season, he caused a big crash at Canandaigua that
drivers to the hospital with broken backs, then went to
next week and flipped and then a week or two later crashed
sprint car and broke his leg out west just before the Black
He was now recovered from the injury that kept him out
of the last third of last year's Nascar season. This year,a
weeks earlier, he had raced a sprint for the first time and
Michigan and run some other sprint races since. He must have
some other commitment and missed Black Rock this year.
luck streak continued when I left the track. The car was in
piece which was an improvement but a few miles from the
track I lost
the brakes on the truck while heading downhill to a stop
sign at a
tee in the road.
As my bad luck usually falls on the lucky
side, I was able to slow the truck by pumping brakes and
low and turned on to the next road which fortunately had no
at midnight. I drove home carefully with most of the
After reviewing my performance at Black Rock,
the way my luck was going, the brake line on the truck that
be replaced and bleed (working alone),and my chances of not
the ESS feature at Canandaigua that would probably have lots
and general discouragement, I decided to stay home.
year Tony didn't run Black Rock but did make it to
next night where he tangled with Kevin Ward Jr in an
would change racing for him and everyone else, forever.
the days when local racers get to compete with the top
the major leagues has passed. I doubt we will ever see it
again. I'm glad that I got to be part of it while it lasted
and that I
wasn't there when it ended.
Cousin Tommy was leading and going
away when Kevin and Tony tangled on lap 13 and all racing
night was halted. The race was past halfway and Tommy ended
Kevin's death was a combination of random chance and
a string of bad judgement, and bad timing by Kevin that put
the path of one of racing's greats.
After this incident, the
next race was at Brewerton, a mile from home. It was a Kevin
tribute race. I was so discouraged about racing that I had
considered not towing the mile and staying home. I decided
last minute to go.
The mood was very somber at the track,
particularly with the sprint car people.
Local and national
news was spewing stories that were worded to sensationalize
misrepresent what happened. The first headline I saw the
morning after the incident said “Stewart Struck and Killed
and my first thought was that there was a fist fight.
later, thoughtful writers would say that Ward was hit by the
driven by Stewart.
Local news was interviewing everyone and
stories with pure speculation about everything from what
what Tony was thinking went nationwide for a week. Idiot
who had no clue about sprint car racing, dirt tracks or
procedures wrote criticisms that swayed public opinion and
writers, reporters, readers and viewers to all be idiots
only proof of why current politics is such a mess).
I have had informed knowledge about something that I see in
papers or on TV, I realize how clueless the press is and
only get it half right, if that.
How can you trust any story
you hear when the ones you know about are so screwed up with
ommissions, twisted words, sensationalism, inaccuracy,
misleading and totally wrong information?
As a person with
a four year degree in Broadcasting and 20 years of working
I hate the press for all the damage they have done to this
and our society and the world.
There should be penalties when
they get it wrong just to insure that they make sure they
I was so discouraged about racing and not having
a solution to try to get faster and break the ongoing bad
streak, that I had decided not to race at Brewerton, one
the road. I discussed it with Greg, who had a tooth pulled
before and was in no condition to crew the car. Brewerton
become an embarrasment for me. I haven't qualified for a
in several years. I just can't get around that place despite
everything I've tried and I've tried hard.
So when friday
came I was still hedging and then realized that this was
going to be
Kevin's rememberance event and that I needed to be a part of
decided to get the car ready and go.
I had been racing with Kevin
on and off since he started four or five years ago. He ran
primarily but had branched out and was hitting some of the
of the area. Kevin was a gasser. His line was on the cushion
his style was on the pedal. I remember one night when there
cushion, joking with him in passing about seeing him was on
bottom. He said it wasn't working. Kevin won an ESS race on
pavement last year, so he could get it done when necessary.
year ago at CanAm, I wasn't racing but went there to make a
deal on a
motor and hangout with Dave Ely. He was pitted near the pit
that lines up with the front straight. Kevin was pitted next
to him. I sat on top of Ely's trailer and watched.
At the start
of Kevin's heat, he pulled out of the pack and ran along the
heading for the cushion in one. Kevin attacked the track
intensity. He was passing cars when someone slipped up to
cushion just at entry and Kevin ran over him in a big way
They brought the car back and dropped it at
Kevin's trailer. He and his crew were taking scrap off the
car. Kevin walked around calmly bringing out replacement
was some time and he could make the Bmain if they could
enough so I went over and started helping. Wings and mounts,
axle, arms bars front and rear, wlink, bumpers nerfs
everything but the tank seat steering and motor.
called the shots, picked the parts, advised the assembly,
measured the setup. I could see that he was a complete
the just driver of his father's car, this was Kevin's car.
father helped with the crew to put a car back together. They
make it in time for the Bmain but Kevin had a provisional
and went through the setup so the car would be right and
talked to his father for a while and Kevin a bit after. I
to help him because I saw he needed help but also thought he
deal with me more carefully on track if we knew each other
I walked away from the experience seeing how to do a thrash
without making it into a fire drill. That is something I
remember from working with Kevin that night. I have thought
that night and how Kevin handled the disaster and his crew,
and how I
could apply it to my own situations.
When I arrived Brewerton
Speedway at 4pm on this friday, the pits were already
sprint cars. Twenty four showed up. Lots of news people were
wandering around including the Syracuse Newspapers and a
and reporter from ESPN. They covered the driver's meeting
although somber and prayer offered, was mostly about race
rules and order of events. It was racing as usual. They were
making drama for the press.
Staying in your car when stopped
on the track was even not mentioned despite Brewerton and
being among the first in the nation to make the rule and an
incident being the cause.
Syracuse Newspapers took some
pictures of me getting ready and then we talked for about 15
minutes. I was quoted, along with others in their article in
paper and they put up a 2 minute video of me in the online
talking to them about the fun of racing for position and the
of the slide job Tony put on Kevin. I think Kevin should
lifted, turned toward the bottom of two and made a straight
the middle of the back stretch where he would have been two
It rained earlier in the day and it looked
like they must not have had the track sealed. It was a
sloppy mess. They had thought about canceling but wanted to
do the tribute to
They were an hour and a half late in getting started
and when I got on track it was lumpy rough. I stiffened the
and started mid pack in the heat. A nasty, cloddy, lumpy
ridge, six inches to a foot high had packed in about two car
off the bottom. It was treacherous and I planned to stay
away from it.
I was in heat three. They already dumped three
or four cars in the first two heats. I hear the engines stop
called RED,RED, RED on the radio in my helmet while sitting
in the pits.
Two laps into my heat, a car tried to nose under
me coming out of two. My left rear jumped his right front
car came down ok and he stayed inside me as we raced into
turn three. Now on the outside, I ended up getting lightly
cushion. The car took two bunny hops and vaulted over the
rear, going over twice.
Wings, radius rods and rear bumper
appeared to be the only damage but I was fully disgusted.
pushed me back to the pits and I loaded up. I wasn't going
the chance of fixing the car, borrowing a wing and having
I will wait until this bad luck streak ends. Next race
for me will be next spring.
There was a tribute done during
intermission after the heats. Kevin had been buried the day
before. His family and friends from his town, 26 of them,
had come to this
race. Much of the crowd and crews were wearing orange
colors) in respect. The race sponsor provided nice hats and
tee shirts for the ESS members. I stood in the banking of
with a hundred other ESS drivers and crew during a
prayer at the start line. Orange balloons were released from
stands as the anthems played.
The feature lineup left position
13 (his racing number) open for Kevin. That was to be the
for the racing family. The feature was on and the trecherous
ate 11 more of the 22 starters.
was stupid. He made three mistakes that night. The first it
out was that he was racing while under the influence of pot.
autopsy said enough pot in his system to impair judgement. I
tolerance for that and it pisses me off that he would race
and that his father would let him if he knew.
Second, he should
have lifted and either followed Tony on the cushion or did a
over. His lack of experience in dealing with a slide job
Last, he should have picked up a clod of clay and thrown it
at Tony's car instead of walking into the path of cars just
down after the caution just to point in anger.
take based on video and my experience racing at the track.
incident from where Tony was sitting.
The Slide Job
had been able to get beside Kevin in the front straight,
after a good launch off the fourth turn and heading for turn
dove to the bottom to do a slide job on Kevin.
runs the cushion and went into one on the top. The cushion
point was mostly loose dirt kicked up to the top of the
covering the last bit of moisture on the otherwise dried out
At the top of the banking it is flat or a bit downhill
leading to grass and then a wall. This track surface
for good racing because there are different ways to navigate
corner and it takes more driver skill than brute horsepower.
this point in the race most cars are hugging the bottom,
some in the
middle trying to pass cars on the bottom but many of the
are using the cushion. Corner entry for the cushion varies
on the confidence of the driver and how the car is working.
like Kevin will pick up the cushion at the end of the
barely lifting as the car is turned in a bit sideways and
rear picks the bite, steering slightly to the right and
Some will chickenshit the corner and enter in
the middle or a car width down from the top, lift some and
to the cushion mid or late part of the first turn and then
on it. It's not as fast as railing the cushion but it's
missing the cushion going in and ending up out in the loose
In Tony's case he would have run the cushion but
Kevin was there and to pass him he decided to cut to the
one and let the car drift up with as much throttle as he
to keep the car just a but sideways, still racing forward
much power to spin him out and not making too much speed so
wouldn't slide up over the cushion when he got there.
a golfer that has to hit toward the cup with the just right
force to get to the cup without falling short or going past,
slide job is a judgement made through constant
track surface control, steering, and throttle throughout the
Your are pretty well committed because the reason you are
sliding to the top is because you entered the bottom of one,
faster than the car could stick to the bottom or middle.
car on the cushion you are passing is going faster but you
a slower but shorter route. It's a race to see who gets to
cushion between the turns first.
Tony probably could not see
Kevin once he went to the bottom and with the car a bit
really had the cushion and Kevin over his shoulder and out
Line of sight ahead lets you sense the approaching cushion
with the bite of the right rear the only real way to know
there and can put your foot the rest of the way down.
another car to your outside, he'd have to beat least half
side or more. You are looking slightly right, over the head
under the wing side panel through a slot of dusty vision. At
point, if you could see a car already there, you'd have to
brake to try to keep off of him and crash both of you.
if you've passed him and you can't see him, then you've got
and you know he has to lift because he's been fully able so
coming all the way.
If he doesn't lift he'll end up over the
cushion, into the loose stuff and the wall.
The front end of
a sprint car will never resist the tap from the rear tire of
car and with open wheels and hot, sticky, spinning rubber,
tires can flip both cars instantly. It's the give and take
strategy of racing for position. Rubbin' is Crashin' with
Tony won the race to the center of that corner and took
the cushion, picking up the throttle to catch the next car.
not have touched Kevin but if he had, the weight on the rear
sprint is five to ten times the weight on the front end,
weight transfer to the rear.
The engine torque lifts the
weight off the front end in a design that puts all the
on the giant rear tires to bite the track. Stagger turns the
and the wing adds another half ton to the rear tires.
car is balanced this way for the most traction with the
having only enough grip to aim the car more than steer it.
is done with the setup and feet as much as with the hands.
can bump the front end of another car with your right rear
feel it. A light bump on the front end of your car can turn
ninety degrees instantly like flicking the handle can spin a
spoon. The car pivots on the rear weight so fast you can't
Kevin's front end may have been bumped by Tony and Tony
never feel it as he also grabbed the cushion about the same
time. Kevin may have worked his way over the cushion trying
to stay tight
but avoid contact with Tony's right rear with his left
front, in a
futile attempt to hold the ground.
Kevin wasn't far enough
along side and got crowded over the cushion and ended up
in the loose stuff that carried him to the wall. This
would have stayed with him and next time he'd make a better
calculation of when to hold his ground and when to back out
to get mad about it. You can't win the battle from the back.
Kevin's view, he was running his line, on the pedal along
and saw Tony go to the bottom and slide up the banking.
hoping that he could get to the intersection of their paths
Tony would have to back out and race side by side out of
Kevin's calculation was continuous, fueled with optimism,
speed, commitment, and the sense of possession of the line
forgetting that this was a battle for position there were
committed sides to the challenge.
Kevin could stake his
ground and hold off Tony but only if he got there first. If
that race, he would either have to fall in behind or make a
move by going to the bottom of two, making a straight line
top, to the bottom of two, to the middle of the back
launching off the moist bite down low at the exit of two,
Tony on the top of the exit of two where the banking goes
cushion slicks up and cars hang there waiting for bite.
cushion of one suckers you in with it's banking and speed
channel you to the top of two where you slow down waiting
for bite on
the icy flat strip that results from all the suckers that
Kevin would have been two car lengths or more ahead of
Tony in the back straight if he did the cross over, and the
would have cheered and pointed and watched the two do it
turn and next lap. That's the fun and frustration of racing
watching a slide job.
With the season over, the sting of disappointments
has faded along with the total depression resulting from the
performance. The few races run were spaced with lots of shop
work. I've had seasons before that didn't meet expectations
but never one
where I never finished a feature and only made a handful of
laps. The off season will be longer this year and give me
forget 2014 (if I can) and recharge. I'm getting older but I
feel great and
still have a passion to race and do better. I have
good equipment and desire.