This year's plan is to run with the Patriot
Sprint Group for most of the races that are around Central New York and some traveling to
some of the distant shows. Possibly make most of the second half of the season.
The car and motor that we campaigned for the past two years has been bought by Jerry Wickham (our grandfathers were brothers). His son Tom will be driving. The car will be black with # 75. This will be Tom's first year in Sprints. He has many years experience in micro sprints.
You like to end the season on a good note. As we moved further into fall,
the weather became the biggest obstacle. The last race on the schedule
was Brockville, just across the border in Canada. The mid afternoon event
just happened to line up with a hole in the continuous rainy weather that
has plagued this October.
The hole was a small one. We left the shop with the rain just starting and
moving north. I really didn't think we had a shot at getting the show in,
but a few miles out of town , we drove out of the rain. Two hours later at
the track it was overcast and cold with a light wind.
On the way to the track we stopped to get a quick bite to go and as I
looked back at the truck I saw coolant running onto the ground. We raised
the hood and looked things over. It looked like a bad lower hose. There
was an auto parts store across the road so we stopped there and got a hose,
antifreeze and some clamps. It turned out that one of the spring type
clamps had broken in two, so we replaced the hose and all and got back on
The track is a third mile with a strange layout. The bottom lane and a
half is flat but about twenty feet from the inside is a lane and a half of
30 degree banking. The transition is as square as the blade of the
grader... flat to a point and then fully banked from that point on. The
clay was packed in and had lots of bite. It not only was tacky from being
rained on for a week but it also had some abrasion that would put some
heat and wear on the tires.
We arrived a little later than planned and they had the sprints go out first
so we had to hussle to loosen the car up for hot laps with some stagger
and higher air pressures. I haven't raced here before so I was trying some
different lines in hot laps. On the second lap I caught the edge of the
banking with the RR, getting into three, and it pitched the car around and
I ended up over the banking (no walls) but made it back on to the track. I
continued around the bottom after seeing others slide up over the top of
the banking. It's a tricky place to figure out if you haven't been there
The PSG crew drew for me, as Greg and Jeff and I were busy getting things
ready, and as with every race this year it was a crap draw that landed me
at the tail end of the second heat. Out of the 20 cars on hand, only two
cars had worse draws. One late car was added to the back of our heat.
In the heat race I started 6th and had all the top cars ahead of me. With
the tacky track, everyone was fast. Several cars ran the banking in the
first heat and a few went over the edge. I stayed on the bottom and
kept my position. As the race progressed, you could run in on the
bottom and the car would drift onto the banking in the middle of the turn
and you would come off the top. The lane at the top started getting a
slick groove in it. One car lost it and went over the banking and
restarted behind me and could not get by. We ended up 5th of the 7 in the
For the feature we changed a shock to help with a tight-in condition and
reduced the stagger an inch. The place was going to dry out but with only
two classes running and the cold and cloudy day, we didn't want to get too
tight if the track held any bite.
|We started 17th. Coming out of
four for the green,
I saw the white car
beside me head for the forth turn concrete and come flipping back toward
me. I stayed on the throttle and steered away.
The pack went into one and were still racing down the back
straight and through three and four before they knew there was a problem.
The second turn flagman didn't make
it to the edge of the track in time and the red light in the center of the
turn in the infield was not really in our field of vision.
The crashed car was sitting at the entry to turn one. It had flipped the length of the
front straight and got tangled with another car that was behind me. The
pack got stopped but one car got a flat out of the deal.
On the restart a couple of cars got over the banking and we had another
restart, this time single file (I think all restarts after the first try
should be single file with this group). We would run a few laps and there
would be another caution for another car over the edge
and this was just for the ones that didn't keep going.
I was getting around the bottom OK and trying to get by the car
ahead of me for several laps. When the bottom line bunched up, the guys on
the top would get by. I should have tried the top but it was getting
slicker up there and there was good bite at the bottom coming out. Late in
the race I finally got under the car I had been racing with as he drifted a little
wide coming out.
Another car was behind us and was being held up by our
side by side race. He was getting in real good and had a run coming out
but the two of us were side by side and there wasn't room for three wide.
It was very close racing and as we went down the straight, my tires broke
loose and the car did a little wiggle. The car on the outside and I moved to the
right a bit as we swept wide in the back straight. Then I dove for the bottom of
three to complete the pass. The thrid car in the mix drove into the opening hole,
pinning the outside car on a line that was headed off the track.
As our trio entered the two wide turn, I suddenly saw the front end
of the car in the middle as he drilled me in the RR. I flew through
the air and the three of us ended up off the track. I don't
know why none of us flipped but somehow we landed on our wheels. I let off
the brake as I was sliding and restarted the motor and was able to drive
The yellow was out and I went slow at first feeling everything out
and then buzzed a corner. Everything felt OK so I joined the back of the
pack while they towed the other cars in.
As we came to the checker the car ahead of me spun and I just missed him
and finished 12th. Not a very satisfying race but at least the car was in
one piece and we finished.
So now it's time to go through the car to clean up, rebuild and repair the parts and spares for next season. On one hand, I'm glad this year is over with all the bad stuff that went on but on the other hand I'd like to keep racing until I get things turned around. Everybody has bad seasons... but this was the worst, most unproductive season I've ever had. All the promise with the new equipment was swamped by motor parts coming late, fuel system problems, handling difficulties and a major crash. On top of the technical problems were the bad draws that consistantly started us in the back end and driving that needs some laps and a shot of confidence. For next year I will concentrate on getting back to form in the driver's seat and making sure that our good equipment can do the job. Our goal for this past season was to be a consistant top 10 car, ready to take advantage of any opportunity to win. I guess we'll just have to write this season off as a development year and a head start on next season's success.
Utica Rome 10-15-05 The next event was scheduled at Utica Rome. This track is a big half oval with moderate banking. It has always been really slick and icy and a large number of sprints always show up. The weather situation from last week did not improve. A tropical depression moved up along the east coast and was dumping bands of rain inland for 8 days steady. We were at the ends of the bands and still got 1/2 to 1 inch per day. Places closer to the coast (500 miles away) and up through New England were getting flooded. The forecast was for a break in the weather for Saturday. We drove through light rain for the 45 minute tow to the track for hot laps at 1pm and racing at 2pm. After an hour the light drizzle stopped and they finished running the track in. Temps in the 50's with high winds was uncomfortable but with some sun, by 4pm they were ready to run the 5 classes on hand. The track was rough. The saturated clay was hard but rumpled up into a lumpy washboard. Large clods were being lifted by the tires in hot laps and one flew straight at me from the car ahead. It was a bit larger than a softball and it hit the rock screen grating on the cage and snapped the hose clamps that were holding it in place. It swung back at me, still attached at the top and the clod hit the helmet just above the lens and bounced off. There was a fairly smooth groove at the bottom, a field of rough clods and ruts above that, and a washboard top. The bottom was tacky and would be the fast way around. We drew 20 (best draw of the year) and that started us 5th in the third heat. They had scooped up a lot of the rough stuff with a bucket loader so the track was a little better but still rough. I stayed low and came out of two in 5th. The leader caught a rut and flipped and one other car got by on the outside before the race was over. We needed a little more gear and actually found that the track was starting to slick off right in the groove. The top was still rough but tacky and fast. Back in the pits we made the changes for a track we expected to get slick coming out. The pits were a muddy mess with the big rigs parked on soggy grass. As the rains returned, everything got sloppy and the track was lost. I put it in 4WD and we left, stopping at the car wash on the way home. The race was rescheduled for the next afternoon. We called friends the next morning, that stayed there, and they said it was raining and not much chance of getting it in. We kept in touch and about 3pm they called the race. So next spring there will be a new complete event to be run plus the B-main and A-main from this event. Should be a better track surface then (if it's not too early in the spring). One race left, next Saturday in Brockville Canada.
Rolling Wheels 10-8-05
As the season winds down, we still have a few races scheduled for three
consecutive weeks in October. The weather has been unseasonably warm and
sunny throughout September and into the first part of October, up until a
few days before the Rolling Wheels race.
This event is a high paying sprint race that is part of Syracuse Dirt Week.
There used to be a WoO race on the mile on Saturday but the speeds
got too high for the narrow turns. That race was replaced with the USAC
silver crown cars but that didn't draw enough fans. The race eventually
was established at the nearby 5/8, promoted by DIRT and the track is
now owned by DIRT.
The plan was to race modifieds there on Friday night and the sprints on
Saturday night. With new clay brought in during September, there were lots
of questions about whether the track would be rough or just have more bite.
Having the modifieds there the night before would help to pack things in
and hopefully make for a smooth track on Saturday.
The sprint event was a gathering of URC, ESS and PSG cars with an
expected 65 entries. It would be a tough event if you got a bad draw.
The weather changed on Friday from warm to rainy and the Friday night
racing was cancelled. Saturday's weather was only a little better with
clearing later in the day. The early weather problems delayed the start of
the race program at the Syracuse Mile. With the Syracuse race running late
into the evening and fans then not being able to go to the Rolling Wheels
race, (along with soggy parking and track) they cancelled the race. We
never left the shop.
There have not been a lot of opportunities to run since rebuilding . The schedule is pretty thin through August and only a few events remain to the end of the year. One date was cancelled and another rained out.
Black Rock 8-13-05
This was a challenge race with PSG and ESS organizations and had the expected high car count of about 50 cars. It was an open draw and we drew 46 out of 50. The track was smooth and still had some bite in the heat race so everyone was fast. The car handled well but the engine stumble showed up again. We ran the heat but didn't get to a qualifying spot and ended up in the B-main. The B was like a regular feature with lots of good cars that had bad draws. I started mid pack but didn't make much headway and did not make the feature.
The motor problem has been on and off all season. We've replaced the mag with a fresh rebuilt one on more than one occasion. We put a new fuel pump in place and things were better and it looked like the problem was solved. We have changed plugs and fuel settings and gone though the fuel lines to make sure that there were no obstructions. This week in the shop I did some tests. Running the fuel pump with a drill (still hooked up to all the lines in the car) at about 2000 rpm (4000 crank speed) and dumping the line to the injector into a 5 gal jug, I closed the fuel shut off until I built 55 lbs pressure on a gauge I inserted in the return line with a .070 pill. This approximates operating pressure. The only thing left to suspect was the dial a jet. I hit it with wood mallet and on one occasion the pressure dropped to 35 lbs and stayed there. That meant that fuel had to be leaking past the pill inside the dial a jet. I couldn't get it to happen again but a leak past the pill would act like a bigger pill with more going to the tank and less to the engine. This will cause the motor to go lean, get hot and run ragged. This type of failure makes sense with what I experienced.
The only way to know for sure is to race the car. I removed the dial a jet and replaced it with a regular single pill holder. The next opportunity to race was an ESS show at Utica Rome. I would have to start in the back of all races so making the feature would be difficult but it would be a good test session and it was less than an hour away.
Utica Rome 9-4-05
UR had the expected large turnout of cars. The motor ran good in hot laps and in the heat. I started 10th and got past a few cars but had to run the B. Starting 12th in the B, I got up to 8th. The motor ran good. The track really iced up. There was no bite coming out except way low at the exit. I tried different parts of the track but really got the best run off the bottom. The chassis was balanced and drivable so now it is a matter of figuring out how to get fast through the corners.
Black Rock 9-10-05
The next show was the Bully Hill Nationals at Black Rock with all of URC, ESS and PSG participating. 64 cars showed up for this high paying race. The big factor again was the draw for order of time trials. Last time I ran this race I drew 100. The best we drew all year was 21 out of 40 so I was hoping that things would have to turn around now. I drew 92 out of 100. The track looked good.
They ran 4 warmup sessions and a big rut developed in three and four. You could run under it on the inside wall or above it. The track was dry but not slick in the warmup session and I was able to run around the hole, kind of floating the LF over it. The cushion was loose and right at the rim. It was the long way around and a good opportunity to go over the edge. I planned to go around the outside of the rut during time trials. Four cars before I was to go out, a car blew an oil line and dumped oil in the groove all the way around the track. I went out after 50 other cars and the track was much drier. I was now going to have to try to avoid the oil and the hole.
The area above the hole had gotten slick and on the first lap the car slipped up the corner and I had to lift to keep it off the outside wall coming out. I had to really put in a good second lap. I tried to get in a bit lower getting into three, to find some bite and I did. The extra bite turned the car tighter than I expected and aimed me right into the rut. The RR caught and catapulted the car through the air, coming down on the tires with three big bounces. It broke the LR torsion arm heim and shock mount pin. In the pits we replaced the broken parts and got ready for the consolation race.
Three to qualify and I start 4th. Even with a second try on the start, I couldn't beat the car on the inside of me coming out of four or into one. I ran a strong fourth but ended one short of transferring to the C-main. I pushed out for the C anyway figuring that someone would not start. There were a couple of cars that didn't show for the C so I ran it to get some laps and try some setup changes. The motor was great and the car was balanced but not faster through the corners than anyone else. I passed a few and finished with a better feeling about the motor problem being solved and some more info on what the car does.
So after a dismal season so far, I am coming back with a fresh
approach. Another car has been assembled, this time with a J&J frame, and
much of the same running gear that was in the previous machine. The engine
has been checked by Jimmy D to see if there was any internal cracks caused
by impact and it looks OK.
With the motor stumbling problem resolved by a new fuel pump, a different
chassis and a good base line setup to work with, I am optimistic about now
being very competitive. Now if we can draw something other than the bottom
of the starting heap, we have a chance to do well.
It has been very difficult to deal with the problems that have come about
this year. After having a record of qualifying for every race and
finishing all features (except for a flat tire and broken quick change gears)
for two years, motor problems and spooky handling were unexpected and
disappointing. We tried to do the right things with an all new pro built
engine and tested pump and mag that should have been a go right from the
start. But because you can really only diagnose engine problems that occur
during a race, under load, and on the track, diagnosing and testing
solutions can take weeks. Handling problems are difficult too, with races
at a different track each night and changing conditions throughout the
event, a different car can be hard to figure out. Then crashes take away
any time and thought you would devote to
improvements and divert that energy to repair. When you race on a tight
budget, and a hit and miss tour schedule, you just don't have the recourses
or depth to bounce back quickly.
That's just the nature of doing the most you can with what you have and can
Here is a look back over the past few weeks of getting things back
together. The day after the crash, the car was hooked by the cage in the
shop and the trailer pulled out from under it. The motor was pulled and
the rest of the bits and pieces were stripped from the frame and put into
three piles: OK as is, repairable, and junk. OK was the smallest. The
repairable pile was gone through to make sure there were no cracks or
damage that was not obvious. The rear was checked for a straight axle and
input shaft. The axle was OK but the input shaft coupling and mounting
surface of the rear had problems. We used a tool invented by Van May
(central PA racer) to resurface and square the face of the rear. Other
new and used parts were ordered (frame, complete drive line, front hub and
spindle, motor plates, rear end coupler, torsion arms and other misc small
parts). Many other parts came from our spares that we had built, accumulated and
It took a little more than a week to find a frame. New ones had a 4 week
lead time from J&J and used ones were hard to locate or over priced. I
made a trek to PA after locating a J&J frame with little use and a good
price. Pete Green (URC racer) had used the frame and had some repair done
by LPS racers after a crash at Williams Grove. It measured straight and
matched up well with the parts I have.
Once the frame was in the shop, I took a week vacation from work and began
assembling and fabricating and ordering the needed parts. Big things came
together quickly while little things seem to take lots of time without much
apparent progress. It was surprising how much the Maxim and J&J are
copies. The J&J frame weighs a little more but considering we were light
before, I'd rather have the added strength. Some of our custom designed
stuff had to be adapted and the hood and nose fitted. Repairs to
components is time consuming and some stuff just doesn't fit the same. But
all in all the new car came together fairly easy, even though there is
more than a couple hundred man hours in repairs and assembly. It's nothing
that any race team hasn't gone through. In the end, it won't look much
different than the other car. Same hood, same tank color, different wings
and a different number. I'm going back to #80. The other two cars that
were #80 have either changed their number or sold out.
This catastrophe happened during a hole in the schedule so we have only
missed one race. It will be interesting to see if they hold that against
us and give us a penalized starting position for missing a race. I think
this constitutes an excusable hardship. Also I hope that the officials are
more diligent about making sure every one knows the race rules for the
night and enforces them. Hopefully I can be better at dodging the
Tommy update: Tommy ran the PennCan race on 6-29 and qualified 5th in his heat.
He started 19th in the feature and ended up 11th. It was a remarkable
finish for a race filled with spins and a crashes that all happened in
front of him.... he was racing with little or no brakes.
The problem was a warped rotor that pushed the pads back and required a few
pumps to get some brakes, if any. His motor trouble was solved with a new fuel pump.
Can Am 7-13-05
Ya know, this is supposed to be fun. Racing is 90 percent disappointment
and 10 percent elation. Everything in between is work. If Yogi didn't say
that, he should have.
This season has been crap and Wednesday night the whole outhouse fell on
us. This track is a big, round, wide, fast, half and the first chance to
run the car with the new setup. In hot laps the track was already drying.
They had had a lot of rain last week and the track had been bad rough. For
this race they packed it in good in hopes of having a smooth track for the
sprints. The car was more stable in the straights and reasonably neutral
in the turns. We changed stagger and pressures for the heat race, starting
5th out of 10 with 6 to qualify.
My plan was to stay tight around the bottom getting into one and get bite
down low coming off two. The upper line was already slick. So coming out
of four and heading for the cone (you can pass only after you pass the
cone) a car comes from behind me and passes inside of me and is along side
of the row ahead as we pass the cone. I let him go because I know he will
be docked 2 spots for every one passed. The car on the outside of me spins
in the slick middle groove in turn one. Complete restart.
As we line up for the restart, beside me is the squirrel that ran into the
back of me at Ransomville and cut me off at Canandaigua. I looked at him
and said to my self, " This is trouble. I've got to clear him as soon as
possible". Coming out of four, I stay tight on the car in front of me and
the same jerk, (who should know better) comes up inside of me before the
cone and we are three wide at the cone.
The cone was placed on the edge of the wide straight with room for three
but from my seat it looked like the car on the outside of me came down on
me. My RR ran over his LR and the nose of my frame dug in and the car went
as high as the catch fence, at the end of the main straight. I pulled hard
on the wheel and tucked in for the next hit. It took a while and while I
was flying through the air I was thinking that the longer it took, the
harder it was going to hit and what a f**king a**hole that guy was to come
down on me. He was an out of control squirrel and and he did me
I had recently wondered if I closed my eyes when I was crashing... it
has been a while since I had done this. I realized that while I was in the
air that I closed my eyes as tight as possible and clenched my teeth, the
same as you would if you were strapped into a chair and watched as someone
was going to hit you with a 2x4. At the same time there was a sense of
safety, being strapped in tight and a crushing grip, pulling hard on the
steering wheel. Eventually it came down and pounded the ground, only to
take off again for a few more jerking slams that seemed like they'd never
stop. Each hit just pissed me off more. Finally it stopped upright and
I immediately took off the steering wheel and climbed out of the car before
the EMT's got there and tried to treat me for injuries I didn't have.
Except for the bruises on the shoulders from the belts and the banged up knees and ankles
rattling around and a little soreness in the neck, I was OK. They needed
to check me and fill out the forms so I jumped into the ambulance , blood
pressure 126 over 80, pulse 101. They asked some questions and I had a
nice conversation as we rode back to the pits. The car came later on the
They tipped the bed back and pulled the roll back out from under the frame.
The car laid there like a hog on ice. Every suspension piece was snapped
off... either broken heims or radius rods or arms, etc. The frame was
ripped apart and twisted from the motor forward. The rollback crew made a
pile of junk as they trailed back and forth carrying parts from the truck to the pile.
Front axle (surpassingly straight with a broken spindle and missing wheel.
"We'll get that after this race", the driver told me, "It's a hundred yards
out over the first turn somewhere in the weeds". "Thanks", I said as I
turned around to look at the mess all askew. "Man , this sucks....... but it's
just one of them racin' deals". So much attention to every adjustment,
machining to the thousandths, sitting there with every important part
pointing in an unintended direction.
We stripped the car of anything that would fall off or wasn't secure and
filled the back of the pickup. After the races, the long beam of a wrecker
lowered the remaining frame, motor, seat and tank onto the trailer where I
strapped it down for the ride home. As the rigs of other racers passed us
in the night on the interstate, in their headlights they saw the remains on our open trailer.
I'm sure each one had something to say about the flyer I took that night.
Looking for a ride, a frame, a frame kit or a roller.
Tommy update: Tommy was in front of me in the heat and qualified for the feature. The motor had a miss in it and it looks like it's a fuel pump problem. They borrowed a fuel pump for the feature. He made it past a few cars and ran really smooth.
Rain - Drove there and back.
Fourth of July Weekend 2005
Not much good, lots of bad and ugly. Ransomville, Canandaigua, Weedsport ...
The holiday weekend provided three nights of racing. We made our way to Ransomville for the first time. We ran through a downpour on the way and behind the front was 30 mph winds and cooler temps. The crew had to wear sweatshirts at night. The place is a paperclip, short half mile with narrow banked turns and a reputation for icy slick.
During hot laps I wondered how you could pass on the narrow straights and turns. I figured that the modifieds have been doing it here for over 30 years so we could find a way. Dad drew a high number and I started last in the first heat. There was enough bite in the surface that there was no passing. On to the B-main.
As the heats got underway, the track was drying and a few were trying to run the top where the cushion was 2 feet from the wall. With a little misjudgement, two cars ended up over the wall in the second and third heats. I started third in the B-main and finished there. All night the car was unpredictable. It would dart to the right in the straights and dart to the left when I let off. Although the track was dry and not slick yet, the car didn't have much side bite getting into the turns either and we still haven't solved the inconsistant brake pedal problem. I tried the bottom and the middle but couldn't make any headway.
They ran a 50 lap modified feature before our feature race. The track took rubber. I started the feature next to last, passed a few cars but pretty much ran the same pace as the car ahead. The engine was great and with all that power could break the tires loose anywhere. This was the first night with the new fuel pump and it's clear that it solved the studdering and heating problem. Too bad we didn't get that figured out sooner but having sent the pump out to be tested over the winter, I was sure the pump was OK. I kept out of trouble and ended up 17th. Not a good finish but there was no passing throughout the pack so it was pretty much a finish where you start deal. The good news was, no damage and we had gotten over our motor difficulties.
The second race was at Canandaigua where we have done well in the past. This wide, round, big half would be able to use the full potential in the motor and we were looking forward to it. We had gotten into the motel room at 3:30am but I was up by 9 and got the car washed. We had decided to move some weight to the front end of the car and go through some other things including the brakes to get ready for the night's racing.
When I got back to the motel to pick up the crew and go to breakfast, I noticed that the rear brake hub was broken. One of the two halves was junk and the other half was all that held the rotor in place. I had a spare but it was home, 2 hrs away. We looked at the options and headed for home knowing that we only had an hour or so to get the thing fixed and head back to the track. I fortunately decided to take the local road to the next town to pick up the interstate and drove by Curt Shuttleworth's place where he sells new and used parts. He had a used hub, for cheap, that was like new and he let us unload in his driveway.
We set the car up on jack stands and Rodney and I took the LR suspension off and removed the caliper and rotor and after some trial fit up, put the hub and rotor and caliper in place. We also looked at the front caliper and rotor and found the front pads totally worn out and the front rotor warped. Greg and Jeff replaced the front rotor and caliper and put the hub back together. Jeff and I bled the brakes while Greg and Rodney worked on moving weight to a location at the front of the car. I felt that with the front end apparently lifting enough to lose steering that the weight change would help. We ran out of time to go through a complete chassis set up and headed for the track.
Dad drew a high number again and started us 7th in the heat. The heat was loaded but I felt I had a shot at the top 6. We took the green and I came out of two in seventh and went into three on the bottom. One of the cars from behind drove in on the outside but didn't give any room. He came to the bottom and I had to pinch the car hard to avoid hitting him and spun. I looped it on the throttle and got clipped in the RF on the way around. It bent the wheel and broke the steeing link. The car continued around and into the infield where I got out of the way. In the B again.
By now the track had dried out and had a slick band just off the bottom of the turns. I drove in low about lap 3 and the back end came around. I went to last and was unable to move forward. The car was loose and twitchy and unpredictable. I couldn't drive it in hard and get back on the throttle without spinning or pushing or both. We haven't got a handle on the setup for this car yet.
The good news was that the brake were solid and reliable.
Tommy update. Tommy started last in his 10 car heat and had to run the B. He started up front and led for a while finishing third and making the feature. His motor had a miss in it so we scrambled and changed fuel pumps from my car to his for the feature. His motor ran good in the feature where he started last. He ran top middle and bottom and did a good job of getting past a number of cars before getting lapped. On a late restart he found the cushion in one and two and passed four car (three on his lap) in one lap to make it to 10th (scoring screwed up and paid a lapped car as being on the lead lap but didn't change the payoff so he got paid for 11th).
I got up early after the pervious night's race and washed the car and put it in the shop to go over the setup. I took out the Maxim factory setup sheet and set the car up by the book for dry slick.
At the track the car was awful. Worse than the previous two nights, even before the track got slick. Dad drew the highest number and we started last in the third heat. I ran last and although I could catch the car ahead with the motor, I couldn't get through the turns.
I ran the B again from 8th (taking 4) and finished there. Pretty bummed out by the whole weekend performance. I stayed after the races were over and went to sprint car school with Tom Taber and Rick Wilson. I found out that Rick Wilson understands more about how the cars work and why (few people can answer a why question with any believability) than anyone I have talked to in a long time. Rick gave me a complete setup and said he would help me get going. Rick was top 5 each night. It was the brightest spot in the weekend.
The only other good outcomes were that we rolled the car on the trailer each night, solved the engine problems that we had, had lots of motor and it looks like maybe more than most, and now we have solid brakes. The only part of the package that we need to work on is getting the chassis to work so that the driver has the confidence to drive it hard.
Tommy update. He avoided a spin in front of him in the heat but came out of it in last. Then the torque tube bolts pulled out and he dropped the broken drive line on the track. Rick Dumigan loaned him a rear and Rick Wilson loaned him a drive shaft and torque tube and somehow a swarm of people changed rears and got him on the track in about 30 minutes. He drove by me to 6th but they took 4. It was good experience to get laps on the track.
6-18-05 Stateline Speedway - Jamestown NY
Diagnosing problems is difficult when they are intermittent and variable. We've been chasing this stumbling-stuttering- no power problem each time out this season and haven't been able to solve it yet. The worst part is that it changes. Everything starts out fine and then a few laps in, the stumbling starts, first coming out of the corners and clears out and then it takes longer and longer to clear and the power drops way off. This night it was as bad as it had been.
A bad draw started us 5th in the heat but after a few laps everyone drove by. I adjusted the dialajet leaner and it got worse. When I went richer the motor started to come back and would run down the straight. This week I had loaded some smaller pills in the dialajet than I had in before and now there was some response and I was beginning to get a handle on what was going on.
Water temp stayed low at 160, which was different from the 220 that it ran last week. Hard to know the reason for this. We put in a thicker radiator, larger return lines, the air temp was 30 degrees cooler and now the motor was richer. I think the richer fuel was the major factor.
I had to run the B-main and start last, 7th. They were taking 4. We didn't have much time but I did get a chance to lean the barrel valve on the injectors now that motor ran on a richer pill and the water temp was low. The chassis was about right but we needed more gear and a little less stagger. The crew made the changes while I worked on the motor.
Things really worked good in the B at first but it took me a few laps to get used to the track with the motor running. The motor was better but still stumbling a little in the turns. On a track like this, with drag strip straights and hairpin turns, you really have to throw it in and then stand on it to make it stick and come out. If you hit the pedal and motor isn't crisp, the car doesn't work at all. As I started getting racy and moved to the car ahead of me to pass entering one, he drove to the bottom and raced through the wettest muddiest slop hole, below the racing line, between the turns. I haven't been slimed like that in a long time. Everything went dark. I couldn't see the track, the cars, or the wall and by the time I got to the tear off, the pack was long gone. I finished the race as a test session with the richest pill in the box, trying to keep some throttle on all the time. I was able to run hard and the motor was strong in the straights but still had some trouble in the turns. The chassis worked very good so once we get this motor problem figured out we should be pretty good.
We didn't make the feature. This is the first time in three years but it was probably a good one to miss. This track is very difficult, especially if you don't run here every week. You have to throw the car before or at the turn and once you have committed, you have no control for several car lengths. You have to wait for the car to hook up again before you can change it's direction so if you miss judge the turn or someone else does something unexpected, you will either hit them or spin out. It is also a narrow racing line so the racing is close. The feature was full of spins and red flags before 6 laps were done. More cars were towed to the pits than in all the Patriot races this season. Tempers were raging in the pits and the same ass that I had problems with last week, seemed to be involved in many of the incidents at race speed this week. Somehow, though, he would come out of each without damage.
Another thing that had people grumbling was that last year's points champion, started at the front of his heat and then drew the pole for the feature. He did that more often than chance should allow last year and his luck continues this year. My fair draw system would spread the luck around and make for more fair lineups.
So it may have been a good feature to miss. We rolled the car on the trailer and have a problem to solve. We've changed mags in past weeks and have had some mag problems but now it looks like it is really a fuel pump problem. The pill I ended up running was way off what we ran in the past and what has been recommended. With the information that I'm able to put together, it appears that the fuel pump works ok at first but falls off as it continues to run making for leaner and leaner mixture. I've never had a fuel pump do this and after sending it out to be tested and determined to be OK last winter, I had ruled it out as part or all of the problem. So this week I will buy a new fuel pump $$$ so that I can in fact rule IT out as part of the problem. These kind of problems are very difficult to resolve with a sprint car motor if you don't have access or $$ for dyno testing. This problem only occurs after time and only under power. The only test time is at the track.
This was an expensive test session with the 9 hrs of round trip driving (gas $$) and the pit passes (The tracks really are hosing us at the back gate - $30 and no discount with the Patriot or any License), fuel for the car ( $3.25/gal at the parts trailer that follows the series. I bought from them because they are traveling to all the shows and I want to support them, but the track had methanol for $2.10/gal). Those that ran the feature used up a RR tire. The track was in great condition with good bite all night. You can tell what the clay is like when you wash the car. This stuff was sticky, no stones, sand or gravel. It packed onto places and washed off clean in clumps. The track is located on the NY/PA border in the farthest south western part of NYS. The clay is different (better) from the tracks upstate.
Hopefully we'll get this motor straightened out and be able to really race next week.
6-10-05 Thunder Alley - Evans Mills
This was a Friday I was able to take as a vacation day. I hadn't been to this track before and I was impressed for the most part. The track is located due east of lake Ontario in an area where the glacier scraped the land clean to the bedrock in some places. This track has a pit area that is one large flat stone surface. New chain link fence, clean white walls and center located lights on tall poles made the place look clean. The lighting was as good as I've seen anywhere.
Twenty four cars showed up so they decided to start everyone in the feature. With threatening rain, the show was moved along quickly with no B-main. Dad drew 26 so we started 5th in the third heat. Top four in each heat qualify for the redraw. I hadn't run the Mercer race last week so the best I could start would be 10th or 12th in the feature.
During the week I sent the mag out to French Grimes to get it repaired. He found a broken wire on the coil connection so that explained the motor problems for the last couple of weeks. The motor was now crisp but still sluggish on restarts. We tried more gear and had the motor running in the right RPM range. The track was tacky and fast for hot laps. It's a big quarter mile with short straights and sweeping turns for a small track. There isn't much banking but it was smooth and the real clay had good bite.
It was a bit loose so we changed stagger for the heat race. The bottom was the way around on this track. There was moisture there and not much cushion above. I dropped in line for 5th at the first turn and pulled a wheelie coming out of two down low. I charged under 4th but had to back out. I got passed on the outside in three and four and then passed him back coming out of two. We ended up 5th. That would start us 15th in the feature.
The track was drying but still had good bite. I was loose and on the edge of spinning out a couple of times so we changed the RR bar, added LR weight and went to a lower stagger for the feature.
The start of the feature was a wheel banger in turn one. I was right on the bottom and someone was even lower than that and had to be in the grass. I saw the front end and he was coming through even if he had to run over me. There were two cars on the outside of me. Somehow we got out of two without wrecking but they dropped the yellow for a new start. The second start was a little more sane as the cars strung out on the bottom. A couple of cars were trying the top up ahead and I could see some coming from behind. Then several cars got together right in front of me and I was able to brake and dodge the mess. On the starts and restart the motor would stumble. I tried to clean it out but it would miss in the turn coming to the restart green. When the motor cleared it was OK but sometimes it took a lap. The brakes, which had been a problem before were working reliably so I could drive in pretty deep. By half way in the race, I had moved to the top to try to get around the cars ahead of me. The car handled pretty good on the loose cushion. Another caution, a restart and another caution. The motor really stumbled on the first restart and a couple of cars got by just as the caution came out again. I pulled back up to where I had restarted before and the same ass who nearly run over me at the original start felt he owned the spot so instead of waiting for the officials to sort it out, he starts driving into the side of me. I was just riding wide around the outside next to him but the jerk would dart out of line at me and eventually he ran over my LR trying to crash out on the yellow. They should send jerks like that to the rear. What a child. You would think he was a 7 yr old in a quarter midget. Finally the officials got to us and set me back behind him. I thought he had passed when the yellow came out but they had him scored ahead of me so I dropped in behind him. I just wanted the officials to decide.
On the restart I went to the top. I went to the the slick spot on the track to buzz the motor coming out of two to clear the motor. A few laps latter as I was coming down the front straight, the car broke loose and took a little twitch to the right just as I was getting ready to set it in on the cushion in one. I missed the cushion by a couple of feet and ended up buzzing the loose stuff sideways. Fortunately there are no walls on the turns so I just went wide and lost a spot in the process.
We weren't happy with a 15th place finish but we were as fast as the cars around us and we did get the chassis a little better. We finished ahead of and passed a feature winner from earlier in the season but we want to run with the leaders. Next race we will be able to race for the redraw (although we could still draw 12th). The motor is going to Jimmy D on Monday for a cam change and some tweaks. Little by little we are sorting out all the fresh start bugs with this car and motor.
Tommy Wickham #75 update: They pulled the motor
after Rolling Wheels and found that the wet sump oil pump had seized up tight. One of the
pump rotors had cracked and wedged tight. When the pump stopped, it sheared the
drive tang off, on the mag, letting the engine continue to run. Tommy shut down (in
the corner) as soon as he saw the light and zero pressure but in that short time,
two rod bearings burnt and scuffed the crank, the loose bearings let the pistons hit the
valves, and it cracked a rocker arm. He is lucky that's all that happened but it
only took a few seconds. Any longer and it would have thrown parts. They are
doing a rebuild and hope to be ready for Stateline next Saturday.
6-1-05 Rolling Wheels Raceway
We changed the brake pedal ratio and went through the setup at the shop.
RWR is usually very slick and with the long straights, forward bite would
be important. This race night, for the Patriot group was
as the support series for the WoO race
and this would be the first time that I raced on the same track as Brian
Paulus. We weren't in the same races so we could watch each other run.
Brian has been full time with WoO for 10 years but was under 10 yrs old
during the time when I lived with his family in PA. Brian is Duval's (my
crew chief) step son.
We got together with Brian early in the day and sat in grass in the shade of his
huge rig, and talked for hours about setups and parts and
Outlaw gossip. Randy Wolfe stopped by to discuss the previous race where
Lucas "used one up" (destroyed the car).
We pitted next to Brian. Now, there was a contrast.... His two level Nascar type
tractor-trailer next to my pickup truck and open trailer. We unloaded,
had all of our tires measured and tools in place and they were just
lowering the trailer door with the car on it. They still had to roll the
car off, raise the very slow moving door back up, put real tires on the
rear of the car (they have to put fronts on the rear to load it) and two
people had to carefully move the wing the length of the lower part of the
trailer so that it didn't hit anything, and then put it on the car.
Bigger isn't always better.
We pushed off and started the motor.
When I went out for hot laps, The motor started fine and I drove around to
get heat in it. We picked up the pace and when I stood on it, the motor
sputtered and died. They pushed me to the pits and when I checked the
timing it looked like the coil was open (an internal broken wire). At
first I was pissed because I had sent the mag out over the winter and had
it tested. Then I realized that it had been OK, then bad, then OK at
Canandaigua so it was intermittent and had just died. Obviously it had
worked OK on the test bench too.
So I changed the mag, set timing, missed hot laps and guessed on setup for
the heat. Dad drew 14 so I started 4th in the first heat. I buzzed the
corner getting lined up and got a quick feel of the car and motor and
everything felt good. There was slimy mud in the outside lane of the
front straight so coming out of four on the start, I was careful to get in
line and stay out of the wall. The car ran pretty good but I wasn't able
to get past the car ahead. I would catch him at the end of the straight
but he would get in better on top as I ran the bottom. The bright sun was
just setting and was directly in my eyes in three and four. You couldn't see
the track and with the dust, you couldn't see other cars or the wall. I ran fourth and
qualified for the A-main. We needed more gear and changed gears for the feature.
Brian timed in 5th and ran 4th in his heat. That put him in the Dash. The
track was dry now and getting slick. Brian easily won the dash.
Tommy Wickham was pitted next to us and had trouble in his heat. He lost
oil pressure and quickly shut down the engine. Turned out to be a broken
rotor in the oil pump. Never heard of that before. Looks like he was
quick enough to avoid any engine damage. He loaded up for the night.
I started the A-main in 13th and dropped in line at the bottom of turn one, on the
start. We ran a lap and during the second lap, one car got upside down in
one. I stopped on the front straight. The push truck came up behind me
and the driver got out and said "You have gear lube running out of the rear
in a stream". He pushed me to the pits. The crew quickly checked things
over and tightened the cover. We still don't know what happened. Greg had
double checked the cover nuts after Jeff changed gears. The front end was
floating so Brian took a turn out of the front and I had the crew raise the
wing one hole. I moved the wing ahead a couple inches when I got on the
Gary Troutman's crewman "Potato (No , I don't know)" pushed me out fast
with his 4 wheeler and I got to the track as the cars were ready to get the
white flag. I started last. The track has started getting slick and I
found the best line for me was on the bottom. I passed a couple of cars,
stayed ahead of those that spun ahead of me and restarted behind me but I
couldn't make much headway. The front end was real floaty. We had
filled the fuel tank nearly full to get weight on the rear and between
that, the setup and the light front end, it felt like I was carrying the
front at the end of the straight. If I stayed on the throttle too long on
entry, it would push. If I got off too early it would push. So it was a
balance to hit the corner just right or I'd end up in the slick middle of
the track. We ended up 16th.
Brian started the WoO A-main on the pole. The track had already gotten
glazed. He got a good run on the start and they called it back and did it
again. On the second start he laid back a bit but led at the first turn.
He stretched out a half straightaway lead by halfway and continued to
dominate. Lance Dewease got to second but was still 5 car lengths back.
Brian ran a smooth line, on the marks, every lap and won the thing! Only
his third win. Kinser was 10th, a half lap back.
20 years ago, Brian was in my victory lane picture at Port Royal. Things
have come full circle when I got to have a picture with Brian in his
Parts Peddler 180 - Dave Wickham at Canandaigua
Tommy Wickham #75 and Breen #8
Finally the motor is done and except for a few different connections, we
dropped it into the Maxim and got the car ready for Saturday at
Canandaigua. We took the car to a parking lot and started the motor to get
some heat into it and check for leaks. We found a crack in the front drive
water pump that created a very slow drip. The fuel pump leaked out of the
shaft seal (it had been sent out and tested over the winter). I used some
seal softener on the fuel pump and fixed that leak and cleaned up the crack
on the water pump drive and used an epoxy to repair it.
The big half mile has been a good track for me so we have some idea of where
to start with setup.
This was also the first race for second cousin Tommy Wickham in his 75.
The track was unusually wet by the time we got on it. On a wet track,
everyone handles so it was fairly easy to flat foot it around. I watched
Tommy run his second hot lap session and when they dropped the green
he flew down the back straight and
set it in on the cushion. His 4th lap ever in a sprint car. I turned to
his father and said "He's a racer."
The draw put us 5th in the heat and I was able to qualify in the top four.
That put us in the top 12 for the feature, but ineligible for the redraw.
We would start 12th in the feature.
About half way through the heat race the motor went flat. It sounded off
and the power fell off a bit. In the pits we pulled the hood and started
looking things over. Jimmy D (the engine builder) showed up and said he
heard the motor sound good early on and then fall off about half way,
confirming what I felt.
I checked the timing and it was on the button. Jimmy looked at the plugs
and then we went through the nozzles but didn't find any that were clogged.
I pulled the valve covers and Jimmy checked all the valves. We didn't find
anything wrong. I disconnected the wire from the mag to the tach just in
case the tach had a problem.
Greg and Jeff and Pete Pazer (new crew member) changed wing angle, stagger,
tire pressures and shocks. I expected the track would get slick as usual.
The track stayed pretty good in the feature however. The bottom had bite for the
whole race and the top had a cushion and some moisture. There was a slick
groove just above the tight bottom groove. It was where everyone would
drive in hard and buzz the RR around the corner. Most times I could get
in low enough to miss the slick and the car would stick but if I went in
too hard I would drift up in the middle.
The brakes were a problem. This was the first night with this system and some
adjustment is needed. Apparently there was some runout in the rotors that
would knock the pads back so that the pedal had to travel a couple inches
before there was any stopping, unless I gave them a pump at the end of the
straight. Secondly, the pedal was only a few inches from the torque plate
so if I didn't get the pedal pumped, my toe hit the torque plate before the
brakes came on. On top of all of this, I had to press really hard to get
stopping power. My leg was sore the next day. A change in pedal ratio is
With inconsistent brakes, I was running inconsistent laps. Sometimes I
would drift up the corner a bit. I lost a few spots during the run and
ended up 14th. Not at all what I expected but there are problems that can
be fixed to get faster.
Jeff gets motor ready to drop in the car. Armond, Jeff and Greg work on hoses, linkage and bolts.
Pete Pazer (new crew member) sets plug gaps. Racer. Tim Devendorf designed and applied the lettering.
We discussed the rod bolt issue with the supplier and found that the
problem that they had was at a much higher RPM and only on used bolts after
a rebuild. They were being extra conservative but agreed that the bolts we
have will be OK. The expected new production run of bolts that was
supposed to be coming has been delayed further due to material issues so
the motor is being finished with the bolts we have.
Jimmy has the bottom end together and should have things finished up in a
couple of days. If all goes well, I should pick it up on Saturday 5/21 so
that we can drop it into the car and fire it up before our first race at
In the shop, we have the car ready and continue to work on some new ideas.
I've gotten to know Tim Devendorf, located a mile down the road. He moved
into his new house a year or so ago and has a nice shop for his Mini
Modified. This evolution of the Dwarf car has turned into a 'midget'
version of the DIRT modifieds that race in NYS. The rules and design are
the same across the nation. Tim races at Brewerton and other tracks and
has been the man to beat. This past winter he built a new car from
scratch, bending the tubing for his own frame design right through to doing
the lettering with his vinyl machine. I asked Tim if he would be
interested in doing the lettering on my sprinter and he came up with a
design the next day.
Tim is creative and does immaculate fabrication. His lettering job on our
car, should really make it stand out. Pictures to come will show Tim's work in
The crew got together this week to work on spares and other bits and pieces. We picked up new tires this week and mounted them to measure stagger choices. We sorted through the sizes to come up with a set for us and for Tommy Wickham.
Our motor is still in the building stages with no definite completion date. We might get it in time for the May 8th ESS race but if not then we'll have to wait for the next PSG race at Canandaigua.
The rods arrived with a set of bolts we can use to fit things up. Bolts for final assembly will sent as soon as they are available. Jimmy D has now been able to do the dry assembly to make sure that all the parts miss each other while they are moving around. Pistons need to be cut so that the valve clearance is sufficient. Rocker system mounts must be slotted to fit the ASCS heads. So far no other heroic measures. The rotating assembly has been sent to the balancer. Tim Salisbury has been specializing in balancing assemblies for more than 30 years. He's so good that many shops just use him instead of doing it themselves. Tim has seen it all and has the experience and equipment to do the difficult and impossible. Our assembly should be a breeze as Crower, the 4 months to get a crank manufacturer, was given the component weights that would be connected to the crank and built the crank to near balance (at least that's the way it was ordered).
Jimmy has the block ready and the heads freshened with new valve springs, and all other pieces are in house so he will be working on this motor as he finishes up another. Our guess is that it will be ready sometime in the first or second week of May.
The first Patriot race was run last nite (as I write this) so I am already on the shit list with the group. Their member punishment system gives me no incentive to make a race now until it's convenient. The next couple of races are on Friday or long tows so it looks like the first one that makes sense for me will be Canandaigua in late May. If I qualify in the top four in my heat there, I won't be allowed to participate in the top 12 redraw and will start 12th. With the number of Friday shows on the schedule and the dictate at work that I can only have one Friday off per month (so others in my group can also have Fridays off and we are still covered), it looks like the best I will start all season is 12th or worse. Of course this is not as totally unfriendly as ESS's handicap system where you start last all night and 2/3 of the races are 5 hour tows into a foreign country where you soon will need a visa to get in and out.
Anyway enough bitching about the expected bad starting
positions. That will only add to the fun that will be had with the free for all
starts of the good ole days. The Patriots have decided not to use a cone for
restarts. There is something about remembering times past and how great things were
back then. Apparently the cone has been used successfully for so many years that
there is no memory of why every sane organization has been using it and refining it for
twenty years. At the drivers meeting we were told that
"if you are two wide on a single file restart, we are going to drop the green anyway. When the green drops, bullshit stops".
Cute but dangerous. So the restarts were a jumble of cars in the turns, with the leader getting on it in the middle of the back stretch and the flagman dropping the green as the cars came out of four.... except that you couldn't see the flagman or the car in front of you for the dust and poor lighting at this track. I don't know if anyone was docked any positions for jumping, nothing was mentioned in the driver's meeting, but I doubt it. Probably lots of unhappy campers that got jumped and happy campers that did the jumping.
I remember once in high school gym, the gym teacher wanted to teach us why there were rules and had us play basket ball with no rules. Within the first 30 seconds kids were screaming "he traveled" as one kid ran down the court like a wide receiver. When the coach said "no rules guys" it turned into tackle, Rugby, Boxing, and WAR all rolled into one. The ball never left the floor. After they mopped up the blood, the coach said now here are the rules and have some respect for each other. I hope that Tom, leader of the Patriots, is just playing the wisdom card.
A quick recap of the Five Mile Point (5MP) track and race.
I never liked early season tracks. Usually it was cold as hell, and the surface was rough as a plowed field. Considering the they had put new clay (well discuss this next) down last fall, I was sure it would be rough. I was totally wrong. Apparently if you use dirt instead of clay, the track can stay relatively smooth.
Yesterday was a one in 50 years beautiful day, warm and sunny. It was the 6th day in a row just like it. Two weeks ago it had rained continuously for 72 hours and there was flooding. Miraculously, the water was gone two days later and a week later the ground water table had dropped and now the ground is firm in this area of the country. The base soils at the track were firm and the track stayed smooth.
Last fall 5MP went through some changes in management in the family that owns the place. They spent a bunch of time and money to work on the racing surface. This little 3/10 mile track has been around for 50 years and hasn't changed much since it's early days. The surface was narrow and full of stones. It ate up tires but it had two grooves and delivered good racing. The rework has doubled the width of turns 1 and 2 and widened 3 and 4. The new dirt has the golden brown appearance that is common when you scrape the top soil off farm land. Unfortunately, this dirt falls short of being clay. It lacks the bonding characteristic that makes it sticky. I took a handful that was caked on the front axle of one of the cars and packed it into a ball. I squeezed it tight and let it dry some. It just crumbles like cookie crumbs. Not dust, but larger particles. If you have ever used clay as a kid, to make something like a bowl, you know how wet clay should be. You should be able to smooth it, squeeze it between your fingers and open you hand upside down and it sticks. This stuff is like taking a moist cookie and squeezing it into crumbs. These are just the facts.
The result of this is a surface that ended up on me and everyone and everything else within a quarter mile of the place (or farther). The cars ground off the dirt all nite, throwing rooster tails off the back tires. The sprints had the added feature of pumping the finer particles high into the air with the wings. This wasn't just a dusty track, it was dirty.
5MP has a big problem. I feel bad for them because they did a lot of work and spent some $$ to improve the place but somebody made a bad choice on the material used. I don't know what they can do. They may have to scrape it off and add different clay or find some kind of binder that will hold this stuff together.
They have to do something or the fans won't come back and it's not fun to race when you can't see and your hot dog has more dirt than dog.
The race itself was a good one. In the feature, there were a few tangles, that had tempers flying in the pits and it kept the tow trucks busy. Once things go going there was a little passing but only a few were able to make headway around the outside. Everyone was trying to find bite in their setups. The leader, George Suprick, (who drew the front row like he did all last year - but I have a fair fix for that - later) got to the first lapped car and followed him. After about four laps of this Bryan Howland cut under George and passed him and the lapped car in the back straight. George then got passed by Dave Ely and a few laps later got back by as they went through traffic. Don't know what George was thinking. There were 26 cars and they started 24, instead of the usual stingy 22. Don't know who decided to put up the extra money for the last two spots but it sure would be a nice thing to have sponsors for a full field first and then the other things like a dash or 7th place finisher.
So that's my two cents for now.
[Hope I didn't piss anyone off too much but if your reading this, your reading my thoughts and that's what this blog is about. This is not the candy coated press release version :-].
I've swapped the order from newest to oldest so you won't have to go to the bottom (unless you want to read from the beginning).
So here's the news to date.
The new motor will either be a dream or a nightmare. So far it looks like I'll be dreaming if it's ready before Memorial day. First, the 6 to 8 week crank from Crower turned into a 14 week lead time. Good thing it was ordered in November. It arrived one week ago. Next the rods were here in December but the manufacturer needed a set in a hurry so we were glad to help them out and let them take ours with the promise that they would be replaced. Well the rods are available but the specialty bolt manufacturer is having material availability problems and there are no bolts. These rods must have a specific bolt and be sized with them. Bottom line, no rods yet and the motor hasn't been started. No word on when the bolts will be available.
In the meantime we are working on car stuff. Changing brake systems turned out to be a major project. I had to machine .190" spacers for the front to move the rotor into the center of the caliper and then machine clearances in the brake bracket to make room for the corners of the brake pads and bottom of the caliper. In the back things went together a bit easier. The new master cylinder had a push rod that was too long so that had to be changed and then the residual pressure valve had different threads than the fittings that were in place so all that stuff had to be changed and a bit of material had to be removed from the master cylinder for a fitting to seat properly. Now it is right and the brakes better be really impressive or I'll be disappointed.
Sent the mags and fuel pump out to French Grimes race systems to make sure everything was top notch. He found that the spare mag needed a magnet recharge and there was a restrictive fitting in the fuel pump but other than that, all those parts are fresh and ready.
Picked up new tires to mount so that we would be ready. The new Left rear tire rule is meant to level the playing field and provide a good tire at a low price and add money to the point fund. All good, except for the 5 LR tires I have that can't be used this year. Black Rock did not wear tires and these are still lively and nearly full tread depth. When you are racing on a budget, having to replace $1000 worth of LR tires is significant. Sure it will be nice to have new rubber to start with but after one race they are used and we'll get several races out of them depending on the surface.
The Right Rear spec tire is the same as it has been for the past three years... or so I thought. When I mounted up the new RR and compared it to the other RR tires I had, it was obvious from across the shop that this was a completely different tire. The 2005 version of the Hoosier spec tire is a tapered tire (to match the axle tilt created with stagger). The circumference of the center of the tire is 105", the outside edge is 105.5 and the inside edge is 104.5 approximately. The other tires we have are pretty much flat across the tread. I've had experience with mixed tires before and that can really throw your setups for a loop. I know that the new tire configuration is going to work much better than the old style. When Hoosier introduced this tapered tire several years ago, speeds went up. I can't take the chance that the car isn't working because we went from one style tire to another during a race night. There's no way to know for sure so I'll have to buy another RR or two and and leave the old stuff at home.
I had a long discussion with the head of the Patriot Sprint Group at the recent Motorsports show. I explained that the company where I work will only allow me to take off one Friday per month . This year the PSG rule is that you have to make it to 2 races in a row before you get to redraw for your top 12 starting spot (if you qualify in the top 4 in the heat). There are so many Friday races that I'll seldom if ever make three in a row to get a decent starting spot in the feature on the third race but I will probably make 2/3 of the shows. This rule is more punishment than incentive for me. I would hope that they at least change it to 50% or two races in a row. The BEST thing would be just show up and race and use the fair draw. PSG is afraid that they will not have full fields at some of the difficult dates. I understand that but I think this 2 race deal will actually work against them. Hopefully they will change it.
When everything comes together, we should be pretty strong this year.
After a day or so of thought, I attacked the bolt with progressively larger bits until I got to the root of the bolt. Of course the hole is never dead center so I had to use a dremel tool to grind inside the hole until I could break the head off. Surprisingly, the bolt turned out of the steering arm with my fingers. The bolts were installed correctly with anti-seize so the tightness was due to the good fit with the counter sink and bolt head. It probably got tightened every race too.
So now I can figure out the best way for the caliper alignment.
2-12-05 The Bolt!
There's lots more to racing than hyping sponsors, spouting plans and showing off paint jobs. Getting the car ready to race is a continual chore and can be a royal pain in the ass! It has become a cliche, when they interview drivers and they talk about, "all the hard work of the guys back at the shop....
Well, here's a day at the shop. I have some new brake components to put on the car. The rear brake caliper and rotor lined up and mounted just fine. The flexible brake line they sent that was supposed to fit the rear was a bit too short when the axle was at it's lowest point. So I'll have to order another one and ask for longer this time.
I removed the present front rotor and caliper and installed the new rotor. When I tried to install the new caliper, it didn't fit! Wouldn't it be easy if things just bolt in place? It looks like this car has the light weight midget spindles and the spacing from the ears on spindle to the rotor is different by about .200" than the beefier sprint car spindles. After a bunch of measuring it was apparent that the mounting bracket would have to be modified to move the caliper to the left to center the caliper on the rotor. So this meant that I would remove the two bolts that hold the bracket and steering arm to the spindle.
It's easy to get fooled into thinking that it's just a matter of removing these two bolts and machining the bracket and putting everything back together. The bolts are hardened allen head bolts with a counter sink tapered head that seats into the bracket. The first bolt came loose but it took a lot of torque. The second bolt wouldn't budge. Not with an allen socket and a breaker bar, impact wrench, or Allen wrench and long pipe. Before I messed up the head of the bolt, I decided to heat the bolt which will expand and then contract and usually break it loose. That didn't work so when it cooled I heated the alum steering arm with the torch and put lots of pressure on with a fresh Allen wrench. I must have had 200 ftlbs of loosening torque on the damn bolt and it still wouldn't break loose. I heated and carefully pulled a number of times until I finally stripped the Allen pocket in the bolt. So now after a couple of hours of fighting with this one bolt, the only solution is to try to drill out the head of the bolt.
This hardened bolt does not drill very easily. Bits dull very quickly and do not cut very well. I may have to use carbide bits to drill the damn bolt out. So after 3 hours on this one bolt I turned out the lights and I'll give it another try tomorrow. It's bad enough to have to deal with broken stuff but it really sucks when new parts don't fit and you have to fight with good parts just to take them apart. I didn't put this together originally and it probably hasn't been taken apart for a couple of years.
When you see the cars pull into the pits and watch them run on the track, you just don't realize how much crap goes on at the shop. It can be very frustrating.
In other news;
Tom has picked up the J&J and has stripped it to the frame for sandblasting and painting.
The crank manufacturer said that the crank for my new motor should have been done last week. Hasn't shipped yet. I keep badgering them. This is a huge bummer and another fluorescent pain in the ass.
2/2/05 Work Continues
Work continues on the Maxim. After some discussions about brakes, we have decided to go with a complete Brake Man setup. They have been very helpful and I feel confident that this is the best braking system available. I've used Wilwood and Outlaw so we will see.
The big sweat now is getting the new motor together. The crank was ordered in November and I was told 6 to 8 week lead time. It is now 10 weeks and I can't even get them to give me a date when it will be finished. This, from the long time standard of the industry. All of the other pieces are here but we can't do anything until we have the crank to reference from.
Jimmy D in Syracuse is doing the machine work on the motor but he has a shop full and it's uncertain when he will be able to get my work done. This is just part of the stress of getting a car to the track.
We plan to run with the Patriots this season, as we have for the past two years, but it looks like they are messing with the rules and it may be even more difficult to race with them this year. They use a: top 4 from 3 heats redraw for the top 12 starting spots in the feature system.
However, like ESS, they are moving toward penalizing anyone who misses one of their races. What they saying is that if you miss a race, then you won't redraw for the feature if you are one of the top 12 qualifiers. You will start behind at the back of the 12 qualifiers, like 12th with no chance to draw the pole. They say you must be at two consecutive races before you can redraw.
One of the good things that set the Patriot group apart was that they had a reasonable participation rule. In the past, if you made 50% of the races then you start in your normal re-draw starting spot in the feature.
Actually the best system was the "open draw every race", that ELS used when they were around. They always had plenty of cars. Will penalizing work? If you miss a show, what's the incentive to make the next one?
This is an issue for me because I have to work on Fridays and can't always make those races. And I don't plan to drive four or five hours to race when the races are scheduled across the state.
I can give them more than 50% participation but I won't make 100% so I will be penalized. And depending on how the schedule and weather goes I could be penalized for most of the races.
This is just a poor way to run a series. I know that the promoter needs to have a full field of cars but this sort of thing isn't needed when 30 to 40 cars are showing up at each race.
Well enough griping about the penalties. Racing season is getting close and the penalty rule hasn't been finalized. Hopefully they will have some second thoughts and be sensible. We haven't seen a schedule yet but I expect it will be similar to 2003.
Looking at the ESS deal is worse. They really don't want you to race with them unless you are running the whole series. Also, their schedule is out and it's mostly in Canada at both ends of Lake Ontario. There are some races within an hour of here and I would run them except I'd have to start last all night and that's no fun. More chance for getting in trouble and less chance of a good finish or even qualifying.
The 360 deal is really equalized. Running as an addition to the Modifieds and four other classes, the tracks are really dry and slick. With the tire rule, motor rules, and weight rule, you really have to be exceptional to come from the back.
I'm hoping (expecting) that our package for this year is really stout. We'll do our best and maybe have the steam to get through the pack.
That's the news for now.