Chapter 151 - 03/04 October 2009
FINAL NASA TEXAS RACE 2009
Eagles Canyon Raceway
Hay! Arby's! Podium!
This will likely be a big report with four of the WDMS drivers (Wade, Cody, Nick and Gary) and then I showed up to spin some wrenches should they need spun. Now, of course, these guys are all about car prep so what are the odds I'll even need to anything but snap a few pics??? Stay tuned, it was a GREAT weekend!!! ~Costas
Our Story Begins with Nick (teh Burro) because he got his story to me first!
Lucky Number Seven
Friday about 1pm, I pull in to Waco to meet up with Gary, Laura and Wade. Caravanning is fun, until you get stuck in I-35 traffic in Fort Worth, because, well, it's Fort Worth and they enjoy traffic. I hadn't been to the track since April, when I did my first 3 road races, which was also when I broke my transmission on the third race. Between a broken car, and buying a house (woot!), I hadn't been able to make it to any of the other races since then. I was really excited for this weekend, as everyone would be there. Cody took his car off jackstands, Costas had his mechanix gloves ready, Wade was debuting his newly acquired CMC2 car at his first NASA event, and Gary and I would be back racing against each other. Third gen powah!
(How many WDMS logos do you see??)
I had looked at the weather forecast coming in to the weekend, and the rain predictions went from 0% to 80% and all points in between (I wish I could be paid to be wrong all the time). Gary always scorns me for registering early, as he believes my registration opens up the rainy skies on the race weekend. There may be some truth to it, as this year I attended the Cresson event (lightly rained), TWS in April (Noah and the Ark style rain), and now Eagles Canyon, with a healthy prediction of rain for Sunday. Hoo hum, we'll see what happens.
We pulled in on Friday afternoon, staked our land claim, and got everyone through registration. Dinnertime! All the racers pointed towards Sweetie Pie's Ribeyes. Oh lordy that was some good chicken fried steak! You know it's gonna be awesome when they bring you a small bowl of gravy, all to yourself. Mmmmm...Gravy.
Saturday morning rolls around, we get a call from Paul and Cody who are already at the track and unloading. We pull in, uncover all the cars and try to clean off the windows and all to get ready for practice and qualifying. With the prediction of rain for the weekend, one of the Spec Pinata guys speaks up at the driver's meeting trying to explain to us how terrible this track is in the wet. Basically everywhere is slick. The way he made it sound, you'd have thought you needed studded tires to drive on the ice. Wasn't terribly encouraging.
Practice and qualifying roll around, and we set out on the track. Since the first race would still only be my 4th race ever, I would start from the very back no matter what, so prac/qual to me was mainly a get-to-know the track. I had never been here before, and I needed to learn it quickly. The track is different from what I had expected. Everyone had told me it's a drag race, hard brakes, then 180* turns. While that may be true in some corners, there is still plenty of elevation change and blind turns to make you really enjoy it. My concerns with the track went away after the first few laps. What I did notice with my car was a bit of a problem in 4th gear. Nearing the top of 4th gear at 4500rpm, the car would start to cutout, almost like a speed limiter kicking in. Now I know this couldn't be the case, as I had been well in to 5th gear on the front straight at TWS. So the thought was a fuel issue. Here we go again, with this damn car and fuel issues. Ugh. I pulled in to the pits and talked to Paul about it (cap/rotor both look a little dirty, cleaned them...all plug wires seated fully...hmmmm). We'll see what happens!
Race 1 time! All geared up, starting from the back. First half of the race is uneventful. I made it by a few other cars, and then something starts feeling funny. Halfway through third gear, the car starts stumbling, as if you pulled 3 plug wires. Shifting to 4th makes it even worse. I try my best to make it around a few more times, and the car just won't have it. I'm going half speed, and I realize I need to be off this track, as I am a rolling hazard. So I end the race early, pull in to the pits, and just sigh. I get out of the car, tell everyone what happened, and Paul puts the car up in the air. Time to pull the fuel filter. Paul pulls the filter, and blows out some gunk from one side. Oh this can't be good. So he hooks up a fuel line to the hard line from the gas tank, and tells me to turn on the fuel pump. A short burst later, and a quick peek in to the can where the gas was heading, and there's a large clump of grass or hay (haaaay!). Yes, a clump. How in the world that got in to my gas tank, I don't know. Hook the filter back up, and Paul unhooks the line at the front to dry to drain some gas out, see what it looks like. It starts to drain, and it is an icky, mucky mess. I guess that's what happens when the car sits for 4 months. Ugh. Keep draining, keep draining, finally it starts lookin good. So we button it back up, and I go to take it for a test drive on a closed circuit (ahem). The damn thing pulls like it should, all the way through the RPM range. Suh-weet!
(if you can call it that) sample from Alamo....eeeek!
Race 2. Alright car, don't you let me down. Once again, starting from the back. I make it past a few cars, and the damn car starts stumbling again. Oh you have got to be kidding me. Once again my race ends early. Pull in to the pits, change in to working clothes, and I jack the car up again. I take the fuel filter off, and once again blow out some gunk from one side. Argh. Last race of the day, I guess we'll see what happens in qualifying tomorrow!
I'd been checking my phone all day for the weather, and the forecast had been worse and worse, and sure enough, it started raining Saturday night while the AI/CMC BBQ was going on. Thank goodness for EZ-UPs. But of course, this meant that it would be rainy and wet tomorrow for the racing. Sigh.
We pull in Sunday morning to find everything rain soaked, and Gary's EZ-UP bent and broken from the weight of the water. Oh joy. As we get ready for qualifying, all I can think of is my car dying again halfway through the session. I suit up, get in, and head out. The track is slippery, but surprisingly grippy. It was not at all what the Miata guy had warned us about. As the session went on, I found I could carry a lot more speed than I had anticipated considering the conditions. And surprise, surprise, the car lasted the entire qualifying session! Woohoo!!
Race 3. We gridded up, ready for a standing start. Yeah baby, standing start, in the wet. The track had a small incline to it where we stopped, so I had to try to hold the brake on the car in conjunction with getting ready to launch. Because of this, my foot slipped off the clutch too early, and the car stumbled, but immediately caught and launched, but I had already lost a little ground to everyone else. Halfway through the race I had managed to pass Chuck, Greg, and Gary, and as I was rounding the turn to head to the front straight, I saw Mosty off in the grass/mud, and I slowed and made my way around him. Looking back in the mirror, he had kept it floored and made his way out, now creeping up on me. They threw out the double yellows, as the EV team was trying to pull someone out who was stuck beyond getting themselves out. This bunched the field up, and now Mosty was right on me. The pace car ducked off and they threw the green, and Mosty got me in the first turn. I tried as hard as I could and kept up with him, but just couldn't get past him. I ended up about a car length behind him at the end when the checker flew, and ended up with a 4th place finish! It was incredibly intense. Even better, the car seemed to be cured of it's fuel hiccups! YAAAY!! No HAAAY!
Race 4. My 7th road race. Between the first race of Sunday and this one, the mist had stopped, and things seemed to be clearing up. We all headed to grid only to find we were way ahead as they were cleaning the track up from someone who had gone off. So we all got out and started bs'ing. And, as soon as Glenn pointed to the sky and mentioned it looked like more misty rain, the misty rain started. Oh this is gonna be great. The track was getting wetter, which would make for an interesting time. We started inverted of the finishing order from Race 3, and I was gridded up right next to Mosty. It would be a rolling start. Hopefully it goes better than my standing start!
As we came around the corner, all in second gear, all slowing down, the only thought going through my mind was I was going to mash the gas pedal, and the car would stumble on itself due to fuel issues. And in that split second, I told myself I would drive it out of the race track, and bail out as the car soared off the nearest cliff. Green flag drops, GAS GAS GAS, and the car puuuuulls! I hit the brakes late going in to the first turn and manage to get by Chuck in front, sticking my nose in on Gary. We go through the S turns, on to the short straight, and I manage to late brake on Gary and take the inside line on T3 and pass him. As I go in to T4/T5 combo, Liebbe comes on my outside and holds me inside down in to the turn and gets around me, and Glenn is not far behind. We go down to 6, drag racing like crazy, brake, turn, and go on the back straight. Glenn is right next to me on the inside line, and outbrakes me going in to T7. I stick my nose right behind him hoping he'll get a little squirrely but it doesn't happen. We go through 9 and 10, and I got close to Glenn at T11 under braking but he managed to grab a lot more speed than me coming out on to the front straight, while Proctor passed me on the inside forcing me out. He and Liebbe were checking out and I was trying desperately to keep up.
I still had Mosty glued to my bumper trying to get around me. We went through another lap, Mosty on my tail, and Dave right in front of me. I tried like hell to get around Dave through the first few turns, but his slipping and sliding Camaro made me wary of trying a pass. Finally at T6, I got close enough, he went outside and let us pass. Now I had clear track in front. I was sitting in 3rd spot, and was gonna try like hell to keep it. I drove the snot of out that car as best I could in those conditions. I was amazed how hard I could brake, and how early I could get on the gas. I had a few squirrely moments, but I'm pretty sure everyone did. As the laps went on, I saw Mosty getting further and further back in my mirror, and I kept charging on as fast as I could. Towards the end of the race I could see Liebbe in front of me, about the length of the front straight away from me. No way could I catch him in the last few laps. I kept myself calm, focused on everything around me, and by the time I realized it I saw the white flag. One more lap. Come on, little Camaro, take me home! Turn after turn, I hammered it, and then I came around T11, down the front straight, and checkered flag!! I just took my first podium position! Third place, baby!! Man I was excited. Rolled through the cool down lap, back in to the pits and everyone was as excited as I was. I put the car on the trailer, and got out to change. We walked around the pit to talk to the other racers and they all congratulated me too. It was a great feeling. And it totally made up for the car troubles on Saturday. I am incredibly excited for the races that are to come, but I hate that they won't come until February.
Huge thanks to Paul for the dirty work he did on Saturday, basically diving head first under the car and under the hood to take stuff apart without hesitation. And thanks to Gary for always bringing every tool and wrench known to man.
Loaded up and ready to head home. Dirty race cars!
WAY TO GET ON THE PODIUM NICK!!!!!! ~Costas