Well, the first race of the 08 season has come and gone and it certainly had it’s highs and lows. First off, the weather was absolutely fantastic. 70 degrees and sunny is always a welcome sight!
The #99 was a little late getting to the track so we missed the 1st practice, but got out there for the 2nd and she was just a little loose off. We figured it was due to the really old practice tires so we made no significant changes and slapped on a new set of Hoosiers for qualifying.
Now this is our Rookie campaign in a Late Model (although we of course have been crewing for Roger and Jeff with TVM for many years) so I turn around and the officials are putting Yellow Rookie Stripes on the car!!! My arguments that our 8 years and 3 championships in the Mini’s should negate our need to have stripes didn’t work out, so I guess they are on there for a few weeks…
Anyhow, Qualifying… Scott headed out for his laps on those aforementioned new Hoosiers, and the got loose coming out of 2 on both of his laps. While we didn’t set the world on fire, we weren’t the slowest car either. It didn’t matter in the end, because all rookies start at the back of the field regardless of time in. So, when the main started, we were sitting shotgun in the 18 car field.
I should have known it was going to be a strange night when there was an emergency meeting of all the Late model drivers called to discuss the double file restart that was dropped on all of us in the pit meeting, which they were successful in lobbying to change back to single file restarts, with lap down cars to the back under 10 to go. We went out for the new 10 lap heat race and immediately started moving forward, passing 4 or 5 cars and looking forward to a good showing when the car got loose into turn 1 and went around. Scott got it gathered up and continued on, but it relegated us to a last place finish. The only damage was a little torn fiberglass on the right front where someone turned down into him on the first lap.
There was plenty of time before the main, so we got out the wrenches, talked to Steve and Rog and tweaked a couple of things to tighten up the car. When we rolled out for the main, all seemed well. A couple of laps passed and we had moved forward a few positions when a car chopped down across our nose going into turn 1. Scott did a fine job saving it and we continued to move along until the 1st caution came out for a spun car. As the laps added up, the car kept getting better and I could see Scott’s confidence in the car rising as he began to drive it harder. Around lap 30 there was a major wreck involving our good friend Jeff and a couple of other cars. We were able to avoid the wreck and continue on, unfortunately Jeff didn’t fare as well and had to retire the car for the night with a broken radiator and oil cooler.
On the restart, the leader brought everyone down at a pace that would have made a snail start honking his horn. Everyone was stacked up on the backstretch and in line, waiting for him to jump on the gas, but apparently this was just not acceptable for a couple of guys who were involved in the wreck and put to the back. As the leader was heading into turn three, they both jumped the start and came barreling up the inside of the line of cars. By the time the green actually came out, they had passed a half dozen or so cars. This is when I, as the spotter, blew a gasket and began the next 30 minutes of official abuse (I am sorry about that Marv… but I had to complain to someone!) One of the offenders then broke and took several cars with him just after the start finish line. After a prolonged yellow (again) and several line up changes, they threw the green with cars all over the place. We lost several positions due to this, which of course added to my displeasure with the officials (again, sorry Marv!)
When the dust settled and the checkered flag flew, we ended up 7th, the highest finishing rookie, but depending on the outcome of several issues, that could change to 6th. The car came back in one piece, albeit needing a few rivets and while my anger over the events of the race has not diminished, I have calmed down and am working on being reasonable in my dealings with it. Hopefully, the track will do the right thing and send a message to a few drivers that while being aggressive and having the desire to win is a great thing, driving with one’s head up one’s ass is not. A very good car (Jeff’s) was damaged pretty badly due to impatience on another driver’s part and nobody likes to see that… We spend tens of thousands of dollars to go out and put on a show for the fans and it’s a shame that everyone can’t seem adhere to the mantra of getting by someone clean.
On a side note, there were some pretty good licks taken out there this weekend and all the drivers involved walked away with just bruises. Also, I was very happy to see that the Mini stocks had 20(!) cars out and there were a few that are still being prepped. Could the days of a B-main having to be run be too far off??? This is an exciting time for them coming from low car counts just a few years ago. Way to go guys!!!
Many thanks go out to TNT Mechanical, Visual Ventures, Fire Down Graphics, Speedway Autocraft and Papa Murphy’s Pizza for all their help this year. We couldn’t make it out without the help of these great people. Please make it a point to visit our sponsors and let them know when you purchase their services that you saw them on the 99 car! Roger Habich and Jamie Thomas... The Ace and the Wizzard... These guys are the absolute best and with them on our side, how can we not be successful? Also, please visit our friends and Spiritual leaders, Jeff and Melinda Knight @ Knightrous.com and MelindaKnight.com. Jeff and Melinda are the Senior Pastors of the Rock Church in Monroe as well as Jeff being a good wheelman too! Why not stop by Sunday and check out the services at 9 and 11 am!
That’s all for week 1… I’ll try to post weekly on the progress of the team. When you have a chance, come on out to the speedway and help cheer us on! We also still have a few sponsorship opportunities available, so if you are, or know of someone that would like to gain a presence at the speedway, let me know! Sponsorship is a great way to get your company name in front of several thousand fans each week, not to mention Radio and print ads associated with the Race team.