Ok, so I AM the spotter amongst my other duties on the race team. A quick tutorial...
The spotter is responsible for a great many things. He/she watches the car during the race, letting the driver know things like lap times, laps remaining, track status (green, caution, red, etc.), proximity of other cars... The spotter is also the liaison between the track and his/her driver, relaying information between the two such as restart positions, black flag info, notification of debris or fluids on the track, etc. The spotter is the Driver's extended eyes and ears, watching his own driver as well as watching the track ahead of him for danger. He/she is both a Cheerleader and a calming voice of reason.
You may be asking yourself, "why is Ed saying you cant trust spotters and what does that have to do with this week's race report?" Well, I will get to that in a minute...
This week, we ran a Double Feature night. This was decided upon a few weeks ago by the Track management to get in a race that was rained out earlier in the season. Two 50 lap races in one big night... our main concern was tires... we had to run both races on the same set of 4. Now, as documented in these pages, we tried the 2 races on one set experiment before to disastrous results, so you can understand our apprehension. As it turns out, this fear was unwarranted.
This week we chucked the old baby buggy set up completely for a more up to date one. It certainly isn't the bump stop or coil bind set ups that are currently popular, but its a far cry from the conventional we were running. The thinking was that Scott would perform better on this set up as it is a lot closer to the old set up we used to run in our Mini-stock for years.
The day started out with us learning that our team would be down 2 members. That left myself and Scott to do it all... A daunting task to be sure, but one that we both knew we could handle. We garnered the assistance of our friend and yours Fred Hall to help us drag our tool box and spare tires to the track and went to his shop to help him get his car ready for racing as well. Unfortunately, they were not able to get it ready by 2:30 and sent us on our way to the track and they would come over when they were done. So off we went, minus Tires and with just a few essential tools as we knew we could borrow what we needed from Jeff.
When we arrived, we unloaded and ran the car out to scuff the race tires. Being it was just the 2 of us, we were ok with just getting that done and not trying to do some gonzo framus to get practice tires back on for that 1st practice, which was no big deal since our tires weren't there yet. As the 2nd practice was starting, we got a depressed call from Fred letting us know that they were not going to be able to make it out. He offered to bring our things over, but we told him to get his car done and get over there for the race and not to worry about us... While I was a little worried about not having much practice time, I knew that we had two races tonight, so we could get it figured out.
Qualifying rolled around and Scott, with a total of 5 laps on the set up running at 3/4 speed, went out and ran his first sub 18 second qualifying lap of the season! Who needs practice, eh?? :-) We were both elated to finally get that monkey off of our backs, but knew that the car had a lot more in it, so we went to work making a few adjustments for the main.
A word about the Evergreen Speedway invert process... We have a 7/10ths rule at the track... the invert for the mains excludes all cars not within that time of the pole sitter. This week, we were 2/100ths shy of a possible 10 car invert and our 2nd pole start of the season. As it was, we started 10th on the field. The first main was largely caution free and we came home in 7th, equaling our best finish of the year. The car was pretty predictable and Scott felt that for the first time all year, he was driving the car, vs. riding around in it. A few more adjustments and we were ready for the 2nd main.
We started outside row 1 for the 2nd race, which was determined by our 2nd fast Qualifying lap. At the drop of the green, Scott took the lead through turn 1 and 2 and lost it again due to a little dirt excursion off of 2, but the Yellow flew after JZ's car was shoved off the track in turn 4. JZ was able to gather it up without too much damage and we got a full restart. This time Scott would not be denied... He took the lead again going into turn one and this time, held steady and opened up a 6 car length lead, We lead for 8 laps until the 11 car, who had much fresher tires than everyone else due to only running a couple of laps in the first race, went blowing by like we had an anchor out... Let me tell you, anyone who says tires aren't important can shove that noise up their nose!
A few laps later, we were running around in 2nd when the first caution came out... Jeff got turned going into 1 and 7 cars were involved in some way... It wasn't pretty as He and the 00 sustained heavy front end damage, enough to force them into the pits, only to return with no front body work. Now this is where the spotter screwed up... The track told us that Yellow flags would count after the Red to clean up the mess was lifted... this meant that I assumed the 00 car was a lap or more down once racing restarted... which brings me to the mother of all screw ups on my part.
We were tooling around having a good old time running in the top 5. Kelly Mann and James Muggee had gotten by and JZ got by in dramatic fashion on the low side of 2 (Scott came over the radio screaming with the excitement of a kid in a candy store as JZ made the pass.. He later said that he was on the white line and he saw a yellow flash below him, dirt and sparks flying everywhere... coolest pass he had ever seen) with 15 to go, the 00 was closing on us... not because he was markedly faster, but because as we assumed he was a lap down, there was no reason to grease up the tires and risk wrecking to keep him behind us. With 12 to go, Scott let him by and the 06 car freight trained with him. Then Kelly finally lost his left front tire which had been smoking most of the race and Imagine my surprise when I looked at the scoreboard and the 00 was now in 4th with the 06 in 5th!
In the end, we finished 6th, our best finish of the year, but I really feel that we could have held Naima and Steve off for those last laps and got that elusive top 5 finally. Lesson learned; Race every car like its for position on every lap... never assume anything... and trust me, we wont!
We have the weekend off, but we are going to Idaho with Jeff and his team to race at Meridian Speedway. It should be a great time! Next race is August 16th on the 3/8th mile oval and then its two weeks of racing at the fair! If you haven't made it out yet, I highly suggest that you do during the fair... Make a day of it, enjoy the sights and sounds of the 100th anniversary edition of the Evergreen State fair and top it off with exciting Nascar short track racing!
See you at the track!