Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Another night, another crazy finish!

Wow... This season has been something else. This week we were scheduled for a 50 lap main event, so we were pretty jazzed up as these long races are always pretty good to us. The car was all set and ready to go Saturday morning, but we stayed up a little late Friday night standing around the shop and chatting with friends that had stopped by, so we got to the track about 1/2 hour later than we anticipated. Normally, this would not be a big deal as we have an assigned pit stall, but for the next few weeks, the 5/8 track is in use and our pit stalls are not accessible.

The lower pit area was a madhouse as there were darn near 100 cars competing in the various classes. We ended up pitted almost exactly where we had spent the previous 2 years, right by the pit entrance on the backstretch, which is a heck of a walk, especially when you are pushing a 2500lb car... but more on that later.

We ran a decent practice and felt like the car was pretty good for qualifying. Unfortunately, we had our worst qualifying run of the season and found ourselves managing the 4th spot. Once we found this out, Scott decided he needed to have a little talk with the car...

The Racecar whisperer

The Racecar whispers back!
Since there were quite a few events, we did not have heat races. The first late model main event went out and our JZ Motorpsorts Teammate Jeff Knight was moving forward quickly when he was tapped going into turn 3 and backed the car into the fence pretty hard. He drove the car back to the pits and we all sprang into action, JZ directing the combined 70 and 99 teams to make repairs. We almost had it fixed when the race ended, but it was close enough so that Scott and I could head back to our pits and get lined up for our main event while the 70 crew finished repairs to the car so they could run the 2nd of their 2 scheduled races that night.

As we hit the track for our race, the officials notified me that our transponder was not working. The transponder is a little yellow box that, when passing over a buried wire in the track, counts your laps and the lap times. They sent us back to the pits and replaced it with a fresh one and sent us back out to our grid position, which was about 14th position. When the green dropped, Scott took off towards the front but a problem  was brewing deep within the car's electrical system. You see, they always stop us on the front stretch for driver introductions. When Scott went to fire the car up, he noticed that it was very lazy, which as many of you can figure, means the battery is low. Now, in your street car, this is a minor inconvenience, as once the car is running, the alternator charges the battery and runs the computer, fans, lights, etc. In our racecar, we do not run an alternator because it robs horsepower from the motor.

As the race went on, there were several lengthy cautions, during which the car started to get hot. Scott had to turn on the cooling fan, which used more battery power. making the car weaker and weaker. We had worked  our way up to 2nd place and it looked like we might have something for the leader dangit! With 10 laps to go, we got our final restart of the night and by this time, we were thinking there was no way we were going to be able to hang on till the end. Scott was able to get a good restart though and we were able to challenge for the lead for a few laps before he had to start running about half throttle to nurse the remaining electricity. 4 laps to go and Scott came on the radio to tell me that he wasn't sure there was anything left in them to give. I told him to rub the car, kiss it, talk dirty to it, whatever it took to will that old girl to finish this race.

Well, whatever he said, it worked, because we held onto a 5 car length lead over the 3rd place car until 1 lap to go, when traffic slowed us enough and make it REALLY close as Steve Green was able to close right up to our bumper, but we were able to cross the finish line just ahead of him to take 2nd place. 1 more lap and I think we might have looked just like Dale Jr. at Charlotte the next day, running out of gas (or electricity in our case) in the last corner and getting passed by a half dozen cars! The top 3 in the end had Jon "Fozzy" Roberts taking the victory, we were second and Steve Green in third.

As I arrived in Tech, Scott was sitting in the car smiling as he knew that we had dodged a HUGE bullet. However, I think he was smiling for another reason, which I will now show you a picture to explain...

Where in the world is a push truck when you need one???
Yup... that is Me and Bill, pushing the car back to our pits, about oh, a 1/8th of a mile. The car wouldn't even turn over! We finally got it back and put it on the battery charger so Scott could go out later and receive his trophy. So, on the agenda for this week: Replace 2 batteries, possibly add alternator! Next race is June 11th, so make sure you plan on being there as we continue our season!

What can I say... I've always been a sucker for redheads! :-)

See ya at the track!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A race for the ages

Wow... every once in a while, you get to witness something pretty special happen at a race track. Saturday night was one of those times.

Eddie and JZ pushing the car to tech before Qualifying
So we arrive at the track fashionably late as usual (lol) and get the car out for a quick practice session. The skies threatened all day long, so we kept a close eye out for raindrops as we made adjustments during the course of the day. As qualifying approached, it looked as though the rain would stay away, so we put our heads together and adjusted a few items on the car, finishing up just as the officials swung by to tell us to hit the scales before qualifying.

Our qualifying group featured a number of the weekly top qualifying cars. We were able to run a 19.292 second lap, which landed us the 2nd position. We were somewhat disappointed until we saw that the pole lap time was 19.282 seconds. 1 hundredth of a second... to put that in perspective, the blink of the human eye takes 3 to 4 TENTHS of a second... This marks the 3rd week in a row that we qualified 2nd in time measured in hundredths of a second.

Our qualifying effort garnered us the 6th starting position in the "A" heat race which had the top 7 qualifiers, starting inverted. We were unable to improve upon the starting spot however, as for the majority of the race, positions 2, 3, 4 & 5 were running side by side in front of us battling for those spots. Scott put forth a valiant effort to gain positions but in the end, we settled for the 6th spot, knowing that we had a very fast car and the main was coming soon.

Pre-race strategy session
The main event found us starting deep in the field due to the 2 second invert. Only 4 cars of the 20 who started the main were outside this time, so we lined up on the inside of row 8, 15th on the grid. Scott's years of experience came into play almost immediately as he started making moves towards the front. He also skillfully avoided 2 major pile ups that happened directly in front of him in the opening laps with quick reactions that veteran drivers just know how to instinctively make. Little did we all know that this was nothing compared to what was to happen next. We had gone back to racing with only 2 official laps in the books when the third and final caution of the night came out. Mikey Fritz and Scott were dueling for position tearing down the back stretch, Mike on the high side, Scott on the low. As they began to set up for entry into turn 3, another car tried to stick his nose in between them to make it three wide, hitting Scott's right rear tire and then blasting into Mike's left rear. Mike spun as his tire was instantly cut down and in the melee the 65 car of Bobby DeYoung was unable to avoid contact and unfortunately got mixed up in the caution. In the stands we all were trying to make sense of what happened when we saw flames coming from the bottom of Bobby's engine bay. One of the track officials ran out with an extinguisher and was able to put it out, but it took quite a bit of time to get everything cleaned up. 

At this point, it was decided that our race was to be shortened to 15 laps. We all knew it was going to happen, so strategies changed. What happened next was something that is still eating at me... When they lined up the cars for the restart, we were held on the front stretch and they placed 2 cars in front of us that had not been there before the caution. As I argued to have it changed to the proper line up, they went ahead and moved 1 car back but left the other in place, which was a HUGE deal as this was the car that eventually would factor into the finish of the race. When the one to go signal was shown, there were 15 laps to go and we were in 7th place. The green flew and the car placed incorrectly made a couple of bold moves and was able to get out front within 2 laps, while Scott fought his way through the pack. The leader was able to run away and by the time Scott was able to break out into 2nd place, he had built what would normally considered to be an insurmountable lead of just over a straightaway with only 9 laps remaining and this is where the title of this post comes from... A race for the ages. 

I immediately switched gears in the spotters stand from information messages to cheerleader. I told Scott that he was going to win this race, it didn't matter how much of a gap we had to make up. He didn't say a word, but I know he was thinking the same thing as he took off like a bat out of hell and drove the car like a man possessed. Lap after lap, he chopped into the lead, catching and passing lapped cars at what seemed like the perfect time each time and in 5 laps, he had cut the lead to less than 2 car lengths. As they came off of turn 4 and crossed the stripe on the next to last lap, Scott drove to the outside going into turn one and they raced around the track, door to door. Coming out of turn four to take the white flag, Scott crossed the stripe with the lead by about a fender and they went through 1 and 2 side by side again. The crowd was going absolutely bonkers, people standing up and cheering and the track announcer's voice must have jumped 2 octaves as he did the play by play of the action. 

As they came onto the back stretch, there were lapped cars ahead. Scott was again about a fender in front as they approached a lapped car heading into turn three. As they got to the car, Scott was faced with a split second decision. Try to pinch the inside car he was battling for the lead, bash the lapped cars rear bumper or hit the brakes and drop low... He knew his only option was to slow down and drop in, as the guy on the inside would not have given an inch, which would have most likely wrecked us both and he was not going to run into the lapped car because he did not want to take the chance of wrecking that driver too. Scott made one last effort to get in front, diving low, 2 tires in the dirt through the corner, but in the end we finished 2nd. 

I've lost count of how many people have come up to me and mentioned that they hadn't seen anything like that in a long time and that it was the best show they had seen all year. I can't help but get the vibe that this is one of those races that won't be remembered by who won, but by the show put on by the red and black 99 car that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that heart, desire and a never say never attitude can make anything possible. I know I've said many times that our car isn't the fastest, best built or anywhere close to the most technologically advanced car out there. It's cage isn't built as stiff as it should be, is a handful in the corners and smokes like a chimney when we start her up. But something magical happens when Scott drops into her seat and buckles in.  It's like she knows it's him and wants to prove that she's worth every dime we paid for her and much, much more. Yes, we've got a heck of a piece sitting in the shop waiting to be finished, but Scott and I agreed as we unloaded her from the trailer today... We've become really fond of this car! Whodathunk it?? :-)

Next up this weekend, May 28th it's Memorial day and Whelen NASCAR Night. Twin 50 lap Super Late Model shootout and Street Stocks on the 5/8's, Mini Stocks and Midgets on the 3/8's and Stinger 8's. We are running a 50 lap race so there will be plenty of time to cheer for your favorite race team!

See ya at the races! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Photo of the week

Good times at the Buzz Inn after a rainy night last race...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Saturday night Double Dripper

Nope, that isn't a typo you see there. It was indeed a double dipper night (2 main events in the same evening), but it was raining so much, it was certainly a dripper! How wet was it? Perhaps this picture of rookie contender Eric Gimmaka and his crew can explain it best...

It actually started out as an overcast NW day and we arrived at the track fashionably late. After getting all teched in, Scott headed out for practice and the car looked OK, but needed a little tweak. While we made adjustments a few light sprinkles appeared which turned quickly into a steady light drizzle. Scott went ahead and went back out to scuff in our new tire. I of course, spent the next few minutes doing my "Please stop raining dance" It actually worked for a short time, as the rain stopped long enough for the track to dry slightly for qualifying. For the 2nd straight week, we qualified 2nd fast, 4 hundredths of a second off the pole time set by... you guessed it, Steve Green! (we gotta figure out a way to out qualify that cat some day :-) )

As soon as we finished qualifying, the skies opened up. It felt like somebody opened up a fire hydrant and aimed it directly at the track. When it became clear that the rain was there to stay we put our rain set-up in (super secret info) and I finally gave in...I installed the windshield wiper. Scott climbed in and moved the car to his starting grid position.

17 cars took the green flag in the 1st main event and Scott weaved his way through traffic that was at points 4 wide(!) until we found ourselves in the lead with a comfortable margin over the 2nd and 3rd place cars. A couple of cautions closed up the gap and on the final restart of the race, we got nudged a bit going into turn one, which resulted in us dropping back to the 2nd spot. But we had 5 laps to go and we caught the leader on the last lap going into turn three. He overcooked it a bit in the middle and slid up the track, Scott was able to get a nose under him, but slid up a bit himself. He gave it another stab coming out of turn four, running wide but the leader moved up to block the spot and we ended up crossing the line in 2nd place. Finish was Harriss, Scott, Chuck Richard, Andrew Schukar and Jon "Fozzy" Roberts.

Between mains we basically had time to put the car on the battery charger for a few minutes, fill it full of fuel and have a quick discussion with Scott about a few changes. We made a few (more super secret info) taped up a little spot that was leaking rain water in on Scott and lined back up.

All 17 cars were able to make it back out for the 2nd main and the starting grid was set based on the finishing order (inverted) of the first race, so we started pretty far back. Again, Scott picked his way through the field and soon found himself in a 4 way dogfight for 1st with Fozzy, Chuck, and Andrew, 3 of the top 5 cars from the 1st race. Fozzy is always a strong contender and when it's raining, well we all watch in amazement as he makes the RWD Rx-7 ride around the top like it's on rails. The battle was fierce as the 4 swapped positions and Scott was able to find his way to the front. The lead never got to more than a few car lengths as the rain came and went. with about 5 to go, a caution bunched up the field and on the restart, Chuck was able to gain the advantage and take the lead going into turn one. Scott made a bold move to the bottom of the wet track and coming out of two, was able to regain the lead. As Chuck and Fozzy battled it out, Scott was able to pull out to a 3 car length lead. Fozzy was able to get by Chuck and when the checkers flew, we were the winners of the main, Fozzy, Chuck, Andrew and Harriss rounding out the top 5.

On the young season, we have 3 runner ups and a win in 4 races. It's a long season and with a two week break, we will continue to work on the car to make it better. Next race is May 21st, Armed Forces Night. All active Military and their Dependents get in free!

One last thing, here is the traditional Steve/Scott photo in the pits after the races. It is slightly inaccurate as Steve finished better than 10th, but it does show how much fun we are all having racing together!
See you at the races!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Photo of the week

Ok, so at the autograph session this week, Mikey Fritz was giving out these cool little stuffed fellas to all the fans. One of them ended up making the trek back to the shop with us. I found him sitting in the car Monday night so I figured I'd go ahead and let him guard the car overnight and snapped this picture...

Well, imagine my surprise when I got back today and found that he must have gotten a little hungry last night.

Watch out if you got one of these critters at the track... he'll eat your car! :-)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Saturday night revisted

Hi everyone!

After speaking with Scott about the incident in the closing laps of the main event Saturday night and reviewing a posted video, we would like to announce an error in the blog post yesterday. On the restart, Scott missed a shift and a warning light came on. He lost concentration for a moment and moved down about a half a groove, directly into the path of the 12 car, which caused the incident. We accept full responsibility for the contact and apologize for giving out incorrect information.

We at Team LaCross strive to race clean and do not and will not shy away from accepting the appropriate responsibility in any on track incidents that we are involved in. It is important to us that you all are given accurate information, as you are our fans and deserve no less than the truth.

We are currently working hard to fix the damage, which is superficial thankfully and look forward to seeing you all this weekend for our big Twin 30 lap racing night. Thank you once again for being the Best, most Passionate fans any team could ever ask for!

Eddie C, your faithful Crew Chief and blogger.

Race 2, What a night!

Ever have one of those days that makes you feel like you just spent it all riding the Cyclone roller coaster? We had one Saturday for sure on a night that will be one that everyone is sure to remember.

We got to the track under sunny skies for the first time this season. It wasn't quite warm, but it was lovely considering how it's been lately. As Scott headed down to tech, Britt and I readied the pit area and chatted up our fellow racers, everyone seeming to be in great spirits. One of our great Sponsors, Bill Hampton, owner of Monroe MotorWerkes was our guest in the pits and let me tell ya, he had a front row seat for a lot of action!

First practice was cut short due to a couple of cars spinning on the backstretch. Unfortunately, that meant we only got about 5 laps in and really were not sure what we had to work with, so we decided it would be best to go back out without changing anything. 2nd practice was going along alright, but about 10 laps in, Scott came over the radio and said he was coming in early, clearly there was something amiss.

When he hit the pit stall, we commenced our normal procedures and Scott told me, "There is something broken in the left front. Sure enough, when I got the car in the air, the upper control arm had snapped almost completely in half! We had less than 30 minutes till qualifying so the team jumped into action. Bill fired up the generator, Scott ran off to borrow a welder and I pulled the suspension apart. Everything flowed beautifully! Our JZ Motorsports teammate Lance O'grain came walking up and he welded up the control arm in about 2 minutes ( it would have taken me 15 easy! lol) While I put the car back together, Bill pulled off the practice tires and put the race ones on, Scott was busy talking with the producer for the Comcast SportsNet Reality program "Adrenaline Hunter" as they wanted to mount some cameras in our car for an episode they were shooting that night and Britt was doing her best to keep the flow of transmission fluid (blood) at bay from the cut i got on my hand (she's a great nurse!) Right before Scott jumped in the car to qualify, we decided to loosen it up just a smidge and off he went.

Qualifying was broken up into 3 groups this week. we were in the 3rd grouping and with only a few practice laps under our belts, I wasn't really sure what would happen. But as always, LaCrash drove her hard and we grabbed the 2nd spot behind Steve Green. After qualifying, there was a prolonged autograph session as it was sponsor appreciation night. The stands were by now filling up nicely and as we stood on the front stretch, we all remarked about how it looked like old times. Lots of fans, plenty of cars and smiles everywhere you looked.

Heat races began shortly after autographs and since we had so many cars (21 total in our class, best turnout in a very long time!) they broke us up into 3 heats. we were in the 3rd one, which contained the top 6 qualifiers and as the 2nd fast time, we got to start on the inside of the back row. Normally, this wouldn't be horrible, but on this night, it was almost an omen of things to come. The inside line was decidedly NOT the fast line as the race began and soon we found ourselves at the back of the field, struggling to find our way around the 5th and 6th qualifiers as the 10, 12 and 2 cars began to run away from us. The 65 kept making dive moves as we tried to get under him and finally, it worked to his detriment as he dove across our nose going into turn one and recognizing this, Scott backed out of the gas early. He came down in front of us and ended up with 2 in the dirt, which spun him around. Scott unfortunately had nowhere to go and spun trying to avoid him. This brought out the yellow and we were able to get going again and return to the tail of the field for the restart. At the green flag, we had 4 laps to go and Scott got around the 64 and 2 of Mikey Fritz, setting off after the 10 of Steve Green and the 12 car. Alas, there were not enough laps left and we finished the heat in 3rd.

The main event was the first of the evening and the track decided to give us 40 laps instead of the normal 25 to 30 to make up for the shortage of laps the previous race. (Thanks Evergreen!!) The TV crew came over and fired up the video cameras that they had placed on Scott's helmet and on the roof of the car and we lined up. We were to start on the outside of the 10th row due to our full inverts, but with the inclusion of the 1 second rule, we moved up to the outside of the 5th row. It was a thing of beauty to see 21 cars take the green flag. Scott immediately began making moves and before long he found himself fighting for the lead with the 12 car and our old pal Steve. As we found our way to 2nd, the 12 began making a few poor choices in his efforts to stay in front of us, culminating in spinning the 18 car and bringing out a caution flag. The restart found us leading, Steve in 2nd and the 12 in 3rd. At this point, we were able to fend off several taps on our rear bumper after the restart, which could have been terrible as they could have taken out both us and Steve, who had restarted on our outside and was next to us at the time. At this point, we were able to stretch the lead out to over 10 car lengths and were looking solidly in front. Traffic became a factor, as Scott carefully picked his way through, Steve and the 12 were able to make up quite a bit of ground, cutting the lead to 3 car lengths. Just as we broke free of lapped traffic and began to stretch it back out again, we got another caution flag and were grouped up again. This time, it was the 12 who chose the outside and he was able to retake the lead for a short amount of laps. As the 3 cars duked it out again, another caution flew and on the restart, it was Steve on the pole, Scott outside of him and the 12 behind Steve. With only 3 laps to go, it was shaping up to be a whale of a finish. On the drop of the green, Scott missed a shift, which wouldn't have normally resulted in what happened next as he wouldn't have been slightly off Steve's pace. Out of nowhere, the 12 darted up and hit our left rear. As Scott was pitched sideways, he mashed the throttle to straighten the car out. The 12's right front tire climbed up our left rear and his car got locked onto ours as they came out of Turn 4.

As I told Scott to keep his foot in it down the front stretch, sparks were flying off the locked together cars. You could see the driver of the 12 sawing his wheel to try to unlock the two cars and as they crossed the start finish line, they finally became unhooked. He had a flat right front and spun out going into turn one, then pulled off to the pits for a tire change. Our car was torn up pretty badly and Mikey Fritz relayed to me through his spotter that the left rear was bouncing quite a bit. But we weren't going to pull in, it was damn the torpedoes time! On the final restart, we took the outside line and at the drop of the green, it was obvious something was amiss. While we were able to stay with Steve and give him a good battle, the car was far from the dominating performer it was earlier. As the checkers flew, it was Steve 1st, Scott 2nd, Mikey 3rd, Travis Woodward 4th and Jack McGeehan 5th.

As Scott headed to the tech shack, he came on the radio and said, "Um, bring a jack and spare to tech, we've got a flat." Yup, we ran the last 3 green flag and 3 caution laps with a completely flat left rear tire! The pictures below show the damage better than I can explain it...

The right rear (Yes, the one we just replaced!) after the race

Aaand the left rear with a spare mounted so we could load the car. Guess we need to replace that too now!
Yeah... not pretty, but we got 2nd place with all that damage! So yes, I am not completely upset. We've got a great team, great friends and we can get her all fixed up, if not super pretty by next weekend's twin 30 lap races. 

We would like to take this moment to again thank our sponsors, TNT Mechanical, JZ Motorsports, Monroe MotorWerkes, Millennium Motors, Joes Racing Products, Deyoung, Inc. and our Tire Angels for supporting us the way you do. You are all AWESOME! 

Next up, the first of 3 double header nights we have this season, with Twin 30 lap races. And don't forget, it's mothers day this Sunday and so Saturday night, all Mom's get in free! So come on out to the races and see what happens next!

See you at the races!!!