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! 

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