Monday, August 22, 2011

High temps, high expectations and high anxiety

Howdy all!

Well, it was an interesting night at the track. Temps were the highest we've seen all season and the sun shone bright as we took to the track for practice. We had hoped to make another run at trying to break the track record, but realized early on that conditions were not going to be favorable to accomplish it. At one point I measured the air temp at a toasty 89 degrees and the track temp was 107!

The car was good, but not great, so we spent quite a bit of time adjusting in the dark as since the new resurfacing of the track, our copious notes from years of running the old worn out asphalt were no longer completely applicable.

Qualifying: We went out in the 3rd group. While we were able to set the pole speed for a few laps, it was surpassed later in the session and we ended up 3rd quick. More adjustments were made and we looked forward to trying some super secret new tricks to make the car a little better in the middle of the corners, which was where we thought we could make up some ground.

Heat Race: The changes made definitely were in the right direction and we were able to finish 2nd. As Scott and I discussed some changes on the radio, he hustled back to the pits, as our main event was coming up shortly and we had little time to get things adjusted. Unfortunately, as I was taking tire measurements I noticed a shiny silver rivet sticking out of the left rear tire. I hoped it was just something superficial, but I could hear air  hissing out and when I touched it, the sound got louder. We scrambled to pick one of our practice tires to put on to run the race when our buddy Travis noticed that there was water under the car.

We popped the hood and much to our disappointment, the new radiator that we had installed Friday was damaged and had decided to piddle much of its water out of the engine. As the cars began to line up for our race, Bill, JZ and I were quickly replacing the radiator and fan assembly with spares we brought. We got everything buttoned up filled with water and burped as Scott was climbing in the car. Mission accomplished, but we were unable to make any set up changes.

Main event: As usual, we started towards the rear of the inverted 16 car field and with the race scheduled for only 25 laps, Scott knew he was going to have to press the issue and get through traffic with a larger sense of urgency than we normally do when we have longer races. He did this masterfully and when the first caution flew on lap 19, he had worked his way up to 3rd. A problem had reared up though as the car developed a severe push and vibration in the front end. Scott tried very hard to get around the 1st and 2nd place cars, digging down deep and working both the high and low sides, but the car just didn't have the grip to complete the passes.

In the end, we were able to finish 3rd, which considering the problems that cropped up during the day is not a bad result. We of course had hoped to win, but this race marks the 11th time in the 12 races this season that we have finished on the podium. With only 3 races to go, we need to go out, qualify at the top of the board and keep finishing well to complete an awesome season. 3 more races means 3 more chances to win more races and we would like to win them all!

Next race is September 3rd, which is a fair race. Come out early and purchase a fair/race combo ticket, cruise around the fair during the day and watch us race in the evening! We love our fans and will be out there doing our best for all of you and we'd love to see you there, sign an autograph, let the kids sit in the car, take a few photos and say thank you to each and every one of you! Speaking of fans, we took this picture of a couple of Team LaCross Super fans Saturday night. Scott of course, felt the spirit and posed with them in the pits after the race...

Super fans Tori and  Eric with LaCrash
Rock on guys, Rock on!

Monday, August 15, 2011

18.622... New Track Record!

Yup, 18.622. A week after shattering the track record and losing it a lap later, it was broken again this week. But this time, we didn't fall short, we actually hold the mark along with our pal Dale. Yes, we both ran exactly the same qualifying time!

Down time between qualifying and racing
For the first time in what seems like months, we were able to actually use our assigned pit pad, which made everyone happy. No dirt and rocks, power near by and everyone having plenty of space made for a very light and festive mood in the pits. We had made a few improvements to the car over the short break and were anxious to practice and see what we had.

Practice: We spent most of the first session just shaking the car down and working with Travis Woodward on some things on his car. Still we were third on the speed chart and pretty happy. In the second session, were were scrubbing in a tire so not pushing too hard, but were able to jump up to 2nd quick. But something ugly popped up as we hit the track in the form of a small puddle of oil on the pit pad. When Scott came back in, we only had a couple of minutes to determine the source, which turned out to be the brand new valve cover gasket we installed earlier in the week (Note to self, buy the Honda factory gasket this week!). Bill cleaned it up a little while I was putting the qualifying set up in.

Qualifying: We went out in the 3rd session. By the time we hit the track, the pole time was in the high 18.7 second range, so we knew the run would have to be flawless. Then, on the same lap, Scott and Dale both turned the 18.622 track record times in. Pretty darn cool!

Between qualifying and the dash/heat race, Bill took the valve cover off and did a quick fix on the gasket. Also, the car was still a bit loose in, so Scott and I made some adjustments to help that.

Dash: When you have the 4 fastest cars on the track, you know it's going to be a good race and the fans were not disappointed as it was a spirited 4 laps. We ended up 2nd after starting in the 3rd spot. The valve cover gasket was still leaking but we had no time to fix it before the heat races, so Bill stuffed a rag in by the leak, we reset the tire pressures and got back in line up.

Heat Race: Starting in the back row of the 8 car, 8 lap heat race, it is important to get to the front fast. The problem is, you've got the top 8 qualifiers, 6 of whom had run sub 19 second laps. There is no such thing as an easy pass. It took Scott the better part of 6 laps to work his way up to 2nd, but in the end, Fozzy had built up a good lead and even though we were able to cut it in half, we ran out of laps and finished 2nd.

Between the heat and main event, we had about an hour, so while Scott and I adjusted the handling of the car, Bill enlisted Britt's help and they tackled the pesky valve cover gasket. This enabled Britt to not only bust out the pink mechanix gloves, but get splattered in the face with oil, thereby making her a dirty track girl... lol

Bill and Britt, elbows deep in a leaky gasket! 
Main event: Starting at the back of the 30 lap main event, our plan was to patiently work our way forward. That all went out the window when, after several cautions and overly lengthy clean ups after said cautions, the track cut 10 laps from our race, making it a 20 lap sprint. Scott was moving forward quickly and soon the to 6 cars were in a large pack. He drove perfectly as he picked off cars as the laps ticked down, finally getting up to 2nd with 2 laps remaining. He made a strong move to the outside of Bobby DeYoung, but was unable to make the pass and tried once more on the white flag lap going into turn 1. The car slid up a bit and he had to drop back in behind, but tried once more, this time low through turns 3 and 4 when he was hit from behind (not by accident as the video was to show later). He was able to gather the car back up, but were not able to make up the time lost and we finished 2nd again. A great day overall as we improved upon our points lead, set a track record and our old car, the one we helped rebuild after it was unceremoniously put in the wall during a race weeks ago and purchased by Bobby DeYoung that week, won the race!

We also want to take a moment to thank Tire Angel Dave Boutell, who provided us with fresh rubber this week... Thanks Dave!!!!

Next up is Comcast Business Class Figure 8 Nationals night on August 20th. Come see us along with the Street Stocks, Stinger 8s, V-8 Extremes and the 100 lap Figure 8 Nationals.

See you at the races!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A new sponsor, A new track surface, A new track record and back to the front...

Hi everyone!

As you can see from the above photo, The Rock Church has joined the ranks of JZ Motorsports, Monroe MotorWerkes, TNT Mechanical, Millennium Motors, DeYoung, Inc. and Joes Racing products as proud sponsors of Team LaCross. We would like to invite all of you to come to Sunday services at 9:30 or 11:30 in Monroe or at 6pm at our new Wenatchee location! Click the link at the top of the page for directions and more info on TRC and all of our other awesome sponsors.

As some of you may know, we spent the last three weeks sitting in front of the TV playing Rock Band and drinking red Kool-aid (Ohh YEAH!!!)... All kidding aside, we spent the lengthy break fixing all kinds of things on the racing 99 and mashing heads with the smartest guys around on changes we needed to make to the car in the everlasting effort to go faster. Last Thursday night, we hit the track after having thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at the car. The track surface had just been treated to a grinding which had things very, very dirty, so we weren't sure that we would get any good info. Turns out we were able to learn quite a few things and that brings us to Saturday.

The day started off not so great, as yours truly was late getting to the shop, (yeah, the guy who lives 2 minutes from the place is usually the one who is late...) which got us to the track much later than we wanted to be. There were 6 classes running on all 4 tracks and everyone was squeezed into the lower pit area, so our late arrival, combined with a lack of sleep from working late on the car Friday really put us all in a slightly antsy mood as we tried to unload and get the car ready for practice.

First practice rolled around and Scott, having just partook in a nice 30 minute nap in the sun, jumped in the car as Bill and I ran through the new procedures we put in place this week that need to get done before the car hits the track each and every time. As Scott hit the track, we stood by with our stop watches and noticed right away that we were running much faster lap times than normal, with 19.0 and 19.1 second laps clicking off regularly. Then we stepped over the magical 18 second line for a few laps and we all knew that today had the makings of something special.

Second practice was even better as we decided to take the practice tires off and slap on the race set. We were consistently in the 18.8 second range at this point. By now reports were coming in of a couple other cars also getting into the 18 second bracket, so it was almost assured that the NASCAR Mini Stock track record  of 18.92 seconds would be broken, the only question was, "By who?"

The answer came in the first qualifying group and many were surprised that it was 16 year old Molly Helmuth who ran an 18.814 on her very first lap! We were all in awe of that number as it was a full tenth of a second faster than the old record time. Now we all had a new bar to reach for in the second session and with the 2, 10, 12, 21, 64, 65 and 99 all in the 2nd group, you could feel excitement in the air growing as they hit the track to qualify.

Scott was running pretty fast laps (in the 18s) for the first few hot laps of the 2nd session, then on lap 4, he turned up the wick. When he passed the scoring loop, the time flashed up on the scoreboard and I had to blink to make sure I wasn't seeing things... his official lap was 18.727... a full 2 tenths of a second faster than the old record. In the calmest way possible(which is to say I excitedly shouted it into the radio), I informed Scott of his now holding the record, which got an equally excited response of something like "YEEHAW!!!"

Unfortunately, our record was to last only 1 lap, as our pal Dale Creager ran a 18.718 on the very next lap, besting us by 9 thousandths of a second. Scott tried to get one really hard last lap in, but by this point he had caught up to traffic and was not able to top Dale's time.

Trophy Dash:
Determined to make the car even better, we made a couple of major tweaks to the set up and used the dash to test it out. The trophy dash is a 4 lap "dash for hardware" which features the 4 fastest qualifiers. If just so happened that this dash had 4 cars that had all qualified in the 18 second bracket for the first time since NASCAR began sanctioning the track in 1985. It was a spirited contest and on the final lap, Scott and Molly got together in turn 4, spinning molly and relegating us to last place. Scott and Molly talked after the race and all was well between them :-)

Main Event:
Still more changes to the car before the main as we were starting in the back of quite possibly one of the fastest mini main events seen at Evergreen since the old AA FSCRA days. From the drop of the green, things were crazy, with cars running 4 and 5 wide. Scott was at the back of the pack as several minor issues in front of him forced evasive braking. A quick caution on lap 3 gathered the pack back up and when it went back to green, Fozzy and Molly were able to squirt out to the front and build a substantial lead. Meanwhile, Scott spent the next 15 or so laps patiently picking his way through traffic, not making any banzai moves that might have ended our night. Finally, he was able to break away from the pack and start running down the leaders, but with precious few laps left, and with the leaders about a half lap ahead, it was starting to look like a solid 3rd would be the best we could muster. But then, with 3 laps to go, lady luck decided to step in and the caution flag flew for a stalled car on the front stretch.

Scott calls over the radio to me, "Hey, is it my birthday??" as they bunched us all back up for a green/white/checkered finish. We went low at the cone which kept us in the 3rd spot in the preferred low groove. When they dropped the green flag, Fozzy and Scott were able to take advantage of the low line and came out of turn 2 nose to tail, battling it out for the lead. Scott tried several times to make a move to grab the lead, but had to back out to avoid contact. At the checkered flag, he gave it one last shot but ended up in 2nd place, which after the terrible 15th place finish the previous race, really bolstered our spirits.

Fast company, Team LaCross, Jeff and Melinda Knight 
At this time, we need to thank some very special people who busted their butts and gave freely their expertise, advice and abilities to make this such a successful weekend. John Zaretzke, Roger Habich, Rob Dykstra, Geoff Filmore and Jeff Knight. Gentlemen, we could not and would not have been able to do this without each of you. While you all have your own race teams, know that you are all very important members of Team LaCross and our achievements are as much yours as they are Scott, Britt, Bill's and Mine. Thank you all so very much...

Next race is August 13th... With only 5 races left in the season, time is growing short to come on out and catch a race before 2011 is in the books. Come on out, watch the races and come down to the pits afterwards and say Hi! We are the third pit stall you come to after walking by the pit gate :-)

See you at the races!