Wedge Racing in 2015
 

Sebring - January (MAJORS) - skipped it this year due to HORRIBLE class grouping. The only way I can express my displeasure is with my entry and wallet!    

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NOLA - second trip here.  Several 'top dog' FV's entered.  Should be a good show.

  An additional circuit is planned to mirror below the existing track.
That's a Kart track at the top right. The paddock area is the large paved area just right of center. Track length is 2.75 miles.

The tow down was pretty good.  A little mist and sprinkles on the windshield but the most noticeable issue was .. we left home @ 67 degrees... about 11 hours later, we arrived at NOLA at some THIRTY FOUR DEGREES !!  CRAP... THIS year was supposed to be different!?  The Wx channel said mid 60's to 70's all three days.  Well... guess what? THEY MISSED IT (again). It was 34 degrees with about a 25 MPH wind with gusts higher => something around 20 degrees w/chill factor.  We nearly froze our butts off just getting through registration!  The wind was almost as bad on Friday, so we spent most of our time inside the RV.. occasionally going outside to watch the 3 vees that were testing.

A pretty good field (13 Vees!) signed up for the event this year.  Charlie Hearn, Donnie Isley, Laura Hayes and (hopefully) me expected to be the 'front runners' with a couple of others that could make some noise if things turned out right for them.  Only one qualifying session on Saturday morning before the first race.. the true trends will be shown then.

Qualifying - The sun was at least 'around' a bit on Saturday and the track was dry, though you certainly did NOT want to get off the paved parts. The temp was COOL and the wind had dropped down to something reasonable finally.  I went out LAST since I was on some old tires and wanted to come up to speed slowly.  After several warmup laps, I was beginning to remember where the braking and turn in points were, so I started to turn up the wick a bit.  Linda called out the times and I was in 3rd.. then 2nd and then, finally FIRST (in class).  I never caught any of the other top cars, but I ended up as the only car in the '57's .. with a 1:57.995.  Hey. it's a 57 happy and the pole!

Race1 - I didn't bring any NEW tires for this weekend, so it was a bit disconcerting to watch ALL of my close competitors strap on sticker tires.  I rolled out my 'best' set - already with 2 sessions on them.  I was hoping that my 'aged' tires would hold up better over the "long haul" of the race(s).  Time would tell.  There were an F5 and an older FF qualified in the middle of the vees, so I went to talk to the Chief Steward and convinced him that we would all be better off if those higher horsepower cars were NOT in the middle of the vees at the start.  There wasn't any question that they would beat us to T1 .. it was just a question of whether they would CRASH a couple of vees trying to get past us all.  The Steward agreed and allowed all the vees to start in the back.  I toured the paddock and confirmed with all the other vee drivers that they AGREED with the change - thankfully they did.

As the pole sitter, I backed the vees off a few car lengths behind the rest of the field .. hoping to allow everyone in front to get through T1 before we arrived.  Everything looked really good as the green came out, but seems the guys in front didn't get the message at the same time we did and we were ALL OVER them going into T1.  I held the lead and got past the FF as we hit the 6,7,8 complex for the first time.  It sure looked to me (in my mirrors) like I had an insurmountable lead and would run away with the race (HA!).  Alas, the pack also got by the FF and they were on top of me before we even completed the first lap sad. The only 2 F5's in the race were gradually pulling away and the vees were racing alone .. the way we like it happy.

I lost my video of the race due to camera failure so I can't provide a 'blow by blow', but Charlie had a flat tire about the time the FF cars started lapping us and Laura got split off - leaving Donnie and I to fight it out for the win.  I led most of the early laps and Donnie led most of the later laps.  I was in second coming to the white flag and was able to make the pass for the lead into T1.  From there, I stretched it a bit to the checker taking the win by some 5 or 6 car lengths.  As we went through post race Tech, all Donnie could say was that 'something happened' to his engine.  Later he found that 2 of the four exhaust pipes were cracked .. one of them COMPLETELY around and almost FELL OFF on that last lap.  I got out my welding kit and repaired both of his pipes for the Sunday race... wondering if I really wanted to make his car any faster happy, but we want a 'heads up' race when we can get it.

Race2 - Donnie had fast lap in the Sat race (but didn't break Charlie's lap record from last year) so started on the pole with me on the outside.  The pace lap speed was quite high compared to Sat's so we were all spread out trying to keep up once we realized how fast the pace car was going.  Donnie and I were FLAT OUT from T13 all the way to S/F and the green was waving before we got onto the front straight.  Donnie had some 10 car lengths on me with similar distance behind me .. but there wasn't much we could do - we were RACIN'!

I managed to JUST catch Donnie as we exited T1 - it looked like a good opportunity to make it a 2 car race, so I stayed close behind and didn't threaten him to give us the best speed.  However, the draft still works pretty well and both Charlie and Laura caught us before we cleared the esses and ... yep .. we were a FOUR CAR PACK again.  One more lap and Charlie came flying by to take the lead.  We ran like that for a little over half the race with Donnie and I swapping places a couple of times.  When the FF cars started lapping us  I got shuffled back to 4th and Charlie got a great break and pulled out a 15 car length lead. As the other FF cars kept coming, we gradually reeled Charlie in and .. there we were, back to a FOUR CAR PACK again.  Donnie passed Charlie and then Laura passed both of them taking the lead.  With still several laps to go, I was content to stay in touch and wait to see if any of those guys would crash each other out, but they are pretty good at it, so no contact that I saw, even with several instances of 'side by side' through multiple turns.  Finally, we had 3 laps to go and I figured I better start thinking about moving up.  I got a good run onto the front straight and started a pass on Donnie.  Just after I made my move, Laura pulled out to pass Charlie and I got a new draft that pulled me on past Charlie as we approached T1.  I stayed to the inside to 'control' 2nd place, but then Laura braked earlier than I expected and suddenly I HAD to turn in .. and moved from 2nd to 1st.  As I took the lead, I wondered .. "did Laura do that on purpose"??  With another lap yet to go, the lead wasn't exactly where I wanted to be.  I TRIED to shake them with little result and as we came down the front straight to take the while flag, Charlie  made the pass for the lead.  I was thankful to see that neither Donnie nor Laura were close enough to follow him by as I followed Charlie through T1.  As I did that, I also noticed a lapped car up ahead - one that we were sure to catch .. it was just a question of WHERE would that happen.  I 'selected' a good place for that to happen happy and was determined to get a good run on Charlie across the T6,7,8 run toward the esses.  I did just that and was closing on Charlie at about the time he drifted off the track a skosh (no doubt wondering what the lapped car was going to do) and I was able to get beside him JUST before we caught the lapper.  I was able to hold my position at the top of the esses and effectively use the lapper as a 'pick' on Charlie.  With that pass made, I then had to make "picture perfect" turns down the esses .. just ENOUGH, but for sure NOT TOO MUCH!!.. once thru there, T13 was under yellow and no passing was allowed.  I made a good T13 and got a good run through the double apexes onto the front straight .. it looked (to me) like I had it easy .. but Charlie started closing in the draft... I moved right a bit to "lessen" his draft, but of course he followed.... the S/F line was coming ... and so was Charlie.. the line.. Charlie.. the line.. CHECKER!!  I won with Charlie along side, but just about 1/2 car length short at the line.  SUPER!!  I was fortunate enough to win BOTH of the NOLA races.  I never had expected to be able to pull that off with this competitive field.  Laura finished 3rd with Donnie right behind her.

On the tow home, we overnighted in a rest stop and finished up early afternoon Monday (nice to be RETIRED happy ).  Fortunately, Bullet seems nearly perfect so I probably won't even unload him before we head to Road Atlanta where we will try again for TWO WINS!

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Road Atlanta (#1) - March - MAJORS weekend
The tow to the track was nice. Left home and was pulling into registration 45 minutes later happy. Not quite the greatest ever, however, since it was raining and stayed that way pretty much all day. Just left Bullet in the trailer - no sense in getting everything wet, so I pulled the bodywork off and did a nut/bolt check inside since all should be ready.

It rained off and on all night and was still misting Friday morning but the track was just dry enough to be able to scrub in some tires. My plan was to scrub in two sets today - 1 set for this weekend, and a 2nd set for VIR.  It was pretty messy in the first session but since it was damp I could stay out for the entire session. I qualified third or forth but it really didn't matter because there were going to be some dry sessions ahead. I strapped on the second set for the second qualifier and the track was now dry. I set myself a scrub limit of 3 laps max, and went out and got a decent one on the third lap, cooled it and came on in. When the grid was posted I was once again 3rd but this time very close time wise. considering that we had eight cars that could potentially win the race I felt that was a pretty good starting point and our day was done. Interestingly, an hour later I received a text requesting that I go play a tennis match or my team would have to forfeit. Since everything seemed OK and it was only a little over an hour to the tennis courts I decided to accept and go. In the end we won the match - so far so good for the weekend happy
.

For the 15 minute Saturday morning qualifier, the track was dry but cool. I went out on older tires with the primary goal of bringing Bullet back in one piece. I ran only about four laps, with no times as good as Friday afternoon's. Seemed the track was not that good so I came on in. When the grid came out I noted that a few people had gone slightly faster than yesterday but none of the grid positions actually changed, so I stayed in third.

Race 1 - At race time, the track seem to be in great condition. Nice and dry with clean fresh rubber on it from the afternoon and morning qualifying sessions. T&S had separated the Vee's from the (potentially) faster FF and F5 cars. Mitch had the Vee pole but didn't drop back any from the cars in front of us. At the green, the start was near disaster as we mixed it up in the middle of the slower FF/F5 cars going to turn 1. Charlie Rogers dove through the middle of the Vees and took the lead. Mitch grabbed second, then Greg and I slotted into 3rd and 4th. Things were pretty mixed up for a couple laps as we struggled with the slower cars from the front pack. Finally, things sorted out and we had a Vee pack of 8 cars. The bad news was that I had gotten shuffled back and was now the seventh car in that pack. With the draft everyone was flying down the back straight!  I tried to move up but the top speed with 6 cars drafting in front of me made it tough.  There's still plenty of time in the race but I really need to figure out a way. After about 3 more laps, I was finally able to get in position to pass Gary and Laura and pulled out to make my move as we came into T10A. I was past Gary and holding my position on the inside beside Laura while watching the brake markers come at me -- trying to figure out where I would slot in. Just before I reached the point were I was going to have to hit the brakes, the line to my right shot backwards and I was able to move past, Laura, Charlie Hearn and Charlie Rogers all at once to drop into 3rd. WOW .. FOUR cars at once ... That worked out rather well I thought happy. I considered the, now, front 3 cars - Donnie, Mitch, and myself and thought ... hmmmm, this just might be an opportunity to break off a 3 car pack if we treat other nice for a couple of laps. 2 laps later we were indeed a 3 car lead pack, with seconds in hand over the rest of the field. The 3 of us swapped the lead several times until the 2 leading FF cars started lapping us. As always seems to be the case I happened to be in third as they bulled their way past us and I got split off quite a number of car lengths from Donnie & Mitch.  They played EXTREMELY nicely with each other, trying to drop ME off that pack. Linda was updating me on the fast cars coming through and they had already spread out quite a bit ,leaving no large packs of cars to worry about. So now it was up to me to make up the distance to the 2 cars ahead. It took about 3 laps to reel them in but I got it done and retook the lead... but not for long. As the last lap approached (this was a 25 minute timed race) the 4th and 5th FF cars came through us and then a lap later had contact and took each other out at the exit of 10B. I was able to pass and take the lead going into 10A on that lap as I surmised there might be a chance the race would be checkered early because of those cars just off the track to the left. Unfortunately (for me) the stewards decided to leave them alone and let the race finish. Linda was watching for the lead FF behind us and predicted that he would catch us on the last lap. That would shorten our race by 1 lap so I tried to position myself to take advantage if possible. I was in the lead as one of the F5's came up to pass us and was happy to see that he got between me and Donny & Mitch and I gained about a two or 3 second advantage as we started the last lap. It looked like I might just be able to hold it, however that same car closed the gap to me and passed me going into turn 6 where he cost me about one and a half seconds and then another 2 seconds at T7. (Giveth and Taketh away) .... So here we are - they are back on my tail, we're on the last lap and I'm a sitting duck. As I arrive at T9, Donnie pulls to the inside to pass as we head down toward the brake markers for T10A. He's doesn't get completely by but he does have the inside position. I'm watching the brake markers approach - pondering what I might do just as Mitch dives down the inside of Donnie at the last instant to put me into 3rd. Fortunately for me, he goes a little deep and runs off track allowing Donnie to duck inside him and I find JUST enough room to follow Donnie through. Mitch recovers for 3rd as we head for the finish line and that's the way it ends. A pretty great race and a fun time - and no contact between any of the three of us. Later, in impound, I am greeted by someone who hands me the provisional results with a note at the bottom that says I just set a New Lap Record with a 1:42.809 happyhappy. After all the years I spent trying to get that record back, it certainly helps to soften the blow of finishing only second! That would also mean I have the pole for tomorrow's race.

I was awakened about 4 a.m. b
y rain on the roof of the RV - we DID have a forecast for rain all day. I lay there and pondered the issues around the rain race and the possibility of one of those iffy situations between rains and dries. I also pondered the issues of being behind the FF & F 5 cars and their historical INability to be able to get through turn one on a damp track without crashing. Before I went back to sleep I decided I needed to talk to the chief steward first thing in the morning to see about dropping the Vees back far enough to get a separate green from the first pack.

Race 2 - At wake up time it was indeed raining and the track was soaked. we broke out the rain tires, made sure they were aired and ready, and I set off to find the chief steward. I found him in the media room and expressed my concerns to him. Thankfully, he agreed with my assessment and also agreed that giving us a separate green was a viable and acceptable option. I then went upstairs and found our operating steward who also agreed.  It would OK for me (as the Vee pole) to drop the the Vee pack back far enough to allow the front cars to get through turn one before we would see the green. That way the option would also be available to show us a simultaneous yellow should there be a melee in t1. Fortunately, both starts went great and no one crashed - at least right away. (Linda says the start was amazing because she could see NO INDIVIDUAL CARS!  Just a hazy spray down the front straight.) I got a good start and took the lead in to turn 1 and stretched it immediately. I gradually pulled away to about a 5 second lead over Mitch in 2nd place and had the race well in hand. Then an FF lost it coming out of 10b and high sided himself on the bumpers.  The stewards immediately called for double yellows and a safety car. at wits' endArrrGGat wits' end - The big gap I had built up was going to go away sad Doing my best to maintain the gap, I didn't slow much  - until I caught the car ahead of me and I could not pass. It was quite frustrating to see my lead evaporating quickly .. and on top of that, the FF in question cleared himself and the safety car was never dispatched - the yellow flags just suddenly disappearing .. however, Mitch was now on my tail. At least it was just ONE car and not the entire pack.  After a couple laps, he passed and took the lead .. then I found out what he had been dealing with up till now...the spray in close wake was unbelievable!  I followed as closely as I could while I measured him for a pass on the last lap.  I decided I could get it done ...  but I would have to be CLOSE.  Finally, Linda gives me "last lap" as we pass under the waving white - it's now or never.  I set my distance as best I could as we came toward T6.  Gotta make a good T7 this time or all is lost.  Down the back straight and I'm in position .. actually a little TOO close .. so I pause a microsecond or 2 and start closing .. Mitch moves to the left to block but I'm already ahead of his rear tire.  It's getting pretty narrow over here ... Ok.. he's leaving me enough (JUST enough) room and I have the inside as well as position.  Just have to make the turn into T10A clean.. braking .. feeling good... car is stable ...then ... SOMETHING happens .. not sure just what, but suddenly Bullet SKATES forward about 6 or 8 feet... and I'm in the dirt!  I catch it with just my rf wheel in mud and correct .. is it enough? .. maybe?.. yes... NO!, Mitch is getting by.  I gather it up and pour all I got into it, but it's just not enough and I'm following him to the Checker sad.  I don't know what happened.  Pretty sure Mitch didn't hit me .. didn't FEEL any contact.. we just SLIPPED a bit .. a spot of deeper water I guess, but what's done is done.  I'm miffed to have gotten so much of it right, but still lost the race, but it was still a good race. Even though Mitch and I had side to side contact more than once out there, it was REALLY messy, slippery and quite difficult to SEE exactly where your opponent was.  Neither car was measurably hampered that I could tell, so .. no harm, no foul so the saying goes.  At impound, the Operating Steward tells me that the corner workers thought Mitch might have hit me after I completed my pass, but I don't think so.. at least I didn't FEEL anything like that, so they let it go and we're done.

A pretty good weekend, even though we managed to lose both races in the last 2 turns, but the lap record is still mine and it lasted the entire weekend this time . AND Bullet is in one piece and running well.  Time to start looking towards VIR in 4 weeks. (Sorry.. again, no pix - just can't seem to figure out how to take my phone out of my pocket and SNAP a couple during each weekend .. I'm working on it sad )

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VIR (Virginia International Raceway)- April - MAJORS event
The tow was uneventful and we arrived a little after noon on Thursday... to find the paddock COMPLETELY FULL. Wow... We had to get with the paddock marshal who finally found us a place to park and get power .. although the power was 3 paddock spots away from the parking spot.  Fortunately, I have a long cord happy Bullet was ready to go and all we had to do was select exactly which tires to use for the first session.  The entry was good with some 12 vees entered and at least half of them potential winners.

Q1 - The session went fine, but Bullet seemed to be down on power .. or everyone else was suddenly UP on power.  I couldn't pass any of the "fast cars" - it was pretty disappointing.  I worked to set up a decent lap, but spun at T4 to start what was going to be my best. I ended up 5th on the grid - still not too bad considering the old tires.  After the session, we started checking everything again and found a bent jackscrew on the left trailing arm.  It wasn't 'bad', but I replaced it anyway.  We also found the rear to be slightly 'askew' from the front - also corrected, but I didn't expect any big improvements from either.  We ALSO found a slightly dragging brake on the rf - I did hope that THAT fix would make things better.

Q2 - I put on some better tires, but still could barely keep up.  I ran a couple of laps with Jonathan and was still losing ground to him on the straights.. not good, but with that great draft, I did manage to pop off a little better time and move myself to 3rd behind Jonathan and Mitch.  Back in the paddock, we found another dragging brake shoe too.  It doesn't take much to make quite a difference.

Race 1 - I had major concerns about what might happen at the green - I might get dropkicked to the back - however, I was quite surprised and pleased to actually be the first car to T1. It appeared that the dragging brake was worse than I had thought and we were again competitive at the front.  Jonathan passed me back on exit from T1 and I tucked in behind him.  I drafted by on the back straight and led lap 1.  Bullet was handling great and we had no trouble keeping up and passing.  We had a 5 or 6 car lead pack and Laura passed for the lead to start lap 4.  I retook the lead with Jonathan on my tail as we passed S/F and headed for T1 again.  Counting the brake markers down 5, 4, 3 BRAKE...downshift... tur...**WHAM**!! Jonathan PLOWED into me - broke my rear trailing arm - spun me into Donnie's path and Donnie CLOBBERED me again in the right rear.  I ended up facing counter race near the apex, but I could tell I had significant damage - the least of it being a flat rr tire.  I grabbed a gear and found that I COULD move - drove it across the track after the last car came through and kept doing until I was far enough away from the track that no FCY would be required.  After getting out and signaling to the corner workers that I would need a HOOK, I looked around and noticed Donnie also pulled off a couple hundred yards further up the track.  At that moment, I was not yet really sure WHO had hit me, but my video resolved that later.  At that time, I just knew that I had a LOT of work to do. I watched the rest of the race, but could not figure out who was leading for sure.  I saw Laura and Gary nose to tail, then lots of space, then Ray and Chris. More space, then Dale.. more space and then Mitch... more space, then Bill.  No Jonathan.  I later found out the sequence.
1) Jonathan hits me, spinning me into Donnie's path
2) Donnie hits me
3) Mitch climbs over Donnie's rear tire, launching him completely into the air over Donnie
4) Laura is trying to find a place to go when Dale hits her on the lr tire, causing him a bent tie rod and a spin to the outside.
5) Jonathan gets by clean on the outside and takes the lead
6) Laura is undamaged and Gary follows her through after Jonathan
7) The rest of the field is now slow enough to weave through the carnage of Donnie and I and the racing resumes.

2 laps later Jonathan lost an engine leaving Laura and Gary to fight for the win.  A lapping FF or F5 broke them apart on the last lap, leaving Laura with a solid win.... and Donnie and I with LOTS of work ahead.

About NINE hours and many parts later, we had Bullet back close to race shape at wits' end.  I would get *ONE* hardship lap in the morning to see how we had done We ended up having to replace the right side wheel, brake drum, axle, axle tube, side gear, and both trailing arm jack screws as well as a number of fasteners and other minor hardware items. 

On my single hardship lap, I could tell that things were NOT right - braking was bad and I had no top end at all.  Back in the paddock, the right rear was almost totally locked up.  Apparently, the replacement drum had studs that were too long inside - destroying most of the braking components on that sideI had to go borrow some parts, but we got that fixed and waited for grid time - hoping that we found all the problems.

Race 2 - At the green, I was VERY happy to find that Bullet was up to the task. We led most of the laps and eventually pared the front pack down to 3 cars - Mitch, Dale and myself.  Linda is counting laps as we get near the end.  She tells me that the overall leader is taking the waving white LAST LAP indicator behind us as we exit T2It would seem a pretty sure thing that he will lap us and this will be our last lap.  I set myself up and take the lead on the back straight - pull a near perfect hog pen and lead to S/F .... only to see the waving white rather than the checker I expected .. the leader had stayed behind us so as to not interfere with our race ... RATS!!  Now I'm in the lead and a sitting duck again.  Trying to decide whether I want to lead into the top of hog pen or not... Mitch and Dale challenge, but do NOT pass.  I know I have to make a pretty perfect exit onto the front straight to have a chance of holding it to S/F .. I hit it as hard as I dare .. and **ALMOST** make it perfect .. but it wasn't.  I dropped a tire off the outside and knew I was DONE.  Out into the grass -  a couple of spins before I can get slowed down enough to head back toward the track.  I see Mitch and Dale as I spin around and Laura just gets by as I get back to the black part.  I have turned a near win into a distant 4th place finish slaping smiley What a DUMMIE I am!

At least, Bullet is in good shape again and just needs a better driver.  I wasn't planning to go to Summit Point, but now things are different.  I NEED to go.  There will be good competition there and I NEED the practice.  Let's go get 'em!!
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Summit Point - May - Majors (out of my conference but COUNTS just like NOLA - a 'crossover event')
The first segment of the drive up went pretty well with no issues other than sitting STOPPED on I85 for 2 hours while officials cleared a semi rig and its cargo from the roadway.

It was carrying large equipment racks like those in Home Depot.  I heard on the CB that the driver was not injured, but he sure left a mess on the road.  About 7 hours after we finally started rolling again, we pulled into a rest stop to spend the night about 2 hours from the track. Our trip came to a stumbling block the next morning when I tried to crank the engine and got nothing. After a few minutes, I realized that my transmission control panel was DEAD.  Some 2 hours of futzing around and several phone calls later, I finally managed to get the engine cranked and the transmission into gear and we continued our trip to the track. Even thought we got there just fine, I had no degree of confidence that the transmission module (TCU) was actually fixed so I tested it several times during the weekend with mixed results. (I also thanked my lucky stars that the TCU had NOT failed while we were sitting in the middle of I85 yesterday!)

During the troubleshooting process I came to realize that temperature might be part of the problem so I experimented by heating the ECU with a hair dryer and that did seem to help. We would not know for sure though, until it was time to leave on Sunday afternoon.  The prospect of spending several more days in the paddock waiting for parts to arrive was not attractive at all.

In the Friday morning qualifier I had one major goal and that was to not crash like I did last year. I controlled my aggression and still managed to qualify 8th with a time about equal to my best lap last year after the crash.  Everything felt good.  We had over 20 vees registered for this event. A couple of TOUGH races were in store. 

For the second qualifier I bolted on some slightly better tires with intentions of working my way down to a semi-decent lap time. I ended up with a group of pretty fast cars and managed to pull off a late break maneuver at T1 that led to a pretty good lap that put me on the pole. Quite a surprise but I was pleased with the results and it bode well for the race.  At least I was confident that I could keep up .. maybe.

The Saturday morning qualifier was only 15 minutes and I had no expectations of going any faster so I put my oldest tires back on and just worked on my lines. No one eclipsed my time so I remained on the pole.  After we came in, Linda told me we had a bit of a problem.  A SKUNK problem. 

One was wandering around our paddock area .. stumbling erratically in circles.  I made a small (but safe) attempt to capture him under a garbage can, but gave up.  Linda was confident that the skunk was rabid and quite dangerous, even though he was moving quite slowly and not showing any signs of true aggression.  We contacted the race director and they took over - brought in the big guns (a pellet gun) and shot the animal out of its misery. Job done.

Race 1- Having the pole is nice but rarely does it lead to being the first car in to T1, especially with such a long front straight and the great competition at this event. True to form, even though I got what I thought was a pretty good start, I still ended up 4th into T1. Rick Shields got by to take the lead and extended that lead quite quickly. The second pack settled into five cars but we couldn't decide who should lead to try to go after Rick. Rick got close enough to a couple of the slower F5s to get a nice draft and in a couple of laps, we were racing for second. Bullet was running and handling well but I had trouble passing with the 5 car draft - that left me near the back of the pack most of the time. On the 13th lap I finally got into a passing position inside of Dale and Gary coming to the braking  point. I hit the brakes and the car slowed for about a millisecond and then suddenly my pedal went to the floor... 110 MPH and NO BRAKES!!!! I knew Dale was outside of me on my left with Gary right on his gearbox but I was out of control! I managed to get just a little bit of turn, but all I could really do was HOPE that Dale would recognize my situation and leave me enough room to get off the track without climbing over the top of anyone. Fortunately he did and I exited the track at a pretty high rate of speed but managed to get slowed and make my way back to the track after the pack was gone. I slowly drove back to the pits and then my paddock spot. As I pulled up next to the RV, I could see brake fluid all over the right front wheel so I had a pretty good idea of what had happened.

When I took the hub off, I found the blown wheel cylinder that I expected but also found something I did not expect. Somehow the end of the brake shoe had gotten out of the slot on the end of the wheel cylinder. I have to assume that it was that way the entire weekend at VIR and it's truly amazing that it ran as many sessions as it did before that failure. The end of the shoe was riding on a small lip on the edge of the 'wheel cylinder thingie that comes out the ends' (whatever that's called).  The fix was relatively easy - just reassemble it properly, stupid! However, there was brake fluid everywhere and the shoes were saturated. These special racing shoes are extremely expensive so I did not want to just replace them, so I cleaned them as best I could with lacquer thinner and drove around the paddock trying to heat the shoes with no success. After reinspection I found no other issues and eventually decided that shoes would just need to be baked out more than I could do meandering around the paddock area.  Fortunately there would be a 10 minute warm up session Sunday morning before the race where I could work much harder to get the shoes heated up.

In the warm up I was hitting the brakes hard every chance I got, fighting the SIGNIFICANT pull to the left each time. It took forever for the shoes to get heated and I was about ready to give up when... finally I could feel some improvement. By the end of the session, I was relieved to be able to go flat out into T1 and get the car slowed and turn in under control. I think we're ready for the race.

Rick turned the fastest lap in the Saturday race but he missed topping my poll time by 0.002 secs, so I still had the pole for the Sunday race.

At the green I got another good start but this time amazingly I actually was the first car out of t1 - however, Rick got a good run and passed me going into T3. I was determined that he was not going to drive away and leave me in the dust this time. I hung close as did the train behind me.  When we got to the front straight, I realized that I was actually able to PASS today.. I guess the brake was dragging a little yesterday before it gave up the ghost.  A lap later, Dale got into T1 a little hot and tagged the back of Roger .. throwing his nose into the air behind us.  He was in front of me at the time, so I watched Roger and Rick slip away with me behind the wounded Dale.  I followed him to the front and then drafted by, bringing Gary and Mitch with me.  On the next lap, Gary and Mitch drafted by me and then Mitch was able to pass Gary before T3.  We were still 'in touch' with Rick and Roger, but some 7 or so car lengths back.  I passed Gary and closed on Mitch a bit as he closed on the 2 leaders.  A lap or so later, the lead F5 and FF lapped us ... splitting Rick and Roger and breaking me off again.  Another couple of laps go by and we are a 4 car pack again.. another lapping car and suddenly Roger and Mitch are out front and Rick and I are trailing. Rick and I swap positions once, but then I decided that my best decision would be to follow closely behind Rick and see if we could close the gap to R&M.  In 3 laps we had closed to within 2 car lengths.. then another lapping car split us off again .. back to 7 or 8 lengths.  At it again.. we're closing - slowly, but still closing.  We are now only about 2 lengths back and I can see that Roger is having issues at T5.  On the next lap, Mitch makes a move at T5 and spins off ... and Roger opens another 4 car lengths on us, but we eat it up quickly.  Now we are a THREE CAR PACK.. and I'm in it.  Bullet seems to be getting better and better - I can stay REALLY close in the turns and could pass for the lead ... but what's the point?  There's still some 6 laps to go.  I think I'll just stay here .. never can tell what might happen and I'm remembering my mistake at VIR on the last lap.  NO MISTAKES!!  Worst case, finish 3rd .. but maybe 2nd or 1st if I do things right.  Bullet is feeling better and better at T10 coming onto the front straight. Roger is still having issues at T5.. and he takes the lead from Rick with 3 to go.  I'm glued to Rick's gearbox as we come out of T3 down the chute.  I see smoke off Roger's tires... he's loose.. he's going around .. Rick is looking for a place to go, but he's on Roger's right for the left turn.. Roger's blocking Rick into the grass and *I* have JUST enough time to tuck in under Roger's nose and get cleanly through the turn.  I'M IN THE LEAD happyhappy OK.. remember **NO MISTAKES**. My job now is to make SURE that I don't take myself out of this win.  If they catch me again, then so be it.  CONTROLLED aggression .. GOOD LAPS.  Don't have to be GREAT .. just really good.  Coming around to the waving white .. last lap.  I can see Roger and Rick in my mirrors, but they are still several seconds behind me.  NO MISTAKES!!  ...CRAP.. an F5 ahead of me ... what's he going to do?  Yes.. I'm going to catch him RIGHT at T1... where's he going?  Does he see me? no 'point', but I'm going by on the inside.. PLEASE just stay on the outside .. HE DOES!!  I'm clear .. through T3 .. the chute, the carousel.. coming out, I can see R&R back there .. still plenty of room ...  NO MISTAKES!!  A great run through T10 onto the front straight and I'm HOME FREE.  The CHECKER is waving .. for ME! happyhappyhappy

Most likely our last Major for 2015, but I do plan to come back here (to hopefully repeat my win) at the Formula Fest event in August.  Thanks to all that help me compete at this level in such a thrilling sport -- Dietmar at QuixoteRacing.com, JR at RoxannesHeaders.com, Rolling at ButlerEngines.com, Rodney at Racetire.com and, of course LINDA as well as a host of others. Also, congrats to Laura Hayes who did not attend this event, but had already clinched the SEDIV Conference for 2015.  A great accomplishment.  We ended up 4th in the conference and 5th in the nationwide points as a result of my 2 DNF's.  Unfortunate, but it's really only the WINNER that matters anyway :).
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Summit Point - August - Open Wheel Special event - and FV has it's own group!


Well... My left shoulder had designs on the rest of my season this year.  I developed extreme pain there coming home from Road Atlanta in March.  I've been tolerating it since then, but it's been gradually getting worse and worse.  After Summit Point, I had 2 state championship tennis matches to complete, and I did so .. but the DAY after I got back I called to schedule surgery for June 11th.  All went as well as could be expected and I then faced the task of getting recovered in time for the Runoffs in September.  I was as aggressive as I dared, but my doctor assured me there was NO WAY I could be ready in time.  The doc doesn't KNOW me.

3 weeks after surgery, I was in the garage working on 'stuff' toward the Runoffs.  Unfortunately, there really was NO WAY I could make the Summit Point Special - just couldn't get in and out of the car fast enough to suit me .. yet.  3 weeks before the Runoffs, I retrieved my freshened engine from Rollin and packed it in the trailer.  I was scheduled for a test day at Daytona on Sept 19.. and we were ON SCHEDULE to be there, ready to go. Several car IN/OUTs indicated that all was well - at least shoulder wise.
happy

I loaded up Bullet on the 16th and we left for Daytona the morning of the 17th.
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2015 Runoffs  - Daytona, Florida- First time there for the Runoffs in 45 years (1969).  Should be an interesting event.
The tow down was uneventful and we arrived at the track with plenty of time to get registered, find our paddock spot and get everything set up for the next 10 days.

Test Day, Saturday - The first session ended up being pretty short for us. A 20 minute session on the clock, but leaving the grid, I only got to T3 (horseshoe) before the shifter started acting up.  I had NO GEARS, and no way to continue.  I sought out a safe place in the infield to 'HIDE' and coasted to a stop on the motorcycle section short of T6.  With nothing better to do, I got out to take a look .. just in case the problem was external.  Turned out, it WAS.  Somehow, the feeble shop mechanic (me), managed to clamp the shifting mechanisim INCORRECTLY - so much so, that it FELL OFF of the shifting 'hockey stick' in the transmission. Good news, however, since one of the resident emergency vehicle crew happened to have a small water pump plier set.  With that as my 'tool box', I was able to reconnect the shifter and reenter the session, albeit with only 2 laps to go ...  MUCH better than NO laps and Bullet was ready to go again.

The second session went much better and I turned times faster than I had EVER been at Daytona.  Well under the lap record - with no draft (only 5 vees were testing).

The skies clouded up and it looked like the 3rd (and last) session would be rained out.. but it held off .. and the temps cooled a bit.  In that session, I managed to get down into the 23's .. (that's 2:23.x) .. again, the fastest that I had ever been at this track .. and all alone with no draft.  Mike Varacins was also testing and he and I were the only cars in the 23's.  Bullet was in great shape and things were looking pretty good.

On Sunday, our task was to swap out the test 'mule' engine and put in the 'killer Runoffs' motor (aka, the most recently refreshed engine from Rollin). This gave us a chance to test out my newly designed ENGINE HOIST - using a boat winch, a step ladder and about 8 feet of aluminum beam. For the first use, the new hoist worked great.  Both Linda and I are getting old enough that it was imperative that I come up with some alternative to the "2 guys muscle out/in the motor" method used for the last 30 years.  I am happy with my result and the swap proceeded without incident.  We took a couple of breaks to watch the Vee group testing .. I think there were some 12 or so vees out there on Sunday.  None of them were able to eclipse my time from Saturday. .. things are still looking decent.

Qualifying --

We had 4 sessions - one each day from Monday through Thursday.  Monday's session went pretty well, but it was HOT.  They gridded us according to national points and that started me 6th - right behind MV.  As I expected, MV pulled into pit lane and did not continue with the group.  But that still left about 6 or 7 of us to run together.  The hard part is trying to set up a decent lap .. you need to get a clean run through the infield - without running up on anyone that slows you down.. and then have a car or 2 in front of you between the T6 infield exit onto the banking .. and then a clean run through the chicane, not having to slow for anyone.. and then hopefully another few cars to draft between the chicane and S/F.  It's quite a tall order trying to put that together over a 3.5 mile track.  Needless to say, I was NOT successful in that regard.  However, I did manage to NOT crash and I did get some good drafts ..but I couldn't manage any clean runs through the infield. My best time was a 2:22.4 for 4th on the grid (the pole time was MV at a 21.3).

For Q2 - Q4 we gridded according to our qualifying times so I started 4th on Tuesday.  Something didn't seem right.  I wasn't pulling up in the draft nearly as well as test day and Q1. Best time I could manage was a 23 flat .. and I dropped 2 spots on the grid to 6th.  The weather had been all over the map as it usually is in Daytona this time of year, but so far we had good dry sessions.

It rained Wednesday morning and was still slightly damp when we hit the track at 10:30 for Q3, but the track was still pretty decent. Again I just couldn't put anything magic together. I was still not 'pulling up' in the draft for some reason. Best time was a mid 23, but I held my position on the grid.  Roger, however, got a great lap ans pulled off a 2:21.1, taking the pole away from MV.  After the session, I talked to Rollin and we decided to make a carburetor jet change.  We were AT sea level and relatively close to an offshore hurricane that was affecting the barometric pressure. I figured I couldn't make it much worse.

Q4 started out GREAT.  The jet change seemed to help and I was better able to draft.  About 4 laps into the session, I slowed slightly to let Gary Kittell catch me so we could draft together. The first and second attempts worked pretty well, but on the 3rd, I drafted by Gary between T6 and chicane.  I saw a couple of cars up ahead that I MIGHT be able to get a draft from .  Apparently, Gary also saw those cars and had the same idea .. and made a move to get back by me going into the chicane.  It was a LATE move, but he had the inside - at the last instant, I let off and tucked in behind him... however, he was too deep and overshot the turn-in, so I took the normal line, thinking he would be going through the grass.. but he didn't.  He somehow managed to turn-in outside of me, putting him on the inside for the next apex .. only 2 car lengths away.  He was trying to stay on the asphalt and I didn't see him until we hit.  His left front CLANGED my right front and then slid down the side of my car until I ran over it with my right rear axle (fortunately missed his TIRE).  The impact sent me well into the air and spun me around - but the engine was still running and I could see all 4 tires still attached... so I put it in 1st and drove on.  Getting back on the banking, I 'jigged' the car around a bit and all felt good .. so, I continued.  Ron Whitston passed me coming out of NASCAR 4 so I was in pretty good position to get a decent lap.  I eased up a bit to get more space to run the infield and went after it.  I finally got that CLEAN infield I'd been looking for and came out close enough to him to get 'some' help going into the chicane - got a good run through the chicane and caught him coming out of NASCAR 4 running to the line for my best lap of the session ... albeit still only a low 23.  I almost lost it going through T1 - Hmmm - do I have a tire going down?  Probably not going to be a good lap, but... hard through 2 toward the horseshoe - turn in, power out... RED LIGHT RED LIGHT!! NO OIL PRESSURE - HIT KILL SWITCH .. too late!
 at wits' end Coast down to T5 and exit through the infield gate.. DEAD. As if that wasn't bad enough, Weisheit eclipsed my time to drop me another spot to 7th on the grid.

The results are shown below --- just before his tire went under my axle tube, it hit the end of my valve cover and broke a huge hole in it.. from which pored ALL of my oil.  I had just enough to make one more lap before I ran OUT.






SO.. back to the test day engine (the one with TWELVE hours already on it).  Fortunately, it's a pretty good one too and we have all day Friday to make the change, so we took it easy and watched my incar video a few times.  Unfortunately, after I got home,  I transferred the RACE video for uploading .. and then the SD card DIED - dead .. no function, taking the Thursday crash video with it sad. Oh well.. at least I saved the race video.

After changing the engine Friday, I decided to make another jet change .. in the same direction for the race, then Linda and I went to dinner with friends ... hoping we could make it back in time for the FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Spec Miata race.. the FIRST EVER nighttime Runoffs race.  We did get back in time to catch the last 5 or 6 laps and it WAS EXCITING.  They had a great race with lots of changes near the end.  The race started wet .. but not raining.. so guys that opted for a dry setup ran poorly for half the race, then started moving forward as the track improved.  The race was won ON THE LAST LAP by a car with the dry setup.  Then there was a fantastic surprise FIREWORKS display put on by Mazda too.  Pretty neat.  If you are inclined, you should check out the video from the SCCA 'On Demand' video page (http://www.scca.com/pages/2015-scca-runoffs-ondemand) where all the races are available .. including mine.  I have no idea HOW LONG those videos will be available though.

RACE DAY -
Quite a long day for us, since we didn't race until 3:45. This year, SCCA was allowing a single 'reconnaissance'  laps on request between sessions.  I decided it only made good sense for me to do that if possible.  I arranged it Friday night and my lap was at the end of the 2nd race on Saturday.  The lap (just an 'out' and 'in') indicated that my jet change was not horrible, and all went well, but couldn't really tell much other than the car didn't fall apart and it had all gears. The long day provided time for me to go over the car a few more times between watching some other races. As it turned out, I noticed that the fluid in the rear brake master cylinder was quite low.. and I KNEW that I had checked it before leaving home.  That meant there was a LEAK somewhere.  Checked the master cylinder and brake lines.. no problems, so.. gotta take the rear hubs off - must be a wheel cylinder although no indication of a leak anywhere external.  Let's pick the right side to check first .. no problem ... naturally. So, reassemble that one and go for the left .. AH HA!  found some fluid and a busted rubber cover on one end of the cylinder .with the other end not looking much better.  New cylinder time.  Replaced that, checked everything over again and reassembled. Whew... glad I caught that one.  Running out of brakes at Daytona is not something I look forward to.

RACE TIME -
finally it's here.  Wait on the grid (7th) while they clean up some mess somewhere (adds to the excitement of the first lap happy).  Pace lap.... GREEN GREEN. I got a decent start, but still dropped a spot going into T1 .. but tucked inside and made that back up plus one more at the horseshoe.  Now in 6th.. through the infield.. Roger has the lead with a train leading back to me.  Bullet feels good. Out onto the banking, I draft up another spot and get a decent run through the chicane.  Cars up ahead - 3 of them drafting nose to tail.  I'm closing pretty fast and pull out .. make it up alongside the 1st car (MV)... but can go no further.. I hold the position outside to T1, then lose one - back to 4th (NOTE TO SELF.  You can only pass TWO cars .. not 3 that are drafting!).  In T1 (starting 2nd lap).. tuck into 4th - MV has passed Roger for the lead. As we exit onto the banking, I'm drafting Andrew, but opt not to pass.. he catches Roger and goes inside at the chicane. I stay with Roger when he pulls out to pass Andrew after we get onto the banking and we move to the FRONT (me in 2nd) ....(starting 3rd lap) ROGER GOES LONG.. I tuck up inside him and take the place - now in FIRST.  I lead through the infield with MV on my tail... back out onto the banking and MV makes a move and I crack the throttle to let him in front easily (to get his draft and not put out a TWO car draft for those behind). I draft back up to him closing fast, but again opt to stay behind.. just as Andrew (with Weisheit in tow) goes by us. Andrew leads through the chicane.  A drafting battle all the way to T1.. I pass all 3 on the outside, but MV ducks back inside and passes back.. bringing Weisheit with him. (starting 4th lap) Weisheit slips in T1 and I get inside him for T2 and follow MV through the infield. I make a mistake at T5 and go a bit wide.. Weisheit tries to stick it up inside me... giving MV a break.. but I hold him off.  Onto the banking .. MV is JUST out of my 'drafting reach'.. Weisheit goes by .. then Shields, Andrew and Ferguson pass us on the outside (this could get ugly). MV still leading, but we're RIGHT on his butt.  Roger is behind me, recovered from his T1 error.  I try to pull out and pass Andrew, Weisheit, and Ferguson .. while Roger goes by on my outside with Hearn right on his tail.  Wow .. talk about getting ugly... down into T1.. I'm now .. what? 8th .. I think. (starting lap 5) ROGER GOES LONG AGAIN .. taking Hearn with him.  I tuck back into 6th. Onto the banking.. MV has a small break, but I think Shields is closing on him.  I draft up to Andrew again and opt to stay with him to help close the gap to Ferguson. At the chicane, Hearn DIVES down the inside at the last instant and takes the spot (back to 7th.. I think). I get slowed up avoiding Hearn and end up with a gap coming out of NASCAR 4. I'm closing that gap and expect to make it all up in T1.. (starting lap 6) Roger passes me on the outside and clears me just before we turn down off the front straight ..ROGER NAILS THE BRAKES .. 5 car lengths before I'm expecting it. (Guess he was DETERMINED he was not going to go long this time).  I have to DIVE left to avoid piling into the back of him and end up about 3/4 alongside his left before I can get under control (took about ..5.. car lengths).  He TURNS LEFT right into me.. I assume he knew he had cleared me at one point and was turning in earlier and possibly watching someone on his right side - did not realize I was back alongside him.  We have CONTACT .. HARD contact and both spin.  His tire slides down my right side - punching a hole in my valve cover (AGAIN?!) and ending my race (the photo would look pretty much exactly like the one above).  My engine is running, but I can HEAR that something is terribly wrong.  I seek out a 'hiding place' to avoid causing a black flag all, as Roger drives away.  I finally find a safe location and shut down.  Roger drove away, but thought something was wrong and pulled off at the entry to the horseshoe.  Both of our races over at wits' end.  Another year gone by the wayside.  I "get" to watch the rest of the race, but cannot see the finish line where all the excitement is on the last lap.  MV pulled off another one - giving him FOUR championships.  Congrats to Michael on his win; Andrew Whitston took second and Rick Shields grabbed 3rd, with Charlie Hearn and Mitchell Ferfuson rounding out the top 5 - all at the line within about 2 car lengths!  It was a great race (although scary) for us right up to the crash. Charlie and Andrew TIED for the official lap record with a 2:21.142.  (19 of the 30 starters were under the old lap record!) If you are interested in seeing my view of the race (more or less), I have uploaded the video to vimeo.  You can watch it if you like at https://vimeo.com/140698301. The access password is DayRace80
If you'd like to see the entire race, it has been uploaded to YouTube - link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdHIOuAq-6U .

It was pretty devastating back at the paddock and I was DEAD TIRED, so we opted to not worry about heading home.  We wanted to stay and watch buddy Jim Belay's FC race in the morning anyway.. so we'd load up and head home after that.  Uneventful tow home.  Now we start plans for next year.
Hmmm.. maybe I'll run the ARRC at Atlanta in November ??

*******************************************************
Thanks as always to Rollin at ButlerEngines.com, JR at RoxannesHeaders.com Roxannes Headers - Exhaust components for FV and other racing sports cars and ... Rodney, Tim and Bruce at Hoosier tires (RaceTire.com) and Dietmar at QuixoteRacing.com  Quixote Racing - FV and FST parts and service.  Not to forget my wife, Linda, who travels with me to almost every race, and suffers me the joy of racing for all these years!

Regular Season team stats (EC races in yellow)

Race     Qualified Finished Points
Majors
notes
NOLA MAJOR#1 1st 1st 25  
NOLA MAJOR#2 1st 1st 25  
Atlanta MAJOR#1 3rd 2nd 21 LAP RECORD!
Atlanta MAJOR#2 1st 2nd 21 RAIN
VIR MAJOR #1 3rd DNF - got crashed out on L4
VIR MAJOR #2 3rd 4th 17 screwed up on last lap
Summit Point MAJOR #1 1st 15 6 lost brakes
Summit Point MAJOR #2 1st 1st 25
         
Season Total    SEDIV Conference 140 count best 8 races
(4th in conference)

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Runoffs/Divisional Finishes for the Wedge Racing Team


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