Our Sixth Race!
We tried again to get a finish at the June Jam event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (LMS). This would be our first time on a track with any significant banking. It was also the first time we’d be on a track with a name recognizable to people outside the road racing community. Rumor says this year might be the last time that Central Carolinas Region (CCR) would run at LMS due to rising costs, so we figured we better get LMS track time while we could. Since we’re still working on the brakes for the #91 car, and its engine needs rebuilding, besides, we decided to run the #88 car at this event (running as #99 due to a number conflict).
In an attempt to bolster “cross pollenation” between the Club Racing folks and the Solo (autocross) folks, CCR hosted a Solo event at LMS that weekend, too. The LMS management agreed to allow them to run the autocross on the kart track in the infield just inside NASCAR turn three. This meant that the racers could watch each other do their thing, and investigate if something piqued their interest.
As we often do, we planned to codrive the Carolina Cup Pro Series (CCPS) enduro event so that we could both get a finish with only having to run one race. Unfortunately, the CCPS schedule is often a bit of a mess, unlike the real convenience of the schedule at the Memorial Monster a few weeks ago. This weekend, the schedule had lots of down time, so we stayed with our Dad, who lives near Charlotte. It meant about a forty-five minute commute, but we had plenty of open schedule.
Our friend from Greenville, Freddy Klopper, was there, and it was his first time on that track, too. In fact, it seemed like quite a few of the drivers were there for their first time. We guess that with the rumor of no more events at LMS, everyone wanted to get their licks in while they could. Our friend Brian Dobson was registered but didn’t make the event, which is too bad. Since it wasn’t his first time at LMS, we’d hoped to pick his brain.
The trip up passed uneventfully. Lefty took that Friday off from work, and left Atlanta around 1100. He got to Sam’s shop around 1400 to pick up the #88 car. After fighting through a bit of Charlotte’s rush hour traffic, he got to the track about 1700. After wandering around the track property a bit, wondering where he was supposed to go, he found registration. Righty had to work, but was able to leave early. He arrived at LMS about twenty minutes later, and we both got registered.
This time, Lefty remembered to get the Toyo tires mounted before the event, so we could run in the IT7 class. The good folks at Pete Bennett’s Serivce Station (5590 Highway 9 North, Alpharetta, GA 30004, 770-475-6611) helped us out by mounting and balancing the tires (map). They’re really nice people that we’ve worked with before and we recommend them to anyone.
When we went through the tunnel into the infield, we started looking for paddock marshals to tell us where, and, more importantly, where not to set up our paddock space. We didn’t see any, so we picked a quiet spot beside the media center and unloaded and got set up.
Since we didn’t run the #88 car last year, and it’s been for sale, it hadn’t had an annual inspection for this season. Righty managed to cajole our friend Herb O’Toole into giving it the once over at Sam’s shop during the week before the race. Unfortunately, the log book wasn’t with the car, and was full besides, so we’d need extra time in the tech shed to get the inspection completed and the new log book issued.
So we were a little rushed to get set up before dark and get the car to the tech shed. We got just enough stuff set up to feel comfortable we’d be OK even if we didn’t get back to it before dark, and jumped in the car to head to the tech shed. And it wouldn’t start! We had power, at least to the dash board, but the starter didn’t even click when we turned the key!
After a little pointless detective work on our part, we enlisted the help of Kirk Riddle, one of our friends at the track who has run Baby Grand cars quite a bit. He poked around and found that the power lead to the starter had come off. A little more investigation and we determined that the part of the connector that provides the tension to hold the two halves together had aged and wasn’t providing tension. A little twist with a flat bladed screwdriver and we were off. Apparently it was so loose that the jostling of unloading the car from the trailer had knocked it off.
This weekend, the schedule put our practice session at 0800 on Saturday morning. Since we spent the night with Dad, about forty-five minutes from the track, we had to get an early start Saturday to make that 0800 session. On top of that, we found Friday night that the car only had a couple of gallons of fuel in it, so we had to stop on the way to the track and get a couple of cans of fuel.
As we’ve done on the previous Carolina Cup Pro Series races we’ve run, Lefty took the practice session. Neither one of us had ever driven the track, but Righty was willing to get his practice during the qualifying session, and he’s usually quicker than Lefty, anyway.
Lefty still wasn’t quite awake when he hopped in the car Saturday morning to head for the false grid. This was something of an operation by itself. Since we’d never been to this track before, we didn’t know any of the standard procedures and locations. We hadn’t thought to ask the folks in the tech shed the night before, and we were kinda lost. So Lefty drove in the general direction where we though the false grid was, and eventually found it.
Heading out from the false grid to the track, everything seemed fine. He was a little nervous because he’d never been on that track before, and because the car hadn’t been driven for quite some time. After a lap or two everything settled down normally. The car was pretty skittish and didn’t feel like it had much grip. This was our first time on the Toyo tires that are now required in the IT7 class in Southeast Division.
After a few laps, Lefty received a “meatball” flag, and proceeded to the pits. As he traversed pit lane, he looked for a “black flag marshal” to tell him what was wrong, but didn’t see one. After returning to his paddock, he finally found from the folks at timing and scoring that the black flag was for having left his window net down. How embarrassing! And a little confusing. He really expected something mechanical to be wrong, and that he’d have received a regular black flag for the window net. Anyway, he hopped back in the car to use any time left in the session. As he came around the tri-oval on the first lap after restarting, the checkered flag flew.
On the banking, the car wanted to drift to the right as it made the transition from the back straight onto the banking of NASCAR turn three. After a moment, it would settle down on the banking, and then it wanted to apex between NASCAR turns three and four, making the turn one long curve instead of two discrete turns.
Back in the paddock, we checked the tire pressures and found that we’d forgotten to set them before the session. The hot pressures after that session were about 38 psi, which we reckon is way too high, and part of the reason that the car felt so skittish. So we took about four pounds of air out of the tires before the next session.
We also found that the #88 car had performed quite well that session, from a maintenance view. Even though it’d hardly even been run since the fall, it showed no more than its usual cold naturedness, except for the starter power line falling off. It hadn’t pushed any oil into the catch can or the engine compartment, or anything like that. It wasn’t making any strange noises. So that was all good after the troubles with the #91 car at the last two events.
After a couple of relaxing hours snacking and wandering around the paddock, our qualifying session started right after lunch, about 1220. The heat was starting to get really noticable at this point, but not enough to require cold packs in our suits or anything like that.
We ended up qualified fourth in a class of six or seven cars, which was really about what we expected, though Righty had hoped to do better.
The Carolina Cup Pro Series (CCPS) races take the format of forty-five minute “enduros”. The rules require that each car make a pit stop of at least two minutes, and prohibit refuelling during the race. The rules generally encourage codriver teams, and we take advantage of that.
As often happens, the CCPS race ends up running as the last session of the event. In this case, we expected it to start around 1530 Sunday afternoon. As things turned out, there were a lot of retrievals from the preceding session, and it started a little late due to retrievals in the previous session ... So the CCPS race ended up starting a little after 1700.
As has become our custom, Righty took the green flag for our team and drove the first half of the race. We don’t have the cool shirt systems installed and running, so he put three frozen “cool packs” inside his driving suit to help keep him cool.
DESCRIPTION OF THE RACE ITSELF
Once the race ended, they reported to impound, since the first four cars of each class were required to, and only four IT7 cars finished the race. There was a protest that didn’t involve us that kept the field stuck in impound until about 1830. Once out of impound, we streaked back to our paddock space and packed the trucks and loaded the trailer.
After the late start, we were anxious to get started on the way home. We finally got packed and headed out from the track about 1900. Being that late, and being hungry as hell, we decided to go ahead and eat near the track, before really getting started on the way home. After that, we finally got on the Interstate around 2015.
Righty went straight home Sunday night. Lefty still needed to drop off the #88 car at Sam’s, and finally did that and was ready to head out by about 2300. Since it was so late, and he was so tired, and he had Monday off from work, he decided to stay at Mom’s for the night and continue to Atlanta in the morning. Which he did and was all unloaded and napping by 1300 on Monday.
This was really a pretty good event for The Nuts when all was said and done. The weather was a bit warm, but it was June in Charlotte, for Heaven’s sakes! It was actually cooler than it could have been, and it wasn’t a problem, though we did go through about fifteen liters of water over the weekend. And running on the high banking of a legendary track like Lowe’s Motor Speedway was just amazing.
We went in focused on getting a finish toward renewing our licenses next year, and we got it. We still need one more for the season, but we’re half way there. We only had one minor problem with the car, which was a nice change from the problems we’ve had with the #91 car the last few times.
The Toyos definitely have less grip than Hoosiers, even after we lowered the pressures significantly. Maybe we still had them too high, or maybe the track was really greasy, but we didn’t hear anyone else talking about lack of grip. But we sure didn’t have the grip we’re used to with the Hoosiers.
would like to extend thanks to the following people and
organizations for their help in making this an enjoyable
and fun experience:
We sure hope we haven’t forgotten anyone. If we have, please let us know and we’ll get you listed.
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