I spent the morning getting ready for practice and making sure I had all of my excuses for being slow lined up. Fortunately, I was able to use one immediately as I only did one "hot" lap before I felt a nasty thumping/gallop from the right front. This is especially scary with the high banking that Rockingham has. I brought it in fearing the worst and it only turned out to be loose lugs on the right front. I must have forgotten to tighten those down while telling lies to Travis and Al. Whoops! Even with loose lugs an one lap in, I was still only 3 seconds off the pace. I ran a 1:15.8 for the first practice session.
With the lugs all secured, it was time for quali. I had some good clean laps and even got to dice a little with a white 944 for the last two laps. I ran a 1:11.776 putting me squarely into 6th out of seven racers. Not as fast as I wanted, but it would suffice. Robert Patton took the pole with a blistering 1:08.917! That is an eternity faster on such a small track.
When race time came I found that I was surprisingly calm and relaxed as I was sitting on grid waiting to go out. The green flag fell and I got and alright start. I found myself staring at the car in front of my instead of the starter. I settled into position and started racing. On about the third or forth lap, Steven Canterbury pulled a perfect pass into the braking zone for turn 3. This rattled me a bit because I've never actually been passed for position. I tucked in behind and focused on staying with him for the next few laps. The chance to take back my position came in turn 4, fishhook. Steven was running wide on turn in and leaving the door open. I trail-braked in and snuck along side him. I got a great run out of the turn and the position was mine. Steven follow me the rest of the race, never really letting me relax. Al Taylor overheated early allowing me to finish 5th for my 3rd ever race.
- Robert Patton
- Mike Skeen
- Travis Wilson
- Laura Patton
- JP Coates
- Steven Canterbury
- Al Taylor
Sunday morning we all got up with great expectations only to have them doused by nice rain showers. Stephen got an emergency phone call from his wife and had to pack up and leave first thing (everything was OK later). However, before he left, he let me use his rain tires for our first race. I qualified 3rd less than a second behind the pole. I LOVED the rain.
At the start I got a good run on Al, who was second, and pulled along side him before the banking. However, I forgot that I was in third and when I hit the rev limiter, Al pulled ahead. David Herrington then came from no where and passed me putting me back to 4th. Al and Herrington checked out in the lead while I was racing with Robert Patton. He has a VERY strong motor and would pull me substantially down the straight away and through the banking. I was turning faster laps but I couldn't get past him the whole race. Finally at the end Travis and I got by him with one lap to go. I held Travis off for the entire lap until the last turn. I ran a very defensive inside line while Travis swung wide and got a great run off of turn 7 and pulled up beside me. It was a drag race to the finish from there. When we crossed the line, I was ahead by a fender for third place. My first, and probably only one this year.
My time from the first race again put me 3rd on the grid for the 4th and final race of the weekend. This one was going to be an hour long. The rain was going off and on in between the races. When race time rolled around, the entire Spec E30 field had made the call to run on dry tires. As the pace car pulled off, rain drops started to fall. This is where I was taught a valuable lesson by Robert Patton - The apron is a racing surface. I had a great run on Travis and Al and this time I even remembered to shift to 4th!. I looked in my mirror and saw Robert closing fast so I moved down to the apron line to defend the position. The next thing I know Robert is on the dirty flat apron of the track flat out passing everyone. The apron was so dirty with rubber and dirt that he literally had a rooster tail of debris coming off of his tires.
This is where the mess happens. As the pack rounds turn seven headed for the start/finish there is a wall of rain - and we're all on shaved dry tires! It was raining so hard that if I was driving on the street, I would have pulled over. The top 4 guys; Al, Robert, Travis, and David all checked out as I limped my car around. They got out to about a half lap lead on me. I was just going fast enough to keep Laura Patton behind me. This was not easy. The rain only lasted about 5 min. Then it was time to play catch-up. The leaders were racing and catching traffic and there were caution flags everywhere which means no passing. I had clear track and put my head down and tried to run fast laps. I caught Herrington with about 4 laps to go. In the meantime, Travis had gone off in Turn 1 and was stuck in the gravel trap. It came down to the last lap with me right on David's bumper. I tried to stick the nose inside in every corner and even got beside him coming out of fish hook, but I couldn't make it stick. I crossed the line in 4th.
Al ended up winning the race with Patton in 2nd and Herrington in 3rd. Great race and a great learning experience for me.
All in all this was by far the best track weekend I've every experienced. The racing was close and clean and the camaraderie and sportsmanship of the Southeast racers is unparalleled. Rockingham is really not a very nice track but after this weekend, I'll be at every race they have there.
To quote Travis "This ain't no high school beer party"