The Michigan National
copyright (c) 1993 by Terry Coates
This year's Grattan Showcase race was held over the Memorial Day weekend rather than mid-summer. It was cooler than last year and, thankfully, the mosquitoes were not yet out in force. Because of the three-day weekend, the schedule was artificially stretched out to three days which didn't make too many people happy.
The Showroom Stock group was idle Saturday with practice and qualifying on Sunday and the race on Monday. That was okay, except that made the Friday practice session a lot less worthwhile. The other flaw was that registration closed at 2pm Saturday and we were the first group out Sunday (though not until 9:00 am). We had to show up Saturday to register but then had nothing to do until Sunday morning. It could have been worse.
The Spec Racer group had their weekend broken up over three days. They had one session each day. This would get very boring. Apparently they banded together and had the schedule changed. They actually practiced, qualified, and raced in a single day!
When we registered we received an updated schedule. We raced earlier in the day on Monday, but the changes otherwise affected us very little. After we unloaded the car and set up camp, we headed toward one of the many nearby lakes and fished the afternoon away.
We returned in time for the BFGoodrich-sponsored party and then walked the track before dusk. Grattan is one interesting track. If you've never gone, go. You may not like the track, but you won't believe the elevation changes, the off-camber turns, the blind corners, and the beautiful grounds.
Sunday dawned cool and windy but the rain would hold off until the day was over. The practice session was a refresher for me. I didn't try to go very fast, I just recalled the lines and braking points and tried to prepare for qualifying. The group was small, just 19 cars. Could some racers have opted for the Indy 500 instead?
During qualifying I just tried too hard. I was pushing the tires past their optimum temperature and slowing down. It hurt as the lead SSB car was a full two seconds ahead on the grid with an SSGT, SSA, and a lone SSC Miata separating us. I was still second in SSB, the third and fourth SSB cars within 0.1 seconds. OVR's Tony Suever would be at my side on the start.
It rained Sunday night and the forecast called for scattered showers Monday morning. The track was wet for emergency practice. I have never gone out for that race-day, optional session. This time, though, I reasoned that we might have to race in the rain. This is one surface that might be unpredictable in the wet.
At the last second I decided to go out. The one reason I didn't consider was how much fun it would be. Racers take polar sides on rain. A few love racing in the wet, the others abhor it. Having started in PRO Rally, a slick track agrees with me. I had great fun and the car enjoyed it as well. We didn't keep times on anyone but myself, but my crew seemed to think I was the fastest "B" car out there.
Too bad it dried up before the race. In the dry, the race was one of those not-too-exciting affairs. I knocked a second off my qualifying time, but the gap to the first place SSB car was still about a second. That allowed him to run away, gradually stretching the gap. His clutch cable fell loose on the penultimate lap and the gap closed, but it wasn't enough for me. He finished easily seven seconds ahead.
The cars I qualified with didn't get markedly faster so I drew away from them as the leader did from me. I would've been all alone if it weren't for the SSC Miata of Michael Galati following me around lap after lap. I couldn't see the second place SSC car which means Galati didn't need to get around me. As at Mid-Ohio, the PA announcer made a heck of a race out of our proximity while we just clicked off consistent laps.
My apologies to the other OVR members in the Showroom Stock group. I couldn't talk about them much because my results sheet is locked in the trunk of the Sentra at the body shop. I'm having the fenders ironed before it goes on display at Buckeye Nissan for a week.
The mid-season break is here. There are three free weekends until the June Sprints and the second half of the season. My single win and four second-place finishes have me solidly in second place in Central Division and also the Showcase series. I already have more points than I scored all of last season. This is certainly an improvement, but it has only whetted my appetite for more.
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