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National CENDIV 1992 Season Opener

copyright (c) 1992 by Terry Coates

The 1992 Central Division season opener looked from the start to be the normal, rainy April race at IRP. Rob Jones and I arrived at the track Friday evening with rain threatening. Areas near the track displayed the kind of standing water that can only be produced by sustained heavy rains. The edges of the entrance road were roped off to keep tow vehicles and trailers from entering the bog.

The usual grass paddock area was also a bog so we were sent to paddock where the drag racers normally do. This is an area inside the track in the neighborhood of turns six and seven. It is pavement/gravel and--though spotted with puddles--it was solid. The droning noise from turn six was a large water pump trying to bail out the turn. Word was that Friday practice sessions were cancelled because of standing water there and that if things didn't get better, the race would be cancelled.

It rained nearly all night Friday but not really hard. Saturday morning the pump was still running but things were looking better over there. The puddles in the paddock area had grown and banded together against us. The rain continued all morning.

As the turn six crisis eased, it appeared that the biggest problem would be the logistics of operating the grid and pit areas from a detached paddock. The answer was to grid in the paddock and use the pits normally. To make work the practice and qualifying sessions were combined into a single, 30 minute session. Those requiring people and equipment in the pits had about 10 to 15 minutes between sessions to make the commute.

Graciously, the results were ferried across the track to the new paddock area.

The rain stopped by late morning and the track was mostly dry when the SS group went out for practice/qualifying. I like the IRP track, but it doesn't seem to like me. I crashed my last SS car beyond repair here some 18 months ago (actually, the car was repaired, but it probably shouldn't have been). Today the problem would be tires. BFGoodrich had sent me full-tread (6/32") tires and up until 11am this looked like the ticket. Somehow IRP got the rain to stop when it was too late for me to change my setup.

This was my first time out this season and first time in the new car, a 1992 Sentra SE-R from Buckeye Nissan. I'd had the car only five weeks and the cage, belts, etc had been finished two days before. The only other preparation was changing the oil to synthetic. This was, most definitely, Showroom Stock.

The car was very new to me. I was used to a Volkswagen product which felt very different indeed. The biggest problem was the rusty driver and I was unable to put a good lap together during the first part of the session. As the car was new, so was the fuel gauge and the tank it was attached to. With about five minutes to go in the session the car was a bit short of fuel. I pulled off safely but without posting a decent lap.

Rob Jones in his '91 Buckeye Nissan Sentra took the pole of 10 SSB starters. I was an embarrassing 3.5 seconds back, seventh in class and separated from the rest of SSB by a mass of SSC cars. Not good. Other OVR drivers faired well: T.C. Kline's Sentra and Tony Suever's CRX qualified third and sixth in SSB, respectively. In the other SS classes, Don Mills qualified fourth in his SSGT Camaro, Forrest Granlund earned second in his SSC Civic Si, and Roger Schroer gridded eighth in his SSC Protege. There were no SSA drivers from OVR.

All was clear on Sunday and rain never seriously threatened. This was consistent with the fact that if it were to start raining I would have had more tread left on my tires than anyone else. Instead I could expect my tires to start chunking from the added heat. One SSB car didn't make the start so I inherited sixth right away. The race was fairly uneventful. An early spin separated the lead SSB pack from the rest of us. Rob Jones led T.C. Kline every lap but the most important one. Rob's left-front tire was rapidly shredding itself and he had to back off in order to finish. He held on to second place.

I managed to get things together and was turning times within 1.5 seconds of the leaders. I passed Tony Suever for fifth but couldn't catch any one else in the 30 minute race. At impound all of the Sentras were found to be destroying left-front tires. Admittedly, all of us were pushing the cars too hard and were abusing the left-front, most notably through the carousel.

Tony held on to sixth in SSB. The first four positions of SSGT were unchanged by the end of the race. Freddy Baker won and Don Mills held on to fourth place. Forrest also held second in SSC. Roger Schroer moved up to fourth picking up just over five seconds from his qualifying time to post a race lap of under two minutes. Roger and I sure could have used that separate practice session!

Next up is the "Enhanced" or "Showcase" National at Blackhawk. It will be interesting to see what promise this new format holds. One of the "enhancements" includes a free practice day. It looks like this time I'll get my shot at closing the gap before qualifying.

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