CENDIV Showcase National at Blackhawk
copyright (c) 1992 by Terry Coates
I desperately needed a test day. I hadn't been to Blackhawk
since 1989 and could scarcely remember my way around the track.
Fortunately, the new-for-92 Showcase (or "Enhanced") National
offered a free test day to registered drivers. It worked.
We arrived at the track after an unexpected sightseeing tour
of Rockton (or was it Beloit?) at about 3:00 am. We parked in
the track entrance and slept for a few hours before registering
at about 8. Everything was run pretty smoothly although we
understand the registration line would later back up as the
large, unexpected crowd arrived. Since the test day was free
there was no pre-registration and no one thought so many people
would show up.
For our first session, Showroom Stock was grouped with the
GT cars among others. It is very disturbing to watch a GT-1
Chevy/Ford (pick one) bear down on your rearview mirror at a
speed approaching twice that of your own. I don't remember much
else of that first session except that my times were as slow as
I expected and that I toasted the brakes.
Ah, brakes. The watchword at this track. I remember going
through brakes here before, but this was incredible. Since I
was here last the track has been modified with new curbs, new
pavement, and--most importantly--a new, slow turn. The Nissan
Sentras that Rob Jones' and I run were tough on brakes. I
started on the original pads that had seen only 1300 street
miles and the IRP race. At the end of the session they were
nearly gone, rotors were deeply scored and I didn't have a
No problem, of course. Rob and I just turned them. Well, I
guess "ground them down" would be more accurate. Armed with
brake cleaner, WD-40, and a whetstone we got them nearly
good-as-new in a couple of hours.
The second session went better. The track was a bit greasy
but my times came down two full seconds. Part of that was due
to fiddling with tire pressures, but most of it was gaining
familiarity with the track. Somewhere in the course of the
afternoon Rich Grunenwald arrived and was hit with one of the
few disadvantages of running a Showroom Stock race car: keys.
The car wanted them, his wife had them, and the two were not in
the same place. He was able to resolve the situation in time to
get some practice in.
Late in the afternoon Rob and I started counting sets of
brake pads. We had picked up six sets from Buckeye Nissan
before leaving. The Sentra's pads are fairly full of metal and
under heavy braking gush fire through the wheels. These "Fire
Breathing" Sentras were consuming pads at the rate of just over
one set per two, 20 minute sessions. It was obvious that we
needed to start the 25-lap (approximately 36 minute) race on a
new set of pads. We had just enough (It's hard to fathom that
six sets was only just enough!).
Our last session was halved to 10 minutes because the day
was running late and registration was already opened for those
not attending the practice day. We toured the town again in
search of a few miscellaneous parts, but everything was closed.
We stopped to eat and read with astonishment about some rioting
in L.A. It was the first we had heard of it having been away
from the press since Thursday afternoon. We retired, exhausted,
early in the evening.
Saturday's practice session lost another half-second from my
times. I put on a new left-front for qualifying and the car was
sticking better in the turns. But before I could get a really
good lap in, tragedy struck. Okay, so it wasn't really a
tragedy but it was all my fault.
There was something in the air during that session. Rob and
I were sandwiched between two more red Sentras (a timing and
scoring nightmare) and about lap two or three, Rob spun off in
turn one. I had planned to ride on his coattails and now he was
behind me. He didn't lose much time, but before he could run me
down I lost it in turn one. I can't remember now how it
happened, but I spun to the inside of this rather dusty turn,
filling Rob's car with dust. When I came around the next time
the slippery flag was out and I wondered why. It was because
some idiot had moved the dirt inside of turn one onto turn one.
That idiot was me.
Needless to say, that slow turn cost everyone time. Rob was
smart enough to pull in and wait until the turn was better, but
the brakes and tires were already past their prime and he would
not better one of his first laps. I had already convinced
myself that pulling in after a few laps would be a great
strategy but I got caught up in the make-believe battle on the
track and only came in a bit early so as not score my rotors
That didn't work either. I had scored my rotors again and,
though not as bad as the first time, they would not do for the
race. Rob had a spare set of rotors which he pulled out for the
race. This is the beauty of a two-car team as I replaced my
rotors with the set on his car, which were nearly perfect. This
was the first race I'd ever spent more money on brakes than on
There were fifteen SSB cars on the official grid. Rob and I
qualified a dismal sixth and eighth in class, 22nd and 24th on
the grid. The only bright spot was that we would be
nose-to-tail at the start so at least we might have a good
dice. OVR member T.C. Cline qualified third in SSB, Rich
Grunenwald was 14th. No other OVR members competed in Showroom
Stock that weekend.
The race was fun though I ran much of it alone. An early
battle with Jody Lift in a 16V GTI evaporated when he fell back
and then pulled of with an unknown problem. I had already
passed him but he had been staying with me to that point. The
second-gridded SSB car burned up a clutch early and pulled off.
There was quite a bit of other attrition but no more of it
would be SSB cars.
My one highlight of the race was a textbook flubbed pass.
It's a highlight because I didn't flub it. I can't recall who
it was, but someone attempted to pass me on the turn leading
onto the front straight. I knew they had me and it was too
early in the race to bother blocking. I stayed my line and the
other car out-braked me but boggled the turn. I stayed on my
line and got on the power as the other guy collected his car.
By the end of the straight I'd passed him back and even
lengthened my lead.
The SSB race did not look as close as it must have been.
That left T.C. Cline trying to stay with SSB-leader Mark
Younquist but the NX2000's bigger brakes and better handling
was too much to overcome. The margin of victory was three
seconds. Rob and I moved up considerably overall to 13th and
14th but I was always about three seconds back of him and he
three seconds back of third place in SSB. We finished fourth
and fifth in SSB.
The enhanced national called for the return of entry fees
for those finishing within thirty seconds of the winner of
classes starting ten or more cars. I was twenty-one seconds so
at least five positions in SSB were refunded. SSC started ten
cars, but SSA and SSGT were not even close.
There were spectators and we did our best to talk with them
and answer their questions. I really don't know how many showed
up, but I'm sure it was several hundred.
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