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A Little Time Off

copyright (c) 1992 by Terry Coates

The last issue of The Observer's Stand contained results from the recent National at Nelson Ledges. Too bad, really. I hadn't planned on discussing the race publicly but since the word is out on how poorly the race was for us, I might as well tell all.

I wasn't blindingly fast at Nelson Ledges. I couldn't seem to get my times down to a respectable level. I was disappointed because this was a track that I had been to recently, namely the double regional last October. I expected to get with the program right from the start.

When that didn't happen, I took advantage of some available tires on the BFGoodrich truck. I didn't actually need them, I had a fresh tire designated left-front-race. I didn't know what else to try (I had already tried driving faster). When in doubt, throw money at the problem. Four new qualifying tires dropped half a second from my best practice time. It was not enough. I was still two seconds off my teammate Rob Jones who managed to qualify second. I was gridded eighth of eleven in SSB.

To make matters worse the green dropped early on an unusually slow pace lap. I hadn't even unwound the wheel for the front straight when the flag unfurled; I was caught in second gear, several hundred revs away from any useable power. I saw SSB cars (and SSC cars) flash before my eyes. Except they weren't flashes, they were real cars.

Finally under way, I settled in behind a couple of "B" cars with only Forrest Granlund's SSC Honda between. As hard as I tried, I could never get around Forrest and the other "B" cars slipped away. I only got close enough to make one actual pass attempt at the end of the straight. The result was a blast from my past as I drew upon rusty PRO Rally techniques to save from destroying the car. At least I heard the spectators cheer as I collected the car onto the front straight.

I did catch up to Rob in the other Buckeye Nissan Sentra SE-R but only because he experienced a very rare Showroom Stock mechanical failure. A defective rocker broke leaving Rob with no power and no finish.

Two Laps of Powell

After Nelson's there was a six week break in the schedule for me. I couldn't get to June Sprints due to a prior obligation but since I've never been to Road America it would likely have been wasted money anyway. But with all that time to kill I thought I might hit a solo or two.

Enter Powell Speedway. I didn't even know this piece of asphalt existed. The course was laid out to be, well, fast. Perfect, I thought. There were four other cars in D-Stock, one of which was another SE-R, so the competition might get close.

On my first run, I demonstrated just how long it's been since I ran a Solo. I started with road-race pressures and the car bounced around the course. On the back section of the oval an eccentric slalom was laid out. The entrance to the slalom area was rather fast. As I started to slow, my brain made the erroneous determination that I should--no, that I must--go around the first pylon rather than past it. You know, straight.

The car didn't agree. I hacked the wheel left with a fair amount of braking still going on. Despite the agreeable physics of the banking, the car plowed, then started to spin. I really can't say what happened immediately after that. I was pretty busy. I do know that I took out several cones, earned a DNF, and (as my trusty, non-panicing girlfriend, Cheryl, later told me) fairly scattered the nearby workers. I do remember getting two wheels in the grass and thinking how bad things could get if the other two left the pavement, but shortly after that I saved it and proceeded.

I eased the tire pressures and my last two runs were both in the 90s with a cone each (same d@Mn cone, of course), netting a 92-something. I knew I could do better and managed an 88 on the fun run but with two cones, netting a 92 again. It was my magic number that day and it was good enough for a narrow win in class.

SE-R Visits Home

My leftover race tires were getting pretty smooth by now. However, they did look "racey" all cleaned up on display at Buckeye Nissan for a week. The car was bolted onto them, by the way. I dropped the car off to them just as the Nissan race cars left the dealership bound for the Mid-Ohio Gran Prix. My car did look nice in the center of the floor. I had put an information sheet in the window to explain what the car was and the dealership received many good comments.

I picked the car up and took it to Tremont Elementary School to talk about racing to a group of second graders. The children asked many good questions including, "Were you in the Indy 500?" Though tempted, I replied "No" figuring any parent worth their weight in motor oil would have set them straight anyway.

I almost didn't include this, but while I was cleaning up the SE-R for the display I discovered a most embarrassing thing. I don't drive the Sentra on the street. The once-totalled GTI was repaired to unsellable (and uncompetitive) condition and rendered a street vehicle. So I worry about the Sentra's brakes and the like but rarely open the spacious trunk.. But while I was polishing the sexy rear wing I popped the deck lid only to discover four unmounted street tires. It dawned on me that this extra weight had been there since the close of the last article! (yes, all during Nelsons and the Powell solo, too).

Ice Racing in June

Why not try the parking-lot solos again? After a win at Powell, I wanted more. Cheryl and I arrived at the last Wal-Mart event in the rain. I like racing in the rain but my tires were showing very little potential of dissipating even the lightest drizzle. But that wouldn't keep me from sticking it out, so sliding around we went.

The turnout was light and as a result we got six runs. Mike Berchak was the only other D Stock entry and after the first heat I had the lead by only a few tenths. All things being equal, I knew I could improve my time--but the course was wetter now. The question was whether tires were too treadless to cope with the extra water.

On the first run of the second session I lowered the mark by half a second. I really thought that would do it, but Mike set a better time on his second run. I followed him in the running order, so I didn't know until I finished my second run. The PA announced that I had taken the lead back by about a tenth of a second. That was the end of the contest. Neither of us bettered our times in the final run. The close margin-of-victory made for very little points gain on Mike but he told me I took over second place. It probably won't matter since road racing will keep me from running enough events to stay in the hunt.

However, next is Rickenbacker. It just sounds too fast to pass up. After that the Nationals start up again with a hectic schedule of six races in nine weeks. There should be plenty to talk about--From the Showroom.

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