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Indy Grand Prix Showcase National

copyright (c) 1992 by Terry Coates

This year's second National race at Indianapolis Raceway Park held more promise for me than any other race this year. Perhaps that's why the results of this race hurt more the others.

I picked up the van early in the afternoon on Thursday. The problem ended up being a fused fusible link. That condition was likely brought on by the coil which had soured. Many thanks to Dave Wenger at The North End Wrench. He squeezed me in and worked late to make sure I could leave Thursday for the test day at IRP.

It sure would've been nice if that test day had been free as it had been at the Blackhawk Showcase National earlier this year. As it was, $80 wasn't a bad price and I needed the time to get up to speed. Cheryl, my fiancée covered the price of entry and $10 more for herself and Pat Breakey, rounding out my crew. By the end of the first of five sessions we would have that day, I went faster than I had in the April race. The track was most definitely faster, though I wasn't sure by exactly how much. We fiddled with tire pressures and by the fourth session I managed a lap just 0.05 seconds over the lap record.

Then one of those magic things happened. During the last session I clicked off only four beautiful laps before the car sputtered for want of fuel. Each lap was under the SSB record--the fastest was under by almost nine-tenths of a second. We were up to speed and ready for Saturday.

We had to register before we could leave the track; the line was the longest, slowest-moving yet this year. In contrast, the thirteen-year-old girls working tech were quick and efficient.

Rain threatened every day, but held off until evening. Track conditions changed a bit by Saturday morning and the Buckeye Nissan Sentra SE-R developed a bit of a push. We made some adjustments, but the push was worse for qualifying, costing the half-second I needed to be with the lead pack. I was disappointed after such a great test day, but not discouraged. I just needed a good start to get around some SSC cars and I would be fine.

Rob Jones, in my car's twin, managed only third in SSB, he, too having a handling problem. Just in front of Rob and first in SSC was Forrest Granlund. Don Mills completed OVR's representation of the small field by claiming the fourth spot in SSGT. Don again had his hands full with Bob Strange and Freddy Baker again heading the field.

Saturday night after the party we headed over to the short-oval to watch "Saturday Night Thunder." It threatened to be Saturday Night Thunder-storms all evening. Qualifying was rained out so the cars were gridded for heats based on current points standings. The races were pretty exciting, but we all wanted to see 24 cars cram onto the track for the feature. Just as the last car got started the rain did, too, and the event was called. As usual we were booted from the track shortly thereafter.

Race day was hot. Really hot, but clouds rolled in before the Showroom Stock race so the track was not as slick as we feared. No one could keep still after the first pace lap so the starter waved us off. The green came out the second time around. Cars shooting left and right allowed me to go right up the middle. I was almost up to the other "B" cars before the first turn. Turn one is wide and fast at IRP, but it wasn't wide enough for some of the lead cars as they tangled.

Cars were everywhere. Shortly I was up with Rob and I was in the middle of the track. Usually there is no worse place to be with cars spinning, but this time there was a clear path. I picked my way through the mess, riding up to third in SSB before turn three, well ahead of the fourth place.

And what a lead it was. The next SSB car was fully ten seconds back with plenty of traffic in between. A couple of the faster SSC cars had followed me through the mess and I started to pull away from them slightly. With those guys as a buffer to the rear, I could only move up. Before the end of the third lap, the power started going away.

The SSC cars caught and passed me easily. Then one of my own competition got me. The temperature gauge was very high. I ran the heater full blast. I was shifting early and using higher gears in a couple of turns. The needle relaxed very little and the power continued to go away. I hung in until I was passed for fifth place and it seemed hopeless.

I pulled into the pits and depressed the clutch. The car died instantly and would not restart. Later inspection revealed that the lower radiator hose had worked free and all the coolant drained away. The motor is not locked up, but we'll see just how well Mobil 1 can protect it at those extreme temperatures.

It was a hard blow to have such a good weekend sour in such a short time. Rob set the new track record (while working his way back up to third) in an impressive drive. While the track was probably slower on race day, his time was about the same as my fastest on Friday. Had I been able to sustain a good pace, conceivably a win was possible; a second was likely.

Still, if the motor is not ruined, I can go into Mid-Ohio knowing that I can win. I haven't gone into a race this year with "can" potential, it's been mostly "could" possibilities.

OVR's Don Mills held onto fourth place in SSGT but Forrest Granlund was not so lucky, dropping to fourth in SSC.

Before I close, I want to make some general comments on the event. I don't want to get political and I really don't want to bite the hand that feeds, but I wanted to make some observations about this Showcase National.

There were some good things at this event. The food at the Saturday night party was excellent. Despite the rain, "Saturday Night Thunder" was a treat at the reduced $5 admission. The checker flags were "real" and the trophy-plaques were very nice.

But I think the typical SCCA driver would trade nice flags and plaques (and the plastic key-fob) for a free test day and a chance to get the entry fee refunded. The IRP race had only a $100 drive-of-the-race award and a "Four for Forty" sportsmanship award. This last piece of work was to be funded by racers who dropped a wheel off the course. Drivers voluntarily paid $10 per wheel to a kitty that was matched by the national office. I don't want to be harsh, but was this the national office's contribution to the event? Whose idea was that?

It is nice to have spectators, a good party, and nice flags. Does the national office need to be involved for these things to be available? It sure seems to me that these things could be, and indeed should be, part of every national race.

Damage to the car is undetermined at the time this article was finished up. If it isn't too bad there will be news from Mid-Ohio next month. If it is bad, that is probably it for the year. Fingers are crossed . . .

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