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A Hard Fought Battle

copyright (c) 1993 by Terry Coates

"The most fun I've ever had in a race car!" That was the runner-up title for this article. I believe that was Rob Jones' comment after the race was over. It was the most fun we'd ever had in our respective Nissan Sentra SE-Rs but it was also the scrappiest dog-fight I'd ever been a part of.

The April 24-25 event was a combination Regional-National and since I'd never been to the track, I elected to run everything. Cheryl and I walked the track Friday Night and Saturday morning. It had great potential, but it sure wouldn't be as easy to learn as Memphis had been. It's longer, has more turns of a wider speed range, and has several hard braking points.

I guess I needn't have worried. The track wasn't so confusing once I was on it at speed. There would be little improvements here and there, but after seven laps the Sentra SE-R lapped solidly under the track record. The morning practice doubled as Regional qualifying and we landed eighth overall and on the SSB pole, a full second ahead of Rob. The sole other Ohio Valley Region member was Michael Rowley who put his VW Golf fifth in ITB.

I nearly didn't run the Regional race. I had a limited supply of tires and wasn't sure how abrasive this track would be. The National is the thing; the Regional would only amount to practice. I finally mapped it out in my head how I could survive the Regional with enough tires for the National and without taking any chances.

So when the left-front tire blistered during the Regional, I was not surprised. I was disappointed, however. Because of my rather lofty starting position, I had led SSB from the green. As the tire went, so did the positions. I started letting cars as they were racing for class positions and I didn't want to interfere. Rob caught and passed me and I pulled in with only one lap left. It wasn't worth the risk to continue.

Rob took the Regional win but I set the track record at 1:51.640, slightly slower than qualifying. Rob had begun to close the gap; he was now only down 0.4 seconds. The third place SSB car was back another 1.6 seconds--the National race looked like a playground for Rob and me. Rowley gained a position to finish fourth in ITB.
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