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copyright (c) 1993 by Terry Coates

The 1993 Central Division Race of Champions at Mid-Ohio was a fine event. There were perhaps a few more wounds in Showroom Stock than normal. Worse yet, I played a major part in creating many of them--a role unfamiliar and not well suited to me.
But the trouble would have to wait until race day. My crew-guy, Pat Breakey, and I breezed through registration Thursday night and set up a choice paddock spot. As usual, there was nothing to do to the car, so we wasted time and got to sleep early.
We ran the practice day Friday. Throughout the day, the small changes we made to the car barely kept ahead of the track. As the track heated, the times slipped. We worked all day and had made virtually no progress against the clock. But there was still Saturday's morning to see what we had accomplished.
Saturday morning, in perhaps slightly less agreeable track conditions, we improved by barely two-tenths of a second. Not what we were hoping for, but still under my track record set at WOR Games, last October. Judging from the times we took of other SSB cars, it would be close.
We qualified on the SSB pole, but nineteenth overall due to the large contingent of SSGT cars. It was close: four hundredths was the margin to the next "B" car. The car was running great. We changed the brake pads and bled the brakes before heading to the great food at the BFGoodrich-sponsored party.
Sunday's early threats of rain never materialized. It remained cloudy, though, and the track record was in real danger of falling.
Don Mills was the overall pole sitter and he led us to a slow, orderly start. David Daughtery, gridded second in SSB, got a slight jump on me at the start, but I edged inside him into the first turn. Because of our relatively low overal grid position, the traffic was thick in the corners. Depsite this, the processional was somewhat orderly up to and through the keyhole.
Half-way down the back straight I could see that the next SSB car was several car lengths back. Ahead of me, at the end of the back straight, the cars were bunching up already. The "racing line" had become a line of cars. It is far too easy to lose places on the first lap by queuing up. I elected to remain inside of the line. Somewhere during that thought process I missed my braking point.
I mean I really missed it. I got on the brakes and nothing happened. I tried to modulate the brakes because it felt as if they were locked up. The car was screaming toward the turn and I couldn't diminish the speed. Knowing now that I would never make the corner, I turned inside to put the right wheels in the grass. Naturally, the car wouldn't negotiate the turn and it slid out into traffic.
I smacked the lead SSC car, Randy Pobst, hard in the right-rear with my left-front. This caused my rear to swing out further. Sideways on the track, I expected and received the next impact. It wasn't as bad as it could've been. While fighting the car, I glanced at the tachometer and saw that the engine had not stalled. I grabbed first gear and attempted to straighten the car to get parallel to race traffic. I was not hit again and started off.
No sooner than I had started moving another SSB car darted in front of me but then hit the brakes. There was no reaction time available and I hit his rear bumper probably before I could even get off the gas. He spun going over the crest of turn eight and I drove around his rear.
Once again underway, something was rubbing on my left-front tire but it subsided within half a lap. I could see that my hood was out of alignment but it appeared latched. I could see no smoke from my car, but David Daughtery's left rear wheel was smoking in the corners. He was a second or more ahead of me but I could see him shaking his fist on every straight.
Tony Suever, who dropped times all weekend, was on my tail for a time until he spun in turn one. He worked his way back up to finish third in an impressive performance in his new MR2. The gap between Daughtery and I gradually widened and he crossed the finish line some three seconds ahead. He also reset the track record which now stands at 1:52.120, dropped by some eight-tenths of a second.
Soon after the race, I was informed of a protest filed by Randy Pobst and David Daughtery. I knew that I had made a mistake and was prepared to face whatever penalty was appropriate. I did want a chance to explain what happened. The text of one protest was mostly accurate, the other was laden with errors.
It takes several hours to resolve these things and it gives plenty of time to think about what happened. I was really upset that I had made such a mistake and truly sorry that it had impacted Randy so heavily. After all sides were heard, the Stewards of the Meet ruled that what happened was a racing incident. I was not penalized, but was warned that future occurrences of this nature may not have the same outcome.
I beat myself up over the whole incident for the better part of three days. I wrote a letter of apology to Randy Pobst. After that was done I felt better and I could go maybe an hour without revisiting the whole thing.
So I made a grand mistake that cost a competitor dearly (points, contingency money, and damage) and marred my reputation among my competitors. Despite the second place finish, it was not a good day. But I learn from my mistakes. It won't happen again.

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