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Halfway Through Already

copyright (c) 1995 by Terry Coates

As I write this, we have had the car one month and three days. We have run five races over four weekends and only four races remain in the season. It sure is bitter-sweet. All my wrangling and sacrificing landed the BMW M3 in time to compete effectively for the Division Championship, but after only one month of racing--which would normally be four months--we're looking at the home stretch.

After the June Sprints, we headed to Savannah, Georgia for the double National race held over the July 4th weekend. It was hot again, but this time the rain held off until after the day's racing was completed and a steady "coastal breeze" kept the heat and humidity in check.

New on this trip was our new crew-guy, "Tucker". Tucker is a 7 month-old Golden Retriever that joined the family earlier in the year. He was a better traveler than either Cheryl or me, except for the nasty "fetch" habit. Down and back, we endured about nine hours of fetch in the limited confines of the van (well, it is extended). The other three hours he slept. He is a well-behaved prince at the track and takes to hotel rooms (with air conditioning) very nicely. He makes a swell mascot, even if he isn't a Rhino.

In short, the Savannah races weren't to my taste. That's because we lost. There was one fast Toyota Supra down there that was more adept at Roebling's constant sweepers. The car was pretty powerful according to splits we took at the end of the front straight, but I was never near the car long enough to see what kind of power he really had. We were significantly under the track record, but still we got smoked. Badly. We did end up with two second-place finishes, but that wasn't what I had hoped for, to say the least.

So we looked forward to the greener pastures of Indianapolis Raceway Park. It turned out to be pretty hot over that weekend, so track record for qualifying (set in April) looked out of reach. The race record (set last July) also looked safe. But that didn't stop us from trying!

The practice and qualifying sessions were uneventful and I thought we came close to the record, but was pretty sure we'd missed it. Other drivers reported that the track was slippery. When the grid came out, we had the pole and, asterisk by our time, the qualifying record! We were safely away from the next SSA competitor on the grid, so unless I did something stupid, the win should come easily.

Saturday evening Tucker met our assortment of Central Division Showroom Stock friends and competitors. He stayed out of trouble, stayed quiet, and was a joy to be around. Too bad more of us can't behave like dogs.

Sunday was hotter than Saturday, so again the record seemed out of reach. I had to have a mistake-free race to ensure the win, but I also needed one fast lap to snatch the record. Our radios were working fine so it would be no trouble to know if we got it so I could back off to a safe, quick pace and hold my lead.

The best laid plans . . . What really happened is that the watch malfunctioned (as Cheryl tells it) and there were two laps that Cheryl didn't get times for. My best efforts were leaving us about half a second off the lap record. It just wasn't going to happen. Twice I cooled my tires and charged but to no avail. I tried up until the last lap, traffic and all, but it didn't happen. We won easily because of the blistering pace we set going for the record.

Once again, the results came out and, sure enough, track record. It must have been one of the two laps Cheryl missed. We shaved about three tenths off the old record. Mission accomplished.

You might wonder why I place so much emphasis on these records. Sure, it's cool to say you've got one, but there is a more modest reason than that. We're chasing last year's National Champion who is sure to be a major contender this year. He set many of those records in last year's car. This year, his car will be faster. We have to be even faster still. The best way to get faster is to push yourself. These records are attainable, but somewhat difficult goals that we need to set in order to advance. So far, so good.

Finally, after three straight weekends of racing, we have a break. No races for the next two weekends, which means nearly three weeks to get organized and relax. Enjoy the summer. Get another puppy. Well, that's the wife's idea, anyway. I guess we could always use another crew member.

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