Labor Day Double

Summit Point

September 6, 2010


With Sean working most of the weekend, it was my turn to race the Swift/Honda.  It would be the first real seat time in the car.  I had run a couple of brief sessions at the test day in August, but driver fitment issues prevented me from being comfortable (or reaching the pedals).  Car had been modified with pedal extensions, a revised shift linkage and as much lead ballast as I could find space to mount (about 25 pounds).


Kathy and I drove up Friday morning ignoring the remnants of hurricane Earl.  By the time we reached New Kent, the rains had stopped.  Mark and Karl would be there to race also, so we had old friends to hang with all weekend.


Kathy went shopping Saturday, buying among other things, her much coveted i-Pad.  I went out for the morning 15-minute qualifier on the now well-used tires that Don Baggett had given me.  I didn’t feel too comfortable with the car and turned modest lap times, but because it was my maiden voyage, times of 1:22 were ok.  I qualified 18th in the 26 car combined formula car field and 4th in FF.  I decided it was time to bolt on the new Hoosier R35 tires that I had bought in the spring.  Yea, I know one should be using the softer R25 tires at Summit, but I wanted tires that would last longer.


Race One.  Saturday about 1:30.  Weather sunny and 80ish.  Weather was flat beautiful all weekend.  Being far back in the pack and without radios, my start was not impressive.   (video at  )  Phil DiPippo in a white FE lost control exiting turn one and speared my left rear tire with his nose. Impact was big, but I decided to drive on for a few corners to see if everything was OK.  My mirrors got knocked loose, but the car seemed fine.  I continued on.   I got to pass lots of cars in the race and finished 2nd in FF and 8th overall with a good lap time of 1:19.4.   All in all, not a bad start to the weekend.  In impound, my car weighed 1101 pounds, just one pound over the legal minimum.  Gotta add more weight.


By Saturday night I was in big pain.  My hands, which have been a chronic problem for months, were not having fun.  Nine of my fingers had split open.  Kathy would dispense aspirin every few hours for the rest of the weekend.  I was wishing that Sean were there to take over driving duties.  Aspirin made the pain tolerable and I never noticed it when I got strapped into the car.


Sunday.  For the morning qualifying session, we had to contend with a huge patch of oil dry from the Sound station thru turn one made necessary by a GT1 car losing an engine.  I took the first laps very cautiously and stayed off the line/oil dry entering turn one.  By the time I was up to speed, I was stuck behind 4 FC/FE’s.  I had just decided to call it a session, when Steve Oseth passed me on the straight.  I decided to stay out and shadow him to see if his Honda powered Citation had more motor.  It didn’t.  It took a couple of laps, but we got around the meandering winged pack.  In turn 7 we closed rapidly on Joanne Degnan in a CF. She had a big motor, but was otherwise slow and somewhat unpredictable.  She braked and threw up her hand to signal she was going into the pits.  Oseth and I both had “moments” but Oseth saved it and I went off sticking the nose into the tire pile.  The tires were not tied down and I punted a couple.  The short wheelbase Swift doesn’t like sudden braking and steering input.  Unable to find reverse gear, my session was over.  I ended up 14th overall and 4th in FF with a 1:20.0 time. 


The Sunday afternoon race was a “qualifying” race for Monday’s race.  (First time I have ever done that)  I filled the gas tank to the brim.  My start was OK and I got by two cars.  With the field still bunched up, I rounded turn 8 to see everybody hard on the brakes and spreading out like bugs on a pond.  David Yaakov in an FA had a gearbox failure (he was my adjoining neighbor in the paddock) and came to an abrupt stop just past turn 8 IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRACK.  My Swift, not liking that sudden braking, etc spun off into the dirt.  Mark, who was just behind me, said he just nailed it and aimed for a hole.  By the time I got back moving (I would do another rotation in the dirt trying to accelerate too soon.) the pack was long gone.  I did my 13 laps in relative solitude only catching a few backmarkers.  Bummer. Best lap 1:20.07.  Race video did not work.  Yaakov packed up quickly and went home.  The race stewards would spend some time looking for him to yell at him. 


Post race inspection of the car found very loose rod ends on the lower rear a-arms.  The resulting random toe-in and camber, made handling a bit skittish.  I did wonder if the prior day’s impact had led to this, but they were not loose after race one.


Sean and his buddy Mark showed up late Sunday having taken the trek up on their motorcycles.  We all went out to dinner at an English Pub in downtown Winchester.  It was expensive and NOT very good.


Monday’s race was for 18 laps.  I seriously doubted if I would make weight after the race.  I arranged with Sean to bring me a LARGE jug of water before I got on the scales.  Turns out that it was an unnecessary plan as I finished DFL in FF and would not need to go to impound.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Again I got a decent start with Karl just in front of me.  We would seriously get held up by Ed Vargo in an FA, who would not get up to speed for 3 to 4 laps.  He would park it in the corners until I guess he got comfortable with his tires.  In the mean time the bulk of the FF/CF field sped away to a sizeable gap.

About 10 laps into the race, my car decided to pitch itself off in turn 7.  I have watched the video clip many times, and still really don’t know why.  I got high sided and it took a full lap to get me pushed off.  Amazingly, I rejoined the race pretty much in the same position as I left it.  The race just became another practice session for me.  I see a yellow car in my mirrors and think it is Mark.  I let him by.  It is NOT Mark.  Catching up and repassing would entertain me for a lap or so. Finished 18th overall and 6th in FF.  Best lap was 1:19.6


Overall:  The car/Honda ran beautifully and the driver got some much needed seat time.  I got snake bit twice, and likely made one BIG mistake.  That’s racing.