Fun Again

Kershaw National, April 23

This was the first time I've tried to do back-to-back races, but given my early season disasters, I needed some finishes. It worked out well.

The new Carolina Motorsports Park is in Kershaw SC about 60 miles Southeast of Charlotte. It is a flat, 14 turn 2.235 mile "club" course (meaning facilities are primitive). Like Savannah, it is on sand flats left by some pre-historic shoreline. It has many slow speed (50mph) corners and has been called "dip shit" and "rinky-dink" by several whom went to early track events. I liked the track.

Kathy was off flying around with NASA, so I went solo. I also decided to make this my second annual camp-out experience (encouraged somewhat by the lack of any civilization near the track, i.e. restaurants and motels). I even when out a bought a portable gas grill.

Given my three disasters with practice days so far this season, I decided to forgo the opportunity. I arrived at the track mid day Friday but was not allowed to enter unless doing the track day ($150). SCCA registrar arrived about an hour later, and after helping here unload a big pile of stuff, she gave 4 of us gate watchers an entry pass.

The paddock is a vast space of sparsely seeded plots and sand roads. Bring you best vacuum. There are porta-potties and one restroom trailer (no hot water). I chose a paddock space adjacent to the "future showers" site. Bring your generator, also.

There is very little access for viewing the course from the paddock; the fence ends and the road disappears into the woods. I planned to walk the course Friday evening, but got caught up in Tech until too late.

Dan Carney will be joining me this race. His "mid afternoon" planned arrival, turned out to be 11 PM and I was already snuggled into my sleeping bag. It was very windy all night and the rocking my cradle (trailer) didn't help my sleeping.

Dan, who does road tests for Autoweek, arrives at each race with a new tow vehicle. This time it was a Durango with the big motor. He would sleep in the back of it.

Saturday morning practice went well. Our race group (CSR, DSR, and S2) was ridiculously small with 5 DSRs and one CSR. There was plenty of track space to learn a new course (unlike Pocono last year). Total entries were 97 or so. With this race being on Easter weekend, sandwiched between two nearby (relative to racing tows) NE nationals, and given Kershaw's negative reviews, racers stayed away in droves.

Dan was in the group before me (5 FF's plus FV and F5) and we were able to time for each other. The track was easy to learn with only two high-speed corners and one long carousel. Turn 10, as advertised, has a big BUMP at the 120+ mph apex. Within a few laps, I was doing it flat out. The new suspension bits withstood the "shock test," and I declared my problems behind me. With five heavy braking corners (50 mph), my new big brakes got a full test and performed GREAT. Many would not be so lucky. Turns out that SCCA did not time the session.

In the afternoon qualifying session, I did 15+ laps and took the pole with a 1:39.1 (and lap record; 81 mph average speed). Vic Moore (Radical) was second with a 1:42.7. Bryon Stauffer, the Savannah winner, was third in his Radical with 1:44 and was very unhappy with his new motor. Having hurt my race motor (clutch basket) with the Savannah crash, I was using my 24 race stock motor. Given the race motor (17-20 more HP) and more track time, I expect 1:35 laps to be possible.

My race strategy was to do a few hot laps and then to back off and maintain a safe gap over the second place DSR. I need a finish and some points. Jim, of Brian (brake woes) Little's crew, helped me out by showing the gap on a pit board. I maintained a gap of 15 to 20 seconds while short shifting at 9500 rpm. Most laps were in the 1:42 range, with the best lap (3rd) being 1:41.4. Stauffer was so annoyed with his new factory motor that he chose not to start the race. Gelles had a horrible weekend with suspension failures with his snowmobile powered DSR. He retired after 6 laps with fried brakes.

It was a race weekend like I had most of the prior 3 seasons, just add gas and adjust the chain. Fun and no hassle. Even my new muffler worked great (100 dB) and several people came over and said how wonderful the car sounded.

Dan ran well also, moving to 2nd for the first half of his race before fading to 4th. The course can be hard on tires.

Monday postscript: While unloading the trailer, I tore the muscles in my right bicep (a sickening tearing sound). I will be sporting a sling for a bit. Can a one armed guy prep a racecar? We'll see.