Seeking the Bottom

Savannah Double National, Jul 2000

My rotten luck continued at the double National at Savannah. Needing one more "finish" to qualify for the Runoffs, I went into the long weekend with high hopes. I have finally gotten my "race" engine back from the local shop where the clutch basket was replaced and the aluminum bits were cleaned out. I had gotten within 0.1seconds of the long-standing lap record last year with my well-used "stock" motor. I wanted it this time.

Kathy and I drove down on Friday and setup adjacent to the other DSR guys. There were 8 entries. Dan Carney, the sole surviving member of our racing Mafia, would be there with his FF. Saturday morning qualifying began badly with Ed Dickinson crashing HARD in turn one with a reported stuck throttle. (He has had back surgery - crushed disc). With emergency vehicles in turn one for the session, lap times were compromised. I managed a decent second lap (1:13) but the motor started to fade and the rear end of the car was very loose. Turns out, I had a substantial oil leak and was oiling the left rear tire. I came in early. On very old tires I had the second best time with Tom Robinson taking the preliminary pole by half a second. Tom was running his newly "improved" motor.

With Mike Schmidt's help, we thought we found the source of the oil leak. Saturday afternoon session revealed that we had not found it. The oil leak was still with me. After a few laps (motor still fading), I went off exiting turn 6 with an oiled tire. The sand at Savannah is very unforgiving and the nose dug-in and I ran over it and was stranded with the front wheel on top of it. Got no good laps. Time to get out the spare nose. Replaced the oil ring at the oil pressure tap and thought again I had cured the oil leak. Again, not so.

Sunday morning qualifying, the oil leak was still there. After an hour of so of soul searching, I decided to change motors to my old 32 race "stock" motor. If I didn't need another finish, I would not have bothered. I spent the rest of the day, and missed the Sunday race, during the motor swap. Kathy would forgo her usual day of shopping to assist. My exhaust pipe broke while removing it from the car and Vic Moore did a wonderful job rewelding it. Tom won the race, although Bonsey led for a few laps before spinning in T5 and later retired. Stauffer took second being held up by the two S2's. Vic Moore took 3rd with Branco and Schmidt (oil leak also) not finishing.

Monday morning qualifying, I went out to find that the car would not shift after it reached 5th gear (bad adjustment!) but I managed to turn a 1:14.0, which was not too bad considering. It was looking like I could race. I decided to forgo fresh tires and go for a safe finish. I qualified 4th in DSR (behind Tom, Stauffer and Bonsey and also behind the two S2's).

At the start, Stauffer and Bonsey spun in turn one and I was forced to almost come to a stop to avoid Stauffer. Tom and the two S2's were about 75 yards in front of me. I turned a couple of 1:12 laps while catching up to them. Then my rotten luck returned as I was braking in turn one. My brake petal (new throttle cable for the weekend obviously needs some work) caused the throttle to RACE and I went off entering turn 2. Again the sand caused the nose to come adrift (although it was evident until I started to move forward) and as I re-entered the track it folded under and I drove on it. It took a lap for the workers to push me backward off the formerly pristine fiberglass. Boy does the car push big time without the front down force. I was only able to lap at 1:15 to 1:16 after losing the nose. I was slowly closing on Stauffer (who had briefly visited the pits to check for damage after his spin) for 3rd place.

After completing enough laps to be classified as a finisher, I considered coming in, but decided to continue my chase of Stauffer. At lap 14 (of 23) there was a big expensive sounding noise from the rear on my car as I passed the pits. Kathy and Pat Prince said it sounded like a big window breaking. My chain master link had come off. The chain (a NEW one) had wrapped around the countershaft sprocket while machining off motor parts including the clutch slave cylinder, waterpump, side cover and putting a 3 x 3 hole in the case. I came to stop before turn one adding oil to the track somewhat off line.

Tom would again win in DSR with Vic Moore 2nd, Stauffer 3rd and me forth. No other finishers.

My causality list for the weekend: two motors, two noses and two splitters. Surely, I have reached the BOTTOM of my rotten luck. PLEASE!