Passing of the Baton

Summit Point National, April 2003


Youth, exuberance, and modern chassis have thoroughly kicked the butts of the old guard.  That would be me and the other grey beards of DSR.  


The Summit Point spring National is the most important race on my (and likely Sean’s) racing schedule.  We raced there 8 to 10 times per year back in the 90’s, and know the track to be tough and a good gauge of driving skills.  We want to do well.  It’s about validation.  Last year, I did very well; winning the race and breaking the lap record that had survived for many years.  It was going to be a hard act to follow.  Very hard with Sean showing increasing speed in his state-of-the-art Stohr racer and newcomer Matt DiRenzo also showing annoying speed in his new Stohr.


I had intended to have a fresh “built” motor for Summit.  Sean and I took our stockers to JJ Justice Thanksgiving week.  Sean’s got done, but not mine.  (Engine builders you know!)  I did buy a used “Stage 1 (slightly better than stock)” motor from Chuck Graves who was clearing out his shop of carbed motors. I went to Summit expecting to lose my lap record to Sean. 


Kathy would be going on this trip.  There is enticing shopping around the D.C. beltway for her.  (I’m proud to say that I have never even been in a Saks store!)  We arrived at Summit at about 11 AM on Friday.  I would not be doing the test day, but Hasty was there with a few problems, so I was entertained adequately.  I didn’t have time to unload my trailer until late into the afternoon.  Dave Gomberg and Terry Busby had arranged to set aside 12 paddock spots for us DSRs.  With the usual “land rush” situation at Summit for space, it was a nice to have spaces reserved.  And, we all got to hang out together.  It sure cut down the meandering around walks.  (Kathy suggests that Dave does need to pick spots closer to the restrooms)  There were 11 DSRs in attendance, except that Don MacCluskie chose to run as a CSR. 


The weekend would be a reunion of sorts of our old racing group.  Thor would be there with his Swift FA, Eric would be driving his 1976 Vintage CF and Dan would be there with his Swift FF.  Mark would be along, but his FF is still in retirement.   Of course, we would visit Wong’s Chinese on Friday night.  She still remembers us (particularly Sean . .  “Good to see you, Shing Tao? Good to see you, Shing Tao?”)  Hasty, Adam Zimmerman, and his crew guy would join us. 


Weather at Summit can be (usually is) nasty in the early spring.  They had 6 inches of snow just 6 days ago.  Friday was nice and I even wore shorts for most of the day.  Saturday morning brought unexpected rain.  With a clear afternoon promised, many chose not to go out for the morning session.  By our time, the rain had ceased and it was drying on line.  I decided to go out and test the motor, as did Sean.  It wasn’t too snotty/slick but I did see Sean spin off on lap one exiting turn 3.   Sean and Mark would spend a while washing the mud off the Stohr toy.  I drove carefully, and braked early.  I was kind of getting into the rhythm and stayed out far longer than I intended.  I was surprised to find that I had the provisional pole in DSR with a 1:31.1.  Neat.  Now I had to figure out how to make it rain for the rest of the weekend! 


It was 70 degrees and sunny by the afternoon session.  With 27 cars in the combined FA, CSR, DSR, S2 group, there would be plenty of traffic. Hasty, in an attempt to get his sized 13 plus feet to fit in his Stohr had hack sawed off a couple of minor frame tubes.  Sean got some good pictures, which I will include sometime soon.   We have to get Dave Gomberg some longer t-shirts.


My motor was not running properly.  It had erratic acceleration and no urge to run hard.  I was passing a few, so I continued on while needlessly trying different shift points.  While passing Chris Mosley entering turn one, I missed my brake marker (apparently) and the corner appeared much too soon!  I locked the brakes and drove immediately to the gravel trap.  I sat there for the remaining half of the session.  My lap time of 1:18.5 was only 6th fastest and a big disappointment.  Matt’s time of 1:14.9 would better my lap record (but it only really counts in the race) and Sean would be second fastest with a 1:16.3.  Bob Houston, Dick Knoblauch and Adam plus a few FA’s and S2’s would be between me and the fast “kids.”  Terry Busby, who was wresting with his new fuel injection system, would be just behind me.  I need to find some HP.   Hasty went out, but judged his car undriveable with his feet.  He tried on Adam’s Radical for size and found it to his liking.  He will be looking for a new car.


Hasty helped me fool with my motor for a while.  He discovered an underperforming spark plug.  (It was the problem).  I decided to run the Sunday morning warm-ups to test.  I had Sean’s spare carbs to try if the spark plug fix did not work.  Sean changed gearing, and would test also.  Saturday night, the old group had a cookout in the pits.  (Thanks Tempy and Jill).  Fortunately, it would not get too cold for a while. 


Sunday bought daylight savings time and much cooler temperatures.   I ran two laps of the warm-up session but saw several drive off including Thor.  I was satisfied that my motor was working OK.  Sean was pleased with the new gearing. 


Our race would begin about 1145.  It was 50 degrees and sunny.  I was gridded 15th and consequently was buried in the pack.  Terry Busby’s fuel injection computer would go into the error mode on the pace lap and he had to come in.  The starter gave a very late green flag and of course, I had accelerated, lifted and was on the brakes when Kathy’s GREEN, GREEN, GREEN came over the radio.  No great loss, since the entire mid pack was in confusion.  I took to the inside and got around a couple of cars including Adam’s Radical.  One DSR down and several to go.  Dick Knoblauch was just ahead and smoking increasingly (it was now only lap 2).  The two cars between us (Houston and a S2000) were reluctant to fall in behind him as we headed down the front straight.   I decided to risk a steam shower and was able to pass the other two cars.  Dick slowed dramatically at the end of the straight (his motor ate a valve) and I took him also.  Things were going well, but I no longer catch a glimpse of the “kids.”  They were gone.  Alex Miller, long time CSR racer, appeared on my tail and passed me on the straight on the next lap.  However, he was not fast elsewhere and I quickly repassed him.  My car was not sticking in the turn 6b, 7, 8 complex.  I should be able to go flat out thru there, but I was not even close.  Interestingly, the car is fine in turns one and five.  My lap time display was not working, so I didn’t know how well I was running.  There were many, many cars to pass over the race distance.  There were some struggling S2’s and CSR’s.  I passed a couple of FA’s, but before too many laps the leading Swift FA’s (turning 1:08 laps) came around to lap me.  By now, I could see no one closing in my mirrors, and Kathy had verified P3 over the radio, so I began to drive a bit more carefully.  Before too long, I have a Zetec FC/FA in my sights and get a bit more motivated for a while.  Adam in his Radical, which is beginning to have fuel pickup problems, is also there with Bob Houston just in front of him.  I decide to stay put and the checker flag falls the next lap.  Sean tells me that he is just a few hundred yards behind me.  At least I didn’t suffer getting lapped.


Sean and Matt had quite a battle.  Sean maybe will do a report but my crew Kathy provides these highlights.  Sean got the better start and was first for a few laps, until Matt recovered.  At lap 14, Sean retook the lead and opened up a small gap.  His margin at the end was 2.7 seconds.  Matt was having a front wheel-bearing nut becoming loose and couldn’t mount a late challenge.  Sean would break my lap record by one second, and Matt would break it by 2 seconds.  An outrageous margin!  Not only is Matt young and talented, he also only weighs 140 pounds.  No fair!  At least Sean is aging (over 35; Gee what does that make me? Old?  Yes….) and not skinny.  Damned Kids.  But I had a good time anyway.