WDMS - Chapter 223 - June 2014

NASA AT HALLETT

aka: "THE SUMMER SHOOTOUT"

It's been a LONG time since I drove this track...can I still win here?

Since I won both days at the last NASA event at TWS, Hoosier shipped me four new tires. I was hopeful that we would have the entries at Hallett to do this again as I could easily get used to free tires. The Hoosiers I ran at TWS were pretty worn and I knew I would not get a full weekend out of them so I ordered another scrub pair for the outside but sadly they got mixed up in the shipping and didn't arrive in time. I ended up mounting up my brand new tires (which I'd wanted to save) just prior to heading to Oklahoma. I also fixed the aluminum tray in the back that holds the rear bumper up that was damaged at TWS and gave the car a good look-over. I didn't have much time being busy around the house and with work, but early on Friday morning I headed out. 

I had reserved a garage spot on the end of the garage row and was hopeful I could put the trailer next to it for simplicity's sake. Also I could run a cord to the trailer and run the AC at night and just sleep there to save on transit time and hotel costs. The nearest hotel is about 30 minutes away and I'd rather spend that hour sleeping than driving. I pulled into Hallett a few hours before the test day was done and waited a few minutes to cross the track (had to catch a break in between sessions) and then got to my garage spot. The open space next to it was free after a polite spec7 guy moved over a few feet and I was perfectly situated. Marc pulled up in his TT1 vette and asked if I'd ride so I grabbed my helmet and off we went. It was good to see the track prior to tomorrow and Marc was smooth and fast. We had some good chats about how best to attack the course and where to try and shave some time. He had his hands full with a HUGE TT1 field and he was still hunting his first win after coming very close at TWS. The track had been repaved earlier this year and while the surface is pretty nice, all the marks and indicators are gone making consistency tough. The brake markers are up, but that's it. I'd not been here in about 15 years and the track still flows with the landscape very nicely. This being the 'Summer Shootout', cars from four different NASA regions all come together for a midwest snap shot of "who is fastest".  Folks bring their "A" game and I hope mine would be good enough. 

 

Above: Two things made this trip really nice. Jeremy, my volunteer crewdog and a brand new set of Hoosiers compliments of....Hoosier! 

No, his pitbike is not fan powered, he's simply returning a fan that we borrowed and then didn't need because I borrowed even better ones from Marc!!

After the final Friday session with Marc, I got Scratcher unloaded and in my garage spot. I also unloaded the toolbox and supplies I knew I'd need and got to work. A guy named Jeremy shows up and stops by a few times and tells me he's seen my car online and is a member on an F-body road race board (www.frrax.com) that I'm on also and we get to chatting. I jokingly tell him that if he hangs around too much I'll put him to work, to which he replies "what do you need done". Oh yes...this would work out nicely!! Turns out he came up on his own just to watch for the weekend and was happy to get involved and learn some things. Since I was not paddocked next to Fair/Marc/Scheier group (paddocking Scratcher on the grass would be a pain) and Matt/Misty were a hundred yards down the road, I was mostly to my own. Gary and Laura were not too far away, but Gary runs in a group opposite mine so our schedules don't mesh much, but we did get some good chats in this weekend. Fair would be here in a few more hours and I wanted to be mostly done before our crowd went to dinner. When he and Amy finally pulled in about an hour before dark I was mostly done with the few little things I needed to do and we all headed to a good restaurant place about 15 minutes away. A big group of us sat at a large round table in the corner and laughed ourselves silly while eating great food for a few hours and then Fair dropped us back at the track. I grabbed a shower to get cleaned up and felt MUCH better. It was a typical warm summer day in Oklahoma, but the AC on top of my trailer cooled it down very quickly and I was already backing off on the thermostat before I fell asleep on a thick pad with soft sheets. 

Saturday                                                                                        Sunday

0800     TT Meeting (TT = time trial)                                              0830    Blitz / Thunder Warmup  

0840     TT warmup (lap time sets grid for TT session)                    0900    TT session 1 (grid by fastest time yesterday)

0945     Blitz warmup (my race group)                                            1015    Blitz Championship race (grid set by avg of R1 and R2 finish position)

1020    TT session 1                                                                       1110    TT session 2 

1145    Blitz qualy                                                                           1355    TT session 3

1310    TT session 2                                                                       1415    Blitz bonus race (points for Texas Region DO count)    

1455    Blitz race 1                                                                         1535    TT session 4 (backwards, for fun and track records only) <-wish I'd have done this!!!

1550    TT session 3

1735    Blitz race 2 (grid set by R1 results)

 

This is a typical schedule for a person doing a race group and "supersizing" for TT as well. Since I'm in the season points hunt for both TTU (time trials unlimited) and SU (super unlimited...a wheel2wheel race class) I need to run both. The nice thing is, for TT only your fastest lap of the day counts so I typically only do a session a day for TT and stand on that time. Sure I could likely go out and improve, but I'm here for points and to win tires and I get decent track time doing the other two races each day. So, honestly, that schedule cuts down a lot and makes it easier on the car/tires/fuel and for turning it around and getting it ready for the next session.  

 

So, I actually only did the sessions in green due to: A) not NEEDING to do anymore to score points and tires, (save the car, tires, etc) and B) an issue cropped up so I did the 'go fast enough to win' and bring the car home in one piece!

 

Above: Home sweet home for a few days and nights...Scratcher didn't have much extra room through the door, but it was plenty wide inside and plenty deep!

 

The Saturday morning TT warmup went well, but it still amazes me how hard people push just warming up. We had several driver offs and one nice spin in the middle of the track. I led the field around and THOUGHT I was going slow enough, but I was told by several folks to please slow it down (so I did the next time) but I don't know how folks put heat in the brakes and tires if they are going 30 mph. I typically go 45-55 and accel/brake and then weave a bit. I slowed pretty good for the last two corners but we were still strung out and I probably should have slowed down even more. Oh well. Anyway, after a few decent laps, Marc was behind me and I let him by and then off we went slicing through traffic. Coming over the hill and into the right-hander 'bitch', there was a lotus sitting still in the middle of the track facing traffic. Marc went left and was rapidly closing on the car in front of him that was slowing down too much to go around and I was worried about piling into Marc. So I slid Scratcher sideways a bit to scrub off speed going RIGHT AT the lotus and then gathered it up and went to the inside (right) and kept going. I'm sure it kinda freaked the lotus driver out, but it was the best I could do on short notice. Fun video here of the incident:       

 

* * * * * * SHORT WARM UP VIDEO WITH LOTUS SPIN HERE: https://vimeo.com/101186362

 

Marc loading up the front end heading down to the bitch...

 

I didn't push too hard as I was on stickers and I didn't want to abuse them their first heat cycle. No flatspots, no offs, no sliding, etc. I got them up to good temp, worked them decent and came in. They felt good and I knew I had a lot more time on the table. Scratcher ran fine but got a little more water temp than normal at the end of the few laps, but I attributed that to it being freaking hot, I was in traffic and not clean air at the end, and it was freaking hot. So Jeremy helped me turn the car around for the first timed TT session (warm-up does not count) and we bled down the extra air pressure and checked the car over and then headed to grid when it was our turn. I was actually gridded fourth behind Marc and two Lotus' and was fine with that since we were all pretty close on time. Four other TTU cars (need 5 total to win tires, so this was looking good!!!) were there and the closest was several seconds back so I felt pretty good. I was also anxious to push the sticker tires a lot harder to see how they'd do. 

 

Fair pushing the Vorshlag Mustang. Sadly, he went off on the warmup and had some repairing to do...

 

So for the first timed TT session I went out fourth, and we absolutely PUTTED around the track. The field had been split into the TTU/TT1/TT2/TT3 cars and the TTB-TTF cars got a session right after ours so there were a LOT less cars on track. We actually had about 44 cars in the warmup and it was crowded, but this wasn't too bad. Still, stuck in first gear is no way to put heat in the tires! ANYway, we took the green, I gave the lotus in front of me a decent gap and put my head down. I had the AIM SOLO (available from www.vorshlag.com, I highly recommend one!!) up and running and knew if I threw down a 1:19 or a 1:18 I'd call that done and bank it. Our warmups were in the 1:21s and 1:22s and Marc had done a 1:19 on Friday so I felt an 18 would be fine. My first lap was a 1:22.3 and by then I felt good enough to push the tires pretty hard. The lap was far from perfect as I actually had more grip than I thought so I butchered a few lines. Nothing horrible, but I surely left a good chunk of time out there. Still, finishing the second lap showed a 1:18.6 and as I started to push for another lap, my gauge scan showed me a water temp that was 10 degrees hotter than normal. Ug....cool it off, bank the 18 and come in. Sadly, on my cooldown in-lap, I tried to get out of the way of some traffic still hotlapping and got into the marbles and put two off and the tail of the car caught a tall spot in the rumbles and jarred my panel loose that I had just fixed before coming up here! Heh. I was a bit miffed because there is a decent bit more in the car if I pushed harder, but remember...season points. Jeremy and I pulled bodywork to check things out and the water was down a bit. I decided to skip Blitz qualy as it was coming up shortly to allow the car to fully cool and raise the front and burp the cooling system really good and be fully ready for the first race (R1). Oh, and re-rivet the aluminum panel back in place by the tail, and this time use more rivets! I'd also skip the rest of the TT sessions as I now had FTD for all of TT (and indeed, fastest time of the day for all cars in all classes actually) and it stuck.  

 

Above: Fair using a RAPTOR to assist with splitter re-alignment....and a partial first page of the huge TT field. I luckily sat on top with my one TT session.

 

* * * * * VIDEO OF FAST LAP HERE =====> https://vimeo.com/99111797

 

I went to the blitz meeting after the blitz qualy and let them know I'd be starting R1 (race 1...we had R1 and R2 today, then R3 "champ race" and bonus R4 on Sunday) last. An announcement was made (which I was very thankful for) that I'd be trying to come forward once the race started. I surely didn't want to interrupt any in-class racing, but I also needed to get up to the other guys running SU and see if I could score some good points. Hallett is a great track, but is limited a bit on passing areas and with cars from four different regions attending, we had a lot of drivers we're not used to. The plan was to keep an eye on the temp gauge as well as gently move up as the field allowed. 

Huge thanks to Marc for loaning me two blowers...these things can put out some air and were very helpful since I forgot to load mine

 

So in the meantime Jeremy and I have let Scratcher cool way down, and raised the nose a bit and really burped the cooling system well. It took maybe two quarts to top it off and so I was hopeful we'd found the culprit. I head to grid and wait at the very back. While sitting there a director familiar with most regions comes over and chats and thankfully gives me a short list of cars that don't really watch mirrors well and might prove...uh....interesting to pass. I thanked that person profusely and as it turns out they were *exactly* right. We head out on an incredibly slow pace lap and then the green drops and I started 27th and picked my way through traffic gently. Some of these drivers were damn unpredictable so I worked to keep my nose clean and make 'sure thing' passes. I'd gotten up to 16th on lap 4 and then 12th on lap 7. Sadly, I'd catch pairs of cars in the same class and elected to wait to make a pass and get both of them to not muck up their race. Also, I was keeping an eye on the temp gauge which, by lap 3 was wandering from 'that's fine' to 'not good' and back with a mind of it's own. I slid into 10th with two laps to go and saw the lead SU car just ahead. I pushed for a half a lap and the temp gauge jumped a bit so I ended up finishing a few seconds behind, getting 2nd place points instead of 1st in the short, 9 lap race. Argh. The temp settled a bit on the cool down lap and I hoped it'd be fine with another race in a few hours. 

 

Not a GREAT lapchart, but steady progress considering the track and the traffic involved. 

 

Above: I got to re-repair this panel early on Saturday. Below: Some on-track TT action! 

 

 

 

Jeremy (who by now had the routine down) and I (who by now was way WAY thankful Jeremy showed up) got the car checked over for the last race and let it cool. Marc had let me borrow a pair of nice fans to blow through the nose when I'd come in and those worked very well. Car was down a bit of water but it looked fine and didn't appear to blow any coolant. Hmmm. Gary came over and we were chatting during some downtime and he asked me if I thought the gauge was reading right. Up until that moment I'd not thought about it but it seemed to make sense. I grabbed my IR gun and hit the coolant crossover where the sensor is mounted and it said 160. The gauge inside said 190. Ruh-roh. So...the gauge is wrong but is it wrong linearly or just by however much it wants? When I re-do the dash, this thing is getting a coolant gauge on both sides!

 

Above: Misty's pink ST1 Camaro that Matt was driving that weekend

 

Above: Some snaps of the Blitz race group folks

 

So about two hours later I again motor down to grid hopeful that the temperature stays even and I can bag more points. I'll start right beside the winning SU car from last time, so the plan is to scoot away and then just mind the gap and take the class win. Part of me always wants to push hard and snag the overall win as well, but with a car that seems wounded I'll take the easy points. This race was going to be longer and the late afternoon was getting hotter. None of the TT cars went faster in the afternoon so I didnt expect fast times, just settle in and make it to the end. The green drops with me in 8th and I quickly scoot up to 4th by the third lap and I back down, short shift or just stay in third gear, and make laps. Since the car was still geared for TWS I never even used 4th, but putting in third seemed to keep the temp gauge more happy. A quick ST1 car eases up to me so I move over and just let him go as I keep pounding out the laps. I finished in 5th, just keeping the temperature gauge out of the 'ugly' zone, but still 20 degrees hotter than where it typically runs. Maybe it IS running fine and I could have sprinted, but it simply isn't worth it. I'll take the class win and Jeremy and I get the car turned around for the next day and I slept like a log in the nice cool trailer after a good shower and great food. 

 

Lapchart for R2. Nothing impressive, but a solid SU win and the points that go with it

 

Results for the day were pretty good. Fair won TT3 despite some gesture-drama (http://www.vorshlag.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7806) and Marc Sherrin pulled out his first TT1 win of the season (after winning the WRL race overall last weekend!). I picked up the TTU win, a 2nd in R1 and a win in R2. Not bad by any means, but hopefully I can improve tomorrow. 

 

 

Above: Lots of folks camp or sleep in vehicles and some use ingenious methods to keep cool. It's nice to win the hardware :-)

 

Sunday dawns again to the chicken song (a Hallett thing) and a similar schedule follows. I do the Blitz/Thunder warmup to help get the air pressures right for the only TT session I'm going to do and to see if the temp gauge is still wonky. The race warmup goes fine and the temp mostly stays stable, but it was a very short session so it wasn't a very valid test. Jeremy and I turned the car around and headed to grid for the first TT session. With the fastest time from yesterday I start on pole and lead the TT group out. I go slower this time and bunch us up pretty good near the end of the lap and then really drop the hammer. The Hoosiers 'wake up' a LOT faster than the Goodyears do. Now, I think the Goodyears might be a bit more durable, they are lighter and I don't think they get as 'greasy' feeling when pushed too hard, but the Hoosiers FOR SURE come in a lot quicker. I flew through the first half of the course and then interrupted my singing (beach boys) to say, out loud, 'oh, what fresh hell is this?' as I caught a single car down at  turn 6. ARGH. I knew as soon as I saw him that he arrived late on grid and rather than holding him, they let him go and 'try and catch up'. So he is down here scrubbing tires and I'm WFO. Since he's out-of-region, I have no idea if he is heads up and my idea of banking a quick lap and being done is gone. Sure enough, he crushes some of my time and so there goes that lap. Second lap was semi clean but the temp gauge had jumped so I back off the last half of that lap (with a 1:20.2) so I pushed  a bit harder on lap three and again caught a car, but put down a 1:19.8 and I pulled in. I knew that would win TTU for the day (with, again, 5 entrants so another pair of tires to win!) so I was okay with it, but I also knew that the cool portion of the day and the potential fastest lap of the day was gone. Again, season points and score the tires! Jeremy and I again turn the car around, set pressures and make a few small chassis changes and get it ready for the first race of the day, R3.

 

 

The "championship" race is next which means a long race and I'm already starting it on SU pole. A few ST1 cars are in front of me and I simply don't care. I've got to nurse this motor through two more races so I motor on down to grid. My starting spot is an average of my finishing positions from yesterday so I start 5th, next to Matt White in 6th. Everyone in front of me is ST1 as is Matt so I'll just take it easy on the start and let Matt scoot up there and see what happens. I can turn up the wick if needed, but the plan is to simply stay in front of the SU cars behind me and finish this race in P1 for my class. After the slowest pace lap in history, the green drops and I hesitate and let Matt jump into the fight and then pace behind him. By turn 2 he has already passed for 4th and I keep holding 6th until I see the 5th place car isn't really pressuring Matt -AND- I catch sight of another SU car in my mirror at the top of a hill. Yeah, he's a ways back, but I need to open up this gap. So I squirt into 5th on lap 7, 4th on lap 8, and then 3rd on lap 11. All the while I'm backing down on the rev limit and running a gear higher than normal to keep the car cool. Oh, I'm still using all the track and every bit of grip the tires have, just taking it easy on the motor and using as much momentum as possible to keep the lap times decent. The AIM SOLO in the car was a huge help and I noticed even as I slowed down, I still caught and passed cars in front of me. For another 6 long laps I waited for the white flag and then took the checked on lap 17 after racing for 30 miles, picking up another SU win. The temp gauge was still doing it's oddball thing and I was happy to finish this way long race and bank the points. 

Above: R3 "Championship Race" lapchart. I started first in SU and finished same. No reason to push with the temp issues...

 

* * * * * R3 RACE VIDEO HERE ----> https://vimeo.com/100343994

 

 

 

 

Over lunch NASA did awards at the winners circle and I picked up a trophy for the SU win for the 'championship' race and another 'WINNER' sticker. YAY. Lunch was great and we let the car cool down knowing that I only had one more race to go. A lot of cars were clearing out to start the trip home, but with season points on the line and a car that would still start, I was staying. Jeremy helped me bleed brakes and burp the cooling system again (used a bit more water...ug) and I eventually went down to the grid to slot into 2nd for the last race. The pole car was an ST1 car and my SU competitors were behind me. This was supposed to be a 20 minute race and I know more than a few of us were telling the officials it'd be totally fine if this race became a 15 minute race. or 10. Heh. 

 

Above: Sunday TT action. I again did one session and then snapped some pics when I had a few minutes. Having the bike to zip around helped a TON! 

 

Sitting there waiting for the previous session to end I knew I'd start on the front row with the ST1 car to my left and a gaggle of cars behind me with the top few rows (ST1 and SU cars) all capable of running pretty quick times. I didn't want to muck up any ST1 action so if everything felt right I was going to actually sprint hard for a few laps and see what happened. We finally launched and with a little quicker pace lap, Scratcher was feeling good. I had a song all keyed up as we began the last corner and everything just felt....right. So I let the ST1 car set the pace and then as the starter's elbow twitched I launched away and easily beat him to the s/f line and walked away. I did a very fast turn 1 and already had a few lengths on him headed up the hill to turn 2, so I left it in attack mode for two laps, watching him fade several car lengths every straight. I alternated pushing and taking it easy, and then backed off after banking a quick time (fastest lap of the race) on lap 6 with a clear track behind me. Only 12 cars took the green and thankfully the checker showed up after 9 laps and just under 15 minutes. The temp gauge did the same thing it did in the morning race, swinging around, but staying out of the red zone and so I just took it easy till the end. Wahoo! 

 

* * * * * VIDEO OF R4 (with an outside-view shot of the start and pics at the end) ====> https://vimeo.com/101199172

 

 

Above: Now there is a darn good looking lapchart!!!

 

Jeremy helped me load the car and I had mixed feelings. Part of me wanted to do the last TT session (backwards) just for grins, but I also had a long drive home and then a 6am flight to Vegas the next morning. I had a bit of work to do there, but was also flying out the family to spend some good fun-time in the city of lights (our 6yr old daughter's first trip!!...hint: she LOVED it...and Anna and I love it as well). As I pulled up to exit the track, it went hot for the final TT session so I climbed on top of the trailer and got some good pics of the cars that decided to do it. Then, as soon as they cleared the track I was headed south at a good clip (8.1 FTW!!) to get home and ready for the flight out. 

 

 

Check back, I've got video of R1 and R2 to still add...