WDMS Chapter 134

An Alien, a Burro and a Redneck go to a Racetrack...

NASA Texas Round 2, Motorsports Ranch Cresson

March 2009


Hello there race-fans, Costas here. I didn't attend this race but Gary, Nick and Mike did and I'll let them tell their tales!

First up is Nick...and we last left him after his track-day at TWS in Alamo...


It's been a while since I went on-track with the car.  The last track day I attended was in November when Costas, Wade, and I met up at TWS for a TWS MSC weekend.  The car went under the knife after that to put the 305 in (huge thanks to Costas), and I've been working on little things since then to get it ready.  Unfortunately I missed my chance to go to MSR-Houston because of car problems, but I was ready for Cresson.  MSR-Cresson was actually the first track I ever drove.  It was my HPDE-1 weekend last year.  It's a great technical track, also great for noobs.  I came with the intention of getting signed off to get my comp license.  <Ricky Bobby> I wanna go fast! </RB>  ;-)

I arrived Friday, and the rain had stopped by the time I hit MSR.  I quickly unloaded the car and headed to tech, for fear of the rain starting up again.  Everyone else had the same idea, unfortunately.  Tech was long, with many driver's getting their annuals done.  And then, the mist started up again.  It was just miserable.  I ran in to Countryman at tech, and we chatted a bit while waiting for our turn. 

Saturday morning was just as miserable.  A mist light enough to not drench anything, but steady enough to be very annoying.  I started the day with the HPDE meetings I had become accustomed to.  Here is the course, here are the flags, don't hit anything.  Got it!  What was really pushed on us, though, was the fact that MSR-Cresson is slick in the dry, and like ice in the wet.  Oh joy.  I mustered up the "seesoo" to try my hand at driving the still slick track.  It was crazy.  Slipping and sliding all over if you even tried to do anything resembling hard driving.  I saw many cars spin, trying some hero moves (it's just DE, folks!).  From what I was told by the experienced drivers is the wet line is very different from the dry line.  You basically stay out of what you'd consider the racing line to get in to the marbles and dirty track.  More grip?  Maybe.  I wasn't feeling it, but my last name isn't Hakkinen, either.

Came in to the pits, still misting, still cold.  I decided to skip my second sessions because the misty rain had not stopped.  It was still damp, and I knew what the track was like, and I wasn't having any of it <grumpy>.  Gary had his first race of the morning, and then we headed out to lunch.  Five dolla foooootlooooong!  And then...out of nowhere...the rain stopped.  The third and fourth sessions were saved! 

During the course of the day, we (the comp licensing group) had meetings with Kevin Mixon, Ryan Logan (chief instructor), and Michael Mosty (chief comp licensing guy) talking about what it's going to be like in real racing situations, the reality of wheel to wheel, etc.  Good stuff. Hood and I were there for CMC, and a couple of folks were going in to Spec Pinata...err Miata.  We each got our Provisional License booklets to get signed off by instructors.  Yay!

Saturday afternoon was fantastic.  The third session found myself and fellow CMC rookie Gary Hood on track together.  It's nice when you have someone in a similar car to play with, otherwise it's just boring track time.  Hood had Mosty riding with him, as he was getting signed off Saturday to race Sunday.  I motioned Hood by and went ahead trying to keep up with him.  Throughout the rest of the session I had a few mistakes, went in too hot a few places, but overall felt I did well.  I always had that little voice in the back of my head..."Bend it...bend it...gasgasGAS, ALL OF IT....brake, NO MORE BRAKE...let it track out".  Oh, that haunting voice ;-)

The fourth session I had James Proctor (CMC racer, instructor) ride with me to get my first signature in my booklet.  James is also a dirt track racer, so Gary came up to us on grid and reminded me that a little oversteer will get me bonus points in James' eyes!  :-D  I opted to keep the car neat and tidy.  It was a great session, as Rob Liebbe was out testing his fixes on his CMC Mustang, so he was right behind me on track for a while.  It was good experience with someone right up on me, pushing me around, making me watch both the track and my mirrors.  He passed me and I tried to keep up with him, sometimes with luck, sometimes without.  It was a good session of semi-lead/follow.  The session flew by, it was great playing with Rob.  We came off track, and James said I did great, and gave me some good feedback.  He said I was going a lot faster than last time he rode with me (which, ironically, was at MSR-C last year).  I'm glad that my experience is showing!  Positive feedback from other racers is always encouraging, especially since these are the folks that will be on-track with me.

After the track had gone cold, I asked Al Fernandez (CMC director) to give my car a look-over, as he is in charge of annual tech for CMC, and he went over it pretty thoroughly.  I got a few fix-it items to get it ready for TWS in April.  Everything should be ready to go!

Saturday was over, and we went out for some Cracker Barrel (mmm, mmm, gravy! and zomg biskitz!!).  Oh I will sleep well tonight!  :)

Sunday morning came, and it was time to get back out on track.  My first session went well, the track was dry and grippy.  The car felt great, and the tires came in well.  Unfortunately I had no fellow drivers to really play with, as the CMC folks were getting ready for their sessions immediately after my session.  I got passed by a race-prepped Porsche like I was standing still.  Go figure...

Before the second session, I asked Michael Mosty for a ride-along in order to get another instructor's feedback, and hopefully get another signature in my book.  Mosty obliged, and opted to hop in his car to do some lead-follow.  Perfect!  We headed out on track, and after the first lap, he got right up on me.  And when I say right up on me, I'm pretty sure he was latched on to my tow hook.  We did some laps, and he stayed right there.  He would zig left, zig right, making sure I wasn't going to get overwhelmed and fly off the track.  It was an incredible learning experience.  Drive 100%, check mirrors every few seconds, and not drive in the grass.  Damn, it was intense, but damn, it was fun.  After some good laps, he took over lead, and motioned to watch his line, and that's what I did.  I followed him around the track, and noticed some things I was doing wrong, maybe a little slow, found some better braking points, and some better turn-in points.  It was good knowledge to have. 

Mosty exited the track a few laps before checker, and we met up afterwards in the pit, and he gave me some good pointers, and told me I need to really get up on the car in front, make them know you're there.  It's a mind game, and the more you make them concentrate on you, the more likely they are to goof and end up giving up the pass.  Costas has told me this before, just in a much "yell-ier" tone, and while riding with me at TWS, and pointing furiously...  ;-)  As I've mentioned before, advice from experienced drivers is the best advice you can get.  We chatted for a bit more, and it ended up with Mosty telling me everyting looked to be in line, and once I get a checkout ride at TWS Saturday morning, and my car passes tech, I should be racing with CMC in April.  Oh...oh yes!  Oh HELL yes!

The third session came and went, I drove the line, worked on my braking points, and tried to collectively bring in everything I had learned throughout the weekend. 

The car...oh the car.  For all the time we (mostly Costas) (burroplz...you spun a lot of wrenches too!!...Costas) spent working on it to get the motor swap done, wiring up the damn thing, swapping the fuel tank in (thanks Costas/Frank), the car performed beautifully.  The motor was strong, the tires gripped hard, and it never had a glitch.  For all the track days I've been to where I've had problems with the car (battery problems, fuel cell problems, etc), this weekend threw all those out the window.  Everything went well, and it was a great weekend.  Onwards to TWS!  Gotta put a donut on a dark blue 3rd gen...



Gary 'The Alien' chimes in wik his story:

Another round of racing has come and gone.  Round 1 was at MSR-Houston.  A pretty uneventful .. uh.. event for me.  Started where I left off last season, in the back of the field.  This year, however, the CMC-2 field has grown.  There's quite a few more rookies this year (3+ in CMC and 3+ in CMC2).  Finally I will have people to play wik!  On Sunday it rained for all of 5 minutes before R3.  Thought it might be my first rain race.  Sun popped back out and did a decent job drying the track.  By the time we were up, there were only a few spots to be aware of.  Much fun as usual was had by all.

Round 2 had us heading up to MotorSport Ranch in Cresson.  Last year, this event was my first race wik the CMC guys (and the last event that the trusty Ford Ranger had been tapped to make the haul!)  It was raining the whole way up, but the new travel windows in Knocker mostly did their job (thanks Nick!). With a much easier ride in the 2500HD,  Laura and I pulled onto the skidpad that would be our pits for the next few days next to Nick and Alamo (just like last year).  Much better than parking on the grass unlike last year.  Unloaded, waited for Nick to tech, checked out the car formerly known as the Silver Slug, then the three of us went to grab dinner at Arby's... no wait, JackInTheBox. :(  Checked into the "wanna get high?" from paint fumes hotel and we were done for the night.

Not so bright but early, we arrived at a cold and wet track.  I was a bit apprehensive (just like last year); this time because it would be my first session on the wet track.  Let the car warm up for a few minutes, head over to grid and wait.  Feelin good, relaxed, take it nice and easy for the practice session.  Relearn the track, brake earlier, smooth inputs.  They send us out and I get 10 feet past the end of the pit wall and Knocker dies.  Try cranking... nothing.  I quickly dive to the outside of the next corner at the junction of the 'new' track and stop.  Crap, problems already and the weekend hasn't even started (Just like last year).  Crank some more and get more of nothing.  The rescue truck hooks up to my rear tow strap and pull me back down the 'new' course to get out of the way.  Hook up to the front strap and take me back to my pit.  The good news is both my tow straps work. :)  A quick look over results in good spark and fuel pressure. Go to pull codes, no SES light.  Hmm.  Thankfully it turned out not to be the computer, just a $0.15 blown fuse. Whew.

Before the next session, I had Nick tape two fuses to the dash... just in case. Qualifying time came, fall in line behind some of the rookies for a few laps.  Yeah, it's wet, but c'mon! Go! Make my way thru and get to the front of our little group... and promptly spin in the next corner (Little Bend).  Oops.  About six cars come to a near stop to avoid me.  Facing the wrong way, I wait til they pass then attempt a bitchin' u-ey.  I was told later I got a cheer from the crowd for it.  I was surprised how well you can brake (in a straight line) in the wet, much more aggressive than I would have guessed.

Photo courtesy of the Vomo folks!!

For the races, whichever group has the faster pole sitter, lines up first.  Race One, Jeff Wirtz was on pole for CMC and James Proctor was on pole for CMC2. Since JW's time was quicker than JP's time, the entire CMC2 field lined up behind all of CMC1.  I had fun in the wet.  A whole lot of slippin and sliding and for me, some actual passing (unfortunately, mostly out of class cars).  Wirtz and a few others ended up lapping me and half the field in a 25 minute race.  Finished 7th (I WAS SEVENTH!!!) of 9, but ahead of quite a few of the CMC2 cars.

The track really started to dry out later in the day.  R2 came and wow, what a huge difference in the level of grip. The CMC2 guys could now use that extra power they couldn't in R1.  Dave Francis, in a CMC 4th gen, is a rookie this year and is running about my times, if not a touch faster.  He beat me out in R2, but I got him in R1. Finish 6th of 10. We get Sunday wrapped up, covered the cars and headed to Arb... Cracker Barrel. I ask, who in their right mind gets chicken fried steak, but not the mash potato??

Qual for R3 goes off without a hitch, I edge out Dave by a few tenths.  Weeee!  During the down time, I ask Wirtz if he will take Knocker out the next HPDE session for a few laps.  He agrees, squeezes into the seat and off he goes.  Sweet! So that's what Knocker looks like on course... but slower :)  He comes in and confirms that Knocker is, indeed, a third gen.  :)

We have a few guys join the races that were signed off at the end of the day Saturday.  R3 involves me getting passed a lot as usual.  I try just to stay out of the way of the CMC2 guys as I don't want to split a pair who are battling for position.  Finish 6 of 11.

We mosey over to the Countyman's red ride.  Damn he's put a lot of work into it.

The R4 start is inverted from the finish results of R3.  I'm starting WAAAAY up front on the outside of the front row.  With the exception of Dave, the rest of the CMC guys are 2+ seconds quicker.  I know some say to put up more of a fight (and I would if I was only ~.5sec slower than them), but so far in the past year I've not had any metal to metal contact and intend to keep it that way.  R4 involved me, yet again, getting passed a lot.  With a handful of laps to go, Jeremy's #22 SN95 Mustang died going into rattlesnake, local caution.  At the drivers meeting, they mentioned they would go full course yellow (and maybe send out a pace car) to do extractions.  I went nice and easy past the stalled out car, only to find a CMC rookie, who just got advanced into the race group that afternoon, closing the gap behind me.  A few corners later and the other end of the track from the stranded car, I see the double yellow at a corner station.  The guy behind still looks racy.  Dave (who was just ahead of me) goes four wheels off, I ease past him and he falls in line a few cars back.  Next corner station, I POINT to the duel yellow flags.  The rook seems like he's looking to my inside to setup a pass.  Coming up to the THIRD corner station displaying the double yellow, he ducks under me in the corner.  Yeah, I'm not gonna fight that one.  Slightly annoyed, I catch up to the pack who have picked up the pace car.  Get the green for a few laps then checker in the same spot behind the silly rookie. As we exit the track, he gets waved to stop in the hot pits... hehe... wait... now they're waving me to stop?  I didn't do anything! (Well, except pass Dave under yellow, but he was off the racing surface!  I know my rules, that's legal!) Donovan came up to my window and said they got a call from a corner station that the other guy passed me under yellow going into big bend and just wanted a confirmation.  "Yup."  "Ok, you're done here." Sweet.  After getting repositioned, I finish 6th of 11.


What a fun weekend.  The AI/CMC field is getting HUGE!  20+ regular showing cars, with a few more guys who only run a few times a year. Nick got okay'd to race at the next event assuming he makes a few changes to Alamo to make it rules compliant.  I really hope he's not faster than me right out the box... but don't tell him that. :)




Still have not heard from Countryman...hope he hasn't forgot!!