WDMS - Chapter 229 - November 2014


Championship on the line...

"c'mon Scratcher, work with me just a little, aight?"

Time. There just wasn't a lot of TIME and as we all know, time is the one thing you can't retrieve or add to. 

The new cylinder heads were ordered October 13th, the day after the last race. I had three weeks (Nov 1st) until the season finale and I was 10 points up with 400 points on the line. The heads showed up at Batman's, he got them completely checked and I got them on the 24th. They were basically a design copy of the cnc-race Chevrolet Bowtie heads, with a few "minor" changes. Every single change would cost me time. Time I really did not have. 

Above: My what big ports you have! 

I removed the heads from Scratcher with the motor in the chassis on the 23rd and 24th, and began putting the new heads on on the 25th. By Monday the 27th I had mocked up the existing intake to ensure it would fit (thankfully it did, so I did not need to overnight a new one) and I went to put the valvetrain on that night. Shortly before 7pm on Monday the 27th I was completely hosed. The original 'first design' 18* heads use .450 offset intake rockers, but all the later revisions used the .550 offset ones. The new heads used the much-more-common .550 as well. My problematic heads used, of course, the .450 ones. So most of the intake pushrods were touching the head. Ug. I knew a call to Jesel was in order first thing in the morning, but I continued to work into the night to keep preparing under the assumption that Jesel (and overnight shipping) could save me. False hope? Perish the thought!  

I bolted on the exhaust system and tightened it all up and then realized the plug ports were slightly moved up and so the exhaust had to come back off to install plugs. Then I put the exhaust back on. I put in the valve cover studs only to find that the valve cover rails were raised a bit and I could not put on the passenger valve cover with the studs in. So, off the studs come. Then find correct pitch/length bolts to make the covers work. Three steps forward, fourteen steps back. It was Monday approaching midnight when we had to have the talk. 

I walked over to the garage sink and washed my hands slowly in warm water, taking long deep breaths and letting all the tension release from my muscles, the stress melting away. I walked back over and sat down on a big Hoosier and began. "We've had a good run and we've done great. So far we've done exactly what we set out to do, and that was win. We are within striking distance of the goal we set back in January and that is to win a double championship. Winning TTU is done but champions don't quit halfway. I know you want this as bad as I do, but I need some help here. You've got to stop fighting me. We've punched above our weight all season long and we are close to the finish line. We've done far more with far less than any other competitor but we've got one more event to make. I'm going to do everything in my power to have you ready Saturday morning, but I can't do it alone. We've got to do it together. You deserve the championship, but we're not quite there yet. Help me out. Stop fighting me." If it is one thing that decades of wrestling taught me, it is that champions don't quit. They keep pushing, they dig deep and they keep training, keep fixing, and persevere. It's so damn cliché, but so damn true. The easy path is what most folks take and that is why most folks are not champions. I felt good, calm, and never lost my spark of hope, and my dedication never faltered.

With that, I looked over the car and realized we were a LONG way from being ready. At this point I grabbed my clipboard and made a new list of the absolute bare minimum we'd need to get done to make the race. Early the next morning, while waiting to get tires swapped around I had a long talk with Jon from Jesel. It was Tuesday. I needed parts machined, assembled and shipped by Thursday. He offered no guarantees, but said he felt pretty good he could make it happen. I told him our season long championship was on the line and it rested with him. He said he'd be in touch. I got tires swapped, I got my air cylinder swapped out, I got race fuel and that night I got the front rotors swapped out to new ones and the trans and diff fluid checked. Everything on the car went easy and I was very thankful. Work was busy, but once that was done, the trailer got squared away and pre-loading started.

Above: Free rain tires (extra soft and extra extra sticky) from Hoosier!!! Yay!! #HoosierTire #Winning #SpoilsOfWar #ThankYouHoosier

Wednesday and the windshield was removed and cleaned and put back in. The rain deflectors removed. The rain tires I won from Hoosier showed up, pretty much guaranteeing that there would be no rain at ECR (or for the race weekends for the next few years I'd bet!!). The suspension was nut and bolted and the car interior was cleaned up.

Thursday Jon from Jesel called to verify the shipping address and to tell me that the rockers were machined on Wednesday and would be assembled and shipped today. I debated on putting on the intake manifold because if anything went wrong with the pushrods, I'd have to take the intake back off to rectify it. I decided that was too much of a gamble and left the intake off, knowing it added another chunk of time to my assembly process but something did not feel right about putting on the intake now.

Friday arrived and the rockers show up looking gorgeous in their little individual baggies wrapped in individual foam wrapping. It was also Halloween. The car needed rockers installed, all the lash set, the intake installed, the distributor installed, the timing set, the nose hung, the coolant filled and burped and then the car loaded. Stopping never entered my mind...I was dedicated to this cause. 


Above: The glorious new rockers (and yes, that IS a candy-corn tablecloth!, and the rocker-swap underway

Our daughter Rossi was the most gorgeous Elsa for Halloween, however, prior to that she knew we had a race to make and she staved off trick-of-treating to help me get things done "on the fast car". She is so awesome. I finally "ran out" of things for her to help with (she is always asking to help and does a great job, is careful and methodical....and she is only 6!) as the darkness fell so she and her favorite Auntie (and mom!) could go scam the masses out of candy. Prior to leaving she helped label all the rockers, organize all the trunions and snap rings and re-bag all the used parts, and this was after cleaning intake bolts and organizing the assembly table. Too cute.


Above: Working feverishly to get it all done and in the trailer....and about an hour later. Sadly, you can't see her high heels!!

The rocker bar was already installed, so the intake rockers joined the exhausts on the trunions and then got installed. Then the lash was set, the intake installed, the distributor dropped and the nose hung, radiator connections made and coolant system filled up and burped. After priming, the motor fired on the first kiss of the starter and I quickly set the timing and waited for it to warm up and burp it again. While it was warming I reconnected the brake ducting and got the trailer lined up to winch Scratcher aboard. Everything went stupidly easy. I was rushed, but smiling.

By 10pm our Kiddo has long been asleep (after sharing candy with me, of course!) and the truck and trailer are loaded. I have a 4.5 hour drive ahead of me and the goal is to be in the gates by 630am. I decide to grab a shower and leave now versus sleeping until 2am and rolling out then as I was wide awake and late night driving is fine with me. I rolled out around 10:30pm with the big 8.1 pulling us north into the chilly night.

At 2:30AM I was less than an hour from the track and stopped and grabbed 3 hours of sleep. The fact that the back seat of our crewcab folds completely flat is one of the awesome things I love about this truck. At 6:45 I was pulling into the track and into my waiting paddock spot. Marc, Fair and I have all helped each other paddocking this year and since I snagged us good spots at MSRH and TWS, it was Marc's turn at ECR and he saved me a perfect spot (HUGE THANK YOU MARC) right up front by the final turn. As the sun was cresting the horizon, Scratcher was getting winched out of the trailer and I was cautiously but confidently optimistic. Marc came down the hill (he was staying in an RV up there) and Cody Case showed up in his ///M3 to run HPDE and TT as well. Jason Toth arrived to instruct and our paddock was complete. 

I skipped the warmups to let the sun get a bit higher and the track temp to correspondingly rise. My first session was the first timed TT session (TT-1) and I went out and ran the entire session, just kept the RPMs a little lower than normal. I never threw down a seriously fast lap (1:57 was my quickest), but the engine temp was rock solid at 185 the whole time. Awesome! Not too long after that session was the Blitz (racing) qualifying session and I again stayed out the whole session (1:54 quickest) and the car ran fine while again, not pushing the RPMs too much. Troy was on pole with a 1:51.3!

Above: Troy's gorgeous DRM Corvette. He's taking hi son TJ for a ride for this session. 

I skipped the next TT session and got ready for the first Blitz race. I was gridded second behind Troy and we talked about the start. Whoever got the jump could have the first turn and I told him if it was close, I was going to back out and then went over the whole "I'm here for the championship, not for just one race". So we grid up for R1 and launch and on the outlap I tell Scratcher "just gotta finish races, we'll take it easy and stick to the plan", and then Troy gets a decent jump and I stay back a bit and simply follow him for a few laps. I faded back a bit and then started pushing the motor a bit to see what it was like at higher revs and it ran great. I snuck up on Troy and was close to him for the final lap and he saw me and dropped the hammer. My fastest race lap was a 1:51.8 (Troy's fastest was a 1:54) and I was easily leaving several seconds on the table. The other SU championship contender finished behind me, so the points advantage grew. Scratcher felt good but a bit skittish in uneven braking zones (and at ECR, a LOT of the braking zones are uneven and rough...) but ran solid. I felt confident. 

Above: I was so rushed to make this event I never even got to wipe the car down so I just cleaned off the class/# designators and the SCRTCHR plate so nobody is confused what car this is.... (heh)

Next up was R2 and again the same thing happened (including the same outlap chat), but I never really pushed it in the middle (my best was a 1:55.9) and Troy (1:51.8 best) won overall while I again put up maximum points towards the championship. Two more races tomorrow and if they finished the same way then the championship would be mine.

Above: Marc in his C6Z heading up the hill to fly by a miata in a few more seconds

Marc (C6Z) was in a championship battle as well with Raymund (Viper) and they left TWS with the points tied in (timetrial class) TT1. For this year they have gone back and forth the whole time with some events settled with less than a tenth of a second between them! With one event today and one tomorrow, they had 200 points on the line. Raymund went all out for this last event, pulling his headlights and taping over the holes, pulling the rear bumper and taillights and mounting up a large custom diffusor out back. Raymund didn't have a time yet as he had only done one session and went four off, meaning 'no time' and so it all came down to the final TT session. 

Above: Cody giving Toth a ride. I love it when the E36s pull that inboard front tire completely off the ground. 

For my last session of the day, I did the final TT session (careful to stay out of Raymund and Marc's way!) to make some changes to the car and test. Marc threw down a TT1 winning 1:51.8 while I won TTU with a not-pushing-too-hard 1:52.4 and the car not responding to my changes at all. We did have 5 entrants in TTU and so the Hoosier contingency kicked in and I won a pair of tires today. Raymund again went four off and so he was DQd for the day, essentially handing the championship to Marc in the process. 


Above: Cody checking his brakes, Scratcher getting lexan cleaned and Marc's C6Z getting tires swapped. Never a dull moment....  and then Cody pounding out some laps

That night was a big halloween party, with lots of costumes and awards and I took home a trophy for the main SU win and the TTU win today. Afterward, I took a hard look at the front end of the car, touching every component and found the left front shock was broken. Great. I pulled out my spare original Carrera old school hydraulic shocks and re-mounted the left front one. It wasn't great, but it was a heck of a lot better than the loose-stick-in-an-empty-cup that I had now. I raised the car a bit and softened it a bit and swapped tires around and got the car ready for Sunday. It would all be decided tomorrow.

In the morning Marc was, of course, hounding me about NOT having the fastest time of the day yesterday. We jabbered back and forth as usual, laughing and smack talking as we prepped our cars for the day. He knew I was in 'championship' mode and wasn't going to risk too much, but he also knew that inside I really wanted 'fastest lap' to be mine. We'd have to wait and see what the day would bring.

I did the first TT session to warm the car up and put in a time. Marc did the smart thing and simply went out, made an easy 2:30 lap and came back in, solidifying his TT1 result for the day and thus locking up the championship. Had he broke or not finished a clean (no 4-wheel offs) lap then he'd be out for the day and Raymund could tie it up. So, while I warmed up with a not-really-pushing it 1:56, Marc did the smart thing and ensured his reason for being here as well. With that done, I fully expected him to execute a fangs-out lap in one of the next TT sessions. We had 5 TT sessions Sunday, so there was plenty of time. We again had 5 entrants in TTU, so another win there would complete the set of tires for the weekend. 

Above: Note that one shock has a remote res on the front ARB while the other....does not. #Sad #MakeDoWithWhatYouHave

Next up for Scratcher was Blitz warmup where we are joined with the Thunder (AI, CMC, SI) group. It was a fun warmup and I felt out the car more with the shock change. 

VIDEO OF WARMUP WITH FRONT/REAR CAM HERE: https://vimeo.com/112142309

After the warmup, my buddy Rob and his son Gavin showed up for a bit. Gavin had a championship game that afternoon so they could not stay long but I was very happy that Rob would finally get to peek into my racing world for a TT session. I've known Rob since before High School and he has ridden in some of my creations before and we have also taken his plane to the big Oshkosh airshow quite a few times, with Gavin going the last two times and Rossi going the last time. Gavin likes mechanical things and was happy to be treated to a paddock ride with Marc in the rumbling corvette. We got Rob waivered and helmeted up and slid him in Scratcher and we went to grid. Richard (the TT director) was on grid and has ridden in Scratcher and gave Rob some pointers ("hold here, keep your visor down as there is a lot of flying debris, and keep your chin up as you come into the braking zones") and then Rob and I went over the 'knock it off' signal and then we were off. Marc was at the front of the grid to laydown a fast time and we started at the back since I has a passenger and was going to "take it easy". <giggle>

Above: Rob just got off the phone with his insurance agent and Jake lied and said he was covered for 'foolish endeavors'. #GameOn

Clearly, I was not going to 'take it easy' on Rob, but I also needed a few laps to get him adjusted before I went and let Scratcher run. So we sliced through a bit of traffic and then we caught a big hole just as we came onto the front straight, I tapped Rob and he gave a quick "thumbs up" and I said to myself, "self: quick lap, right now". I bumped my so-far-RPM limit about 500 revs and we really hauled the mail around the track. As we went through the bowl a second time and came upon the last two straights before the start/finish line a quick glance at the predictive lap timer said we were on pace for a 1:49.x lap. Now, just so you know, there is a clause in the regulations saying that you should never set your fastest lap with a passenger (because you're taking it easy) and that "your times may result in a DQ for the session". I was banking on that word "may", but still slowed down for the final two straights and the 180 degree corner that connected them and registered a then-fastest-of-the-weekend 1:50.9 (to Marc's 1:51.1). We did a cool down lap and since Marc had only done one fast flyer, he was already in the paddock with live timing in hand when Rob and I pulled in near the end of the session. 

Above: Your 2014 TT1 Nasa Tx Champion    Below: Marc really loves sticker Hoosiers....I mean.....REALLY LOVES...


More ribbing, more smack talk with me defending the lap using the word "may" and Marc arguing the other way. It was tough to argue while we were laughing so hard and soon a group was around us and Richard strolled up as well and we actually looked the rule up and waited for Richard to figure out what to do. Honestly, Marc and I didn't care, but anything we can use to goad each other is completely fair game and had Marc not brought up the rule I'd have been disappointed in him! 


Above: Look behind Corey....  Below: WDMS!!!

Rob's son Gavin said he was bummed he did not get to ride in Scratcher and Rob told him "Son, you don't want to ride in that car. It was very hot, there was debris thrown all over me, I was pushed and pulled in all directions and it was disorienting...it was kinda like riding in a dryer!" I was happy that Gav got a paddock ride in Marc's thundering corvette and Rob said he talked about that for quite a while.

Above: exceeding track limits and then lifting that front to get the heck out of there! 

Next up was Blitz qualifying and I went out and did a quick 1:51.6 to Troy's 1:49.9 and we again agreed on the same start situation. After the session I re-set air pressures and made another slight change to the car, all in an effort to see if Scratcher liked it and go a bit faster. So for R3, Troy and I again paraded a field of cars around on the warmup lap and again I said "we're on target for the championship, let's keep doing what we're doing" and the green dropped and Troy got a great start and walked me a bit, but he didn't step over to take the T1/T2 chicane optimally and I said "self, here is a chance to get close and see what happens" and so I got through T1/2 and closed a LOT onto Troy and then kept closing through turns 3/4/5 and we were very well setup for a good T5 exit leading to a decent straight. Now, Troy has a 5 speed sequential box with tight ratios and I have a wide ratio 4 speed box and I'm still geared for TWS so when you watch the video you can see (at the start) Troy zipping away from me as he rips through the gears while I slowly go through one gear as we started in between 1st and 2nd for me and I painfully chose the bottom of 2nd. HOWEVER, even when a car is geared overall wrong for a track there are still some corners where you end up geared 'spot on' and T5 was just such a corner. I exit in the meat of 2nd and close up on Troy on the straight to T6 and step out early so he knows I'm there. He lifts a touch early, I shoot by him and wail through T6 and scoot away a bit on the long back stretch and the RACE IS ON. Scratcher felt great the next lap and then on the third lap I said it was time to really throw one down and with Troy working his corvette to catch me, Scratcher puts in a 1:49.7. I back off just a bit after that and finish the remaining laps with Troy and I doing the accordion thing where he was faster in some sections and would close up to me a bit, or I'd be faster and I'd walk away just a bit. It was a stupid fun race and Troy put down a best of a 1:51.8 chasing me and Scratcher ran strong and solid the whole time. 

VIDEO OF R3 WITH FRONT/REAR CAM HERE: https://vimeo.com/110841105

Troy and I had a great chat talking about the race and how fun it was. He said it was the most fun race he'd had in a long time and even though it was just the two of us (we really checked out from the field) he echoed my comments about how our cars were faster in different sections and how we both were pushing damn hard to get to that checker. We both said we were going to take it easy on the final race but we both knew that it was 'game on' to see who could snag the final checker. 

I re-checked Scratcher and again bled more air out and made another change to the chassis. I felt good about the changes and Scratcher was doing fine. Coolant temp was rock solid and the only thing I kept adding was fuel. 

I took Cody out for the final TT session in Scratcher and 'THE PLAN' was for him to take Scratcher out in the last session of the day, which was HPDE. I clocked a reasonable 1:55 while showing Cody the ins/outs of Scratcher. Raymund went and threw down a TT1 winning 1:50.5 (to Marc's 1:51.1) but it was too little too late. He won the day but only got 100 points for the weekend where Marc got 190.  

Above: The viper with the headlights out, rear bumper and taillights gone and large diffusor helping to stick the back end down. 

So, for R4, Troy and I again agree on the start procedure and my plan was to be more near the top of second gear when the green flag flew. For the first race, we were practically under the start stand when the green flew and we complained because we both sit way back away from the windshield and we need an early green or we start slouching to see the starter's stand. Well, as we hit the straight and form up I was just starting to bring our pace up and the green flies and Troy shoots away from me in no time, ripping through his gears. Dammit. For a moment I thought "fine, let him go, I'm here to lock up the championship and I'll just slot into P2 here and smile all the way home". Yeah. Like that would happen. I push hard through the T1/T2 chicane and up the hill to T3. I again get a great launch out of T5 and close more gap going down to T6, but I'm not as close as last time so I focus everything on running a perfect wide T6 line and give chase down the long backstretch. Troy is running through the gears but Scratcher is gaining in the draft. As we approach the braking for T7 (fastest spot on the track) I step out and my brain is incredibly busy actively computing the closure rate to Troy's car while simultaneously computing the close rate to the absolute last braking point. My brain keeps spitting out "this is going to be close" as my right foot stays planted as Troy fiiiiinally brakes and I hesitate about a tenth of a second and then really work the 6-piston wilwoods for all they've got. I don't run a perfect T7 line as I went a bit too deep, but it wasn't that bad either and I squirted down the hill and, again, the RACE IS ON. My first RACE lap (from a slow start) was a 1:51.5 so as I start lap two, it is time to PUSH. Again, it is quickly apparent who is faster where and we both are not letting up. My second lap stops the clocks at a 1:49.7 and I decide right there that *THIS* is going to be the lap. Use every inch of the track, hit my marks as perfectly as possible and let's see what Scratcher can do on these well-worn Hoosiers (31st heat cycle....honestly). Halfway through the lap I see a 1:48 on the predictive and I keep it up. Keep pushing till the end and I see a 1:48.7 on the timer and I've gapped Troy a good bit so I back off a notch and keep running laps. When I see the white flag and start the final lap I see traffic and know that I can't dawdle as Troy is just a few seconds back. Of the three cars running together I get the first going into T5 and then the other two on the straight headed down to T6. After that it was smooth sailing to the final checker flag of the season. A championship season.

VIDEO OF R4 WITH FRONT/REAR CAM HERE: https://vimeo.com/110958309


Above: Your Chevy powered TTU and TT1 Champions for 2014 Nasa TX Time Trials! And Richard, the herder-of-the-TT-cars that keeps us all in line.

After the race Cody slides into the car and we've got a problem. While it would be nice if the pedals were a bit further back, the main issue is that his legs contact the steering wheel. I need a dished wheel or an extended snout on the steering shaft for him to drive. I have neither. Argh. Having put in a lot of hours building this car (and being a top notch driver as well!) I really wanted him to get to drive. I'll look at making some changes in the near future and getting him in this car soon.

Richard tells me that my TT time stands because clearly if I can throw down a 1:48, then a 1:51 lap is actually backed off a bit. <grin>

So with the season over and Scratcher winning both NASA TX TTU and SU Championships, Cody helps me load up and then Scratcher is transported home. It's been a long season with a lot of rough patches, but we pushed through those and we were justly rewarded. I could not have done it without the help of so many, and my feelings on that will be shared in the next chapter.

Now, I've got to fill out some Hoosier rewards forms!!!

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