NASA Nationals Recap

Posted: September 14, 2011 in Racing

With my full time participation in racing with NASA I was able to race at Nationals.  This is one of the most grueling racing weeks with a 4 day race schedule plus 3 practice days.  Since the event is held at Mid-Ohio, weather always plays a factor.

Drive to Mid Ohio & Wednesday Practice Session

I left for the event late Monday night to get part of the 12 hour drive in – which I finished on Tuesday.  Wednesday was a practice day I thankfully signed up for as it was raining most of the day making track time treacherous (Mid Ohio puts down sealant in the high wear parts of corners which acts as ice in the rain) trying to find that line where you have grip – often driving around the track braking on the inside of corners then making most corners way off line at the very edge.

Wear it with Pride!

This week also started my wardrobe malfunction where my left shoe lost glue on the outer sole and came loose; the zipper on my race suit broke; then my sunglasses got sat on somehow leaving me with quite a bunch of issues in getting ready for the races.

Yes - Racer's Tape does fix actual Racers.

It was also the race weekend where Neal broke more axles than anyone I’ve ever known in a 944.  Seems he bought a bunch of brand new axles from Germany that were defective breaking on him in both qualifying races – but after the drama Neal prevailed from last on the grid to the podium.

We were also coached by Mike Skeen who took time out of his busy schedule to go over data / video with various drivers and help us understand the track better.  Mike races in various professional venues including Grand Am and Speed World Challenge – Google him and watch some of his driving has he’s incredibly fast.  He’s also much younger than me making me jealous!

Bennington Motorsports Circus Tent!

That night we had our big driver meeting and then met up at the BENMS trailers and Neal did a track review.

Neal doing a turn by turn analysis of Mid Ohio for the group to get us all up to speed.

Thursday – Qualifying Race 1

I was able to get to know the other competitors from various regions across the US.  Tyler Palmer from SoCal; Phil Fromme from TX; Brad Raum, Shannon McCue, and John Armstrong from Great Lakes Region; and David Dirks and Sean Thule from Rocky Mountain Region.  In the end we had 2 previous National Champions (David and Eric Kuhns [double champion]) in our field and two hot new drivers to our series in Neal and Tyler.

Thursday was a day of drizzle then it would actually rain before each session until the race.  It was then thankfully dry.  I qualified 9th for the race as I was unable to get clean laps during qualifying.  At the start of the race Neal lost an axle so it caused the field to react quickly around him.  During the race I was able to work my way past several drivers and finish 5th in class.  This included a scrap with Angel and Ray from my region and fending off Phil who made a daring pass splitting Ray and I into Turn 7 only to go off immediately in Madness giving me back the position.  I was thankful he is ok as he got right back on but glad he went off so I didn’t have to fight to pass him.

Thursday evening we had an off site party at Ohio State Penitentiary in Mansfield, OH.  This was the site of most of the filming of Shawshank Redemption.  It is a beautiful yet slightly creepy prison – built in the late 19th century.

LEMME OUT!

Shawshank Prison

Friday – Qualifying Race 2

Friday was another slightly wet morning but drying up during the day.  I qualified 5th this time (just over a second off pole).  I was hoping to do well in the race but I screwed up on the start as I could not see the flag station and just when I had to lift to not tap the car in front the flag waived and I was immediately passed by good starts by both David and Phil (they both also put down more over 139whp – pretty high in our field).  I finished 6th in class so was a little disappointed in my result as I wanted to do better.  Neal again blew an axle on the first lap and had a bad tranny mount.

Nick fixing broken tranny mount with Window Weld.

Saturday – National Race

Warmup came and went as it was dry however the clouds loomed overhead and every 10 mins we’d check the weather and it gave us a 50% chance of rain.  With 30 minutes before the race we had a small sprinkle with dark clouds coming our way.  Nick Miller made the call that we should go wets (they had to change tires on 5 cars) but I didn’t change my dry setup (soften up shocks).  Well it was the right call as 15 minutes before the race it started to pour and didn’t let up.

Due to the rain we had 2  warmup laps to figure out the track, find the rivers of water and puddles making it treacherous.  Being behind other cars made it hard to see.  I started 7th in class as a 5th and a 6th only gives me so much points – but I was hungry to do better.  Sam Grant made it just out of the pits and his car stopped running (electrical issue with the water).

The start of the race was something incredible – you couldn’t see because of the spray of water.  I was listening intently to Mike Skeen when he noted that during the start of the race you can drive up the very inside line of 7 and brake hard to rotate the car to cross the apex straight – which then puts you on the wet line through Madness.  Well I did this and make up 2 spots to make it to 5th after madness.  The rest of the race was a tangle of keeping the car from spinning and sliding off track as anytime you touched the dry line it felt like driving on ice.  I was able to maintain my position and started pushing a little harder.  Neal caught me and I was able to keep him behind for a couple of laps until he got a better run on me.  I followed him and was keeping up until I pushed too hard in turn 1 and slid wide under brakes taking me where I could no longer make the left turn and had to go off track.  I lost a place to Ray who got by me as he was right behind me (only for Ray to slide off in Turn 11 and get stuck losing a lap).  I got back on and was in front of Dan and we battled for several laps until in Turn 7 I hit the brakes and had snap oversteer (I think there was some oil on the track as I braked at the same spot and marker).  Well what ensued was a wonderful drive through China Beach in which I smacked it into 2nd and powered out.  What was funny is that I watched a racer earlier today and we were cheering for the exact same stunt (and I could see the crowd cheering as well – so thanks!).  I got back on and started pushing to catch Dan as I could see him ahead through another corner (Dan spun also right after me but was able to stay on track).  A full course yellow came out and it allowed Angel to catch up to me but we were lucky to beat out the pace car and not go a lap down (was able to make up a lot of time I lost).

In the end I was able to pilot it home in 7th place in my first ever nationally televised race.  I can’t thank BENMS for keeping a good car under me and setting up the car.  Nick has 2 good helpers who work on our cars Corey & Dennis who crawl under cars and do a lot of needed work.

I will again be racing this coming weekend at Autobahn with an Enduro that goes into the night and a normal race weekend.  The last race I have is Oct 8/9 at Road America for our season ending event.

Sunday Remembrance

NASA handed out some 9/11 stickers we all fashioned to our cars to remember the tragedy and the sacrifices our soldiers give to make our country safe.

Never Forget

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Comments
  1. What? No exciting conclusion to your wardrobe malfunction?

  2. Yes – There is an exciting conclusion to the wardrobe malfunction and I will post it when it is final.

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