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Three days before we were scheduled to leave for the Runoffs we took the car back to Slow Motion Motorsports for a dyno session to confirm all electrical timing errors were indeed gone. We did confirm that they were gone but found the engine was down on horsepower due to low compression. While loading the car back onto the trailer the clutch did not want to disengage and while taking it off the trailer the clutch gave out a screeching noise. Since we now had to pull the engine anyway to replace the clutch we decided to build the new engine that we had all the parts for. Kevin and I developed a plan and that afternoon on Wednesday Sheryl joined me and we removed the engine and found a destroyed throughout bearing, loose bolts on the pressure plate, and chunks missing from the contact pucks. We removed the old and started the built of the new engine. Kevin came later that evening to help.

Thursday morning I met Sam to get an oil pickup from him that we did not have. Sheryl met me at the shop and we finished building the engine but found the oil pickup was not correct. After work and babies all in bed Kevin came to help me with moving the transmission and oil cooler to the new engine and installing it in the car.

Friday morning I went to Honda Marysville to pick up a correct OEM oil pickup. I took it back to the shop and installed it and finished hooking up the engine. Sheryl & I started the engine around 1 pm in time for the 2pm appointment at SloMo to check the new engine. It ran a bit rough but good enough to put it on the trailer. At SloMo Corey immediately found we had forgotten to connect the MAP vacuum tube which made it run much better. The engine ran great and was up over 20hp in most of the range compared to the old engine.

Saturday Kevin & I loaded up the car and everything else in preparation to leaving the next morning.

Sunday we hopped in the RV at 8am and drove the rig to Virginia International Raceway to get there before registration closed at 6pm. We got set up in our very nice paddock spot with 50amp power, water, and sewer hookups very close to the false grid. We were surprised to find the Packer game on local TV and watched some of the whipping the Packers put on to the Cowboys.

Monday morning we registered for the test day and went out for our first session about 8:30am after pumping out all the old gas and putting in the track gas with the marker (at $9.50/gal). The car ran well and we put down 7 hot laps before the front left tire went flat. We had not had a flat in years so we checked all the wheel stems and everything else to make sure it was a one-off occurrence. The second session we only got 3 hot laps due to two black flags. The third session at 3:30pm the car ran great and we got another 7 hot laps. Kevin was getting a pretty good feel of this very technical track. That evening we joined Joey Moser and Ken Kannard and went to the official welcome party in Danville. It was quite nice with a few hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Then we met the Dunns at a restaurant nearby to celebrate Kevin’s 40th birthday. Joey had his 40th just three days earlier. The restaurant had great food but slow service.

Tuesday morning we finally did our first official qualifying session at 11:30am. The car ran great and Kevin drove great to turn in a third place time just .25 seconds behind the pole by Eric Prill. They pulled us into tech to check out compression ratio with the Whistler. We found a broken spark plug so we towed it back to paddock where I set all the valve clearances and set the adjustable cam pulleys to the correct settings as were on the old engine. I also whistled the engine with my Whistler and got an exact match. That evening we went to the Honda sponsored party which was very nice with great food.
Wednesday morning Carrie & Walter set out on the road to come to the track. We cleaned and polished the car and took it to the filming session for the CBS broadcast event which will be held later in the year. The other cars there were Huffaker, Prill, Campbell, Baucom, and Kannard. We went out for our second qualifying session at 11:30 am combined with the HP group, so we went from 19 cars to nearly 50 cars on track at once. Kevin struggled for a couple laps to find some open track until the engine just blew up on the 4th lap. We towed it back to paddock and #1 piston rod had snapped and busted through both sides of the engine. The hot oil also started a minor fire which melted some wiring. We immediately started pulling out the blown engine. When Carrie & Walt arrived at 4:45pm we quit work and went to the Oak Tree restaurant for a great dinner. After dinner we stopped at the Prod party for a while to meet with old friends.

Thursday we continued work on swapping the engines with lots of offers for help from our friends. We received tons of help from the Dunns who had their car taken out with a bad transmission earlier. Before we could install the old engine we had to check out all the wiring in the engine compartment first. Most wires were Ok but the oil pressure wiring was destroyed (not critical) and the wires to the Oxygen sensor had all the insulation melted off them so it was not working. We finished the install and started the engine before quitting for the night and going to the all participant party. We missed our last qualifying session but happily we were still in 3rd place very close to the leaders. The party was huge and had great food – at least we heard it was good….. We and many others never got anything other than mac and cheese which was all that was left – and we were not late. Our “club” took in well over a million dollars to put on this event so probably couldn’t afford to get enough food……..

Friday we taped the wires on the Oxygen sensor and actually got it working again. We buttoned up the rest of car and took it out for a hardship lap at 3:30pm. It ran but not good. We found that there was a ground wire that had been pulled off and repaired that. It then ran much better but started to show signs of overheating. We four went downtown Danville to a great little restaurant right next to a beautiful fountain. Walter had a great time.

Saturday morning we took her out for another hardship lap at 8:30 am. It ran well but was not cooling properly. We removed the thermostat and found it was warped sideways and looked like it had been like that for a while – very weird. Kev, Carrie & Walter went into town for a new thermostat and we installed it. After driving it around the paddock for a test we found that had fixed the cooling problem. We got to watch a few races we were interested in including the HP race which was won by our good friend Vesa Silegren with second place by Will Perry, and third place by another Honda – all first time podium finishers. We took the Yamaha cart to the South end of the track to watch the T4 race at the Oak Tree corner on another beautiful day. Then we four went back to the Oak Tree Restaurant for another great meal. Later than night after dark Kev & I cleaned the car and installed all of the sponsor and contingency stickers to get ready for tomorrows race.

Sunday morning it was threatening rain with cloudy skies. We put the dry setup on the car and took her to the false grid where we were starting 3rd of 19 of the best FP cars in the country. At the start our engine didn’t have its normal power so we got jumped and dive bombed all the way down to 8th place. After a few laps Kevin regained third place. He kept turning in faster laps but the leaders were also going faster and had the advantage of having each other to draft off of. Our car with the weak engine was turning trap speeds 5 mph slower that it had earlier, but Kevin was only 8 seconds behind the leaders and had a 15 second lead on the 4th place car. On the 14th of a 15 lap race Kevin went to turn right on turn 5 and the car refused and went off the track. He saved it and went back on but it was evident that there was something wrong – a flat front left tire. He pulled it off the track and backed it behind the wall so as not to disrupt the rest of the race. Our day was done. Carrie & Walter left right away so they could get home at a reasonable time. Kev & I loaded everything up and went down to the podium to congratulate our friends – Prill first, Campbell Second, and Kannard third. The top six cars were all Mazda Miatas.

About 3:15 pm I drove the RV towards home and Kevin drove his rental car to Greenville SC for a work meeting on Monday. After 4 hours of driving I stopped at a travel plaza and slept until 6 am. Monday I finished the 4 hours to the shop and unloaded.

It has not been a great several weeks before the Runoffs, and in fact it has been a rough year with the issues we have faced with the car, but we still had a lot of fun and feel like we were very successful in the face of huge challenges. Having Walter and Carrie with us at the track was amazing and made the long days worth it. Walters smiling face could always lift your spirits, and Carries help and advice is always appreciated. And the twins Cora & Edwin got to spend five days with Grandma and Aunt Sheryl and had a blast. As always we learned a great deal over the year and will be that much better in years to come.

A SHIT SHOW AT June Sprints Tuesday, June 18, 2019
We have never had good luck at the Sprints and this year was no exception. To be fair, we knew there was a gremlin in the car from the way it acted at Mid Ohio but we needed to flush out the bug since it only came out after 15 or so laps and would not show up in the shop.

Sheryl & I loaded up the rig Wednesday morning. I started driving at 11:20 and arrived at the track just after 9 pm. I hit several delays driving around Chicago at 5:30 and then hit rain near Milwaukee but it was a nice trip.

I got up early as there was plenty of activity early but they would not let me in the track unless we were doing the test day. Registration opened at 11 am and I got in and set up in turn five in a great free spot with power. Kevin showed up earlier than I expected at about 10:30. We were both beat so we went to bed.

We got up early and it was raining. It rained through our practice session at 10:50 so we bagged it. We finally got out for our first qualifying session at 4pm. The car ran but started missing right out of the gate and was not run-able by the 6th lap. We still managed to take 5th overall and 2nd in class right behind Eric Prill in his Prather Miata. We spent several hours working on the car to no avail and finally decide to go to our favorite old fish place for dinner but they were sold and didn’t have fish anymore – par for the course. After we got back we checked the spark plugs for sparks in the dark and they were fine. The car seemed to run better.

Lyle came to help and hopefully to watch our race. We missed the second qualifying session at 10:15am because the car would not run at all. We finally took off the windshield and opened the dash pod to check wires. We actually found a couple wires to the TPS and the EPM that were questionable. After we reattached them the car started up and ran pretty good. With only our one wounded qualifying session we were still in 2nd place in FP so we took her out for the 3:25pm race. Immediately at the start the car was missing so Kevin only ran 6 laps before bringing it in. The engine log confirmed numerous, almost constant, timing errors. We went to the dinner which was pretty good, then went to see Joey Moser’s boy JJ drive his Kart right there at Road America. It was great fun to watch.

We got up early to try to find the problem. Among other things, we replaced all of the coils, spark plugs, coil driver, and the EMS4 with no improvement so we decided to bag it and head for home. Kevin connected the Excursion to the race trailer and we loaded it all up and buttoned up the RV which I was taking to Oshkosh. Kevin commented “I’d rather be loading up a broken car than a crashed car” – for sure! When we were ready to leave the Excursion decided not to turn over at all. We talked with RA and they told us we had to move it to outside the track since they would be setting up for the Indy cars the next day.. A big to tow truck came to tow the Excursion outside the track. We reconnected the trailer to the RV and pulled it out to the Excursion. While he had it up in the air we looked at the starter and thought it looked bad. Kev & I drove the RV back to Oshkosh for the night, stopping in Fond du lac for a new starter at Advance Auto.

We decided we could replace the starter so we headed back at 7 am to get an early start. It was finally a sunny nice day and we had all of the jacks, stands and tools in the race trailer. After we got it jacked up it was not too much of a job getting the old starter off and installing the new one. Before we took it off the stands we decided to test it. DAMN IT, it still would not turn over. Since it was a diesel we thought if we could just get it to spin it would probably start, so I crawled back under and installed a wire to the coil terminal up and ran it up to the engine compartment. We touched the jumper to the battery and she fired right up – YAY! We turned it off, took it off the stands and put everything away back in the trailer. Then we went to start it to get it hooked up to the trailer and guess what??? It wouldn’t start!! Fortunately Kevin knew his vehicle and decided it need a stronger battery to fire. We borrowed a small Honda generator from some guys that were working on SRF cars right next to us and let it charge. After about a half hour we tried it again and IT RAN. We were definitely not going to shut it off again. Kevin took it out for a test drive and it seemed OK so we connected it up and he headed for the shop. Eight hours later he pulled the entire rig into the building at the shop and headed home. I took the RV to the Oshkosh Lake House

Well we avoided the expensive and time consuming local repair shop but now we can take time to find the problem at home. And we still have a wounded race car that will not be easy to fix. Oh well, if it was easy, anyone would do it.

I drove the race rig to Mid Ohio Race Track at 10am. When I arrived there were not many rigs so I set up in the middle of the lower paddock. I got the car off, got some fuel for the car and took it for its annual tech inspection, then went to registration and got the tech sticker. I made a frozen lasagna for dinner in the microwave for myself. Kevin drove up after work and stopping home to play with the kids and arrived at 10:30pm.

We took the car out for our 9:00 am session in race group 3 with new Hoosiers in order to temper them for the Road America race in two weeks. Kevin turned in a 1:38.415 after just 6 laps and brought it in. We had our brake rotor temps measured by the Carbotec guys to get an idea of how they were working.

Carrie brought up Walter, Cora, and Edwin to watch Daddy run in the afternoon session. At 2:40 we went out for our first qualifying session and decided to temper another set of new Hoosier tires for the race on Sunday. Kevin turned in a 1:38.59 but actually spun on the last lap going into the keyhole. The spin saw the car sliding sideways which damaged the tires with a couple flat spots on the left side. That was good enough for 3rd place overall behind Chima with a very fast 1:36.98 and Breton Williams (EP) with a 1:37.11. Charley Campbell had car problems and did not get out at all. I helped them get their fuse sizes correct with the Race Energy unit.

After playing with the babies and doing some golf cart rides Carrie loaded them up for the trip home. They all snoozed on the ride home. Kev & I did the usual with the car and took the left side tires to Hoosier to have the tires flipped around to put the flat spots on the outsides. After that we met the Dunns at the Mexican restaurant in Lexington. The food and Golden Margaritas were particularly good that night.

For Saturday morning’s qualifying session we used the tires that ran the Sunday race at VIR and were in great shape. Kevin wanted to turn more laps that the previous two sessions to get in the grove. After 9 laps, Kevin turned in a 1:37.04 which was 2 seconds faster than the second place car in the session of Mason Workman. Both Chima and Campbell only ran two laps after having issues with their cars. That left Kevin 2nd overall behind Chima for the race.

Justin, Diane, Sheryl & Carrie with the kids all arrived before lunch on a beautiful day. The car just needed fuel and we adjusted the rear camber which was knocked out a bit by the spin. We left the tires where they were, 100s in the front and 80s in the rear. Kevin ended up starting on the pole because Chima’s Super seven did not make it out for the race because we had heard he dropped a valve. Kevin got passed by Breton Williams at the start but repassed him going into turn one on the second lap. He maintained first place for the entire race and took the checker flag. His best lap was a respectable 1:37.325, still just a bit behind Chima’s pole time. Right after the checker Kevin felt the car start to miss and run bad for the cool down lap. After seeing lots of timing errors in the engine log we found a broken coil on #4 and replaced it and it ran fine. Diane and Sheryl took the Odyssey with the kids back to Kevin’s house while Carrie took the RL to her sisters graduation party. I convinced Justin to stick around for a while so we joined the Huffmasters and Butterworths for dinner at the Roadhouse – excellent as always. That evening it rained hard and there was actually some hail. Luckily we had put the car in the trailer.

Sunday morning we were again favored with the presence of the three babies and Carrie. Bob Lawrence with Jackson & Mark also came to help and watch. Because it was cooler we decided to run 100s on the front but 75s on the rear so they would come in quicker. We have been considering changing to this tire strategy all the time and wanted to see how it went. The Sunday race was scheduled for 35 minutes or 21 laps vs the 14 laps run on Saturday.

Once again Kevin was listed 2nd overall but since Chima had broke, he started on the pole. This time however, Charlie Campbell was right next to him. Charlie passed Kevin at the start but Kevin quickly repassed for the lead. For most of the race Charlie stayed right on Kevin’s rear but could not pass. On the 13th and 14th laps Kevin turned in laps in the 1:36s to pull away from Charlie and on the 15th lap he turned in a 1:35.935 to set the all-time (including Runoffs) track record for F Production. On the 16th lap Kevin radioed in that the car was sputtering. At virtually the same time a full course yellow came out. With 5 laps left they ran 3 under caution and they threw the checker to end the race. Once again we had to tow the car back to paddock borrowing Campbells tow strap. We found all of the Iridium spark plugs were badly worn and there might be some issue with the Engine Management System. Our visitors left and we packed up the rig. Kevin stopped to take a shower so he could go directly to the graduation party and I took the rig back to the shop and left it outside.

It was a fantastic weekend with great spectators and great results. Kevin’s babies got to see Daddy race all three days. The car lasted just long enough to win both races. Now we have to find out what is going on with the car before Road America in 2 weeks.

HUGE WIN AT VIR! Wednesday, April 17, 2019
You would not believe how much work went into the car over the winter and what it took to get it ready for this race. That is why we took the opportunity to run the car last weekend at Mid Ohio with the Grid Life group. We did four sessions and fixed and learned something on every session. After that we had a list as long as your arm to complete in just three days before we loaded her up and drove to VIR. On this weekend at VIR we again had many gremlins to find, fix or adjust.

Kev & I met early Thursday morning to load up the trailer and start off driving. We got on the road at 9am so we didn’t have to contend with Columbus rush hour traffic but we would still get into the track around 5:30pm. It was a nice drive but it is always unnerving to take the RV pulling a 10,000lb trailer over the mountains on US58 East. Coming down the East side of the mountain is especially fun with 9% grades. Fortunately the Discovery has engine braking to help out a lot.

We arrived at the track and expected a long line of rigs waiting to get in to a paddock due to over 500 entries for this “pre-Runoffs” event. To our surprise we drove right in and were taken to a great grassy spot near the track, just across from the Hotel. It was a bit of a drive to grid but it was a great place to watch the race. We were glad to see it was on top of the hill as we knew there was lots of rain coming. Because of the impending rain we decided to put up the big 10’X20’ canopy to have someplace to work on the car out of the rain. We were glad we did! After we got set up we got out the grill and made some sausages for dinner.

Early in the morning at 2am the Inverter stopped and we discovered the house batteries which were now 7 years old were ready for replacement. We also had a problem with the RV water system which was not working. Since we were in Group 1 we had to be on track at 8am. We put on the used tires from the last weekend at MO and went out on a dry setup and got three laps before it started raining. Driving up to the paddock with wet grass wasn’t too bad….yet.

The sensors were still not working correctly so after studying at the AEM wiring diagram we decided to divide the chassis ground and sensor grounds on the AEM EMS4. That seemed to make the sensors much happier so we took it down to grid for the 1:30pm qualifying session. When we got there we realized that we needed to remove all of the changes we made to the sensor calibrations to get back to a normal setup so we took the car back to paddock and loaded an older safe program. When Kevin returned to the grid the cars were gone so they would not let him enter the track there. After he went down to pit out they held him for a while and then a black flag came out. After the track was cleared and everybody else was let back out Kevin finally got on the track. His third lap put him 6th but they did not allow is as it was too late. His second lap put him in 20th position (2:43.636).

It continued to rain and lighting popped a few times so the cancelled the last four sessions of the day.
Friday night we went to the socializer at the barn which was quite nice. They had great appetizers and beer and we got to talk with all of our race friends. The paddock access roads on the grass were now getting pretty muddy.

Saturday morning they had to make up a couple qualifying sessions from the day before (shortened), and they cancelled some run groups sessions as well. Our 8:00am qualifying session went out at 11:00am and we got only got 4 laps before it poured rain but our time of (2:32.556) put us in 3rd for the session and 4th combined with the first session behind Charlie Campbell, Ryan Kristoff in GTL, and Eric Prill with Ken Kannard right behind us.

The race started at 1:40 and it was raining steady so everyone when out with rain setups. The car was running well after several more changes and installing the .095” rear sway bar. Unfortunately we had a severe vibration in the front right wheel which forced us to come in after the first lap. Charlie and Ken swapped the lead several times but Ken took the checker for a great win. Both of those guys run well in the wet and know this track very well.

Sunday morning we both up very early and were not feeling very good about the weekend. We had gotten a total of 12 laps so far and were pretty much swimming in mud. The car was covered with mud and there was no point in cleaning it. We started 5th for the race at 9:00 am and it was finally not raining so we used a set of tempered Hoosiers. However the track was still damp even after two practice groups went out before us. Kevin kept going faster and faster after his tires warmed and the track dried up. Charlie got way out in front by 12 seconds while Kevin and Ken were dealing with gaggles of slow B-Spec, HP and FP cars. Then, due to 3 separate cars off track, they had a full course yellow which allowed Kev & Ken to get up behind Charlie. It was Charlie, a lapper, Ken, Kevin, 7 lappers, and Eric Prill at the restart. From that point on it was a three way battle for the lead. Because of the double yellow Kevin’s tires cooled off some but came back in by the last lap. Going up the esses Ken passed Charlie but spun in Oak Tree corner. Charlie had to lift just for a second to avoid Ken which gave Kevin the opening he needed. Kevin motored past Charlie and led all the way down to the checker flag, turning in the fastest lap of the race (2:10.797).

It was a great win but one that was very much a team win. We both fought hard to get the electrical systems, the new transmission, the car setup and suspension, and the fantastic Hoosier tires to a point where a great driver could win that race. And it was a win against the best FP cars in the country. We really missed Diane, Carrie and the kids who hopefully will be there in October for the Runoffs race.