Indy (O’Reilly) Raceway Park Regional

So I will keep this one short (hah!).

I planned to shake down the car last Friday at Mid-Ohio, but, wrecking the tow and trailer does not lead itself to doing much testing.

Then I planned to do the full test day (Friday) at Indy Raceway Park just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana (O’Reilly Raceway Park for those corporate types).   Well, if you read the prior Mid-Ohio post, you’ll know that you can’t test unless you get to the track (on-time).

I started out Friday with a desire to replace all 4 trailer brakes on the 28′ trailer I now have.  I had an adjuster spring distenigrate after the panic stop last week, and one shoe separated from the shoe-housing-thingy inside the drum. So, $230 later I have 4 new 12×2″ Dexter self-adjusting (and yes, they work!) electric brakes.  I just have to install them. On Friday morning before heading to the track.

In the first time in my life, I actually finish a job in the time I thought it would take – I finish replacing all 4 brake housings/etc by 11am on Friday (after getting off an airplane from Dallas at 12:30am the night prior, no less).

I hook up the trailer and am off by noon.

After a few eventful wrong turns, based on some “new exits” off the interstate that apparently were not on the interstate I was taking, we make it to the track around 2:45pm (its a 2.5hr drive…. so not all that bad).

I am now hoping that I can park the trailer, get the car out, quickly get it ready and be on the track by 3:30 to run the test sessions until 5pm.  It starts pouring. It has been pouring rain for a while.  The paddock is pretty empty, so I decide to dock this rig in a grassy area between two gravel roads. I get out, walk the area and make sure it is somewhat stable and dry.  My flip-flopped feet with 200lbs (ok, 208) think its okay.

I get about 15 feet into the grass and stop. Not voluntarily. But something else stopped me.  I give it some gas. Stopped. Backup? Nope! We’re stuck.

At this point, Jim from Colletti Motorsports (also from Dayton) comes over and tells us that the folks in the corner of the paddock had to pull him out of the mud/grass earlier.So, 10 minutes later, with the help of a V10 4WD Ford Excursion I am out of the mud and back on gravel.  We park in an area with light-grass-coverage, but with little water and good drainage.

As good as this spot looks, it is terrible. The trailer sunk in 2″ into the ground.  I decide at this point there isn’t going to be any testing today.  I’ll just do the practice in the morning, qualify and then race.
Friday evening is uneventful – unloading and prepping.  I find out through the schedule that there is no practice session on Saturday morning like I had thought.  This means that I will be on a new-to-me-Formula Ford, with brand new brake rotors (not broken in!), on a track I have never seen or walked, much less driven on. Awesome.

Saturday morning comes around and Elizabeth helps me prep the car. I still need to adjust brake bias, the belts, make sure the new HANS fits good, and some other little things.

Qualifying

About 20 minutes before qualifying, I think its a good idea to actually drive the car for the first time around the paddock.  I get in, and find the clutch is not working at all. Uck oh.  A quick bleed and adjustment gets that going (hopefully it is resolved, but sounds like the pilot bearing is grabbing a little still).

I get out to the qualifying grid.  I am about ready to throw up at this point. I haven’t been in a racecar since the October Looong Race with Midwestern Council at Blackhawk (where I still need to write the blog write up… i know… racing in sleet gets to you), and I’ve never been in this car, and the thoughts are going thru my head – will the brake pedal go to the floor?  Will the transmission even shift (I swapped all the gear sets and dogs)?  Is the car timed right (if I rev this thing to 5k in my neighborhood to time it, I think the local yokels will shoot me on sight)? Does the new transpoonder work? etc etc…

Well – I headed out to qual – I waved a few folks by and then went at it.  The car is amazingly easy to drive.  I set the sway bars are near full-soft for this first time out.. and the car was great. I ended up qualifying 9th out of 13 or 14 cars in the FF/CFF/CFC/F5/FV group.

I come in without indicent.  Things are looking good.

Race

Since I am in group 6, I have a few hours before I race.  We make some lunch, fuel the car ($8.50 a gallon! I’m glad I run $2.85 AvGas) and run thru the checklist.  It is amazing how many locktite’d things come undone on a racecar.  I check everything I can – an, in general, at least 3-5 hose clamps or nuts need tightening between sessions. Given my record of finishing races last year – it is important to do this every time you can….

As I am casually getting ready to run the race, I hear the annoucer call group6 (me!) to the grid for the second call. None of us heard the first call.. So, I quickly get dressed in all my fireproof goodies – which could be misinterpreted as my durka durka outfit.  No, I do not board planes dressed like this.

I hop in the car (already warmed up) and drive over to the grid, expecting to the be the last one there and late.

Well, they screwed up – it was first call to the grid.  I was there with about 3 other cars.  Everyone else is out of the car milling about.  I am sitting in the car baking in the sun. Luckily, it is only about 70 out.  And, I have an umbrella courtesy of my pseudo pit crew.

I will note now, that this is the only checkered-colored thing I’ve ever held in a race car. (sniff, sniff).

The pace lap was uneventful, other than this F500 dude next to me pointing at me to get behind him.  Last I checked, we grid up the same way we drive out, so maybe he was missing something or I was.. but, Once he got behind my at the start, I never saw him again.

The start was easier than I expected – as we came onto the drag strip and got 2-wide, the green flag dropped and we all took off.  The right side of the grid seemed to slow down, with a yellow Formula Ford or similar slowing down real quick and pulling off to the right.  There were 4 cars in front of me at the time, and they took off (damn good drivers!).  I kept seeing glimpses of them for about 2 laps, and then never saw them again.

I saw a few cars in my mirrors on the first 2 laps, then about lap 7 a silver FF got up close when I screwed up twice on the same lap, and promptly passed me.

It took me up to lap 4 to realize that I can go around turn one in 4th gear with my foot on the floor, but I still did about a 1/4-second chicken-lift on the throttle to get the nose pointing in the right direction.

Now is a good time to point out 6,500rpm in 4th (24:26 gear) is 117mph.

On lap 6, however, I got a little ballsy and didn’t lift.  Well, lap 6 is when I say I got stupid.  I ended up sliding the tail of the car out, and the counter steer took me to the inside of the turn at 100mph where it is really, really, really really really (x5) rough.  This shook the hell out of me and bounced the car across to the other side of the track (the outside, near the safe haven of lush green grass hiding nasty mud).

After lap 6, I decided to lift a little on the throttle to prevent having to dry clean my race suit.

The rest of the laps I spent trying to figure out the track – I’ve never been on it, and there are tons of open areas where you can really try 3 or 5 different ways thru a corner before you know what is fastest.

I ended up running 4th out of the whole group 6 of 15 cars or so. The 4 that took off ahead of me at the start almost lapped me (I saw the yellow CFC in my mirrors on the last lap), but one ran off or didn’t finish so I ended up with 4th place; and 1st in CFF.  Fastest lap was 1:48-something.

Full grandstands! yay!

Full grandstands! yay!

Overall, a successful day. I would have preferred to run the test day on Friday (if it wasn’t raining donkeys and elephants), and run the national race on Sunday (if I could…but I haven’t applied for my national license yet – which I am this week).

Thanks for reading this far. Really. Who does read this far? You should email me and I’ll send you something for doing so….

-Mike

3 Comments »

  1. Cindy Lindstrand Said,

    May 6, 2009 @ 9:29 am

    Congrats on the weekend!

    See you at Grattan.

    What do I get for reading the entire entry? (Not cookies, perhaps beer?)

    Cindy Lindsdtrand

  2. Corky! Said,

    May 8, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

    Good Read!

  3. Jimbo Said,

    May 10, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

    Great story… thanks for taking the time to spell out the details. Very entertaining. Congratulations on the good finish.

    When are we going to get to come to a race?

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