Victory Lap

Joey Dille's


Quarter Midget #67


Racing Log 2001



These are installments 11 - 15 of a week by week log of our experience in the 2001 season in the Sr. Honda class. They are taken from e-mails that I have sent to my friends. The logs are arranged in order with #1 being our first experience.

Racing Log #11

Practice 6/26/01

I was scheduled to travel on business at the end of the week so I decided to practice on Tuesday. I thought that Joey needed practice to stay in shape, particularly since he had not done many laps over the last few weeks. It was hot for this weeks practice, 85°F, so I decided to bring the harder front tire to see if it would work better than the soft tire. On the drive to the track I discussed Joey's entrance to turn 3. There is a bit of a bump on the entrance, which upsets the chassis. I thought he would do better hitting the entrance a bit lower to avoid the bump. I worked out a signal to give him on the track to let him know that I wanted him to hit the turn lower.

Joey hit the track raring' to go. On his second lap Joey was exploring the car's traction and after 5 laps he was up to speed. What a difference from his driving at the beginning of the season where he took 50 laps to get up to speed. I put him out with the soft front tire establish a data point. The front tire developed the thick rope of rubber on the inside indication it was too hot and the car looked like it had a slight push. I brought Joey in and swapped over to the hard tire. He has a slight push on the first 2-3 laps then the tire came in and he started looking good and his times came down to the mid-6.3's.

There were two other Sr. Honda racers at the track and Joey had a chance to test his skill against them. They were not the fastest kids in the class, but they gave Joey something to work on. It took a few laps, but Joey pulled up to them and made the pass. I was impressed with his execution as it was just the way I wanted him to do it. First stay right on the racing line until you are right on their bumper. Run 6-12" high on the entrance to the turn to carry a bit more speed and allow a low exit. Stay low on the straight to stay inside the other car and beat him to the corner. Once the other car gives way come back on the racing line and come up out of the turn even though the car is going slow enough to hold a lower line. The whole process takes a full lap. Joey got to practice this a few more times during our practice session.

I played with the springs a bit, but I could not get the times any lower. Still, I was very happy with this practice. The tire change was a good thing. Joey got in 100 laps in the heat to improve his conditioning. Joey's attitude was good, giving good effort. Most importantly he got to practice passing.

Racing 6/30/01

It was hot and humid for race day. The forecast for rain in the evening did not deter the racers as we had 169 cars signed up and people from as far away as Indiana. There were 29 cars signed up in Sr. Honda, which split into 3 heats. Joey pulled the pole position in the first heat!

I was a bit concerned about the heat for both the Joey and the car. The air temperature was 90°F, and the track temperature was 140°F. This was hotter than I had ever measured at the track. I bought a new hard compound tire for the rear. I had bad luck with the old hard compound tire during other practice, but it was not this hot, and the tire was old and hard. I discussed the change with Joey. Joey and I decided to gamble for the heat race so I mounted the tire.

Joey and I watched the novice races as we ate lunch. I concentrated on keeping Joey cool and hydrated. Two bottles of Gatorade should do it.

I was concerned that we would have no chance for adjustment with the new tire. The pole position required me to work turn #1 so I could not hang out in the hot chute to make last minute adjustments if Joey experienced a handling problem with the new tire. Joey and I formulated a plan. Joey would have to decide if the car was handling properly and bring it in after 5-6 laps for a tweak. Joey and I pushed the car into the staging lane right as the previous race pushed off. This put us at the front of the line and Joey would be the first car to get out on the track for warm ups. Every warm up lap is important if we need to make an adjustment. I kept Joey out of the car as long as possible to keep him cool.

With about 10 laps to go in the previous race I put Joey in the car and strapped him in. I pushed Joey off and he went out to warm up. It was immediately clear that the new tire was OK. Whew! I gave Joey the high sign and assumed my position in turn #1.

Joey got the holeshot on the start and pulled out of turn 2 in the lead. I watched as two other cars came up behind Joey. They were a little faster, but not quite fast enough to pass. After about 8 laps Joey came up on lapped traffic. As he positioned himself for the pass the two cars behind him got a pass. Things did not stop there as the pass put Joey of his line and two other cars passed him, then another. Bummer. Once he was in 6th the passing stopped and Joey held his position. He got back on his racing line, but did not catch up with the others. Sixth out of 10 is not as good as I was hoping for, but it was respectable.

During a post race debriefing Joey told me that he backed off when he got close to the lapped car. Oops. I explained that this was why he got passed and how it took a long time to get his speed back between taking his foot off the gas and getting off the racing line. He should have passed the slower car on that lap. I told him that he could have done better if he took a wider line or tapped the brakes. Passing was the best option. Early in the season he had a problem with passing too soon, scrubbing off speed. Now he is waiting a bit too long. I think we have the solution bracketed.

After dinner I was elated that Joey's 6th place finish earned him the pole position in the B-main. I was hopeful that Joey could leverage the pole position into a trophy finish. Then the rains came... First a short shower that barely got the track wet. Then a longer shower, which we dried off and managed to get some novice races in. Then some lightning and the skies opened up. The officials called the race and awarded trophies on the heat finish. Oh well. So much for the pole position.

Race Safe,

Joe

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Racing Log #12

Joey racing at the July 4th Oaklane race Racing 7/4/01

That's right, racing on Wednesday at Oaklane. Racing at Oaklane has been a zoo this year with the Grands coming to the track. Everyone and his brother have come to town to get some experience at the track, which has pushed our car counts as high as 196. While the heightened competition is good, the additional cars make for a high stress race night. Everyone is focused on "getting the show in", which is not fun.

The race director decided to have a race on the 4th of July. He announced the race last weekend at the handler's meeting. The combination of it being on a holiday and the short notice would reduce the car count. It also guaranteed that most of the racers would be Oaklane members. The format would be a regular show with heats and features. Trophies would be awarded, but the snack bar would be closed and the event would not figure in to the perfect attendance awards.

Joey and I arrived a bit late and we saw lots of open space in the parking lot. Several cars were still on the track practicing. Normally they close the track the moment signups start. Today there was no pressure to start on time. The weather was a bit iffy; we got a shower in the early morning with lingering clouds, which left the track a relatively cool 90°F. I decided to see if the medium tire would do better than the hard tire so I got Joey into the car and put him onto the track.

The setup was the same as we had last week for the heat race. Joey looked good and the hard tire came in nicely. He was turning 6.35s laps. I tried the medium tire and saw that it did not want to hook up. This was a bit counterintuitive but it is hard to argue with the facts. Joey's times went way up and the car was very loose. The good thing was I got to see Joey do some excellent driving. Joey was giving it all he could and when the rear stepped out he just kept his foot in it and steered into it the slide. At one time he had the car at about a 30° angle in a full power slide. It almost made me cry.

I put the hard tire back on and his times came down to 6.31s. I had timed Joey for 50 laps and it was hot and humid. The last thing I wanted to do is overwork my driver so I pulled Joey off the track. Joey pleaded for more laps, but I convinced him that he should stop. Car set up is good. Driver's attitude is good. We are ready to race!

Heat Race

The low car count made for 2 heats with a total of 13 cars in the Sr. Honda class. Joey pulled the pole position in the first heat. He got off to a good start and held the lead for the first half of the race. I decorated the car with a couple of American flags to celebrate Independence Day. They looked great as he raced. Unfortunately, he needed more than good looks. The car seemed to be developing a slight push that was slowing him down. Once the car slowed down he got passed by 3 cars to finish 4th. I was pleased with the way he raced. I was sorry the car let him down a bit.

A-Main

Joey's 4th place finish in the heat gave him the #2 spot in the A-main. This would be our first time in the A-main this year and it was a good starting spot. Joey and I were excited. Of course, this also meant that Joey would be racing with the fastest kids in the class, which made Patti a bit apprehensive.

I wanted to fix the push in the car so he would not experience the car “going away” from him during the race as the tires and shocks heated up. I had already made the major adjustments to make the car loose. I did not want to tweak the springs anymore so I decided to move the rear Panhard rod up a notch. This put it in a spot I had never had it. The books said this would make the car looser, we will see.

I was concerned about Joey starting on the outside row. Turns out this was not an issue, as Joey got a good start and fell in behind the lead car. To my amazement Joey started to move up on the leader. They car was handling great and appeared to be “coming to him” as the race progressed. On lap 15 Joey pulled of a smooth pass and started to move away! Then there was an accident in the back of the pack. Joey drove around the accident without incident. On the restart they go back to the last completed lap. I was not sure all the cars went around once since Joey had the lead. (Turns out Joey had the same concern.)

I was elated when I saw the line up in the tower showing Joey in the lead. Joey got a good restart and held the lead for 8 laps. Unfortunately it was a 40-lap race not 20. One of the kids that set the class record had moved up from the back and passed him. Joey drove well, but the other kids were a bit faster and two other kids would pass before the checkered flag fell. Joey finished 4th behind a kid that had set the track record and another kid that was a national champ last year as a junior. He finished on the lead 1/4 lap ahead of the current class record holder! This was our best show ever. JOEY LED THE A-MAIN AT OAKLANE!

Racing 7/7/01

When I got back from Wednesday's race took weight and height measurements on the car. I wanted to be sure to record the setup from our good show. I made one small tweak to the front Panhard to further loosen the car up.

Joey pulled the 5th spot in the heat 2. There were a few really good kids in his heat. He got a fantastic start and emerged third out of the first turn. Joey managed to move up to second in a few laps. I looked up and saw 20 laps to go. It was going to be a long race. Joey had caught up on lapped traffic when the kid slowed up coming out of 2. Joey tagged him in the back and the other kid spun. Joey kept going. I was really concerned that Joey would get a call. I watched as the cars circled the track under yellow waiting for the line up. I gave Joey the shrugged shoulder sign, indication that I did not know what was happening. Lady luck smiled on us, and the judges gave the call to the other guy. Joey maintained his #2 spot. Near the end Joey was passed and had 3rd place sewn up. Joey showed great judgment locking onto the bumper of the #2 car and following her though lapped traffic. It was obvious he had a plan. There was a spin in the back, which brought out the yellow with about 5 laps to go. I could not see what Joey did on the restart, but the two kids behind him did better and Joey was passed. He finished 5th taking us out of the A-main. Oh well.

Joey's heat finish put him in the #8 starting spot out of 10 cars. Joey does not like starting on the outside. In the back on the outside is especially difficult. The cars lined up and one of the front cars did not make the line up. This moves everyone up, putting Joey in the #7 spot on the inside. Cool. I could see Joey concentrating on the start as he came around the backstretch looking toward the flagger as he came into turn 3. Joey got a great start and was sitting in 3rd when they crossed the start-finish line for the first time. In a few laps Joey moved into 2nd. We were sitting pretty.

Then the leader got tangled in lapped traffic and spun. The (former) leader was put the back for the restart and Joey assumed the lead with 25 laps to go. Joey knew where he was and focused on driving as well as he could. Joey was passing lapped traffic smoothly without the help he had in the heat race. Joey held the lead until 6 laps to go when the yellow came out. On the last restart the former leader snuck by on a very strong start. Joey got second. This was Joey's best finish in Sr. Honda!

Joey was elated and wasted no time getting a trophy while I judged the next class of racing. He met me at the judging stand after the race to tell me about the trophy he picked out. When Joey called Patti from the track she screamed with joy. Joey them proceeded to describe the entire race in great detail. When he got home he was pumped. It took over an hour for him to calm down enough to sleep.

Next stop: The Grands.

Race Safe,

Joe

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Racing Log #13 Eastern Grands

Practice 7/10/01

QMA rules dictate the host track must be closed to racecars for 10 days before the Grands. This would be our last chance on the track prior to the big event. I thought the car was not getting enough front-end bite so I moved about 14 pounds of the extra weight forward to between the seat and the pedals. I figured I would move it back at the track if it did not work out.

The Grand National racing format keys off the qualifying time. Normally each car gets 10 laps to warm up and 3 laps on the clock. Since so many cars were expected they had shortened the qualifying to 5 laps of warm ups and 5 on the clock. It is a bit of a race to get the tires hot and the car up to speed in 10 laps. It would be more of a challenge to get everything working in 5. I had a set of hard and soft tires at the track. The hard tires had been working better for us for racing, but the soft ones may be the ticket for qualifying.

Joey was up for practicing for the Grands. We got to the track and it looked like a race night with all the cars at the track. I put Joey out with the soft tires and he came in fast and got down to 6.31 in 8 laps with a little interference from other traffic. Not bad. I let him run a round a bit with the soft tires and his times went up as they got hot and real sticky.

I switched over to the hard tires (outside only) and put Joey out again. It seemed to take him forever to warm up and his time to come down. He was much better with the soft tires for the short haul. However, he was driving well on the hard tires. I decided to use soft tires to qualify and hard tires to race.

Joey's attitude was great. He wanted competition on the track and wanted me to put him out when other Sr. Hondas were out on the track. It was a good practice; Joey got 140 laps and would have done more if I asked. I wished our times were better, but I think the slowness is in the car somewhere. Joey is ready.

7/11/01
Originally I thought we would try racing on the dirt at the Phoenixville track. Patti talked some sense into me and I realized that it did not make sense to change the complete setup on the car to race on the dirt only to change it back for the Grands.

Joey, Matt and I went to see the show as spectators instead. It was a good time. It was their driver's appreciation night. They had many local big car racers bring their cars and used the professional racers as guest flaggers. Joey and I got a chance to sit in a full midget racecar. You sit in it and you are perfectly upright. I would hate to try and get out in a hurry. There will be a Midget show at Grandview Speedway 10/20. It is a great show since they fit well on the 1/5-mile track. Grandview is 2-3 miles north of the Woodside.

The racing at Phoenixville was good. Lots of close action and the drivers are working very hard to place the car on the track. I asked several handlers what the lap times were for Sr. Honda, they told me they did not pay attention to lap times. I learned why. The Jr. Hondas could turn times as fast as the B-modified cars depending on the track conditions. After watching the cars run at Phoenixville I think that Joey could hold his own on the dirt. We will give it a try this year.

2001 QMA Eastern Grand Nationals

Friday 7/20/01
Move in day at the Grands. The Oaklane club went nuts cleaning the grounds for the Grands and the place sparkled. Some of the temporary tweaks were: 3 more sets of bleachers, temporary office set up for the medics, staging area extended 100', 25'x50' tent for signups and tech, 1000 gallon fuel tank, 10 portable lighting units, air-conditioned/flushing porta-pots and lots of extra sponsor signs.

From the start we knew that parking all the trailers and motor homes was going to be a challenge. We had all teams disconnect their trailers near their parking spot, and then we had a Bobcat with a ball hitch in the front move the trailer precisely into the desired spot. This method eliminated the extra space required to maneuver the tow vehicle and insured the trailers would be parked close together. The result was a tightly packed sea of trailers.

We had lots of vendors in the central area. There were a total of 10 parts vendors including our normal crew and several from out of town. Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen set up temporary outlets. There was a guy who made southern barbeque on site including pork that he cooked for 24 hours in these huge smokers. We also had vendors for magazines, memorabilia, popguns and race games. This was quite an affair.

Check out the aerial view of the track. At the bottom-center is the track proper. In the background there is the small town of Trumbauersville and in the foreground is the city of the Eastern Grands.
Aerial View
We had acres and acres of parking and it was almost all full. The second picture shows a closer view of the track proper. Comparing the two pictures one can see how big the event was.
Aerial View

Saturday 7/21/01
First thing in the morning we had a handlers meeting. There were so many handlers that we filled the back half of the track. Turns out that 695 cars were participating in the event. This was the biggest quarter midget event ever. Joey's class (Sr. Honda) had 102 cars registered so far. The first time more than 100 cars had registered for a class. The national board of directors introduced themselves and explained the program for the week. It was cool to see the people at the top of the organization. It was clear that they were pleased with how Oaklane had prepared for the event and the record setting turnout.

Safety inspection
After getting our registration package Joey and I pushed the car in line for safety inspection. And what a line it was with hundreds of cars. Many cars have a little tachometer on the side to record the maximum rpm. The rules state that a tachometer can't be located outside the roll cage. Most tachometers are mounted on the sheet metal, which is technically outside the roll cage. Modern tachometers are the size of a box of matches and pose no safety problems. However, rules are rules. I had moved my tachometer the night before. Good thing I did as they were failing cars with it on the sheet metal.

After and hour wait our car was inspected and passed with flying colors. Joey and I took our completed safety report and turned it into registration to get out official number, 268. Team Dille is officially in the Grands.

As the host club it was our job to keep the facility going for the event and all our guests. I volunteered to help with the trash. BFI donated temporary cardboard trashcans, liners and a 10 yard roll off dumpster for the trash. All we had to do was empty the trashcans and put them in the dumpster. It sounded easy. I did not realize that we could fill the dumpster in less than a day. I worked with another club member for over an hour to empty all of the trashcans. After we finished I checked one of the first cans that we emptied and it was about 1/2 full. It was going to be a long week.

Sunday 7/22/01
Sunday morning we had a handlers meeting to discuss the days activities following the on-track church service. Sunday and Monday are scheduled to be practice days. I learned that today's practice would be 4 minutes in groups of 7 cars. Not very much time, but Joey had not been in the car for 2 weeks and I wanted him to get in the groove again. The cars were to go out in class order and reverse sign in order. This meant that we would be after the entire Jr. Honda class and 70 other Sr. Hondas. Time to wait.

Around 3:00 Joey and I pushed the car up to the line and placed our car between cars 267 and 269. Then we waited and waited until it was our turn. I decided to qualify with the soft tires since the warm up laps for qualifying was cut from the usual 10 laps to just 5. I figured I would practice on soft tires. Finally it was our turn and I pushed Joey off.

Joey got out there and did not miss a beat. He warmed up efficiently and kept clear of other cars. All of our practice during the season showed. The car was handling well and I saw no reason to bring him in. In about 35 laps it was over and Joey pulled off the track. I praised Joey for a good job and asked him if the car was OK. He said it was. That was that. I put the car away and drove home for dinner.

After dinner I went back to the track and worked on trash for a while. All of the trashcans needed servicing and the dumpster was over full. It was going to be a long week.

Joey's best lap was 6.3s. The class record is 6.08s. I know most of the other cars can turn a lap in the 6.1s range. We are slow

Monday 7/23/01
At this morning's handlers meeting they said that Sunday's practice went until 9:45 for all of the cars to get their turn. Today we would start at 9:00 and each car would get 6 minutes on the track. Whoopee.

With the shortened qualifying format the biggest challenge is to get the tires warm and Joey's line smooth in 5 laps. My plan for today's practice was to put Joey out for about 3 minutes with the soft tires, then pull him in to change to the hard tires for the remainder of the practice. I had no intention to try and qualify on the hard tires, but it would give Joey another shot at warming up a set of cold tires.

Matt Martin's registration number for his Sr. Honda car was 257, which meant he went out to practice just before us. Yesterday I saw him getting ready in the staging area with his three handlers. (His dad, Mark Martin was not there since he was racing in the Nascar Winston Cup.) I timed Matt and he got down into the 6.1s, which is not bad for the first time on the track. While I was waiting I watched Matt practice again. Seems they had the same practice plan as I did, and Matt came in for a tire change about 1/2 way through the session. I watched as the team of professionals worked their magic:

The car stops perfectly straight in the pit spot. Guy #1 is standing on the left side of the car and pulls the car toward him raising the right side. Guy #2 takes his battery impact wrench and changes the right front wheel. Guy #3 takes his battery impact wrench and changes the right rear wheel. Guy #1 lowers the car and pushes the car back out on the track. I did not time it, but it looked like 20 seconds. It's nice to have money.

Matt Martin
Picture of Matt Martin practicing in his Sr. Honda car.

Soon it is our turn and I push Joey off then stand at the wall with my stopwatch. Joey gets out on the track and gets to work. In the second lap Joey does two in control slides to warm the tires up and settles down to the proper racing line. Again, he turns a few laps around 6.3s and then his times go up as the tires get hot. Before he went out I told Joey that I would call him in if there was a caution in the middle of the practice to change tires. Sure enough a car spun with 2:56 on the clock and I waved Joey in.

Joey stopped in the spot and I lifted his right front tire up, placing the new rear tire under the nerf bar to use as a jack stand. Using a borrowed impact wrench I removed the right front wheel and put on the new one. I then lifted the car off the wheel and moved to the back of the car. I used the big (1 1/2") wheel wrench to loosen the nut on the splined axle and threaded it off with my hand. I lifted the back of the car up and swapped the wheels while holding the car with one hand. I put the car back on the ground and installed the retaining nut. I then pushed Joey off. The practice clock said 4:10. Not bad, but no Winston cup pit stop.

The checkered flag flew and Joey pulled off the track. That was that. This would be our last time on the track before qualifying.

I spent an hour or so changing out tires for brand new ones. This was hot sweaty work as the temperature was in the 90s. I hoped that fresh rubber would give us just a little better speed during qualifying. I took Joey home and came back to the track to pick up more trash.

Tuesday 7/23/01 Qualifying
Qualifying plays a very important role in the Grands format of racing. All of the racers are ranked according to their qualifying time, which is the best of 3 laps on the clock. The fastest 5 qualifiers get placed into the A-main. The second fastest 5 in the B-main, third fastest 5 in the C-main and so on until there are only 6-10 cars left. These cars get put in the last main, for example, lets say this is the F-main. The F-main races and the top 5 cars transfer up to the E-main. Then the E-main races and the top 5 transfer up to the D-main and so on until the fastest racers end up in the coveted A-main.

This was the big day. The better we qualified, the better we would be situated in the pack. I estimated that we would qualify around noon. I borrowed a pit cart to haul the car over to the line up area. This was a luxury compared to pushing the car along on the ground. I got in line around 11:00 and filtered into the fueling station area. The first guy sniffed my oil, the second sealed the oil fill pugs with paint, guy #3 inspected my fuel tank to make sure it was open and checked to see my float bowl drain was open then filled my tank with track fuel. The forth guy sealed my tank with paint and masking tape. We were good to go, all we had to do is wait.

I planned to have Joey eat while we waited in line. This worked out very well as Joey sat in the car on the cart and ate as I pulled him along in the line. He felt like a king, which is just like I wanted him to feel. As we got closer I pulled out a tactic I almost never use. I bribed him that if he timed in the 6.2s I would buy him this board game that he wanted. I was desperate to do well.

Our time had come. Days of preparation came down to what would happen in the next two minutes. With 700 cars to qualify they were trying to move the show as fast as possible. They were having the next car push off the moment the checkered flag fell for the car on the track. This resulted in the two cars being on the track at the same time. I thought this might be a distraction for Joey so I pushed Joey off when told, but I waited until the other car was almost off the track before I told him to hit the ignition. Joey hit the track just as the other car pulled off. This was it.

Qualifying
Picture of Joey qualifying.

Joey did his part perfectly. The first two laps he drove hard and let the car slide around, and then he smoothed out and started to pick up speed. His timed laps were very good netting times of 6.2824, 6.2965, 6.3602, which is better than he had ever timed. I praised Joey heavily for his good job.

Unfortunately, this was not a very good time for the class. We ended up qualifying 68th out of 102, between cars that qualified 6.2813 and 6.2848 seconds. I had hoped to qualify in the top 1/2, but we were 2/3 of the way down. Oh well.

Our times were not official until we were checked for compliance to the rules. When we came off the track we were weighed, then Joey had to get out of the car so the car could be weighed. We then pushed the car over a measurement board to make sure the track and wheelbase were according to the rules. The seal on the oil was checked and the gas was sniffed for illegal substances. Lastly, the engine was sealed by painting all of the critical fasteners so that no internal engine work could be done without breaking the seals.

We passed without a problem. Several of my friends did not. Two were disqualified for having the rear track 1/16" wider than allowed and two were taken out for having the nerf bar extend less than 1/2 way across the rear tire. This put them at the back of the qualifying pack.

Wednesday
On Wednesday morning they posted the line-ups for all of the mains. The Sr. Honda class had mains going from A to N. Joey qualified to start 3rd in the N-main. Our race would start sometime after noon. I went home and met my mom and sister who came down from New York watch Joey race. We had lunch and all headed up to the track.

Joey and I got into line and I had my tank filled with track gas and the seals on the oil plugs were checked. I spent my time in the staging area keeping Joey cool. From time to time Joey's grandmother and aunt came by to check our progress in line and wish Joey luck. I kept giving Joey drinks and wetting his tee shirt and head with water.

The races moved along slower than our normal Saturday night races due to the large number of yellow flags. I got very anxious and Joey got focused. There was a little extra delay as the flagger and all the officials had to take a well-deserved potty break. Finally our race was ready to go and I pushed Joey off to warm up.

We were getting a full 3 minute warm up period before the race which is twice as long as our normal Saturday night warm up. Joey looked great in warm ups and the car was handling well. A car spun, bringing out the yellow flag. I pulled Joey into the pits to talk with him and to kill some time, as I did not want to wear Joey out in the heat. I let Joey back out and he picked up the pace and looked good against the competition.

The flagger pulled out the yellow flag and the cars formed up efficiently. After the "one to go" signal the green flag fell and we were off. Joey got a great start and held 3rd place into the first turn. Unfortunately a car spun in the back of the pack bringing out the yellow before one lap was complete. I gave Joey the thumbs up for a good job on the start and pulling around the spun car.

Joey lost 2 spots in the restart but stayed with the pack. Joey looked great and after 1-2 laps had placed himself on the bumper of the 4th place car. He was challenging for fourth place when he made a little contact with the #4 car while approaching bottom of turn 3-4. All of a sudden my son was heading into the wall. In the brief second I could see that he could not steer. He hit the wall with a thump bending the front end and ending our shot at the championship.

Joey was crying in the car as the corner workers asked him if he was OK. I hopped over the wall and asked Joey if he was OK, he was, but just upset. He had worked hard to get to this point and was disappointed that it had ended. All of the adrenalin turned to tears.

The corner workers lifted Joey and the car over the wall and placed him in the pits. Joey got out of the car on his own and the crowd clapped as he got out. He went to his mom as I lifted the car out of the pit area. It was over.

15 minutes later I had the car loaded up on a pit cart to haul back to my truck. Joey was playing with his brother and the tears were gone. All was well.

I inspected the front end and saw one of the tiny tie rod ends had failed, causing Joey to loose steering in the corner. A $5 part. Bummer. Hitting the wall bent the radius rods on the other side. It will take about $50 of parts to set the car right. We will be back next Saturday to race at Oaklane.

(A post race video review showed that the #4 car had lifted going into the corner and Joey bumped him in the back. It looked like an extremely light bump, as the other car did not even change line. The contact did not even appear to hit the left front tire. Still it was apparent that the tie rod broke at that moment and Joey lost steering.)

Just because I had completed racing did not mean I was through. I still had responsibility for the trash and to help with the general running of the Grands. I went up to the track twice a day to empty the trashcans. I also enjoyed watching the races, as the competition was so close.

On Friday night the place was packed. Oaklane had gotten some local press and there were a lot of spectators in the stands. In fact, it was standing room only. I decided to watch the racing real close by volunteering to work a corner. This was great as I got to work with some of the fastest classes in quarter midget racing. The downside was these cars were very hard to push start and they had lap times under caution that were about the same as the Jr. Honda class had during racing. Racing ended at around 12:30am with the wild alcohol burning 1/2 midgets.

Saturday started early with the B and A mains scheduled to run. I worked the corners for the last few of the B mains and stayed there for the running of the A mains. I had a trackside seat for the big show. Never mind that it was 95°, full sun and I had to push start stalled cars. I was ready for the big show.

For the A mains they rolled each car and driver out on the track and announced their name and hometown. The drivers got into the cars on the track and were pushed off at the same time. It was an interesting pageant worthy of each team's effort to get to the A main.

The first race was the Jr. Honda class. The race line up looked like any Saturday night at Oaklane with over half the drivers coming from Oaklane. The race was great. One of Joey's friends led for a few laps, which was impressive to watch. In the end it was a kid from Oregon in a new Rice car that won. The driver came from behind and stayed in front once he got the lead.

The next race was the Sr. Honda class. Oaklane members had half of the grid. The race was very fast and the racing was good. The winner was an Oaklane member that Joey raced against every week. This driver was very good, but never won an A main at Oaklane. It was this kid's first A main win. Great job.

I left after the Sr. Honda race, but the racing continued until 1:00am and the last award was given out after 3:00am. What a day. What a week.

Anyway, that's how team Dille did at the Grands. It was a good experience and it was fun to see people from all over. I am glad we had a chance to participate in the largest quarter midget event ever. I was very impressed with Joey's professional attitude and the way he handled himself. It is a proud day to be a father.

Next week it will be business as usual.

Race Safe,

Joe

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Racing Log #14

Practice 8/3/01

I did not want the tie rod end to fail again so I replaced the tie rod ends with ones from an industrial supply catalog that are 3 times stronger. They are also Teflon bushed and about 5 times the price. The Teflon bushing eliminated the free play, but also made them quite tight. The steering was a bit stiff. I hoped they would loosen up. At least they won't be the weakest link any more. It only took an hour to replace the tie rod ends and radius rods and get the car back in shape.

My initial plan was to get in about 50 laps of practice to make sure the car was straight, but Joey had other plans. There were 3-4 other Sr. Honda cars at the track. Joey hates to practice alone and he looked forward practicing with a few of his friends. Joey went out and practiced well, but the car was a bit off. It took a while for Joey to get smooth.

I checked the new tie rods and the Teflon was still very stiff. I think the stiffness of the new style joints was causing the steering to be stiff. This must have been messing up his driving. It was obvious that the car was basically OK and I just let him run. He put in 120 laps and had to be told to get off.

Racing 8/4/01

All the practice did loosen the new tie rod ends a little. Just in case I switched the inner rod ends back to the old style that were loose. I figured only the outside ones were in jeopardy of getting hit and the result would be smoother steering.

The club decided to have a little party to celebrate the Grands. We had a catered dinner with some of the money we made from the Grands. It was a fun night with only to be one round of racing with the line-ups from a random draw.

I got to the track a bit early to give a quick check out of the car. I got Joey on the track and watched him go. He looked OK to me, but a bit slow. After about 10 laps he pulled in and said the car was hard to steer and suggested I had too much caster in the car. Who am I to argue with the driver? I took out one turn of caster from the upper radius rod and sent him out again. Joey knew what the problem was as he was much smoother when I put him back on the track. His times came down as well.

I pulled Joey off the track after about 50 laps so he would not get tired. I took the car over to the set up pad (a level bit of concrete for adjusting cars) and checked the caster. It was now where I wanted it, which meant it must have been 1° too much before the adjustment. Joey was right.

They posted the line-ups and Joey got into the second race with a bunch of really quick kids. To make it worse, Joey was starting on the outside in position 4. So much for relaxing.

Joey gave it a gallant try on the start, but he was clothes-lined and ended in the back. It was a 40 lap race and we had lots of time to catch up. Unfortunately, he was not as fast as the other cars. I watched as Joey drove well, but continued to loose track position. There was one car that kept spinning. This gave Joey a chance to make a pass on the restart. But he could not get the job done and the pack pulled away.

I watched as Joey fell back, then the leader lapped him, then the second place car. Luckily the race ended after 40 laps. I gave Joey lots of praise for driving well. He did his job.

There was no doubt about it; the car is slow. I have to find where the problem is. It looks like I have some detective work to do for next week.

The caterers came shortly after we got off the track and they set up a large grill and commenced cooking. About 1/2 hour later we had a 4-star picnic with hamburgers, hotdogs and grilled sausage including all the fixings. Everyone sat around and shared stories about the Grands. One of the ladies who monitors the quarter midget list printed out all of the good things that people were saying. I brought the local news articles. We ate and congratulated ourselves for a job well done. It was a good party.

Race Safe,

Joe

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Racing Log #15

Practice 8/16/01

Joey's racing skills continue to improve, but the car is not performing as well. We are still 0.2s slower than where we need to be to run in the front. Needless to say I am frustrated. I let Joey know I am satisfied in the way he was performing, and I needed his help getting the car to go faster.

I thought the axle bearings may be holding the car back so I changed them and made sure the axle spun freely. It did.

On the way to the track I told Joey that I had changed the bearings and I had planned to make some other changes at the track. Joey went out and came up to speed. It was clear that the bearings were not the silver bullet. Oh well.

I moved the two weights from the front floor pan back under the seat. No change in lap times. I then changed the right side springs to make them 10 lbs/in stiffer. Still no change in lap times. Joey had about 120 laps in the heat and I could not ask for more. I headed home still frustrated.

I put the original bearings back in the axle then I went over the car from one end to the other checking for alignment and any other problems, but I did not find anything. Nick (the chassis builder) suggested that I change the gears to get a little more RPM out of the engine so I changed the gears.

The next day I e-mailed Nick with the results from our practice and voiced my concerns. I asked if he could watch Joey on Saturday and perhaps have his son (little Nick) give the car a few laps. Nick agreed.

Racing 8/18/01

I got to the track early. Nick was there when I arrived and had just finished running little Nick in his car. I put Joey out on the track with the new gears and Joey looked like he was having a bit of a hard time. After 2-3 laps Joey spun. I had not seen Joey spin in months. I pushed Joey off again and he spun again. The car sounded like it was making more power. When Joey spun again Nick had me pull him off and put on the soft tires.

Joey went out and ran well without spinning. The soft tires were warm in a lap or two and Joey got on his racing line. His time went to 6.3s, right where it was before. Nick suggested that I change Joey's line to get him into the turns earlier. Joey obediently changed his line, but his times got a bit worse. Oh well.

Little Nick got into the car. He is about 2 years older than Joey but only an inch or two taller and perhaps two pounds heavier. I was hoping for a big difference, but little Nick's times were about the same. He is a more experienced racer and his line was more consistent and perhaps 2" tighter. Still his best time was only 0.02s faster than Joey's. It's something with the car.

Nick mentioned that the engine did not sound as powerful as it did when I first put Joey on the track. The engine was not turning the RPM it was on the first few laps. I don't know what could cause this. Perhaps there is something in the engine.

I let Joey back out on the track with the soft tires, then switched back to the hard tires. His times were about the same so I let Joey pick. He liked the harder tires. Hard tires it will be.

Heat Race

Joey pulled a difficult starting spot and a difficult set of competitors in the heat. He was starting on the outside in the #4 position. I had a little concern that the hard tires would not work as the track cooled, but decided to let Joey run the tires he liked best. I like the hard tires too since they get better when they are hot and the car handles better as the race goes on. My concerns were unfounded as the car hooked up just fine during warm ups.

Joey had a great start from the outside and he moved into 3rd, then the obligatory yellow flag came out when some kids tangled on the back straight. The restart was single file and Joey moved up to third again. Joey looked fantastic as he was driving the perfect line around the track. The race remained green and Joey passed one car and got passed by two ending in 4th. Joey made no mistakes and it was clear that Joey would have done better if his car were faster. Good job Joey.

Joey's 4th place finish put him in the B-main starting 3rd on the inside. The track temperature had dropped from 120°F down to 90°F and I was concerned about the hard tires developing grip. I carried a soft rear tire into the pits just in case. Again, my fears were unfounded as Joey warmed up the tires and the car hooked up just fine. Joey was pushing hard during warm ups and giving it 100%.

Joey got a great start, emerging 2nd out of the first turn. One kid passed him putting him into 3rd. This girl moved up and passed Joey and he passed her back. She passed him again and then Joey went to return the favor. Joey got a little too aggressive during the pass and caused both of them to spin on the back straight. Joey got a foul called on him and had to start in the back with 30 laps to go.

Starting 10th single file is a real challenge since the whole field is spread out and the leader gets a big jump on the last place car. Joey did OK on the restart. He did not gain any positions, but he did not fall back. Joey managed to pass a couple cars moving up to the lead pack. Unfortunately, Joey did not have the speed to pass any more cars. Joey finished 7th on the lead lap. In the process he managed to lap the other two cars in the race. There were 37 cars in the Sr. Honda class and Joey finished 17th, which put him in the top half. Not a bad finish.

Next week we are participating in the Keystone Invitational at the Honeybrook track. This is a two-day monza style event where each car races 3 races and they race for points. The racer with the most points wins the class.

I will spend the week reconfiguring the car for the Honeybrook track and looking for my lost 0.2s. I am optimistic about the Keystone race as the Honeybrook track is a "drivers" track where driver's skill is more important than the car's setup and power. Joey is optimistic too and has described the issues with driving the track. We are both looking forward to the weekend.

Race Safe,

Joe

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