Victory Lap

Joey Dille's


Quarter Midget #67


Racing Log 2001



This is the final installment 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 #21, Pumpkin Races

Practice 10/5/01

I put the old tires on the car to save the new tires for the last two races. Last week I tried raising the gear ratio and Joey's lap times went up. This week I went the other way with the gears to see what happens. The track was quite busy as it was the last chance for practice before the pumpkin races. There were a number of Sr. Honda drivers for Joey to spar with. Joey was happy to see all the trailers in the lot.

Joey flat kicked butt in practice. He was very focused and worked hard. The gear change seemed to help a bit as I turned the same rpm and the lap times went down. I changed the rear Panhard rod a bit and improved Joey's times. For some reason this change seemed to make his times more consistent too. I put it all the way up and his times got worse. I moved it back to my first adjustment.

Joey was a bit faster than the other cars on the track and he got some needed practice passing other cars. It was great to watch him work on his technique and try different things.

The weather for practice was outstanding, 80F and sunny. Unfortunately, the forecast for the weekend is cool with a high of 60F or so. I was a little concerned that we were not practicing under actual race conditions, but there is nothing I can do.

Friday 10/5/01 Pumpkin Races Day 0

The track is closed to practice to allow for decoration and sign in. Team Dille arrived around 7:00 and got the car safety checked, signed in and stored in a friend's trailer in record time. It was a beautiful fall evening with temperatures in the 70's. The track was decorated with a haunted house theme. A mock graveyard was erected in the infield along with a very large cardboard haunted house. Of course, there was a tractor-trailer full of pumpkins piled in the infield. The staging area had tons of spider web spread all over it along with toy spiders. The drivers played football on the track and the atmosphere was quite festive.

After sign in and safety check the whole family went on a hayride around the beautiful Trumbauersville. It was a bit chilly, but nice to get out and meet a few new people. After the ride we were treated to cookies, cake and hot chocolate.

Saturday 10/6/01 Pumpkin Races Day 1

Last year we had 276 cars at the pumpkin races, which was the biggest non-sanctioned event in QMA history. We attributed this to the fact the Grands were going to be at Oaklane and people wanted to check out the track. This year we 279 cars registered! Racers must love the event.

Overnight a cold front came through changing the weather dramatically. Saturday started cold and wet with strong winds. At 9:00 the center of the front came through prompting a heavy rain with gusty winds that were strong enough to take down a few branches in the yard. Things looked grim. I checked the radar before leaving for the track and it looked encouraging, showing the showers were going to clear the area around 11:00 or so. The weather behind the front was forecast to be cold and clear.

Racing was scheduled for 10:00 and it was clear that this was not going to happen. By 10:30 the rain became sporadic and breaks began to appear in the clouds. The last drops fell around 11:30 and if got clear and windy. After the handlers meeting they put up the line ups and there were 6 heats of Sr. Hondas with 52 cars total. Wow!

The air was still chilly, but the track warmed up in the sun and the temperature was 95F on the black asphalt when Joey's race was about to go. Joey pulled the #2 starting spot in the first of the 6 Senior Honda heat races. His heat had a mixed bag of kids. There were a few really fast kids, a few not so fast kids and two unknowns. The race was to be for 30 laps. I spoke with the handler of the kid starting on the pole while we were waiting in the staging area. Turns out it was his first time at Oaklane. I shared this information with Joey. Hopefully Joey could get the jump on him at the start.

The race start did not go as planned. Joey got a good start but the kid on the pole chose a wide line coming into turn 1. This let the kid in the #3 spot get under him. The three exited turn two side by side :-0 The kid on the pole went way wide on the exit and Joey had to go up to the wall putting him in 4th by the time he was able to get on the racing line and get up to speed. A yellow flag came out for a mechanical failure. Unfortunately, the first lap was scored and Joey had to start in 4th. Joey got a good restart and passed one kid. One kid passed him. I saw he was developing a slight push as the race went on. Joey stayed up with the leaders, but could not make any progress. Even with the slight push he managed to pass the lapped cars to stay in the lead pack. I was impressed. The race stayed green until the end and Joey finished in 4th.

Sunday 10/7/01 Pumpkin Races Day 2

The day started out with the traditional Big Wheel race for the 4 and under kids. I had practiced Matt on a borrowed big wheel the week before. Our plan was to start high on the start finish line and head downhill to the entrance to turn 1 then stay low. Matt got a good start and followed our planed line, pedaling his heart out. He emerged from turn 2 in third place. Three of the other big wheels had bigger wheels. This gave them an effective gearing advantage. The #4 driver was gaining in the back straight and made his pass in turn 4. Matt finished in 4th, just out of the trophies. Oh well, he did give it a good try. It was clear that he was outgunned by the trikes with bigger wheels.

Matt in the Big Wheel Race
Picture of the line up for the big wheel race. Matt is third from the left in the green jacket.

Matt Crossing the Finish Line
Matt about to cross the line in the big wheel race.

The next feature was the costume contest. Matt was an engineer (the kind that drives a train) and Joey was an AA battery. Joey took the most original prize for his age group. Team Dille was pumped.

Joey and Matt in their Costumes
Joey and Matt in their Halloween costumes.

Feature Race 25 laps

By race time it was cold and windy. The asphalt was 85 and the concrete 60F. Usually when it is cold it is also dark and the concrete is warmer. We had never raced in these conditions so I was a bit unsure of what to do. I took 1 turn off the right rear to fix the push. This may make the car too loose on the cold track. I discussed my dilemma with Joey and we decided on a strategy. Warm up 1 minute and come in if too loose for conditions. I would add a turn to the right rear to tighten it up and he would get about 30 seconds more warm up.

Joey's heat finish put in B main. They had squeezed the 52 cars into 5 races so Joey's race would have 11 cars in his race. Joey was starting 10th of the 11. All of the cars were top notch. Two track record holders and several A-main winners. There would be no easy pickings in this race. Our warm up plan went well. Joey pulled in and said the car was a touch loose. I put 3/4 of a turn in the right rear and put him back out.

This was some race as the first two laps were completed with the whole field 2 and 3 wide. Joey was right in the thick of it. Unfortunately, they could not maintain this for a third lap and there was a wreck in turn 4. Joey snapped his car smartly towards the infield, missing the whole thing. It was a tough race. There were a total of 7 restarts during the race. These were not the cold tire spins we saw in the last few weeks. These were all due to hard racing. Joey kept away from trouble and managed to move up to 5th for the finish. I think all cars were on the same 3/4 of a lap at the finish. This was a close race.

I was very happy with Joey's performance and I told him so as we drove home. He tried hard and gave 100% effort. It was clear that he had progressed as a racer over our first year of Sr. Honda.

Epilog

This season was tougher than I expected. In Jr. Honda Joey almost always made the A-main. This year we only made a big show twice. Last year Joey won a number of races. This year Joey did not get to carry the checkered even once. Still we made a lot of progress. I decided to review the season and try and put it in perspective. Being an engineer I decided to make a graph.

Joey's 2001 Racing Performance
Graph showing Joey's performance in the Sr. Honda class.

We started out really slow compared to the rest of the class. I attribute this to two things: Joey's DNF in the first race where he was pushed into a stopped car and a poor set up on my part. I think the accident took some of Joey's confidence away at a critical point in the season. Nick Schlauch (both Jr. and Sr.) came to the rescue to help fix the push that the car had early on and help teach me how to set the car up. This helped Joey drive a better line and be able to pass other cars. This was a big turning point in the season and it shows on the graph.

In May and June we made good progress picking up speed and getting better at racing with the older kids. I think in July we started to suffer the effects of the clogged jet in the carburetor. This dogged us during the Grands and into early August. Ziggy helped us fix the carburetor problem and we were back on track by mid-August. From that point on we continued to improve. The big dip at the end of September is the spark plug wire problem. All in all I think Joey is in the top 1/3 of the Sr. Honda class.

Looking back I am very proud of Joey. He almost always gave me 100% effort, even when it was past his bedtime or 99F in the shade. He came to practice once a week, usually to put in 100+ laps, often without competition. His driving skill improved as the year went on. At the end of the season I was truly impressed with his track presence and racing savvy.

Joey making a late season pass
Joey passing another car late in the season. The picture shows good head and track position. He is making a pass of opportunity, following another car instead of waiting to pass on his own. This type of pass was something that he did not do at the beginning of the season.

Next season I hope to improve further. Some of the faster drivers will move on to other classes or gain weight and race in the heavy divisions. There will be young hot shoes moving up from the junior division, but they won't have the experience and timing of a 10 year old. I hope to be in the top 20% next year with a few checkered flags and getting a taste of the A-main more often.

Next year we may have an expansion of the Dille team as Matt has shown an interest in racing. Matt has always shown good physical ability and I think he will do well. I think it will be a good chance for the family to spend time together. I hope I have learned some things over the last three years and I will not repeat all of my mistakes. The best part will be when Joey joins in and helps with the coaching. Racing two cars is not a sure thing, as the finances need to work out. It will be expensive to run two cars. We will see.

Race Safe,

Joe

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