Joey Dille's


Quarter Midget #67


Racing Log



These are installments 21-22 of a week by week log of our experience as a novice team in 1999 going racing for the first time. 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. Log #22 is the last for the 1999 season.

Racing Log #21

Jr. Honda, Take Two

I spent most of this week straightening the car from last weeks mishap. It was a major effort since both ends were damaged. By Thursday night I had the car back in order. It was not pretty, but the suspension was straight and the weights on the wheels were about where they should be. Good to go.

Friday's practice was more for me than Joey. I learned that the engine sprocket key had sheared in the accident and the gear would slip on the shaft. The suspension was still off. The front seemed tight and had lost the free movement it had before the accident. This would require a little investigation.

My big discovery was with the tires. I had three sets of outside tires; hard, medium and soft. I was running the hard ones in the summer and they were working well. We had a real cold snap and I ran the soft ones once and they worked well too. On Friday the temperature was moderate so I figured medium softness tires. The car handled poorly. Joey was fighting a spin coming out of each corner.

I put the hard set back on the car and he did much better. His line was better and he had more control. A little investigation after practice revealed that the medium tires I got with the car were actually harder (due to age I suspect) than the hard tires I purchased during the season. Live and learn.

This put me in a dilemma. I planned to run the hard tires for the heat race when it would be in the low 70's and the medium tires for the feature where it would be much cooler. I could not go with this plan. I spoke with one of the vendors and he suggested going with the soft tires for the feature. This sounded good to me.

I was a little apprehensive before the heat race. Our first foray into the new world of Jr. Honda was not pleasant. I was hoping this time would be better. The car count for this week was a little lighter than average. I only 15-16 cars were signed up. Perhaps Joey would have good luck in the small field. Joey was calm. I had full size butterflies. Our practice went well. His times were good and I think I have exorcised the gremlins from the suspension.

One reason I was nervous was that Joey had 3 accidents where a car spun in front of him and he hit the other car coming out of the turn. The last one of these happened at Oaklane and resulted in a DNF. I saw a pattern. I figured Joey could see the car spinning in front of him and could have avoided the accident. Instead of taking evasive action he fixed on the car in front of him and resigned himself to hitting the other car. This is not a successful strategy.

I thought about just telling Joey to miss the other car, but I doubt this would help when the situation came up again. It may also frustrate him. I decided to try some visualization exercises with the car in the garage. I put Joey in the car and removed the front cover so I could see his feet. I had him close his eyes and visualize a car spinning in front of him. I then made him lift his foot off the gas and look and swerve to the inside or outside. We practiced this about 3 times each direction. I hoped this would implant a plan in his subconscious.

Joey started 5th in the heat race. The kids in the #1 and #2 spots were veterans and were running the pace laps at a high speed. It was obvious that Joey was having a hard time with the fast pace of the starting line up. The flagger was not helping much by letting the pack tear around at 90% of racing speed. Joey was looking for the green in the back straight and he would swerve slightly. This was not a problem in Novice where the speeds were slower and the pack looser. It was a problem in the with this tight and fast group. Finally the green flag fell and they were off.

The racing was much different in Jr. Honda. There were no slow kids and a lot less passing. Joey raced well and ended 4th, which was good enough to put him in the A-main!

A lot of time passed between the heat and main races. The sky was clear and the temperature dropped from the mid-70's to about 50. Dew was on everything. I put Joey's helmet in the truck to keep it dry. I also ran the engine to warm up the rear cover to dry it off. Of course I changed to the soft tires too. It was after 9:00 and I was concerned that Joey was getting tired.

As I watched the other feature races I saw them turn into a spin-fest as drivers tried to push their cold hard tires. I was hoping the soft tires would keep Joey pointing the right way. The spins brought out the yellow flag and delayed things more. The racers edge was fading.

Not only did Joey make the A-main he started #2. This start went better since another recent novice graduate kid was on the pole which held the speed down. The start went well, but the others started spinning, which brought out he yellow flag. This allows the warm tires to cool, which promotes more spins. After one of the starts Joey was trying to pass a two kids coming out of turn 2 and he held it too tight… and spun.

Since I was working turn two I got to talk with Joey before restarting him. He knew what he did, why it happened and that he would have to start in the back. Joey raced well from this point and finished 6th out of 8 without getting lapped. This is quite a showing for such a competitive class.

Next week is the annual finally of the Oaklane racing season. The Pumpkin Races. Two days of racing and festivities where no trophies are given out, only pumpkins.

Race Safe,

Joe Return to index.

Racing Log #22

Pumpkin Races

This weekend is the annual Pumpkin Races, which is the season finally to the Oaklane season. The format is simple; race Saturday and Sunday, pumpkins instead of trophies, decorate the track and lots of other Halloween activities. Everyone has fun.

The track is closed on Friday so Joey and I practiced on Thursday. Joey and the car were in good shape and I just wanted to get in a few laps to keep Joey sharp. I kept the hard tires on since the temperatures were in the 70's. The only item on our practice agenda was to tweak Joey's line a little. He had been squaring up the turns slightly which costs him some time. He turns in hard on the entrance which causes a slight push, scrubbing off speed and valuable momentum. This also opens the door for a pass.

Joey worked well on his line and he smoothed up the entrance to his turns. He was fairly consistent in the 6.7's and only scrubbed the tires on occasion. Another Jr. Honda came out on the track with Joey. They were about 1/2 lap apart when he got up to racing speed. Joey and him did about 20 laps together and they kept 1/2 lap apart. Joey was running a competitive pace. We were about as ready as we could be.

Friday night was for sign in and safety inspection. Joey and I got there around 7:00 and the track was filling up with trailers and race cars. The number of trailers was about the same as on a typical Saturday before racing started. The track was decorated with lights, pumpkins, witches, spider webs and other Halloween stuff. One of the members brought an old car that was modified to look like the Batmobile and parked it as a decoration by the stands. And there was a tractor trailer's worth of pumpkins stacked in the infield in 3 piles. Large pumpkins for first place, medium for 2nd and small for third. This was not your typical race weekend.

At 8:00 everyone hopped on a hay wagon and went for a ride. As hay rides go this one was short on atmosphere but long on, well length. An old 2-cylider John Deere pulled two fully packed working hay wagons around the streets of Trumbauersville for over an hour. Both the kids and adults had a good time just hanging out. I reflected on how many friends Joey had made over the season. This has been an interesting year. After the hay ride I put Joey's car in a friend's trailer so I would not have to haul the car back and forth to the track.

Saturday

Over the years the Pumpkin races have earned a reputation as the place to be. Joey and I got to the track around 9:30 just in time for the driver's/handler's meeting. The track was packed. During the meeting they said there were 180 cars signed up for the weekend. There was to be 5 heats of Sr. Honda, each with 10 cars. Wow! I was glad I had left the car at the track as there was no place to park. Trailers, trucks and motorhomes were everywhere. I ended up parking the truck way in the back and carrying all of the tools and equipment to the pit area. As I walked I checked out the race transporters in the lot. Many were from other tracks as far away as Connecticut, Delaware and New York.

The Jr. Honda class had 3 heats with 8 cars in each. It was about 11:00 and the track was still cold. I had the soft tires on the car. Joey started 5th in the first 20 lap heat race. He was still having some trouble lining up at the higher speeds. He hit another driver and they spun during the double file line up. Joey had a good start for Jr. Novice, but it was not very good for Jr. Honda. He lost a few places on the start then got down to racing. He passed a few kids then mixed it up with another kid coming out of turn 2. They both went dead on the track. Joey got his first racing call made on him for not giving way to a passing car. Joey went to the back and the other kid retained his place. Joey did well on the restart and went on to finish 6th.

I planned to talk to Joey about the call after the racing was over for the day but Joey brought up the subject when he was getting out of the car after the race. He asked me why he was put to the back but the other kid was not after his accident. I explained that he had a call made on him for not giving racing room. Joey understood, but was disappointed in his performance. I tried to soften the blow, but he was bummed. I hoped his funk would lift for the main race.

After the heat races they gave out "trophies" for the heat races. The kids had their names called for first, second and third and had to go down and pick out their pumpkin. Tradition calls for the driver to carry the pumpkin off the track by themselves. It was a blast watching the smaller kids struggle with their 20 lb first place pumpkin.

Joey's finish in the heat race earned him the 7th starting place in the 25 lap B-main. By now the temperature had warmed significantly and I put on the hard tires. Someone measured the track temperature with a pyrometer at 105 on the blacktop and 90 on the white concrete surfaces. This time Joey looked better on the track. His line up was quite good and he got a good start and raced well. On the last lap a car spun in front of him and he backed off the gas turned and missed the accident. It looks like the visualization training I did with Joey worked. Unfortunately, the other car kept going and the yellow flag did not come out. Joey lost a place or two during his evasive maneuver and finished 7th. Loosing a place is much better than a crash and a DNF.

Sunday

By local ordinance no racing is allowed before 12:00 so we used this time for the non-race activities. Those with trailers decorated them in a Halloween motif for judging. They then had a bigwheel race on the track for kids 4 and under. This was a hoot, 20 or so bigwheels on the track for one lap with moms and siblings urging the kids on. Next came the Halloween parade. Some kids had their racing stuff on many had store bought costumes. There were a few very cool costumes. One kid was a Pok'emon Pokeball about 3' in diameter. Another was a homeless person complete with a shopping cart with a sign "will race for food." A lot of kids and parents had sprayed their car number into their hair. Joey got a prize for the shark costume I made for the costume parade. You can check it out on his regular web site. Http://home.jtan.com/~joe/logs/jkd.htm

Sunday's 30 lap race went very well for Joey. He started 2nd and got a good jump on the green, but he got clotheslined back to about 6th place. He spent the rest of the race fighting his way back up to 4th with some very heads up racing. His racing was better than his finish would suggest. Our practicing during the season paid off as I could see some of the other kids loose concentration during the long race. Joey stayed sharp for all 30 laps. It was a good race and a satisfying end to a long season.

Looking back it was a very good novice season. Joey had improved greatly from the first time under power where he went 3/4 lap and POW, into the wall. He is now a focused driver that can race well in competition. He has also made a lot of friends at the track. I learned a lot about setting up and race car including gearing, suspension and tires. Unfortunately I also got to learn about repairs. Coaching Joey this season has been an interesting and rewarding experience. It is much harder than I expected. First I had to get his trust then I had to communicate what I wanted him to do. I also had to learn to listen and be patient.

We raced 15 Jr. Novice races and 3 Jr. Honda races. 16 races at Oaklane and 2 at Honeybrook. Joey got 3 third place finishes, 2 second place finishes and 2 firsts. Joey earned 2nd fastest time in his class during spring qualifier. He made the A-main in all of his Jr. Novice races except the one where his chain fell off in the heat and he went on to win the B-main. He also DNFed 3 times during the season due to crashes. I am posting a picture of Joey and his trophies on his racing web site. Http://home.jtan.com/~joe/joey_racing.htm

Things to work on for next year: Fire drills, Teach Joey to lean out, Paint the car and Teach Joey to tap the brake instead of backing off the throttle during a race.

I want to thank the following people for helping us with our novice year:

I also want to say special thanks to Patti for her support during the season. From making us dinner each week to keeping her cool after seeing Joey crash. We could not have done it without mom.

Race Safe,

Joe

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