Well our Allentown venture didn’t go as planned, my year never starts out well since we started going there. I won the pole for the first event they held in 2015 and its been all down hill ever since. Allentown seems to bring out the worst in us indoor guys. Lots of crashes, of course. The straights are narrow due to the layout of the grandstands so you end up with a paper clip type shaped track. I think the layout difference equates to why we see more contact and more problems. The tight confines of Allentown’s ppl center threw curve balls all weekend it seems. Our car was so dominant in the most recent indoor event at Albany and I didn’t give the different track layout enough respect when I was deciding how to set my car up for the weekend. We were out to lunch when we unloaded, which was humbling after a long summer of fond memories about how dominant our car was in last years indoor finale at Albany.
You never want to admit it when its not going to be your day. No one ever does until its over. Regardless of how far our reality drifts away from expectations we never believe our goals are out of reach. That’s a human condition. Looking back it was clear that this just wasn’t our day. We qualified through the heat, barely. Still, having to pass and making the top four in a twelve car heat isn’t an accomplishment ill take for granted. This indoor deal is tough. Things did feel like they were getting better and the car felt great early in the race. We made our move into the top ten quickly and the car had great speed. For a moment it seemed like things may be looking up and we still had a chance to make some noise here in Allentown. Then the transmission stripped third gear around lap 10, the gear my rear end was set up to run in. I stripped forth next so I tried running in fifth. For reference to my regular Saturday night racing friends, racing in fifth is the big car equivalent of putting your quick change gears in upsides down. I dropped to the rear hoping to ride it out for some points and to my surprise we still had some speed. We passed some cars and held our own.
It became obvious very quickly that last year was in the past. We walked in there with high expectations and we were getting punched in the face. I guess this is how those football teams feel when they go into a game as an 8 point favorite and get run over by a team with a 3 – 13 record. We just couldn’t seem to get anything rolling. Things got real for me during time trials when the car fell into the wrong gear and we missed the inversion. I had gone from trying to plan on how to win to trying to figure out how to qualify. The transmission shifting was also my first clue that we may have a transmission issue going on. In a tq engine the engine and the trans are one in the same, same oil and all. So a transmission issue equates to an engine change. I do not have a spare engine so I played the only card in my deck.. I ignored it and pretended all was well. Its called the “turn up the radio” theory on how to deal with stressful mechanical issues and it comes with a soothing feeling of relief once one allows oneself to indulge.
I kept going for a little bit hoping to hold on but at some point my mind recalled that the engine and transmission share oil. At this point the competing voices in my mind began having a conversation. Racer Andy wanted to stay out and snake a top ten for the points but budget Andy didn’t want to blow up the expensive engine. In the end I decided… or maybe we decided… that I still needed an engine for the gamblers classic in a few weeks. Boring cautious Andy won the day and my race was over.
Ill be happy to forget night number one of Allentown. Now that I’ve so carefully articulated the event for your reading pleasure ill be settling onto that task right now actually. I know what your thinking, stories over. Terrible right? Well fret not. Allentown is a two day event with another feature to explore and relive. The story of night number two starts out at the end of night number one and features our star pupil once again, otherwise known as a boy with a car but no engine.
Who doesn’t love Days of Thunder? Its just the best movie ever. I know you have all see it but just for the sake of me telling this story with perfect clarity lets revisit the part of the movie I want to highlight here. The movie ends with Cole Trickle in need of an engine the night before Daytona. As you all know, he borrows an engine from his former car owner who is now his competition and then goes on to win the 500 (and get his face all dirty minus the area shielded by his goggles). The goggles part is mostly irrelevant but I like that part so I said it anyway. Anyhoo, flash back into our Allentown weekend and I am in need of an engine to borrow. The favor would be extended by my former car owner, Trey Hoddick who had a spare engine for his entry but would be able to spare it for the race the next day. Days of Thunder started playing in my head and I began to feel a bit of fate and opportunity being placed into my lap. What an excellent story this would make I thought to myself…
Before glory was to be had and stories were to be written there was the matter of actually installing the engine… As I’m sure you can guess at this point that didn’t go as smoothly as we thought it might. Notice a trend here? We had the old engine out before the pits closed Friday and we got to work as soon as we could Saturday to get the new one in. We had ambitions of making the first warm up but of course, the engine wouldn’t start. We fought with it and missed the first two warm ups until Treys engine builder came over and figured out that we had a plug in wire loose. We got her fired up just in time for the final warm up and we ran six laps. Of course we ran the fastest lap of the day and won final practice over 48 cars. Oh how quickly the pengelum of racing fortunes can swing..
Next up was the heat. I did the math in my head and my calculation was that I needed to be in the top two to make the inversion if I had any day dreams of completing my Days of Thunder tale. We ended up starting fifth and making it to second. Come redraw time we drew the outside pole. My goal was well within my grasp. I had an excellent start at the drop of the green and went to the business of running the outside. My problem was the guy on the inside didn’t turn when we got to turn one. By turn two we were so high that he was getting past on the inside and I was back to sixth.
Oh how the pengelum swings. If not for that first set of corners I believe we had that race won in my mind. I cant really get to mad, its indoors and I am not an angel. Its just how it goes sometimes.. we live and die by our bumpers. We still had our chances. I would claw my way back up but I would always be behind someone who wouldn’t go on a restart or I would make a pass and the yellow would fly and they would go back a lap. We ran the fastest lap of anyone in the race while in traffic at the halfway point which made our failure to close this deal out ever tougher to swallow. I got frustrated as the race went on and I made a mistake when I ran out of patience trying to make a pass for forth towards the end and we were penalized to the rear of the field. We ended up getting back to sixth in a chaotic final ten laps that saw lots of yellows.
This will be one weekend we will be eager to have behind us. I made way to many mistakes, both in preparation and my driving. You really have to be perfect all weekend to win an indoor race. Its so hard to rebound from a bad time trail lap or a mistake in the heats or features. We just have to do better, our car is to good to missing these opportunities. I know what my team is capable of and that makes it so much harder to accept it when we fail to execute. If you do the little things right the good luck will follow, that’s just how racing works.
I do have some good things that I can take away from weekend number one of 2019. For all of our troubles, both self inflicted and the unavoidable, we stuck together as a team and gave ourselves a chance. It was a true struggle. We were beat up after this one. Changing engines and all, its just a lot of work. We were one corner away from holding another indoor trophy despite our troubles, so I have hope. Id like to give a mention to my diligent and dedicated group that gave me a chance this weekend, Jake, Rick, Bruce, Tony and Leximarie in the pits as well as Rick from 2kwik as an advice council all weekend and my boy Jimmy G back at the shop doing all the hard work so we can go have the glory on the weekends. I would also like to thank our engine builder, Sparky Grape who always takes time to offer his knowledge whether he is at the track or not. Total team effort all the way.
I would also like to thank Trey, Karl and the entire Hoddick racing team for loaning us the engine to use. If not for them we would not have been able to race on Saturday. We may be competitors on the track but we are always a racing family in our hearts.
In closing I want to mention that our team was racing with a heavy heart in Allentown with the loss of our dear friend and indoor team sponsor Christine Simon. She was from the Allentown area and was always a huge supporter of al my racing, especially the indoor racing. We lost her very suddenly just before Christmas and she was in our thoughts all weekend. We were grateful to have her husband, Edward with us in the pits over the weekend. I am confident Chrissy was with us as well in spirit.
Up next, fixing an engine and heading to Atlantic City for the Gamblers Classic. Be sure to tune in for our next adventure.