…In my paddock travels Saturday.
If I’m honest, I’d say I was truly wondering if the myth of finding a heads up penny bringing good luck had been busted on Myth-Busters at about 4pm on Saturday. It felt like EVERY break had been against us.
It all started the afternoon prior, the cars weren’t ready causing us to miss all of the promoters test day. Practice was only 40 min and as a result, yours truly logged 7 laps in the car before the race. ABS faults led to the left rear locking up causing snap over-steer on high-speed corner entry. Oh by the way was starting to rain. Hardly ideal weather conditions for an on track orientation in the car.
The ABS woes weren’t solved by any of our race day remedies and the morning hardship practice was a miss too. This gave the drivers some time to meet & greet with SouthJerseyBigs & Robin’s Nest program participants.
These poor kids made a big trip to see the cars and race only to have the rain start in on them right at the fan walk.
As we took to the track for the parade lap, the heavens opened and we didn’t have rain tires, only slicks. This was great news for our sister #12 car as they had intermediates and could handily defend their pole position start. It was an entirely different story for the #22 car. By the end of the first hour of racing, we were 36th of 37th overall.
Our spirits were as dampened as the racetrack was with all of the rain. It was set back after set back.
My first stint lasted just a tick over 2 hours and led to us completing 75 laps. We progressed to 4th place of 6 in the E1 class and were only 4 laps away from 3rd place. Things were looking up! As I climbed over pit wall I saw BIG hammers and crow bars coming at me and going towards the car. I couldn’t figure it out, we hadn’t dropped a wheel or touched more than a few bugs out on track. Why did we need the ‘jaws of life’ on the car?
A glance over my shoulder confirmed my horror. The trunk release had broken off in the fueler’s hand. Why was the fueler pulling on the trunk release you ask? Well – that’s easy….it’s were the filler cap for the fuel tank had been moved to. No opening trunk – no filling of the fuel tank.
We spent 14 laps trying to ‘break into’ our own trunk to fill the tank. In that single span, we had undone ALL of the work we accomplished in my two hours of driving. A crushing emotional blow.
The #12 car soldiered on famously in second place for their class. Nick & Eric were excellent wheelmen laying down consistently fast laps, without incident. Heck – they made it look easy.
The tides started shifting around 830pm after darkness had set in. It was then that the race took a decidedly different turn. The transition from twilight to darkness is critical for setting night pace. As a driver you’re able to gradually build in your new ‘dark’ landmarks and maintain pace. It’s an opportune time to take back laps lost to competitors as their new drivers struggle to re-orient in the darkness.
As I came around turn 5 – I saw some faint tail lights off in the distance. So far off in fact, that I estimated them to be someone in the parking lot at the member’s club house in between the tracks. Sadly – it wasn’t that at all. It was the #12 car. They had a suspension bolt fail and break causing the left front wheel to come loose on the car. It took over an hour for them to be towed back to the paddock, repaired and sent back out on track costing them their second place for good.
The Devil in the Dark brought more havoc on our competitors with the #22 car having the second and third place cars in their class withdraw for mechanical failures. With only 30 minutes left in the twelve hour battle, the car assumed second place in the top class.
The real victory however, comes from a testimonial shared with us by Donna Bennett at SouthJerseyBigs.org;
“…Best Little Experience of the Day: One Little Brother was afraid to go to the top of the towel but he eventually made it to the top, then within an hour he was climbing up and down the stairs in the rain…”
It’s with great pleasure that we share the $6,250 you helped us raise with each car. One for Southjerseybigs.org and the second $6,250 for Robinsnestinc.org. A win BOTH on and off track. I’d say we kicked the Devil’s @$$ this time.