View from the Driver's Seat
The 2000 racing season has begun. The 2000 Winternationals were held at Sunshine Speedway last night to officially end the "off-season" for us. What a misnomer - the "off-season"! We worked harder the last two months than we did all last season. Complete new body, redesigned interior, new sponsors, new paint. We knew the chassis setup was pretty close, and the motor was ready. Or so we thought.
The night started out ok. We got to the track about 3:00, thinking we'd be early enough to get on the track for pictures before 4:30. First mistake. We didn't even make it through the gate before 4:30. Thanks to Russ Calabrese, we put the car out in the grass at the back of the pits, and Russ came out to take the pictures. First problem solved.
Next up, drawing the pill for starting spot in the heats. Pill number 33 put me on the inside of row 3 in the second heat, with the top 8 qualifying for the 50 lap feature. I was happy with the spot because I was pretty sure I could hold my position and qualify.
Everything was good at the start, and after 4 laps I was still running 5th, only about 4 or 5 car lengths behind the first four who were running and banging in a tight pack. I was content where I was, the car was running and handling really good, and I knew nobody was going to catch me from behind. Then the trouble started. I had no idea anything was wrong until two cars shot by me down the front straight. I couldn't see or feel anything wrong, but I wasn't going anywhere but to the back. I struggled to a ninth place finish, and limped to the pits with little power and no brakes.
A spark plug wire had rubbed bare against the air cleaner, and the rev limiter had kicked in and started shutting the motor down. The faster I tried to go, the slower I went. Still don't know what happened to the brakes. Not how I envisioned the night, but we'll fix it and be back March 4th.
Can you believe those school buses last night? Three of them rolled, and track promoter Frank Hill managed to roll his all the way to the roof, then back on to the wheels and kept racing until a hose knocked him out. Wow!
I was really happy to see Art Calkins win the "Wild Bill" memorial 50-lap figure-8. I met Art Saturday morning for the first time. We talked about how tough it was going to be Saturday night, and I know how emotional it was for Art to win for his good friend.
I didn't have the good fortune to know Wild Bill personally, but I'd seen him many times in the pits. He always said hello, or would wave as he drove by. I know we've all lost a great friend and competitor, and I was truly honored to drive at these special Winternationals in his memory. Maryellen, you raised a wonderful son. You and Bill have inspired all of us at Plowshare Racing to be the best we can be both on and off the track.
Finally, a word of thanks to Wayne Bowman and all of the sponsors of the Thrill Ride. My wife, Tricia, took the ride for the first time last night. Even though they could hear her screams from the infield, she had a great time and says she'll be back for more.
an, it's great to be back on the track again. We'll see everybody at practice, and then for the season opener March 4th.
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