March Memories VIR Full SARRC Race - 3/8/09

On the weekend of March 7-8 2009 I competed in my first race.  It was a weekend that was challenging and filled with highs and lows.  Things started off not so great...I had something for lunch that was bad and got a mild case of food poisoning as best I can tell.  Friday night was not the best one...

Saturday morning rolls around and I have to go out to practice early.  Things go well and I feel better while driving but within about five minutes of getting out of the car I am feeling pretty run down again.  Qualifying was next, so I set out for that.  15 minutes to set a good time for the race.  I managed to get a couple of clear laps but the car just did not seem to be pulling on the straights very well at all.  When it was all said and done, the best lap time was a 2:29.xxx, 4th of five cars in ITB and 2.5 seconds off of the pole.  I was kind of bummed as I had run a faster lap a few weeks earlier on some old tires.  Something needed to change for the race.  I decided to take off the nice airdam/splitter that I made for the car earlier in the week to reduce drag, and Cameron suggested that I max out the timing advance based on some experience he had before.  My friend and competitor, Matt Douglas even came by to check some things out with me to make sure the car was healthy.  We found no issues.  Done and fingers crossed. 

Sunday is race day, and I am a bit nervous before the start.  There are a few cars between me and the front runners in ITB, and I am not sure how the car will perform.  We take the green!  I get a pretty decent start, and gain two or three positions by turn 3.  We head on up the uphill esses and I pass a car going into Oak Tree and next thing you know, I am right up to Matt who is 3rd in class.  I then procede to miss, not one, but two shifts heading onto the back straight.  Three cars get by me down the back straight, but I pass two of them back in the next braking zone...Matt is not getting away from me.  So now, I realize that the car has magically come to life and is going to be a contender.  That causes me to get excited and drive a little shaky for the first few laps.  Matt and I have a great battle for the first few laps.  I pass him once and then make a mistake a few turns later and he passes me back.  On the next lap I make a pass attempt in the braking zone for turn one and lock the front end up at the last minute causing me to overshoot a little and that lets him get back under me.  It might could have worked, but it was optimistic.  After that we settle in and just stay on his tail hoping that he will make a mistake or traffic will work in my favor.  After several laps, we catch up to the the two other ITB leaders.  Going into turn 3 the Honda Civic in second place gets caught out by traffic and pressure from Matt and ends up spinning.  That promoted me to 3rd, on the podium!  Towards the end of the race we come up on a car that has spun going down roller coaster and is getting back on the track.  I anticipated what he would do and laid back for a good run through Hog Pen.  The timing was nearly perfect and I was able to get up beside Matt and use the slower car as a pick.  We then have a drag race all the way to turn 1 and I out brake him to take over 2nd place.  He tries to counter and get back on the outside, but I have the better position for the next turn.  This is now the last lap, so I put my head down and try to stay ahead.  I encounter some slower traffic myself right at turn 10 which is a fast and tricky turn in itself, much less with a car going slow right in the middle of it.  Matt does not gain on me there, and I only have the back straight to worry about as he is usually faster than me there.  He does not make up as much distance as I figured, and I feel that that we are home free from there.  As things work out I cross the finish line just ahead of him to secure 2nd place in ITB.  I manage to set the fastest race lap in ITB as well at a 2:24.093.  Matt set the 2nd fastest race lap.  I was pretty stoked about the finish considering what happened in qualifying.

Here is my in-car video from the race so you can see the excitement for yourself:  Race Video

This weekend was special in another way.  My wife and son were able to come down for the race as well as my Dad.  I also had a few close friends around to watch as well.  It was great that they got to see a good race.  My friend Todd Baumgardner was there and took several pictures during the day.  Here are some of them:

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