It’s 5am and I’m all checked in at the airport and waiting to go. I really thought my mood was gonna be better this Monday morning. I came into this more prepared and ready to go than any other race this year. Holy Crap…..yesterday was a frustrating and draining day. Racing is such a Love, Hate relationship. You can work extremely hard and be 100% prepared, and nothing can go right. Then you can have weekends where your less prepared and nothing can go wrong. Here is a run through of my Sunday at the 2014 ROAR Fuel Nationals.
Rolled into the track around 8:30am. I had a couple front end setup changes I wanted to try on buggy and truggy in the Amain and Semi practices. I also had to marshal the first race. The track was much wetter Sunday morning than any other morning all week, we didn’t really know how the track would shape up. 10:30am we had truggy Amain warm up. My setup change seemed to work pretty good and my truck felt better. I was real positive about it and thought I had a good shot at a podium finish in the main. Ten minutes later, I was on the track for the buggy Semi practice. I made a similar setup change to my buggy, and it felt really good. My engine ran good, my mileage seemed really good, and my car handled the best it had so far. I was really excited to get racing.
After the practices, it was time to get ready for the races. I cleaned up both cars, charged them, checked all the screws, put fresh clutches on, and they were ready.
First race up was the Truggy Main. I had a 6th and a 7th in qualifying and was starting 10th in the main. I needed a good start and a clean 45 minute main. My fuel mileage was really close for pitting at 9 minutes, but that was my only chance to battle for a podium spot. I got my engine tuned really well, and told Joe to do his thing, and I will drive smart and not let it run out of fuel. The race started and the first lap was tough. I was right on Maifield, and we are near the rear, so you need to be patient in the turns. Truhe is behind me and he’s driving like he’s racing for the win on the last lap. He hits me in the center switchbacks and I have to roll the double , losing a few spots. After the first lap I was 11th. I drove smart and was only pulling half throttle on the straights and trying to save as much fuel as I could for the first stop. Most drivers came in at 7:30, but I ran till about 9:15 and pulled in. My out lap, I was waiting to hear Joe yell up, “good on fuel, you can pull it more” but he was silent. I yelled down, “how am I”, “it’s pretty close” is all I got back. I was picking a few guys off and my truck felt really good. Before the second stop I was into 6th I think. Made it to 9:15 again and Joe yelled up, “fuel looks the same, do what your doing”. About halfway through I was starting to get closer to the battle for 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Ty and Dakota were gone and battling for the lead, and they caught me at the worst time possible. I had to let them both pass, then they pitted, then I had to let them pass me again, then they both crashed and I had to move over for a third time. All that cost me around 8 seconds and the battle that I was catching was gone. I ended up 6th. It’s pretty wild, my truck felt good, I drove pretty hard the whole race, I only got one turn marshal for 45 minutes, and I finished 6th.
I really didn’t want to finish 6th, but I did my best and I was happy with my driving in the main. I was really excited for the buggy semi and I felt I had a great shot at winning the semi and possibly the main. I felt the buggy win was much more open than truggy.
In buggy qualifying I had a 2nd and a 4th to qualify 5th overall. That meant I would start 3rd in the odd semi. I got off to a good start and was running 3rd the first few laps. I made a small mistake and let Maifield and Phend pull me a little, but I was still there. Phend crashed and I was back into 2nd. The semi was 30 minutes and most drivers came in the pit at 7:30, but I wanted to go one more lap to have a clean pit lane and to check mileage for a possible 10 minute pit in the final. I entered the pit running 2nd, Joe put the gun in the tank, and bbbooooggggg, engine died. Joe was super fast at getting it restarted, but I went from 2nd, to 8th. In my head I was freaking out, but I was trying to stay calm and be smart and just get into the main. I passed a couple guys and was in 6th coming into my second pit. This time as he opened the tank to start fueling I was on the throttle about 25% to try to keep it from flaming, but it did it again. Top 6 is direct transfer to the final. I came in to the pit in 6th, but left in 8th again. I yelled down, “use the fuel bottle in the last stop”. I got into 7th and then got into 6th right before my last stop, but I was really nervous driving into the pit lane. Joe used the bottle and it stayed running, barely. I came out and got passed by a car, that was 7th, and now I was not in a locked in position. There was about 6 minutes left, and we battled pretty hard, but I was able to pass for 6th with a few minutes to go and held it to the finish. I was not happy at all with my semi, but at least I made it to the final.
We didn’t know what was going on with the engine and why it was flaming as soon as the fuel gun would get into the tank. My truggy engine sounded good getting fuel and handled the gun fine and it was worst case in the truggy main. Engine was pretty lean and tank was pretty low when I got refueled. We decided to just put my truggy engine in my buggy and use all the same stuff, engine, pipe, air filter, fuel. That was my best option. It was pretty hectic as we only get an hour after the cars are released from tech. Joe got my tires mounted and pulled my engine from my truggy. I got my car cleaned up, battery on charge and engine out. Put a fresh clutch on the truggy engine, and bolted her in. Got it all ready and started it up and tuned it in, they don’t really run the same tune from truggy to buggy. Everything seemed ready.
I was starting 12th in the final as the semi was a total disaster. I needed to be aggressive and just try to go to the front. The tone went off and I was on it, passed one car going into the first turn, then passed a few more in the next turn as there was a small pile up. I was up to 6th or 7th after the first lap. My car felt good and I was feeling great on the track. I wasn’t too far back of the leaders, and my plan was to pit at 8:40, and most were going 7:30. I moved all the way up to 4th before the first pit stop. Engine was feeling pretty good, came into the pit, Joe put the gun in, and…….bbbooooogggggg…..flamed. Got started quick, but dropped from 4th to 8th I think. My shot at a win was gone. My heart pretty much sank and I just couldn’t believe it. It flamed out in two more stops, then Joe went to the fuel bottle. The last flame, my starter box broke when he went to start it, so Joe had to grab Kings box, and that took a while. I finished 8th, one lap off the leaders. Pretty tough day to handle mentally.
2013 and 2014 are two years where I have probably put in the most work on preparation, and I just can’t seem to get out of the hole I’m in. It’s not like I’m not trying to fix my issues I’m having, I’m working very hard behind the scenes trying to make sure this stuff doesn’t happen at the races, but it’s still happening. Frustrated doesn’t even come close to how I feel right now. I’m not rolling over and giving up though. I will go home, run my car and see what caused that. I just hope I can recreate my issue, that’s the hard part. Hot, humid, long days at the track, watch out cause here I come!!!!!!!!
Thanks for reading, thanks for following me, and especially thanks to all my fans. I’ve been pretty down with my nitro finishes lately, and my fans keep me going. I love it when I hear encouraging words from my fans. Even after finishing 6th and 8th, I had people saying good job, and you drove good. I had some AMAZING fans yesterday. In my semi, after I flamed out, 3 guys were standing before the double triple section, they waved me by every lap as I battled for the last locked in spot. In my head I’m thinking, “don’t waste your excitement on me, I’m freaking in 7th”, but seeing those hands waving put a smile on my face every lap. Cheer for your favorite drivers, we like it 🙂