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Drive For Diversity Program

Drive For Diversity Program News
The Most Challenging Race of My Life
Jun 25, 2007 - updated Jun 25th, 2007 10:58pm
Web posted by Paul Harraka

--

This weekend was, if nothing else, one of the strangest and most challenging weekends of my racing career. After a 2 nd place qualifying run, I really felt as though we had the car to beat. A top-10 invert forced us to start the race from the 9 th position, and in battling our way to the front, we managed to break a critical steering component. Miraculously, the problem did not end our race, even though it did make the car handle worse than a Model-T at 100 MPH in the rain! We left the racetrack with a 5 th place finish and we are now 2nd in track points!

The weekend started on Thursday when Bill McAnally asked me to attend a test where a driver who was new to NASCAR Late Models would be running one of Bill's cars. Zach Rearden, who is currently racing Legends cars, wanted to try his hand at NASCAR Late Model Racing. I took Zach for a few laps around the track in a rental car, giving him some very basic pointers and starting points. The car that he would drive, BMR LM04, had not been run at All American Speedway at all, so Bill asked me to run some laps and shake the car down. After a successful shakedown, I asked for a few small adjustments and got Zach belted in. After about 4 sessions of practice, Zach had gotten to the point where his lap times were consistent enough for Bill to feel that he was ready to race. This again proves the point that Legends car racing is an excellent way to prepare a driver. I cannot think of any other racecar that can prepare a driver so well that he can adapt to a NASCAR Late Model in a day. Zach is just another example, in addition to Reed Sorenson, David Ragan, myself and countless others, of how good of a training platform the Legends Car is. Anyone desiring a driving career in NASCAR needs to get Legends car experience.

After spending all day Friday in the shop, our car was essentially ready-to-race. In addition to normal race prep, we decided to put one extra "gadget" in the car. After we learned so much from the Aim Sportsystems My-Chron Gold Auto data acquisition gauge, we decided to step it up a notch and try another one of Aim's gauges. We installed an "MXL Pista" which, in addition to all of the functions of the Gold Auto, has the capability of Global Positioning System (GPS) track mapping and data. With this feature, changes in a driver's racing line that are as small as 3 inches are detected and recorded. Although we were not able to race with this installed, it was great to have for practice. We collected a large amount of extremely valuable data.

After a successful practice round, we decided to make a small change for qualifying with a spring rubber (A piece of rubber that is molded to fit inside of a spring, thus deactivating some of the spring's coils when installed and making the spring stiffer). The change did exactly what we expected and we qualified on the outside pole.

After an invert of the top-10 qualifiers, we were forced to start the main event in 9th . On lap 5, I was passing car #9 for the 7 th position. I am not quite sure whether the spotter of car #9 never told the driver that I was there, or whether the driver just thought they would play hardball, but car #9 turned down into me hard , even though my right front tire was even with car #9's door. Immediately after that hit, the cars handling, which had been excellent, went horribly bad. "Guys, that 9 car must have knocked the toe out really bad. This thing is evil," I said, assuming that the hit must have bent one of the car's tie-rods (steel bars that connect the steering components to the spindle that the wheel is mounted on), thus ruining the car's toe (direction that the front wheels point, either in the same direction (0 toe), away from one another (toe out) or towards one another (toe in)). The car's handling was just plain atrocious, and there were many times that I though I was going to wreck it when the car abruptly turned one way or the other. "I'll do what I can with this thing, but it probably won't be much," I said after a few more laps.

I continued to drive the racecar, but this time it took 95% of my effort just to keep the thing on the racetrack. I was able to pass a few more cars, moving as high as 4 th, before our second setback came. As I caught up to a lapped car, the car went to the bottom of the racetrack. Assuming that the lapped car wanted me to go around on the outside, I went high, but then the lapped car drove me up to the wall. I then tried to go underneath the lapped car, only to get cut off. When I tried to pass the lapped car for a third time, the car came across the front of my car and spun out. I had to get out of the gas pedal and dropped to sixth position. Before the race was over, I was able to get back up to fifth. Then the real surprises came.

I asked the crew to lift the hood of the car so that I could see what was bent. In looking under the hood, I found that not only was the right front tie rod bent, but the bracket for the car's idler arm was completely sheared in half, thus rendering the idler arm useless. Racing without an idler arm is like playing baseball without a glove. Sure, you might catch the ball, but the chances are very slim that you will, and it is extremely likely that you will break your hand trying to do so. Without an idler arm, a car is almost impossible to steer (it took us 20 minutes to put the car in the trailer!), and it is likely that the steering will either go crazy or jam up, resulting in a crash. Somehow, miraculously, we were able to not only finish the race, but also pass front-running cars with a broken idler arm! We ran 95 laps this way! I know that may people won't believe this, so I have attached a picture.

So, overall, it really was a good night. We were able to move into 2nd place in the points race and extended our lead in the Rookie of the Year standings. Although I was disappointed at first that we finished 5 th, I was happy too just plain finish after finding out about the idler arm. It was also great to see the support from the "Big World" of NASCAR at All-American Speedway. NASCAR's Bob Duvall, NASCAR's Marcus Jadotte, and NASCAR.com's Dave Rodman were all in attendance. Our next event is this coming weekend: Twin 50's. Hopefully we will finally be able to bring home a win!


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