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Some Things Just Make You Wonder...
Sep 3, 2007 - updated Sep 3rd, 2007 8:58am
Web posted by Paul Harraka

--

This past weekend may very well be the most senseless weekend in my entire racing career. After qualifying on the outside pole, we were consistently the fastest car during the race. However, our race was cut short in a turn of events that I still fail to make sense of.

The weekend started out when I arrived to Bill McAnally Racing's shop on Friday morning. After getting some tires mounted and doing a few small jobs on the car, my dad and I headed out for dinner with a friend of ours, Anthony Rapachietta, who was in the Sacramento area for the weekend.

Arriving back at the shop on Saturday morning, I spent an hour installing linear potentiometers, or linear pots. A linear pot is basically a small cylinder with a rod that almost looks like a mini-shock absorber. What a linear pot does is record the location of the lower control arm in relation to the chassis. Basically, it records wheel travel at every point on the racetrack. We connected the linear pots to the My-Chron Data Acquisition unit that I have spoken about in earlier blogs. We were able to use the linear pots in practice to gain some very valuable information about the racecar. We can use this info to, among other things, go back and work with the engineers at Penske Racing Shocks to further develop our shock package. Everyone at Penske has been awesome in helping us go faster, and I have already spoken with them this week about our data.

Unloading at the track, we felt strongly about our racecar. We made only minor changes throughout the practice sessions, as I was happy with the handling of the racecar, as well as the car's consistency over a long run. I chose to make a few small changes for qualifying, which worked well. We had an excellent racecar and qualified 2 nd by 0.01 seconds and points leader Eric Schmidt qualified 6th. I really felt as though this would be our night to pick up some points and inch closer to the championship. 2 of my Bill McAnally teammates also qualified very well, with Benny Moon 3 rd and Bobby Grewohl 4th.

In the trophy dash, the standard top-4 invert meant that Bobby would start on the pole, Benny 2nd, me 3 rd, and polesitter Gary Glenn 4th. When the green flag flew, I stayed glued to Bobby's rear bumper and cleared Benny by the end of the first lap. I immediately moved underneath Bobby to try and take the lead. Bobby, however, chose to drive extremely defensively and put me down onto the apron a few times. I definitely had a faster racecar (I ended up setting fast time in the dash by a tenth). Had this been anyone but one of my teammates, I would have "returned the favor" and held my ground, but I figured that since it was only a trophy dash and no points were on the line, there was no reason to wreck 2 great Bill McAnally Racing racecars. Bobby's bumper crossed the finish line 2 feet before mine. I was disappointed that my teammate would drive me that way, knowing that I have never done anything but race him clean.

For the feature, the top 6 were inverted, meaning that points leader Eric Schmidt started on the pole, with Bobby 3 rd and me 5th. As soon as the green flag dropped, the inside line started moving forward. When the caution flew on lap nine, Eric, Bobby, and I were 1-2-3. I knew that Eric and Bobby have a bad history together, so I figured I would wait until it got closer to the end of the 75 lap race before I got into the middle of their dogfight. However, when the green flag flew, it was clear the Bobby didn't have as great of a car as I had thought and that I would need to get around Bobby in order to have a chance at Eric. I figured that, seeing how much Eric was leaving him and knowing that I was fighting with Eric for the championship (Bobby and I talked about this in the shop), Bobby would at least give me some racing room. I didn't want Bobby to let off the gas down the straightaway. I didn't want Bobby to move over for me. I just wanted some common racing courtesy that everyone deserves, especially your teammate. What I got was pretty much the same thing as I got in the trophy dash. At one point, I was up to Bobby's door in the center of turns 3 and 4. Bobby turned down on me so hard that, even after I put my left side tire way below the white line, we still made major contact, knocking Bobby sideways. However, doing what I feel every teammate should do, I backed off and let Bobby gather it back in.

This fighting allowed the polesitter (who started 6th), Gary Glenn, to catch me. Two laps after Bobby and I made contact, Gary lifted the back of my car up on the exit of turn 4. Gary got under me as I gathered the car back in, and I just let him complete the pass. I knew I had a better racecar, and passed Gary back a lap and a half later. By this point, Bobby had stretched out ½ of a straightaway on me (with Eric 1 full straightaway ahead of Bobby). I ran Bobby down in 10 laps. Over those 10 laps, I turned times that were the fastest of anyone on the racetrack, including the leader. If this would have been any non-Bill McAnally Racing racecar on the racetrack, knowing how he drove me earlier in the race, I would have just moved him out of the way when I got to him. However, since he was my teammate, I wanted to pass him contact-free. As soon as I got under Bobby, he pulled the same thing as before, turning down on me. This time, however, I backed off and got off of his bumper, but then went to complete the pass. As I finished completing the pass, on the exit of turn 2, Bobby decided that he needed to keep playing "tough guy". He turned into my right rear corner and turned us both into the wall. Night ruined.

Bobby and I have yet to speak to one another since the wreck. I knew it would be better to not get in my teammate's face while at the racetrack and while tempers were still hot, and Bobby never came near me. I'll let things calm down a bit, then ask for some sort of justification. I guess my main question will simply be, "Why would you race your teammate that dirty when you aren't in the points and your teammate is in a race for the championship, especially after your teammate ran you down that much in 10 laps?"

The one good thing was that I suffered no physical injuries. Everything did its job: The HANS Device, the helmet, the seat belts, the BSCI Roll Bar Padding, and the LaJoie Seat. I can't thank Joe Marko from HMS Motorsports, Tina Creswell from Simpson, Matt Ray from BSCI, and Randy LaJoie from the Joie of Seating enough. I also owe NASCAR's Steve Peterson a gigantic thank you for advising me on all of the safety equipment. There's a reason you rarely hear of a driver injured in a NASCAR racecar now-a-days, and Steve is a huge part of that reason. The track crew at AAS was also on the scene very quickly, so a big hand to those guys, as well.

After the race, numerous officials, competitors, and fans approached me to express how much they felt I was wronged. Our chances at the championship are now realistically gone thanks to my "teammate". I still have trouble fathoming this. Wrecks are racing, but not when they happen with your teammate. Especially when that teammate is running a partial schedule and you are 2 nd in points with 4 races left. I think everyone reading this can sense that I haven't quite accepted it all yet.

Our next race is the Saturday after Labor Day. Thanks to the awesome team that Bill McAnally has built up, we will be running a spare racecar that has been tested a few times this year.


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