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Two Weeks of Rough Luck
Apr 29, 2008 - updated Apr 29th, 2008 10:51am
Web posted by Paulie Harraka

CA --

The last two weeks have definitely been of the "character building" type for the BMR # 16 Ruth's Chris/Infineon Raceway Toyota. Last weekend started out great with a 2nd place qualifying run and a Trophy Dash win, but it ended with a DNF. This week, we had a great car and were challenging for the win when we had a bearing go bad, which resulted in a 5th place finish.

Last Saturday, April 19, was definitely one of the more bittersweet race days of my career. We unloaded the car and were very fast right off of the trailer. We made a few small adjustments in practice ended up qualifying in the 2nd position.

The Trophy Dashes at All American Speedway are short races with only the top 4 qualifiers. They are usually a lot of fun, but also can be a bit risky. Everyone drives hard in the 4 lap sprints, sometimes harder than they should. This week was no exception. After the first lap, I was leading with the #50 of Gary Glenn immediately behind me. Going into turn one at the start of the second lap, Glenn gave me a push getting into turn one, knocking me slightly sideways. He did the same thing going into turn three and then again going back to turn one. Each time, I was able to keep a controlled slide going into the corner and prevent Glenn from getting underneath me. Going into turn three with a lap and a half to go, Glenn got into me so hard that I didn't think either of us were going to make it to the start finish line in one piece. I was able to save the car, as was he, but he had finally gotten underneath me. I checked my mirror as we went down the frontstretch and saw that the third place car was about a car length back. I backed off as we took the white flag and fell in behind Glenn as we entered turn one. I gave Glenn a slight nudge as we exited turn 2 simply to let him know that I was right there. As we entered turn three, I waited until just before the point where I thought he would get off the brakes. At that point, I gave him enough of a nudge to knock him up the racetrack a lane, allowing me underneath. We drag raced to the start finish line and I was able to take home the win. It was awesome!

For the feature, the top 8 qualifiers were inverted, meaning I would start 7th. I knew that patience would be important as I dealt with the other cars, but I also didn't want to get caught in the middle of a pack. The front is almost always the safest place. The green flag dropped and I began to pick cars off, one at a time. I got to 2nd place by lap 8 and began to run down the leader, who had a 12 car length lead. I backed down to about 70%, as I knew that there would be a caution that would enable me to catch the leader and did not want to wear out my racecar. I still ended up catching the leader by lap 20. I decided to just ride behind him for a while, as we were in lap traffic and I didn't want to go three wide for the lead so early in the race. The caution flag flew on lap 23 and I was told what was quite possibly the strangest thing I've ever heard over the radio. "The track wants us to pull off." Said my spotter, Ryan Precher, "They say there are flames coming out of the exhaust and that's illegal, even though it's not in the rulebook." That ended our night.

This past Saturday, April 26, was a better night, but we still faced some problems. We had a good, although not great, racecar, qualifying 4th. I was uncomfortable with the way the entire front end of the car felt, as I described it, "lazy and unresponsive". We started to go over the front entire front of the car and found that we had a wheel bearing that was slightly loose. We removed the bearing, examined it, and decided that the bearing did not need to be replaced, just tightened, as the bearing was new and probably needed to be run once in order to "seat".

With the tightened bearing, we went out for the trophy dash. We wanted to use the dash as an extra practice session, rather than a race, to see if we fixed our problem. In the dash, the car was much better. We went out for the race and settled into the second position early on. The first caution flew and I was very comfortable with the racecar. When we went back green, however, the front end was back to being unresponsive and I was forced to turn my attention to holding off the cars behind me instead of passing the one ahead of me. I held my onto the second spot until lap 34, when eventually the car behind me was able to squeeze underneath me. The unresponsive front end made it extremely hard to battle back on the high side of the racetrack, and I ended up falling to fifth before I got back in line. I was able to hold off the next pack of cars and finished the race in fifth. Overall, it was a great points night, but it was extremely frustrating to not be able to win.

Our next race is a 100 lap race this weekend, May 3, at All-American Speedway.


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