July 10th.............Petty International Raceway
Race #1.........850th Consecutive Night
850th Consecutive Night
* 22 cars
* Cory Hall
* We run good right from the first set of hot laps
* Green flag pit stop put us laps down
* Cole Butcher spun out by lapped car leading feature
Shannon, Bob, Tyler, Chris, Jeff, Jack and Buttons
On Saturday night we made our first race of 2021 at Petty International Raceway.
We made the trip not knowing for sure it would not be raining as Hurricane Ella was sweeping through much of New Brunswick and parts of Nova Scotia. We got high winds in NS but not really much rain.
Good news for us was seeing no rain and eventually a hot sunny day after 4pm.
Shannon, Tyler, Jack and I got to the track before Chris, Bob and Jeff and had everything prepared when they arrived. There was no tech this day, mostly because there was a delay anticipating rain, and the pits were very wet and muddy in some areas, but not the main pathways to the track.
We made one set of hot laps on last years tires. They were still decent although hard as hot pucks. It didn't take long to get them scuffed in and more than suitable for practicing. Our car was completely gone over this past winter. We set the car up at home, using all the numbers we were given by Cole Butcher, and from the notes we made last season. I was very happy with the car. There were no issues during practice. We got to the low 14's in the first set of practice laps, a 14:06, as fast as we were last year on new tires.
We discussed the gearing because I was hitting the chip on the old tires. It was decided to go from 562 to 557 assuming that new tires would get us on the chip faster, as well as a cool night......although it got really hot all afternoon and into the evening.
We then put on 4 new tires and finally broke into the high 13's but only ran a few laps then came off. The car was good.
We taped up the front grille for time trials, I didn't do that last year. Doing that is supposed to give faster lap times, but it didn't do much for us. We qualified 22 of 22 cars and I was okay with that.
There were no heats for this race, a great choice. There's no sense having heats if everyone qualifies, also less risk of cars missing the main event from getting wrecked in a heat race.
I felt really good today. Over the winter I got over the fact that I can't race as hard as I use to, and that having fun has to be my goal. It's so hard to get in a race car and think or know you're not as good as the rest, but I have had great seasons in the past and still love to race.
There are many new fast cars in this series and the drivers for the most part are very good as well. I am focusing on fun and thankful that I can still be part of this sport driving a fast car of my own, and we are not that far off, just get tired faster than the kids
The race was 200 laps with cautions every 40 laps unless there were multiple cautions. Drivers had to make at least one pit stop during the race. So that meant they would come back out and start in the middle or at the back depending on how many pitted. It was also a 4 tire race, and that's all we need for 200 laps. Tyler was spotting, Shannon was also listening and working the stop watch.
They did an out of car driver introduction and our crew were able to come out on the track....no Buttons, she got this shot in the pits.
It didn't take long for me to jump outside and dice with cars from the outside lane. The car was awesome. I could go in deep and stay beside the car on the inside and get a good run off. It felt good to be competitive. Last year I followed a lot because I didn't know the tracks, the competitors or my own car, but I felt at home by the end of last season and was feeling that eagerness on this first race.
Things went good for the first 20 laps as we moved up to 18th. Then on about lap 25 I experienced a dangerous situation. Going hard into the corners the car suddenly came around, very loose. I was able to counter steer and hold onto my position. Turn three was okay but going into turn one was terrible. There's a bad bump going into one and it upsets the car, but same for everyone. Most drivers knew where to go to avoid it, I kept hitting it and upsetting the car
Over the next few laps I was losing so much time by getting loose and counter steering, making the car slide up the track I eventually lost all the spots I gained and had to slow down a ton so I wouldn't spin out. Soon, by lap 37 I got lapped.
The yellow came out on about lap 45. I went in the pits and had the crew add a little air to the LR tire to take out some stagger. We got back out for the restart and for the first few laps the car was good, I was able to pass a few cars I passed early. That lasted about 4 laps and the car got loose again going into turn one. One time I almost spun out.
Frustrated that I might spin out, I went back to the pits under green flag conditions and had the crew had another 2 pounds to the LR and 3/4 turn on the bar. They got it done but now we were at least 10-12 laps down. 13.8 second laps by the leaders would soon eat up a bunch of laps over 3 minutes, and we may have been more than 3 minutes. That would end our day for having a good finish, but I didn't care because I wanted to see how the changes would affect the car for the rest of the race.
Returning to the track under green was intense because cars were all around the track. Tyler and the back starter got me back out and down on the front chute. I was finally able to get going and again the car seemed good for 5 to 8 laps but by lap 90 it was getting loose again.
For some reason it entered my mind..."maybe I have too much rear brake balance". I adjusted the brake bias and each turn made the car better. About 3 laps later the car was perfect. I could throw the car in hard and no looseness. My first thoughts after that...."you dummy, you should have tried the brake bias first"!!!!! And yes I should have but now I know.
It was very hot inside the car but the "cool suit" worked great keeping me cool body wise. I was getting as exhausted as I did last year.
For the rest of the race, being so many laps down I just wanted to finish without damage and see how good we could make the car. It started to hesitate bad by lap 120 but clear up half way down the straightaways. It was affecting my power.
We were somewhat competitive the rest of the race still able to pass a few cars but most noticeable was once past a car I was able to gain on packs of cars in front of me, a good sign.
We ended up 20th but I believe we were a top 12 car this day. Overall the crew were amazing, working well together and getting things done quick and efficient. Also the cool suit worked great and though I was still tired, I was much better than I was last year. We likely completed 170 of the 200 laps, maybe more. Quite the work out
Congrats to Cory Hall for the win. Our next race is July 17th at Scotiaspeed World, a 150 lap event with 1250 fans allowed. Hopefully we soon get back to full grandstands like most all the races in the USA.
Thanks to Ernie Pothier for the photos: