Finally! 6th Place Finish Puts Fire Back in Team 7
5/24/2008 - Hagerstown - Finished 6th - Started 1st - 32 cars - Click on Photos to Enlarge
It was a night of perseverance and total team effort as we battled transportation issues, over heating (twice!) and clutch (twice!) problems. I can't say enough thank yous to Walter Nichols and Don Sharkey, those guys busted their tails for us Saturday night as well as Alisha, her Dad Scott, Joe Rodgers, Bobby and Maureen Taylor and the entire Shamrock team. To bring the Thunderbird home in 6th place took everyone, I truly appreciate everyone's hard work! Also, my friends and co-workers Blaine, Diane, and John made it to the race and stayed the entire night and that really meant a lot to me. It was a long night with a double feature and a ton of cars on hand and when I saw they were still in the grandstands when I went out for the second feature around 11 pm, that really pumped me up in the car. Also, having Alisha's dad there was pretty special too. He is a car guy and I knew he would get a kick out of his first race.
The day started out with Don, Walter, and I shuffling back and forth from Brunswick to Hagerstown. Don and I met in Brunswick at 12:30 and headed to Walter's house in Hagerstown. We unloaded his asphalt car and the three of us headed in his truck back to Brunswick. Back in Brunswick, we wrenched for another hour on the Thunderbird and loaded up in Walter's enclosed trailer and headed to the track- back in Hagerstown! So Saturday saw a lot of windshield time, not including the racing in which we had two features.
So a big thanks to Walter and Walrus Signs that allowed us to borrow his trailer and truck! I kept pinching myself seeing the Thunderbird in an enclosed trailer!
When we unloaded at the track, we had to install the new radiator provided to us by another pure stock team- the #44 of Frank Dibella. Don and I also checked the front end alignment and it was good. We were all set for practice, and that is when the 2008 bad luck continued!
In 3 or 4 short practice laps, we lost the clutch and over heated! We had about 10 minutes from practice to the make up feature (which we were to start on the pole) to fix those issues and change 4 tires. We made it, but staged too late and we started the race in the rear of the field. It really didn't matter as the temporary fixes to the over heating and clutch failed within a few laps, relegating us to a 22nd place finish. With that feature over, we finally had some much needed time to permanently fix all of the issues.
The problem with the overheating stemmed from not having time to install the fan shroud and also from a smaller fan we had to use. Last week's fan bit the dust when it went through the radiator. Bobby Taylor loaned us one for the night and it was about 2" shorter in diameter than our original and between that and a warm evening, the water shot to about 250 degrees in both practice and the first feature.
The problem with the clutch linkage was the two jam nuts used on the linkage between the clutch slave cylinder and the fork. These nuts placed behind the fork pulls the fork toward the firewall, pressing the throw out bearing into the pressure plate, disengaging the clutch disk. For the first time in 4 years, these nuts vibrated loose, leaving the fork inoperable. When this happened, the linkage was pressed into the header pipes causing it to "mushroom" and not allowing new nuts to be threaded on. Luckily I had the original bent linkage for years ago in the tool box and we switched them.
The heat race for the regularly scheduled feature saw us starting on the pole due to our terrible season. We were able to lead about half the race until the caution flew. On the restart, the #27 timed it a bit better than us and led the final two laps. A second place finish however qualified us for the feature later in the night.
The feature came and it went pretty smoothly. Wayne Hawbaker started on the outside of the front row with us starting on the pole. Wayne got the lead coming out of turn two and I fell in line with him. Wayne and I ran smart- 1-2 for the first 8 laps trying to distance ourselves from the rest of the field. Caution came out on lap 8 and I went for the lead on the next restart. Learning a thing or two from the #27 in the heat race, I got the good start this time and was even with Wayne heading into turn 1. By turn two, #94 Darren Younker (who won both features Saturday night) made it three wide on the exit on turn 2. The officials didn't like our start and dropped the yellow to line us back up. The next start went single file and I think Wayne and I stayed 1-2 for the next lap or two. Then the heavy hitters of Younker, Hans, Warrenfeltz, and Dale Hollidge stormed to the front. Wayne held on for a top 5 finish and the Fords of me and Tony Catlett rounded out the top 7. It was a pretty uneventful feature, but that was fine by me- it took until May 24th for us to see our first checker flag of the 2008 season. A 6th place run with 32 cars on hand is what we needed and hopefully we can get on a roll for the rest of the year!