Ford Thunderbirds Fly Into Top Five
6/02/2007 - Hagerstown - Finished 4th - Started 2nd - 29 cars - Led 10 laps
The Fords of Brian Swiger and Tony Catlett continue to gain ground against the hard-hitting GMs of Mark Jones, Mike Warrenfeltz, Hans Stamberg, Bobby Taylor and the rest of the mighty Chevrolet Pure Stockers at Hagerstown Speedway. Don and I brought our Bird home in 4th, and Tony's was right on my bumper for 5th. Following behind the two Fords was Bobby "Can't believe both Fords beat me" Taylor. We were able to lead 10 laps Saturday night, but just couldn't seal the deal at the end. Jones and I bumped and banged for the lead, but the cagy veteran refused to be denied. Tony won his first heat race 3 weeks ago and followed that up with a Consi win a week later. I had a great outside front row starting spot in my heat Saturday night and with Tony holding the Chevy drivers back, we were able to win our first heat race. With the heat win under our belts, we started outside pole for the feature and with Tony's Ford tying up the hard charging Chevys, the #7 built nearly a straight-away lead by the 5th lap. A two car caution in turns 3 and 4, brought the field back together, but we were able lead through a couple more restarts, but on a finally restart with 5 to go, Jones gave up trying to pass us low and gambled on the top side. Jones, who was better in the middle of the turns than our Ford, made it stick and led the rest of the way. "I got a good run on him on that restart and I just ended up top," Jones said. "I saw his guys keep telling him to run the bottom. I kept trying him there and he wasn't coming off it, so if you're second, you got to find something out there." After some contact with Jones and then some contact with the third place car, we eventually settled for 4th, but our notebook is filling up and Don and I will keep tweaking her until she is First On Race Day.
Again this week we were able to scale the car. Someone with about 20 years of chassis experience emailed me after last weeks finish and said he could help. He gave me chassis numbers and spring recommendations and then showed up one week night with his personal scales. We reduced the spring rate in the RF, LF, and RR. We added rear percentage and got the LR bite to about 125lbs. The changes worked. Everyone said the car looked great in the heat race, except the driver! I felt we were still a little too loose and Don and I broke out the chassis cheat sheets. Don and I agreed on many changes for the feature... a different rear tire that reduced stagger, adding even more LR bite, adding 5 more gallons of fuel to increase rear weight percentage, and lowering tire pressures. The car felt even better in the feature than the heat, but it got tight middle, so that is our homework for the race in three weeks. We will try to solve that problem as well as some other changes to the car and just hopefully continue moving in the right direction.
So it was a great week and I have a few thank you's to hand out and some may surprise everyone! First, Don of course. Just look at the picture above and that says everything. The Shamrock Inn who for the second week in a row, supplied additional gas for me, and $6 per gallon is some expensive <expletive removed>!!! Ole Mike Warrenfeltz who has a tough guy image was the first to come down and congratulate us on our first heat race win, and then stuck around to offer tire and chassis advice. Mike- that really meant a lot and reminded Don and I of last year when Mark Jones came down after we finished 2nd to him in a heat race to offer his congrats and ballast advice. Don and I were straight up rookies and didn't know a lug nut from a body pin and to have Mark who had won like 20 races in a row come down, just was really cool. For those of you who don't know these guys and only see them in the cars, we have a great, talented group of racers who really do everything for each other- at least until the green flag drops! (Hey Mark, couldn't you gave me a whole inch in the turns!?!@#!@# kidding.)
Fords of Swiger and Catlett out front on Lap 4 (Photo Courtesy of Dave Swiger)
Shamrock cars 'book-end' scoring tower on Lap 5 (Photo Courtesy of Dave Swiger)