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Perseverance Rewarded with 12th Place Finish

6/21/2008 - Hagerstown - Finished 12th - Started 21st - 29 cars

Sometimes the journey is the victory. Don and I had enough obstacles to overcome in this one race to last us for the rest of the year. With 3 weeks off, we were totally prepared for this race and that was probably the problem!

The trip up in my truck to Walters began the bad luck. A brand new hood for the racecar left the truck bed on I-70. It had a fresh white coat of paint and brand new sponsor decals of the Shamrock Inn and Ecolab that were designed by Walrus Signs and Embroidery. After getting run over a couple hundred times, it surprisingly didn't look too bad. After loosing about 30 minutes on that adventure, we arrived at Walters around 3:30, needing only to scale out the car before heading the track.

Hawbaker and I battle for the transfer spot in Heat #2

The initial changes we made to the car threw the weight percentages out of whack. Even after all these years, I am still learning the effects of cross weight. By this time, 4:30ish, we had to get the car's setup at least close. The reason for these changes was to help the forward bite out of the turns.

Changing the right front weight is when we had a near catastrophic failure. Preparing to make the right front suspension change, a brake line snapped. Nearing 5 PM this was a big problem because racing a Ford, this is NOT a standard part, as opposed to a Chevy brake line. Walter has an Auto Zone a 1/4 mile from his house and Don and I took off there. They only carry it as a "special order part" and our worst fears were realized that this may be tough to find and the night's race may be in jeopardy.

However, it dawned on me to call my buddy Steve Kent who runs a high performance shop that concentrates on Mustangs, XLR8 Autosports (301-845-2224). He didn't have the brake line we needed, but he said let me handle it and I'll meet you at the track with one. It turned out we called him just in time as the Napa warehouse near Walkersville had one in stock but closed at 5 PM. They ran his card over the phone and sat the part outside for Steve to pick up. Steve had to drive from Middletown to Walkersville to Hagerstown to do this for us, and I can't say a big enough thank you to him. We would not have raced if it wasn't for him.

So with that problem being fixed by Steve, Don and I went back to work on the car. After adjusting the right front, we still needed to adjust the right rear and left rear. It had to be past 5 PM by now and we still had to pull three shocks and rescale the car. Don and I got it close and it was time to clean up the tools and load the car.

As everyone knows Walter is allowing me to borrow his truck and trailer and he even drives it for us. It is a beautiful Ford F-350 Power Stroke and the trailer is a 24' enclosed trailer. However, Walter and Heather had an Embroidery conference to attend in Baltimore and he left me the keys. So I had the pleasure of driving this pretty big truck and trailer for the first time. I loved it.

We managed to make it to the track with about 15 minutes to spare, however, still needing to install the brake line and bleed the front brakes. Ole Steve even beat us to the track and he was ready to go to work. He installed the brake line and we began bleeding the brakes (which took forever because we lost nearly all the fluid). So we got the brakes repaired and changed all 4 tires to our practice tires and we made practice.

Even though the chassis settings were quite strange, the car felt pretty good in practice even with the crappy tires. The car gave me good feedback and had decent forward bite off. We started outside pole for the heat race and I was feeling pretty good.

TravisBut that was short lived. The start went quite messy. The leader really never fired and I need to wait on him before I can fire. The third place car saw this (along with the entire inside line!) and as we go green, I get freight trained from second to about 6th! Still being caught on the outside, Wayne Hawbaker gets by as well for the transfer spot and we end up in the dreaded consi race. 29 cars were on hand, so the consi should have had 11 cars in it with 6 to qualify, but others had a much worse night than us and only 7 took to green flag in the consi, so as long as we didn't finish last, we would qualify. Still trying to make the high line work, I ended up 3rd and that placed us 21st for the feature.

It seems like most nights we are just trying to hold on to our position and not drop back, however Saturday, even with the strange setup, we were able to come forward and we had a fast car. The feature was pretty exciting- I guess it always is when you start in the rear of any race. I think we had 3 yellows and each one happened right in front of us. Lap 1 had two cars spin in three and four. The 27 and I were 2 wide entering that corner and he did a great job of checking up and giving me room to miss the wreck. The next 2 wrecks were quite similar but thankfully we made it through unscathed. A red flag came out mid race as well, as the 18 of Dave Stouffer had a motor explode. That happened a few cars ahead of me as well- flames shot out from under his hood and car and oil went every where, it was bad. Bobby said his whole helmet was covered in oil. But the feature for us progressed nicely, passing a car every couple of laps. We were really good in the middle and off the turns. It just rolled nicely through the turns and had good forward bite off. It is so nice to see cars coming back to us for a change. We had a good battle with the other Ford of Tony Catlett for 12th place. I think I still had more positions to gain, but only 15 laps isn't much time and the checkers fell. But with starting 21st and all the problems we had, a 12th place finish was a nice reward and hopefully the chassis setting will work next week as well. Although the chassis numbers are not normal, the car drove well and we are going to give it another week. We need to get more rear weight in the car and we may try that in a couple of weeks.

I just want to point out how thankful I am for my sponsors and how much they mean to me. Without them, I COULD NOT race. If anyone can use any of their services, that would mean the world to me... Just look what each one did this weekend...

Walrus Signs and Embroidery - Let me store my car at their residence. Let me use their truck and trailer to tow my car. Let me borrow their digital scales and Walter even had an ice cold beer waiting for me when I returned his rig at midnight after the race. Heather gave me a drink as well, but we won't speak of that, my chest hair is still standing up!

XLR8 Autosports - Steve ran all over Frederick and then up to Hagerstown to give me a brake line so we could race. Steve drives a big F-150 too and that truck isn't a gas sipper. Without the brake line, we aren't racing Saturday night.

Shamrock Inn and Bar - Provided me with race fuel. Everyone knows the price of pump gas- imagine the price of 112 Octane leaded race fuel! Without Bobby and Maureen, my motor doesn't run.

Also, the contributions of VegasRadio.net, Ecolab, and SwigerWoodWorks.com has allowed us to race all year as well.

So if anyone needs any custom signs or clothes, automotive work, food or adult beverages, classic radio, industrial kitchen equipment or services, or custom hand built furniture, please keep my sponsors' companies in mind because they keep the #7 team racing!

So just a big thank you to all my sponsors- I hope laying it out this way shows everyone how important my sponsors are and what great people they are!

#7 Ford Thunderbird PS H-TOWN
Shamrock Inn Racing