BRIANSWIGER.COM hits 10,000 visitors!

Just a quick 'thank you' to all the visitors of my site.  It has been up now for a little over a year (53 weeks) and we hit 10,098 visitors last week!  I appreciate everyone visiting the site and sorry for not having any incar footage yet this year, but the camera should be back next week!  I am working on a nice gallery page and interview page.  Right now, they can be accessed on the right hand side of this homepage.  THANKS Again!  -Brian

First 1520 AM Vegas Radio Interview!

5-18-07 1520 AM Morning Show

Getting Back on Track

In the first feature, Tony and I started side by side and teamed up the whole race, it was great.  I was GLUED to his back bumper.  I started to take it three wide with 2 to go coming out of two, but I whoa'd it up and thought better of it.  Fun race, I had a blast, but the car was getting tighter as the race...

[Full Story]

Hagerstown Debut No Better for the #7 Shamrock Inn/ 1520 AM Vegas Radio Ford Thunderbird

It was just pretty miserable Friday night for me. I started 6th in the first heat and even before we went green, whoever was in about 9th, hit whoever was in 7th coming to the green flag. I had to check up as...

[Full Story]

Disappointing debut for the #7 Shamrock Inn/ 1520 AM Vegas Radio Ford Thunderbird
Electrical problems bit us tonight. In our rush to get the car ready, I didn't do a good job of routing ...

[Full Story]

 

Why is this Kulwicki car called the "Underbird"?
Alan Kulwicki drove the Hooters sponsored #008 car in the Atlanta "HOOTERS 500" 1992 season finale. This was the closest points battle in the history of NASCAR.  Drivers Davey Allison, Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki were separated by ...

[Full Story]

Walrus Signs finishes "Dirt Underbird"
Absolutely IMPRESSED with the WALRUS Signs and Embroidery. Walter of Walrus Signs has ...

[Full Story]

 

A & C Ford Power Plant Ready to Scream
Alan and Craig of A & C Machine completed the motor ahead of schedule and on Sunday, an unidentified ...

[Full Story]

Dirt UNDERBIRD Painted by Ricky Edmunds
Like to say a big thanks to Ricky Edmunds who not only did an excellent ...

[Full Story]

Taylor Intimidates All at Valley Mall
Click on Bobby's car to see full image!

[Full Story]

Gearing up for 2007
The start of the 2007 is quickly approaching.  Our first race will be at the Hagerstown Speedway...

[Full Story]

 

Perseverance...

10/14/2006

Heat video is here (includes wreck):

winchester.wmv

Well this was my worst performance in a long time.  Part of me is embarrassed and sorry I wasted the time of Don Sharkey and my Dad, but I at least know the on track performance wasn't because I wasn't up on the wheel.  I through caution to the wind and tightened the belts down, but one small mistake and the weekend was wasted.
 
Don and I left work around noon on Friday.  Paul Dornburg and I changed the center section earlier in the week and removed the extra weight from the car.  So on Friday, Don and I took the car to the Late Model Sportsman drivers shop of BR Nalliey.  The three of us along with my Dad scaled the car and guesstimated what we thought would work for qualifying Friday night.  Don and I also installed a new radiator, installed the drum brakes, and loaded up Friday afternoon, so a ton of effort was made in a few short hours.
 
Nearly 70 cars had signed in for the VA Nationals.  The purse was $2,000 to win.  Only 24 cars would qualify for the race.  I pulled spot number 64 to qualify and thought that was bad news because the track would go away by then.  This was mistake number one of the night.  During the week, it had not rained, it had been really sunny, and a dry cold front moved in on Thursday that brought heavy wind.  From all of that and looking at the track, I thought surely the track would be dry slick.
 
Warm-ups saw the usually extremely tight racecar with the wet track.  I thought the track would dry out really quickly during the 63 other qualifying runs and the our car would loosen up.  Two weeks ago when it was tight in practice, I moved 30 lbs of lead from the RR to the LF.  This week, not trying to go too far, I just removed 60 lbs of lead from the RR, but didn't move any to the LF.  My theory of the track loosening up didn't happen and I didn't loosen the car up enough to compensate.  My qualifying lap started good I thought- I dropped in nicely from Turn 4 in second gear and nailed the shift and felt my speed at the start finish line was quick.  I entered turn one and the car turned nicely.  I went a little slow into one, but was happy with it.  Around mid corner, I was expecting the car to get a little loose and it didn't, it got a little tight.  Coming off, I knew it was tight and it didn't turn, but still was in good shape.  I enter three nicely, but the car didn't rotate (turn) and I got on the gas too early.  The nose was pointing straight for the wall and I had to lift.  It killed the lap and we ended up 10th in the second heat.  Each heat was taking only 3 to qualify for the feature.
 
For the feature, we moved 30 lbs to the LF.  It was exactly what the car wanted.  During the first lap of the heat, I was able to pass two cars and the yellow came out.  The car felt good.  Then going back to green, I was passing the 7th place car on the outside going into three and the car seemed to buck a little to the right, I got in the loose stuff and the rear started to come around.  I thought I had the car saved, but the momentum carried even higher and the the rear backed into the wall and that threw the front into the wall and broke the power steering rack.  The front and rear bumpers were also destroyed as well.

 

28 going into the wall

28 in wall

So with the heavy damage, I thought surely there was no chance in racing Saturday night.  Saturday morning I uploaded the in car video and posted on the local forum around noon that the 28 wouldn't be there Saturday night.  Around 1pm, for whatever reason, I looked out at the car and said to myself, "You know, the car isn't too bad.  If the frame isn't bent, I might be able to race."

 
So I called Steve of XLR8 Autosports and asked if he had a spare Ford power steering rack and he said he did, but it was in a wrecked Mustang.  He said I could have it if I yanked it.  So I threw on my dirty driver's suit and was at Steve's at 1:30.  He had 3 or 4 convicts there it seemed and they all laughed (including Steve) when they saw the car and said "you ain't racing tonight."  Well, I ripped the p/s rack of the Mustang in about an hour and was back to Brunswick by 3:30.  Driving out, I got the idea to switch the broken rack with the new one at the track where I could grab some guys to help.  I left Brunswick at 4 with a wrecked car- both bumpers and a p/s rack destroyed, but I was getting determined to at least get the car on the track- that would have been a victory in itself.
 
In traveling to Winchester, I got my sponsor's owner on the phone, the infamous Bobby Taylor, and told him I am bringing the car but I need your crew to work on the Ford.  Just like a scene out of Days of Thunder, my arch rival driver's crew worked their tails off to get the Thunderbird fixed.  Bobby's crew of Mark and Ferenth and myself changed a Ford power steering rack in record time.
 
(note: I called Don on my way to Steve's and told him I was gonna take a shot at fixing the car, but it was VERY VERY doubtful and no need to waste your time coming- but he was all for it and even told me Friday night that just find a rack and you can race.  But after wrecking your car, you aren't in the clearest state of mind!)
 
The p/s rack of the Ford is a pain because the oil pan straddles it.  The oil pan has a front and rear sump and the rack is in the middle.  This means the engine must be lifted to remove the rack.  Well, the three of us started at 5:15 on the car.  Mark and I removed the rack as Ferenth was fixing the front and rear bumpers.  Ferenth was the first to finish and then helped Mark and I.  We had the car on the trailer and that made it easier to work on the car.  We took off the outer tie rod joint on each steering knuckle and unthreaded them from the inner tie rod.  We took the motor bolts off and used a jack on the oil pan to raise the motor.  We undid the two bolts holding the rack to the chassis and undid the p/s lines and the busted rack was out.  We repeated those steps for the new rack and by 6 PM, the car had fixed bumpers and a new power steering rack installed.
 
It was an amazing feat and again, I can't say thank you enough to Bobby's crew.  We may not have won Saturday night, but this was one of my most memorable nights in racing and I am so proud that we had the 28 back on the track.
 
So practice was around 6:30 and even without aligning the front end (I just measured the inner tie rod ends of the busted rack for alignment), we were on the track.  The car felt okay, no vibrations, but it would track dead straight if I let go of the wheel.  It shouldn't do that, see my recap on when the steering wheel came off for those reasons!  So the car should basically turn itself to the left and it wasn't.  I knew something was wrong, so I took it very slow in practice.
 
Came back in and checked it over.  Everything seemed okay.  I was in the second B main Saturday night.  Starting 16th, I needed to get to 3rd in 15 laps to make the feature.  We went green for 4 laps and the yellow came out.  When we went back to green, something broke on the next lap and I spun in turn 2.  I thought it was a tire or something.  I had the officials check them and they were good.  When I took my hands off the wheel now, it would take a 90 degree hard left, much more than it should if everything was okay.  So it went from tracking dead straight, to turning dead left.  I seemed to loose front brakes and I could barely turn to the right!  So I went to the rear of the field, 24th or so and just rode around.  Something definitely changed, but it seemed to still run, so I kept racing.  I managed to miss 2 or 3 good wrecks and brought her home in 11th and for everything that happened, I was happy with that.  Just to overcome everything that had happened and decide at 1 pm on Saturday to repair the car and to make the races, was a victory in itself.
 
I did get some needed seat time at Winchester and I really enjoy running there.  It takes a lot of talent to get around that place and I think I learned a lot.  We also learned more about the chassis and weight placement, so the weekend wasn't a total waste and we showed that the 28 team has a ton of heart.
 
Again, I just want to thank Don, my Dad, BR, Steve, Bobby, Ferenth, Mark, and Ed who all did a ton of work this weekend to let me race... one day, we are gonna have a great race and you guys will get all of the credit.
 
As of right now, next week is still up in the air.  I was supposed to be going to Susky, but that is not looking good right now.  I have a cousin who lives in Waldorf and there is a race there this weekend.  The track is similar to Winchester and with Donnie Smith going, I may run there if I race.  I had fun and leaned a lot at Winchester and it would be great to run at a similar track like Potomac.  It is a 25 lap feature and the seat time would be great.
 
So again, sorry I stunk it up, but the effort and dedication by everyone really meant a lot to me and I can't say thanks enough. 
 

 

Winchester VA Nationals

Bad night, got too high in 3 hit wall.

Heat video is here:

winchester.wmv

 

Shamrock Team & Co. has Rain, But No Rainbows or Pots of Gold

10/06/2006

(Photos Courtesy of  Travis Trussell)

Besides asking me over and over if "Anyone get hurt in that wreck" Bobby Taylor's second most asked question the last two weeks has been "You got that website updated yet?"  

Well Shammy Rock, the answer to both questions is yes- the website is updated and lots of Chevy's feelings have been hurt by my wreck, also known as the Flying Ford.  

Besides Bobby and I, the 6C Ford Granada of Tony Catlett and the 1$ of Donnie Smith made the trip to Winchester.  Qualifying was Friday and the race was Saturday.  With 31 pure stocks entered for the Winchester 200, it meant 7 cars would go home with hurt feelings and the 28 was almost one of them.  A total of 3 heats were run, with Bobby, Donnie, and Tony being in heat 2 and I was in heat 3.  The three Hagerstown cars held their own against the highly talented Winchester drivers.  At one point, those three Htown cars were all running in the top 5 with Donnie Smith leading the way.  Late in the heat, Taylor made a bold 3 wide pass between Donnie and another #3 car on his way to his first heat win at Winchester Speedway.  Donnie made an aggressive move to capture the transfer spot on the last lap.  

The Fords of Catlett and Swiger both finished one spot out of qualifying, running in 7th in their heats.  Catlett was set to start 2nd in the Consi and Swiger was 3rd.  Tony, who is a meteorologist during the week, knew the rains would come Saturday and didn't make the trip back to Winchester.  Swiger, armed with the return of crew chief Don Sharkey ran second for most of the consi until contact with another car sent him back to 4th, but hung on to make the field for the 25 lapper.  

With 4 Hagerstown cars in the field including the #11 of Mark Jones, the feature was shaping up with many story lines.  Could the 1$ of Donnie Smith who led the most laps in heats pull off a major upset and get his first pure stock win?  Would Bobby Taylor, who only had a 5.86 high gear be able to overcome his car's handicap and run upfront after winning his heat race?  Or was Swiger going to charge from 22nd spot and silence his fiercest rival and buddy Bobby Taylor?  How would the Hagerstown cars vs Winchester cars unfold?  But there was to be no answers this night as after the rains came in, Mother Nature forced a vote on Winchester Speedway- and by close margin, the drivers elected to split the purse evenly, as opposed to trying to race thru the rain or postpone it to the VA Nationals.

In the previous week's action, Bobby Taylor and his ride Buford ran a strong second to race winner Mark Jones at the "Capital of Dirt Track Racing" Hagerstown Speedway.  The #28 was piloted by veteran driver Steve Kent and the night ended for the Ford with a bent wheel and flat tire on lap 9.  Kent was making his last start ever in the Thunderbird at Hagerstown.  Taylor started 2nd and led a few laps after Dean Holmes driving a beautiful light blue #43 car had problems in turn 3 on lap 2.  Mark Jones got past Taylor and pulled away for the victory.  Kent, after ruffling some feathers in the heat race, drove more conservatively in the feature.  The 28 rolled off 12th and made it to 4th before two cars got together and bent the left rear wheel of the Tbird.  Two laps later, the tire lost air and Kent went for a spin in turn 3.  Kent's final Hagerstown Pure Stock race in the 28 car ended in 16th place.  Taylor's heroics in the Hagerstown heat race can be seen from the incar camera.  The incar was running in the feature, but it wasn't recording.

Bobby Taylor Shamrock-Inn Car camera video

Next up for the #28 Ford Thunderbird Shamrock Inn car will be Winchester Speedway again at the Virginia Nationals on October 13th and 14th.  Our luck didn't get any better this week and the Shamrock Team took both the Chevy and Ford to Cumberland for testing, only to be rained out there.  Hopefully we can find a four leaf clover at the Shamrock Inn this week and we will be lucky enough to have great weather next weekend for the VA Nationals and maybe one of the Shamrock cars can find the $2,000 pot of gold in victory lane.

 

$10,000

Shamrock Inn Ford Thunderbird looks to finish 2006 strong competing at high stake races that could net $10,000 through the final races of the year.  The exciting schedule has been released!

Shamrock Inn places two cars in top 10

9/16/2006

It was fitting that the Shamrock Inn placed two cars in the top ten in the competitive Pure Stock division on a night that the Hagerstown racing was sponsored by the Shamrock Inn. Drivers Bobby Taylor and Brian Swiger finished fourth and eight respectfully. The Chevy of Taylor powered past Swiger's Ford with 4 to go on en route to his third top five in his past four races. "Did you feel that Chevy push'n you down those straight-aways? I was all over your ass in the turns" a jubilant Taylor ranted at the Shamrock after the race. "Bobby had four fresh tires. I was out of control going in the turns and out of control coming out of the turns. Bobby was smooth in and out. I think these tires are used up on the Ford. Some of the tires on the car are from April" Swiger explained to Steve Kent belly'd up at the bar.

Warriors Taylor and Swiger and their impressive Shamrock cars were set to do battle twice Saturday night, as they found themselves in the same heat race. Swiger, 16th in points rolled off fourth in the heat and Taylor, 7th in points started eight. Swiger took his Ford to the front by lap one and held that spot when caution came out on lap 3. Swiger's many fans in the stands stood and applauded the 28 car during the caution laps. Swiger waved and was excited about winning his first heat race. Swiger was able to keep the lead until the white flag lap and then his hopes were dashed by the #50 of Hans Stamberg as he powered by on the outside. Swiger held on to second as Taylor's Chevy was able to charge to fourth. Taylor was full of confidence between race sessions "I was come'n for that Ford, I was come'n"

The feature had a Shamrock car upfront in Swiger, who qualified third and Taylor back in the field. The race went green for the first 8 laps as Swiger ran strong. The Shamrock Ford battled with eventual race winner Mark Jones and Steve Long for second and third until the first caution. Taylor used the caution free 8 laps to start his charge to the front. After the yellow on lap 8, Swiger maintained third until lap ten when the flood gates opened up. "I made one slip in turn two, a bad push coming out, and as one car got by, he pulled 4 others and I got freight trained... unfortunately, Bobby Taylor used that car to slide by me, I don't think that Chevy had the power to do it by itself- it needed that Chevy draft- they hung the Ford out." So that train of cars slid Long and Swiger back to 7th and 8th, and Taylor moved into the top 5. Taylor continued his charge, but could only get to fourth. "Hans and Darin were so loose, I was scared to pass' em. I didn't want to stick the nose in there while they were sideways. I played it safe and ran them clean and got fourth."

Both Shamrock cars will be in action this Friday, September 22 in the Hub City 150. Driver Steve Kent will pilot the Shamrock Ford to see how he can do. "Bri-no, you are pulling the pill (Swiger seems to have good luck at pill pulling). If we are upfront, they will have to knock me out of the way to get around me... Brian, there might be some dents on the Tbird Friday night." Taylor looks forward to the rematch with Kent. In Taylor's only outside the top 5 finish in the last four races, he finished 11th to Kent's 7th two weeks ago. "That track won't be as slippery as it was last time I battled him, we really couldn't race."

Unfortunately, there is no Shamrock Inn-Car camera against his week. Driver Brian Swiger was crew-less and with an oil change, spark plug change, air cleaner clean up, carb fuel leak, etc, etc at the track, it took everything he had to just get the car ready to make it on the track. Swiger would like to say a big thank you to the crews of the 1$ of Donnie Smith and 6C of Tony Catlett for lending a hand on the 28 car. Steve Kent was dressed too pretty to work on the car and Mike Croche seemed to be chasing tail all night, so prepping the car takes higher priority over installing the Shamrock Inn-Car camera. The camera should return next week as the driver duties will be filled by Kent and Swiger should have time to do the multimedia work on the car.

Finally, I would like to say congratulations to BR Nailey and his team. After tough luck all year, BR ran the #N3 LMS Chevy to it's first heat win and won the pole for the feature. BR ran strong all race, leading 19 of the 20 laps. A tough break with a lapped car on the final lap let the #85 of Walls sneak by, or Nailey would have had his first career LMS win. BR was impressive all night, leading the race by 10 car lengths at times. BR and his dad Sam Nailey have helped me a ton over the past two years and I was so happy to see them upfront and wish them continued success. Hopefully BR and I can bring a couple wins home to Knoxville real soon.

 

Kent Out Finishes Swiger...

9/9/2006

(photos courtesy of JW at http://wrtphotos.com)

(No Shamrock Inn-Car camera this week)

Steve wins this time...

The #28 Shamrock Inn Ford Thunderbird powered by a powerful A & C Machine Ford motor, ran strong all night with both drivers. Steve Kent piloted the Tbird to a hard earned 7th place finish. Steve rolled off 10th in the field. Steve's run was complicated by a very tight racecar and sloppy track conditions. Steve did not have tear offs for his helmet (different brand helmet than mine) and his shield was caked with mud. Notice in some of the photos from Saturday night the noses of cars in the first feature, that is how bad Steve's shield was and he didn't have the ability to clear the shield. You also can't wipe the shield because the smear makes it even worse. So Steve ran pretty good, he finally got to drive a tight racecar and we were able to learn and adjust the chassis for the second race.

For my return to driving the Shamrock Inn Thunderbird, it did take some laps to get back up to speed, and then to get comfortable with Steve's new setup. After a month layoff, I took the car out in practice and it was a waste because the track was just way too wet and we basically ran the track in like the mudders (and I think Steve did too in his feature). With 40 cars signed up for this feature, the cars were divided into 4 heats with 10 cars in each with 5 to qualify. I started 3rd in the heat, dropped back a bit, then got back to third. 'Hollywood' Danny Beavers was running second and had some problems coming out of turn 4 coming to the checkers and with my Shamrock luck, I snucked into a second place finish. I never really ran the car hard in the heat, just drove defensive to maintain my spot, and really didn't know how the car was handling.

For my feature, I qualified 5th from the second place finish in the heat... and I dropped like a rock! Went from 5th to 16th in about 2 laps. I was bad. I just was shaking the rust off and with all those fast cars, they put a hurtin on the Ford. Also, Steve had made some pretty major changes to the car- he added nearly 4% of rear weight, added right side weight, changed stagger, stiffened the right front spring and so on. So it took me a few laps to get my bearings. Then I started making a decent charge to the front. I managed to get back up to the top 10 and I think I had a few more spots before the checkers. But some good hard racing for 10th with the W & W/ Fridinger-Ritchie Plumbing & Heating #34 Chevy of Bill Reitober found the Ford dead last. After the front to back to front to the back night, I lost my cool. 

First, I would like to apologize to the 34 driver Bill Reitober, his team and family. Racing is a pretty emotional roller coaster and I learned a lot what not to do in the heat of the moment. It is best just to cool off, calm down and then work things out. So I want to apologize for pulling along side the 34 under caution and instigating some words in the pits. Bill and I ended up working things out like gentlemen and look forward to racing him clean in the future. And Bill, as you requested, this is for you...

The Ford didn't beat any Chevys tonight, and I put it in my website.

The reason for my disqualification was because again, I lost my cool and didn't even cross the scales. Cost myself my purse money and double points and a top 15th place finish in the point standings. So I am chalking this night up to a tough learning experience and this week's race can't get here soon enough.

I would like to thank Donnie Smith and his father Dale Smith for applying the new Shamrock Inn decals.  XLR8 Auto Sports owner Steve Kent and Mike Croche applied the leprechaun on the hood and the Thunderbird looks sharp.  Also, Bobby Taylor, owner of the Shamrock Inn let me keep the Thunderbucket at his shop this week and we have plans to get both Shamrock cars ready to race Friday night at his place.  Also, thanks to Bobby and Maureen for taking care of me Sunday after a cruel night with Jamie and something called "Yager."

So Steve, give me a rain check to next week. I think I figured out the setup you put on the car and if the track and car are like that next week, I'll see if I can match your finish.  I would like to one up you this Saturday, then you do the same to me the following week at the Hub City 150, in which Steve will legally be racing the #28 Shamrock Inn Pure Stock.

Kent pilots the #28 Shamrock Inn Ford Thunderbird to an impressive 5th place finish at our inaugural visit to Potomac Speedway in Budd's Creek, MD.

We had a pretty cool night at Potomac on Sunday, September 2. Steve was in the car and got the complete Thunderbird experience. It was great and he finally got to see first hand...<more>

Recap is here

Video is here

 

 

Potomac Speedway, September 3

Kent pilots the #28 Shamrock Inn Ford Thunderbird to an impressive 5th place finish at our inaugural visit to Potomac Speedway in Budd's Creek, MD.

We had a pretty cool night at Potomac on Sunday, September 2. Steve was in the car and got the complete Thunderbird experience. It was great and he finally got to see first hand what I have been talking about for the past year or so that I have been racing it. So Sunday had its ups and downs last night, but overall, it was a good night.

Steve was racing the car instead of me because it was a non-points race at another track and he has done a lot of favors for me and this is a way I can pay him back. He has had some tough luck this year in his Late Model and Steve will probably get to run my Thunderbird two more times this year. Steve built this car and it is great to see him get some races in it. He is scheduled to drive it at Potomac again in early November and on Friday, September 22 at Hagerstown Speedway during the "Open" Hub City 150. Steve apparently puts fear in some people at Hagerstown and we are looking forward to him returning for a complete night of Pure Stock racing without any issues this time. We have a open slot on our team for a crew member for that race. If you want to be a part of a team that runs up front, you are more than welcome to come help Wrench Turner. On a side note, a bit of history was made as Steve raced at Potomac Sunday night. He is one of only a handful of talented racers who have competed at the Dirt track, MIR (1/4 Drag strip) and the Motorcross track. Steve has raced Mustangs and ATVs at Budd's Creek and now completed it with racing the Street Stock.

Potomac is a pretty wild track. I'd say it is banked darn near 20 degrees... you basically drive it in, nail the gas to get it to turn and away you go. This track was a mix between Martinsville and Bristol with it's high banked, very tight turns.

Practice was uneventful, except that Steve felt we had the motor fixed. We changed spark plugs (one was cracked) and cleaned the air cleaner. The motor also ran at a good temp all night and Steve thinks the gauge may be bad.

So we drew pills, but it didn't help. 22 cars and we were six out of 7th in heat three. Steve got to third by lap two and pulled a "me"... the car spun in turns 1 and 2. He experienced what I have said with that short wheel base on the Tbird, if you hang that Ford out a hair too much, you are along for the ride. It happens real quick and it is a fine line. Steve said afterwards that he felt when the rear stepped out, he got the right rear tire in the loose stuff and around she went. The short wheel base is great entering the turns, but it can be mean exiting. We only had one wheel spacer in the RR to free it up so the rear end was narrow and like I told him before, with a tighter rear end, she will spin without notice and she did. It has been my experience that the wider you make the rear end, the more happy she is to "dirt track" around the turns.

Then to continue down a similar path that I usually face, they went green while he was still catching up to the field and he was a half of lap back. It was nice to see this happen to someone else other than me! From the spin and then the unfair restart, I had a grin ear to ear (sorry Steve, but I did)! I have caught so much crap and it was so nice to see this happen to someone else!

Then it started to get a little impressive. Even though he started half a lap down, he caught the field in 2 laps and even passed a car. From our buddy Country Prince dropping out (Country, we have your blue tarp) and Steve's pass, he finished 5th and that put him 15th in the field for the feature.

The feature was a mess in this bull ring. Couldn't get 2 laps in without a yellow. Steve passed about 5 cars and about 5 cars dropped out and he wheeled it home in 5th. He seemed to pass each car a few times each, but due to the cautions coming out, the passed car would get their position back. I think Steve had at least a 3rd place finish as he passed the 4th place car a couple of times, only to be sent behind him because of a yellow. It also appears in the video Steve was faster than the 3rd place car, but the yellows never let that play out and we hit the time limit and they ended the race 2 laps early.

But it was a lot of fun, Steve says the Shamrock Inn Ford is running great and I look forward to wheeling it next week. The Shamrock Inn-Car camera video turned out great and you can ride with Steve as he works his way from 15th to 5th in the feature.

I would like to say a couple of thank you's real quick. 

I had about a dozen people introduce themselves to me Sunday night and that was great, I appreciated meeting everyone.  This website and that darn Dirt Lover's forum has really got the Thunderbird out there.  We are really proud of this car, Steve, Jim Boyer, Roy Anderson, Gregg Campbell, and myself worked pretty hard building it.

Bobby Taylor (Shamrock owner) and his buddy made the long trip down from Hagerstown to help pit, as well as Donnie Smith, his dad and his cousin helped pit as well and were helpful to guide us through the procedures at Potomac. Donnie is local to Potomac and has raced there before and it was great having him there. He also helped with chassis setup and bleeding the brakes. Everyone who helped pit also did their best to keep me calm. I was a nervous wreck being the car owner. It is much easier racing the car, than watching it dart through all the wrecks! But with the Shamrock Inn on board, we must have a 4 leaf clover because the car came home without a scratch, aside from Steve using the bumper a little bit!

Brian

 

 

Hagerstown, August 12

28 Team Takes a "Turn" for the Worse…But We Will be Back.

Well, the steering wheel came off in my hands and that is never a good thing. I guess Don Sharkey put everything in perspective when he said, “Hey, your okay, the damage is less than $200 dollars, $hit happens.”  But the 28 team may be down for a while.

Before beginning the recap, I need to thank everyone who helped get the car ready for Saturday.  With breaking another clutch, a lot of effort was made by guys to get the car running again and I really need to say thanks to Paul Dornburg, Steve Kent, and Don Sharkey.  Sharkey again made the 600 mile trip from SC to help out and we didn't even get to complete one lap in the heat race.  Paul Dornburg, on business travel in Columbia, MD, came out to Frederick Tuesday night at 8:30 and  Paul, Clayton and I started pulling the motor around 9 pm and it was out by 11.  I put the motor and new clutch back in on Thursday, but the transmission would not go in and something was wrong.  Don volunteered to work on the car all day Friday while I was at work.  By the time I got home, it was apparent the motor and transmission needed to come back out.  So at 6 pm Friday night, Don and I yanked the motor again, fixed the transmission spline problem and had the motor in by 9 pm.  It was a pretty cruel result Saturday when the wheel came off and we hit the wall and it wasted a lot of effort.  A small apology to the tow truck driver who began laughing when he heard what happen and I quickly shouted out some four letter words to him, but you can see what we went through this week, not to mention the dangers of hitting a wall at racing speed and I just didn't think laughing was too appropriate and I lost my cool.   

So anyway, I started third in the first heat race and my friend Tony Catlett (#6C) started on the pole. We made plans before the heat that he would leave the bottom open and allow me to have the low line going into turn 1.  Well I passed Tony for the lead as expected, but the thrust of going green threw me back in the seat and the unlatched steering wheel came with me. Around the start/ finish line, the car made a sharp left hand turn and we impacted the wall pretty hard.  To answer a couple questions on why the car turned hard left and why the steering wheel came off…here you go.

 With circle track racing, our only concern is having the most traction turning left.  To achieve this, we do things such as:

 -position the weight so that the left side weight equals around 53%.  With the weight on the left side, the car happily turns left.

 -camber on each front wheel dictates the car turning left.  We have negative 6 degrees of camber on the right front.  This means the top of tire is leaning toward the motor 6 degrees.  With the tire lying over like that, when I am in the turn that is banked, it allows for the greatest surface area of the tire patch to be on the track.   This gives the most traction. Even more info, with the McPherson front end, with the strut that rotates with the steering knuckle, the roll of the car over to the right side induces positive camber.  To compensate for the positive camber, we exaggerate the static negative camber.

 -caster is the angle of which each tire lays on the ground.  Caster is difficult.  Basically, changing the forward/ backward angle of each wheel with respect to the ground, changes the wheelbase on each side of the car.  With reducing the left side wheelbase and increasing the right side wheelbase, the right side of the car is longer than the left side which makes the car again happily turn left.

 -springs are weighted in pounds per inch, meaning if a spring is rated at 1000 pounds, it will take a thousand pounds to move a spring one inch.  In my car, I run 1000 pounds on the left front and 1250 pounds on the right front.  Entering a turn the car’s g-forces from braking and turning are throwing the weight to the right front and we compensate for that by running a stiffer spring on the RF.  With this stiffer spring on the RF and a softer spring on the LF, the car again wants to turn left.

 -toe out means that the front wheels are NOT pointing straight.  They are not in alignment.  For me, I like an 1/8th inch of toe out. This gives me pretty good control down the straight-aways (compared to a ¼”), as well as help in the turns.  Because of the toe out, as I turn the wheel, the inside LF tire actually turns more that the RF tire.  This compensates for the tighter radius the left side tires turn compared to the right.  As I corner, the distance is greater for the RF to travel than the LF.  To compensate for this, we set the car up for toe out.

 -Stagger is the difference in tire diameter from the left side to the right side.  We always run more rear wheel stagger than front.  My front tires have about a 1” stagger and my rear tires have about 3” stagger. Again, with only turning left, the right side tires travel more than the left side tires.  Stagger helps to keep this battle even.  With the right side tires traveling more than the left and the rear end gears locked, the increased diameter evens this out.

 So you can see what I feel.  Going into a turn, I can almost let go of the wheel and the car will turn itself through the turn.  Then going down the straights, I almost have to turn right to keep the car straight.  I hope this makes sense to everyone.  I know it seems like we are just rednecks out there going around in circles, but there is a ton of physics that we calculate to get us to go around the track fast.  These physics are probably only half of what we do to get the car to handle.  I did not touch on shocks, bushings, gears, rear steer, fuel management, height placement of lead, wheel offset, wheel base length, etc, etc.

 So to sum up the steering wheel incident, when the wheel came off, the car immediately jacked left.  I had about a half of second to decide what to do.  I dropped the wheel and grabbed the steering shaft and wastefully tried to turn it right to avoid the wall. Needless to say with no “leaverage” as Captain Jack Sparrow would say, the car and I had a hard lick into the front stretch wall.  On Sunday, I had the great idea to turn into Ricky Bobby and rip my driver’s suit off and re-enact his scene from Talladega Nights on the front stretch…surely the fans in the stands would have loved it. But after the effort of Paul on Tuesday and Sharkey on Friday and Saturday, my feeling was complete anger for wasting everyone's effort.  Still, being nearly naked on the front stretch would have been priceless…

 So now everyone understands how quickly things can go wrong and why the car took such a sharp turn left when the steering wheel came off, the next question is why did the wheel come off?

 We have quick release steering wheels, just like NASCAR.  This is of course to allow us to exit the car quickly in case of a bad accident or a fire.  Yuns know that we don’t have doors that open and we climb thru the window.  Well, having the wheel right there obstructs this and we have quick release mechanisms that allow us to remove the wheel  and enter/ exit the racecar.  As simple as it sounds, the release mechanism got gummed up with dirt and when I went to attach the wheel, it never released (locked down on shaft) and when we went green and that A & C Ford power threw me back in the seat, my hands went back as well and since they were attached to the wheel, the unlocked steering wheel came off the shaft and I was along for the ride. I went thru all the things a driver is supposed to do during our pace laps.  I warmed and cleaned my tires by yanking left and right on the wheel… and the wheel was good.  My fault was mistakenly not pulling back on it I guess.  As Don can vouch for me, I spent time on Saturday at my shop fixing the release mechanism… I drenched it with Liquid Wrench and it started working fine.  Apparently not.  So if everyone is still here, you can see why the car turned sharply left and why the wheel came off.  As the driver, it was my responsibility to check the wheel and I made a mistake and it cost us dearly.

 Racing has to be one of the most toughest things out there.  It continues to humble me to no end.  I had no less than a half dozen people come up to me after the wreck and say “That happen to me ONCE.”  It is something that I will never let happen again.

 So to the car.  It is bad, but repairable.  We called our friend Roy Anderson of Winchester, VA and he said “$200 Max”  For any racers out there, you have to become friends with Roy.  His rates and really affordable and his guys do excellent work. However, even with the small quote from Roy, my real estate investments aren’t doing well and I have had some bad luck there as well. and that has really pinched my racing.  So the car is going to sit for a little bit, maybe 2 weeks to a month.  The 28 team isn’t a NASCAR team and this is just how grass root racing is.  But I really wanted to get this update out.  I am averaging over 300 visitors per week on the website and I thank each of you so much.  I know I haven’t posted the feature in car video from last week, but with the inverted colors, you really aren’t missing much, but again I wanted to get the status of the 28 team after the hard wreck Saturday night.  Since we didn't make the feature, there is no video this week either.  I have received emails from a lot of people and I can’t say how much that encourages me to get the 28 car back out.  It will be a few weeks, but I promise we will be back stronger than ever.  I really thought we had a good car on Saturday and I am disappointed that we didn’t get to see that play out.  We were able to free the car up coming out, at the expense of being WAY too loose going in during practice.  Don and I talked it over, made some adjustments and I thought we had a shot for a very strong finish, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be on Saturday.

 In closing, even after the bad night, I had a wonderful experience while Don and I were in the grandstands.  A little girl about my son’s age (8) ran up to me. I thought she was trying to get by to another seat, but she then started talking...

 “What car do you drive?”

 “28, only a pure stock though, I wrecked tonight.”

 “What happened?”

 “The steering wheel came off and I hit the wall”

 “That’s okay, you did a really good job tonight before that happened.”

 She then went running down to her mom by the Funnel Cake stand and her mom waved to thank us and even though it was a terribly bad night for our team, the little girl and her mom made our night and made a bad night, not so bad.

 -Brian

 

 

Saturday July 22nd, Hagerstown Speedway

and

Sunday July 23rd, The Rock Speedway

(GREAT In-Car Video Available)

10 2 -Tbird Flies to a Pair of Top Ten Finishes During Weekend

 

Just a real quick recap of Saturday, July 22 at Hagerstown and Sunday July 23 at The Rock in Cumberland.

It was a good weekend, with two top 10 finishes, a lot learned, and the Thunderbird in one piece. 10th at Htown on Saturday, 7th at The Rock on Sunday. I was really excited for Htown on Saturday because I had installed the new rear gear and thought it could be magic. My lone crew member, Don, made the trip from SC to MD on Friday so he could go racing with me Saturday. Don showed up at my house at noon on Saturday and I threw a curve ball at him. We had a brake job to do. On my truck! So we changed pads and a rotor and went on a test drive. Got back and started wrenching on the Thunderbird. Don got to drive the Thunderbird finally around my house and that was great, I am sorry it took so long for that to happen. I really want the pure stocks to work in the track soon so he can drive it on the track.

I guess as usual I under estimated the effort needed on the 'bird. I wanted another wire screen in front of the radiator, change the radiator fan, and adjust the drum brakes. Well, Don did the screen and fan and that is just not fun work with the sharpness of the radiator and the wire screen turns into a million little daggers once it is cut. I lost time by answering phone calls, installing some shock mounts for the in car camera, and finally doing the brakes. I thought we would be at the track early... we ended up pulling in around 5:30!

So anyway, I guess I concentrated on the gear change all week and forgot about chassis setup! The car was pretty quick in the heat race. I started 3rd and finished 3rd. I really thought we were faster than the 93b of Steve Lowery, but I never pushed the issue and all of a sudden Hans sneaks up on the outside of me. The three of us battle pretty good and being the heat race, you don't want to tear anything up, so I just was happy with the third. I knew that would put us on the outside pole, with Steve on the pole and we could just continue this race in the feature. However, in not running the car too hard, I never got a great feel of the chassis and paid for it in the feature.

So the feature comes and it is an amazing race. Just very competitive, cars everywhere. We go green and I leave a small door for Hawbaker who starts behind me and we go three wide into one, and he leads out of two. Steve and I battle side by side and I finally get by him on lap 2. Hawbaker and I run one - two for the first third of the race. I wasn't pushing the car too hard either, just thought him and I could check out and there was no business in racing each other and slowing each other down.

Caution comes out on lap 8 for <name removed to protect the innocent>. I think I may have dropped back to 5th, Kenny "Crazy High Line" Dillon, Darrin and Dean used the high line that was working unusually well and go by us on the outside. I was tucked up under Hawbaker drafting and we we worked the low line as the other three worked the high line. Only one other time have I seen that high line work like that before and I was just scared if I went out there, the inside line would move, so I stayed behind Hawbaker and we went backwards. So after the restart on lap 8, I got a little hello from I think Warrenfeltz going into three. He was pretty kind and let me correct it. But it wasn't much longer after that when the Thunderbird turned into the Thunder Dump Truck and picked up and terrible push on exit of turns 2 and 4 (remember I said I didn't run the car hard in the heat? this is where it burnt me). I dropped like a rock. In one turn, I pushed to the wall, had to lift, and Warrenfeltz, Mark Jones, and Joey Carter all got by (can you say competitive?). Over the next laps, the car worsened and Lowery got under me too. But we hung on to 10th and the car was in one piece and learned a lot. The gear change was great and perhaps that extra power coming out, exaggerated the push. Congrats to Hans on a fine win, you beat some awesome cars and drivers man.

So we took our normal stop by Shamrock's and had a few drinks and watched the incar. Bobby probably wasn't in a great mood either, finishing 12th, and he wasn't at Shamrocks and that was disappointing. But it is getting super tough in our class. Mark Jones, who won 9 of 10 and like 7 in a row, finished 6th, yes SIXTH! With Warrenfeltz and Carter joining us, as well as the rest of us try to catch up to Mark, it is tough out there!

I had no intentions of racing at the Rock on Sunday for their fair day. Honestly, I needed to get my butt into work and make up some time from the previous week, so I didn't have to work 12 hour days during this week, but I woke up around 10 and took a shower and a switch went off in the shower and I said, "I'm Racing!" The car was still on the trailer along with all the tools and tires, my buddy BR Nalley was going and I was upset with the 10th place finish and even more so the chassis problems from Saturday night and my F-150 and trailer were headed to Cumberland at 2:30! I wanted to test the Thunderbird up there and try some things with the chassis, as well as the idea of not racing for two weeks (motorcycles at Htown this weekend) was weighing on me... so off to The Rock.

Beautiful drive out, a pretty quick drive to boot.. left Brunswick right around 2:30 and was in Cumberland by 4. The round trip there and back did drink about 3/4 of a tank in my truck...actually less than I thought. Pulling in, it was pretty hopping with the Fair there and a ton of cars, it definitely had the big event feel to it, it was cool. I talked with my chassis guy Jim Boyer, told him what the car was doing, what I wanted it to do, what I wanted it not to do, and he came up with some chassis adjustments. His suggestions were minor and I thought they would have been a bit more radical. He suggested I lower the right front ride height and raise the tire pressure in the right rear.

So I went up there on my own, BR's crew helped a little and right before practice three stooges walked up to my pit- Steve, Mike K, and Don. What a surprise! Steve said he might go and I talked to him like 2 hours before and I said how'd you get here so fast? He said, oh, we did a 100 the whole way. Knowing Stevie, it was probably more like 120. So that was cool, but added some pressure.

Practice was useless to a point. So much to go thru in my head. Remember, I had that 6.00 gear which one would think is way too much for The Rock (5/8 mile). So I wanted to see if I was going to run the motor too hard (RPMs). Then to be honest, I only have about 20 laps on this track and I needed to get oriented with it again. At the same time, the bumps and dust were so bad, it was hard to see and even feel what the car was doing because it wasn't smooth yet. With all this, I still intentionally lined up behind Warrenfeltz and beside Mark. Unfortunately, some bucket got in between us and they left us during practice. Needless to say, Steve wasn't thrilled with my practice.

For the heat, we drew pills. I ended up starting 5th in the heat. I was planning on using the heat as an extended practice. The heat was pretty uneventful, but I did have a car spin right in front of me. He actually spun twice in the heat and they pulled him off the track. We ended up 5th in the heat, but I knew I would race good. The chassis changes made the car a rocket. Steve, still very unimpressed, gave me some grief and I told him don't worry, we will be fast in the feature.

Starting 10th, on the outside (I always have bad luck starting outside), that lane didn't go at the start. So we drop back to 13th. I still used about 5 laps to get comfy, then went to work.

The car was on a rail and I was learning more about the track each lap. Some of the guys we had to pass, kinda ran some inconsistent lines and I finally made Steve proud in moving a few cars with the chrome horn. Nothing too rough, but when your race only consists of 16 laps, you can't take 5 laps to pass someone, there just isn't enough time. So to the guys I rubbed, sorry, but it was just good hard, dirt track racing...I'll buy you a beer at Shooters if you are still upset. I wasn't out to wreck anyone, just working my way up to the front. Lord knows I have been moved out of the way plenty of times. So after lap 5, I just picked off about a car every lap or two. The car just got stronger and stronger and I just ran out of laps in the end. We had some nice, timely cautions, but it wasn't enough to get into the top 5. Mark Jones won it, Warrenfeltz was 4th and I was 7th, so I would say that is pretty cool Hagerstown cars all finishing in the top 10- we represented H-Town pretty well.

The Rock is just a blast to drive. It is a very fun track and it is very raceable. I think the long, wide, broad turns are what make it fun. You are in the turns forever, just working the throttle and the wheel and it is just fun. I really wish they would do away with those new jersey barriers and go to 3 or 4 guard rails or better yet, some type of SAFER barriers, but the track configuration is unique and fun. So much so, things have worked out, and I will be back at the Rock Saturday night! I have a camping trip with my #1 fan, and fan club president, Karen Huggins at her lovely property in Berkeley Springs, WV on Friday night, so I am going to take the Tbird camping and then Saturday head over to Cumberland which is only a half hour a way! I want to say thanks to my step Mom Brenda for watching Clayton Friday and allowing me to camp, and then on taking Clayton to his mom's on Saturday so I can race- that really means a lot. Also I want to say thanks to Clayton's mom Hope for having him Saturday night. The last thank you goes to Clayton who knew I was going to be away Friday night and I asked him if he minded if I raced Saturday and he said "I don't mind Dad, GO RACE!" So that was super cool and I swear I have the greatest son in the world.

So I have some minor chassis changes to make for Saturday's race at the Rock, I still want to free her up a little coming off the turns and use this last race to get ready for Hagerstown on 8/5 when the WOO guys will be there. I am really becoming a dirt track fan as well, and the WOO (World of Outlaws) guys are our "Nextel Cup" drivers and I want to run good while they are there as well as all the other added fans, media and more coverage. I will again throw everything I got at that race on the 5th, and would love to get my first win and have that Thunderbird along side the winner of the WOO race- Bloomquist, Francis, Macreadie, Rick Eckert, any of them top dogs on the homepage of Hagerstown Speedway! It would be so cool to see T-Mac's picture as the winner of the LM race and the ole Tbird in victory lane right underneath it. Again, I promise to give it everything I have, and rumor has is that Crew Chief Sharkey will be making the race too, so with me wheeling it and Sharkey calling the shots, it could be a lethal combination! Also, rumor has it one of my online racers, Bill Watson, might be down as well and I can leave the car to them guys and I can go off and talk with the WOO drivers, sign some autographs, and mingle with the ladies (by the way, I can usually be found at Shamrocks after the race)!!!

(man, and this was gonna be a 'real quick' write up!)

-Brian

Saturday July 8th, Hagerstown Speedway

(In-Car Video Available)

Another Rough Night

I guess in racing there is only one happy driver at the end of the night.  I was bad early, but rebounded a little in the feature and finished 12th.  This was the first race that I went at it alone, although Jim Boyer made it and helped out a ton at the track along with Tony Catlett and Donnie Smith, and their fathers.  But getting the car ready and loading up everything was a lot for one person and it really made me appreciate all the help I have had in the past from Don to Jamie to Steve.  I was pretty wore out even before I unloaded at Hagerstown.

None the less, I made it and got to the track around 5, surprisingly pretty early.  I pulled a late night Friday working on the car from about 7 to 2, and then from 10 until 4 on Saturday and then headed to the track.  Briefly, the things I did to the car this week included: scuff plates on hood, new decals,  new water sender (it works!), moved lead, oil change, inspected seat belts, double checked all bolts, fixed throttle rub, remounted camera, increased the jets (81's were PERFECT, YA!), cleaned oil breathers and old K & N air cleaner, fixed oil leak in busted rubber on oil breather, and installed a new air cleaner (and some other adjustments I am not allowed to mention!),

Unloaded at the track, got some food, made the driver's meeting and talked with Jim.  Went out for practice and the car was bad.  It was incredibly loose in, like almost wrecking every turn.  So Jim and I talked and made changes.  We added a rubber to the right rear and a spacer in the left rear and moved some lead before the heat race.

The heat race went pretty bad.  In the field was Hans, Warrenfeltz, Bobby Taylor, Kevin Keffer- a pretty strong field.  I started 4th behind the outside pole sitter and Tony was on the pole.  Tony had a good start and the inside line moved.  I went to take a peak low, and Hans was already there, pulling the entire back of the field with him.  I got shuffled back to 9th or 10th.  The car was still out of control going into the turns.  I had to go so slow in entering the corner just to not loop it.  Thankfully, it was getting better coming off.  So I finished 7th in the heat and that meant the dreaded consi race.  

I was on the pole for the consi and thought we would win it.  Nope.  I saw Ryan and Gary in the stands while we were pacing and I guess I got a little pumped up seeing my old buddies there and the officials nailed me for jumping the start.  Not sure how the pole sitter can jump the start, but I learned my lesson.  They threw the yellow and moved me from 1st to 5th.  Being in 5th, I couldn't take any chances in missing the feature (I had to finish 6th to make it or I was on the trailer) so I just rode around and finished 4th.  But the car was still awful.

So Jim and I made some drastic changes for the feature.  We took the 40 lb lead out of the driver's area and moved a 60 lb piece over the right rear.  We started 22nd in the feature and the last 4 races had some bad wrecks on lap 1.  With a 20 lap feature, I backed off at the start.  Good thing.  Another huge pile up on the back stretch.  Mark Jones, Bobby Taylor, Kenny Dillon, Wayne Hawbaker among others were collected.  They dropped the red flag and we sat waiting for the carnage to get cleaned up.  

So I still was cautious after the restart seeing that big pile up.  I don't have the money nor the time to fix my car if I tear it up, so that is just how it is.  Plus, I am not wrecking my car on lap 1 of a 20 lap feature.  But with that, we went green for the next 15 laps and it burnt me.  I picked off guys here and there, but my gamble on the cautions hurt me.  Even though I played it safe, the video is pretty good with a lot of action.  The chassis changes Jim made were perfect and the car was very race-able and enjoyable to drive.   When the checkers came out, I wanted to race another 80 laps the car was so good.  So even though we finished 12th, we learned a lot, brought the car home in one piece, and picked up 4 positions in the points.

Again, I really appreciated all the help from Jim and others at the track, I can hardly get my belts on without help (HANS device) much less do everything else.  I was kinda bummed from running in the top 5 the two previous weeks to running 12th, but it was a pretty competitive 12th.  If you watch in the incar video, you will see us racing the black 3 of Bobby Taylor all night (even though his wife said "how'd you let a Chevy blow by you like that, you embarrassed the Ford fans!").  I thought we were just as fast as his bow tie, but he ended up 7th and we were 12th.  I just need to "get up on the wheel" a little bit more.  I am still learning to get thru traffic better, plus being cautious in not wrecking the car.  Everyone says just go for it, but they aren't the ones writing the check to get the car fixed and they aren't at my house at 2 am on a work night repairing it!  So we lived to race another day and the chassis is getting better as well as the jetting and carburetion seem to be finally resolved.

With moving up 4 spots in the points, we cracked the top 15 for the first time this year in the point championship.  I really feel with a little luck, we can still get to 10th by the series end and that would get us invited to the banquet (and trophy?) at the end of the year and for missing 2 double point races (600 points) I am pretty proud of that, so I ain't all too bad, he he.

We are off next week on the 15th, but we are back at it on the 22nd.  Hope to see you all there and if anyone wants to do some heavy lifting and get muddy, you are more than welcome to help out!

 

Saturday July 1st, Hagerstown Speedway

(In-Car Video Available)

F.O.R.D.

Fifth Fool On Race Day as Swiger spins with 3 to go

Headline should say it all.  I was terrible all night.  I felt we had a great chance to win the heat and I was so anxious I spun the tires coming to the green flag, car got squirrelly and I went from my 3rd starting spot to 5th.  Managed to get back to 4th.  The chassis changes I made to help the loose in/ tight off seemed to make the problems worse, and also bring back the tire slip/ forward bite issue, although the track was so bumpy, that could have had a lot to do with the wheel slip as well.

We made more changes for the feature, and I think I messed that up too.  I think Don had a good suggestion on where to move our ballast and I went with my idea and I should have listened to Don.  Don drove up from South Carolina for the weekend to enjoy the 4 day weekend and I think he is leaving with a headache after I blew the race.  I also had Jim Boyer, Steve Kent, and his buddy Kenny and my buddy Jamie in the pits (running top 5 brings everyone out!) and they all helped out a ton and I really appreciated that.

For the feature, some how they started the Ford Thunderbird on the outside pole, even with my terrible finish in the heat.  I had a good start on the initial green flag drop, but they waved it off for some reason.  The second restart wasn't bad, I got to the lead, but I got out of shape off 4 and down the front stretch and Hans led lap 1.  We battled Hans and Mark for many laps as Hans and Mark changed the lead a couple of times.  Those guys are fast... Hans especially- that was the fastest I have seen him all year.  Darren and I then battled and I was no match for him.  Bobby Taylor then came up to challenge the Ford in his #3 machine, and we changed positions a couple of times and ran side by side.  Hopefully the fans enjoyed some nostalgic Nascar schemes battling door to door once again.  Trust me, I knew Bobby was there and the thought went into my mind that the fans must be loving this.  I feel a lot of pride in the Davey Allison car and I know Bobby feels the same in his black #3.

But anyway, I did get Bobby, his car had the same problem mine did all night and that was just terrible grip, from way loose to way tight.  Not very fun as a racecar driver to have cars that aren't really race-able.  So I ran top 4 or 5 (not sure if when/ if Dean Holmes past me) until lap 12.  I was really trying to see what she had all night and I went a little too far.  Went in turn 1 a little to hot, and I did all I could do to save her, but the rear end beat the front end to turn 2 and that isn't good. The only thing I did good all night was when there was no saving her, I just mashed the gas did a 360 and prayed for about 5 seconds that everyone would miss me.  After what seemed like an eternity, the track official came on the radio and said "Good driving everyone, all clear" and they were the greatest words I have ever heard.

So because off the hot motor, high compression, she didn't start happily.  Time I got her fired up and going again, I was way back and even though I was going race speed to catch back up to the field, they dropped the green while I was in turn 2 and I had no shot off advancing too far with only 3 laps to go and nearly a half of lap down.

I know my Dad and co-worker Rick came out to watch, then they stopped by the Shamrock after the race.  It was nice having a few beers with them and Rick got to meet Bobby.  That was great because Rick was a big Dale Earnhardt fan and got to meet Bobby and see his car (that is a long story I won't get into, but Bobby unloaded the car at Shamrocks and it was great to see his car).  But again, Maureen and Bobby (owners of the Shamrock Inn) really took care of us and it was an enjoyable end to an otherwise embarrassing evening. 

Cliff Dove and Chuck Shearin took some amazing photos of the 28 car and I will update the site tomorrow with those pictures.  Please come back to view them, those guys are great photographers.  The one on my main page with the sun reflecting off the car is really impressive and if you click on it, it will blow up.

I promise to work my rear off on the car this week.  This pure stock field keeps getting tougher and tougher with Ronnie Dennis racing Saturday night and then next week Mike Warrenfeltz will be piloting that car.  So with guys like Darren, Hans, Mark Jones, Warrenfeltz, Dean Holmes, Bobby Taylor, etc etc, it is very hard to sleep during the week trying to think of ways to beat them.  These are really great cars and drivers, with great resources behind them, but we won't quit, we will learn from the mistakes from Saturday night and we will be ready for the 20 lap feature next week.

Saturday June 24th, Hagerstown Speedway

(In-Car Video Available)

F.O.R.D.

Fifth On Race Day as Swiger Hangs on to 5th

Hagerstown, MD (Swiger Press) Driver Brian Swiger and crew chief Don Sharkey scored their first top five on Saturday night at the Capital of Dirt Track Racing, Hagerstown Speedway. The Ford Thunderbird was solid all night, helping Swiger win his first ever career pole and leading 6 of the 15 laps in the feature event. 

#28 Brian Swiger leading heat  (photo by Chuck Shearin)

Mark Jones won for the 7th time in eight races. Swiger was runner up to Jones in the heat race after leading two of the five laps. Swiger was the top finishing Ford, followed by the #6C Tony Catlett in 14th. Chevy's made up 15th through 28th.

#11 Mark Jones 7th win (photo by Clifford Dove)

Practice was terrible for the 28 team. After struggling all year with carburetor issues, SRT (Swiger Racing Team) purchased a new carburetor from XLR8 Auto-Sports in Woodsboro, MD this week. Speed shop owner and one of the sponsors of the 28 car, 'Motorblower' Steve Kent Jr. commented, "I am telling you, there is something wrong with your carb, let me hook you up and buy another one from me- you really need to have two anyways." So in practice, with the suggestion from Holley Carburetors, we left the default 73 jets in the carb and the Thunderbird ran like a Thunder-turd. It was way too lean. After practice, crew chief Sharkey crunched some numbers and decided to go with 79 jets based on humidity, barometric pressures, and temperatures. The team didn't know what to expect for the qualifying heat race.

Swiger started 3rd in the heat race and went right to work as Sharkey solved the carburetion problem. The #02 car of Nikki Oberholzer was on the outside pole and didn't have a good start. Swiger went high on pole sitter Catlett, and was out in front by turn one. Caution flew on the first lap and that led to a complete restart. On the ensuing restart, Swiger powered low this time by Catlett and stayed out front until lap three when Jones' #11 Chevy passed Swiger low coming out of two. Swiger maintained the second position, securing the pole for the feature.

#28 Brian Swiger entering turn 3 with nice body roll (photo by Chuck Shearin)

"Hey, we didn't beat Mark, I was still figuring out the track because our practice session was useless because of the jet issue. But I watched Mark and I learned a ton. Right away he knew the track was bad and he went up top to find the smooth, tacky stuff. But that was a loaded field... 15, 11, 6, 1$, 94, and the 6C."

#6C Tony Catlett in the other Ford giving the Chevys of Jones and Younker all they could handle in turn 2 (photo by Clifford Dove)

During the heat race, the Thunderbird was loose in/ tight off. Sharkey went right to work pulling out our chassis sheets. He decided to add a spring rubber in the right rear and change tire pressures. As Swiger talked with reporters, other drivers, and some of his female groupies, Sharkey went to work.

Down in the #15 pits, Kevin Keffer shouted as Swiger walked by with his gas jug "Going to get more alcohol for that Ford?" "No, I work on missiles during the week... the TBird runs on solid rocket fuel from NASA, this jug is just for mine and Don's beer."

For the feature, #28  was out front on the pole. The packed grandstands gave the Ford a standing ovation as the #28 thundered by during the pace laps.

"It felt really special to have the Ford on the pole. Usually the only Ford leading the field is the pace car driven by Ed Neff."

As the green flag dropped, Swiger used his first career pole to take an early lead. "I am telling ya, this is where all my years of online racing pays off. I have never led a lap in a real race car before, and certainly never led the field in a start, and I just used my online experiences racing in HAL and against drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Donny Lia and I think I snookered the field on each of those restarts.  I have a lot of EX's because of my online racing Wednesday nights, but it paid off tonight."

Swiger led lap one, but a big crash involving 8 cars brought out the red flag. "During the red flag, I checked all of my gauges and the only problem was the in-car camera reached the end of the tape. As we are sitting in the backstretch, I had to rewind the damn camera! That is why the first couple laps are missing on the website."

Swiger led the next five laps, which included two or three more restarts for yellows. "Again, out of everything on this great night, I am most proud of my restarts, each time I did something a little different and kept them rust-bucket chevys off my bumper and we had clean sailing into turn one."

But the night wasn't perfect as Swiger found the track too tough to tame.

"I made about four mistakes all night- and I lost four spots- running up here with the likes of Mark, Hans, Darren, Kenny, Wayne, and Bobby Taylor, you can't make a mistake... they made me pay the price. It was a great learning experience. Most of these guys have been up here for years and know how to get around this place and I am trying to learn from these veterans."

"Each one of my mistakes was the same thing, over drive it in, and she would get in the bumps in 2 and 4, then she would push high and I had to literally get on the binders to keep her out of the wall... I have smacked the wall  twice in the past two races and I have finally learned that the wall wins every time, even when I General Lee'd it on two wheels at Williams Grove- she ended up breaking the clutch in the feature because of that two wheel adventure. The only one disappointed in me learning my lessons is Steve Kent at XLR8- he eats real good some weeks because of this Stroker."

Lap 8 through 15 saw Swiger get passed low by Dean Holmes, Darrin Younker, Kenny Dillion, and Russ Mosely. Younkers Chevy heard that Ford charging back and decided to call it a night, and that led to Swiger's first career top 5.

"I battled those last 5 laps with Russ and Kenny in the #21. They were two wide the entire time and I had no where to go. I couldn't move Russ out of the way, because he would've slid up into Kenny, so I just rode behind the 89 of Russ and settled for 5th and brought the 'Bird home with all of her feathers."

At our post race inspection at the scales, Eddie Cornett, with a big rosy smile on his face, commented on a Ford being in the top 5 at Hagerstown "It's been a long time!" Pulling into the pits, everyone was in a pumped up mood and Sharkey pulled the rookie drivers chain, "If you would have stayed out front, we wouldn't have all this mud on the car!" 

"Ah, Don, we didn't wash it from last race!"  Swiger griped.

So with a top 5 secured and the two top finishers Jones and Holmes having their motors pumped and found legal, Swiger and Sharkey met up with Bobby Taylor, owner/ driver of the #3 Shamrock Inn Chevrolet in the pits and he invited them out to the Shamrock.

Hauling the Thunderbird through the speedway parking lot, the team ran into driver of the #62 car.

Hollywood Danny Beavers was over heard talking to Swiger, "Hey good job tonight, top 5, way to make that Ford run, I got to get back to the cooler and get some more beers, we'll see you next week."

Once at the Shamrock Inn,  pace car driver Ed Neff showed up. While enjoying a cold Miller Light on the muggy night, he commented, "You had the second best car out there today, but you kept push'n high. Even though I am a Chevy man, I've worked for GM for years, but when your Ford is screaming down those straight-aways, man it sounds good. When you showed up last year and spun her twice the first night, I didn't know about you. You have come a long way."

Taylor, who owns the Shamrock Inn, gets out of his racecar hauler, heads into the bar, and promptly goes to work behind the bar. Sweat riddled shirt and all, he serves up a couple rounds on the house and was ready to tell the 28 team how his night went.

"Yeah, one of the <expletive> <color of car removed> cars just turned me coming out of two and it started the big one. There was nothing I could do. I thought we were alright and just cut the tire, but we changed the tire, got back out there and cut it again... that left rear quarter was damaged and the metal cut into the tires... it was a tough night"

#3 Bobby Taylor pointing the wrong way after contact (photo by Clifford Dove)

The "Big One" at H-Town, #27 Mike Sanders got it the worst, thank goodness he was ok (photos by Clifford Dove)

Driver Brian Swiger wanted Swiger Press to put in a plug for the Shamrock Inn.

"A quick shout out to Bobby Taylor. He drives the #3 Shamrock car that is amazing in looks and speed. He had Don and I at his bar, the Shamrock Inn right by the track, and gave us drinks on the house. So that was awesome of him and after the races, stop in his bar, a lot of the drivers and officials meet there and it is a nice cozy bar with Nascar stuff everywhere. You have to meet Bobby Taylor too... he honest to God looks like Dale Earnhardt's twin brother. I need to talk with him next week and get the 28 and 3 in a picture together, I think that would be really cool, the Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt cars. Bobby also needs to shoot me an email, so I can have his email address- send me a mail to brianswiger@yahoo.com Bobby."

Upon arriving home in Brunswick, MD, Clayton Swiger, the driver's 8 year old son had a lot to say about his young old man's performance.

"Well you finally finished in the top 5 Dad"

"Thanks Clayt"

"That's a very good job by the way... you led 6 laps, that's a lot"

"Ya, I am sorry it wasn't more, but that Mark Jones is tough"

"He is a pretty good car... I think your power is better than his though"

"Ya buddy, that is A & C Machine Ford Power, not a melted Hershey or bow Legged motor.  Any suggestions on beating him Clayton?"

"Don't let him pass ya"

"Do you think Jeff Gordon could beat Mark?"

"Totally."

"Even on dirt?"

"No way, but if Mark raced on pavement, Jeff would win"

In Sundays debrief with newly hired driver coach 'Motorblower' Steve Kent, he was a little positive, but still very hard on his promising pupil.

"You're a decent driver, don't get me wrong"

"(but) you got to lose that fear of really driving it in there sideways. That Thunderbird has a short wheel base and it wants to corner like a late model, let that <expletive> rear end float!"

"If you can eat on raceday, then you <expletive> ain't driving that car hard enough because you should be <expletive> scared as <expletive> when you get in that car. You shouldn't have to take a <expletive> on race night"

Steve Kent's Hero Card designed by Swiger Racing

Steve commented on Swiger's thoughts on a gear change "You don't need to add <expletive> gear, you need to get up on the wheel... Let me get in that <expletive>, I'll get that <expletive> to turn 7 grand."

Final thoughts:

Swiger wanted to say good job to Tony Catlett on his 14th place finish. Rumor has it, he soon will be leasing a motor from Swiger Racing.

"Let's face it, his motor program from A & C is turning out big power, we look forward to teaming with Swiger and running in the top 10 week in and week out. It would be great to have two Fords in the top 10 or top 5."

The big rumor of the weekend is that #5 Mike Warrenfeltz is coming out of retirement and throwing some mud at Hagerstown again. "No one out there is giving Mark a challenge, I am going to give him a chrome horn." It is going to be exciting with Mike back at the track. I guess a win wouldn't be a win if Warrenfeltz wasn't in the field.

Next week:

EVERYONE is invited out next week. Fireworks for the 4th, my year anniversary of racing, and maybe another top 5 finish is all in store. If we can get enough people to come out, we are planning to tailgate before the race in the parking lot.

Mark Jones in Victory Lane holding the "The Ford is Coming" sign (photo Clifford Dove)

 

Williams Grove

(photo not from Williams Grove!)

6/10/06

Saturday June 10th, Williams Grove Speedway

(In-Car Video Available)

Tough night...

Well it was supposed to be a weekend full of racing starting with Williams Grove Saturday night, and The Rock in Cumberland on Sunday night for the Tri-Track Championship. Saturday night was our first trip ever to Williams Grove and it was an utter failure.

Tire rules for Williams Grove (WG) differed greatly with Hagerstown and that put Don and I in a bind for wheels and tire combinations. When setting up the car, there are 4 major choices...

1. Model of tire, Hoosier SPEC or Hoosier ECONOMY, I can run either at Hagerstown. The SPEC tire is a cheaper tire made for pure stocks, and the ECONOMY tire is more expensive and used by late model drivers. Hagerstown is about the only track the allows us to run the late model tire. Even though it is more expensive, we can buy them used from the late model drivers for $25 bucks per tire, after they use them for one race, so it actually can save us a lot of money. The rules for WG only allowed us to run the SPEC tire.

2. Compound of Tire. This means the softness of the tire. We have D-35's and D-55's for Hagerstown. Hagerstown required us to run the 55 on the right rear to keep traction and speed down. WG allowed us to run 35's and 45's.

3. Wheel offset. This means how the wheel is constructed. A greater offset, the hub of the wheel further toward the outside of the wheel, brings the wheel/ tire in closer to the car. A wheel in closer to the car places more weight and changes the geometry of the suspension on that wheel. For example, if the car pushes in the turn, a great wheel offset on the right front, will pull the wheel in closer, provide more weight on, and should help the car turn better.

4. Tire stagger. Tire stagger is the diameter of the tire. Because we only turn left and our right side wheels travel more distance than our left side wheels, to even out this effect, we run a larger diameter right side tire.

So with only having 7 tires/ wheels and 2 of them being the illegal ECONOMY tires, our hands were strapped with tire selections. Not too mention the two spare wheels I have are 10" wide wheels and you are allowed to run up to 12" wide wheels (wide wheel means more tire patch on track). So for Don and I to come up with tire selection factoring in, model, compound, wheel offset, and stagger, it was tough. My first mistake was using a 5" offset wheel on the right front. It allowed the tire to clear the shock by about 1/2". We knew it was close, but thought it would work. Nope. Went out in practice and at speed, the tire rubbed the shock. I came out of turn 4 the first time and the shock acted like a brake on the right front, stopped the wheel, and I almost lost it going down the straight away. So practice was useless.

The heat race went even worse! Because of no practice, I was going to use a lap or two of the heat to get familiar with the track. Turn three was a nightmare. From the sun to the dust, you can't see 5 feet in front of you, it was terrible. But anyways, after a couple laps, I was like, cool, the car felt good, the motor felt good, and the track felt good. So I hammered down. Turn 1 and 2 went fine and turn 3. The track has wider turns than Hagerstown and you feel really safe there (place to go if the car gets away). So I came into turn 4 and the track does narrow up/ gets tighter and a replay from last week. The right rear hits the wall (guardrail). Instead of the right front hitting the wall, this time, the right rear tire decided to climb the guard rail!!! This caused the right front to join in!!! So from the exit of turn 4 to about the start/ finish line, the Thunderbird was on two wheels! For me, it seemed like an eternity "What is this car going to do???" So I turn left and she comes down off the guard rail and starts to spin. I got her slowed down and didn't hit anything. The safety crew come over and I thought the right side of the car was trashed. Guy leans in the window and I hear the words I will never forget, "Do you want to drive it back or a tow?" Huh? The car is drivable??? I take a peak and the only real problem is a cut right front tire. I think I have used up all my luck the last two weeks and I better get it together. I think what has happened is I have gone from one extreme to another. Remember the forward bite issues? Well, that has been resolved by increasing the RF spring 250 lbs. She dead hooks now coming out, but I think because there is so much rear bite on exit, that the front end is just along for the ride and I can't drive it out with the front wheels. Although this may not be right because I keep hitting the RR first in the wall, like the car is sideways. So I need to slow down a little and get used to the new chassis setup or there may not be a chassis left! I thought the Hagerstown stripe last week was a fluke, but now after this Williams Grove stripe, I need to change.

So we were able to take what was left of our tire inventory and slap on two more tires and run the feature. The incar video is the entire feature. I was off pace when we started the feature and it turned out to be a good thing! As you can see in the video, as soon as the video is being recorded, we are going green! I was trying to find the record button on the camera and missed the start! So as I come down the front stretch, there are 3 or 4 cars spun out. So it was a blessing that I wasn't nose to tail at the start or the Thunderbird might have been caught in that wreck. So then it gets real confusing. We are not on radio at WG and it really makes you appreciate the radio communication at Hagerstown. I passed about 5 cars in that mess, but somehow, each one of them gets to go back around me? You can see my gestures in the car. Our rules at Hagerstown and elsewhere all say if you stop on the track, or cause a wreck, you go to the back. I knew because it was lap one, we would have a complete restart, but I thought I would restart 14th, not 19th! But anyway, that may have been a good thing too. We go green (still I had a bad restart, I was told we go at the cone near the S/F line, not in turn 4) and after 2 laps I am right on their tails. Lap 3 I start moving to the outside of one of the cars, but by the time I hit turn 4, the clutch breaks and the motor just free revs. So that capped one of my worst nights racing for sure. I was really embarrassed Saturday night. I was the only Ford, a Hagerstown car, and I didn't put on a great show... car broke down twice and I had a nasty looking wall ride.

Overall, I did like the WG track. Nice wide turns, good dirt, lotsa fans, it was a nice environment and only about 1 hour from Frederick. However, as soon as we pulled in, the officials came over and looked at the car. First thing they did was pull out a tape measure and said I was illegal because my wheel base was 4 inches too short. The 83-88 Tbirds have 104" wheel base and their rules say I must extend the chassis to 108" Told me I could run tonight but don't come back, this was a one shot deal. Also said I was illegal because I had a 9" rear end. That is the most popular rear end in street stocks, even Chevy's are allowed to run Ford 9" rears at every track. They also didn't like my sheet metal hood. So it was overall a pretty bad night! The only good thing was that my entry fee was $20 bucks and my winnings for 18th was $40! I have to run top 5 at Hagerstown to get that type of money!

So we are off next weekend, and I think I need a break from it just to get my head on straight and forget this weekend. The incar turned out okay. We again ran it off the car's battery, so the horizontal lines are there. The sound is in surround this week and it is in color. There is nothing wrong with the camera, from the dirt/ dust, you can not see. Watch how the cars disappear in the straights, then re-appear in the corners. I thought it was dangerous. Imagine racing 100 MPH in a blizzard... that is what it looked like to me. Also enjoy an at bat or two of Clayton's last baseball game this year!

 

 

Still Learning...

6/03/06

Saturday June 3rd, Hagerstown Speedway

(Great In-Car Video Available! note: See what it is like to race!  Camera angle is driver's view )

In-Car Video Available

The problem with the motor was actually fixed two weeks ago. That was a dirty air cleaner. However, when we changed the air cleaner, I also increased the jets. So as I fixed one problem, I created another! The motor problems were very similar, so that made it tough to uncover. But the solution was change the air filter and go back to the 79 jets (was bumped to 82's).  The increased jets caused the motor to load up with fuel.

The chassis problem of no forward bite and spinning the tires under acceleration was also improved. The major changes that has the chassis working better include stiffening the RF spring, the LF spring, and using the correct tire stagger and wheel spacing.

Both problems, the motor and chassis, were much improved on, but both still need some work. Even though I went leaner on the jets, it still may be too rich. Even though I had more traction Saturday night, I still couldn't pull the top 10 cars out of the turns to set up passes going into turn 1 or turn 3. Around mid straights, the motor would hit another gear and come to life, but I couldn't use that power because I would end up dive bombing someone and causing a wreck. With no mirrors in the cars, you have to show the driver you are passing with your nose of your racecar by getting it to his driver's side window, or he or she doesn't know you are there and they could very easily come down on you in the turn. So even though I think my A & C Ford motor may be the best out there, I just need to adjust some settings and really let the motor open up. With jetting, "lean is mean" and the engine runs the best, although, too lean can be a problem too! I pulled another plug after the race and it was very black, so it tells me almost for sure, that we are too rich and loading up on fuel when I apply power. And even if the jetting isn't an issue, I can grab that power by doing a gear change. I have no doubt, one way or the other, we will figure it out. Earlier in the year when it was colder (40 degrees at night), I think the motor could have used the more fuel and it ran good... last year in the fall, we had to increase the jet size, and earlier in the year, I had plenty of power coming out.

The chassis changes are a work in progress as well. Even though it was much better, from the video alone, you can still see the car is a handful coming out! She is a rock going in, notice my hands look like I am driving on the highway, but coming out, it looks like I am driving on ice. As bad as it looks, it has been 100 times worse this year... this is just the first time we had the camera in the car where you could see my hands. Don, Jim, and myself have had some very good discussion this week and researched a lot of information and have a game plan for this upcoming weekend for the chassis and I think it will be the best yet!

Wow, so about the race (I can ramble)!!! Don and I were at the track by 4:30! It was amazing! We are finally working out the bugs and each week it is less and less work, and we left on time! We got there early and I got to have the Thunderbird inspected and we passed! That is great so now when that first win comes along, we should be in the clear!

Practice was great because right away I knew we found the problem with motor. Don, Steve, and I even prepared a spare carb to change! But it wasn't needed. The chassis felt great, but it always does in practice with the tacky track!

For the heat race, we started 4th in a pretty weak field, but the points leader, #94 and the #6 who is very strong were in it. We had two slower cars on the the pole and outside pole. I was hoping the inside car was slower and the outside line would take off, but the opposite happened! So we slid back to 6th. Worked our way back to 4th and really wasn't pushing the car. With only 5 laps, it isn't much time to do much. I was very confident that we had everything the leaders had in our heat.

For the feature, we started 4th too. Nikki had a great run in her heat race, running 2nd to Mark Jones and she was on the pole for the feature. As we went into turns 1 and 2 after the drop of the green, big wreck with the inside cars. The wreck included at least two banged up cars, Nikki's 02 and #19. You can see this wreck in my incar video, look to the left coming out of turn 2. Nikki had a hard hit, but she is okay. I was unsure if we were going to make it through, cars were everywhere. I knew the front of the car made it through the wreck, but I wasn't sure if we would get tagged in the rear. I mashed the gas, held my breath and we made it. It wasn't as infamous as Tom Cruise in Days Of Thunder, but for that split second, you are really just hopping your car just keeps going straight!

So because of the wreck on lap one, we have a complete restart and I make a bone head move. We always have one reason losing 10 spots on the starts, and Saturday night was no different. We go green for the second time, coming out of two, I am a little high, loose as the Tbird always is and the rear tires must got in the loose stuff up near the wall and the right rear tire tagged the wall. After the rear tire bounced off the wall, it sent the front tire into the wall and we got our first Darlington stripe at Hagerstown. It was a pretty hard hit as you can see in the video, my neck was sore the past couple of days. But somehow, the tires didn't blow, and we were still racing, albeit for 11th or so.

So now the race goes like the past 3 or 4 have.  Riding around in 9th, 10th and 11th.  We gained a spot or two, then lose a spot or two.  The racing was exciting and 5th through 12th were all battling door to door, so it was a great show for the fans and exciting in the car.  The reason I could not move up with the motor and chassis working better, we think is still because the engine is too rich.  As you can see in the video, I can only maintain speed coming out of the turns, I don't pull on them until mid straight-aways.  You can see in the video, I set passes up by entering high and trying to get a run off, but even with the throttle mashed to the floor, I can't motor them out and pull beside them before we enter the next turn.  For the upcoming races, we are going to be adjusting jet sizes and we think this will really help.  The guys at A & C think this will really help.  If not, and the power curve of this motor is higher than most, we can just increase the gear in the car and get that power that is coming at mid straight-aways and make it happen exiting the corners.

So I am pretty bummed about 12th, but if you would have told me we fixed the chassis and the motor and finished 12th before the race, I would have been pretty happy.  Racing is pretty tough and there is a huge learning curve and the 28 team I think learned a ton this past weekend and a 12th place finish out of about 30+ cars showing up isn't too bad.  I just need to learn a bit more as a mechanic and as a driver, and we should hopefully move from a top 10 car to a top 5... we are getting closer each week, even though Saturday's result didn't show it.

Next week, the Thunderboy and Thunderbucket may be in action twice!  The place where the nicknames Thunderboy and Thunderbucket were given by Steve's dad, The Rock Speedway in Cumberland is having a Tri Track Championship on Sunday.  This is the first of three races held there, at Potomac and Winchester during this racing season.  The purse for these races is a new race car!  The highest finishing driver in all three races gets a chassis built by Roy Anderson.  So we are going to give it a go in the first leg of this championship and see how we do.  The rules for these races are pretty much wide open- so much so, with my completely stock chassis, I can remove 500 pounds of weight from my car!  My minimum weight is only 2800lbs.  I will be racing against cars that are practically tube chassis.  So it will be tough, but we ran last year against some of these cars and held our own, so not only are we looking to gain seat time, but also give them a run for their money.

Saturday night, we might be in action too.  Williams Grove Speedway in Dillsburg, Pa is very similar to Hagerstown and Cumberland, and again, we are trying to get more seat time and continue learning about the ole Tbird.  Williams Grove is a pretty historical track and Stevie has had a lot of fun racing there, so we are going to give it a go.

www.therockspeedway.com

www.williamsgrovespeedway.com

Hopefully we will have some great in car video from two new tracks next week and the Tbird will be in one piece!  It will be a lot of racing and we will be running close to 60 laps this weekend and it should be great experience and knowledge we can use at Hagerstown when we return there in two weeks.  Somebody has to give Mark Jones a run for his money- he is putting a hurt'n on all of us!  He is the man though and continues to help me each week, pretty cool.

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide

5/27/06

Saturday May 27th, Hagerstown Speedway with MACS

(Great In-Car Video Available!)

Well, we were good early and bad late. We ran second in the heat to #11 Mark Jones, then finished 11th in the feature. We are still trying to solve the initial choking of the motor and solve the forward bite problem.

Don and I made it to the track on time, including washing the car!

"Don, what's in that Pepsi cup?"

After moving lead, fixing brakes, replacing filters, etc, etc, it was time to go racing.  We were at the track by 6 PM and that surely is a record for us this year.  Slowly but surely, the work on the car is getting caught up and each week it is getting smoother and smoother.  Next week should be the best of them all and we should be in line with the trailer by the time the gates open.

So we went out to practice and the motor problem was still there, although not as bad.  Now it only does it at the first initial throttle down and at top end.  Perhaps it wants more jets, I dunno.  The spark plugs now look almost perfect.  Practice was okay, the track was great, the chassis felt good, but the motor problem was worrisome.

In the heat, the guys I pit beside (Tony and Donnie) were all in the heat, as well as a stacked field including Mark Jones.  Tony was on the pole and Donnie and I were 3 and 4 respectfully.  Tony and I talked and the plan was for me to go low when they dropped the green.  Well I tried, but the motor wouldn't go.  It took all I had to just clear Tony going into one, but a few cars went on the outside so completing the first lap, the scoring tower showed #11 Mark Jones in first, the #00 in second, and Thunderbird in 3rd.  I got around the #00 and about the same time he broke down, I am sure the Ford scared the Chevy.

So the restart had Mark in first and I was in second.  We ended up restarting 2 or 3 times and that was great practice.  When we finally went green, Mark and I were nose to tail for the final 2 or 3 laps.  It was awesome.  Mark has given us so much advice and it was nice to have the Ford run with the top dog of Hagerstown.  Mark has won I think 6 races this year.  We got a lot of thumbs up returning to the pits and that felt good.

So Don and I were pumped up for the feature.  We were starting third.  We had to make a decision on the tires and stagger because the track changed.  We ran about 2 3/4" stagger in the heat, but with the track slicking up, we thought we had to decrease it.  Ended up going with a 1/2" of stagger and in doing so, I had to run a harder compound on the LR (a 55).  This turned out to be the wrong call.

When we went green, the motor choked for the first lap or two and I dropped like a sack of potatoes.  Lost about 10 spots.  The motor then cleared up, then the chassis was awful.  No forward bite.  It gets even worse when I try to pass cars, pinching the car down, binds and slips it up more.  So we maintained about 12th or 13th, when finally we get passed by the #16 and he opens up the door for us to get around the #44, whom I can't seem to get away from!  Once past the 44, I battle with the 16 and 5 and was about 2 laps shy of bringing home 9th.  In the in-car video, you can see all this play out as www.datatoys.com provided us with an awesome new camera this week and all 15 laps are there.  The camera was kinda rushed in this week (it was in Steve's car Friday night), but next week, the camera will be PERFECT and the best video yet.

So we have two issue to resolve again this week.  We have to get the motor running from the start and we have to get me more rear grip.  Hopefully the battle with Mark boosted my confidence and soon, we can start running with him more consistently and challenge for a win!

Next weeks race is $9 to get in and the last race in Hagerstown for 2 weeks.  The weather should be great and I would love to see everyone up there!

 

Movin' on up!

5/20/06

Saturday May 20th, Hagerstown Speedway

(no In-Car Video, see P.S.)

Well after last weeks “did not qualify,” it was a pretty lousy week, but I really tried to use that disappoint as a positive to get the car and the driver right.  So Don Sharkey and myself once again busted tail and leaving the house, we thought the car was right... but that is only 50% of the equation… I really feel I let a lot of people down last week and needed to make up for it.

 

It was a busy week like most of these weeks have been.  Between Don and myself, we replaced the valve covers and gaskets, replaced the stiff LF Koni shock with an original Thunderbird shock, totally replaced both rear drums (axles out AGAIN), oil change, fabricated both rear shock mounts to allow for more ride height, attempted to fix the motor problem by increasing the carburetor jets and pulling plugs and inspecting wires, moved lead, etc. etc.  We did everything except wash the car!

 

So it was a busy week, but we did get to do one really neat thing on the way to the track.  One of the #28 team’s crew members, Nick Cornwell, had his daughter’s 5th birthday party on Saturday and his daughter Roxy really want the racecar at the party.  Although Don and I were running late as usual because of the work that needed done, we had about 15 minutes to stop by the party and I think the car was a big hit.  Nick must have had 30 people at the party and from the kids to the adults everyone loved the car… it was a great feeling and if anyone has a request like this, I would love to bring the car by any function.  Don and I even fired the motor up in Nick’s neighborhood and it was great.  Nick really had some interesting kids at this party and they kept asking so many questions, it was awesome.  The one little boy kept saying “Hey racecar driver…” oh, I loved it!  After the party a few of them came up to the race and I had to bring Clayton’s shoes which I forgot to give to Julie (Clayton was in his baseball cleats at the track!) across the track after the heat race and I had some brief time to talk to everyone and it was great.  I always wish I have more time over in the stands, but there is always so much to do to the car, plus it is a pretty good hike from the infield to the grandstands and you have to wait in-between races to cross the track.  But I love coming over and seeing all of my family and friends and fans, I am just sorry the time is so brief.  So anyway, Nick’s daughter was awesome and I really enjoyed having the car at the party, I think Don would agree it kinda pumped us both up for the race after being at Nick and Brittany’s house.

 

Speaking of Julie, another thank you!  Hope is away and Julie (Steve’s girlfriend) and my high school friend Carrie offered to help with Clayton and because of them, we were able to race this weekend.  Julie and Carrie and their boys Brandon and Austyn came out to Clayton’s baseball game and allowed Don and I to work on the car and they took care of Clayton.  Julie then brought Clayton and her son Brandon and Carrie’s son Austyn to the track and she had all the boys spend the night.  Thank you so much Julie, you are awesome!

 

Wow, really rambling on this one!  So anyway, we get there late, 6:30ish?  I have to head straight for the driver’s meeting and Don has to do all the work.  He doesn’t like me touching the car anyways!  Thankfully, the pure stocks are going out last in practice and that buys us about a half hour.

 

With all the chassis changes and wondering if the motor was fixed, practice was important.  The chassis felt a little better but the motor was still sick.  We had three yellows in practice during the 5 laps so it was nearly useless anyways!

 

Good news about the heat, we were on the outside pole… bad news.. it was a loaded field!  #11 Mark Jones was right behind me.  Winner of 3 of 4 races this year and the eventually winner that night (sorry I didn’t win!).  Hans (#50) was in it too… he is a former track champion.  Car #45, which was #37 last year that won about 10 races, was in it too.  That orange #5 car was in it and he is ALWAYS tough.  The #3 Dale Earnhardt look-a-like car (awesome) was in it and he had two top 5’s last week, so it was a TOUGH field.  I talked to my good buddy of the 1$ Donnie Smith who was in the race as well and I told him we needed to finish 5th and 6th… that is how worried I was.

 

But this heat race may have changed me forever.  Before the race I went down and told Mark Jones about my motor problem and if it acted up, I would pull high and told him to go below me.  Sure enough, we went green and the motor starts coughing.  I still pulled the pole sitter, but Mark got me I guess down the back stretch.  For two laps it was just him and I.  On lap two, he had me by about 2 car lengths coming out of 4, but by the time we got to turn one, I swear I pulled up to his bumper.  Sorry for my language here, but I honestly about shit my pants.  I probably lost focus right there and Hans and the 45 got around me, but for the next 3 laps, we were all nose to tail… all while my motor is sitting there just coughing and choking.  Those guys smoke me out of the turns, but I really feel that Thunderbird gets them going on and it has POWER!  We still haven’t got the rear figured out, she spins them tires coming out no matter how easy I am on the throttle.  So I think from lap 3 to lap 5 as we were going down the straights, I had my right hand off the wheel just pumping my fist in the car.  I was like, “we can run with the big dogs!”  It was an awesome feeling and just boosted my confidence.  Even though we ended up fourth, it was a strong fourth, against the best up there and the car has a ton of problems.  Just a side note, #1$ Donnie, got run over and took a hard lick.  He was okay, but it bent the frame front and rear.  Is there is anything I can do bud, let me know.  I really hope you can make next weeks race, your crew really helped me on Saturday with tires and I hope you can get that awesome looking 1$ back out there Saturday.  It is great pitting between you and Tony.

 

Let me tell you, this was a really cool night.  So after the heat race, Mark Jones comes down to Don and I… I about shit my pants again.  Wants to know if I had motor problems because his pit guys said it looked super strong.  I told him, Mark, the thing missed the whole heat race.  Then he started helping us with the setup of the car!  When he was following me (wow, that really happened???) he noticed my placement of lead and said we had it wrong.  We opened up the rear deck and trunk and he told us what he would do.  It was awesome, I couldn’t believe it.  The guy has won all but one race at Hagerstown and he took the time to come down and give us some help.  That was super cool and if I ever get to his level, I will never forget that and any knowledge I have, I will pass on to anyone I can help.  Mark even confirmed that our problem is probably pinion angle and he told us what he runs.

 

So because of the weird qualifying Hagerstown does, with our position in the points and finishing fourth in the heat, it somehow put us on the outside pole for the feature!  FORD on the front row!!! But…

 

When we went green, even though the motor was at 200 degrees, I blew her out good (cleared the exhaust), so stuttered the worse she did all night.  I almost had tears in my helmet.  I got passed by about 6 or so cars… the Thunderbucket missed and missed.  We went green for about 6 laps and it did get better each lap.  With Mark’s chassis suggestions and Don and I taking a chance on stagger and tire compound, the chassis was the best is was all year.  We ran two HARD 55 compound tires, because in my budget, we had those tires and they reduced my rear stagger by 3 inches!  That surely tightened the car up.  The car with it’s current setup is a little loose in, tight in the middle, and then off the turns the tires spins so who knows what the car is actually doing.  But for my 7th feature, it is a great setup for me.  I don’t have to worry about the car switching ends on me like two weeks ago.  If I go in too hot, the front end just doesn’t turn and that is a lot better than the rear tires beating the front tires out of the turns!!!

 

So I think I slowly drifted from like 5th to 10th… due to the motor miss and the tires not biting.  For a few laps, I raced Hans nose to tail, I was numb.  So may times I said, am I really doing this?  Hans eventually brought out a caution… his rear end nearly came out from his car.  It was amazing to follow him, his rear was glowing orange, putting out sparks and fire and I was just thinking, when this thing goes, what is his car going to do?  I think he finally lost rear brakes and came to a stop, but it was hairy for a while.  Hans is a great driver and he has had terrible luck this year with the rear and earlier with his motor.  Hopefully his bad luck is behind him.

 

So that was around lap 7 and I just pretty much maintained the ninth spot.  (only 27 cars were there Saturday night).  The 44 who flipped two weeks ago was in eighth.  We battled and battled.  I just couldn’t get enough forward bite coming off the turns to safely pull up beside him going down the straight.  I finally started taking the car in high and building momentum coming out.  I swear I pulled up where he could see me, the nose was at his door (we have no rear view mirrors), and I thought I was making the pass, and he came down.  Pow!  We hit going into turn one around lap 10.  We make it thru and going into 3, he goes high for me, I was like Wow!  Thanks!  I’ll be damned if I started to go under him and there is that 5 car!  THREE wide!  5 got under me and we were all 2 inches apart between 3 and 4.  Exciting stuff!  It is so nice running upfront with these guys because they have car control.  You don’t have to worry too much about someone doing something stupid like looping the car.  Another caution came out around lap 12.  Going back to green with the last three laps, I tried thee times taking it three wide and the thunderbird just wouldn’t bite coming out of the turns.  I set them up by going high in 1 or 3 and get a run coming out, and the tires just spin and I am left to pound the steering wheel.  I already ordered the DVD and can’t wait to see it.  Let me tell you, I didn’t leave anything n the track those last three laps.  I spun them tires probably until smoke came off them.

 

So we ended up tenth on the track.  Then they inspected the top six finisher’s motors.  2 failed.  One was because of roller rockers the other for a roller cam, lol.  It would have been great if they pumped the motors because rumor has is, some are running 427 + CUI!

So with two failing post race inspection, we ended up 8th!

 

So on to next week.  Not too much needs done to the car, but the motor and forward bite NEEDS to get fixed.  If we can get those issues resolved, which I am really working hard on, we could really shock a lot of people… I really mean that, so come up to the track or keep checking out the website and our mighty Ford one day might be First On Race Day!

 

PS.  No in car video, I am so sorry.  I had some camera issues that I will be working on with www.datatoys.com and we will get it resolved, because with their camera, you are going to see some great quality racing action.  They sent me an awesome mount and it will allow the perfect in-car angles.

 

PPS.  Still looking for a sponsor!!!  I am going to get a new hood this week, and it will be fully available.  With the new hood, the air cleaner hole and super coupe scoops will be gone, and a big ole 4 X 4 hood will be available!  I only want like $50-$100 per race!  We can honestly say we are a top 10 car now and we are getting our photos everywhere, plus we are one of only two Fords!!!  Our car does get a lot of attention because of the Davey Allison scheme!  We will be in victory lane soon!

 

Regress...

5/13/06

Saturday May 13th, Winchester Speedway

(no In-Car Video)

Well after a tenth place finish last week at Hagerstown, I was pretty excited for Winchester.  We luckily got to draw pills, but it didn't help me.  Even with the random start, I drew 8th.  Practice was terrible. Pure stocks basically worked in the track, plus the guy in front of me never went past 50 mph it seemed due to the track conditions.  So we went into the heat with no idea how the car would handle from all of the changes this week:

Ride height, front right strut, RF spring, RR spring, LR spring, moved a ton of lead around

 

With practice being useless, being at a new track, drawing 8th, and all the chassis changes above, I had no clue what it would do in the heat. Not too mention Winchester runs things a little different. At Hagerstown after practice, we have a short break, followed by prayer, National Anthem, etc., etc.  Not at Winchester. We were adjusting the car and all of a sudden the first pure stock heat was staging directly after practice. I was in that first heat, jumped in the car, got buckled in, etc. We made it, but barely.

 

So I was no where mentally where I needed to be and with this bull ring track, "follow- the- leader- no-room-to-pass" track, I didn't make it in the heat.

So I'm in the dreaded consi with the last chance to qualify.  35 cars were there by the way.

So the 17 cars that don't qualify run ONE, FIVE lap consi. Top 6 make the show. I'm starting.... SIXTEENTH.  No chance. Officials should have split the consi into two races and added 2 or 3 laps.

Night over, on the trailer, humbled. From 10th last week to DNQ seven days later.

Need to run good next week, pride took a big shot last night.  Because of the DNQ, I never got to the feature and therefore no video.  I really need to wait to the feature to record the video because we usually sling mud until that point in the night and that mud always seems to find the camera.  Also, it was just so rush-rush at Winchester, I never had time to even think about setting up the camera.  But a new camera mount is on it's way from www.datatoys.com and that should really provide some awesome, clear video from any angle inside the car.

Car is in one piece however, and getting out of Winchester in one piece is usually a small victory.  Should be an easy week this week on the car and we are back to Hagerstown next week.  Should be on the front row in our heat race with a pretty angry driver behind the wheel.  If we can get forward bite and those rear tires hook up off the turns, we have a great shot at winning that heat and being on the front row for the feature.  Hope to see all of you there.

Again, big thanks to Don Sharkey who not only helped all day Saturday and wasted his time because I didn't wheel the car around the track, but he also helped Tuesday night (Don and I both seriously injured fingers Saturday dropping a 60 pound piece of lead on them).  Also, Tony Catlett and his girlfriend Rebecca came to Winchester and helped out too.  So being the driver I feel I let a few people down, not too mention my engine builder was there and Roy Anderson.  I was one of two Hagerstown cars that were there and that was embarrassing DNQ'ing.  Mark Jones (#11) was the other and started 17th... meaning he qualified in the last position in his heat race.  Took him about 10 laps to get going in the feature, but after that, he was killing them.  It was a lot of fun to watch him... he is a heck of a driver and seems to have a heck of a car and I just really look forward to start racing him at Hagerstown, that would say a lot about the #28 team.

 

Progress!!!

5/06/06

Saturday May 6th, Two feature Night

In-Car Video

Things kinda went according to plan this weekend!  I had a make up feature from April 22nd which was a double point race, and the regularly scheduled feature for Saturday night.  The first feature I stuck to my game plan and that was to just ride around in the back, break in the motor some more, learn about the chassis, and get some more quality seat time.  The idea of riding around in the back was because of crashing the car up three times in the last three weeks.  working until 3 AM during the week nights to get the car back together gets old and expensive really quick!  So sure enough, the first feature has so many wrecks, we hit the time limit of 30 minutes!  We were scheduled to race 15 laps, but due to the 10 (?) cautions, they stopped us on lap 12.  Even though I was being cautious, I happened to bring out that last caution.  90% of the wrecks happened in turn two and I don't know what was going on in that corner, but the car just looped and I kept my foot in it and spun her around.  No harm, no damage... a little embarrassed, but I think the fans knew something was going on.  Turns out it didn't matter because I got DQ'ed for being under weight.  I swear the scales are not working.  Last week I was 50 pounds over, this week I was 40 pounds under and I didn't take anything off the car!  To prove my point, for my heat race late in the evening, my car weighed 3400 pounds after we added weight, then after that race (after burning 15 pounds of gas) the scale said I weighed 3420!!!  I gained 20 pounds during the race?  Also, the points leader got DQ'ed too and he has a top notch racing program and you know he has the correct weight in the car.  But anyways, because of a cut tire in practice, I had to put an illegal compound tire on the right rear anyways and would have got DQ'ed for that too!  But again, the sole purpose of that race was to shake the car and motor out and to have a car left for the the regular feature later in the night and we accomplished those goals.
 
So between races, panic mode was on.  I needed to get a legal tire on the right rear of the car.  The tire guys at the track do not like my wheels.  The Falcon brand wheels have a funny inside lip on them and it takes over 60 PSI to mount the tire.  Our tires are only rated to like 50 PSI and he is scared that the tire will explode and injure someone.  So I was unable to mount my spare RR tire.  Since there are only two Fords up there and the Fords have different stud bolt patterns for the wheels, I had one shot to get a wheel mounted and that was if the other Ford driver, Tony Catlett in the #6C had a spare wheel... and he did!  As you all can recall, Tony really helped out last week in setting the timing on the car, and he helped out again this week!  So I mounted a spare tire I got from my buddy BR Nallie who lives in Knoxville with me and added 75 pounds of lead and 45 pounds of gas and we were legal in weight and tires now!
 
Because of the bad luck this year, we are darn near last in points, but that put us on the pole for the heat race!  I was pumped and thought we could win it.  The Thunderbird and I both made history... for myself and the car, we lead our first laps!  Carrie shot some video and the link is below!

Leading my first lap!

 
But the rear wouldn't bite and I couldn't hold the low line and once on car got under me, I got shuffled back, although we still ended up third.  The 4th place car and I went across the line 2 abreast, but I musta go him!  (Note: 45 car is the 37 car from last year, that car won 6 races in a row last year...yeah!)

 
 
So finishing third out of ten fairly strong cars (Hans #50 was in the heat, past champion, a bunch of second place finishes this year) was nice.  6 cars qualified in the heat and we were well in the show.  The third place finish put us 13th in the feature.
 
Oddly enough, the #62 who spun last week and we got collected in it, won the pole for the feature.  With the track conditions and his 4th race, I was a little scared about what would happen.  The 0-2 who has put some dent son the thunderbird was upfront too and I was nervous starting the feature.  We went green and the field didn't make it past turn two before the yellow flew.  Although 6 rows ahead of me I couldn't see too well, but it looked like #62 looped it again... the 0-2 was collected and really seem to damage her car.  That is sad to see.  #62 seemed to make it unscathed.  If we have a yellow before the first lap is complete, we have a complete restart.  The #62 tried to get his pole position back and they got on the radio and told him to go to the back because he was in the wreck.  I just made it thru, I think we all just made it thru.  There was about 1 hole to go thru and we managed to all get funneled down into it.  your heart definitely stops beating for about 5 seconds. So with those two cars out, I was running 11th.  I guess it turned into a somewhat boring race, we went green for about the next ten laps.  I don't know what was going on behind me (no mirror) but from 7th to me in 11th, we battled good and you can see that in the incar video.  Finally the 0-1 broke down and brought out a caution and we were in tenth.  Right at the final turn at the checkers I made a move high out of turn 4 and pulled along side the 9th place car, but he beat me to the line.  If we had a few more laps I think we could have wound up 8th and you should be able to see that in the video.
 
So all in all, the night went as planned.  Played it safe in the first feature and ran top 10 in the second.  The car seems to be in good shape (no damage, no leaks) so I am satisfied with the results, although now we need to build on it.  A top ten is nice, but now we need to get to a top 5.  To get there, the good news is there are still problems with the car.  The motor is amazing, all the power in the world... but the car's chassis isn't setup to handle it and you can see that in the incar video.  Just listen to the motor and hear it rev as the tires don't bite coming off the turns.  To resolve this, we may reduce the spring rate in the rear, change pinion angle on the upper control arms, try wheel spacers, move weight around, and play with ride height.  So it is actually good news.  If the car was handling perfect and we couldn't improve on it, that would be the bad news!  The driver also could use some more seat time too to be honest, but hey, 31 cars showed up... we beat 21 of them and 9 beat us, not bad, but we aren't satisfied either.  Our goal is to get that top 5, and then the goal is to win.
 
We are off next week, and I don't think I am going to travel anywhere, but you never know.  Racing is expensive (no kidding!) and just gas for the truck and car is nearly $100 bucks, then if you cut a tire or wreck, it can double that in a hurry!  Maybe if we can string together a couple top 5's and 10's a sponsor will knock on the door...
 
Thru this mail, I tried to keep referring to "we."  This is a team effort, I couldn't do it myself.  Don Sharkey again worked his tail off.  Don rebuilt both drum brakes, fixed the 0-2's can opening hit, among other very dirty/ painful/ strenuous jobs.  Nick Cornwell joined us this week and the more hands the better.  Nick seemed a little timid, but he will get broke in real quick!  I look forward to Nick and Don each week now, and anyone else who wants to lend a hand... no mechanical skills required... just some dirty clothes!
 
I want to thank everyone who came and watched us race.  Mike, Karen, Kevin, Dad, Brenda, Clayton, Rick, Carrie/ Justin/ Austyn/ Mr. Stagg, Julie, Anita, Samantha and anyone else I missed.  I know with my two features, Enduro cars and the cold weather, it wasn't the best night to come, but I hope you guys enjoyed it and I hope to see you back at the track soon!

Update on Steve- he had a rough night getting behind the 8 ball in the first heat race... had the wrong tire on and got DQ'ed after a second place finish.  Started 11th in the consi, tore thru the field, finished 3rd.  Started 25th in feature, finished 13th.  that sounds exciting, but there is a lot more to that story that I will let Stevie tell.  Steve now is 5th or 6th in points, way to go Steve-O...

 

Wrecked 2 (squared)

4/29/06

April 29, 2006.  Saturday Night, Lucas Oil Tour

I can’t say how hard this week was getting ready to race.  The new motor was picked up on Tuesday and I went to put it in Wednesday night, only to find out the awesome oil pan A & C Racing Engines put on it wouldn’t fit in the car!  It was a 9 qt oil pan and it was just too large to fit in the fox chassis.  So panic mode started!  The eventual solution was to swap oil pans with my junkyard motor.  It is a Moroso 7 quart pan and it had the same dimensions as the 9 quart pan, except for the “wings” the rear sump had.  But switching oil pans isn’t an easy job!  I had to pull the new motor from the car, attach it to the motor stand… hoist the old motor from the ground with my motor lift and remove each pan and clean (scrap gaskets/ silicon off, remove ALL oil, etc.).  Once the pans were removed, I also needed to swap oil pickups (tube used to suck oil from the pan) because the Moroso oil pick up was actually deeper than the one on the 9 quart pan.  This is where I hit my first problem!  The tab used to attach the oil pick up to one of the main bearing caps on the 9 quart pan was a different bearing cap stud!  From the front of the motor, the tab attached to bearing cap #4 on the 351W.  The Moroso attached to cap #3!  All this means is the bolts needed to be swapped on the bearing caps (one bolt has a stud on it for the pick up tab to bolt to).  Sounds simple, but in theory it is a scary task because you are messing with the torque settings on your bearings.  After not initially being able to reach A & C and calling about 5 buddies who know a lot more about motors than I do, I finally got in touch with Craig at A & C and he gave me the torque specs on the bearing caps (85 lbs) and said to simply switch and don’t worry about loosening all 4 bolts. 

So I took off Friday and worked from 9 am until 3 am doing the motor install.  Slept for 4 hours Friday night, back up around 7:30.  worked until 10 am and had to take Clayton to his baseball game.  His mom’s husband kindly came to the game a half hour before it was over and this allowed me to start wrenching again around 3 PM Saturday afternoon.  My supervisor at work, Don Sharkey was helping me pit this week and showed up at 3:30.  If Don wasn’t there, I would not have made it.  He worked his tail off, knew more about the timing than I did and we got everything bolted on and he set the timing and got the motor broke in.  While I was installing the drive shaft, Don changed the 200 degree oil!  Man he worked hard.  Then to make matters worse, the air cleaner didn’t quite fit on the locations of the wires at the distributor and I re-arranged them… and managed to cross them!  We got everything ready on the car and went to start it on last time and it wouldn’t start!  Don then messed with the distributor and got it running, albeit very rough.  We decided to do the rest at the track because we had to get the car and tools loaded! 

Left Brunswick at 6:14!!!  Practice starts at 7.  Hauled A$$ up there.  Got to track a couple minutes before 7 and again, they wouldn’t let me pull a pill.  32 cars.  Starting 11th in second heat race.  Obviously missed practice.  Bought more time with the pro Late Model drivers there… 51 to single lap qualify.  Don again came thru and installed the rest of the exhaust on the gravel in the pits.  Dirty, painful job and he actually looked like he enjoyed it.  Said he hasn’t worked on a race car in 20 years and was loving it!  Sick man…

 Tony, the other Ford driver and some other Ford guy at the track helped us set the timing and distributor and found out I crossed a wire.  I feel like an idiot, but I was tired, but anyway…  Turns out Don had the timing darn near perfect at the house… leave it to the driver to mess things up! 

 So I ended up using the heat race as my practice.  I really needed to monitor the motor’s (lot of money!) gauges (oil pressure, temperature, etc.) even though we broke it in at the house.  I also made some major chassis changes such as increasing the RF camber and RR spring change.  So I had no clue what the motor nor the chassis was going to do and I played it safe.  And that meant with 32 cars… the dreaded consi race.  To make matters worse, I was starting 11th and needed to finish 6th or better.

My buddy Tony (Ford driver, car # 6C) was starting right in front of me in 9th.  I kindly told him that when the green drops, I am rolling and to tuck in behind me. 

 We go green and the Ford Thunderbird roared to life.  I was able to pass about 4 cars on the start.  Sorry for calling out names here, but I am sick of getting caught in other people’s messes.  One of the cars I passed was the 0-2.  But by the time I got down into turn one, here comes the 0-2 flying past me.  As far as I could tell, the driver just looped it.  Collects Tony.  I went low and her rear spun around and hit my passenger side door.  Pretty hard hit, bent the roll cage bar and opened up my right rear quarter like a can opener would.  You can look into the car now.  The door wrapped around my roll cage tubing (pictures below).  Amazingly, she didn’t get my RR tire and we were still racing!

 Go back to green in about 9th I guess.  Again, got a car or two at the restart.  I could tell the pure stock guys were driving over their heads.  Cars were hung out more than the pro late models.  So I was following Danny Beavers in car #62 and he starts looping it between 1 and 2.  By the time he gets to turn 2, no chance he was going to save it.  I went a little high, but I had someone on the outside of me… thought I had Beavers cleared, but he hit nose first on the guardrail inside on turn 2 and bounced back up the track.  Ran over him with my left front wheel and it destroyed the wheel and I was done.

 So after working about 40 hours in three days on the new motor, it was tough for the night and the season to end this way.  I say season because I failed to qualify for the feature race (a double point race) and points wise, I will never be able to make it up.  So I am pretty down.  Don and I, along with Alan and Craig from A & C and poor Steve Kent who I called 300 times during the motor install really poured our hearts into it and it hurts.  Don and I were leaving the track and talked to Beavers… real nice guy, apologized and that made it a little easier to swallow.  Said it was his third race and the track was real slick and the car just got away from him.  That’s racing I guess.

 Lessons learned are to not run in the back and get there in time to pull a pill!  As Don can attest too, we weren’t late because we are drinking beers and goofing off, there was just sooo much work to do.  We aren’t Nextel Cup and I don’t do this for a living.  Working, raising a son all take priority over the racecar so getting in 40 + hours to work on the car and not making the race is tough.

 Next week, everyone is invited to come!  I have 2 races Saturday night.  I will be 100% honest here… I am starting 22nd in the first race and I am just going to let the field go.  I will not race them.  I have been in 3 wrecks the past 3 weeks and I am done racing in the back.  I am going to use the first race to the shake the motor out and get a grip on the chassis changes.  I will use it as a 15 lap extended practice.  So don’t boo me when you see me running in the back.. it is intentional.  But get ready for the heat race and feature later that night.  I will be starting either 1st or 2nd in my heat because I am darn near last in points (no more pills) and you are going to see some FORD power.  I will have a grip on how the car will handle and the motor will be flying and we are going to roll.  If I can win that heat race, because of my position in the points, I should start on the pole for the feature and I am going to give it everything she has and hopefully you will see a Ford in victory lane Saturday night!  I got a lot of stuff planned, so don’t leave after the checkers!

 Again, I want to say thank you to the following people, we didn’t have a great finish, but these people really put their hearts into it…

 Alan and Craig at A & C Racing Motors – thanks for the deal on the motor, you guys really took care of me on the price and once we start running good, I will plug you guys each chance I get.  Love to be able to say “My A & C Ford motor melted that Hershey Chevy motor.”  But thanks again, you guys are awesome, thanks for working thru the oil pan problem and taken all of my phone calls!

 Steve Kent (driver of the Triple X in Sportsman).  I musta called him 300 times during the motor pull and install.  You’re the man.  Everyone needs to come out and watch on Saturday, Steve has a great chance to win, I promise you.

 HAL guys – called a bunch of you on Friday to help with motor- Paul, Bill, thanks for all the advice.  I can call or email you guys day or night and you all are there for me!

 Don Sharkey – wow.  I didn’t know it was gonna be that much work – dirty work to boot.  You know if it wasn’t for you, I would have never left Brunswick.  Don changed burning hot oil, installed X pipe, changed the broken wheel, etc etc.  Promise next time it will only be half as bad!

Billy Ray Nalley - he had  a long day on Saturday - roasted a pig at 7:30 am, racing at Winchester  Saturday night, and still managed to drop off a timing light Saturday morning at my house at 6:30 am!  Not too mention letting me borrow his toe plates and giving me a new RR tire from his old pure stock days.  BR is from Knoxville too and he races the N3 in Sportsman at Hagerstown.  He obviously is a local driver too and you guys should cheer for him and Stevie during the Sportsman races.  BR's dad was a very successful racer too (Sam Nalley) and he has provided invaluable information and help to me as well.

Aaron Hargrave- wow, eh?  Thanks man for going to Clayton’s game.  Probably safe to say if you didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have made the race.  Sincere thanks.

Tony Catlett - driver of the #6C FORD Granada - thanks for the motor work.  thank god I can drive better than I can turn a wrench!  I know you and I seem to have our share of bad luck, but we work hard and we will persevere and it will make it even sweeter!  You know those fans want to see our Fords run good!  

I am sure I am forgetting about ½ dozen others, but everyone who played a roll in getting the racecar to the track, THANKS!  I promise I will get her together and we will run good very shortly, and all you deserve credit for it and take some pride.  Although I try, I can’t do it by myself and I appreciate everything from the bottom of my heart… I absolutely love racing and thanks for allowing me to do this.  Now if someone could find me a sponsor…

PS.  No incar cam this week again, the was low priority and it didn't get done.  But I am feeling really good about it for next week!  Also, want to say the driver of the 1$ Pure Stock, Donnie Smith from Fredericksburg, VA, came up to me Saturday saying he was following me on this web site!  That was awesome, so neat to hear I have visits besides family and friends!  So you guys that come to race, cheer for him too!

PICTURES from 4-29-06

New Motor

Damage 1

Damage 2

 

 

Motor Pulled!

4/23/06

It has been another exhausting week with no racing... another rain out!  This week I changed the chassis setup (increased RF negative camber and changed RR spring) and this weekend I yanked the motor preparing for the new one this week and built this web site.  Another neat picture is what I did with the transmission.  During the off-season, I installed a drive shaft safety hoop and I made great use of it tonight... the tranny sat right on it!

 

April 14, 2006.  Friday night, Hagerstown/ Winchester Shootout

Got to track 20 minutes before practice. Don't ask why. Went to drop Clayton off at daycare today, daycare closed "in service day," knew at 9am it was gonna be a bad day.

work things out with Clayton. start working on car at 2! crammed 8 hours into 4 hours. get there late, won't let me pull pill. A pill is a random draw of where you will start in heat race.  Pills are pulled until you have 2 races, then your start is determined by points position among other things.  So starting 11th in my heat. Track has puddles everyone "pure stock to work in track please" from rain all day in Hagerstown.

Good idea for me, wanted to see how left front (LF) is after wreck 2 weeks ago. Get in from track work in, car felt fine. Try to get car ready for practice. Not enough time. Line up one lap late, wont let me on track for practice after I worked in track for them. BS.

Start 11th in heat. 6 to qualify. Car in front of me all over the place. Scared to pass. She finally pulls over, I cowboy up, but field is gone. Caution free heat race.  I get a couple cars, but run out of time. Musta finished 7th, cause I start 3rd in consi.

Taking 6 out of 12 for consi... never been so nervous in car. fail to qualify, season is over. 10 extra cars from Winchester.

Go green and 1 and 2 start banging each other. why? the top 6 should just stay in line and qualify for race. bang bang. Screw  it. I go three wide under them. up to 2nd. then horse power takes over. shuffled back to 4th, although faster than 3rd, but i am in the show. just used my head and was patient. no rear view mirror. have no idea where 5th or 6th is. greatest white flag I have ever seen. eased her into 1 and 3, finished 4th, in show. starting 22nd. feature starts for late models. rain. rain.

Postpone events... made up next Saturday. 2 races Saturday night, awesome.  50/50 chance my motor will be done on Wednesday.

I kill them guys going into turns, they kill me out. Lotsa good cars tonight. Nothing I can do. beat them into the turns, on the throttle first, but mid straightaway, they are gone. So mad I was gonna bump someone just so he knew I was beating him in and off. who knows, maybe I am down 150 HP. getting beat by horsepower is frustrating.

Brakes were awesome. Clayton and I bled them twice. Rear was awesome.  Rear musta not leaked. Never had such good brakes. All the hard work during the past 2 weeks really paid off.  I cant tell you if she was loose or tight going in, I never pushed it hard enough. couldn't. I couldn't take the chance in looping it. Would have in the feature. felt rear brakes lock up one time. good feeling. bias still felt forward, nice to feel the rear lock.

So she was great going in. but if I carried a good amount of speed thru the turns, she would snap loose on exit. I think right rear (RR) spring was bottoming out... that would cause the "instant" loose condition. Was kinda cool, she would rotate instantly and line me up for the exit, although I would like to carry that speed thru the turns. so learned more about chassis tonight. I am killing them with the chassis, but the motor isn't there.

exhausted. bedtime.

brief update...

Steve ran at Williams Grove Saturday night.  45 cars and he ended up 3rd.  First time at track.  Awesome.  He is pumped for Saturday night at Hagerstown.  Could be a special night for him, and if I get my motor...

Ordered new RR spring.  raising it from 175 lb to 225 lbs.  The 175 lb spring had a spring rubber in it, meaning it stiffened it 25 lbs, but also shortened the distance it could compress, causing the snap loose condition I think..  This spring will slow the right rear rolling and allow for more compression (absence of spring rubber), so hopefully it will solve the problem and I can really roll thru the turns even quicker.  Also order a new wheel.  It is a 12 inch wide wheel, compared to the 11 inch wheels I have now.  They changed the rules and we can run the 12" this year.  That will allow the 15" wide tires to have an extra inch of rubber on the ground.  More contact = more traction = more speed.  The wheel is going on the RF and will help to fix the push condition entering the corners.. 

One of my online racing buddies, Donny Lia, made his first start in ARCA this weekend.  I think nearly 70 cars showed to qualify for the race at Nashville and Donny was 10th fastest in practice and qualified 13th...very, very awesome.  He had a good run going and one of those racing deals happened and there was nothing he could do.  Word is he is testing this week at Pocono... I believe that is his next ARCA race.  Donny sold me his old HANS device and I unfortunately already put it to it's test 2 weeks ago!  But anyways, Donny is fast online and in real life.

Links:

Hagerstown Recap

Points (I am 19th)

Next week:

Anyone who wants to go, it would be a great week to come.  2 races!  Practice is at 7 pm, with my first race starting around 7:30.  I will be starting 22nd out of 24, so it will be exciting.  Good chance to get the $100 hard charger award in that race.  After that, we will re-qualify for the second race.  Thunderbird should see about 50 laps of action Saturday night.  Talked to Steve and we are changing where we are pitting.  Instead of turn 4, we are going to be in turn one for those who will come down to the pits.  I think I will have some spare time before the race on Saturday and I will come up to the grandstand to say hi to everyone and steal some of your beer!

 

Before... After

4/09/06

It has been an exhausting three weeks, but the Thunderbird is ready to rock and roll again.  After the wreck three weeks ago, the T-Bird was fixed enough to race last weekend, but mother nature only allowed us to get qualifying in and the race was postponed until May 6th.

4/2/2006

update

4:30 AM...

LF fender off

fan off

nose off

radiator out

radiator mount off

all hoses off

RF fender is OKAY!

luggage still in back of truck. used to hold down hood on way home.  firing up motor in a couple of minutes. need to see if she will start. LF wheel has something really wrong. inner tie rod not bent, but toe out is about 5". oh no. looks like either spindle or bent outer tie rod. weird. RF wheel looks good. nakked eye camber looks like 5 degree negative, perfect. cant tell caster, I am sure herman could <g> camber caster plates look fine, nothing slid up there. FRAME NOT BENT. Can't believe it. hit I took I thought left and right sides would look like L's. this unibody contiues to amaze me in regards to how it holds up in wrecks. can't wait to see how it does when I barrel and cartwheel crossing S/F line ;-) (kidding Dad) Two hard wrecks now and frame is relatively straight. SOB's better look out next week. and they really better look out when I get my motor. with this motor at hagerstown, this car is 9th or 10th at best. not bad for $400 dollar bottom end/ $1000 bucks total. GREAT spare motor. i finally got out horsepowered tonight.its okay. wait til I have 100 more HORSEPOWER and I am gonna lap the field. no lie, I am down 100 HP. longest day of my LIFE. about 9 hours sleep over the past 72 hours. not too mention 3 hour sleep/ 14 hour day on wednesday, lotta fun in the korean bars with some truly awesome guys. I can't wait till next saturday night.TOO BAD incar wasn't working during wreck. POW!!!!! dead stop.had to climb on 43 door/ roof, cross over to my hood and walk off car. YEEEEEHHHHAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!! I put on a good show for the fans too when I got out of the car. 01 was coming by and I pretended to have a piece of paper and wrote down his number. then his next pass thru, I picked up dirt and threw at him. childish I guess, but SOB is gonna cost me about $400 bucks and lots of sleep.darn, I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hands greased and bleeding right now from ripping apart car. few beers. well, lots of beers.wouldn't want to be any where else right now.

4/1/2006

this is an email I sent to my online racing buddies after returning home from korea and race....

please forward to RAY THOMPSON. also, I didnt run spell check...

 

subject: well I made it....

 

except the HANS got put to use tonight. was running 13th, 10-11-12th decided to go three wide right after we went back to green with 2 laps to go.car that made it three wide on the out outside, came down on the car in middle. ran over his right front. turned him perpendicular on the track. before they spun, I saw the three wide and said heck ya, I am gonna run the highest apex and pass two of them on the back stretch. maybe make it 4 wide. so my entry was way high and I already had the car set and back on the throttle, pointing down to guard rail. as I was bringing it low, the guy that got run over was spinning down low. so I take my car high. his car bites into something and back up the track he goes. I crushed him into his driver side door. he was physically okay. car wasn't. some how my car nose ended up with gear oil on it, think about that! we shook hands. red #43 if there are pics on the website. the 01 caused it. so I T-BONE 43 at about 60 or so mph and instantly the HANS caught my head/ neck. not sore at all right now, although I know it may be different tomorrow, but Donny, it already did its job. For all of you that race BUY ONE. I have found the setup on the car. nearly perfect. practice was amazing, cracked 10 cars.I started outside pole in the heat race. pole driver nailed gas in turn 4 at start. BS. I got shoveled back to about 6th (I HATE the outside) finished 5th, strong. one car length from 3rd and 4th. 6 cars did not qualify, very proud/ happy starting 14th out of 30 in feature. Got up to 11th, licking chops. First night with radio communications. official screams on lap 4 "Caution turn 4, caution turn 4" I back off, 5 cars go around me. yellow never flew. VERY VERY ANGRY. VERY VERY WRONG. will discuss with official next week. should have thrown a caution anyway because of that. so stuck back in 16th. work way up to 13th. my big wreck with 2 to go. men don't say "it's not fair" but after flying 24 hours, this does seem cruel. so the car is pretty bad. nose, front bumper, radiator, fan, etc. hoping A arms/ rack/ frame okay, dunno. 12 am right now, going to work on car. I WILL BE READY for next saturday. Guys, find me a sponsor that will give me about $2,000 -$3000 for the year...and a girlfriend, could use some comforting right now...

SWIGGER

ps. have incar video, but two problems. battery died early, right after mud blocked the camera. although I have 2 laps of video. my angle wasn't as good as I thought. you guys will get a kick out of the mud. looks like brown snow, very bad tonight. beer drinking and saw saw time. 2 pm in the afternoon for me anyway. i can't describe the feeling of racing. I love it. a quote from a dale sr. interview. Question "If you weren't a racecar driver, what would you be?" Dale Sr. "A racecar driver" I didn't understand that a couple of years ago, I do now...

PPS. just as a side, please don't think my journey from Korea caused my bad luck/ wreck. there was a horrible wreck in turn 4 that I missed by millimeters.one of those, 2 cars get together, then 3 more pile in. I was running with the group of three. I missed it.then coming down the front stretch, some yahoo I was passing comes down on me. I anticipated it. we touch. my RF to his LR. donut marks, that is all on his car. this was a deal where he could have flipped. if i didn't anticipate it and we touch harder, he would have been sideways on the straightaway and with the soft mud tonight, he would have been on his roof...