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Author Topic: 2020 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America!  (Read 1548 times)
Rich Grunenwald
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« on: October 01, 2020, 08:45:16 PM »

Not a reader?  Skip the manifesto below and check out the in car video from my race:

https://youtu.be/_nIPzNVUXhE

Or, check out the video of the race from SCCA. Action starts around 13:30.

https://www.scca.com/videos/2039602

RA Track Maps: https://www.roadamerica.com/maps



After the OVR Sprints at MidOhio on Labor Day weekend, I immediately tore into the car to get ready for the Runoffs.  Schedule was a bit tight - busy with work and only 3 weekends to fix a cooling system leak, change all the fluids, go through all the systems, etc. Change the oil, repair a broken rear door latch on the Excursion, and go over the trailer. Oh, and maybe watch some videos and read about how to get around Road America.  

The cooling system issue was a bear to find.  While the core problem was a failing water pump, a secondary, minor leak remained.  Long story to find it, but I eventually bought a cooling system pressure tester and discovered that the thermostat housing (plastic) was starting to fail under high pressure. Where the two pieces were molded together, a fatigue crack was developing. Sheesh!  

Given RA is in the middle of nowhere and we don't know where things are, we are packing more spares than we ever have. I even mapped out all the Ford dealers, part stores, and salvage yards with S197 V6 Manual Mustangs.  As an aside, it's amazing how much I fit in the Mustang - I think it's sitting at least 1/2 lower than normal!  

We should arrive at the track early afternoon Saturday and get setup.  Sunday is to get race gas and tires mounted.  Monday is a test day, and qualifying is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday first thing in the morning.  Watch races on Friday and Saturday, and race first thing Sunday the 11th.  All race days kick off at 8:00 am central / 9:00 am eastern.  

Live streaming of the races and audio coverage of qualifying at www.scca.com/live.  

Runoffs schedule and other information at www.scca.com/runoffs.

Apologies in advance for any folks I miss in the following lists!

OVR and nearby folks who are dedicating a week or more of their time and energy as workers that make the event happen:

Robert "Bob" Griffith Sr.
Bob Antoine
Dave Rupp
Sue Rupp
EB Lunken
Matias Bonnier
Dave Jones

OVR drivers and others from around central Ohio that are racing:  

Philip Smith, 1991 Chevrolet Camaro, New Albany, OH - American Sedan
Ray Mason, 2005 Mazda FE, Blacklick, OH - Formula Enterprises
Scott Rettich, 2010 Mazda Formula Enterprises, Columbus, OH - Formula Enterprises 2
Mason Workman, Mazda Miata, Canal Winchester, OH - F Production
Kevin Ruck, 1990 Acura Integra, Marysville, OH - F Production
Jamie Blust, 1961 Austin Healey Bug Eye Sprite, Johnstown, OH - GT Lite
Greg Miller, 1990 Ford SRF 3, Lancaster, OH - SRF3
Scott Rettich, SCCA Enterprises SRF3, Columbus, OH - SRF3
Tora Bonnier, 1985 SCCA Enterprises SRF3, New Albany, OH - SRF3
Rich Grunenwald, 2006 Ford Mustang, Hilliard, OH - Touring 4

We are pretty much packed and ready to go!  Our paddock spot is S-8, near Turn 1.  Princess Stella will be with us - stop by if you are there!
« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 11:12:38 AM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2020, 11:33:01 AM »

Best of luck! I hope it is a great time!
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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2020, 06:35:48 PM »

Thanks Simi!
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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2020, 10:23:01 PM »

October 2 & 3, 2020

Had an easy drive as we split it over two days.  On Friday, we drove to and stayed in Schererville IN, and then drove the rest of the way on Saturday.  Unfortunately, the I-Pass I ordered did not come in so the drive around Chicago on 294 took longer than planned.  Traffic was not bad at all, and the roads, while a bit rough at times, were MUCH better than I remember in 1993 or so!

By the time we got to Wisconsin, we started to get rain, and arriving at the track was a steady light rain. You could tell it had been raining all day there as puddles were heavy.  Registration was a breeze, and we were pleasantly escorted to our paddock inside Turn 1, near fellow T4 competitor Richard Dickey (RX8) and around the corner from the Hoosier truck.  Got a couple hits of purple crack, and headed to the hotel, a Days Inn in Sheboygan Falls.
 
Days Inn are at the bottom of the food chain for hotels, and this one lived up to its reputation.  The room was OK but the heater / AC unit had a noisy fan, and we were by the side exit door where smokers and partiers hang out.  Ugh.   We requested a move to another room.

October 4, 2020

Slept in a bit and got to the track around 10:30a.  Sunday was sunny and pleasant but still a bit cool – mid 40’s. Still a hell of a lot better than 40’s and rain.  

Got our paddock space a bit more organized and was going to head to express tech (logbooks only!) and the Razz-manian Devil (ie, our Yamaha Razz scooter decided it was time for a carb cleaning.  An hour or so later, got it together.  Tech was a breeze, and spent some time at vendor tents and got a new cable for the radio headset.  Tooled around to watch at different corners including the kink, and Canada Corner.

I have to say, as a facility, I am really impressed.  Tons of stands and vantage points for people to spectate.  Virtually all the paddock and facility roads are paved with multiple bridges to get from inside to outside of track.  Park like setting.  Clean, modern buildings.

Highlight of the day for me was the track walk.  We were allowed to use our pit vehicles so the Razz-manian Devil got a tour of the track.  For me, my first time around.  Initial impressions – fast, curbing is all rumple strips, pay attention to your apexes to maximize your straights.   To me it looks like a classic “overdrive a corner and you pay dearly” type of track.   A lot of roughly 90 degree corners with some significant elevation changes.

Busy day tomorrow.  Monday is test day with sessions around 10:30a, 2:15p, and 5:00p.  Then, prep car for Q1 at 8:00 am on Tuesday.  Weather promises to be warmer in the low 60’s and sunny.  Can’t wait to get out on track.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:26:19 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2020, 09:18:40 AM »

Road America is truly amazing.
They are a shareholder owned track and you can see they invest right back into the facility
they call themselves the "national park of speed" and it truly lives up to it's name!

I would LOVE if Mid Ohio invested even 10% of what RA does back into the track (this year is probably not a great year to say such things, but you know what I mean).
Spend some time walking around Elk Hart lake too when you get a free minute! We didn't get as much time there as I would have liked.. but we will be back! We went last year for IMSA for the first time and it was really great.
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« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2020, 10:45:20 PM »

October 5, 2020

Got to the track around 8:30 am this morning, and was welcomed by a crisp, beautiful, sunny morning.  About 45 degrees but just beautiful.  

They were running a no-schedule schedule for the test day and we were group 7, so we estimated on track around 10:30 am.  Went over the car, got buckled up and headed to grid a little early.  On track on time and just focused on finding and hitting marks, and not getting in the way of faster T2 and T3 cars.   This track is fast – lots of straights and braking areas.    

Lap 2, approaching the kink (Turn 11) in 4th gear, and eased off so I could find my way – it’s a very fast right hand kink, blind on the approach, with walls on each side of the track.  You don’t want to go off here, so learning the track I was pretty cautious.  When I eased off at the entry and got back on the gas to exit, the car was in neutral.  Odd.  Maybe I didn’t have it in 4th fully?  I had just installed a pimpy new short shifter to take care of the 2 – 3 shift problem and the feel was different, so maybe it was me.

Lap 3, approaching the kink, a little quicker, again popped out of 4th.  This time I knew it wasn’t me.   The rest of the session, I held it in 4th going through the kink, steering with one hand.  Probably not advisable, and certainly not the best way to learn!
 
The other issue was that on hard lefts (5, 6, and 8 ) I could not see the inside of the turn for beans.  There is about 15 inches of stuff  blocking the view from where I sit when looking hard left with the right side loaded. The mirror on the  car alone is 8 or so inches, and then you have the A pillar and roll bar down tube.  Apex?  What apex?  

However, made it through the session with all the wheels on the car and no offs so back at the paddock started looking at things.  Added a cushion on the drivers seat to raise me up, and then adjusted the linkage a bit.  I was thinking that my pimpy, nicely machined, hard bushing shifter and linkage was doing its job, but the rest of the drivetrain was doing the “rubber bushing boogie”, popping it out of gear letting off throttle at high RPM.

(I know, some of you are saying “You don’t need to lift at the kink if you do it right.”  Probably correct but I am not there yet.)

The second practice session turned out to be more of the same.  The higher cushion helped some but not enough, and the shifter was still popping out of 4th.  Thoughts of looming transmission issues were going through my head.  Still, focused on improving on various turns and braking zones.  

Back at the paddock, made the decision to swap the old stock shifter back in.  My logic was that the stock linkage had enough slop in it to tolerate the rubber motor mounts and trans mount.  After a couple hours under the car, got it installed, and had 15 minutes to relax before the final session.   Also, added another cushion to the seat to raise me up another inch.  Since the car was up on jacks, also decided to put on a set of Hoosier R7 stickers.

We hit the track around 5:30 pm with the sun getting low in the sky. The run from turn 1 to 3 is downhill,  with the sun right in your eyes, blinding you at a most inopportune time – when you brake for 3.  It took a couple laps for me to decide – just brake early.  The carousel (Turn 9 – 10) was similar in that you got about half way through it and the sun blinded you for a couple seconds – thankfully the turn is steady state most of the way so the glare was more of an inconvenience.

The first couple laps were cautious.  Between the glare, getting the tires scuffed a little, discovering I could actually see the apexes at 5, 6, and 8, and NOT having to hold the shifter at the kink, I just wanted to keep it between the green.  Eventually worked into a bit of a rhythm.  Did some turns and brake zones OK, screwed up others.  I was not able  to put together a decent lap but happy to come off in one piece without any car problems.  

It was also a good day for getting caught up with a few folks.  Larry McLeod (announcing all week) stopped  by to say hello, and OVR members Bob Antoine (pace car), Bob Griffith (Turn 11a station), and Dave and Sue Rupp (paddock marshals) all came by.    Stopped for dinner at a place in Plymouth on the way back to the hotel.  

I am beat. Ready for a beer and sleep.   First qualifying session is at 8:20 am or so, so we will be up early and at the track by 7.   Looking forward to an uneventful day, just focused on driving.  Oh, and a Brat Egger from the Gearbox.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:23:07 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2020, 10:16:04 PM »

October 6, 2020 – Qualifying Session 1

Woke up to another beautiful Wisconsin day.  Sunny, light breeze.  Got to the track a little past 7:00 am to get ready for our 8:25 am qualifying session.  We had prepped most everything Sunday evening, so it was pretty straightforward.  
Headed to grid around 8:15 am and was gridded 4th or 5th.  I assume they gridded us according to when we registered.    No matter – the car was ready and I was about as ready as I was going to be.  Goals for the session were to improve in the downhill braking zones and get through the kink faster.  

Took to the track and got up to speed.  Really struggled with braking points on the aforementioned corners.  Did get quicker through the kink though not flat yet.    The car was without issues, and I slowly improved.  Picked up about 2 seconds over the Monday test times.

Back at the paddock, Kathy headed off to pick up breakfast – one of the famous “Brat Egger’s”.  Basically, a grilled brat split open with cheese and fried egg on some sort of tasty fresh bun.  And, a cup of Joe.  Yum.  

Prep for Wednesday’s second qualifying session was easy – gas up the car, check the fluids and brakes, nut and bolt, and that was about it.    We spent the rest of the day spectating from turns 7, 8, 11, 5, and 14.  Then, a couple hours getting caught up with pace car driver and friend Bob Antoine.

I am 14 / 17 in class right now, and think I should be up around 10th.  All three Mustangs are qualified together – 13th, 14th, and 15th.  Still, there is lots of time to be had out there.  Given there are so many straights and very few rhythm sections, under / over driving a corner costs a lot.  I can see why folks say it takes a few trips here to start to get fast.  
Tomorrow’s session starts around 9:00 am and we are mixed in with T3.  For me, that doesn’t matter much – they will grid us according to today’s times and I will be towards the back.  One advantage of a long track and short sessions is that the fast drivers won’t lap me!  So, I am expecting reasonably clear track for qualifying.  Short of somebody running into me or spinning in front of me, I should have a good session.  

Off to slumberland.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:23:27 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2020, 07:41:05 AM »

Quick update:  Q2 session was one hot lap.  After the out lap, a T3 Nissan 350Z crashed hard after exit at turn 6, bringing out the black flag all.  We sat in the pits for 15 minutes, and they let us out with 4 minutes remaining.  Got 1 hot lap, improving time slightly.   

Talked to former car owner Greg Vandersluis for about 45 min Saturday afternoon for tips. Basicallly need to us ALL of the track - inside curbs, outside curbs. 

Hope for a full session today.
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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2020, 09:13:11 AM »

oof that sucks for the nissan and missed track time, hope today is great!
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Rich Grunenwald
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2020, 10:38:27 PM »

October 7 and 8, Qualifying Sessions 2 and 3

As mentioned above Q2 was a bit of a waste.  Got to the track around 7:45 am, and the car was ready.  Our go-time was about 9:00 am and we were combined with T3 for this session.  Plans were to brake sooner on 5,6, and 8, to focus on exit speed, and work up to going through the kink flat.

Hit the track and out lap was without drama.  First hot lap approaching Turn 5 with a yellow.  Top of the hill at 6 a waving yellow for a T3 Nisson 350Z (370Z?) that hit the wall left of track past the exit of 6.  Just past the  kink, station 11a had a black flag as did all the following stations to 13 which showed black flag all.  We all pulled into pit lane.

Apparently, the Nissan hit very hard - the ambulance was sent out, along with the rollback, and the crew to fix the barrier.  We sat in pit lane for the next 12 - 15 minutes, and were released with 4 minutes left in the session.  Out lap and one flier.  

There were T3 cars around and I figured they would blow by me but I was wrong.  My one hot lap was fair - caught in some traffic with various mistakes.  I drove off track at 8 (more of that to come) but still managed to lower my time a few tenths.

 
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:23:46 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2020, 10:50:29 PM »

Good luck Rich!  I enjoyed the read, thanks for sharing. Now the waiting game until Sunday!

O
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Rich Grunenwald
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« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2020, 08:52:29 AM »

Catching up from the past two days while Kathy sleeps.

October 7, Qualifying Session 2


As mentioned above Q2 was a bit of a waste.  Got to the track around 7:45 am, and the car was ready.  Our go-time was about 9:00 am and we were combined with T3 for this session.  Plans were to brake sooner on 5,6, and 8, to focus on exit speed, judiciously use the rumbles at corner exit, and work up to going through the kink flat.

Hit the track and out lap was without drama.  First hot lap approaching Turn 5 with a yellow.  Top of the hill at 6 a waving yellow for a T3 Nisson 350Z (370Z?) that hit the wall left of track past the exit of 6.  Just past the  kink, station 11a had a black flag as did all the following stations to 13 which showed black flag all.  We all pulled into pit lane.

Apparently, the Nissan hit very hard - the ambulance was sent out, along with the rollback, and the crew to fix the barrier.  We sat in pit lane for the next 12 - 15 minutes, and were released with 4 minutes left in the session.  Out lap and one flier.  

There were T3 cars around and I figured they would blow by me but I was wrong.  My one hot lap was fair - caught in some traffic with various mistakes.  I drove off track at 8 (more of that to come) but still managed to lower my time a few tenths.

It was frustrating in that I needed the practice to see if what I was thinking would work but it was not to be.  After getting the car ready for Qualifying 3, I had a call with Greg Vandersluis who podiumed with the car her on 2013.   We discussed my thoughts and strategy, and he stepped me through a fast lap.  Short story – he confirmed a lot of what I was thinking and then some.  Now I just had to execute.

Spent the rest of the afternoon watching other classes from 5, 7, 11, etc.   Looking forward to Q3 tomorrow.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:24:02 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2020, 09:31:32 AM »

October 8, Qualifying Session 3

Another beautiful day at Road America.  We got to the track around 7:00 am as we were first group out at 8:00 am.   Got the car ready and headed to grid.

The goal today was, following Greg’s advice, to make better use of the whole track and improve both around the carousel and through the kink.  One of the things I realized was that going around the carousel, I was never at risk of losing it.  I need to get closer to that limit.

The big thing this session was to make use of the inside and exit curbing in an appropriate manner.  Hit the track at 8:00 am and after the out lap, started working it.  Started getting up to speed, and by lap 4 had dropped a couple seconds from yesterday.  A couple solid laps in 4 and 5, and then my improvement let me to go off two laps in a row at 8.   I was going  through 7 much faster – no lifting but did not adjust my braking in the downhill section to 8, and was still turning the wheel when I got to the rumbles at the exit.  

Gathered it up and settled down on lap 6 of qualifying, and then started working again.  For lap 8, the final in the session, did a number of things better and dropped to a 2:46.1, an improvement of 2.5 seconds from yesterday.  Still, none of the laps were what I would call solid.  Coming out of the shadowy trees of Canada Corner towards 13, the rising sun blinded me in the latter half of the session.  I was raising my head as best I could to see the right side of the track entering 13, and then the inside for the apex.  Messed that up most of the session.  Plus, was doing 1 inconsistently, as well as 5 and 6.  

There should be at least a couple seconds out there for me, and I can see with more track time way  more than that.  In a sense, Road America is several drag strips connected by turns so your execution in of turns (1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12, 14) and your exit is so critical. Then, if you can get these right, your braking upon entry can be refined.  The kink (11), while intimidating, is one of those that once you go trough it at full song, you realize it’s not that big of a deal. I can see why track time here is such a benefit.

Pulled into the pits for hot pressures with Kathy, and by chance, the tire guy from Phoenix Racing was there and offered to do temps and pressures. He’s been stopping by our paddock two or three times a day to see Stella.  Back at the paddock, he stopped by with his notes and we talked about a few adjustments and he shared their tire settings for their T3 Mustangs and Heinrecy’s pole winning FRS which was revealing.  What they are doing doesn’t make sense but works, so food for thought.   Of course, they discard / sell their tires after 3 heat cycles also – he admitted their tire budget is a fortune.

Got changed and for the next few hours prepped the car for the race.  Basically, go over everything, fresh Carbotech’s, and figure out the fuel load.  Given how the week evolved, I didn’t get accurate fuel usage numbers, so I figured a bit conservative and will start with just under 14 gallons for the 52 mile (plus 4 miles pace lap) race.  The car starves at low fuel levels, and the above should leave me with at least 4 gallons in the tank which is plenty. Did a nut and bolt, secured a few wires that were a bit loose, etc. Also taped the upper windshield to avoid that glare coming out of Canada Corner!

We finished prep and spent the some time watching E Prod / GTL from Turn 3, and Spec Miata from Turn 5.  Spec Miata will be a good race with 80 cars and lots of tight racing – tune in at 2 pm easter on www.scca.com/live.  Had a very nice dinner at the Lake Front Café in Elkhart Lake with OVR member and Pace Car Driver Bob Antoine, and got  to bed early.
Spectating on tomorrow and Saturday!
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:24:24 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2020, 09:48:46 PM »

October 9, 10, and 11 - Short Version

Goofed off Friday and Saturday. Watched various races from various places, paying attention to the lines of the  leaders.  Nice dinner Saturday night in Kohler.  

Race day was overcast and cool - high 40's in the morning.  Had a good start, avoided the Turn 3 melee', had a great race with Paolo Salvatore in his Mustang.  Improved another 2 seconds in lap time. Finished just behind Paolo. Had shifter issues - different ones.

Exhausted.  Full report over the next couple days.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2020, 10:55:57 AM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2020, 10:16:10 AM »

October 9, 2020 – Race Day 1!

After being busy all week, we decided to sleep in for Friday.  The morning race I was most interested in was T3, so we didn’t get to the track until about 9:30 am.  Another beautiful day – I can’t believe how blessed we were with the weather.  I made arrangements with one of my old boss’s to have him come up from Milwaukee.  

One of the joys of this sport is travelling and getting to connect with old friends and colleagues. I had not seen Pat in over 8 years.  We all watched the GT3 race from Turn 5 and it was the typical affair with the field spread out, cars breaking, and only 3 cars finishing on the lead lap.  

The two big races for the day were in the afternoon – Spec Miata and FP, with FP featuring OVR drivers Kevin Ruck (Integra) and Mason Workman (Miata).   Spec Piniata…er, Spec Miata…is always a great race and 77 drivers took the green at 1:00 pm.   Great racing through the field with the NA Miata (1.8L) of Konrad Czaczyk taking second.  Was cool to see one of the early cars up front, showing prep and talent can get it done with one of these.

The next race we watched was the FP race, rooting for Kevin and Mason.  Kevin qualified outside pole, and Mason was 7th on the grid.  The pole was won, by all things, a Lotus 7.  Who’d have thought on a high speed track that a car with this big air catchers over the front wheels would be the fastest?  

Kevin got a great start, and picked up the lead on the first lap, and started pulling away from the field.  Mason dropped a spot on Lap 1, but more than made it up on Lap 2 moving up to 5.  Kevin was easily the class of the field until Lap 11, when coming out of 8 – KA-BOOM!  We bumped in to Kevin and Carrie at a taproom (no surprise there) that night, and he shared that the engine was pulling hard right up until the number 3 rod went through the block. Ugh.

Mason, in the meantime, was running well, racing hard for 4th and getting ahead, moving up to the podium when Kevin dropped out.  Congratulations to Mason!  He looked great throughout the race from our vantage at 5, and drove a clean hard race.

The rest of the day was spent watching from various turns.  I was thinking about my race and where I might pick up time, based on Greg’s coaching.  Areas I knew for certain were 7, the Canada Corner to 13 section, and improving the exit of 14 and 3.  I was also thinking about the carousel wondering if I could go faster there.  

Friday night, we headed in to Elkart Lake for a beer at Siebkens, and in search of a classic Wisconsin Fish Fry.  Siebkens Resort is classic old time resort, and the tavern is a classic racer’s tavern.  There were decals and swag from all types of events held at Road America during the past 50 or so years.  Dave Jones told me there was an old OVR decal somewhere, but we couldn’t find it.  Left there, and ended up at a little sports bar / restaurant for dinner.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:24:41 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2020, 10:56:43 AM »

October 10, 2020 – Race Day 2!

Plan was to get up and  get to the track at 8a for the first race, American Sedan.  A-Sedan is always entertaining – big powerful cars that are under-tired.   However, I got up and just didn’t feel like moving so we didn’t get to the track until 9:30 am or so.  

On the way in, ran into the former owner of my car Greg Vandersluis.  Greg took the car to the podium here in 2013, and knows his way around this place. He was hanging out at Andy McDermid’s paddock. Andy is a perennial favorite in A Sedan and jumped out to an early lead, but crashed on lap 9 ending his day.   Greg and I talked about a few things, then we headed out to watch some races at various vantage points.

We found a great spot at the top of the hill above 5, between 6 and 13.  There’s a party pavilion there, and you can see both 5 and the 13 -14 section, and up the hill towards start / finish.  We watched B-Spec, which had a strong field of 23 or so cars.  B-Spec is a class enjoying good growth as the cars are cheap and cheap to run, and there is good parity between the different models.  

One of the big news items was that B-Spec is going to a spec tire for 2021, the Hankook Z214.   Basically, the tires will be the 205/50-15’s and any TW200 tire can be used for rains.  Plus a solid contingency program.  Looks like a great entry level option for anyone looking to get into road racing while still paying the rent – one race shop was advertising an arrive and drive program for 2021 for $7,500 which includes the Runoffs at Indy.  

In any case, B-Spec was a great race.  The top 4 was in a pack led by favorite Dave Daughety (Mini) but Dave made a small mistake and dropped back to 4th.  He got back up to 2nd and was pursuing the lead but another mistake moved him back to 4th with a lap or two to go.  The winning car was a Honda Fit followed by a couple of Chevy Sonic’s.  

We were casual spectators the rest of the day watching from various vantage points, similar to Friday.  It was nice to see Paul Azan win STU in his BMW – Paul paddocked next to us at Indy a few years ago, and is a super nice guy.   Back at our paddock, met up with Greg for some more coaching and discussion, and final once over to make sure we were ready for our race, 8:00 am Sunday.   A nice dinner at a place in Kohler that had a dynamite flash friend Korean BBQ cauliflower appetizer.  Sounds strange but it was really good, and I don’t care for cauliflower that much.

Ready and looking forward to the race tomorrow.  Didn't sleep all that well, waking up multiple times with thoughts going through my head.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:24:57 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2020, 07:21:23 PM »

Sunday, October 11, 2020 – RACE DAY!!

RA Track Maps: https://www.roadamerica.com/maps

Sleep was good during the night, except for the parts where I woke up and started thinking about the race.  Fortunately, I have a super-power that when I want to fall asleep, I can fall asleep rapidly. In a brilliant move, I got my drivers suit and such on at the hotel before leaving for the track. Yes, I was “that guy” walking around in my less than fancy $220 drivers suit.  But, it saved me time in changing in the back of the Excursion in the cold!

Sunday was a cooler day.  Got to the track around 6:45 am as it was starting to become light outside, and it was maybe high 40’s and overcast.  No rain was anticipated but it was going to be on the cool side for the race at 8:15 am.  The temp slowly warmed and I’d guess it was 54 or so at race time.  We uncovered the car, and Kathy went through her checklist – she is getting really good at it.  A few folks stopped by to wish us luck and I headed to grid just after the second call at 8:00 am.

I was gridded 17th, inside row 9, with Matt Miller (yellow Mustang) next to me, Paolo Salvatore (gray Mustang) in front of me, and Ralph Porter (red Z4) outside row in front of me.  The game plan for me was to keep on the inside, maybe get a jump at the start to get ahead of Paolo and Ralph, and stay out of any lap 1 excitement.  

Kathy made sure I was buckled in, radio and camera on, and was ready to go, and headed to the pit wall as we were released on the pace lap.  We were all working to warm up tires on a cool morning, and I was hoping the road hugging weight of the Mustang would help put temp in the tires quickly.   We all started to line up out of Canada Corner, and there was a bit of accordion action as we went up the hill towards start finish.  The pack slowed and I dropped in to second gear.

“Green, Green, Green” came over the radio and I pulled in on Paolo…right until the missed 2-3  shift (0:30 on the video). ARRGH! Matt (yellow Mustang) had a decent start and I thought for sure he would pull to the inside in front of me and I was able to catch Paolo at 1. I kept to the inside headed down the hill to 3, when all hell broke loose in front (1:05), with a couple Miata’s coming together, a BRZ spinning, and me almost getting intimate with the rear of Paolo’s car.  Things cleared and I got a jump around Paolo to head down to 5. I inadvertently cut Matt off in the process, or, in his words “you ran me off the road!” for which I apologized later.  

At this point, I had picked up 5 spots but due to my tentative nature and general lack of confidence at various places, ended up passed again by Paolo which would become a pattern throughout the race. Upon recommendation of the Phoenix Racing tire engineer, Rob Edwards, I changed pressures for the race, but he cautioned “be careful on the first lap.”  So I was perhaps a bit too careful!

From there, I started the chase with Paolo.  Caught him again going into 5 (4:20) but couldn’t make the pass.  He’d pull me in a couple places then I would pull him.  The first of many 4-3 downshift issues happened  at 8 (4:50) and he would gap me.  But I have to say, my car has a strong motor and I would close into him.  The BRZ that spun lap 1 got around me going into the kink as did one of the Miata’s.   That helped me close in again on Paolo as they caught him (7:10).

From there it was about driving better, closing in, etc.  I still was slow at the kink – not using the outside curbing at entrance – and felt slow in 1.  I struggled with the right speed through 5 and 8.  But, was improving over qual sessions elsewhere.  

It took several more laps to start to close in on Paolo.  I was definitely quicker from Canada Corner through 14 (13:59 – 14:22) , but he was quicker in 1 and the kink and generally more consistent elsewhere.

Everywhere else we were more or less the same depending on execution. Finally got into his mirrors on lap 6 or so (15:20) and attempted the pass into 5, but was too tentative.  All over him from 5 to 8 with a missed  4-3 (16:08) but he went deep at 8 and it didn’t hurt too bad.  Really started racing from there. Almost had him at 1 next lap, and it was like the proverbial rubber band between us for most of the rest of the race.  I’d like to think I was improving my driving to close in on him but watching the video I see where he was starting to make mistakes.

Now, Kathy was supposed to be telling me what lap I was on via the radio but in the excitement, she forgot to do so until lap 8 or so, and so I was flying blind a bit.  I had no idea of it was lap 6 or lap 10. Closed in on him going into 1, but then almost shifted from 3 to 2 instead of 3 to 4 (20:30)!   Paolo pulled away but did me a favor by running of at the exit of 8 (21:31) and I passed him in the carousel.  Again my shyness in the kink cost me as caught me going into Canada Corner.  (22:28) but didn’t get around.  

I thought “Damn! We have to be getting close to the end” and then the 4-3 downshift failed again (23:04) going into 1 and he closed in.  Went too deep at 5 (23:50) and was slow out of 6.  He was pretty damn close though frankly I was trying to keep it between the curbing at this point and not watch the mirrors.  Paolo got me under braking into Canada Corner (25:05) and the chase restarted.

Paolo was starting to have problems sliding, most notably at 8, but was a bit more consistent than me elsewhere and I struggled pulling in.  I had one more chance at him  as I picked up a bunch on Lap 11 or so when he was slow out of 14 (31:00).  Another missed 4-3 downshift into 5 (32:13), a trip through the grass outside of 8 (32:39), but a good run out of the carousel and out of Canada Corner (33:17) put me closer and then he went deep again at 8 so I could pull in at the Carousel.  Did the kink the best I had all day (35:48) and just about had him at Canada Corner.

But, “just about” is not enough and he finished about 3 car lengths ahead at the checker.  A great, fun race.  15th / 19, two up from where I started.

Rolled around on the cool down, and made it back to our paddock.  Wow. What a race. Would have liked to be the fastest Mustang, but it was not to be today. The transmission was howling like a dog at the moon when I got to paddock as if to say “Hey, I need some attention in here!” – looks like a rebuild is in order. Still, in spite of the shifting issues, the car was there, but I just wasn’t quite up to the task.
  
At the paddock, lots of smiles and stories.  Caught my breath, got some food and drink, and decompressed.  After 45 minutes or so, started packing up for the drive home, and stuck around to watch the STL race, with Greg Maloy in the field.  Greg had a great race, coming home with a bronze in his CRX.  

Finished packing, and hit the road around 2:00.  Stayed overnight again in Schererville IN and then stopped at Sweetwater Music in Ft. Wayne to check it out - Bob Griffith stopped with us.  If you haven’t spent all your money on race cars, it’s a good place to exhaust what remains.  Got home late afternoon on Monday the 12th, unpacked, and relaxed.

Lots to think about.

« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 01:25:21 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

I have two big heavy 'Murican race cars. Must be an old guy thing.
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« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2020, 08:44:34 PM »

Great write up Rich. Nice job overall.
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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2020, 10:28:47 PM »

EPILOGUE

It’s been an unusual year for all of us, and that’s probably an understatement.  The racing season was compressed and there’s been tons of things to divert our attention.  

At first, I had no plans to go to Road America for the Runoffs.  It’s a lot of time away and it’s a bit pricey.  Plus, I knew it was unlikely I was a threat for the podium!  But let’s face it – we are all tired of staying at home and some normalcy is needed.  Plus, as Kathy put it, “You’ve always wanted to go there, and you aren’t getting any younger…”

Well, since you put it that way…

Actually, she didn’t need to twist my arm that much, and I am glad we went.  It was great to see folks and forget about life as we’ve been living it. We really had a great time.  The track is truly a first class facility, and the locals were really nice.

As far as how I did, I am reasonably OK with it.  The track was much harder to learn than I ever anticipated.  I’ve watched my race video at least four times, making notes of what I did and where I can go faster. Little habits I developed elsewhere really showed through here limiting my success.

Granted, the Mustang is at a disadvantage in this class – we are the heaviest car by 300+ lbs, and gearing does not favor us – but driven well, I think I could have been a 2 – 3 seconds a lap faster which would have put me up in 9th or so.    

We’ve already made plans to return in 2021 for the June Sprints, and started the list of improvements for next year.  All three of us in Mustangs at the Runoffs are writing letters for additional allowances for the car to help its competitiveness.  The transmission definitely needs gone through as it was howling like a dog at the end of the race, and I need to figure out the shifter issue.  

Of course, many thanks to friends and family that have helped throughout the year!

  • The Northend Wrench and Dave Wenger for his help in making sure my car stays together!
  • Greg Vandersluis for driving tips and encouragement.
  • Brian and Neva Hoover, and the folks at Autobody Specialists for repairing the car better than it was after the 2019 crash
  • Stella for being a great dog
  • And of course, Kathy Grunenwald for being my foundation throughout this adventure!  She yields a pretty mean torque wrench also!

Looking forward to being back in 2021!
« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 12:45:43 PM by Rich Grunenwald » Logged

I have two big heavy 'Murican race cars. Must be an old guy thing.
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