INSIDE 97 RACING- week three “Our first win!”
After Mother Nature forced us to take a week off last week, the entire 97 racing team was chomping at the bit to get back to racing. The week off did some good too as we concentrated on all those little things we’ve been meaning to get to. Plus it let our rookie team continue in the point lead for another week!
Compliments of the technical directors, we had some extra work to do anyway. As with any new car there are always a few things that they don’t like. In our case, we needed to remove the camber plates and the bump steer kit we had installed in the offseason. This was a little disappointing as they were legal for last season, but now, even though it’s not in the rulebook, they are illegal. So, we had no choice but to change them. Even though it created extra work because we had to change the spindles too, we were actually quite happy once we got them changed because the front end was better then ever.
Tech was nice enough to give us an extra week to add in the dashboard and change the window. They really did not like the slope of our window last week, but could not tell us yet what to change it to. Turns out we are about 10 degrees off on our slope. The extra week also gave us a chance to move some things around and get the car scaled so we were exactly 54% left side weight. We felt satisfied that Saturday night was going to be very good. Jeff informed me in the morning that he was planning on winning, and I thought that sounded like a good plan! Then again the best laid plans…
We arrived at the track on Saturday afternoon to find a very green speedway due to all the rain during the week and a hot sun boiling the surface. We were a little unsure about how the car would react because we had also taken out the limited slip rearend and went to an open rearend (rules dictate that). That usually loosens up a car, and in our case we were pretty loose last week. When I set the pressures, I compensated a little, but I figured we’d still be pretty far off. I was wrong.
Jeff hit the track and immediately went around last year’s champion, and blistered off several 18.4’s and 5’s. That is real quick in the sun. I was happy to hear Jeff report that the car was just a tick loose. We decided to leave it where it was because we were the last feature and the car would tighten up as it got colder. The second and third practice were fairly uneventful as we were breaking in three new tires and doing a fuel run so we could calculate mileage for our 100 lap special next week. 24 laps to the gallon in case you are wondering. The one downside to practice was that teammate Chris blew his motor and is likely done for the year, or at least quite awhile. After practice we visited tech and agreed to add 50 lbs. next week in exchange for not having to fix the windshield and a few other things. This was fine by us as we ran that heavy last week with no trouble at all. Just trying to save a little work for now.
Being the point leader, Jeff lined up at the rear of the 14-car field for the 8-lap heat race. That is not a lot of time to get to the top 5 where they award points, but Jeff sure gave it the old college try. Picking his way through, and rubbing a little paint, he fell only a half car length short of picking up a point. More importantly, though, the car was fast!
After a long wait for the wreckfest of a race for the pro-stocks (are they really pros?) We finally rolled out starting like 24th for the feature. Cold tires and some overanxious drivers led to about a 10-car melee in turn one. As a witness it seemed like cars where flying everywhere, but somehow Jeff slipped through it all and came out around 15th. The wreck continued in down the backstretch and into turns three and four and by the completion of the first lap, he was already in the top 10. Amazingly, everyone got it re started and there was no caution.
Jeff began his all out March to the front and blasted by the next 7 guys on the outside over the next 6 laps. On lap seven he caught the two leaders who were racing side by side and simply pulled to the third groove and swept by them both. The third groove at OPS is not an easy place to be, but years of outlaw driving have made it second nature for Jeff. From the stands it looked like one of those video games set on the easy level!
Once in the lead, Jeff only had to survive a lap 13 caution and stretched his lead to over a straight-away over the final seven laps for our first victory of the year! This is a real boost as we are now solidly leading the points with a 1st a 2nd and a 7th place finish in the three races this year. It is still early, but we can’t help but think championship as the car has been real fast and more importantly, Jeff is showing he will drive harder then anyone on the track! Next Week is our annual 100 lapper and we hope to have something for them!