The weather was a first in memory of February Talladegas, 62 degrees and
only a constant breeze. It eventually became a constant "wind burning" wind,
but remained comfortable through the awards ceremony. Either way it was
warm in leathers for all racers. Just like a summer race day, many changed
into shorts and a t-shirt between races and practice sessions.
The first practice session, the CB350 was spitting and sputtering a bit.
After the session, I investigated all parts of the motorcycle. I found one
of my crimp connectors had a bad crimp. Re-crimped all connectors and took
it out for the second practice session.
The spit was gone, but the sputter remained. Upon completion of the second
practice, I remembered that during the Grand National Finals, I had
intentionally mismatched the jets. (In retrospect, I believe I was making up
for the bad crimp mentioned above.) One of the plugs was seriously lean. The
other plug was burning slightly rich, but acceptably so. I bumped the 115
secondary main jets to 120.
Since the GNF (Grand nationa Finals) 2008, I switched the 2 into 1 exhaust a Mac 2 into 2. Now, with the
newly crimped connectors, it seems that a balanced set of main jets was in
order. I switched back to a matched set of 115 jets and proceeded to the
starting line for the first race. During the warm up lap, I was pleased to
feel the power come back to maximum, for the loaner motor that I had been
riding since the race motor blew 15 months before.
WERA Race 1, GP500, Talladega, Alabama 9 February, 2008.
As we slowed to our grid positions Chuck, the grid master, was watching his
wrist watch. Shortly after I creped into place, Chuck began to stare us
down. It was our cue to put the transmissions in to first gear and go rigid.
No movement allowed, except for throttle twisting keeping the motors revved
The grid master’s assistant flipped the number 3 to number 2, and then
rotated the number 2 by ninety degrees. And sequentially, Chuck had ripped
the green flag into the air and we were off.
Starting from the outside of 3 positions in the first row, I was poised to
go from outside, through the apex and back to the outside of turn one. A
decent start with minimal slippage, I had a decent start. 60 yards later,
just 30 yards from the apex of turn one, Mike Mathews flew past me on the
outside, dropped his left knee and dipped into turn one. He was part of the
V2 class that started behind the GP500 race class. But, since most of the
GP500 class were comprised of CB350s in their "bump up" class, they were
seriously mismatched for the wave of bikes that were about to overtake them.
Before I got to turn two, 300 yards into the race, I had been passed by
Mike, Russell Baggett, Scott McCain, and Bob Wilson. Charlie Young would
pass me before the first lap was over, but barely. I had a race. Charlie
and I had many races in the past. Closely matched, Charlie and I have
similarly matched motorcycles and skill levels. As my nemesis, Charlie has
taken many of my first place trophies away and brought out the best in my
One time, he even followed me in a crash where I was knocked out for a few
seconds. I recall that upon my regaining consciousness, Charlie said I was
flying. I went into a fish tail wobble and slid into the sand on a very hot
day in Jennings Florida. When I awoke, I was totally aware of the heat and
all the clothing I was wearing. I immediately stood to shed my leathers and
helmet and then immediately fell on my face. Luckily, my helmet was still
fully attached to my head. That was one very cool ambulance ride back to my
pit area. The air conditioning worked great.
By the second lap, I had passed Charlie and he was hot on my tail. Barely
able to stay ahead of Charlie, I went into the S turns before the
start-finish line a little hot. While breaking before the Ss, my rear wheel
started fishtailing, just like Jennings. The tire caught its grip in seconds
and I was back on track. Only problem was that my rear tire doesn’t have
that type of grip. Something was wrong. I eased a little as I crossed the
start finish line and looked at the left side of my motor.
It happened again. Just like it did in 2007 at Nashville Superspeedway, the
clutch pushrod seal popped out. This caused oil to spray on the chain and
rear wheel. That’s why my bike fishtailed. By the time I got half way around
the track, I had been flagged and I cut off for the infield at the same
point I left the track during practice. Was it an omen? Either way, I headed
back to the pit and started the repair.
There were two Solo races between the first race that was still on for the
remaining racers and the fourth race that was my next chance on the track. I
have done this once before and Charlie Young, my nemesis and race partner
had just the right adhesive to hold in place. It lasted 5 races last time. I
just needed to finish the next race, since I am in the middle of rebuilding
another motor to be my primary race powerplant.
With 5 minutes to spare, I had cleaned off all the oil that sprayed on the
rear wheel, swing arm, chain, and belly pan. I had also reassembled the
clutch actuator plate and remounted the front sprocket and chain. All
systems were ready for the track. I decided to head directly for the pit out
area in case any smoke could dissipate from oil on the motor.
On the way out of the pits, I experienced difficulty steering in the gravel.
I came to a stop and tried steering the front end with serious resistance.
Going through all adjustments on my steering damper, there was no change. By
the time I got back to my pit, my race buddies had headed to the starting
line. I rapidly removed the steering damper to see if it was causing the
difficulty. Such was not the case. All resistance was in the bearing chase.
My race day was done and I got to find that out as my competitors were
heading into their warm up lap.
The only thing left to do was grab a chair and my bag of pistachios and
watch the race from out pits. It was the pits, too. There’s nothing like
spending the bulk of winter looking forward to the first race of the season
and not being able to race.
As the race progressed, I took a more objective look at the situation. The
oil leak forced me off the track and gave me a chance to find out about a
steering problem that was about to eliminate my control over my race bike.
That failure occurred while I was riding at five miles per hour, not at
speed on the track. All things said and done, I did not crash and wreck my
bike. Also, my race partner Keith Bennett took first place for the first
time and received the last GP500 trophy of the old style, classic design.
He had a great day with one first place and two second places. His two
second place trophies were second to none other that Doug Bowie, a very
skilled rider that has been racing since before the bikes were vintage.
Next trip to the track is Jennings, Florida, March 22nd. I should have the
steering bearings and hopefully wheel bearings replaced by then. Time to
make an order for parts from my sponsor, Sirius Consolidated Inc. Stay tuned
for further updates.
Until the next race, Jack