Nashville SuperSpeedWay and I have a special relationship. It’s very much like two Leos in a romantic relationship. When things are good, they’re going really good. But, when things go bad…
The plan was for a very early departure on Friday. I went in early and Keith had a work based bowling event that he hope to slip out of early. We finally got out of Atlanta around 7 PM. That left us at the Murfreesburo Motel around 10:30PM. It was a fairly decent chance to get a decent night’s sleep before a race. This was a rare occurance. It was also beneficial as I had talked Keith into making a run to Clarksville, TN after the race.
Turnout was very light. Only those who had a vested interest going into the Grand National Finals, along with those that lived relatively close, were there. I had not preregistered. In this case it was eary because I WAS the line at registration. I hope that the economy (and all that has tampered with it) turns around ASAP. This situation gives very little hope for the things we hold dear…
Interestingly enough, the vintage contingent was fairly well populated. There was the Kentucky Wrecking Crew, (Wayne Moore & Mike Wells) as well as Steve UpChurch and David Hurst. We had a couple of the RD400 guys on their AHRMA stocker bikes. Scott McCain and Dick Gruhn pitted together. Now that I think of it, we may have been out numbered by the dark side forces (two stroke racers). More on the dark side later in this entry. Jamie Brenton had is wife Lynn and their son with him. Then there was the lone rider that showed up from Rome, GA, Mr. Chris Adams, my nemisis.
Chris has had a target on his back all season long. As a new guy, he came into racing as strong as his bike is pretty. Not just pretty, he chose gold as his color. He is also the guy that I picked this year to "up my game". He has been consistently ahead of the pack I have been hanging with. Keith Bennett and Jamie Brenton have turned our racing into a threesome of sorts. See the Jennings entry below and watch the videos to prove it. We have become some comfortable with each other’s company on the track, it’s just a matter of who will draft who to the finish line. But not Chris Adams. No Sir. He runs tall and fast. I know that to turn up the volume for my racing, I have to catch up to him. Besides, he’s the man to beat in the MidCentral circuit. He’s also headed to the GNF with head start.
And of course, there was Team Old & Oily who made a Sirius Impact at Jennings Raceway the week before. Seems that we shaved off more than two seconds off our previous lap times in the GP500 race and then shaved off and additional three seconds in the GP350 later that same afternoon. Keith and I were in rare form and agreeing to make it a team effort to take the lead positions, but we did not agree on who should follow whom.
Practice sessions proved to be beneficial as we had not traversed this track in a year. It also showed that gearing for Nashville was a match for the optimum gearing we ran for Jennings. We were ready. The bikes were too.
After the first practice session, we each had oil dripping to investigate and deal with. Keith was examining his left rear shock absorber while I checked out some drips from the left engine case. This is totally rationalized by our team name and our Norton racing history. We have a reputation that must be upheld. On a more Sirius note, oil on the track is no joking matter. Identification, followed by rectification of the issues were in order.
Keith was dealing with an oil leak from his very expensive Progressive shock. I was trying to determine where my oil leak came from. Keith looked a closely as he could. Jumped up and down on the bike while I examined the shock. There was no way to tell where it was coming from. Cleaning and closer inspection were in order. I on the other hand decided to remove the front sprocket cover and examine the source.
It was impossible to tell where oil was coming from here as the chain threw oil everwhere when it changed direction of forward to backward. Wiping and searching was all I could do. Without any specific location for the source of the oil, I decided to wipe down the whole bike after reassembling the sprocket cover. Only problem with a weak memory is that you forget to double check your work. This would have included discovering that I had not resecured the front exhaust flange that I loosened to remove the shifter pedal.
So, it was the second practice session. I was passed by Steve UpChurch, on his suped up V1 350 Honda twin, in the far strait of the track. Keep in mind that Nashville SuperSpeedWay was once a NASCAR track. It was modified for motorcycle racing by dipping the track into the infield with twists and turns in two different locations. Then as you enter back onto the main track you are coming out of an increasing radius turn, while accelerating through all of your gears, leaning as far as you can the whole time in order to hit the high bank at the right location as fast as you can. The rest is a matter of maintaining as much acceleration against the wind as your little motor can endure. Then as you make the transition to the level section of the track you must maintain speed until its time to slam on the brakes. That’s racing, early on the gas and late on the brakes.
I was hot on Steve’s rear tire for two laps. Showing him a tire where I knew the track well and drafting him where his bike had more power. I almost forget this was practice. Then as we dipped back into the infield for the third time, I noticed the sound of my bike had changed. The exhaust flange that I forgot to tighten up came off and my header was playing the part of a curb feeler on the asphalt. Time to pull over. My practice session was over.
Keith flew by me trying to remember Nashville’s every intricacy. So did the rest of the V1-V4 practice session. I did get to ride back in the crash truck, but not because I crashed.
I also want to make a public apology to the WERA Great Crash Truck Guy, who I accidently kicked (in the neck I think) while assuming the riding position after getting the bike into the truck. It’s a reflex for me, whether I am loading the bike into my truck or previous crash truck episodes. He was so great about it that I felt that much worse. Again I am sorry and will try to stay out of the autopilot mode while onboard someone else’s truck.
Everybody in the WERA family is great! Everything about my WERA vintage racing experience has always been great. It’s a lot more than just customer service oriented employees. That why I call it the WERA family. From the upstairs honchos, who you meet behind the registration counter regularly to the voluntary work force known as the corner workers. They all make my vintage racing experience the reason I do not need to visit a therapist. Thank you, one and all.
Back in the indoor covered pits, which we had no problem getting because of the low turnout, I began to see what I had to put my bike back together. Teammate or Team Mate, either way you say it, Keith has been there for me. And this time, so was his magic metric nuts and bolts bin that had two bolts that replaced my studs like they were custom designed. Keith did make mention of the number of racers that he had helped back on the track with that bin of nuts and bolts. So I wasn’t that special. Just another vintage buddy that Keith helped to have a great weekend. Thanks Keith!
I took the bolts, some exhaust expanders, Keith also handed me a spring and a strudy hose clamp for a backup, since my exhaust header flair was cracked about 2/3 the way around. Every little bit helps. By the time we were done, it looked kinda racy, almost like it was planned. If you walked around to the other side, you would notice that the bike was not symetrical. But beauty never helped my bike across the line. At least not like budget parts have.
Keith was still trying to diagnose the oil from his shock which appeared to be less in quantity. But still no actual point of penetration. Nothing to seal up…
We were scheduled for race 4 and 6. Due to the low turnout of the modern bike guys, races 2 and 3 were combined as were races 7 and 8. Today was going to go rather quickly. The racing day started with minis and progressed toward our first. At about 80 degrees, it was quite comfortable. We had to remind ourselves to drink water and sports drinks, unlike the other days when it was an obvious part of survival.
Checking our practice times, it was obvious that Chris and I would be doing battle. He had about a second on my practice times, so I’d just have to turn up the heat. I’d also have to use a few tricks I’d learned over my six years of racing. Remember what my father taught me… "There’s nothing that youth and skill has that experience and trechery can’t take away!"
Gridding up was discouraging for Keith as he was not in the first row, a place he was getting used to start from for some time now. Chris, Jamie, and I had the first row. Keith, Mike Wells, David Hurst had the second. The V1 racers had their place and Dick Gruhn and the Formula 500 guys had theirs. Chuck dropped his watch away from his face telling us we no longer had time to dawdle. We popped our transmissions into gear and reved our bikes. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s race time…
As my GoPro camera failed again, and Keith’s gave up half way through the race, as did Chris’ camera recording stopped early, I need to describe the race as best I remember.
The first lap was very very good to me. I had the lead in the GP500 class. Chris was hot on my tail, while Keith was right behind Chris. Both of the cameras recorded the fact that the V1 crowd in front of us was going to be a rolling road block to contend with. I took turn two pushing the V1 boys to go faster, Chris was behind me and Keith was cutting up with one of the RD400 dark siders. Keith had no mosquito problems at all.
As we worked out of the infield for the first time, Chris passed me and shot for the next dip into the infield. I was following Chris for a while and decided that if I was not being shown any wheels from behind, I could track him for a while. My tires were warming up. I was getting into a grove. And, just before I could get complacent (about a lap after Chris passed me) I passed him back and put Steve UpChurch between us. This was a coup in that he would not have a good chance to catch me before the high bank. And if I played my cards right could last for a while.
So, I rode cutting it up with Steve UpChurch while Chris was duking it out with Ken Debelak. Both of the guys that Chris and I were tussling with were in the more powerful V1 class on 350 Hondas like Chris and mine, except theirs were punched out to 362cc while ours were the original 325cc. That’s right, the Honda 350 twins were really exactly 325cc. The 350 was a marketing ploy…
As you will see in the video, because Keith’s camera did work till the end of this race, I eventually persuaded Steve UpChurch to let me lead the pack for a few laps. Then after the white flag, signalling the last lap has just started, Chris and Ken pass me and we all pushed even harder. I ended up behind Chris at the finish. He had to ask what happened. Why did I slow down? I had to admit that Doug Bowie was right in his diagnosis. He said "Jack’s a good racer, then he gets tired".
Carrying around about 30 extra pounds this year from last is not optimum for any functional purpose. But, it was the price I paid for my cessation. A small price to pay and now that the process is complete, it’s time to get into shape for next season. My breathing is much better now. And, any issues that may be allergy related can no longer be blamed on tobacco products. I am hoping my crest has been achieved at 200 lbs. If so, it’s all down hill from here.
At the finish line, Chris Adams was only 32/1000 (thirty-two thousanths) of a second behind Steve UpChurch. I was 1.3 seconds behind him and happy to be in second place. That meant I was able to throw out one of my fifth place scores earlier in the season and replace it with a second place toward my best 6. As Jamie finished in third place, 13 seconds behind me, his pre-Nashville score would remain the same going into the GNF. Third place was his lowest scoring all season long. Nice consistency, Jamie. I on the other hand ranged from 1st to 7th place, not including my DNS (Did not Start) and DNFs (Did Not Finish).
I felt like I was back in the saddle again. Confidense back up and cockiness ready for banter in the pits, I returned to our stall. Water and sports drink for all! I had also clinched the GP500 Southeast Regional Championship, my second Regional Championship in as many weeks. The next round of water was on me.
The second race of the day the GP350, was not as important in standings. I led the second place position in the GP350 almost all season. That’s right, I led the second place position. When you race with Doug Bowie in the GP350, even if you are James "GP350" Walker (as I have him listed in my phone) a CB350 stocker doesn’t have what it takes to beat Doug on the Ducatis that he raced when they were new factory production racers running the AMA circuit. So, I’ll console myself with second place in the GP350.
What’s my secret you may ask? How can I do so well and have more finishes in the back of the pack then in the front? Well it’s easy, I make up for it in quantity! Except for the race weekend that Nashville was flooded, as you heard on the news, I made every race in the southeast, mid-central, and North Florida circuits. Regional Championships are a matter of adding ALL your finishing scores together in that region for that race class. It’s the GNF that requires a bit of skill. There you only get to take your best six race scores and add them to your doubled GNF score. Stay tuned for those results.
Back to the second race… Keith turned up the volume here. This is where the rubber hits the road. After getting a good start, Keith took it one step further. He made up some distance all the way to turn three, then hit the gas early and took the inside line for turn four. That left Steve UpChurch (V1 350 Honda), Ken Debelak (V1 350 Honda) and Chris Howard (RD400 Yamaha) as the only thing between Keith and the checkered flag. That also left me behind Chris Adams. Before Keith could dip back into the infield, Chris Adams swooped in underneath Keith and played the infield curves real smooth.
As we all came out of the infield and were leaned over to the max while accelerating, I realised that Chris was pulling away from Keith. Behind him was not where I wanted to be. So, as we made the bank, I drafte Keith until our tires were about to rub. With only one mile per hour more speed than Keith, it took me the whole high bank to pass him. Just as I hit the main asphalt, Steve UpChurch came by me fast. We stayed on the gas until the last minute and hit the brakes as six of us leaned into turn three, the 13 mile per hour, almost U turn tight left.
Watching the video as I write this (no, my memory is not this good, but my embellishment is the same) I had to jump back from the screen as the back of my bike just filled the full video area. Keith’s camera shows his and five bikes in front of him doing the high speed tailgating procession. It’s some of the closest racing I’ve ever experienced. Close behind Keith was Wayne Moore on Bill Duguid’s old bike that Mike Wells raced in the GP500 earlier that day. Charles Gault and David Hurst were close behind early in the race.
Then in the second lap, I came out of the infield section 1 with a burst of early throttle and shot past Chris Howard and so did Keith. We both successfully put him behind us before dipping back into the infield section 2. Steve UpChurch was next on the list. I past him coming out onto the big increasing radius turn heading toward the high bank. It was not enough to pass the powerful V1 bike. So, both Keith and I stayed on the gas and pushed it into the tight U turn of turn three. I passed Ken Debalak but Keith ended up behind him. I then pulled in front of Steve UpChurch just before the second dip into the enfield and continued to pull away from Keith.
Chris Adams was back in my sights. I could taste a victory. Again, Steve UpChurch passed me just before we came off the bank and again, Keith kept the guts meter pegged and simply stayed on the gas longer before shutting down for turn three, the hairpin left turn. When you see the video, you will have to note just how far ahead we got and how fast Keith gained it back.
We all did battle as best we could. Chris ended up in front of both the V1 racers on the more powerful 350 Honda bikes. Dick never lapped any of us that were in the fast pack fighting it out. Wayne Moore eventually came up and passed me and Keith on Bill Duguid’s (Do-good’s) bike. Everybody had a blast. You would really have enjoyed it all the way through except none of the GoPro cameras finished that race. I will show what I can and hope that the Grand National Finals offers better video results.
Now it’s official. I captured 2, 1st place Regionals, 3, 2nd place Regionals, and 1, 3rd place Regional places in the six class/regions that I raced in.
This has been a good year.
Nashville videos now posted. Sorry the GoPro cameras faded again…
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of… (well it’s not Rocky and Bullwinkle)