They say that catching up, is, hard to do… Now I know, I know that it’s true. Don’t say that this is the end. Instead of catching up I wish that we were racing up again…
For those that experienced the 70s, that last paragraph may have been read to a melody that you haven’t heard in a long time.
For the rest of you, it is simply meant to describe what it is like having the ground move fast under your feet. This description of the Nashville race of April 16th, eleven weeks after the freezing weather of Talladega on February 5th and month ago is a forced retrieval of another chilling motorcycle event. It was 6 degrees warmer than Tally and 6 degrees under the predicted high for the day. All this global warming is about to cause me to catch my death of cold.
Our usual ride to Nashville was interrupted as a result of my lack of preparation. I had been concentrating on resale bikes (to pay for my racing habit) and not on race bikes. Keith had to leave long before I did as I could not guarantee a working bike. Sorry buddy, my bad.
Having not had a chance to diagnose the high RPM issue with Maroon Monsoon, I concentrated on my one last chance effort in making the direct slide carburetors work with the SL350 low mileage motor.
I had a bit to do in the “last minute” mode. Dean helped me change the rear tire in record time. I gave a futal effort attempt to mount the 30mm direct slide SL350 carbs on the motor, only to find out that you need a 30mm head. So, reassembly was required just to get me back where I started. Then there was the Sprocket Specialties issue… I went to mount the $76 rear sprocket special ordered for S.S. and the stud holes were undersized. I would have just drilled them out, but I noticed that would have offset the stud center point. So, I put the 40 tooth dirt bike stock rear sprocket back on and used the 18 tooth sprocket that Mr. Dean Middleton has been so gracious and allowed me to borrow.
I finally made it on the road about 10 PM. Keith was just clearing Chattanooga. We kept in touch a lot because of the storms that we were driving through. Only after we got back home did we find out that more than 200 residents of Alabama died in those storms. Keith called me after he got his wits back about him after being surprised at finding a tractor trailer laying inits side in his lane on Interstate 24 jsut before I-59. By the time I got there, the Tennesse State Patrol had thier HERO units, road signs, and construction lights marking the road and it was a simple 20 MPH passing for me.
Sleep was short, breakfast was some leftover pizza and coffee and we took off for the track.
Nashville has a nice benefit to racers that show up early enough. The NASCAR pits are available to use for free (included with entry fees) to those who make it to the track before others. With the continually diminishing entries at the WERA races, Keith and I were able to get a stall and there were a few left over as well.
Wind was cold and blew through the pit garage. With no garage doors or means of closing off the pits, we froze our butts off. There were a few extra items of clothing that I was grateful I had as spares that kept me warm. But we had a cold track, cold tires, and cold racers that cloudy, misty day
Silver Bucket was designed to be a true hill climber. Being the first one to and through turn one was never an issue. It was the top 10 percent of the performance spectrum that showed its limits. At Nashville, that meant the NASCAR high banks of turns of a five point NASCAR track. Coming out of the second dip into the infield was a continually increasing radius, accelerating turn that was very nicely designed, testicular testing, and continuously accelerating, leaned down low, turn that leads to the beginning of the banked turn of the NASCAR left turn car track.
I did notice the almost governored restriction of the top speed of Silver Bucket. And, it was then that I had determined that there was a reason the no other racer used the 28mm carb setup. A replacement head and carburetors are on the docket.
That was not to help me at Nashville. My practice sessions proved to be somewhat less than stellar. We started the day with a cold, wet track. And, I was protected by a misbehaving motor for some reason. Something I could not diagnose before the races began. All I could do was show up at the starting line and do my best.
We had 7 entries in the GP350 and Nashville (formerly known as Crashville since the majority of my crashes were there). That was one of the most populated grids as the economy had taken it’s toll on all racing classes. Two of the bikes in our class were Ducati factory race bike. Doug Bowie and Robin Scudder had obvious advnatages within the class.
By the time we took to the track for racing, the track had dried and the temperature had warmed up into the 40s. 41 degrees to be precise. So much warmer than Talladega, amost a complete season before. It was second call when we all had our bike running and were warming them up in the waiting paddock parking lot. Almost all of us were doing complete loops in the 1/10 mile mini track. When instructed to do so, we all took to our warm up lap.
The grid was comfortably full and turn one was a long way down the starting lane. Things just didn’t seem the same with without Chuck and Charlotte. Starting a race with Chuck was a warm and comforting feeling. The GP350 was a two wave race. It is not very often that we have two wave races and it showed with my performance.
Like the other racers in the second wave, I was giving other racers the peace sign. Two fingers in the air to indicate that we were in the second wave. Only those with short term memory issues or those really excited could possibly start when the first wave got the green flag. So, why did I rev my engine and get a great start when the first wave got the green flag? Who knows.
I was fortunate. I had hustled my butt back into position and froze before getting the second green flag and started with my wave like nothing happened. And, nothing happened…
I expected to get a meatball flag and sent into tech for a “slap on the wrist” but got nothing. As such, I raced my heart out. Doing fairly well from the start, I was in the lead in my class into turn 1. Turn two had a few others “showing me wheels” but not taking the turn before me. We made our way back onto the main track and dipped down into the second segment of infield track. Pushing hard and knowing that the pack was on my tail, I felt a slight slide going into the off camber right hand turn that I had crashed at before. Only a slide, but with race tire traction, that means keep the gas on and ride it out. So I did.
Silver Bucket is an SL350 Honda twin. Not too many other racers ride that model. It’s a lot like a vintage motard (dirt bike with road race tires). And I believe it can be tricked out to have a slight advantage. I have yet to configure it in a manner to prove that advantage yet. As I made my way out of the second infield run, I made my best effort to stay in front of the pack.
The 28mm carbs that surged me in the beginning of the high bank began to show their weakness later in the race. Doug Bowie wasted no time passing me. Mr. Scudder was almost immediately behind him. As we approached the apex of the NASCAR five point track, Jamie Brenton had Keith Bennett drafting him past me and pulling away well before we exited the high bank. This is where Nashville brings out the best of us “second class” racers.
Heading into turn 1 and 2 at Nashville is one of the places where testicular fortitude can pay off or throw you off the track. The visual effects will tell your brain to throttle down, but the racer in you has to keep on the throttle. Leaning left into a fast (80 – 90 mph) turn, knowing you are headed toward a 15 mph turn and that your mission is to race at speeds above the national speed limit is a real brain teaser.
This is where we get to play chicken, without driving head on. This is where you determine who gets the lead for the infield. It is also where you get to make up for the lack of top end speed, if you have to. Depending on how the faster bikes are ridden by the slower racers, this 15 mph turn can become a real bottle neck.
Keith and Jamie were well matched for this race. This actually gave me a chance as each was apprehensive about the other’s audacity. Whenever the two of them came close to a simultaneous entry into a turn, they would hesitate and drop speed. As the slow guy on the high bank, I could take advantage of their apprehensions, and did.
By the time we reached the halfway point in the race, it was obvious how the second half racers would finish. Jamie was using his lightweight pull away power to advantage at the right points on the track. I was able to catch up with the two of them before we all made it back to the main bank turn, but they would pull away. Youth and a nice power to weight ratio would prove beneficial to Jamie Brenton as he took third place, Keith fourth, and I took fifth.
David Hurst came in sixth on his beautiful Yamaha DS-7 followed by John Cook in seventh place for his debut race. You go John. We gotta give you grief now before you get the hang of it, you 155 pound lightweight.
Mr. Bowie and Mr. Scudder gave their GP350 race bikes a rest while us 350 Honda racers got back in the ring and duked it out again. This time, we had James Walker in the mix and rumor had it his bike was behaving.
At the start, I had a fairly impressive start with my front wheel in the air. And, since there was no second wave start to stop me, I was going to explode into the turn one mob. As usual, I had a good start. As the pack fanned out, the tide had turned. The two-stroke bikes were some where behind me. But they blocked Keith for a few turns. This gave me a chance to pull way ahead of Keith. Jamie had is mind set on James Walker and was serious about it.
At the halfway flag, I looked back and saw there was nobody behind me. Keith had some serious interference this time. They really held him back to the point of no return. For me the race was over. James and Jamie made one hell of an impressive departure at the end of the first lap. Story has it Jamie gave James a real run for his money and may prove to be the competition James needs to stay on the ball.
James took first, Jamie in second and I pulled out a third place. This gave me the chance to thank my sponsor, Sirius Consolidated Incorporate at the award ceremony. Keith too, had no reason to push hard as I was way ahead and there was nobody to “play with”. David Hurst and John Cook brought up the rear.
Stay tuned as the pack shakes out as the races ahead define the 2011 season. I will catch up on Barber Motorsports Park, the most beautiful campus we get to visit with our race bikes.