Words, text, photos, and high fives by Brad Adams. Compiled and posted by Adam
Its been a long winter. I haven’t raced since the beginning of October 2015. We’ve been busy; remodeled two houses, moved, had a kid, plus all the other stuff regular life threw on top of that. A couple weeks back, I went to do one test day up at Gingerman, but that was pretty short lived. I might have turned a total of 12 hot laps as my head gasket was beginning to poop it’s pants. At Gingerman, I’m normally in the mid to upper 100-110mph on the back straight. I was hitting 92mph......the engine was hurting. The Honda Challenge H2 civic needed love, and we got a new headgasket in just in time.
After what seemed like an eternity of snow and swinging hammers on houses, it was time for the first NASA race of the year for me. Since I hadn’t been on track much in over seven months, I decided that I’d do the Friday test day. I get there Thursday night and there is drag racing going on on the front straight, the "269 Shootout". Where our paddock spot is supposed to be is where all the drag race fans are parked. I unload at the top of the paddock and once they are clear, I drive the van and trailer down. I walk up to get the car and start driving down the paddock, then there’s a grinding noise. That noise goes from bad to horrendous quickly!! I pull over, hop out, and look under the car. Sweet, a broken gas tank strap to start the “weekend”!! Luckily, I had seen others have the same issue before, so I had spares. I get that fixed and start getting the car ready for Friday.
I get up Friday morning and sort of have a mindset of shaking the rust off, plus a lap time goal once I shake the said rust off. I went out for a warm up and the track was super slick; I’ve never slid entering T8. T8 and 9 did a real good job of shaking the rust off with the lack of grip. Even with the conditions, I still fired off a 1:45.02 on RRs with almost 40 heat cycles. I ran a couple more sessions, but I was getting a CEL and the car got warm coming into the paddock after one session. The following session, the light came back on during the out lap, so I headed in. The car stayed cool, so I pulled the laptop out to have it pull zero codes. I let the car cool down and then burped the system for awhile before heading into town to meet up with the family.
After Friday’s affairs, I was a bit skeptical about Saturday morning. I had sticker tires and I know Gingerman well, so I wanted to be towards the front of the grid. I didn’t get there early enough, so cone 9 was the closest that I was getting. It was Brian Bohlander in his Thunder Roadster, then Spec Miatas up to where I was. I had my work cut out for myself if I wanted to lay a flier. I ran three laps, one felt pretty good, so I came in. I dropped a bomb; a 1:44.132 which ended up being the quickest in Lightning practice. Qualifying was odd to say the least which isn’t good considering it’s my first time leading the pack out. Brian’s crew guy tells me that they’re going to stack the field up with the hopes of getting a clear lap. I said that was good, but considering it’s green when we go out; I went for it after T3. We get through T7-8, then there’s a red flag in T9. They’re still pulling a car out of T10! Holy moly!! We finally get rolling, Brian and I checked out. I’m on my flier and Brian tosses it down my inside into T10. He gets loose, in the dirt, but collects it. I drive around him and finished the lap, but then brought it in. Good enough for pole, but he was the quicker of the two.
Race one starting from pole; standing start. This race couldn’t have started any better. I get the lead out of T1 and when we catch traffic, I play my cards right. I’ve got a decent lead which I hold for several laps. I go into T5 on lap 6 and my brake pedal is soft. Once I get to T7, I’m on the inside of a SE30 and it goes to the floor! I had a good enough gap to give it a lap, lap and a half to figure it out. It never got better, so I backed off pace and decided to come in. Such a great race to only finish with a DNF!!! So bummed.
Sunday was a two race day, so the morning session was qualifying. Given that all my laps in the race were traffic laps, I figured I’d be around the 20 cone for quals. Not so bad, I was sitting at the lovely 9 cone again! We go out, Jer Myers loses his oil filter around T4, so he goes off. Now we’ve got yellow stations, a safety vehicle out, not to mention 45 cars jammed into Gingerman. I run two laps, luckily I get a good one in on lap one. I end up being the fastest in Lightning quals too. I could get use to this!!
Race two is less than an hour and a half after qualifying. There’s a front coming, but it looks light. We start taking our canopies down, etc with the winds that we were having, but the front still looks light. Watching the radar for a half an hour straight, I pull the trigger on staying on dries! We get to grid and TT is still there!! Uh, oh! I guess there was a big incident in the Thunder race, so they were still cleaning up. TT finally goes out, but it is as the rain starts to come down. I’m on dries, Ben Linfield is on wets, Helen Nester Fowle is on dries, and Jer Myerss is on rains. Well, then the monsoon comes out! Helen heads back to get wets and Jason asks if I want to do the same. I tell him no and that we don’t have time. I’ll figure it out once I’m out there! I’m starting from pole on a standing start while on Toyo RRs in a monsoon! LOL, lets party!!
I get a lot better start than I had expected. I wanted to stay with Ben Linfield for at least lap one and hope that traffic would play a part in that. Well, that didn’t happen after lap out. Ben was gone, now Jer Myers is on my hip! I’d get away; he’d get back to my hip, normally under braking. I don’t remember the corner, but I let him go for the sake of the race. I stayed on him, so I figured I’d keep working at it. Eventually we caught traffic going into T8, he checked up, and I went for it. I made the pass and from then on, it was pacing him until the finish. I didn’t have anything for Ben, so it wasn’t worth the hustle. I took the P2 like it was a victory and a confidence booster racing that well on RRs given the conditions!
Race 3, the starting positions are based off of fast laps from race 2. Since I was on dries in the wet, I’m starting last. Jeremy Hopps had an issue earlier in the day, so he was out. Jer raced the rain race, but wasn’t on grid for race 3; something ignition related. So, I’m starting P3 on a rolling start. We are the front group of wave 2, so we’ve got clear track ahead of us. I show my nose to Helen in T2, but she’s got the run on me down the next straight. We get into T3 and she’s slow at apex, so I get by. We are already catching traffic, so I want to stay clean to get up to Ben. I finally get up to him and we have an absolute go at it for several laps. We go into T11 and he pushes wide. I get by and I had already had a fuel cut issues, so I wanted to maintain the gap. I did so and made my way up to P2 overall. Helen broke on lap 4 and then Ben broke on lap 10. Once I saw him off, I went into full conserve mode! My last two laps were a 1:55 and a 1:59; I was taking that checkered flag!!!
Many thanks to Adam, Kyle, @mikeyspec, and Travis for building a rad car with me. and Brandy and the family coming out and supporting me. Huge thanks to HPD, Toyo, Hawk brakes, and Mr. Krumme @ Eibach for springing to service when I need him.