2013 Solo Nationals (Updated 9/18)
What a week! Highs, lows, and everything in between. I apologize for the length of the post, but I didn’t get a whole lot of blogging done during the week. With that, we might as well dive right in!
We loaded up the 2 car trailer we borrowed in the past and got on the road Saturday. This year we brought along a brand-new car that our friend Jeff Minor purchased. More on that car later! We took 2 days to get there and Sunday started the usual preparations for the week.
Tech inspection was a breeze. We had scheduled 2 practice sessions to sort out the carburetor and to scrub in our new Goodyear tires, but they weren’t until Tuesday.
We got the cars unloaded and Minor was able to secure a practice spot for the afternoon to get his tires scrubbed in.
I grabbed a couple of shots of him out on course. Still have some work to do on getting my shutter speed and aperature settings right to capture motion better…
We finished the night with a lengthy dinner at Road House with a bunch of friends, including Tony and Mary Espinoza, Darrel and Deesiree Padberg, Robert and Tracy Lewis, Casey Weiss, Eric Yee, Roger Johnson, Jim Kritzler, Doug Willie, David Hedderick, Jan Rowe, Jeff Minor, and Todd Farris.
Mondays are always a bit of a slow day, mostly consisting of course walks and BSing with friends. One of our good friends and one of the diehards from Spokes, Tom Holt, was unable to make the trip this year, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying the festivities!
Mike Maier and Frank Stagnero brought back their yellow Mustang this year since Frank’s engine is still incomplete. We knew they’d be the toughest competitors all week.
As we walked the course Monday we got really worried about our car’s performance in the tight turnarounds that were on the East Course. Though the course as a whole was very fast, the turn-arounds are what killed us last year. With that in mind, we made the decision to try and get our ring & pinion ratio swapped if at all possible to get the car to jump out of the corners better.
We went to the welcome party at the Speedway Museum of American Speed to show it off to Jeff, who’d never been as well to see if Speedway could assist in getting our gears changed. I asked around and was introduced to John MacKichan, who is the director of Museum Operations. He was more than happy to assist and said to drop off the pumpkin first thing tomorrow and he would get us setup! We worked late into the night and dropped out the center section.
If that was the only work we were doing, it would have been fine, but the clutch in Jeff’s car seemed to be slipping, so out it came. I stole this picture from Vitek btw, check out the whole collection here! Vitek’s pictures.
Most people would think we were crazy for doing this, but we had 2 more days till we ran, so what could go wrong? How about a broken snout on the transmission? Luckily I was able to source a part and have it air freighted in for Jeff on Wednesday morning.
Tuesday morning started with a visit to Speedway to get parts and drop off the center section. This place is amazing! Wonderfully helpful people. Larry in the machine shop got us setup and our new ring & pinion installed and back to us by lunchtime which meant we could install the pumpkin and hit the practice course that afternoon!
Before we ran though, it was time to watch Casey Weiss and Eric Yee in Eric’s 2013 Mustang. Casey ended up in the 6th trophy spot at the end of Wednesday. He told us how often the car was getting into the rev limiter (3.73 track pack car) which had me worried about the gear selection, but we were committed nonetheless…
We spent most of our practice session digging through Darrel Padberg’s carburetor parts box! The stumble coming off low-speed corners was all too evident and it was showing up in partial throttle application as well. We struggled all Tuesday and 2 sessions Wednesday with the carb and ultimately made the car driveable, but far from perfect. A HUGE thanks must go out to Darrel for all of his assistance getting us straightened out! Truly one of the people that makes CP such a great class to run.
The practice course is really short. It’s hard to hear, but some of the jerkiness and odd sound to the engine are because of the carb.
Following 2 practice sessions on Wednesday we put the Jeff’s Malibu back together (picture stolen from Vitek). My Dad, Ken Stroh, showed up and lended a helping hand. In the end we got it back in action, new clutch and bearing retainer in place!
Thursday and Friday were race days. I worked 2nd heat while ESP and CM were running. Some good friends of ours were running and while I didn’t get to take any pictures, my Dad took some great shots!
Doug Willie did a great job in his Swift. He has a little speed to pick up to catch the leaders, but it was obvious he was having a lot of fun in a cool car!
ESP had a pretty amazing battle between several drivers. Dave Ogburn set some fast times over both days and ended up in the 4th spot in ESP. Dave’s got a nice writeup in his blog over at Yaw Moment Racing.
Mark Madarash, a multi-time and defending National Champion in ESP had a big challenge this year from 2 drivers, Jadrice Toussaint in a 2013 Boss Mustang and Greg McCance in a Subaru WRX. Mark was given the Driver of Eminence award on Wednesday night before he ran which he commented to me was the “kiss of death” since at least 2 drivers who got it have failed to win championships ever since! Unfortunately for Mark he also fell victim on Day 2 to McCance and ended up in the 2nd spot! BTW, also stole this shot from Vitek.
The forecast all week was clear skies and no rain. In typical Kansas / Nebraska fashion that turned out to change at the drop of a hat. Rain clouds formed during the 3rd heat and we didn’t have all of our rains mounted up because Goodyear had to ship us 1 tire that only showed up Wednesday morning! With no more Goodyear support for Solo, we had to have the Hoosier guys mount the tires. Which they gladly did, for a fee of course!
During CPL the engine in Mike Maier’s car seemed like it was done for with a crack in the side of the oil pan and smoke everywhere. With 2 hours until CP ran, it was time or a heroic fix. They were able to pull the motor up, remove the broken windage tray, get the oil pan welded up, and slip the motor back in the car and were able to run!
I handed off the camera to my Dad who took some great pictures. Waiting is the hardest part, especially with rain drops on your windshield. We got a light sprinkle and then it cleared up just as first runs started so we had a dry course, at least for the time being!
It was vital to get fast runs in early with the potential for rain looming. My first 2 runs were quick, but we struggled again with the carburetor stumbling. Those 2 runs were quick enough to put me in the 4th spot after Day 1 was complete.
We borrowed Casey’s GoPro and were able to get some additional cool video footage which I’ll share along with the usual output from our Video 4!
The whole heat was extremely stressful with intermittent short showers followed by dry patches. Coupled with our carb issues, it was hectic. Todd put in some good runs, but the one he felt the best on was slick for most of the run and he sat 2 tenth back of me for Day 1.
As I’m sure you can see from the videos, the car was a handful to drive with steep gears and the stumbling carb! We retired for the night a bit frustrated. I was 1.3 seconds behind Maier. On the West course last year I had set the 2nd fastest time, just a few tenths off him so it felt like we had gone backwards. Despite that, the car really handled great and we had to be pleased from that aspect!
Mikey was top of the class for the day.
Tony Espinoza was really enjoying running his new engine!
Jeff Minor did extremely well his first day, putting him in the trophies for Day 1! Photo credit to Vitek!
Texans, Wayne Atkins and Chris Cargill were in the inaugural season for their car and were running great until something broken either in the differential or the transmission. Wayne picked up his remaining runs with Jeff on Friday and Chris with Kurt Janish.
Robert Lewis was also very quick with his new front suspension and upgraded engine.
Day 2 was largely a blur. A leaking carburetor bowl on Thursday got worse when we pulled the hood to check fluids less than an hour before running Friday! A huge thanks to Rich Windberg for running to get a drill/tap and longer studs for a last minute fix! Vitek was quick to remind us of this and snapped photos!
The carb fixed we pulled into grid, but disaster struck on my first run. Rolling to the line not only did our primary fuel pump die, but the spare did as well! We called a mechanical and rushed to fix it within the 10 minute window allotted by the SCCA. Unfortunately, despite the heroic efforts of so many people we didn’t get it done and I lost my first run. Nonetheless we got the car fixed and ready to go for Todd’s first run. A HUGE thanks to Rich Windberg, Steve Hudson, Casey Weiss, Daniel McCelvey, Jim Kritzler, Zack Barnes, Vitek Boruvka and many others for their assistance! Frank Stagnero and Mike Maier even chipped in giving us a spare pump that they had to run back to their paddock spot to get. Again, one of the reasons I love CP!
BTW, no matter how many times you flip the switch, a stuck fuel pump won’t come back on…
The heat had some surprises. John Bradbury in his turbocharged Ford Thunderbird was very fast on the big East Course. Vitek got this killer shot of him.
Kurt Janish let Chris Cargill drive his car and they did pretty good laying down some fast times which Vitek caught!
I struggled on this course losing my first run and fighting a bit of the “red mist”. The course was very fast and required lots of patience, something I wasn’t able to do in the turnarounds. Both Todd and I struggled with locking up the tires in the braking areas, something we need to work on. Even with the carb still stumbling, I was able to set a good enough time to put myself in 5th overall.
Todd threw down an amazing final run, just a few tenths off of Maier! It was great to see him put down this kind of time, despite all of the troubles of the day! His 72.7 to Maier’s 72.1 was impressive to say the least!
At the end of the day it was Mike Maier, Todd Farris, Darrel Padberg, Robert Lewis, and myself rounding out the Top 5. Check out the Official SCCA Results for more details.
After a quick shower, it was time to hit the banquet. We were in need for some relaxation and my Dad had just few beers after the stressful day!
Since Todd had won the Spirit of CP Award last year, it was his duty to pass it along to the person of his choosing. Kurt Janish is the recipient and there is no one more deserving of it! In typical CP fashion, the trophy was done at the last minute with hand tools in a hotel bathroom! I’m sure there was a large hammer and duct tape involved somehow…
All of the trophy winners gathered for a quick picture, with Mikey doing his best modeling pose!
Nationals 2013 is one that I’m not going to forget for a longtime. We went into it knowing we weren’t fully prepared with only 3 events under our belt, but the car handled great and showed it has the potential to go the distance. Next year with better preparation and more tuning we will be back!
Look for a few more posts in the near future. I got 2 features on some really neat cars that I’ll post up later this week!
UPDATE: 9/18 added link to Dave Ogburn’s blog above.