I was a little bit out of form getting used to the track. I spun twice on Wednesday (the first practice
day). That’s more than I ever have. The first was a total brainless spin. Turn 4 at Phoenix is a flat out turn,
no lifting, but you have to hit it right, or you’ll go off the track at the exit. Well, I was thinking about the
turn I just did, entered too sharp, stayed flat out, and….oops; I went off the track, lifted off the gas, and…c-
ya, around I went. No big deal…just a little damaged pride. The second spin occurred a few laps later. I
was used to the track, and there was a bit of discussion if turn 1 could be taken flat out, not even a breath
off the gas. Well, I thought I’d try it, and I had the joy of turning too fast into T1 and spinning my car at
115mph, pretty darn hairy! That made a dent in my confidence, what a way to start the race weekend. I was
a little concerned at that point. Luckily, the next lapping day went well – no unusual incidents, just
lowering the times.
Getting used to the track was fun. At first the oval turn is a tad intimidating, and fun! It took a few
laps to just stick the pedal to the floor and not budge. Turn 1 was by far, the most intimidating turn on the
track. T1 comes off the banking into the infield. They changed it a bit from previous years, extending the
pit wall making T1 pretty narrow. Right at the transition, there is a pretty big bump that unsettles the car,
and if you don’t hit it straight on, you will spin the car – at about 115mph.
Where the big boys race...
On Friday, everyone who is racing the weekend generally shows up. And, it was pretty amazing
how some of the drivers went very fast right off the bat. Two of them were in my group, Randy Puro and
Roger Yasukawa. The three of us were turning laps in the 1:10 range, making our group one of the two
fastest groups out there. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, just working on turning faster times.
Saturday morning’s practice went better than Friday. Roger Yasukawa turned the fastest lap of the
practice, a few tenths faster than my best. From the instructor feedback (who was taking split times) he was
making time on my in turns 2-5. Their description was that he was a little slower in T1-2, but had a better
drive coming out of 2 and carrying it through T5. I talked with Roger for awhile and it turns out he has
been racing karts and Formula Vauxhall Jr. in Europe for the past few years. Pretty tough competition.
In one of the later groups, someone got loose coming off the oval to the front straight, and ended
up spinning the car and hitting the inside wall pretty hard. It hit right in front of us in the pits and was pretty
darn loud. Everyone ran over there to make sure the driver was okay. He was fine, but the car was toasted
to the tune of about $6500…ouch! Unfortunately for our group’s polesitter, Randy Puro, this was his car.
He had to switch to another car for the weekend, which means he would only get 3 warm-up laps in a new
car; he wasn’t too excited about that.
From the pole...
My group, group 1, was first up for racing. On the grid, I was starting second with Randy Puro on
the inside of me on pole. Roger was starting eighth since this was his first race and he didn’t have any
points. Randy and I talked earlier and both agreed we wanted to check out and not battle right away so
Roger couldn’t catch us. Going out on the pace lap, I was totally nervous (hey, I’ve only done this 2 other
times!) Coming to the green, Randy brought the field to a slow pace, then gunned it at the exit of T11 (T4
on the oval). We all followed suit and were pretty spread out going into T1. The first two turns of a race at
any track are a little tricky because you are used to going into them at full race speed, and we are slower
than normal, so our markers need to change a bit.
Leading the pack
I was right behind Randy in turns 2-7, then he got a good drive out of 7 and put a tenth on me
going into turn 9, the hairpin leading to the oval. Apparently, it was time for a move. I was braking deep
into T9 at my normal marker, but Randy, being in a new car, broke earlier. I closed up on him very fast,
and I was going to hit his gearbox, so I swerved inside and made the pass for the lead. It was a little
unexpected and I was surprised, but I had no problems with it ;-). We went through T9 and the back
straight side by side, but I held the inside line going into the oval, so Randy decided to pull in behind me
and try to catch a tow. I had 4 main areas I checked my mirrors – going into T2, exiting T7/8, exiting T9,
and on the front straight. When I broke off enough of a cushion, I only checked exiting T9 and on the front
straight. Checking my mirrors in these two places allowed me to gauge if 2nd place was gaining on me,
falling back, or staying even. It let me know if I could cruise or had to step it up a notch.
After 2 more laps, I saw Roger right behind Randy. On the next lap, Roger was in front of him –
Randy must have let him by to draft with him and run me down! I had about a 2-second cushion, and in the
next few laps that didn’t really change. With about 6 to go, I knew I was home free as long as I didn’t make
a huge mistake or have any mechanical bugs. With 3 to go, I looked in my mirrors and Randy was behind
me, not Roger. “Hmm,” I though, “He didn’t pass me without me knowing it….he must have broke down,
spun, or gone 4 wheels off the track.” With 1 lap to go, I saw the white flag waving. I was so excited; I
almost started pumping my fist in the air right then! Coming on the last lap, I saw the checkered and raised
my fist high…victory!
As I came into the pits, I was congratulated by all the mechanics. They motioned me to start/finish
where I was given the checkered flag to do a victory lap since it was my first Formula Dodge win. What a
great day, I was elated. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the day :-). I found out a little later Roger
had his clutch go out with 3 to go, so he got a mechanical DNF.