At the end of a well-known Seventies cult flick, a quivering bad guy sits on his knees staring at the barrel of a .357 Magnum. The famous line follows, "Do you feel lucky?"
Replace the quivering bad guy, with all around good guy Matt Plumb, driver of the No. 17 CAM 2 Arnette Sunglasses Dodge Reynard in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the response to the very same query might yield, "well...I'm not really sure."
Over the course of the last three rounds of the 2000 Pro Series beginning at Road America and continuing through Vancouver to Laguna Seca, Plumb has experienced both the rhapsody and cruelty of motorsport. In Vancouver, Plumb secured a coveted first career Barber Dodge victory, one achieved following a poised drive that kept several wolves at bay.
"Winning a race makes you feel somewhat indestructible, in the sense that there was nobody on that one day that was faster than you, or if they were they at least didn't get passed you. It's definitely a mental boost, and being that the sport is 98% mental, it's a huge advantage to have that type of boost," relayed Plumb.
The problem is that boost eventually wanes, or in some cases, simply crumbles. The following weekend at Laguna Seca Raceway, Plumb qualifies second and heading into turn-2 on the opening lap executes a thrilling outside pass around polesitter and eventual race winner Nilton Rossoni. Turn up the boost a notch.
"At the start I knew that I had to make a move fairly quickly, and get into the lead," said Plumb. "It's a very tough track to pass on, and judging from the races previous to ours, people pretty much stayed where they started unless there was an accident or some one made a mistake. So, I figured if I could get around Nilton, and keep him behind me long enough to get into a rhythm, I would pull away."
Leading the race, Plumb set his crosshairs on his second win. Midway around the sixth lap, the leaders approached Laguna Seca's infamous Corkscrew.
It doesn't take a racing expert to guess what happened next. Racing drivers are a fiercely competitive bunch, and an inherent component of racing is that all of the drivers are battling for one piece of the black ribbon, the one that it is immediately before every other racecar. From Formula One all the way down to Cadet Karts, the question is the same, who rightfully owns that piece of tarmac and when is it acceptable to take it way?
Rather than seeing the nose of his Dodge Reynard pointing perilously down the Corkscrew's three-story drop, Plumb found himself sitting askance with a flurry of racecars whizzing by. Hoping to soldier on, a broken rear suspension had other thoughts.
"I braked pretty much where I had been on previous laps," recounted Plumb. "Right before I turned, I saw tire smoke in my mirrors. As I turned in I felt a nudge at my left rear sending me spinning."
And so a week after triumph, Plumb was left to be a spectator.
"I definitely had the confidence the whole weekend that I could win the race, no matter what. To be knocked out after having those feelings is a big let down," added Plumb.
The story at Road America, a fortnight before Vancouver had a similar ring. A bold pass for the lead in the opening laps was for naught when a lap later he was squeezed between a competitor's car and the trackside barrier. As would happen in Laguna Seca, Plumb saw his weekend end with no points in hand after showing his competitiveness throughout the weekend. In both cases he had qualified second quick, fractions off the pole winning time. In both cases he had aptly demonstrated his speed as he always figured near the top of the charts in the timed sessions.
The late Sir Graham Hill famously coined the phrase; "Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?" What he forgot to mention is that good fortune is invaluable.
Those events aside Plumb justly has plenty to be proud of. In his second year of professional racing, he has a win and a second place finish in a notoriously competitive series. In addition he has secured a top-10 finish in every race this season bar the three that he did not finish; the aforementioned results in addition to a crash at Lime Rock Park in May where the hapless Plumb was caught out by a trail of fluids left on the track on the previous lap.
"I think Homestead was one of the better races that I drove this year, starting at the back then making my way up to the front (finishing fourth). Detroit was also one of my best because I felt like every single lap I was driving better and better and made no mistakes (finishing second)," recounted Plumb.
As for the balance of 2000, Plumb is looking to maintain his winning ways, perhaps a little more savvy to the pitfalls that could stand in his way. Beyond 2000, the possibilities remain open. An Indy Lights drive would be an opportunity he would relish. Hopefully a proper off-season test will materialize. If not, he could return to the Barber Dodge Pro Series as a race winner, and as a solid veteran for whom title aspirations would be spot on.
- George Tamayo