VR-JPMD #8: Huffaker DQ'd, Tracer Party
Valvoline Runoffs '97
Copyright (c) 1997 John P. M. Dillon
I missed most of Tom Stephani's meeting about Runoffs participation since I was in Scoring at the time. (Those folks work late!) However, I overheard that most of the opposition cane from those whose oxes would be most gored, namely the ones with small participation numbers. I arrived just as alternate plans were being tossed about, such as splitting the event into two half-events, moving the venue around more often, and increasing/changing the tow fund to part tow/ part purse fund. Questions arose about the bidding process of the venue, and Doug Reed clarified the numbers. "No, it's not a $3M event; it's less than $500,000." It was also pointed out that any changes would have to be coordinated with Valvoline, which has a coincident 3-year contract with the track. "Three years is about the minimum time that a track can begin to recognize a profit for this event. Fortunately for us, Road Atlanta kept changing owners, so we kept renegotiating the contract every two or three years!" As Brian said at the end, "This is strictly a bull session to bring out your ideas. This might be a good time to bring out my article from MotoRacing magazine. If I can find it, I'll repost it here. Ah, found it (them!)
Mark Smith reports that Bill Gilcrease is "in the middle of something big." He's racing against the new rear-drive Minis, which Mark says are really just rear-drive Sprites. After one day of qualifying, Gilcrease was the highest-qualifying front-wheel-drive Mini. He'd fried a piston on Saturday and spun a main gear on Sunday, but gathered the car back together for qualifying.
The complexion of this contest has changed now that Joe Huffaker was bounced for illegal engine placement. Apparently the #1 piston is 4 inches behind the front axle, in violation of the GCR.
Tuesnight the Tracer team hosted their famous hot tub party for the workers, complete with karaoke, beer, soda, and Foster's Farms chicken. There were seven of us in a golf cart en route, your author poured into the rear basket. Ed Brown, the Team Manager for Tracer for 20 years, said the reason is painted on the wings: JFTFOI, which means "Just for the fun of it." He adds that they've won 12 of 19 championships and they hope that their 20th Runoffs will give them lucky 13. He added that the original wooden hot tub is now covered by kudzu at Road Atlanta.
Tom Foster said "We party every race we go to, and for 15 years we've thrown the barbecue party at the Pacific Coast Runoffs (though not this year.)" He added that this is their 20th and possibly final year for a while. "We're having a good time and have enjoyed the competition." Five of their 9-man crew has 20 years with the team, the newest addition has a 15 year history, and all but one are volunteers. He elaborated too on the hot tub origins, saying the original wooden one was built in response to a "poor hot tub at the motel in Gainseville, Georgia." They replaced the wooden unit with another team-designed model, this one made from aluminum, about 15 years ago.
One of the party-goers, Beth Talbot, reported that "You can get in front of a bunch of strangers to sing karaoke, but it takes guts to stand in front of a bunch of friends--or a lot of beer!" Travis Duder was taking digital pictures of the party, which we hope to post on the web for your entertainment.
Chuck Billington added this message to the workers: "Thank you! This is what it's all about, just for the fun of it." With their presumed absence from next year's Runoffs, they're planning instead a five-week five-race tour around the country.
The battery's beeping in the Dinner Bell restaurant, so I'll rush back to the hotel, upload these notes, then head to the track and catch up on other news. I'll send a few more Tracer party quotes in the next episode.