Mike Buckley ARCA Atlanta race report

Sometimes you have a race where you just need to get it over with and take what you can get......this was our Atlanta experience. The story begins last week with the preparation of the car. We were taking car ...

Sometimes you have a race where you just need to get it over with and take what you can get......this was our Atlanta experience.

The story begins last week with the preparation of the car. We were taking car #03. It doesn't have a nickname yet....it probably would not like the one I am ready to stick on it. This was the third car that we purchased from the Sadler Brothers from Nashville last year. It is not a bad car.....but it not a good car yet. It has an intermediate '99 Chevy body on it that was designed for Atlanta and Michigan. It has a downforce nose but is not real wide...it has speedway style quarters. Atlanta would be the first race that we would take the car to. We bought the car unassembled.....totally unassembled, including the body. So we were putting this thing together both before and after our Daytona race. When the car left the shop, I felt pretty good about the preparation. There were some minor things to be done at the track....and of course, a debugging process. We did not have the time or resources to send this car to the open test, therefore, our test would be in practice.

Besides our car preparation, the other big disadvantage we had for this race was our engine. We own two 18 degree engines. One was currently available in our shop. We would have like to have rented an SB2 for Atlanta but resources dictated otherwise. We ran this motor in practice and qualifying at Atlanta in the fall. It is good motor, but not one that you would normally take to a place like Atlanta. Jimmy Jones came and helped us tune her up the best it was going to be.

Our first major hurdle was getting the car to the tech line. We had some clearance issues with the brake rotors that did not come up at home. In Michigan, there was still snow and cold stuff. We do not have a parking lot where we can push the car around just straight in and out of the trailer. On the way to the tech line, the rotors hit the lower control arms when the wheels were turned at ride height. This did not come up when setting the caster. The rotor hats and the brake calipers would have to be spaced out and realigned. This took a while. We had some issues with the overall template in the inspection line relating to the height of our cowl...it was too low. This was our fault. We did not recheck the overall template at home after getting the cowl aligned with the engine.

After the tech line, there was still some work to be done to make the car safe on the race track. I still had to tweak on the setup after getting the car to the correct heights in the ARCA tent. The sway bar adjustment gave us fits. We finally got the motor warmed up and timed with about 5 minutes left in practice on Thursday.....it wasn't to be as practice ended before we left our garage spot. We left the track knowing the car was ready for Friday morning's practice.

Friday morning we finally got the car ready to go on the track. Then the debugging process began. We started by solving a fuel pressure problem caused by a bad fitting. The first set of tires we put on the car were used tires, they didn't feel right and we immediately went to a new set. We then started having problems with the carb. linkage. The throttle was sticking open on the race track and I was tip toeing around trying to get it solved while still trying to get some meaningful tire temperatures to test the setup. Once the throttle was fixed, I did finally get to put the car deep into the corner....which resulted in the car going straight to the wall. It felt like a rock in the front end. Then practice was over.

Well, the day before I drew for the qualifying order. This is done after the drivers meeting using a Bingo number ball. I drew #1 and had to qualify 1st of the 47 entries.....not good. The car was stable in the qualifying session, but I wasn't willing to drive it too hard into the corner, and settled for 32nd qualifying spot. We got into the race but the car was slow.....hopefully we could fix it in happy hour.

We changed springs to soften the front of the car up for happy hour. The car was even tighter and was plowing like a dump truck. Dale Jarrett's brown truck that he refuses to drive would probably lap our car. I found that our front shocks were gaining tremendous amounts of nitrogen pressure and were heating up more than I had ever seen. The spring changes did not soften up the front of the car and I convinced we were chasing a shock problem....moisture in oil...something.

Race day, we changed the oil in the shocks and recharged them with less static nitrogen pressure. Took the best guess possible without more practice and got the car ready for the race.

In the race, the car was bad and just got worse. It pushed so bad and it was a lot of work to drive. We had a caution at lap 58 when Frank Kimmel hit the wall. The crew told me we had 58 laps in, and I was sure that it was 158. It was a long day. The only incident I had on the track was that I was right behind Shelby Howard when he spun coming off turn 2. We made no green flag stops and stayed out of the way to finish 22nd. It rained again in the middle of the race and the race was called after a long delay waiting for the weather. I was pretty happy that I did not have to continue that race. We picked up our positions from attrition, I couldn't pass hardly anybody.

So combined with our Daytona 11th place finish, we now sit 7th in points. Not a bad start for the year. Actually we were pretty happy after the Atlanta race. We got the car done and on the track. We did not hurt the motor or the car and we were taking home a good looking car that needed some work to get it to handle. We still think the shocks killed us. I have a theory about what happened that we will have to prove on a shock dyno next week.

Return of the Virtual Internet Pit Crew:

We had two honorary pit crew members recruited from the internet newsgroup AUTORACE. A few years ago we had several races where we received help from local people on the AUTORACE list who live near where we are racing. This week Deanna Palmer and Steve Reynolds joined us for all of our fun. They came in Thursday....brought us some lunch to eat...thank you Deanna, and we put Steve to work a little bit. They were both foolish enough to rejoin us for Friday and Saturday's fun. They both are great people and we hope to see them again...maybe at Talladega, eh? Deanna took pictures and sent updates to the AUTORACE list, cool stuff. We hope to do some more of this in the future, especially when we are shorthanded. Who lives in the Nashville area I wonder.

The 3754 story:

We carried a special hood sponsor for the Atlanta race. As most of you probably know, we are one of the many ARCA teams that virtually do this out of our back pocket. Our many associate sponsors do all they can to get us to the race track. There isn't a finer bunch of support sponsors around. This week we had a special one. My mother, Martha, won the Michigan pick 4 lottery last Tuesday night just before we left for Atlanta. This is her house number that she has been playing for several years and has been telling me every race she comes to that one day she would be buying the tires. Well, the Tuesday ticket then became "mine" and we put the winning number in the biggest font you can get across the hood with a "thanks mom" under it. Mom you are a wonderful person.

The next ARCA race is at Nashville. We will be debuting (and debugging) yet another car. This one was the car we wrecked in Atlanta last fall. It has a new 2002 Chevy body that we are excited to get to the track.

Virtual internet pit crew members and especially potential sponsors for the Nashville race are strongly encouraged to contact me at address below.

Mike Buckley Owner/Driver
ARCA #28 www.goddessfiona.com/buckleyracing


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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Mike Buckley , Frank Kimmel , Shelby Howard