Randy HOuse, Crew Chief ARCA ...
Randy HOuse, Crew Chief ARCA #9
This weekend started out in the normal way; No sleep. six hour drive and short on help. We arrived at the track on time and set out to get the car ready for practice. I have said this before but if you have never seen Kil Kare Speedway you would not understand how it is laid out. Depending on who you talk, it has anywhere from five to seven turns. It is a hard track to drive, yet it seems to be one of the tracks we run best at. It takes more handling then horsepower to run good here.
The practice session started and the car just did not seem right. We were turning some good laps but Eric just was not happy with the way the car felt. After several adjustments we still did not like the way the car was running. After practice we went back to the pits to get ready for qualifying. I checked the tire stagger and found that someone had set the stagger wrong. I normally do this at the shop but I was on vacation and did not get a chance to do this. We put on a new set of tire and put the car on scales. This is the first time in several years we have had to do this at the track. We reset the weight percentages and got ready to qualify.
All the work paid off. In fact, it paid of good enough to put the car on the POLE. That's right, we were the fastest car buy three thousands of a second. Not bad for a low buck team like ours.
Time to set the car for the race. Kil Kare tends to tighten up our car as it cools off. I talked to Eric and we decided to put three turns in to tighten the car.
The race started and we lead the first ten laps. Frank Kimmel passed us on lap eleven and the rest of the race it was us chasing Frank. No other car ever came close to catching us and we never could get back around Frank. We finished second , but it was just as good as a win for us. The car and engine lasted the whole race and we came in second to a well sponsored team.
The day had went perfect, we finished second and we were loading the hauler to go to the next nights race. As the guys were loading the pit cart, Eric decided to get in there and help them. We put the cart on four by fours to keep it from walking around in the hauler. We us a jack to jack up one end then slide the boards under the cart. Well, as we were doing this, Eric slid the board under the cart and then it happened. The jack slipped and the cart came crashing down. The only problem was Eric still had his hand under the cart . The cart landed on his hand. Ouch! His hand swelled up fast. It looked bad, real bad. We took him to the first-aid station and they could not do anything until the swelling went down. They put ice on it and told us were to go in the mourning to get an x-ray done the next day.
The next day my wife and I took Eric to a local hospital for some x-rays while the rest of the team went to Flat Rock Speedway to wait. The x-rays turned out negative. All he had was a severely bruised hand. He was told not to use it or to race.
We went to the track and everybody got together and we decided to go on in and try a few practice laps to see how he felt. The last thing we wanted to do was injure his hand more.
We left the same tires on the car that we had raced on the night before. He went out and ran ten laps of practice. We were fast, but Eric said he was not driving hard because if the car got loose he could not catch it with one hand.
We decided to qualify and run two laps in the race, then pull in and only go out during yellow flags and turn some laps in hopes of gaining a few positions and points.
Qualifying was simple. We left the old tires on the car, went out and qualified twenty-third. They only take the fastest twenty-four on times so we just made it into the show. The amazing thing and sad thing is that we were only seven tenths of a second off the pole. If we would have put new tires on that would have gained us at least five tenths and if Eric could have drove harder we could have had the pole again.
Plans for the race. Pull to the end of the field before the start and run until the leaders catch us then pull in. Remember, we were still on old tires. We could not run the whole race on these tires. Well, Eric kept telling me that he felt bad that everybody came to help and he could not race. I explained to him that things happen, but we needed him to be one hundred percent in three weeks when we run at our home track. If he hurt his hand more he might be out the rest of the year.
For the race ARCA told me I needed to be in the pits in case they needed to talk to me. So, I went into the pit area with my radio and an extra radio . That was all. Remember, we were only going to run a few laps.
The race started and Eric pulled to the back of the field during the pace laps. The green flag came out and he ran in last for a lap when two cars collided and Eric passed two cars before the yellow flag. He ran under the yellow for several laps. I was talking to him and he was telling me the car was good and his hand did not hurt. I told him "Remember, only two laps plus we were on them old tires". He said he remembered. right. The green came back out and the next thing I knew he was passing some of the back markers. We were still slow running on the old tires so it only took about ten laps before the leaders caught us. A lap before this the spotter told Eric it was time to come in. But, he just kept on going. He let the leaders go by and went back to racing.
This was one of the worst races I have ever seen. People were driving like they were in demo derby cars. They were going into the corners three and four wide. Some drivers were driving down into the grass. I saw one driver (Andy Belmont) spin into the in-field, put the car in gear and drive full speed through the pit area on the grass just missing several crew members. In other words , they were driving like it was the Saturday night local bomber race. It was bad and I did not want Eric ought there. I could see what was going to happen and it did. On lap sixty-seven, Mike Buckley (you all know him) was spun out by Mark Gibson. This happened right in front of Eric. Mike's car spun, went up the track and then came back down in front of Eric. Eric has hard on the brakes, turned the wheel and hammered the gas to spin himself. It all worked pretty good except he hit Mike with the right front of our car. There was very little damage to either car, but the jolt was enough to bring Eric in. I don't think it hurt him anymore but it did make him understand the word pain and I did not have to tell him "I told you so".
We have three weeks to get his hand in shape before we run on the Springfield Mile. This is our home track and the one place we like to have everything one hundred percent. This is the fastest one mile clay oval and it is a blast to see 3500# stock cars running here. This is one race that is a must see.
Until the Thunder Rolls again...
Randy House ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ http://www.arcacar9.com Crew Chief ARCA #9