Barber Dodge Pro Series racer Matt Plumb gives us his perspective on the weekend in Detroit for Round 5 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. All in all it was a successfull weekend for Plumb. He started the race in third and finished a career high ...
Barber Dodge Pro Series racer Matt Plumb gives us his perspective on the weekend in Detroit for Round 5 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series.
All in all it was a successfull weekend for Plumb. He started the race in third and finished a career high second, yet it wasn't all easy sailing...
The Motown Experience
Detroit was the location for round 5 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Things started badly as my flight was delayed 3 hours. Upon arrival the luck continued as Detroit had suffered from a citywide black out and the rental car attendants were unable to function. Two hours later I stepped into my shiny Pontiac Sunfire. I believe that was the name, at least that is what the tow truck driver called it when I brought it back with a broken throttle cable 20 minutes later. Not the turnaround in luck that I was looking for. A couple of apologies later I was on my way this time in a Silver Astro Wagon van. The hotel is the historic Pontchartrain in downtown Detroit. The only thing historic is the exercise room that I visited before calling it an early night.
Today was spent at the track making sure all was ready for the coming race. My car had been destroyed at Lime Rock and my crew was still reassembling when I arrived at the track. After catching up on the progress with my mechanic Ross Mcleod, I began reapplying the decals that the tire wall in West Bend at Lime Rock had robbed me of. Fellow drivers trickled in every once in a while with questions about my state of health after my wreck and we discuss what each has been doing between races. By 3:00 my task was done and fellow driver Pete Boss and I hit downtown Detroit to take advantage of its new found gambling privileges. We each withdrew $100 and looked for a table at the MGM not far from the hotel. Blackjack was the game and within 30 minutes I am rolling in it. Pete however had made several runs to the bank machine as his luck took a turn for the worse. An hour later Charles, the dealer, had put me well on my way to paying off the crash damage from the previous weekend. Pete had dug himself somewhat out of a rather larger hole and was content to walk away only slightly short. Dinner was eaten in the hotel restaurant and bed soon after.
It is an early morning with the first practice at 8:45. For this session I was in a spare car as Pro Series test driver Oswaldo Negri was testing mine. The track is very green and the session is spent reacquainting myself with the circuit. Belle Isle is a beautiful track that winds through parkland on an island off of Downtown Detroit. However, little time is spent enjoying the views of the waterfront as the concrete barriers make concentration laps expensive. After the session was the customary feedback from the coaches letting you know were you looked the scariest. Oswaldo’s opinion was that all was well with my racecar, which is a good thing as the spare had a motor problem. At that point my engineer/coach/shrink/motivational speaker Nick Longhi arrived. As far as setup nothing could be discussed since I had not driven the car that I would qualify later in the day. Nick’s guess would turn out to be a good one as we were 2nd on the grid, only .05 off pole. We left the track around 6:00 and decided that we would meet Todd Snyder, Sepp Koster and Kip Gulseth across the border in Windsor Canada for dinner. The hotel we are in has a great policy of charging their guests to park at their hotel. In addition you are put at the mercy of there valet parking attendants a couple of whom I am pretty sure don’t even work there. So after spending 25 minutes in the lobby waiting for the Astro Van, Nick, my brother Charlie, and I set off across the border. Dinner is spent talking about chicks and speed. Kip likes chicks. On our way back into the U.S. I noticed my brief case that I had left under the seat on Wednesday was gone. When I question the manager, of the parking attendants, he scratched his head and said, “I don’t think that is your car.” We had been driving Jerome Taylor’s Astro not ours, and Jerome was still on the town somewhere with my brief case. Either that or he had gone back to Honolulu were his rental agreement said he was from. Long story made short, there was a knock on the door in the middle of the night with a delivery of a brief case and a parking ticket stub for my Astro.
Final qualifying was again another crapshoot on who could get a clean lap. Just when you would begin a flyer the black flag would come out or you would catch a back marker. Also my car developed some understeer in several corners again prohibiting me from lowering my previous time. My blackjack luck did not continue and I had to settle for 3rd. Nick and I discussed the plan for the following day as far as setup and strategy and then went to watch the Champ Cars finish qualifying. We saw Kip trying to hit on Ashley Judd only to be scared away by her boyfriend Dario Franchiti. Kip likes chicks. After getting all the sun and beer fumes we could take we headed back to the hotel for an early dinner. With Nick’s earplugs in place we hit the sack.
Race Day. Being that our race wasn’t until 3:45 we were slow getting to the track. At 10:30 we were all summoned to our drivers meeting. This consists of Rick Rataczak’s role call, Barry Waddel’s speech “Run to the Front and Stay There” which I was told has been copyrighted and placed on t-shirts, and then some talk about race control by Jack Fantelli. The tent gets quite loud as the interpreters struggle to keep up with pace of the meeting. Afterwards we are summoned by the union leader of the BDPSDA (Barber Dodge Pro Series Drivers Association) This organization provides the drivers a chance to fight together for the plight of the race driver and address any problems that may be present within the series. Soon after our meetings have been concluded we are shuttled to an autograph signing session. The line is already winding around the paddock as we arrive and the cheers are deafening. It is actually a highlight for many of us and is always well attended. At 11:15 the Indy Lights race began and several of us stood and cheered on our Barber Dodge graduates (Todd Snyder, Townsend Bell, Chris Menninga, Jeff Simmons, Geoff and Andy Boss and Tony Renna). We all then watch the CART Race and F1 race in the comfort of the Racing For Kids RV. At 3:00 everyone dispersed to the appropriate trailers to put on suits, shine helmets, apply tear offs and to have last minute discussions with mechanics and coaches. Several congregated under the awning of our trailer listening to John Vannini’s imitation of a historic European race diver, “Ze car is how you zay, too zlow.” After getting the call, drivers stuffed themselves into their cars and waited for the order for pre grid. I sat, with labored breathing having been buckled in by Ross and went over the race in my head beginning with turn one of the start, and ending with me on the podium. It never turns out the same way but I think it is helpful. We sat on pre grid melting in our cars for 45 minutes as Sylvester Stallone paraded up and down pit lane filming scenes for his upcoming movie. When the race finally got under way it was like being surround by caged dogs. The Brazilian contingency was determined to make their move early on and one did so in the first turn. I conceded the position due to the possible carnage that would have ensued had I not. After a full course caution I resumed filling the mirrors of the car in front. This paid off as he ran out of road exiting turn four and made contact with the wall. This allowed me to get around but the leaders had checked out. Nick called me on the radio to inform me that I had about 5 seconds between 2nd place and me and that I could catch them. For 20 minutes I drove qualifying laps until I had wittled away Fogarty and Menningas lead. With only a couple of laps left I was behind Menninga. As we approached lapped traffic coming out onto the straight his timing was a little off catching the car ahead in a bad place. Getting a good run on him down the straight away I squeezed by going into a flat out kink and took the position. With Jamie behind me I focused on Fogarty and began reeling him in. Unfortunately I ran out of laps and had to settle for 2nd. The champagne flew at victory circle soon after and the weekend was brought to an end. The mass exodus ensued as people rushed to make their flights home.
Cleveland is next, stay tuned and...The moral of the story, don’t rent from Enterprise, don’t break down in east Detroit, tip your parking attendant, don’t take gambling advice from Pete, and in Waddel’s words “Run to the Front and Stay There."