Go Kinda Fast, Turn Left - By Bruce St. James - July 7, 2003
Hope you had a fun and relaxing 4th of July weekend. As you will read, mine was fun but fell a bit short of relaxing. Let's get to the racing!
Friday, July 4th ASCA Sprint Cars - Manzanita Speedway, Phoenix
Those of you that follow these e-mails closely know that Manzanita has hardly been good to me. I always seem to draw a number that starts me in the back and I've never made the main event in 3 tries. It's all about to change... Heat #3, 8 laps I had my friend Brandon draw the number for me and he pulled #7! Whopppeeee. I get to start inside front row for the heat. No excuses now. The track was still a bit wet and it's easy to run fast when the car carries the speed into the corner. I led every lap and even survived a restart with former track champion Ricky Johnson on my butt. My first heat race win at Manzy and I was very excited, plus we qualify for the main event for the first time here.
Main Event, 50 laps! (Firecracker 50) 50 laps is a long race. We usually run 30. I had 3 Red Bulls before the race to make sure I wouldn't get worn out to soon. Manzanita lines up the main events by inverting cars based on average finishing position. Since I have never started a main event here, I lined up for the main on the pole position. I thought I'd be nervous leading 22 cars down for the start of 50 laps, but the heat race gave me some extra confidence. It would turn out to be short lived. The crew "tightened" the car up for the main event, rather standard practice. In hindsight, we have gone a bit far. :) As soon as the green flag dropped, I stood on the throttle and the front wheels yanked off the ground. All I could see was sky but I didn't want to let off with all those cars behind me. I got the front settled just in time to barrel into turn 1 where the car dug in and jumped up the track. (This was not the same car I ran in the heat race.) And so started my steady retreat through the field.
The fast groove was middle to low but I just couldn't get the car to turn down there. I ran the top of the track mostly and was uncomfortable with the feel of the car. This is where experience comes into play. The car was driveable and fast, I wasn't. The 50 laps went by quickly and I ended up with a 15th place. There were a few holes in the track and I managed to hit them every damn lap. My neck and ribs are reminding me to try and avoid the holes in the future. All in all a good night and I got a bunch more laps around Manzy. Next time, I will be better prepared for a car that acts that way. Thanks to Tom, Brandon, George and Ben for all their help.
Saturday, July 5th USAC Sprint Cars - Thunder Raceway - Show Low, Arizona
Qualifying: The track started off bad, and got worse. I went out to qualify near the middle and couldn't find anyplace to get a hold of the track. I ran around the top and just buzzed the tires. Qualified 19th out of 24. Ugghh. Heat #1 Since I'm such a star qualifying and USAC inverts by time I got to start up front for the heat race. The track was completely gone by now. The only place to run looked like the very bottom and we set the car up to run down there. It was much slicker than I even imagined and I slipped up the track a few times allowing guys to get by. Finished 4th and transferred to the main.
Main Event, 30 laps Started 11th. As we lined up for the start, the track looked like it does at the end of a race, not the beginning. Very dusty and slick. At the drop of the green I drove the car too hard into the first few corners and gave up some spots. (We had a red flag around lap 10 for a wreck by my friend Mike Martin. He flipped down the front straight right in front of me and bumped his head for the second time in 3 weeks. After a brief visit to the hospital, he was released and is fine.) I restarted in 15th place and began my slow, steady charge to the front! I found I could run the very bottom of the track with the left wheels in the infield. Cars were coming back to me at a rapid pace and I would pick them off, about one every other lap. I got up to 8th place when I ran out of laps. Not bad and I was proud to have run so good on such a tough track. This was the first time I felt I could just drive around other guys and hope to keep that mindset in the future.
The night was made even more special by my teammate and friend Brandon Lane winning his very first main event!!!! Brandon has been racing for years and has come so close and truly deserved the win. Congrats to the Lane family on their first win AND Brandon taking over the lead in the USAC Southwestern Sprint Series points championship! I am in a solid 10th place and believe my strategy of pacing myself early in the season will pay off. Then again, maybe I just need go quicker.
Next Race July 12th - Rocky Mountain Speedway - Denver, Colorado
Go kinda fast, try and turn left, #00 Bruce St. James