8.15.11 - 8.20.11 Day 54 - 60 Yummy! Yummy!
William has to work today at 2 so I’m on my own. We grab some lunch at a Thai restaurant just a block away. We share a chicken curry and a pad see ew, quite good. One thing that William mentioned and that Ive noticed is that its hard to find the typical chain restaurants in the city. it’s a welcome change to the kind of stuff I normally end up eating. After lunch I relax a bit and try to catch up on the blog and start getting things ready for work next week.
I wrote, then read, then wrote some more. Soon I found myself to be exhausted and fell asleep quite early. I didn’t even think about eating dinner. I also forgot to get things ready to fly to Milwaukee tomorrow.
Somewhat early morning today. I have a taxi, train then plane ride to Milwaukee. I found the suitcase my brother offered to let me borrow and threw some clothes, my laptop and some books inside then called for a taxi. After 15 minutes of waiting, the taxi still hadn’t shown so I called for another and it finally arrived. Great, already running behind schedule. I was dropped at the University Ave station for $8. Downstairs I stood around and waited for the train. The buses also come through the same area so for a second, I was confused as to exactly what the train looked like. After some time, something resembling a train pulled up and I boarded. The trains are fairly new to Seattle so everything was still white, shiny and new unlike the old and used MARTA trains I am accustomed to in Atlanta. There was also no real way of ticketing so I wondered how many people got free rides until a few stops later, a couple of officers got on board and asked for tickets. Hmmmm, for a brand new transit system, it seemed kind of silly to check for tickets in this fashion.
Things are moving slower than expected and at this point, I’m starting to worry if Ill even catch my plane. I get to Seatac an hour before my flight departs then realize I have a long walk to get to the terminals. I half jog, half walk towards the terminals expecting the plane to leave me behind. But for some reason, I wasn’t bothered to actually run. The tickets counters were flooded with people as I find my way to Airtran. Luckily, my line was short. Got my ticket and then did my half walk half jog to the gates. I walked up right as they were announcing the zones and I looked at my ticket for the first time and realized I didn’t even have a seat assignment. I had to wait until the gate agent finished boarding the other passengers and she found me a seat. On board and looking at the seat number, I walked right past 1st class as usual only to find I had already passed my seat. Wait, am I in first class? Nice! Free upgrade. I sat down in my larger than usual seat and stretched out. I could get used to this. Upon takeoff, I glanced out the window to see a spectacular view of Mt. Rainier from the air. There were also a few other prominent peaks but for some reason, I cant remember any of them.
Milwaukee. I met Kevin at the rental car counter where we got our Nissan Cube. Kevin is a fabricator for West and we use him for track events from time to time. Our second car was running this weekend so Kevin was brought in to join in on the fun. We went straight to our hotel near Sheboygan, picked up Jake and off to dinner of pizza and beer. No work today.
We set up the canopy and I went about cleaning and prepping the car after the last weekend in Ohio. The car was a mess after the rain race and the trip to the gravel trap. I spent hours cleaning and vacuuming only to spend more hours prepping the car. The car had picked up a misfire at the last race and I found some water in the ECU plugs so I cleaned them until I was satisfied all the connections were as good as they could be. After the car looked to be mechanically sound, I rolled her up onto the scale pads and did a scale and alignment. Almost everything on the car needed to be changed so it took a while to finish. I cant seem to remember what we did for dinner now. Im pretty sure tonight was just another simple meal at a place in Sheboygan.
First session out, Jim just did lap after lap and lap. Several times I radioed in to him to pit so I could take tire pressures. He said he had radio issues but Im pretty sure he was just ignoring me, ha. No matter, it was good to get some track time in. I can get pressures the next session.
Second session - After a few minutes on track, Jim called in and said he was pitting. He said the car was smoking and extremely ill handling. I had an idea of what happened. We have had lower control arms break before so when he pulled in, the first thing I noticed was the lowered stance of the right rear control so off went the engine cover. The control arm was fine, but the rod end bushing had torn completely out of its bushing. Huh….havnt seen that one before. Not having one on pit lane and being too early in the session to just call it quits, I jumped on the golf cart and hauled ass back to the trailer to find the spare parts and some of the tools to replace the bushing. Parts in hand, I jumped over the pit wall and went straight to work. The car is extremely hot and my hands burned on every part. After a minute, they became numb so I was able to get the old bushing out and replace it with a new one. As I was finishing up, I had Jim start getting back into the car. There was still time left in the session so we were to salvage as much of it as we could. Back on track. While Jim was on track, I started thinking out all the other old rod ends on the rear suspension and made up my mind to replace all the old ones tonight. This was probably just a fluke but you can never be too safe at a track like Road America.
I believe tonight was the night we went to the Japanese Hibachi restaurant. This place didn’t even look open so I got out and tested the door. Yup, Japanese for dinner! We sat around the Hibachi grill, ordered and waited for the chef to come out. The chef was someone I wont soon forget. He had a minimal grasp of the English language so to keep us entertained, he used a little bit of broken English and a lot of random noises. His favorite line was "Yummy Yummy!" It was tough to listen to but funny to look over at the other guys at the table and see their misery and amusement all at the same time. I couldn’t wait to get dinner over with. The food was way sub par and the only thing that saved the meal was the beer. Once the chef left, the table next to us filled up and here he comes again. Oh no, I can’t bear to listen to this again. I finished my meal in a hurry as the chef started his rehearsed and almost scripted show. I went outside to escape the noise and misery and ended up talking to the waitress for a while. Sweet cute girl from Chicago. I wanted to tell her that the chef was terrible and annoying at best but I didn’t have the heart after she told me they had a really hard time finding a chef and keeping one there because of the restaurant’s remote location among the cow fields of Wisconsin. I went back inside praying the others were finished as well.
Qualifying. The session started out as any other. Jim was slowly dropping his times and I was just ticking off the laps. Then came the call over the radio. “Weekend’s over.”
“What happened? You okay Jim?”
I thought maybe the motor blew or maybe he took a corner off the corner. Im thinking, weekend’s not over, I can fix whatever it is. it’s a race car.
“Went off in the carousel, hit the concrete wall. Car is pretty bad and Im not so sure Im not hurt.”
“Jim, if you think you are hurt, stay in the car and don’t move, the ambulance will come to you. Don’t move!”
I ran over to one of the timing stands and searched the monitors for a sign of Jim and the car. One screen showed the car resting again the concrete wall but soon turned blank. That’s not good, they normally only do that when the driver is badly hurt. No longer having communication with Jim since the corner workers and ambulance arrived, there was nothing left to do but pack up pit lane and head back to the paddock and wait. Our trailer is right next to the medical building so I would be able to see it coming. We waited a few long minutes before the ambulance finally pulled up. Jim’s two driver coaches and myself start heading over when I see the tow truck with the car in the air coming towards us as well. Crap, well, one of us is going to have to take care of the car. So I flagged down the truck and led him to our trailer. The medics wouldn’t have let me into the building anyways so I would just have to wait to hear from Bobby or Tom, or Jim preferably.
Once we got the car down on the ground and under the awning, I took a good look at the undamaged rear of the car to make sure something hadn’t broken causing the car to go off. I also searched for something I may have left loose or just plain forgot. So far in my career, a race car has not crashed or been damaged because of my wrongdoing and if someone was to get hurt because of my carelessness or a mistake on my part, then it would be over. I wouldn’t put a wrench to a race car ever again. Once satisfied that nothing had broken, I started to survey the damage on the car and start thinking about putting it back together. After getting the nose off the car, I realized the heavy damage the car had received and knew Jim was right. The weekend is over. The main frame bend was bent and it was lucky that it didn’t fracture and impale Jim in the left. The way the car hit the wall, the suspension didn’t buckle like designed under the force of impact and instead transferred all the force in the frame rail through the pick up point. The chassis needs to go back into the jig to be cut and rewelded. Nothing I could do here. I made a list of the damage, then covered her up and waited to hear about Jim. They were taking him to the local hospital to have x-rays and such done. Jim seemed okay for the most part, but with an impact like that, it always better to be safe than sorry. With adrenaline and shock, one may not realize that something is actually broken.
Later on, I got word that Jim was okay. Bruised and sore, but okay. We still had the other car and a race today so we got back to work and got Kevin’s car ready to go. I don’t even remember how the race went, it was seemingly unimportant to me. It wasn’t my car, it wasn’t my driver. My car is underneath a cover unable to be reapaired and my driver was in the hospital. Race over, we prepped the car for the next day, rolled down the sides of the awning and called it a night.
We had a race in the early afternoon today and we had to break everything down and load it all before Kevin and I had to catch our flights home. It was going to be a busy day. We cleaned up everything we could but it would still be a rush to get everything loaded and strapped down after the race. The rain came and went while we waited for our time on track. Its going to be another one of those last minute decisions again. Once we were on grid, the skies were clear and blue and the radar showed no signs of weather. Then, for some season completely unbeknownst to me, the officials called it a wet race and we were forced to start the race on rain tires. Worst call Ive seen in a really long time. While thrashing to put the rain tires on at the last minute, I realized that the tire guys had mounted one of the tires backwards so I rushed back to them and had it flipped then rushed back to finish helping Kevin with the tire change.
The driver of the second car runs in several different race series, 4 this weekend alone so he had his own set of crew guys that normally work for his LMPC car. They insisted that we change to the dry tires as soon as possible. My call would have been to wait for the rest of the pack to come in. it’s a short race and there would be no time to make up for the time spent in pit lane unless everyone else pitted also. We pitted from the lead…..another terrible call. We borrowed a couple of guys from the LMPC team but honestly, I think Kevin and I would’ve been better off doing it ourselves. The car went back on track over 1.5 minutes behind. We were only 8 seconds faster on the slick tires and at this rate, we weren’t going to catch the leaders. The only hope was the competitors tires would fall off even more or they would spin because of ill handling caused by soft wet tires on a hot dry track. We eventually worked our way up to third past the slower cars. Then I hear race control calling the 2nd place car off at a corner. Sweet. Up to second. Then race control came back on the radio and said the 1st place car would be penalized two positions for avoidable contact. Okay, 1st place it is then. Haha, sometimes you just need a little luck and some bad moves on the competitors parts. The two cars that made contact were actually teammates, oops.
After the race, we pushed the car through tech and started packing up the trailer. Apparently, the fuel sample we gave the officials were way off so we had to give a second sample along with a sample from our fuel barrel. Strange, it was a fresh barrel that weekend straight from the VP fuel dealer. No ill intentions on our part. We run the fuel that is sold to us by the VP guy. We continue packing and get everything in the trailer just in time for me and Kevin to rush to the airport and catch our flights. Kevin’s flight is earlier than mine, so I actually had time to eat some dinner at the airport.
Short but long day. Once boarded, I fell asleep before the plane even took off. I woke up to the flight attendant asking me what I wanted to drink. I grunted, shrugged her off and went back to sleep. When the second round of beverages came around, I finally got up and had a ginger ale and read my book until the plane touched down in Seattle. I boarded the train back to downtown and was picked up by my brother. A friend of his was having a house warming party and he asked me to come along, but I just wanted a shower and a bed. Im too tired.