2010 – Race #4: Light the fires and kick the tires!

Derek Eldridge
I would consider this a very successful weekend with my #8 600cc mini sprint. With the first 3 weekends proving to be a nuisance, we were able to collect good information to make the proper adjustments at Canaan Dirt Speedway this past weekend.
Friday race days tend to add a level of difficulty when preparing and maintaining the car at the track. The fact is, it’s hard to get help on Fridays because of work schedules. This often leaves me by myself on Friday races. Not only that, but with less time to prep the car, in the past, I’ve tended to rush through what I had to do. This in turn creates problems that could typically be prevented during preparation.
That said, I believe within the Race #1 update, I mentioned it was the first race that I had actually finished at Canaan. Though it may have been with three quarters of my throttle, and a few laps down, I was happy that I finished. This week, will have been the first race I actually finished at Canaan with a respectable position. I can’t say that the night went off without a hitch, but I can say I am extremely happy with the results.
I was very fortunate that my uncle of Patriot Fuels in Canaan NH, was able to join me on Friday and give me hand in the pit. I greatly appreciated all the help he gave me and without him, I could have had another disastrous, stressful Friday night.
So let’s get into the details. We didn’t get to start with any practice laps this weekend due to some issues with preparing the track. So the track, behind schedule about 15-20 minutes had us head straight out to heat races. I started on the poll of my heat race. Bringing the cars to the green, I had the pleasure of running wheel to wheel with the 28 of Tim Beard. After a few laps and a caution, my car was handling quite rough, most likely because I had too much pressure in my rear tires that made the car bounce over the roughly graded corners.
I’m not sure how many laps in, I was able to get by Beard and was passed by the young Johnny Chestnut in the 75L. Soon after while entering turn 3 my car would not turn. Confused, I jabbed the gas to attempt to turn the car with the stagger. It turned enough that I was no longer looking at the far off wall head on, but not enough to get me through the corner. I coasted up to the pit track entry gate, where I came to a stop. I had broken the left front steering arm, which ended my heat.
Finding a new steering arm, we got the car back together for the feature. We made some tire pressure adjustments and changed some cross weight in the car to help with the ruts and we were ready to go. When I got in the car to prep for the race, that’s when I realized the switches were still on since the heat. Apparently, while I was distracted with the damage to the steering arm, I forgot to turn the ignition off. The battery was dead!
No one around, and no 4 wheelers in sight to give me a push, my uncle and and cousin Jordan, pushed me though the pits by hand to try to jump the car. We had no luck. While I was in a panic to get the car started, Drew came to the rescue. Drew all buckled in and ready to go racing, pulled up behind me in his car and gave me a push through the pits. Wish someone had a camera. We had joked about pushing a mini sprint with another in the past but never thought of actually doing it. Thank god, he was able to get me started and the battery was able to charge up while I heated the car in the prep area. Good thinking Drew! And THANK YOU!
Now, I started 3rd row outside while Drew started 4th row inside. Heading down the back stretch, they told us we were going green that lap on the radio. We came out of turn 4 ready to race, just to see the yellow flag still waving. Though, again, we heard something along the lines of “bla bla GREEN” on the radio. Not next lap, but now! That’s when I saw Drew come up in his #7 and pass everyone on the inside after the flag stand. I said to myself, “where’s he going”. And so did the man on the radio. Even though it was the radio’s fault Drew thought we were going green, the man said oh well, were going green on this one without him. I think he made it back to the tail end of the line just as we took the green.
I can’t quite remember the start of the race, but I think I was running in the top 3 or 4 until we came up on lap traffic and I lost track. I have to say, the hardest thing to do when you’re driving on instinct, is remember which cars are ahead of you.
Throughout the race, I used a few tear offs as my visor filled with mud. Then at one point, things were getting extremely blurry so I pulled off another tear off with no difference. I thought, oh crap, the dirt is between my tear offs and I’m losing my vision. Then I blinked. “Wait a min…!” I blinked again… Eureka!! I could see once again. There was so much dust and dirt coming up under my helmet that my eyes were filling up and glazing over with dirt. I kid you not! With my adrenalin pumping so hard, and no time to blink, I couldn’t even feel the dirt in my eyes.
After a few more laps of what I can’t quite remember I was running behind my brother when a caution came out. Immediately after the yellow, they through the red and all I heard on the radio was, “Yellow Flag! Yellow Flag!….Red Flag!!! Red Flag!!!” I immediately looked around and thought, “Oh crap, did someone flip! What happened??” Then I heard, “Number 8 you’re on fire!!”. I immediately looked down at my engine and then down at my belly pan to look for oil or fire and found nothing. I thought, No I’m not, you’re on crack. Then he said “Your breaks are on fire!”.
When the officials got to me they said the same thing, and I replied “So put it out!”. Naturally they did. I just sat in my seat and waited for them to be finished. Fire extinguishers are typically one time use, and considering they are filled with CO2, a very cold non-flammable gas, I asked them to empty the extinguisher on the brake. I knew that this would most likely cool the brake almost enough to touch, and I would be good to go. Lucky thing is, there are no vital systems nearby my brakes. My fuel is not stored in my tail like other cars. I’s stored 3 feet away in a side tank forward from the brake. After they were done, I drove the car to the front streatch and check my brakes multiple times to be sure they felt right. All was good.
The brakes got that hot because I was using them…. a lot! Considering I’m running a steel rotor and racing pads, the only worry would have been if the pads were gone or the brake line itself saw enough heat to be damaged. If there was a fire, it would have been the pads and pad dust that was in flames. You can feel if you are on pads or steel on steel when you step on the brake. When I tested the brakes I could feel that the pads were still there. To test the brake line, I stomped on the brake as hard as I could to lock up the rear, multiple times. If the line was weekend, it would have popped. I was 100% confident that the breaks were ok.
The officials then asked me to have them checked out in the pits. After re-checking them multiple times in the pits myself, and also having my crew visually inspect for damage, I was good to go. After receiving the o.k., from the track official at the gate, I headed out to the track. I lost my position as I caught the tail end of the line just before the green. With only around 4 laps to go, the fire moved from my brake to my aggression. I wanted my position back… NOW! 8o)
With my foot to the floor, I flat footed the whole track and made it back to my brother by the last lap. Coming out of turn 4 I passed Drew to take 7th place out of 15 cars starting the feature. Drew went on to finish 9th without traction as his tires glazed over sometime in the middle of the race.
What an eventful race! The fact that we were able to overcome obstacles and make it back to finish 7th was such a thrill. I can’t wait to climb back in next week at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford VT.
Till then I hope you’ve enjoyed the update, and I’ll see you next week. 

Derek Eldridge #8
600cc Mini Sprint
Granite State Mini Sprints

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