Bear Ridge Speedway, August 20, 2011. Back to my favorite track to race at, least favorite to drive too. Why, cause it’s 2.5 hours away. The last time we were here, I finally got my car to hook up well, and if it wasn’t for the excess moisture in the air, I would have pushed things a bit further than I did. With a respectable 3rd place finish, I was looking to repeat that luck again this week.
During the week leading up to race day, I was able to get a new fuel map for the stock engine and felt pretty confident that last weeks problem would be solved. I was also able to better square up the engine to get rid of some of the chain binding I was experiencing. To be sure, I would just have to wait till I could get on the track to find out if the changes were right or not.
Turns out, the day started with the same issue I was contending with last race at Canaan. The engine was shutting off when I gave it too much throttle or raised the RPM to race range. No, it wasn’t the rev limiter. The rev limiter has a distinct rapid bounce in revs. This was more of an engine shut down, until I backed off the throttle. It was blatantly obvious in our hand full of practice laps that running the heat was going to be quite challenging. With less than 15 minutes between the practice and the heat race, I was going to have to deal with it for now.
I started on the outside pole for the heat, only to drop back to 7th out of 9 for the checkers. Throughout the race it was a struggling balance of managing throttle position and struggle to keep up. I wasn’t the only one dealing with issues. Drew started 3rd and finished 5th, and was having his own issues with handling.
Between races, it was an anxious struggle to figure out what was causing the problem. I tried changing fuel maps once again, but could now here the cut out while reving the car in the pits. With a little help, we started scouring the wiring harness to see if there was something apparently wrong there. Sure enough, we found that the mass air sensor plug had come disconnected. The way I have my wiring in the car, it was hiding behind the engine and was not easy to find.
Come feature time, we gained a tenth car and Drew and I started on the front row, Drew to the outside this time. The green flag dropped and I was wide open, problem solved! Heading around turn 1 and 2 I caught a quick glimpse of the #05 car of Scott Preston looking to the inside as we exited turn two and then it was clean air as I lead the first 7 laps. While entering turn one on what would have been my 8th lap, my temperature warning light started blinking. When I exited turn two , the car bucked a few times and gave off a puff of smoke as I blew a coolant line.
The last time I blew an engine at this track, the engine seized and locked up my rear end bring me to an abrupt stop. That thought being my major motivation to get out of the way as quick as possible, I drove a straight line down into the infield and around the light post on the grass. What I didn’t know untill after the race was that Rich Crooker in the #21 car was working his way up to my inside when I drove down to the infield. Crooker had to take action, and lost two places to Spencer Allen in the #22 and Lowbed Johnson in the #12. My night, now over, it was up to Drew to pick up the slack.
Pushing hard, Drew ended up spinning in turn 2 not to many laps later. From my water? Maybe. Maybe not as I found later that I didn’t drop all that much. He would then spend the rest of the race trying to recover position. He was given one more restart when Preston and Brian Cunningham’s (#99) entangled in turn 3 to bring out the final caution.
Rounding up the night Drew placed 5th and I ended up 9th.
We’ll have two weeks off till our next race in Rumney, NH. Till then, I’ll have to investigate the damage done to my engine. Hopefully none. With new gauges in place, I definatly had a quicker response to issues with the engine. The new gauges may have just saved me from loosing a second engine this year. I’m now using 2 Elite Glowshift gauges. One for water temperature, the other for oil pressure, both with attached warning lights. Both gauges are programmable to flash the warning light when values are too low, or too high. They also both have a peek recall. Very useful to gain incite on the max temps your reaching during a race. The best part is that you can get both gauges for under $160. At that price, I don’t know why I didn’t install these gauges sooner.