AA First Race of the All Aluminum Tour: Pacific Raceways

Everything secure in the trailer, I patted Diane and kissed the dog (or maybe the other way around) and headed down the driveway with Nero in tow. I tested the new skid plates by scraping Nero’s butt briskly on the bottom of the driveway (they work!) and headed for Pacific Raceway in lovely Kent, Washington.

Road songs:
I always trust Frankie to settle my butterflies, so I put “Sinatra & Sextet, Live in Paris” in the CD player. What a great album. I’m not wild about the first song “Goody-Goody” but the rest of the album is pure gold. Somehow whenever I listen to this recording I can feel how it must have been to be in Paris in 1962. By the time I reached Centralia, I’d listened all the way through a couple of times. I hadn’t listened to any Billy Joel in ages, so I put in his Bridges album. I can’t imagine what it must be like to work with him. I bet he drives the other musicians insane. Every song is so tight, I bet it requires endless rehearsals and a lot of studio time. I finished up with Sting.

When I stopped to fill up with diesel I noticed that the middle left tire on the trailer was flat. I had checked the inflation the night before. When I tried to fill the tire I could hear a whistle from the middle of the tread, and sure enough, there was what looked like a nail head. Fortunately, it was a full-service gas station(!) and one of the guys came out and said–I can plug that without pulling the wheel. He yanked out the “nail” with some pliers and it turned out to be a piece of aluminum about half an inch wide and an inch long. The plug worked fine and I was back on the road in minutes. Seems to be holding air just fine, but I’ll probably replace it. Though I have to say, I couldn’t tell the tire was flat until I looked at it. The trailer towed just fine. One clear advantage of triple axles.

I got to the track and set up. Diane and Sam the gay dog showed up about an hour later in her Bentley, demanding a Gin and Tonic as quickly as humanly possible. We had Cameron and Art join us for dinner and a few glasses of wine. Then we set up for Movie Night–with “the Italian Job” playing on the In Focus. I need to rework how we do the sound, but otherwise, it was great. A bit cold though. We had about ten people join us for the movie, but most left before the end to either hit the sack or get warm. A few people watched it all the way through, and I thought I did too, but this morning I realize I hadn’t seen any of the chase scenes. I tapped out and woke up for the very end.

Today is a test and tune day. I don’t remember whether or not I paid for it. I need to decide whether or not to run Peyote–I think I’ll be better off going over the car instead of putting hours on the engine.

Race Day 1:

I took Peyote out for practice and it was running beautifully. I raised the tire pressure a pound on all corners to 18 psi cold. Did qualifying before lunch and wound up fifth with a 141.something. Not great, I’ve done 1.39s here on Vintage TD tires and I’m running Speedsters this year, but satisfactory for the first time on a track this year. Denny Hatch put his Pooper (Porsche-powered Cooper) on the pole, with Cameron Healy in his Pooper in second, then Jack Goffrette in the Victress and Kurt Delbene in his Lola.

I was hoping for one of the typical Peyote-Pooper battles but I knew I’d have some challenges getting by Jack and the Victress. That Corvette motor makes it tough to stick with in the straights, and he tosses that heavy car into the turns better than anyone would expect. Worse yet, Tony Garmey is driving Art Redmond’s ’57 Corvette this year, and I knew he’d come blasting past at some point if I got tied up. It was shaping up to be an interesting race.

Sure enough, Tony toasted me at the start and so did Steve Clarke in his Lola, so I was in seventh. I got by Steve pretty quickly but Tony is always tough no matter what he’s driving. I pushed him hard in every tight corner, trying to help him warm up his drum brakes. He finally started overheating and pointed me by on the long downhill run to turn 3a. As I passed him I saw a little daylight around the Victress as well so I tried to duck under Jack. I didn’t work, so I was stuck behind him for a couple of laps. I finally got under him in the long sweeper (2) and pulled out enough lead so he couldn’t quite catch me in the chute to turn 3, and then I stuck him behind a bunch of formula Vs we were lapping and I was clear. Jack can’t pass those little Vs very easily–he’s afraid he’ll crush a couple.

Kurt Del Bene was right ahead and I got him in Big Indy, and started chasing Denny in his Pooper. Cameron was long gone–a little silver dot at the end of the straight.

Denny was lapping fast but his rear end was sliding more than normal. He finally pulled off with an oil leak on his rear half shaft. It was lubeing his tire nicely.

I thought I might have a chance to reel Cameron in. With no one close by I thought his concentration would lapse, and sure enough, he was picking daisies way up ahead, but with three laps to go my engine noise suddenly tripled and I thought I’d blown a rod. I pulled off and shut down. As I climbed out I could see that the exhaust manifold had just come apart–a minor fix. What a relief.

Day 2: Sunday in the first race I started mid-pack and worked my way up to second. Cameron was well ahead again with no possibility of catching him once I worked my way up. I got some video of the race–I’ll edit and post it later.

For the second race, SOVREN did a standing start. Cameron started back in the field a bit with Denny, while I was on the first row in second position. I got a decent start but Cameron, Jack, and Denny out-powered me down the straight so I was in fourth going into turn two. I got under Jack in the Victress right away and was right on Denny’s tail. We completed a few laps and Denny pulled off with problems leaving Cameron and me to play.

We had a classic Peyote-Pooper duel, with Peyote’s bigger tires giving me an advantage in turn two and nine, while Cameron had the advantage in most of the other turns and the straight. I finally got past him in turn two and managed to pull out a slight lead.

We swapped the lead back and forth numerous times. Cameron had a partial spin in turn 3a that gave me a good lead. I pressed hard but got held up in a pack of Formula Vs. I could see Cameron tearing up behind me, really coming on fast. I came up on Billy Hart in the Fantuzzi Ferrari and he REALLY didn’t want me to lap him, so Cameron caught up while I struggled to get past Bill. Cameron passed me going down the straight and banzaied through turn two where I expected to get past. He held the lead all the way to the checker.

Great fun, great racing, great guys. I’d rather finish second with a great battle than first all by myself.

I packed up and headed out. Really hard to leave Diane behind, but I’ll be with her in ten days. You’d think after more than fifteen years of being together that we’d be fine apart, but we seem to get more inseparable every year.

I made it to a Wal-Mart parking lot in Spokane and spent the night. Pretty cool of Wal-mart to allow that.

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