So I haven't posted about my racing in a while because, not surprisingly things haven't been going too well.

A few months ago I posted a video of differential “problems” due to running it low on oil. I ended up pulling out of the race early. In the end it's something that shouldn't have happened, and ultimately I can only blame myself for the oversight. This was after a flat tire and thunderstorms limited my $225 practice day to a few laps in the dry with two shaved and two full treaded tires and the perpetual down on power issue.

With a long break before our next scheduled race, I vowed to prepare better then ever and spend the time and money to get the car as best as we could. Rather then risk limping by through more races on a differential that might maybe work, or perform some other shoddy stopgap fixes due to just not knowing any better, I had our mechanic source another rear end and swap it on; we can mess with the other one over the off-season. And since it seemed we could only make our power issues worse, I also had him dyno and tune the car. It was down 7-9HP, that doesn't seem like a lot but when you are barely over 100HP, I'm thinking it could be significant. He was able to get 6 more HP out of the car, which I was more then happy with.

Behind the scenes I worked on doing an inventory of our tools and spares, making sure we brought the right spare parts and tools to the track to reasonably fix what ever we could when things went wrong. I tracked past maintenance to better determine service intervals, went back and documented costs in detail so I could establish a realistic and more stable budget. With research and past experiences, we performed some additional maintenance on the car that we just overlooked or for whatever reason didn't get around to in the past.

I didn't want to repeat all the mistakes from earlier in the season and all the times driving without being confident in the car. I wasn't going to go on the track unless I made sure we did everything we reasonably could to be competitive and safe, and I think we did that.

Still all that doesn't ensure good performance and results. On Friday morning I had barely moved the car a few hundred feet from the storage area to the paddock in preparation for practice, when suddenly 3 of the 4 wheel studs on the left front wheel fell off. It's not the most comforting feeling thinking what may have occurred if that happened on the track! We were able to buy new studs and put them on, to find that one would not tighten enough to take the needed torque from the lug nut. I guess we ran with the stud too loose and damaged the threads on the rotor which somehow loosened the other studs to the point of failure. Rather then rush out for practice with 1 loose lugnut which we may have done in the past, I opted to change the rotor which the studs screw into. Although I felt I needed to practice after a long break and the new rear end on the car, I'm no longer going to benefit from running practice with an unprepared car, better to just save the money. We spent the afternoon changing the rotor and doing a few other maintenance things and setting things up rather then frantically scrambling.

On Saturday we were now faced with a lug on the rear that wouldn't take torque! Perhaps it was just coincidence or perhaps we were over anxious in tightening the studs down after the problem with the front, and damaged the threads. Since the rear studs screw right into the axle, and we did not have a spare, I opted to just run with one lug loose in the rear. Yeah, this went against my not going on the track unless I was confident in the car, but this was a race day and I wanted to do what I could to get out there, and felt we did the best we could to prepare.

So I went out for qualifying and the car felt good, the power off the corners felt much better, almost like a different car. The car did seem to lack some grip, and we came off with the pressures a little low. It was cloudy and cooler then usual, so I guess I missed on the pressures. I was fine with qualifying 8th of 11, considering the stud issues and lack of grip and having no practice in 2 months. I was optimistic about the cars performance and felt for the first time this season that if I drove well I could have a good result, it was finally in my hands as a driver.

By the afternoon the ambient temperature was up a lot and the sun was out, so I only raised 3 tires by 1 PSI. But the stud issue was only getting worse, everything we did to try and fix it only seemed to make it worse, for the race in the afternoon we could only get even less torque on that lug. I went out hesitantly for the race. After a few laps I put the hesitation behind me and started to pick up some pace. I was just getting into a groove, and interestingly felt a grip and sensitivity for the tires better then I ever have before. Maybe it was the combination of tires we were running or nailing the pressures, or just developing as a driver, I'm not sure.

But it was short lived as I came down through the chute (turn 4) faster and faster, I got on the brakes as I was straightening out the wheel a little too hard too soon. I locked up the right front bad, which I have done before but probably not this bad. I guess maybe with the new rear end I had too much brake bias forward, and I was carrying more speed since I have more power now. Those could have contributed. I do have difficulty sensing lockup since I cannot see the wheels like I could running the open wheel cars at the racing schools. Anyway, after the lockup I noticed a major vibration. Normally, I think I would have been able to realize this was probably from a flat spot, but now all I could think about was that loose lug and the wheel falling off. I went around for another lap or two somewhat cautiously, but finally decided to just pull it in early.

In the paddock I found the lugs on the wheel to have loosened slightly, but we were unsure if it was enough to cause such a vibration. We wondered for a while, before Keith found a flatspot down to the cords on the right front. Then it all made sense.

We still had the the lug issue and going back to being confident in the preparation of the car, I wanted to do what we could to fix it rather then keep running with it as is. With the suggestion of fellow racers, we were able to take the axle off and found another racer to weld the stud to the axle. It was great to have this help. I was looking forward to the next two days of racing and maybe finally pushing forward and making some progress.

By the next morning we had everything back together, but then minutes before qualifying, the welded stud broke off when we re-torqued the lug nuts. I guess I felt this time it was just too much, without the time to replace the axle, and with the stud now unable to stay in at all, I made the decision to withdraw from the Sunday and Monday races. I felt it was the last straw and I just didn't have the faith anymore for the weekend, and like I vowed I chose not to run instead of limping around.

At that moment I felt frustrated and defeated but also relieved. The stress of the race weekend was off my shoulders. I thought a lot about what I was doing. I can't honestly say I'm always having fun, which makes me question what I'm doing this for. I'm spending a lot of time and money on this, and sacrificing a lot for this. I thought... maybe there's a reason there's no one else like me on the track... because no one else like me is stupid enough to attempt such an endeavor.

By the night though, I was longing to be racing, wondering what I was missing out on. I want to prove to everyone, and perhaps most importantly to myself what I can do. So I don't think the flame is dead yet. If I gave up now I'd just be another person that quit when the going got tough... another person that didn't have what it takes. One of those people that I consider weak!

I think one thing that really bothers me is running a whole year and never once going faster then that ONE race last year, my first race! That is just mind boggling. And it wasn't for lack of effort. If you told me that would be the case a year ago I couldn't fathom it.

As of now I can say my heart is still in racing. At the least though, I think next year I will have to have a different approach and mindset. But I haven't worked out the plans yet.