The Cowtown Classic, Sept 28-29, 2013

Daytona was so much fun, we returned to another NASCAR track for the Cowtown Classic at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth.  Two 7-hour races to test the teams' mettle and their metal.  Unfortunately, our mettle* was tested a little more than we wanted ( * a person's ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way).

On Friday, we arrived and set up our stuff.  The first-class facilities were really nice.  Nice garages, nice pit stalls; they even had parts washers in the garage. (click on pictures for bigger versions)

SATURDAY

Saturday dawned with the threat of rain in the afternoon, but the morning was nice.  The race started with 38 cars in a 2-wide rolling start.  Clark started the race in 30th place, but steadily worked his way through the field.  He did an incredible job and was in 3rd place when he pitted for fuel and a driver change.

Clark reported to Tobey that the brake pedal was a little soft and that there was vibration under braking.  We've had the vibration before, and the brake pedal felt OK while sitting in the pits, so Tobey headed out, rejoining the race in 9th place.

The brakes turned out to be very inconsistent.  One turn the brakes were almost non-existant.  Then the next turn the pedal would be like normal.  Then it would be mushy and soft in the next corner.  Tobey only stayed out 2 laps before coming back in; the inconsistent brakes were just to risky.

The team did a quick visual inspection and there were no signs of leaks.  So the decision was made to take it to the garage and replace the master cylinder.  A thorough search of all the spare parts boxes failed to turn up a master cylinder, though.  DOH!  Thankfully, the 187 team, which also races a 240sx, let us use their spare.  We installed the master cylinder, bled the brakes really well, and sent Thomas out.

2 laps later we were back in the garage.  The brakes were still no good.

We decided then to change the brake booster.  Once again, the 187 team loaned us a booster.  It's kind of a pain to replace, but Thomas and his dad contorted themselves under the dash and we got it in.  Again, in the garage, the brakes seemed OK, but a few laps by John revealed that we had actually fixed nothing.

We were at a loss by this point.  With nothing seeming to be going our way, we decided to replace the master cylinder again.  Clark, Thomas, and Tobey made a parts run to NAPA and got a new one.  After getting it all back together, Tobey was removing the left front wheel to bleed the caliper, and decided to check the wheel bearing.  The wheel had at least a half-inch of movement on the top and bottom.

Turns out the bearing was shot, and the wobbling wheel was pushing the pistons back in the caliper, meaning the first stroke of the brake pedal was just taking the slack out of the system, not actually performing any braking.  We did have a replacement hub/bearing assembly, so we installed it.



While our drama was unfolding, about 1:00 in the afternoon the heavens opened up into a torrential downpour.  The race continued until lightning caused about a 45-minute delay.  The race eventually continued, and was extended to 4:30.  By that time, we were just getting the bearing replaced.  So we finished a disapointing 32nd place, with only 89 laps completed.

But, we weren't the only ones with problems Saturday.  These pictures are all from the garage on Saturday afternoon and evening:



SUNDAY

With all our problems hopefully fixed, we arrived early on Sunday to get ready.  It was a beautiful day, with blue skies, no clouds, and no chance of rain.  


John went out first, followed by Thomas, then Tobey, and then Clark.  


Once again, the race started with double file rolling start.  It was a clean start, and John took the green in 11th place.


John ran a great race, working his way up to 5th place.  Then disaster struck.  A corner worker reported John for passing under yellow, and he had to come in and serve a 3 minute penalty.  John was running laps in the 1:44-1:45 range, so the penalty cost us 2 laps.  He rejoined the race all the way down in 18th place.  After running a nice clean race at a good pace, he had worked himself all the way back up into 4th place when he got into the pit window for the first stop and driver change.

At this point, we finally had some good luck, albeit at the expense of another team.  The #71 RX7, after working until midnight installing a new junkyard motor after breaking their crankshaft on Saturday, had a piece of debris puncture the oil filter.  The track got oiled down pretty good and the pace car was sent out to collect the field.  By pitting with the pace car out, we only lost one position on track.  Thomas joined the race in 6th place.

Thomas then spent the next 30 minutes circulating behind the pace car while the track was being cleaned.  Once the track went green, Thomas started picking off cars one by one, and worked his way up to 4th place.  Then disaster struck for the second time on Sunday.

Going into turn 3, Thomas was in a pack of 3 cars, battling for position.  They got into the corner a little too hot, locking up brakes, and Thomas got hit on the right rear wheel by one of the other cars.  It was a no-fault, racing incident.  Just a couple of cars battling hard and getting a bit out of shape.  Our car suffered a bent wheel, while the other car had to retire from the race with a broken tie rod.

Thomas came in and we changed the right rear tire and sent him back out.  But the incident and unscheduled stop cost a lap and 1 position.  Thomas rejoined the race in 5th place, eventually working his way back into 4th.

When Thomas got into his pit window, we lucked out again with a full-course yellow.  The pace car wasn't out, so it still cost us 3 positions.  But we saved about 1 lap by being able to pit under yellow.  Tobey joined the race in 7th place.

Tobey quickly worked his way to 5th where he stayed for many laps.  As pit stops started cycling, Tobey got into 4th.  Unfortunately, there were no more full-course yellows, so we had to make the last pit stop under green.  But it was a good, clean stop, and Clark rejoined the race in 5th place.


Despite Clark running a great race, with quick, consistent lap times, by this time there was no chance to make up positions on track.  We were 2 laps behind the next car.  All we could do was hope for a failure by some of the top 4 cars, while keeping Clark on track knocking out laps.  But it was not to be, and Clark took the checkered flag in 5th place, 2 laps behind the leader.

Looking back, we lost 2 laps with John's penalties, and another lap when Thomas got hit, and we lost by 2 laps.  If ifs and buts were candies and nuts....  

The finishing order was as follows:

1.  Bahnstormer Motorsports, Volvo   208 laps
2.  Dodge This Racing, Miata             208 laps
3.  Looney Tunes, Mustang                 208 laps
4.  Pimpra, Supra                                 208 laps
5.  Nismorons, 240sx                           206 laps

On the whole, the weekend went reasonably well.  If we had to miss most a race, one being run in a torrential downpour was the time to do it.  We worked well together, overcame the bad wheel bearing and the lack of quality track time on Saturday to post a solid finish on Sunday.



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