Thursday, August 25, 2005

MSOKC Race No. 10 - August 20, 2005 - Three on the Podium

Originally sent: Thursday, August 25, 2005 4:18 PM

NEWS - This past Saturday, Circleville Raceway Park hosted another Mid State of Ohio Kart Club night race. During the two week break since the previous race, we acquired some wider rims and tested a reserve engine for Henry, tested a reserve engine for Conor while his race engine was being rebuilt, and made plans for some additional testing of a new generation Rookie Box class engine for Peter. During a mid-week practice session with Henry and Conor, the wider rims for Henry seemed to have the desired effect and the reserve engine proved to be stronger than his race engine. We decided that the reserve engine for Conor would do in a pinch, but were holding out hope for better results with his rebuilt race engine. We also installed a different restrictor plate in the Briggs and Stratton Intek engine which Peter has been asked to test. The weather forecast, which called for a 70% chance of thunder storms ("some severe"), seemed to have affected the turnout on Saturday, as there were quite a few regulars missing. We again had visitors on Saturday - Laura's brother Mathew and his family from California, who scheduled their visit so that they could see Bruce Brothers Racing in action.

PRACTICE - Conor's race engine arrived on Friday, so we set out for the track early on Saturday to break it in and for Peter to test the Intek engine. After a few warm up laps, it became apparent that our engine builder, SRD Racing, had once again done a great job with Conor's engine. The smaller restrictor plate that we were given for Peter to try in the Intek engine resulted in lap times that were about 3 to 4 seconds off of his regular pace. We had some extra time, so we decided to try the larger restrictor plate one more time. When we did, his lap times were right on pace with his regular lap times. During the first of his regular class practices, the other karts were getting away from Peter on the long straight away, so we made a gear change which had the desired effect. I had the other Rookie Box dads watch Peter during their regular class practices, and everyone agreed that it would be okay to let him run the Intek engine in the race. During Conor's regular class practices, his lap times were about half a second faster than the best in his class. Henry struggled a bit during practice with an engine that was bogging in the left hand corners. We overcame this with a carburetor jet change, but that did not leave much time for fine tuning his chassis.

ROOKIE BOX - Peter's class was the first one out on Saturday. He started his first heat race from the fourth position (of 5). He was able to get by one kart at the start and settled into third place. He ran there comfortably until the end. Just after the checkered flag flew, the wind picked up and then the rain came. It only lasted for 20 minutes or so, but the proceedings were interrupted for about an hour while the track was dried (more on that later). Starting from outside the front row in his second heat, Peter made a great start and took the lead in Turn 3. He led for nearly two laps, but it was apparent that he was holding up two of the faster karts. As has been the case in the past, when they did get around him, Peter's lap times improved by about a second a lap. He again finished a comfortable third. In the feature, starting from third, he held his position at the start and ran there to the finish. For his effort, Peter collected his first podium finish and earned his first kart racing trophy. Way to go Peter!

JUNIOR SPORTSMAN II - Conor's first heat race was not long after the proceedings resumed following the rain. The track was still quite damp, so the starter allowed them to run an entire warm up lap as opposed to their usual warm-up around the small oval between Turns 10 and 1. Conor lined up on the outside of the front row (of 5). He held his position at the start and went through Turn 3 in second. The leader went wide on the damp track at the exit of Turn 4, which allowed Conor to pass. Over the course of the next four turns, he pulled out about a six kart-length lead. This did not last, however, as he spun on the exit of Turn 8. Everyone got by and Conor lost about half a lap getting going again. Over the next few laps, on a drying track, he caught and passed one kart. On the white flag lap, he caught the three leaders who were still bunched up in a pack. He tried to make a pass on the outside of Turn 10 but was not given enough room and finished fourth. He started his second heat from the fourth position. He made three well executed passes during Laps 2 and 3 and cruised to an easy win. In the feature, starting again from outside the front row, Conor went side-by-side with the pole sitter through Turns 1 and 2, which put him on the inside for the tight Turn 3 and allowed him to take the lead. Over the next two laps, he pulled out about a 10 kart-length lead. His primary competition made her way into second by about this time and began to close the gap. Conor picked up the pace a bit and his lead stabilized and then began to grow again. His last lap was his fastest of the day. Conor was able to collect his seventh feature race win of eight starts this season.

JUNIOR UNRESTRICTED - By the time Henry's first heat race got underway, the track was almost completely dry. He started both of his heat races from the third position (of 5). In both heats, he made good starts and ran with the leaders initially, but then faded. He also had a spin in his second heat and had to come from the rear. He finished both heats in third. Between heats, we discovered that one of his disc brake pads was sticking. With the help of our good friends Ed and Adam Roberts, we were able to partially correct this problem, but this certainly contributed to his inability to keep up with the leaders. He started his feature race in third and again ran with the leaders initially. He had another small spin but did not loose a position and finished third. As an indication of how competitive Henry's class is, Adam, who is the runaway points leader in the class, won the World Karting Association Gold Cup Grand National race at Badger Raceway in Wisconsin the weekend before, and Zakk, Henry's other main rival in the class actually beat Adam in the second heat. We made some progress on Henry's chassis setup during the course of the day (he is no longer getting up on two wheels) and we have decided to have his race engine rebuilt for the remaining four races of the season. We will also replace his unevenly worn brake pads with new ones, which seems to be the source of his brake problem. We hope to have Henry running with Adam and Zakk again soon.

NEXT RACE - Saturday was the first time for us to have all three boys on the podium. It was nice to have this happen while family was visiting. The rain also made for an interesting day of racing. Conor enjoyed the experience of racing on a damp track, even though he did have a spin while leading. My favorite part was when there was an invitation for anyone with a spare vehicle to run some laps to help dry the track out. I borrowed my mom's Honda Civic and did about 20 laps. We have the next two weekends off, after which we have four races in a row - two regularly scheduled and two weather-related make ups. The next race is Sunday, September 11.


Monday, August 8, 2005

MSOKC Race No. 5 - Saturday, June 4, 2005 - Three for Three

Originally sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 4:15 PM

NEWS - This past Saturday was Mid State of Ohio Kart Club's first night race of the 2005 season. The weather was oppressively hot and humid at mid-day when we arrived, so we were thankful that the majority of the day's activities would occur during the evening. A good friend of ours, Mike Fagan at Full Automotive (3334 W. Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43204 - 614-279-8988), loaned us a chassis and engine for Henry to try, which he thought would improve his performance. Henry's existing chassis, which is an older Coyote Wide Track just like Conor's, is well suited for Conor and his class (265 lbs and restrictor plate engines) but does not seem to perform as well in Henry's class (310 lbs and unrestricted engines). We spent most of Friday evening getting Mike's kart prepared, so the first chance Henry had to try it was on Saturday.

PRACTICE - We arrived early enough for Henry to take part in the open practice session that precedes the regular class practices for Saturday evening races. During his first run, it became apparent that there was some engine/clutch set-up issues that needed to be taken care of (carburetor jetting, clutch engagement speed, etc.), as his lap times were several seconds off of his normal pace. Instead of dealing with these, we decided to switch to his regular engine, which we had brought with us and knew had the right set-up. This would allow us to make a direct comparison between Mike's chassis and Henry's regular one. On his second run, his lap time were comparable to his normal pace. These improved a bit during the regular class practices, but were never substantially faster than he had run before. Conor was on the pace immediately during his regular practices (his final three laps were within 0.02 seconds of each other), and Peter took his time working up to his normal pace (as usual).

JUNIOR UNRESTRICTED - Henry drew the fourth starting position (of six) for his first heat race. He made a fantastic start and moved up to second by Turn 3. He moved into the lead on lap two with an unlikely pass in Turn 1 which was set up by a strong run through Turn 9. He was later passed by the eventual winner but easily finished second. He started third (of six) in the second heat, and again made a fantastic start. He followed the pole-sitter (and eventual winner) through the first turn and was in second again by Turn 3. He ran there to the finish. Henry was excited about his heat race performances as, in both, he finished two spots in front of the driver with whom he is tied in the championship – a potential eight point advantage. Starting from the second position in the feature, he maintained his position at the start while the eventual winner disappeared into the distance. Even though his lap times were similar to his heat race lap times, he had two competitors close on his tail in the opening laps. He was able to hold them off until about lap six (of eight). A slight mistake in Turn 10 allowed the kart behind Henry to get a nose underneath him going into Turn 1. This forced Henry wide on the exit and both karts were able to get through. By finishing fourth, he lost all of the potential eight point advantage he stood to gain and is again tied for second in the championship. The borrowed chassis experiment seemed to work well during the heat of the day, but when the sun went down prior to the feature, Henry may have done better with his usual chassis, which tends to work well in cooler conditions.

JUNIOR SPORTSMAN II - Conor started his first heat race from the second position (of seven). He made a good start and was in the lead by Turn 3. He then motored away into the distance. On lap four, I began to give him the 'way out front' signal from my position in the observation tower, but he didn't seem to be paying attention. He turned his fastest lap of the year (50.52) on lap five (of six). He started his second heat race from the fifth position. At the start, Conor saw an opportunity to gain two positions in Turn 1 by splitting two of the karts in front of him. Unfortunately, another kart was trying to make a move on the inside of one of the two karts Conor was trying to pass. Conor was pushed into a 180 degree spin and came to a complete stop while the rest of the field roared away. He was able to get headed in the right direction again and set out after the pack. By lap two, he began picking them off one by one. By lap five, he was up to second (one of the other moms told me later that she had to remind Laura to breathe during all of this). On his final lap (50.61), he had the leader in his sights but finished second. A first and a second earned him the pole position for the feature. He made a good start and again motored away into the distance, recording his third feature race win in three events. He also extended his championship lead by 20 points. Conor has come close on several occasions, but the perfect 160 point day (40 for each of the two heat races and 80 for the feature) has eluded him. This was the closest he has come.

ROOKIE BOX - Peter started his first heat race from the pole (of seven). The second place starter passed Peter in Turn 1, but Peter was able to maintain second position. He then began to receive pressure from three karts behind him. He was able to hold them off to the finish, however, equaling his best-ever finish. When you start on the pole for one heat race, you start at the rear for the other. He made his way past one kart on lap two. On lap four, he began to apply pressure to a kart driven by a much younger driver (6) who was given special dispensation to be in Peter's class (8-12 year olds). This younger driver has been known to block when being passed (the term 'bumper cars' comes to mind), and that's just what he did when Peter tried to pass him between Turns 7 and 8. I have since reminded the race officials to keep an eye on him in the future. Peter was not able to get around him and finished sixth. His heat race finishes earned him the fourth starting position for the feature (two places ahead of Mr. Bumper Cars). He lost one position at the start while the eventual winner checked out. Peter and the group of three immediately in front of him ran nose to tail for the entire distance. There was some swapping of positions in front of him, but I was very pleased to see Peter keep up with this group. On lap 3, he equaled his best-ever lap of 58.52. It won't be long before Peter earns his first top-three feature race finish.

NEXT RACE - The next race is MSOKC Race No. 6 at Circleville Raceway Park on Sunday, June 19, 2005. We have since returned the chassis we borrowed for Henry, but Mike wants to do some fine tuning and have Henry try it again. We're going to think about it. Peter will have new tires for the next race. We're going to leave Conor's kart just the way it is...


Thursday, August 4, 2005

MSOKC Race No. 8 - July 30, 2005 - A Pair of Deuces

Originally sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 3:12 PM

NEWS - Henry and Conor participated in MSOKC Race No. 8 this past Saturday. Peter sat this one out while recovering from a gash to the back of his head that he managed to get while we were on vacation (he and Henry were wrestling). The race on Saturday was supposed to be an evening event. When we arrived at the track, we learned that the proprietor, Steve Tatman, had suffered a mild stroke that morning. We have since learned that he is expected to make a full recovery, but his absence did necessitate compressing the schedule on Saturday (he is the only one who knows how to work the fragile lighting system). Saturday was also Henry's 16th birthday!

PRACTICE - I had done some maintenance to both Henry's and Conor's karts, so upon our arrival, we decided to take advantage of the open practice session that precedes evening races. Reasonable lap times were recorded, but no significant advances were made. During the organized class practices, Henry's lap times were on par with his main rivals, but Conor's main rival had obviously made a significant advance.

JUNIOR UNRESTRICTED - Henry started his first heat from the sixth position (of seven). The slowest kart in his class elected to keep his outside front row starting position. When the green flag flew, the outside row of karts dove under the slower kart in Turn 1. By Turn 2, several karts were in a tangle. Henry managed to get through without too much damage, but the heat was red-flagged in order to clear the track. At the restart, there was a similar incident in Turn 2, but this time everyone managed to keep going. In the scramble between Turns 2 and 3, Henry managed to squeeze by everyone into the lead. He lead for several laps but was passed by the eventual winner on Lap 3. He held on to finish second. In his second heat, starting from the second position, he made a great start and was in the lead again by Turn 3. Both he and the second place kart were passed by the eventual winner at the end of the long straightaway leading to Turn 5. The kart behind Henry managed to get by on the next lap, but Henry was able to return the favor on the lap after that. Henry was able to hold the other kart off for the next lap or so, but Henry eventually finished third. Henry's heat race finishes earned him the third starting position for the feature. He followed the pole sitter through Turns 1 and 2 and established himself in second between Turns 3 and 4. By mid distance, the top three has separated themselves from each other and the rest of the pack. The fourth place kart eventually made his way into third and began to close in on Henry, but was stopped by a broken chain on the white flag lap. Henry cruised home to his best feature race finish of the year (second). Not a bad result for the birthday boy.

JUNIOR SPORTSMAN II - Conor started from the fifth position (of six) in his first heat race. He was able to pick off one kart at the start, another in Turn 9 on the first lap, and another between Turns 7 and 8 on lap 3, bringing him up to second. His main rival, who had started on the front row, had gotten away by then, so second is where he finished. Because of the compressed schedule, we just about missed getting Conor to the grid for his second heat. After being paged on the public address system, we got him there just as engines were being fired up. Starting from the pole, he was passed going into Turn 1. He ran second for a lap before he was able to get by into the lead. Over the next few laps, he extended his lead while recording some reasonable lap times. By Lap 4 (of 6), he was caught by his main rival, who had started from the rear. He was able to hold her off until the end, but just barely (less than a kart length at the end). In the feature, starting from outside the front row, Conor made a great start and was in the lead by Turn 3. I was hoping that if he got into the lead, he would be able to hold off his main rival for the distance. His lead was short lived, however. Be bobbled a bit in Turn 4 on the first lap and his main rival got around him on the long run to Turn 5. The leader disappeared at a rate of about half a second a lap, which is about the rate that Conor was leaving the rest of the field. Like Henry, Conor cruised to a second place finish.

SCCA OVR Points Event No. 1 (re-scheduled) - We also decided to try our first 'double header' last weekend. After a long day at the track on Saturday, Henry and Conor decided that they wanted to participate in another SCCA Solo 2 event. So, on Sunday morning, we packed everything back up and headed for the parking lot at Cooper Stadium. The morning was spent converting both karts over to SCCA configuration (tire and gear changes, removing Conor's restrictor plate, etc.). During the first few runs of the first heat, which was to include the karts, it became apparent that there was a problem with the timing system. After a long delay, it was announced that the problem was insurmountable and that the event would be run as a non-points 'fun' event with no official timing. This was a big disappointment for the boys, as they were hoping to participate in enough points events to be eligible for the championship. This would have necessitated at least another double header, but the problems on Sunday put an end to those hopes. The boys made their un-timed runs anyway and had fun doing so.

NEXT RACE - The next MSOKC race is a Sunday, August 7. I sent Conor's engine back to our engine builder, SRD Racing ( on Monday (UPS Next Day Air) for a freshen up and ordered some clutch parts for him. The new clutch parts arrived and have been installed, but UPS seems to be having trouble with Conor's engine. They misdirected it on the way to the engine builder, which resulted in it arriving a day too late for the work to take place. The engine builder sent it back without opening it, but UPS misdirected it again. As of now (Thursday afternoon), we are just hoping that it arrives in time for the next race. If it doesn't show up tomorrow, we're going to have some scrambling to do. For Sunday, I have a few setup changes to try that I hope will be beneficial to both Henry and Conor. The five surgical staples that Peter received in the Emergency Room in Kansas City came out on Monday, so he should be ready to go on Sunday, too. Practice starts at 10:30 and the green flag falls at Noon. In the mean time our thoughts and prayers are with Steve Tatman and his family.