August 2011 Thunderhill Download
Willows, CA (August 12-13, 2011) —
Post Event Email Letter to SE30 Group by Scott Neville
Here's my long-winded download for our fun-filled hot August weekend at my favorite racetrack - Thunderhill!
Friday Early Evening
I was really looking forward to enjoying a cold frosty CASA Ramos margarita (write this in your logbook Rookies: "Neville- Frozen No Salt") with all my NASA buddies after a long hot day at Friday's TrackMasters event before the start of our NASA race weekend. I hitched a ride with Steve Ferrario from Thunderhill with the express intention of being able to imbibe and not worry about driving back to the track in an impaired state of mind. I'm often accused of having an impaired mind simply because I race cars... I think we all hear the whispers from neighbors and family ("...he must be going through some sort of a mid-life crisis..."). But all racers know that racing is much more than just going in circles around a track. We all belong to a pretty exclusive club...a club of "doers" as I like to say as it takes a lot of "doing" to become a racer. I'm proud of what I do and feel grateful to associate with the some of the finest people I've ever known.
My good buddy Kevin "The Shoe" Nichols came through with his promise of buying me my first of three frozen treats in exchange for some E30 parts I gave him a few months ago. He gave me $10 at the track and proceeded to work on his race car with the promise of showing up later. When I arrived with Steve the Solarium Room at CASA Ramos was about half filled and already noisy with animated conversations everywhere I looked. After a more than six weeks off from racing, folks seemed pretty excited to be back at the track. I sat across from Tommy O and Ron Harness and next to Jeff Lepper and his new friend Dee who had never been to a sports car race before. It was fun getting to know her and trying to explain our sport to someone who's never experienced racing from the inside out. She seemed thrilled to be at Thunderhill and was looking forward to getting a ride in HPDE with Jeff. Dee is a fun spirit...she was the first to egg me on when the Casa Ramos Manager brought out a special bottle of tequila and was apparently offering shots on the house (I didn't recognize the bottle but the Manager acted as if it was his best stuff...the bottle had a weird shape...like the bottom of an antique lamp). One and a half Margaritas down the hatch plus a shot of very smooth tequila and the evening was still young...oh boy...glad I'm not driving tonight...but I might be crawling later!
Speaking of Jeff Lepper, congratulations on his new position as the Northern Nevada Regional Director aimed at bringing NASA's High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) and racing back to Northern Nevada at the recently improved Reno-Fernley road course. I told Jeff that I thought he was the perfect choice for this...he said Jerry K said the same thing to him as well! We're very lucky to have Jeff in the SE30 ranks. Best of luck Jeff!
At the table I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Tommy O about his life in racing and our common views on life stuff in general. If you want to meet a "true blue racer" spend a little time with the likes of Tommy O, Mike Courtney or Donny Edwards. I am so glad these guys are racing in SE30...we could not find a higher benchmark of seasoned racers to compete with. Tommy has been a Subaru mechanic at the same shop for close to 25 years...which is an uncommon employment trend these days and surprised me. Sounds like Tommy is employed by a real quality shop...bottom line if you want an honest Subaru mechanic track down Tommy. I have to say that Tommy is also one of those unforgettable personalities you meet in life. I told Tommy that with his persuasive oratory skills that he missed his calling of being a high paid lobbyist in Sacramento or Washington (I hope he took it as a compliment as I meant it to be!).
By 8PM or so the room was packed...we had 30 folks easy in there. I pulled out my iPhone and loaded up my surprisingly accurate dB meter application just to see how noisy it was in there. The needle was bouncing between 90 and 95 dB and when Sarah Zwain would screamed it peaked just over 100 dB. Note that OSHA requires a hearing conservation program if the TWA (Time Weighted Average) noise level exceeds 85 dB. I guess I won't be surprised to see the CASA Ramos wait staff wearing hearing protection gear the next time NASA rolls into town. Here's an idea...maybe we should lend them some of our race car radio setups so they can better communicate between themselves while working our tables!
OK...it's about 9:30 or so and I finally got some food in me and am finishing up my third "smoothy" and we're waiting on "Shoe" Nichols and Sean Trapp to finally show (they were putting new brakes and a wheel bearing in his E30). It looked like they weren't going to show...Steve had two "to go" plates ready to take back and we were making moves to start to head out when "The Shoe" and Sean rolled in. More fun times and laughs in store now. Steve needed to go and hit Wal-Mart before they closed...he needed some ice and bike parts for the race...a new ding-bell, some clothes pins and a pack of playing cards. He wanted his bike to make some cool noise for Saturday's bike race it seems...so I would have to round up a ride back to the track later.
About this time I find myself at the bar rubbing shoulders with the likes Donny Edwards and Timmy Barber. Double trouble right there (like at the Applebees in Toolee Utah last year)...these two guys with the shit-eating grins start up with a new round of tequila & lime shooters. What I've learned is you cannot refuse a shooter with these guys so we all in unison tossed one down the hatch. By now I was feeling pretty silly and folks were starting to head back to their motels and campers. Jamison (I don't know his last name...he's the young friendly buck who works on NASA's rescue crew...he ALWAYS is out there waving to the racers on our warm up lap...he is so dedicated to his safety job...all I can say is that as racers we're so very lucky to have folks like Jamison in our safety crews) and I catch a ride back to the track in the back of a pickup truck. I haven't ridden in the back of a pickup truck since the late 70's when it use to be legal. This should be fun I thought to myself. Jamison and I are asked by the driver to hunker down until we get past Wal-Mart. After we get past Wal-Martville we both sit up and take in the awesome nighttime view of the full moon over the tall green corn rows that line Hwy 162. We all know why riding in the back of a pickup truck is no longer allowed for the obvious safety reasons...but it is a fun and visceral experience...the wind, noise, sights and smells that you can only get in an open truck. There is also the unique feeling you get riding backwards of unanticipated g-forces...since you're not looking forward you can't anticipate the feeling of the upcoming corner so the g's come as slight surprise. Anyway...it all adds up to the pleasure of riding in the back of a truck, something most young people these days will never experience. I'm guess I'm getting a bit nostalgic for the freewheeling 70's...motorcycle helmets were optional, drinking and driving was tolerated (in some states even legal) and all you needed for safe sex back then was to have a padded headboard.
Getting back to the non-legal pick-up truck ride, I was sitting with my back to the cab and about midway back to the track Jamison stands up with his face forward in the 55 mph wind. He's got his iPod ear phones in and he's singing a country western song holding on to the roof of the cab. The blast of wind doesn't seem to faze him at all. My eyes would be all tears from the wind. He's looking straight into the wind with sort of a fierce-proud look on his face. In a weird way, from my vantage point looking up, he somehow reminded me of a Roman charioteer riding proud, tall and chin-up back into Rome after a victorious battle. Tequila makes you think weird things... I've been told by some chemist buddies at work that it contains some traces of the same psychoactive (hallucinogenic) alkaloids that are found in mescal...I think they might be right.
After the ride back to Thunderhill I decided to call it a night an head back to the "Carson 16" where I'm staying (it's one of my standard paddock jokes I use on folks...I sleep on my 16-foot Carson trailer looking up at the stars...hence the "Carson 16"...I usually get a chuckle out of it). Tonight is a special one as the Perseids meteor shower is happening and meteorites are falling every 15 minutes or so. My iPhone also has a very cool free app called "Space Junk" which shows the constellations, named stars and planets based on your geographic position. It works great...with the full moon you can't see the stars very well but this handy app shows you them. I have to say that these new smart phones are getting as good Mr. Spock's Tricorder...I don't think however that Spock could get porno out in deep space...maybe alien porno but who the hell likes that? It's a good bet that Captain Kirk does. Sorry...I'm off on a tangent here.
I force myself to drink a couple bottles of water and take some aspirin before hitting the sleeping bag...another trick I learned in the '70s to ward off a hangover...I'm happy to report that it worked! I woke up about 4:30AM not feeling too bad and stayed semi asleep until the rumble of diesel trucks from arriving racers hit about 6am. My bonus for the morning is the Starbucks coffee I had in my thermos was still warm...Saturday was starting off on a good note!
NASA hinted that they may throw some twists to Race Group A but decided (to the relief of most racers) to run both races "straight up" with the standard track format and standing starts. SE30 would be running together with USTCC cars and Spec Miatas. The weather was hot and dry and clear, mid 90's both days.
30 SE30s lined up to qualify. Greg Peterson captured the pole with a 2:08.14 followed by Tommy O in Q2 with a 2:08:25 and Tony D'Alessandro in Q3 with a 2:09:26. The field was super tight...with Q1 through Q12 all in the 2:08s!
SE30s were the first grid group in Group A. We had a good line up and a decent start with a little "argy-bargy" in Turn 1 (as Speed Channel's David Hobbs calls it...it's actually English slang for "A lively or disputatious discussion"...which also works for road racing as well). Brad McClure and Loren Trefethen had a real go of it and finished less than a second apart, Brad in first and Loren in second separated by 0.8 seconds. Steve Ferrario finished in 3rd. The remaining top ten finishers were: Tommy O P4, Greg Peterson P5, Gary Rieger P6, Bennett McMicking P7, Ron Harness P8, Ray Zanotto P9 and Frank Bushman P10.
Saturday BBQ and Inaugural Bike Race
I had to head back to Sacramento Saturday after the race but the fun stuff kept on coming after Saturday's car racing. SE30 bicycle enthusiasts decided a 2 lap bike race would be a fun endeavor for the weekend. We have some serious cyclists in our group so this was going to be an all out effort. I don't have a blow-by-blow account of the race Tri-athlete Steve Ferrario won the race. I didn't hear who was on the rest of the podium. I understand there is some video coverage as well...stay tuned if I get more info.
Sunday was a little cooler than Saturday which I think helped drop the lap times a bit. Steve Ferrario captured the pole with a 2:07.58 followed by Tommy O in Q2 with a 2:07:89 and Loren Trefethen in Q3 with a 2:08:40.
The best thing about Sunday's race that no one on the grid got rear ended me during our two (yes I said two) spectacular messed up standing starts. It was a highly embarrassing moment for our group. A reminder...as drivers it is our responsibility to check the grid posting on the door of race central. But we don't all do that...we may be working our cars at the last minute and relying on the grid officials to tell us our grid number. The switch we had was that the USTCC cars were doing a standing start in front of us and the SE30s were taking the 2nd green standing start. We got it right after the third try but it wasn't pretty.
Sunday's race had a lot of action throughout with spins, bumps, off-road excursions, dumped oil and even a small grass fire (thanks to my big spin in turn 8 and hot exhaust in the tinder dry brown grass infield) after hitting Steve Ferrario's Exxon Valdez impersonation. Will Faules did say that the race at the pointy end of the spear between Brad McClure, Tommy O and Loren Trefethen was one of the best he has seen. All three cars crossed the finish line within 1.009 second. Tommy O was P1, Brad McClure P2 and Loren P3. The remaining top ten were: Greg Peterson P4, Ray Zanotto P5, Gary Rieger P6, Kenny Gorman P7, Kevin Chang P8, Frank Bushman P9 and Ron Harness P10.
Race Contingencies and Gifts:
North Bay Bavarian Pole $100 Position: Fast pole goes to Steve Ferrario for Sunday's time of 2:07.58. Congrats Steve and thanks to Rick Row for his sponsorship.
Point Six Fast Race Lap $100 Award: Fastest race lap goes to Brad McClure for clocking a 2:08.41 in Saturday's race. Congrats Brad and thanks to Walter Ford at PointSix for his sponsorship.
Evil Genius Racing $100 Hard Charger Award: With all the drama on Sunday and all that was going on in tech, Will Faules and I didn't get a chance to discuss the EGRHC award. And Mr. Evil Genius (John Pagel) wasn't at the event to help in the selection. So I guess it's up to me to make the award. I'm going to award the EGRHC award to Greg Peterson. He set Saturday's Pole and finished 5th on Saturday and 4th on Sunday without any mishaps. Plus, Greg is going to miss the October race as this will be very close to the due date of he and wife Summer's first child. So, I think it's a fitting award based on his driving and it's kind of a baby shower gift. Hopefully the $100 will go to his son's (it's a boy) first go-kart fund. Congratulations Greg and Summer! Best of luck with your new addition!
AIM Tire $100 Gift Certificate: This was a random draw from Saturday's finishing race grid. I had my lovely daughter Madeline pick a number between 6 and 30. That number was 9 (her soccer jersey number...don't you love the way woman think!) and the driver who finished 9th on Saturday was Ray Zanotto! Congrats to Ray and a big thanks and GET WELL SOON to Ron Cortez of AIM Tire. I happy to report that Ron is making a terrific comeback from a very serious heart attack and open heart surgery. Send Ron a get well email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anarchy Eyewear Sunglasses: The winners of the coolest shades in the paddock go to Saturday's 11 place finisher and Sunday's 25 place finisher. Those racers are Jim Bucha and Jim Bucha! Congrats Jim and thanks to Greg Peterson and Anarchy sunglasses for their sponsorship.
Trefethen Wineries Fine Wine: This was a bit crazy...Loren brought up 12 bottles of wine...but he and the crew from TFB seemed to have consumed half the stash...again we'll have to catch up at the next event. Loren randomly drew the finishing positions for both days of 26, 13, 18, 10, 8 and 22. Saturday's wine winners would then be Kenny Gorman, Paul Blickman, Kevin Chang, Frank Bushman, Ron Harness, and Ross Martindale. Sunday's wine winners were then (using the same finishing positions) Team Speedtrapp, Bryan McQueen, Bennett McMicking, Frank Bushman, Kevin Chang, and Dan Riley. Thanks go Trefethen Wineries...we'll scare up more bottles that got away last weekend.
Nichols Wealth Management Fine Central Coast Wine - It was great seeing Kevin compete this weekend with a refreshed engine. In honor of the number 55 car, 5th place finishers received a bottle of fine central coast wine. Those drivers were Greg Peterson and Ray Zanotto. Thanks to "The Shoe" Nichols and his company Nichols Wealth Management.
Pro Racing Simulator Race Winners: Tommy O and Brad McClure gather up one hour of SIM time for their first place wins.
Pro Racing Simulator Race Hard Chargers: Saturday's Hard Charger (most positions gained during the race) is a tie between myself (Q22P12) and Bennett McMicking (Q17P7) (we both gained 10 spots). I guess Bennett and I will have to flip a coin for the certificate! Sunday's HC goes to Kevin Chang (Q19 P8) for gaining 11 spots. Good job Kevin in your first race in over a year!
TFB Performance $75 Coupons: 15th place for both Saturday and Sunday - that would be on Saturday Team Roadrunner and Paul Blickman on Sunday.
Driven Karting $50 Coupons: Those went to P20 on Saturday and P17 on Sunday. That would be Bryan McQueen and Dan Gorman. Check with Donny or Will for the coupons. A big thanks to the folks at Driven for the coupons.
Dr. Injector Coupons: We had 3 coupons to give away from Dr. Injector in Rancho Cordova. One coupon for a full blown injector cleaning and two coupons were for 50% off. Saturday's race winner was getting the full enchilada cleaning...that would be Brad McClure. Saturday's 7th place took home a half-off certificate...that was Bennett McMicking! The third certificate went to 13th spot in Sunday's race...Bryan McQueen!
PointSix Racing Tie Down Hooks: These cool tie down hooks were donated by PointSix Racing (recently moved to Placerville, CA). The hooks went to the racer who finished 20th on Saturday. That was Bryan McQueen (Bryan really cleaned up this weekend!). Thanks to Walter Ford and Jason Cook at PointSix for donating this very handy gift.
If we add up all the contingencies for the weekend (including Toyo Bucks) we're looking at about $2,590 in weekend prizes. A big thanks to all our sponsors and supporters.
Next stop for me will be Mid-Ohio to help out as a volunteer. I tossed my hat in the ring when Will Faules (serving as the National Event Manager) sent out an email asking for volunteers. I let Will know I was willing to do anything at the event...work in Tech, man a flag station, work pregrid, trophy girl (not really). I felt honored that he asked me to be the National SpecE30 Director. I'm looking forward to working with Alan Blaine and Jeff Mohler back east. So...I'll see some of you in Ohio in a few weeks.
I wonder if a guy can get a good margarita in Ohio?
PS...I won't be able to race in our October Double Points race at Infineon...I'm headed out east to Duke University to check up where all my money is getting spent - it's Parents Weekend that weekend and I can't miss it. I've asked Jim (Jimmy Neutron) Bucha to sub for me.
Check out photos from BTM Motorwerks Andy Chittum clicking here: BTM Motorwerks Photos
Saturday's "Unofficial" Podium L to R: Loren Trefethen, Brad McClure and Steve Ferrario
Photo credit Andy Chittum
Sunday's Podium (NASA Photo) L to R Brad McClure, Tommy Olivier and Loren Trefethen