The Dirt Track Pirates headed down to SoCal for our second ChumpCar race of 2011. This was a two race weekend with a 7hr enduro on both Saturday and Sunday. This was the first time I’d ever been to Fontana (Auto Club Speedway). It’s an interesting track because your in the in-field of this giant Nascar oval track. There was a stock car AND an Indy Car school using the oval at various times so while we were doing our ChumpCar thing you had stock cars or formula cars running around the oval; pretty cool!
We got in Friday afternoon in time to get the lay of the land and walk the track. On Saturday we got to the track early and moved our GIANT rig right next to the track and set up the observation tower on top. The race started at 9am and Dan was the first driver and was on the grid on time. The plan was for each driver to do about an hour and forty minutes. Then we’d come in, fuel up, change drivers and head back out. ChumpCar requires you take a mandatory 5 minutes in the pits IF you add fuel. However, we were still being a little lazy when Dan came in and our pit stop was about 7 or 8 minutes. We didn’t think much of it. I mean the last race we weren’t even on track for 7hrs of the race so we weren’t counting the seconds in the pits. That would come back to haunt us.
Next, Jeff went out and did his stint. We were running 1st or 2nd. Once we realized we were really in this race and could maybe win it got serious. Every pit stop for the rest of the weekend was under 5 minutes. When you finish early you just go to pit out and they hold you until the 5 minutes are up then send you out. After Jeff it was my turn. What a difference from Buttonwillow. The car had more power and I was able to pass (and even lap) tons of cars! On my last lap I made a bit of a bonzai pass to get around a slower car that I didn’t want to get trapped behind in the slow middle part of the track. I got inside the other car but had to slow way down to make the corner. No problem but then another car behind me actually bumped me?! It was just a tap but I can’t figure out why the guy behind me thought he could come through too?
Next up was Joe. Everything was going well for the first half of his stint and then the car started slowing down and sputtering. Joe finally had to bring it in. The guess was fuel related… after walking around the car for a few minutes looking at the fuel regulator I finally grabbed a screw driver and pulled the fuel filter off that we had between the tank and the fuel pump. As soon as I had it off I could see debris in the inlet spout. I took a big breath and blew through the other side and… a wad of fuel cell foam shot out! We quickly put the fuel filter back and and got Joe back out and he finished the race. We got SECOND place! Great but we really could have won this one…
For Sunday we were on our game and determined to win. We pulled the foam out of the fuel cell and replaced the fuel filter. We had also removed the wheels Saturday night and ran to a local tire shop. The tires that we had used at Buttonwillow and for Saturday’s race were toast so we had the spare set mounted for Sundays race. Only issue is the spare set while new were 300 tread rating where the rules say you can go as low as 190. Dan was second on the grid. We hustled all day, had no problems but ended up second again less than a lap down. So, TWO second place finishes! Not bad compared to Buttonwillow where I think we were 14th out of 17 cars… Looks like we’ll probably try to do a few races next year. I’ll post a video of the weekend once I have time to go through the hours of video. Stay tuned!