Race Report! – NASA AI Javelin @ Sonoma Oct. 24/25, 2015

I took Friday off and got the car all loaded up in the morning. Dan was already at the track and had saved me a spot. I parked next to his rig and got the car unloaded and the trailer unhitched. I had filled the car with gas earlier in the week and I took the time now to fill up my three 5 gallon jugs with gas. I knew that would be enough to get me through Saturdays sessions. Then I put a cover on the car and headed home to load the truck with all the gear so I’d be ready to head to the track first thing in the morning.

Sat. Practice
Slept OK but not great. Got up at 6:30am and headed for the track. When I got there Don was waiting for me. He had come up Friday night and camped at the track. I got the cover off the car and we set tire pressures and torqued the wheels. Practice is a bit crazy in that they stuff 3 separate groups on track at once. Remember that a group is a collection of classes. So we’re talking a lot of cars. I was driving in my mirrors trying to stay out of the way of faster cars. One of the first things I tried was to break hard and see if the wheels were still hitting anywhere. Sure enough on one hard brake application I could tell the passenger side tire was still hitting a little bit. Damn. I knew I should have been more aggressive with my fender trough clearancing. Also I was seeing the oil light here and there. And on one lap in particular, coming out of the carousel it went low I got out of the accelerator and had to wait a few seconds for it to come back up. So I pulled into the pits.

The good news was, no leaks! After having the front of the motor off to replace the cam gear it was definitely a worry but everything looked dry. We got the front wheels off and saw that on the passenger side there was rubber on the corner of the notch I had made. Luckily being parked right next to Dan’s rig meant we had power. So I got out the cut off wheel and notched out a few more inches on both sides. As for the oil pressure I decided I just needed to add more oil. So I put in 2 more quarts.

Sat. Qualifying
Went out for qualifying and when I tested the brakes I could tell I finally had no rubbing! Yes I could actually use the brakes! I was still having to get out of the way for most of the cars but I was coming across a few that I could pass. After a few laps I got some open track and was feeling good. Came across the line and looked at the traqdash and saw 1:57.3. Yes! A new personal fast lap. This was a LONG time coming. My previous best was a half second slower and was run back in 2012. So I was finally faster and with a car that was down 50hp to the old car and 150 lbs heavier to boot! I backed it up next lap with a 1:58:00. Then on the next lap I came out of the carousel down towards turn 7 real hot. Got on the brakes late and hard and locked up the rears. Just kept it going straight and ran into the runoff area but stalled it. I waited a few seconds and tried to refire it but couldn’t get it going. Kept trying until the safety truck came by to get me I told the guy I couldn’t get it going and he was about to get ready to tow me when I tried again and it fired. So he pointed me back on track. I pulled off into the pits that lap as I knew the session was almost over at that point. Got back to my spot and was stoked to be able to tell Don about the brake issue being solved and my new fast lap!

There was a big gap between qualifying and the race and I had arranged for Dave Brown (Life’s Good Racing) to run a few laps that afternoon to see what the cars potential was. So I gassed up the car and we sat around waiting for the HPDE 4 session to come up. As we’re all sitting around a golf cart with 3 or 4 guys rolls up and a guy jumps out and starts yelling “who’s the idiot running this javelin!”. Or something like that. I recognized him immediately. It was Ken Epsman who owns the #2 Roy Woods Racing real Trans-Am Javelin (along with several other high dollar cars including a Bud Moore Trans-Am Mustang). He was running around the car saying “how cool is this!”. I’ve met Ken a few times over the years but he didn’t remember me. So I reminded him that the first time I met him was right there at Sonoma (Sears. Pt. back then) when I came to the first (or one of the first) Wine Country Classic vintage races. I have a picture of me in his car from back then… anyway, he seemed to be really into the car and wanted to check everything out. After a while he says “we need a group picture!” and says he’s going to go down to his garage (at the track) and pull out his Javelin. I said sounds great and off they went…

Maybe an hour went by and then one of his guys finally came back and said the Javelin wouldn’t start so could I bring my Javelin down to the garage for the photo op. So I hopped in, fired it up and drove down to the lower garages. I get down there and Ken is standing out front directing me in. As I pull in I see they have his Javelin pulled out so I stop with the cars nose to nose. I got out of the car and Ken asked if I had a camera (which I did). So I started taking pictures of the two cars. After barely a minute Ken says they have to go get ready for his next session (I think he was running a vintage Nascar). He said, “move the cars around however you want and take whatever pics you want and when you’re done just close the door”. I said “no problem, but, which Javelin do you want me to leave behind???”. He just smiled…

So my friend Matt and I spent 10 minutes in his “toy box” rolling his half-million + car around to get a few different angles for pictures. crazy… I now have pics of my car next to BOTH Roy Woods Javelins. I just need the #6 Sunoco Javelin to complete the set 🙂

After we got tired of rolling the cars around Matt and I headed back to our spot to wait for Dave. Dave is a Pro driver, with Life’s Good Racing, who’s been racing for 20+ years and has many many championships in many different categories under his belt. Back in 2012 I worked with him for a day of driver coaching at Thunderhill. I also put him in the Javelin because I wanted to see what the potential of the car was. He went out and did two laps at speed and was instantly 9 seconds faster than me… NINE. I had contacted him before this weekend and asked if he would do a few laps to baseline the car for me in it’s new configuration and he said sure. So about an hour before my race he took the car out in the HPDE 4 group. He did about 5 or 6 laps. He came in HOT so we could take tire temps. As he was sitting there waiting for us to get the temps the car boiled over and barfed some water out of the radiator… Once the temps were taken he drove back to the pits to let the car cool down. Interestingly this time he was only ½ a second faster than my best time of the day… however, he was babying the car and never rev’d past 6k while I was running up to 6500… he had generally good things to say about the car (which wasn’t true when he drove it back in 2012) so I was glad that he confirmed that all the changes have resulted in a much more capable car. He did say the front shocks were not great and so I’m planning to change them. One other thing he did for me was adjust the brake bias. I have a Wilwood brake bias knob but I’ve never adjusted it (because I don’t know how). He dialed in a LOT more front bias and said I might even be able to go a bit further. I’d been having a bit rear end hop under braking and dialing in a lot more front bias has almost gotten rid of it.

Sat. Race
Went out Saturday with the goal to just stay out of everyone’s way. I was hot and tired and so I didn’t manage any new fast laps. But I finished, and being the only car in my class, I believe that means I won!

After the race I got out of my driving suit and rested for a while. Then I went to the pumps and got more gas. came back and filled up the car so it would be all gassed up for the morning… When it was time Don and I hit the BBQ. NASA always thows a BBQ on Saturday night . Eventually Chris from Life’s Good Racing (Crew Chief) showed up and sat down and talked with us for a while. Don introduced him to me in September at the Trackmasters track day (where I cut the tire). Chris has been really helpful talking through stuff with the Javelin and offering his years of insight. Really appreciated that!

By 8:30pm I was ready to collapse. Dan was going home to sleep but said I could camp in his trailer for the night. My wife was having a birthday party for a friend so I decided I’d stay at the track. Got my pad and sleeping bag set up and settled in. Not the best nights sleep but not the worst either. The track has a lot of lights that stay on all night and there are a couple of vents in the top of the trailer that let that light in. So the inside of the trailer had more light than I would have liked. But it was dry and off the ground so I appreciated it. Got up around 6:30am on Sunday and started getting ready for the day.

Sun. Practice
Went out and was even more tired than the day before… just driving in my mirrors and staying out of everyone’s way (or trying). Dan didn’t even go out for Practice. I thought about skipping it too but decided to just go out and confirm that the car was still working. A couple of laps before the end of the session I hit the curb in 3 a little hard and got some air. Came down and heard a “thunk”… I thought I had just bottomed out so I kept going and finished the session.

When I got back to the pits the plan was to swap the front tires side to side. I started the weened with the new tire on the passenger side (the side I cut during the last outing). So we swapped to get more even wear side to side. While the wheels were off I asked Don to look around and make sure everything looked good. That’s when he found it… the driver’s side sway bar mount (on the lower control arm) had snapped off. I had welded that on myself with my little 110 buzz box and did not get enough penetration to survive that hard landing. I assumed I was done for qualifying (which was only an hour away). But I figured I could find someone at the upper shops who could fix it for me. The race was still 5 or 6 hours away… Don was having none of it! he ran over to Life’s Good Racing and borrowed a Millermatic 180 with autoset feature. only problem was that Dan’s rig didn’t have 220v… but the guy park on the other side of Dan had a monster, rolling Honda generator that DID have 220v! He graciously said we could borrow it. Thanks!

So I got to work grinding the snot welds off the bracket (Dan had a grinder) and then used a wire wheel to clean the paint off the lower control arm. I wasn’t working that fast and was still assuming we’d skip qualifying. But Don went into crew chief mode and said (incredibly tactfully) get in there and get it done! we’re making qualifying! 🙂 So I picked up the pace. Life’s good didn’t have a welding helmet or gloves so I had to do it blind. I set the dial to ?” and the wire speed to auto for .30 wire. I lined up the gun, closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. bzzzzzzzt… I could tell instantly by the sound the settings were perfect! Got the thing rewelded in a few minutes. I did flash myself a little a couple of times but not too bad. Anyway, then Don put the sway bar back together. the swaybar link was bent but it was still able to be connected. I got into the car and on grid with 2 minutes to spare!

Sun. Qualifying
More of the same. Tired, hot, driving in my mirrors… just didn’t have the strength to really push. But I completed the session and got back to the pits. When I checked the time sheets I found out they didn’t have any times for me for practice or qualifying for Sunday!? Said something about the transponder being intermittent… I went and got the transponder and showed them it had plenty of charge. They just shrugged. So I went back and put it in it’s charging cradle (unplugged). This is supposed to basically turn it off. I thought maybe if I did that it would be like restarting it… guess it worked because they had times for me for the Sunday race.

Sun. Race
Exhausted, hot oh and now the sun was right in your eyes at the top of the hill for turn 2. So I knew I wouldn’t be getting any good times and just rode the session out and brought it home…

So that was the weekend. I have to call if a HUGE success. Car ran all 6 sessions (plus the Dave Brown shake down). The tire/fender trough/spring perch interference has been eliminated! The brake bias got adjusted to something more more reasonable. I didn’t have any oil pressure problems (after I added the 2 additional quarts). and, I believe I “won” 2 races. I also believe that means I’m the American Iron Norcal champ for 2015! I know that doesn’t mean anything as there was no competition BUT I am happy that, whatever the reason, an AMC JAVELIN is going in the NASA record books as a Champion! 🙂

This *might* be it for the season. There are a couple of test days and another Trackmasters weekend in November at Sonoma. And there’s an NCRC weekend at Laguna Seca in Dec. I may do ONE of those. Otherwise I’ll start working on all the needed improvements for next season!

here’s some pics and video from the weekend:

1974 Javelin-road race, American Iron, Racing, Suspension, Traqmate, video


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