Mid-Michigan Motorplex: Now it's getting serious!|
September 09, 2001
Stanton, MI -- I’ve just walked in the door with my shoes still squishing from all of the rain that we got at the Mid-Michigan Motorplex. September 8-9 was supposed to be the running of the annual NSCA Motorcity Shoot Out. But this year, it would only be two days of watching it rain. Well, a day and a half of watching it rain… We did at least manage to get two rounds of qualifying in. Here’s a run down of what transpired over the weekend of the 8th & 9th…
We arrived at the track Friday afternoon with the intention of making a few test passes. The season long points battle is in it’s closing frames and if you want to make a move in the points, now’s the time to do it. First place is already locked down, but 2nd is still up for grabs with a handful of teams vying for the position. We wanted to make these test passes to get an early grasp on the engine and chassis tune-ups before qualifying and eliminations began. On the warm-up, the car ran poorly. Our Crew Chief, Jeff Prock of Applied Nitrous Technology, fought and fought with the engine in an attempt to figure out why the car was suddenly running poorly. As Jeff painstakingly inspected every aspect of the engine, he discovered that we had a compression leak in the number one cylinder. That explained the mushy sounding engine.
Once again the A-frame was erected and we quickly commenced with removing the engine. The engine was then trollied into the trailer and dis-assembled. Sure enough, Cylinder one was blowing past the head gasket and up the head stud hole. But why? Closer inspection revealed that, apparently, the cylinder sleeve had sunk a few thousandths of inch into the bore. This compromised the o-ring seal of the gasket, allowing cylinder pressure to make its way over to the stud. OK, so now what? Jeff elected to re-O-ring the cylinder. With this completed, we quickly re-assembled the engine and dropped it back into the engine compartment.
Fingers were crossed Saturday morning as we fired the engine to see if the problem was fixed. Everything appeared to be fine, but the real test would come on the track. The car was then cooled and prepped for the 1st round of qualifying. We didn’t get in any test passes like we had wanted to, but at least we didn’t have to go home. A short time later, the call was made for round one of qualifying.
I had a quite a bit of uncertainty going through my head as I rolled into the water for the burn-out. Was this thing going to hold? I guess I’ll find out… I stepped into the throttle for the burn out and everything seemed fine. The car felt strong, it wasn’t mushy, and it didn’t miss. OK, good…We’ve passed the first test. Now for our final exam… Will it survive at 9,000 RPM with the nitrous on?
Prock directed me forward and lined me up with the racing groove. I staged, pressed the trans-brake button, took a deep breath, and mashed the throttle. The tree was activated and when the engine was up on the convertor, I released the trans-brake. Again, everything seemed fine… The car launched cleanly and loaded the new wheelie bars nicely. For a change, I could actually see over the hood as opposed to looking at clouds. The smoothness of the launch almost made the run feel slow. The car ran a 7.87 at only 177 MPH for the #2 slot. It probably would have went a touch quicker if I hadn’t cheated it out of 500 rpm on the 1-2 shift. Regardless of that, this was excellent for our first run of the day. Our early runs are normally pretty conservative with our best runs usually coming in the last qualifying session. After running well in the first round, I was eager to see what Prock would have in store for the 2nd & 3rd rounds of qualifying.
We did a few quick checks during the post run maintenance and everything appeared to be fine. I guess the engine was going to hold up fine. This really helped my confidence, which would really help my driving. Now I could solely focus on driving without having to worry about anything else.
Just when everything seemed to be functioning smoothly, we experienced technical difficulties. As I rolled into the water to do the burn-out, I noticed that the water temp was a little cooler then we typically like to operate at. No big deal… I’ll just turn the water pump off to do the burn-out. It’ll help bring the water temp up quicker. Now don’t freak out, I didn’t forget to turn it back on…. Just after the burn-out, I immediately flipped the switch back on. The temp was right where we wanted it. I then proceeded forward to stage. When I pressed in the trans-brake button and stomped on the throttle, the car had NO interest in revving up. What the? What’s this all about? A quick glance at the gauges showed that the water temp was up 30 degrees in only a matter of moments. Whoa! MISSION ABORTED! We’ve got a problem. I let the engine back down to an idle and rolled slowly away from the starting line. As soon as the car moved, the needle on the temperature gauge jumped up to 200 and then immediately dropped down to 140. Now I’m completely baffled… We weren’t exactly sure what happened, but we suspect that we had an air pocket trapped in the cooling system. We’re lucky that the car ran poorly and that I didn’t make the pass. It certainly would have fried every part in the engine. We’re still not sure why the engine ran poorly, but we’re sure glad that it did! I may never have looked at the gauges otherwise. After the 2nd qualifying session, we we’re still in the second slot so no damage was done there either.
Two rounds down, one round to go. We still had one more shot at the pole. That shot would never come though. Just before the third round the skies darkened and dumped water on us. The ensuing deluge practically flooded the place out. The final round was cancelled and we were informed that there would be no attempt to run it Sunday morning. The field was set with two qualifying attempts. I was hoping that the race officials would see fit to run the program in the same fashion as the Union Grove event by giving us the 3rd shot the next morning. Nope… That wouldn’t happen.
No lifeguard on duty.
Sunday morning wasn’t much different then Saturday evening… It was still raining… The weather never would break and it wasn’t long before the NSCA officials called the race. To make matters worse, they chose not to make up the race… No reschedule… No double race at Columbus… Nothing! The race was gone. We desperately needed that race to go off. We’ve got our sights set on finishing the season in second place and canceling this race wasn’t going to get us any closer. All of the money we spent, all of the favors we called in, all of the time we invested as we over-prepared for this race was thrown out the window. We bet everything on that race ended up with a push.
Caroline Flosky celebrates her 16th birthday with us.
Now we’re faced with some steep odds as we head for the World Finals in Columbus. It’s now been a solid week since we returned from the rained out NSCA Motor City Shoot Out at the Mid-Michigan Motorplex. Our chances for nailing down 2nd place in the Super Modified points chase have been pretty badly hurt. We are currently in 4th and we desperately needed to run that race in attempt to gather more points. Even then, we aren’t completely out of it. Mathematically, it can be done but in reality, it will be very tough. We will need to run flawlessly for that entire weekend. In order to pull this off we’ll have to qualify #1, win the race out right, and somewhere along the way, set both the ET and MPH record for the class. None of these are out of reach for the Pelech Bros. Racing squad. We have the best crew in the business, led by Jeff Prock and Tim Pelech. If anybody is capable of pulling this off, it’s our team.
Michael taking his work way too seriously.
We only have a week and a half before we have to depart for The NSCA World Finals at Columbus and already, we’re under the gun. The engine has been removed from the car and dis-assembled. There’s a lot to do and no time to do it.
Keep an eye out for us at Columbus and root us on as we make one last all out assault on second place in the national point standings.
Thanks again for your support and we’ll catch up with you when we return.
Ted & Tim Pelech
Pelech Bros. Racing