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Article I wrote for my comany's magazine Summit 11/1


jemofvausa
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Nov 1 2003

Summit Point Raceway

West Virginia

North American Sports Car Association

Virginia Region

NASA-Virginia's Professional Atlantic Road Racing Championship

 

 

This story begins with a full engine rebuild following the last race I entered. The car is a 1974 Datsun 260z body with an L28 280z motor. I disassembled, inspected and reassembled the motor during the off season. The car is very competitive in its class. I race in the Super Unlimited class which is where one might go up against a full on Dodge Viper, Porsche Super Cup or Tube Frame Monte Carlo. It is a wide open class with very few rules and restrictions. Once the car was ready I began to stage all of the support equipment we would need for the weekend. After Trick or Treating was over, as I have a 2 year old daughter Katie and a 7 year old son Caelen, my wife, Cindy, and I and our son jumped into the RV with the race car in tow.

 

We arrived at the track, which is a 4 hour tow, around midnight. Cindy and Caelen slept on the way up. We paid our camping hookup fee at the gate and found our place in the paddock. With the electricity hooked up my son and I began to setup our awning and unload some of the equipment. As we worked in the inky West Virginia night we were greeted by some of the other racers who also had the “first night jitters”. I guess we lay down around 2 am.

 

After tossing and turning for 3 hours I woke up and got breakfast underway. Coffee and sandwiches are my main stays during a race weekends. I went outside and realized that a team with a tractor trailer with 2 red and yellow Porsche 993s had paddocked next to us. Ah some competition. These are the big boys, the professional teams that come to regional amateur events to practice and build up their confidence. Next we unloaded the car, bought race fuel at $4.75/gal and attended the morning driver’s meeting. Back to the paddock we went and suited up for the first practice session.

 

The weather for the practice session was optimum. 65◦farenheit and sunny. A cool dewy morning. As we went to grid I got that old feeling in my stomach, butterflies. Pulled into my place on the grid, cleared the carbs and shut her down. I pulled myself out of the window and joined the rest of the drivers waiting for the session to begin. Then the five minute warning. Get in, get the harness on, and get the helmet and gloves on. Tighten the harness until you are one with your machine. Battery switch, fuel pump, ignition, and starter. Ah, the monster roars to life along with all the competitors. Check the straps and gauges, adjust the mirrors. One minute warning. Pace car out and away we go. Then there is the obligatory swerving to warm up the tires. The old Goodyear r240 10x16 slicks haven’t let me down yet. As the cars ahead stretched out I begin to lay into it. I look down and check the gauges. Temp OK. Oil Pressure >100psi!!!???. What is this? I realize that the oil is too cold and that there is a light oil film gathering on my windshield. Into the pit and the down to our paddock. Open the hood and inspect. I find that I popped the crankcase vent plug off the timing chain void. Whew no big deal. Effect repairs and back out for the rest of the session.

 

Most of you have never been to Summit Point. Here is the URL http://www.summitpoint-raceway.com.

 

 

It is a 2 mile road course with some medium changes in elevation. A long front straight leads to turns one and two which are 2nd gear for most cars. Then back to turn 3 which is a favorite because it is a slight uphill left hand turn with positive camber at the start and negative camber as you move through it. Then bomb downhill through turn 4, The Chute, wide slam open. At the bottom of the hill there is turn 5 that lies to me every time. It invites me to brake as late as possible and always looks faster than it really is. When you approach 5 you are standing on the brakes and your harness is cutting into your collarbones and hips. From there turns 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the most technical of the track. What you do here determines your front straight entrance speed over a half of a mile away. You saw the wheel and the gas pedal as you throttle steer and drift your car back and forth across the track. As you enter nine and begin your ascent you time your throttle on as early as possible to blast up the course and under the bridge to face the most terrifying part of the track, turn 10. As you approach 10 you can carry as much as 80 – 90 mph. The tendency is to tap the brakes to get the cars weight up on the front to make a very positive turn in. I look at this turn and always wonder “How am I going to bend this car through there?” I have not been able to force myself to not lift during this transition. I guess this will come with more time at this track. On the other side of 10 there is plenty of track and rumble strips. Every time I go through there I always kick myself for lifting. Then you are home free to rev on the red line all the way down to turn 1.

 

Well practice went well. Got rid of the jitters and the car didn’t break. Qualifying went good. We qualified 40th out of 52. Not the result I wanted but we were on the grid, within 10% of the fastest car. Time for some lunch and to make final preparations for the race.

 

After lunch the announcer came over the PA and called race group 2 to the grid. I kissed the wife hopped in the car and rumbled on over. I pulled into the #40 slot and shut it down. The grid marshal and his assistant were busy staging all the cars as to their qualifying positions. There seem to be a lot of confusion because several cars were moved around. Then there was an announcement from the grid marshal to race control and then to the announcer that we would be having a split start. A split start is when half of the race group start and goes about halfway around the track behind one pace car and then the next group starts out. Five Minute Warning. One Minute Warning. Pace car out and then we are off. We paced for 2 laps to get both groups out and stacked up side by side. There was the usual jockeying and intimidating. Riding up on each other’s bumper. Then we were out of turn nine and on to ten. I never saw the green flag. The whole field of cars exploded all at once in a glorious combusting cacophony. It’s on. As I approached start finish on my way to one I was on the inside. A white #14 E30 BMW closed me of the driver’s side. I had to back out or he would have taken us both. I new I was going to run him down. He was not going to get away with that. So this maelstrom of beating pistons roared down to turn one. As I approached there were several cars already off track. This is the typical first turn incident. The corner workers were waving their yellow flags. I said to myself while going by the cars in the field “Beat you, beat you, and beat you”. Round one and two. I look to the flag station at three and all is clear. Hard on the gas dodging slower traffic. Rip through three and down the chute for the first time. Uh Oh more cars off in turn five. Then 6,7,8,9 and up the hill to 10. Of course lift at 10 and down the straight. Yellow flag and white flag out. Emergency vehicle on the track. They are doing a hot pull of some of the cars down in one. No passing but don’t let the field get away. Track is still clear after one and two and the incident at 5 has cleared. Around the track again and back to 3. I pass the #14 white BMW and give him a friendly wave. A yellow 944 was on my right and we were racing down The Chute. We cam up on traffic and before I could decide which way to go WHAM a black 944 splits the two of us and hits me on the passenger side leaving a medal of honor. The race continues with many more off and on track incident which I am not a part of thankfully. I take the checker and pull into the pits and to the paddock. Hop out and grab a shower before the evening’s award ceremony and party. As I am milling about I realize that on one of the yellow and red 993 had passed me during the race. HMMMM?

 

That evening there was a grand buffet of food and drink all provided free. We ate and drank as the awards ceremony began. There were two or three event winners announced and celebrated. Then the race director began “The next first place trophy goes to a driver out of Yorktown Virginia driving the number the 38 Datsun 260z, Joe McCaffrey.” Not expecting this I was stunned. My wife said “Close your mouth, get up there and get your trophy.” I walked up hands in the air to a cheering crowd. I took the trophy and the champagne. I put my arms around the trophy girls and smiled for the camera. It all sounds so cliché now but it was a very satisfying moment.

 

The next day the big team next door came over to look at the car and talk to me. The driver and mechanic pointed out that my engine alone weighed more than their whole car. We talked some and they left. I did not realize until I got home and looked at the official results that we beat one of their cars. Here I am the lowest of the low budget racers going up against Goliath and taking his place in the sun. His car had suffered a mechanical failure and only completed 6 laps. Here is a link to the official results: http://www.nasaracing.net/03Nov01/Group2SatRev1DQ.html and here is a link to all the pictures http://www.euroimage.us/summit11103/group%202%20race/index.htm . They have me listed as car 37. Please feel free to look at all the cars.

 

 

I had a great time. I would like to thank my wife Cindy and my son Caelen for their support. I also need to thank my crew Jeff Laskowski and Steve Kish.

 

It all goes to show you “Competition Begins in the Garage”

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Well written! As I read your article I could see the picture clear and I relived many of your on the track feelings. We are new to road racing ourselves and with a "hope it don't break today" budget. We bought wisely and found a 71 240z that was 75% complete with several SU Nasa event wins to its history so we know it's in the car, but we are hoping it is in us too!

 

Really enjoying wrenching in the garage as a family (she says I better not work on it without her help). LOL Only out to the track about every 2 or 3 months and we both share time behind the wheel while the kids cheer. Still learning and tuning the car but having a blast at it.

 

Here's the funny thing, our family names... my wife Cindy, 2 girls Kaelin & Karlie, and son Connor. He is 5 and the other day wanted to know when I was going to get him a go-cart.

 

LIVE THE RACE!

cheers

Craig

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Great to see there are kindred z spirits in su. You got anything to trade? Please send pics of your ride. It was a good thing to put to pen the experience while it was still fresh. I have to do it more. Tell me about your car. I am very interested.

 

I am

 

Joe McCaffrey

103 Kailtyn Court

Yorktown VA 23692

757 303 3052

 

[email protected]

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