Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Long Trip home from Road Atlanta (Dec 2013)

I wish I could say the trip home was smoother, but it was not.  The estimated 9hr trip down ended up stretching to 11hrs due to a lot of sleet in IL and tons of rain through Kentucky and Tennessee.  Although it was mid 50's on Saturday in Atlanta, I knew my watching the weather reports there would be a great chance of more snow and ice back home on Sunday.

We took off Saturday around 5pm after the conclusion of the sprint race.  The plan was to drive a couple hours and see how we felt - probably grabbing a hotel and finishing the trip early Sunday morning.  After a few hours we found a Logan's Steakhouse (a chain my Dad wanted to try) and ate.  I went ahead and pricelined a hotel in Murfreesboro TN - about 2 hours away - which we coincidentally stopped at to eat dinner on the way down.  We pulled in to the hotel around 9pm, I was beyond exhausted after driving the last 2 hours on a full stomach.

We got up with the usual 5:40am alarm, had by far the best continental b-fast of the trip (bacon, eggs, etc) and started on our way.  It was already raining and the temp was 34 degrees - no ice YET.  We had an hour or so until Nashville; so about 6-7 hrs home.  The temp hovered around freezing through TN and turned into freezing rain around KY.  Prior to that we had our biggest scare.  I had the cruise set, and was passing a semi in the left lane over an overpass when the car starting heavily fishtailing.  I counter-steered through a tank-slapper as the car's DSC figured things out and cancelled the cruise - all withing a few seconds.  Wild!  A stop for coffee/Mt Dew was in order shortly thereafter...

KY was much worse.  The temp was holding at 29 with light freezing drizzle and all the overpasses were iced.  No salt or anything had been layed and honestly there wasn't many vehicles in the road as it was 8-9am still.

Once into IL, we found the snow.  Immediately and looked like 6+ inches pretty quick.  I-24 was ok, but once we were on I-57 we started seeing multiple vehicles off the road.  Also long sections where the interstate had only 1 lane un-iced, so it was single lane traffic around 60mph for awhile.

We seen lots of people waiting for wreckers, lots of wreckers out, and came up on a cop with an SUV that must have just flipped - dude looked pretty shocked and had no coat or anything on!

My Dad had his ride meet us later on I-57 to save me some miles - and about 90min - dropping him off.  That happened about 11:30am.  It would be 2+ hours of 2-lane home from there and that was extremely low-key fortunately.  I had the NFL Network to keep me entertained and had a beer open about 5min after I got home.  All safe.  Till next time...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Road Atlanta 12/7/13 - Sprint Race!

Early Saturday morning at Road Atlanta brought lots of rain, but by the driver's meeting it had cleared and left 40 degree morning temps - pushing into 50 by midday.  As planned I would be in the Drivegear White #88 SpecE30 today.  By the time we were finished with the longest driver's meeting I've ever had (lots of confusion in the SE how to handle contact with SpecE30; lots of confusion), the car was nearly prepped and ready - sitting on the newer and slightly better Toyo RR's.  I had never driven on these before but was told they were much like the Toyo RA-1 which just a bit more grip.

Practice was up first and I would be 1 of 17 SpecE30's in the Lightning rungroup.  I mainly felt the car out - having never driven on the RR's and only my 2nd day ever in an SpecE30 and 2nd trip to Road Atlanta.  It felt much the same as the #89 and #88 from the Enduro, but a touch quieter due to new exhaust.  It made the car feel a bit slower buy pretty sure that was just in my head!  While I was just feeling things out, most of the rest were balls-out!

Next up was Qualifying.  If this was going to be like other NASA qualifying sessions, it was going to be 'ON' from the time you left the pits!  And it's always smart to try and get a good lap early in case there's issues with traffic or the track in general.  And wouldn't ya know...  on my first hotlap as I was going 2-wide through T12 (yes, the crazy downhill turn) I heard over the radio there was already a crash on track.  I passed it a few seconds later - the radio transmission definitely helping me stay to the correct side of the track (it was off-line but still).
The double-yellows were out and then the red flag!  Dead stop at the end of the front straight!  Eventually the black flag came out and qualifying was over.  I would end up in 13th out of 17 I think; everyone pretty close with the top 2 about 1.5 seconds ahead - having obviously had clear track!

The 35min sprint race was a few hours away.  I grabbed some food, organized and packed up some gear, and basically relaxed and walked around with my Dad for awhile.  The 3 Drivegear cars all lined up pretty early - the #89 and #00 having completely different drivers for the sprints as compared to yesterday's Enduro; I was the only returner.  We were told the race wouldn't be 'Green Flag' until the end of the front straight instead of the S/F so everyone would have a chance to get down the hill through T12 and not battle through it.  Which is a Terrific idea!
In my normal fashion, I didn't get the best jump as I'd never started a race in this car or series before!  I lost a few spots by the time we got into the 'esses', but was happy to be mostly single file by then as there's simply not enough room to run side-by-side w/o a bit of luck to make it through safely!  I held there for a few laps then had a bad through out of T5 and lost a few more spots.  After that I had a big gap behind me and I really started to work on my line and improving laptimes.
In the end I finished a quiet 12th out of 17 in class.  If I had been running the laptimes at the end, I would have been fighting midpack the entire race as my overall best was in the top 1/2.  My best lap was #13 of 15 in the race - 1:47.7.  I had dropped 2.2 seconds off my best lap in the Enduro - and was pretty happy with everything save for a miss that had developed the last 5 or so laps of the race at 5k rpm's in 5th - only on the backstraight (would later find out it was a crank position sensor).

It was close to 4pm EST on Saturday afternoon.  Time to start the trip home...