Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Overall Victory in the WTKA 2-cycle Karting Enduro Race

The West Texas Karting Association is based in Midland, TX with Rimrock Raceway as their home track. As you have probably seen in previous posts, I have practiced several times at Rimrock, but this would be my first race on the 10-turn 0.4 miles track. Despite it's small size, Rimrock is a blast to drive with a good mix of corners with top speeds reaching 61 mph. However, the surface is extremely coarse and rough on tires despite not having a ton of grip. I was worried this would factor into the enduro because my strategy was too stretch my tires and fuel to the end doing my best to avoid pit-lane.

I was hoping for more of the WTKA shifter kart drivers to show up, but only three 2-cycles entered the race. However, driving a 1-hour enduro in a demanding shifter kart is a challenge in itself so the race would still be interesting. We drew numbers for the starting grid and I started on pole against the two other 2-cycle karts which consisted of one other Honda-powered shifter kart and a Yamaha Pipe kart. Just like at NTK last weekend, I had a poor start which allowed the other shifter kart to pass me at the start. I passed him back entering turn 2 and opened up a comfortable lead as I pulled away from the P2 shifter and he started to encounter problems. He made three pit stops totaling 15-20 laps down and I was able to pass the Yamaha kart 3 times in the first 30 minutes. By this point, I knew I had a comfortable lead so I backed the pace down to save myself and the kart for the end of the race.

Despite the reduced pace, I started to pick up a violent vibration when shifting from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd and my water temp started to creep up shortly thereafter. I was worried something catastrophic was happening, but it felt like one of my engine mounts had failed which didn't explain the water temp issue. I pulled into pitlane for damage assessment at the 35 minute mark with a 4-lap lead over the Yamaha. I was quickly apparent that the front engine mount bolt had sheared and my radiator mount had failed under the violent shaking caused by the engine mount failure. With the kart up on the stand and gloves off, I quickly found my spare engine mount bolt and replaced it while two of the local racers attacked my radiator mount. With good ol' duct-tape and zip ties, they fashioned a jerry-rigged mount that seemd pretty solid. Thanks guys! The repairs took about 5-6 minutes and I was back on track. At this point, I had no idea where I was in the order but I knew the most important thing was to run for the rest of the race problem-free. I dialed in a reasonable pace of 35.5 - 36s laps for the final 20 minutes. The Yamaha's clutch failed with 15 minutes to go so it was down to just the two shifter karts competing for the victory. Luckily, the "custom" radiator mounting held up and I was able to finish the 1-hour enduro with no other issues.

When we got the checkered flag, I still had no idea what the finishing order was. Whenever you are in the pits while cars are passing you, it feels like an eternity so I thought I finished several laps down to the other shifter because it felt like he passed me 40 times while I was in pitlane. After about twenty minutes, I was informed that I had won the race and the $60 in prize money with 84 laps completed with the other shifter kart completing 75 laps for 2nd place and the Yamaha finishing 3rd with 64 laps.

Here is a fast-forward video of the full 1-hour enduro:

Monday, November 22, 2010

North Texas Karters Fall Race # 6

I travelled to Dallas again on November 13th and 14th to race in the final NTK kart race of the 2010 season. I ran 56 practice laps on Saturday in preparation for Sunday's race and it really paid off. The kart worked flawlessly which helped me to focus on tuning the kart and working on my shifter kart piloting. My fast lap at NTK before this weekend was a 39.22 which is a few seconds off the pace. The experienced NTK shifter kart drivers can lap NTK in the low 36 second range. These drivers like Nick Lucido, Jordan Musser, and Jake French are some of the top shifter kart drivers in the country so I have a lot to work up to. My goal for the weekend was to be able to run consistently in the 37s. I almost achieved my goal on Saturday and was able to click of a 38.14s lap with my 5 fastest laps all within a tenth. These time are still off the pace, but at least progress is being made. Thanks to Ali's Dad for making the trip out to Denton to take some photos. Here are a few photos from Saturday (credit - Charles Rutherford):

After Saturday's practice, we made the hour trek back to Denton for the last race of NTK's Fall race series. This was my 2nd race in the shifter kart and the first one with the kart working properly so I had high hopes of really improving my competitiveness in the new kart against the experienced NTK drivers. It was a sunny cool day with temperatures around 60 degrees. This made for treacherous conditions on the opening laps of each session until the tires came up to temperature. I started out with a 37.90s lap in the first practice which achieved my lap time goal for the weekend. I adjusted the seat rail and rear bar for the next two sessions trying to find some more rear grip, but ended up running exactly a 37.90 in the 2nd practice and in qualifying. If you can't make progress, at least you can be super consistent...

My 37.90 lap put me in 4th spot out of 6 shifters for the heat race with Andrew Perkins leading the way with a 36.2s lap. I bogged on the standing start as the P5 shifter kart rocketed past me into Turn 1. I knew from qualifying that I could run about 1 sec. faster than him so I needed to move back into P4 quickly to have any shot of keeping up with the top 3 karts. I made the move on the front straight and was able to duck into 4th place in Turn 6. After the poor start and getting passed, I had dropped about 5s back from P3, but was slowly reeling him in for the first 4 laps of the 8 lap race. My progress stopped on Lap 4 when I bicycled badly exiting Turn 8 leading on the front straight. I counter-steered sharply as I went up on two-wheels to avoid flipping, but had an off-track excursion as a result. I managed to hold onto 4th place as I merged back on track and stayed there for the final 4 laps. This put me 4th on the grid again for the 12-lap feature race. By this point, the sun was setting and the track was cooling off dramatically. We ran under the lights so after a quick setup change and visor swap, I was ready to go. I got a better start, but the P5 kart was able to dive under me in Turn 2. After the first lap, my water temperature climbed to above 140 degrees telling me I had covered too much of my radiator to compensate for the cooler temperatures. Pulling off radiator tape while steering, shifting, and trying to pass another kart is difficult. After two failed attempts, I took back 4th place on lap three in the same spot as the heat race. By this point, the top 3 had stretched out a sizable lead and I was not able catch up so I cruised home to a 4th place finish.

Overall it was a fun weekend and I made a lot of progress with my shifter. I have figured out a lot of the small problems that have been plaguing me and feel much more comfortable working on and driver the shifter. Now that I have a good baseline set, time to get to work on getting down to the 36s.

Here is a compilation of onboard footage from Sunday's race:

Lots of new Photos on Flickr

Bondurant Schootout photos on my Dad's Flickr Account

Here are a few examples:




Tuesday, November 9, 2010

All Sports All Weekend in Dallas

I've recovered from a fun weekend in Dallas with Ali. We left straight after work on Friday with the trailer and hustled to Fort Worth to watch the NASCAR Camping World Trucks race to 147 laps under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, we had to listen to the start of the race on the radio as we rolled into the gigantic (everything's bigger in Texas right....so cliche) parking lot. All in all, we missed the first 20 laps and we arrived under caution starving and glad to not be driving. The race wasn't too exciting as Kyle Busch clicked off another victory, but it was still cool seeing race trucks average 180mph around the 1.5mi oval two-wide at night.

TMS on Friday night with Kyle Busch's burnout smoke lingering after 20 minutes

After a few hours of sleep, we trekked backed to TMS early the next morning to watch Sprint Cup practice, peruse the pits, and watch the Nationwide Series 200 lap race. Carl Edwards won an exciting afternoon race. Here are some pictures from Saturday:

Fried PB&J for Ali

Penske Racing Pitbox

The Great Clips Nationwide team getting their car to grid

NASCAR Spring Cup Garages and Haulers at TMS

Carl Edwards mid-backflip after the race

After the race Saturday, we went straight to The Kart Shop in Sachse, Texas to pick up some race fuel for the kart, grabbed dinner, and headed to the American Airlines Center to watch the Dallas Mavericks play the Denver Nuggets with Ali's sister and friend. Thanks for the tickets Brian! Sunday Morning we were up bright and early again to drive to North Texas Kartway in Denton, Texas for some testing in my Stock Moto Shifter Kart. I ran 40 laps over 4 sessions on the day but struggled with fuel pump issues. My fuel pump-around system which pumps fuel out of the carb and back into the tank was not pulling enough fuel causing me to run very rich and bog coming out corners with lower RPM exits. I ran new MG Yellow tires (SKUSA and NTK spec tire) on my kart for the first time to prepare for my race next weekend. I needed to get a feel for the kart on fresh rubber to start tuning and really lowering my lap times around NTK. After the 4 sessions, I was 1 second quicker than my last trip to NTK 5 months ago, so I was pleased with that. However, I still have lots of work to do to be competitive with the top NTK shifter kart pilots who happen to be some of the best in the country. For my next trip to NTK, I will be tuning the the chassis to be more balanced on corner exit. It's current setup too knife-edged and not very forgiving. I also need to work on smoothing out my inputs, slowing down my hands, and clicking off consistent laps so I can better tune the kart.

Shifter Kart with fresh MG Yellow sneakers

Video from Sunday's Shifter Kart Practice

Friday, November 5, 2010

NASCAR and Karting this Weekend

My girlfriend and I are traveling to Dallas this weekend for a motorsports-filled weekend. First stop is Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race - The WinStar World Casino 350k. The truck series has always been my favorite NASCAR series, but I've never been to one so I am looking forward to tonight's 147 lap race. The race trucks are close to my heart from our LeMons build and the series produces some really close racing.

Qualifying Results for the Trucks: http://www.nascar.com/races/truck/2010/23/data/lineup.html

On Saturday, Ali and I head back to TMS for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. We have good front-stretch (so we can see pit-lane) seats and pit passes so it should be a good time. Sunday, I am going to do a test and tune at North Texas Kartway in my stock moto shifter. I have some new MG tires mounted for the first time so hopefully I can make some big improvements to my lap times around NTK. I'm also 22lbs lighter than my last time at NTK so that should help also....

Weekend Schedule: http://www.texasmotorspeedway.com/Schedule/Event-Weekend-Schedule.aspx

New Dirt Biking Spot in San Angelo

One of my co-workers introduced me to the off-roading trails around the Twin Buttes Reservoir in San Angelo, Texas. This a great spot for desert-landscape trail riding which I really enjoy, and it's only 5 minutes from my house. The site has miles of trails with different terrains (mud, loose dirt, packed mud, rocky, sand), elevation changes, wide-open beach sections, and tight, technical courses rutted and winding through the trees.

I've been out there a couple of times over the past few weeks with my 2-stroke Kawasaki. I'll take some pictures and video next time out. I've heard there are many more spots like this surrounding San Angelo so hopefully we will have more places to explore.