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The Idea

Operation Hornet began late in 2002 when friends Dale and John told me about a new class of racing at Tri-City Raceway called the "Hornet" class.  As stock car as you can possibly get and the radio still has to work.  Races are kept competitive and cheap because if you have too good a car, the raceway owner can claim your car for $200.

So, to find a cheap, cheap car that might be competitive and other than adding some needed safety equipment run what you brung.

Can a $1000 be a fair budget to race for the year?

The Meeting

Man, I've been in the office too long.  I went to the first class meeting at the race track and was reminded that racin' is middle America.  Coming from work I was wearing work clothes.  I hope nobody pointed and laughed.

The director, Alvin Keck, Tom Lebonowski, and son Keck ran the meeting and were about way more casual about the rules than I would have thought.  He set the tone with, "If you're out to race you're gonna be disappointed.  If you're out her to have fun, you're gonna have it.  Win too much and I'll buy your car."

I signed up for number 42 and paid my $10.  42 is the answer to life, universe, and everything according to my favorite book, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Project cost to date: $10.00

All right. I'm not going to worry about finding a Mustang or something else and rebuild the motor.  I'm gonna find the cheapest thing that runs and has four wheels.

The had a Hornet prepped Honda Civic on display as a example of what $139 in added parts will buy.

January 2003 - I Find The Car

I looked over a Celica and Accord, but $500 was too much.

I found an '85 Golf at Autoskraps in Kennewick.  I used to have a Rabbit so I already knew a bunch about the engine, fuel injection, and general Zen of Fahrvergnugen.  Margy said $300 + $24.90 tax and I could haul it away.  

I'm Already In Trouble

Thinking I'd get to keep the plates that were valid for another month--didn't.  So, I tried running the gauntlet home without plates.  I figured the bill of sale would keep me out of trouble if I were to get pulled over.  There's like a 1 in 10 chance I'm going to see a KPD or PPD anyway!

Shoot, I just made it over the cable bridge before Mr. Stater spotted me.  I pulled over even before he flipped his lights on.  I became Mr. Courteous and actually was surprised that the receipt wasn't good enough.  He insisted I should have bought a trip permit, but let me off with a stern warning and I drove the last mile home.

Preparation Begins

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The drive home felt like the engine was strong, but it would "thunk" whenever I let out the clutch.  Something's up but I decided to start stripping loose parts first.  Oh, and the struts are so wore out I actually started an oscillation coming over the bridge.

Things that break and leave debris, things that stick out and snag other cars, and things that can catch fire.  These are the things that you get to take off and throw away.  Mirrors, windshield wipers, headlights, side markers, tail lights, side trip.

I had figured the gas tank would be in front of the rear tires given the spare tire hole, but was not so lucky.  Looks like I'm going to have to buy a boat tank and reroute fuel lines.  Ugh.

After 2 hours I've stripped out most of the interior trim and have filled up one garbage can.

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I found 65 cents worth of change.  The project just got cheaper!

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Project cost to date: $324.25

February 9

FInished yanking carpet, stripping body trim pieces, and looking over how I'm going to strap in a plastic boat tank.   I'm not quite ready to pull out the glass yet.

The struts are going to be a pain.  I've got to decide whether to hunt down used ones or price out some new ones.

I found $0.36 more cents.

Dale told me he'll sell me his trailer to haul the car for $800.00.  I won't count this cost in the project as it likely will hold its value.

Project cost to date: $323.89

February 23

Today was odds and ends.  I spent a little cash today on needed parts.

  • Decided I am going to try and go with a boat tank.  I'll have to extend the lines and found hose, clamps, and bibs.

  • Found two front tires with 1/2 tread to replace the cracking front ones.  About $40 to mount up.  One back tire looks good and I may use the spare even though it's on a more narrow Rabbit rim and is 155 to the front 185s.

  • Changed oil and filter to Mobile One.

  • Bought a battery with the terminals on the correct side.  Clearance is still tough.  May have to extend cables.

  • Strapping to hold down the boat tank and battery, and some bolts.

  • Took out the annoying door buzzer.

  • Found a leaf spring in a junk pile for driver door reinforcement.

Mobil One Oil 4 quarts $18.04
Oil Filter 1 $4.00
Fire Extinguisher 1 $9.69
Hose Clamps 4 $2.59
Engine and carb cleaner 2 $5.19
Fuel Line 6 feet $7.80
Fuel Line bibs 2 $3.36
Tires 2 $38.99
Strapping 12 feet $15.00
Battery 1 $36.81
1/2" bolts and hardware 6 $2.86

 Project cost to date: $468.22

March 7

One of the tires I bought has a leak--I should have checked.   The right rear that came on the car is a studded tire on a 5" older Rabbit rim--two strikes there.  Still needed more tires and wheels so I took back the pile of good parts to Autoskraps and was pleased to find an Aluminum Scirocco rim with a Michelin and 1/2 tread and also a steel rim off a Jetta with 1/2" tread.  Both wheels fit the year and model Golf at 5 1/2".   The owner hooked me up with and only asked $10.00.  Well worth taking the parts back and an hours worth of junkyard wandering.

Only problem is the Scirocco rim needs longer lug bolts.  I'm only getting a few turns of purchase.  That'll learn me for trying to get tricky.

I need to go back and get a third brake light anyway.  I'll try and snag 3 more longer bolts.

March 8

More odds and ends.  Took out all the glass, popped out the front turn signals integral in the bumper and and am truly dreading the rear struts.  Car's a lot lighter, but it actually bounces about six times when I push down the rear of the car.  There is no shock absorption whatsoever.  Maybe Pasco Auto Wrecking will give me a discount on some used struts in return for some great glass.

Another dumpster full of trash.

I'm going to try and pick up the trailer from Dale in the next couple of days so I can take the car to a car wash and give the engine a bath.  Better there than my yard.  These are the days I wish I had a real garage. 

Then off to John's for safety improvements.  I figure it's roll cage, door reinforcement, window net, harness, weld doors shut, weld motor mounts, fuel cell install and shroud, and pretty up the open tail and headlights with some metal.  I'm guessing two or three night's work?


5 1/2" rims with 1/2 tread tires 2 $10.83

Project cost to date: $479.05

March 14-16

Friday off and I'm getting stuff done.  Went and picked up my new trailer from Dale.  Nice piece of engineering.  It's stout as a tank with a whole lot of steel for $800.00.  Tabs are even fresh and DOL only nicked me for $50.50.  I'm going to count that expense in the budget as it's an operational expense.  He even threw in a spare tire and a come-along.  Brake lights don't work for some reason, but it will be one more thing on my list.

Drove the car right up on it and it seems easy to balance the tongue.

The nice counter folks at Pasco Auto Wrecking traded straight across all my glass for a set of rear struts from an '88 Jetta.  There's $55.00 I hope fits.  They think they'll will.  I mentioned racing Hornets and see how auto wrecking folks are cool to help.

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Then out to pick up a longer battery cable, third brake light, and a can of Restore.  There a bit too much valve clatter and I may have to adjust them.  If I remember right they're shims so you measure the clearance, pull the shims, and then get different thickness to compensate.

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Actually working on the car I managed to blood blister my finger tip while using tin snips.  The battery is secure, but the marine terminal I bought looks like it might the hood.  Positive battery juice and metal frames do not mix.  Hmmm?  I found a leather glove Justin had tossed in the garbage.  Good insulator!

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I also managed to roll the car off the back of the trailer while installing the third break light, but no damage.  I'm a dumb ass and Dale's going to laugh at me.  It accentuates the point that I need to secure the car with chains.  

Started painting the underlying red on the door and roof and yellow on driver side.  My theory is I mask it with numbers, paint yellow, and the numbers show up underneath.  I don't know if it's Hornet yellow, but it's certainly Walmart Yellow.

Bought 20 feet of 1300 lbs chain and speed clips.  I'll have to size the lengths and cut appropriately.

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Title transfer of trailer 1 $50.50
Walmart Spray Paint 13 $13.23
Chain 20 feet $43.10
Chain Clips 4 $7.16
Third Brake Light 1 $2.16
Battery cable 1 $8.65
Marine terminal 1 $2.16
Restore 1 $8.65

Project cost to date: $614.86

The Big Weld

March 18

John confirmed my suspicions on the struts.  They're front struts!  Duh.  A $50 trip out to Tommy got me a set of REAR struts out of an '85 Golf with 85,000 miles on it.  They seem in good shape.  John took me to his son's work and bent pipe for the roll cage.  It's nice having a "consultant" on board.  Took him out to lunch.


Rear struts 2 $54.15
Consultant Lunch 1 $7.00


March 20

Huge progress last night and tonight.  John's other son Ken helped me swap the rear struts.  No more clown car.

He also did a great job fixing my motor mount problem.  Replacements are $130, but with a grinder, some tubing, and welding he and John made a great solid mount.

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Next I stripped the stock seat of it's covering, pulled off the back, and John stripped it down to a workable platform.  Welding on some rectangular tubing, shimming it here and there with bolts and washers, welding on side and back holders--I now have one adjustable race seat.  We set it up so that it's farthest back position is almost too tall for me and it moves up 8 inches forward for John (hopefully I can get him to drive).

I took the seat home, positioned some padding, and secured the seat cover with some rivets and duct tape.  Not pretty, but it's comfortable.  I'm thinking this real race seat is the best idea John has had.

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Final project of the evening was to get the roll hoop welded in.  To get a nice mounting surface John cut away a bit at some metal, pounded over the door lip to a plate for a little extra metal, and welded in the roll bar.  The wire included the break light, power to the fuel pump, and speaker wire to the functional stereo.

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After I left Ken was planning to do some more work including painting some stripes and a HTS logo that he and John call their own.  That's High Tech Shit.  Wishing I had a ten or twenty in my wallet--I did give Ken a few bucks to buy lunch the next day and thanked him for his consulting.

And, I bought some more Walmart paint.  I even planned to get a few more cans of yellow, but they were out.  A couple days ago they had 20 cans left.  I think other Hornets have tapped the local supply!

Red and black paint 4 $4.07
Consultant Lunch 2 $11.00

Considering I still have to buy $50.00 yearly insurance and $25.00 pit pass for each race I don't think $1000 is going to cover it, but that's OK.

Project cost to date: $691.08

March 25

The roll bar is fully installed and welded, Ken did some painting, sized a window net, and started shaping the door reinforcement.  We ran out of welding rod, bolts, and a hole saw so it's back at it Thursday.  Still planning on taking the car to the track on Sunday to test.

March 28

Finished up where we left off.  The window net took a bit of time getting the buckle welded in the right spot, rods bent the right angles, and figuring out how to keep it all from falling out.  The door reinforcement looks great with John's idea of using an angle piece in front in a cut through the body metal, and it strengthened up the door area well.  Secured the 4 point harness with some grade 8 bolts.  Cut the back piece off at a 45 degree and welded on a washer.  Put the car back on the trailer and hauled back to my place.

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More yellow and black paint 6 cans $6.15
Bolts (Grade 8 and Grade 2) 4 pounds $10.00
Sheet metal 24"x36" $7.50

Project cost to date: $714.73

March 29

Finished painting, tinned in the back tail lights and riveted in place, mounted the fire extinguisher.

Practice Day!

March 30

Confirmed the track length as 987 feet on the inside and 1146 on the outside.

This was the day I was looking forward too. To actually take the car out and run some laps on the course. I secured the car on the trailer and drove the 20 miles out the racetrack. They made me pay $10 to practice which wasn't expected, but oh well. It's 10 bucks of many. I got there right at noon and the pits had maybe a dozen cars.

As I drove into one of the empty slots it all started to hit me. I've got this goofy looking yellow Volkswagen towed behind a low-rider pickup and parked next to me is an immaculate late model towed in an enclosed trailer and guy in a nomex racing suit and the little elf-like racing shoes. Slicks lay strewn around and shiny looking special car jacks all over the place. Pit crew with big radio head sets scurrying around the car with clipboards, or knee-padded ones move big protector looking things around tires.

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And here I am wearing a t-shirt and shorts driving off my sputtering Golf (it doesn't start well probably because of an airflow sensor or something, but runs fine once it warms up) off a trailer by myself. I have a friend from work, but he's there mainly for moral support and had never been in any pits before.

A tech guy comes by and I am encouraged he's giving me a pre-tech inspection. I ask him to make any suggestions before I race in a couple of weeks. One is that I don't want to run the aluminum rim.  I guess they tend to break catastrophically under race conditions. Fine. I need to get another steel rim or two. Two, which makes me chuckle, is that I should think about wearing long pants and shirt next time. No problem, I brought them along and changed in the cab of my truck.  Three, the expertly welded roll bar plate needs to be bolted. Wait till I tell John. He adds that "one bolt per side will make it legal." OhhhhhhhhKay.

This is also the first time I see some other hornets. A Tercel and a B210 rear driver I think. I notice that the Tercel is running one of the mini spares on the left front and the other tire looks smaller than the outside tires. The other rear driver B210 seems to running a bit of stagger too. Checking the rules I see "Wheels and tires must be of like size."  To me this seems to be a violation, but I guess this is practice.

And now I guess I've come to my first real racing realization. Readers might see a shift starting here in my website too.

Racing Realization #1

People push the limits...and may cheat.

If I think somebody is breaking the rules do I ask for a ruling from the race director or whoever is in charge on race night or do I keep my mouth shut and do the same thing? Will this end up being a question I face more often as the season becomes competitive? Interesting dilemma.  And, in this case there's a third option. If I bring the rule question up and get over-ruled should I ask that we race the wrong direction half the time like was suggested may happen? That would kill the stagger users. Time will tell......

After about an hour of waiting I got to go 10 laps with two others on the course. It quickly became clear that I've got some major front end plow.  At John's suggestion I ran 40 psi in the right front, 35 in the right rear, and 20 or so on the left side tires.  It may help, but body roll is just plain excessive. The two others cars were clearly quicker through the corners and drivers more experienced.  I seemed to pull in the straight-aways at a similar pace. I definitely have some improvement opportunity as a driver, but there are some things I can do to improve the car.

I've got a couple of ideas including putting newer front struts on, a stiffer sidewall tire, and consider changing the toe and camber (latter if we end up going clockwise most of the time).

Racing Realization #2

Is pushing rules cheating?

After I exhaust the easy, clearly following the guidelines tweaks (aka "don't break the rules") should I go a little farther?  You know, something that won't be obvious (aka "get caught")?  And, I've been great about detailing all the things I've done on the website, but I can see the handwriting on the wall.  I'm not saying I'm conspiring to go break any rules, but I'm also wanting to be competitive and have some ideas how to get a little faster. To the web readers, be aware, at this point I might keep a few things up my sleeve :)  Isn't that part of racin' too?

Sitting in my car waiting to be released from the pits is nerve-wracking. You're all belted in, helmet on, and hyperventilating.  Late models are screaming by at 100 mph and you're bolted into this cage waiting to go do the same (well 45 mph anyway).  After they get done he flags me out.  Due to the idle problem I mash the gas and the engine takes off on the third try.  Holding 3 grand I pull out onto the big track.  It's 3/8 of a mile to to get to our part of the track.   I also realize that the sold motor mount fixed the giant clunk.  Cool.

The two cars go by me and hit the first corner hot getting all sideways.  I go through very cautiously expecting the body roll and come out of turn 2 and go down the straight away maybe hitting 40.  Turn 3 is flat and transitions to the banked part of the big course.  I feel the right tire strain as I head up towards the wall and flagman.  I was expecting more of a paper clip, but it's very much an oval with the short straight-aways.

(think about course profile or illustration)

What I learned on the first couple laps was that 2nd gear should be just fine. I hit maybe 5,000 of an available 6,200 rpms. The car has pull down the straightaway and I can definitely notice the car is lighter than stock with all the flammable interior ripped out. If I can stiffen up the turns a bit with adjustments I can get closer to the red line.

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About the 4th lap I notice a chunk of metal in turn 1 right by the inside line and lament that one of the cars has dropped debris.  By the straightaway it dawns on me that it was round, flat, and gold colored. Oops. That was a chunk off of me! And, I tried so diligently to clean out the car the previous day... By the next straight away I look around inside the car and see various screws, wrappers, and other unidentified debris that have scurried out of nooks and crannies like little German cockroaches.  I guess that's appropriate species being a German car :)   I would have laughed if I didn't have another corner to confront in about 2 seconds.

I see in my rear view one of the cars coming up on my.  Besides needing a wink mirror or maybe a second one to see left, I take a wide line on the next straight away and he late brakes by and dives into the corner.  We're two feet apart and another realization hits me.

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Racing Realization #3

I'm not the only one on the track!

I've raced autocross a couple of times and even did 12 laps on the big course in a late model, but never with anybody else out there. I've even raced snowmobiles with friends down the trail, but seeing a car next to me as we're diving into a corner is matter of trust. I hope I can trust my fellow Hornet drivers.

We did a few more laps and I tried to look up a the flagman on each lap.  When did that yellow flag come out?

Racing Realization #4

The guy with the flags is speaking a foreign language.

Anybody who's ever watched NASCAR on TV knows the basics. Checkered flag equals winner or race is over, yellow flag is caution, and have a clue that the red or black flag means something serious or something.  But what do red and black together mean?  And after a yellow flag the guy starts pumping his hand down like "slow down". I think in hindsight it meant five laps left, but I clearly need to go do some research and learn what the flags mean. I bet it's not hard, and will help me be a better racer.

After I drove back in the pits I checked tires and there was some wear on the right front, but not huge. I could get another 50 laps easy.  It was good and warm to the touch.  Looking at the other cars, they were using full tread tires and weren't breaking off in chunks. I'm going to have to go find some better tires for the right front.

I did just the one run and watched the other cars on the next outing to see what I could learn.  Front drivers and rear drivers do have a different dynamic.  My thinking is that rear drivers can late break and maybe take a more inside approach...and power through the corners trying to keep the rear end on the edge of busting loose and end up on the outside by the end of the turn.  I'm thinking with my front driver that I want to go a little long into the corner maybe slowing down before the turn, setting it into a turn and smoothly accelerate PULLING through the turn.  Maybe I'll end up tighter inside on the finish of the turn.

It kind of reminds of snowboarders and skiiers sharing the same ski slope getting in each others' way. 

Practice Entrance 2 $20.00

Project cost to date: $734.73

Final Prep Before Racing

March 31

I talked with John a bit more about what to do on the right front and he suggested messing with toe and camber.  Also remembering that the biggest thing I did for my Rabbit years ago was adding an anti-sway bar I did some checking.  I was thinking they were only available on GTI's and Wolfsburg Edition cars, but found one on an '86 four door Golf at Pasco Auto Wrecking and saw a couple other basic Golfs with them on too.  Mine doesn't have one installed, but the holes and mounts are all there.  It bolts straight on to mine so I think that's totally within the rules.  (See Racing Realization #2 and that was the source of my dilemma that I didn't divulge.  I've come clean now.)

It's missing several washers and bushings, and the bushings are toast so I'll do a bit of scrounging.  At 17mm it's not as thick as the 22mm I had on my Rabbit before, but it has to make a big difference.

Also, put some bolts* in the roll bar like they asked at the race tack.

Anti-Sway Bar 1 $37.83
Washers and new metric nuts 1lbs. $4.00

Project cost to date: $776.56

April 5

Picked up two more rims and tires from Tommy's.  Heck of a deal for some stiff sidewall tires and rims at $30.00.

Also, at John's suggestion I aired up all the tires to the same pressure, measured the circumference and sharpied the sizes on to the rims.  Seems same tire sizes can vary by up to 4/10 of an inch.  Of course, I tried to put the bigger and stiffer of them on the right front.

Of course that depleted my little propane tank of air and I just needed to buy an air compressor.  Off to Costo and $300 later I splurged on a 17 gallon beast that came with a fittings kit even a 1/2" impact wrench.  I won't count it in the budget.  I'll use it for a bunch of other stuff anyway.

Installed a Wink mirror, changed the plugs, added some foam around the rollbars, and painted the numbers on the top and side of the car.  My masking technique leaves something to be desired.

And, to finish things up I set up my toolbox and parts box.

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Rims and tires 2 $32.49
Masking Tape 1 $1.08
Zip ties bulk $5.00
Wink mirror 1 $21.66
Foam insulation 1 $1.50

Project cost to date: $838.29

April 8

Off to John's for one last round of work.  I got the sway bar installed and swapped out the front struts.  Played with camber a bit, but couldn't get the tie-rod to release and mess change toe. 

Driving around John's neighborhood the anti-sway bar made a HUGE improvement.

I'm ready to race!  Big night is April 12th at Tri-City Raceway.

Saturday Night Racing

April 12

The big day.  I got to the track about 1 p.m. and set up my pits.  A blue tarp really helped class up the act.  $25 to get in and I paid my $50 insurance fee.

Annual Track Insurnace annual $50.00
Pit Entrance Fee 4/12 1 $25.00

Project cost to date: $913.29


My crew chief, John Rider, got there about 3 p.m. and helped me fiddle with tire pressure and the 4 p.m. practice.

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Practice went very well.  The anti-sway bar made a night and day difference and I was able to carry corner speed much better.  #2 Grand Am and I played quite came of cat and mouse.  He'd plow a little deep in corner when I was breaking early and then I'd go on the inside.

Afterward, John measure tire temps and looked at tread wear.  Front right had gone up to 130 in the center with the left and right sides at 120, so we let 5 pounds of air it.  Other tires all had even temperatures.  We dropped a little air out of couple.

The only other work I did was to top off the radiator.  I think I have little heater core leak and make sure the lug bolts were tight.  Other than that--I'm ready to race.

We then had a meeting drawing for position.  I drew lucky and got #2 or outside pole.  I called Dad and friends and told them, "I qualified second!!!! drawing my number out of a hat."

Then we had drivers meeting for all drivers.  99% was the other classes and I definitely felt either like a second-class citizen (partly because I didn't know about all the rules they were talking about) or that we were entertainment (which is fine too).

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The NASCAR Big Three raced trophy dashes, heats, and mains.  Great rainbow and you can just make out my car in the picture.  By 9 it was Hornet's turn and I was nervous..  Dad and stepmother came out to cheer me on along with Meliss,a Kris, Bill, and Dale from work and John Reed and his girlfriend.

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The lined us up at the starting line and we all honked our cute little horns in time with "We will-we will ROCK YOU."  25 laps of mayhem.

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I'm hoping for some better pictures from friends in the stands, but this is the best race photos I could get. Flag just went green and #2 and got a good jump.  I'm actually in the lead with by a half car length on the straight.  But I braked first and the #2 went long.  I then cut inside and led for at least 10 laps.  Then the black car in the background made it through traffic and passed.  I was mostly keeping up with him, but then my clutch went all soft and wasn't getting all the pull.  But, he was damn fast.

By lap 15 of 25 I gave up on him and tried to maintain second place.  I knew #2 was on my ass the whole time as we were playing during practice.  But it seems #15 now that I've seen the pictures was there too.

Racing Realization #5

It's harder to bump and spin out a front wheel drive car.

I was getting bumped in the ass a lot and couple of times I started a serious spin.  But, I kept the power on cranked the wheel to the right and recovered.   The front wheels keep grabbing that way and you basically claw your way out of a spin.  I'd like to think I was conscious of that if not the first time and I got lucky with recovering, but at least the second time I got bumped from behind it was more of a reflex.  This is going to come in handy.

Corollary to #5

When you're overtaking a car on the inside, but not by the next corner--somebody is going to spin.

I can't remember which number, but I happened to be on an inside line a half car length behind another car and he cut the big, giant tractor tire a bit close.   Choosing him or the tire I hit him behind the driver door which sort of bounced me into the tire and I think I moved it a few inches.  He spun.  I didn't.  That was cool.

I also vividly remember at that point that the scene reminded me of the NASCAR 3 video game and Talladega.  Well, except that it's not a 2.5 mile course, we're not doing 200 mph, and the cars don't looking anything like NASCAR, but the way he spun and moved clean out of the way after the initial impact was the same effect.

There are other things that happened that I haven't digested either.  I bet it was riot to watch in the stands, but I remember seeing smoke, chunks of car on the track, car doing laps in the middle of the course, the sound of crunching metal, and I swore I heard my tire explode and "fwup, fwup, fwup" underneath my car.  I thought I was riding on a rim and just kept going.  Turns out it was the car behind me that kept going.  And, when I lapped them and saw their rim flinging sparks and still turning fair corner--I laughed.

There was also a multi-car spin on the straight away that I confronted coming off a particular fast corner.  I remember seeing yellow masses all over the place in front of me and instinctively turning it into a slalom course.  I may have let off the gas a little, but once saw no stopped yellow in front of me I mashed the gas again.   I have NO idea how close I came to hitting anybody, but would like to think I was at least a few feet from each.

I also remember thinking, "Haven't we done 25 laps yet?"  Then I looked up at the scoreboard and saw "19" up there as a lap count.  6 more and I also saw my number in 2nd place.  Wahoo!

Well, I started breathing on lap 23 and saw #2 and another get a bit tangled behind me.  Clear sailing I got the checkered about a half lap behind the black Laser.  Car was acting a little funny like the clutch was slipping or it wasn't slow letting off power in the corners.

John snapped a photo of me returning to the pits semi-victorious.

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Friends and family came down and I was shaking with adrenaline.  Danny Rider, the pace car driver and John's son, came over and handed me a trophy and a hat.

I told John 5 times that night, but I have to give a HUGE thanks to John Rider for helping me build this car and share some great racing tips.  And Dale McCain has been so helpful--in his sardonic style.  No way I could have fielded a car without their help.  Thanks guys!!!

I've never won a trophy in my life and it actually choked me up a little.  Growing up I had remembered all the trophies Dad got dirt bike racing and this may have been the circus division of racing, but it was racing, I drove better than I thought I would, and won a cool, tall trophy.  And, I finally called Mom afterwards to tell her I was safe, won second, and had a good time.  It definitely went over better than the time I jumped out of an airplane.

Racing was one of the things I wanted to do in life and I'm checking it off my Things to Do In Life List with a big, bold checkmark.

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April 18

Now that I can hold my head high that I didn't embarrass myself at the last race I've been a bit more adventurous telling friends and family about my racing exploits.  At a party I seemed to have gathered a whole bunch of groupies.  Seems May 3rd is going to turn into a barbeque/birthday/go see Matt race.  Some of the ladies are even turning into groupies.  I absolutely love the idea of groupies.  

I even got some sponsorship.  Going rate is Four Dollars and Twenty Cents.  Can you guess why?  Of course that helps my budget picture and puts me back below $900.

I priced out clutch parts, but won't buy or order until I get the transmission out to confirm I get the correct part and decide what all to replace.  A "clutch kit" goes for $105 which I presume includes disc, pressure plate and may even include the release bearing and pilot bearing.  Hopefully I'll have time Sunday to get the tranny out.

S.C.R.E.W. by Maury


8.5 x 11

Karen M.'s Mother

"Nonnie Rulz"

 8.5 x 11

Columbia Center by Barb Johnson "Columbia Center" DoubleSized Hood -$8.40
Tony and Juli Czebotar "Czebotar Farms" Big Somewhere -$20.00

Project Cost To Date: $874.89

April 25

The transmission and clutch just wouldn't pull itself out in my back yard nor could I muster the energy or time to do it in the weather.  Good thing because it was a bitch to get out even in John's garage with three sets of hands.  Grease, grease, gear oil, flying debris in my face, and some sticky bolts.

The clutch disc was down to the rivets.  The flywheel had some heat stress marks and wouldn't turn even if it looked bad, so it's a disc only.  Went down to Napa and ordered one in for $50.

I took John and Ken to lunch.

April 27 & 28

Trailer lights are a pain.  What should have been a couple of hour project turned into two days.  Fortunately, a colleague at work pointed out a flaw in my logic and the light bulb turned on.  A four wire harness goes ground, tail lights, left turn signal, and right turn signal.  My logic was that the tail lights is a two stage deal.  Low is running lights and high is brake lights, so it was little wonder that when I'd turn on the lights and hit the brakes--all the lights would go out.

An hour on the second night after Jeff's suggestion and I have working trailer lights!

Also printed out sponsor label except for Columbia Center.  Barb's going to give me a real sticker or something.

I listened to Track Talk and Keck was suggesting 20 cars would show up for Hornets.  That sounds like a bunch more competition.

April 29

Back over to John's to put in the clutch.  A clue that the new clutch was going to work was that the the new clutch surface had grooves in it and the used one didn't.  No grooves in the material means it can't clear off the used clutch material and you glaze it over on the flywheel and pressure plate.  Things are looking good.

It went a bit quicker going in than coming out.  I was starting to freak out as I reattached the clutch cable and had huge amounts of play, but then figured out it came loose on the other end.  Dropped it down and took a quick lap around the neighborhood.  Where it used to have about a 1/2 of take-up before it engaged with a thunk--now it was a two or three inch transition and much smoother.

One other mini project was John was bound and determined to change the toe, but since the tie-rods were just too tight.  John cut something off and I now have adjustable toe.  We went from about 1/2" inward to toe to about 1/4" outward toe.  I've driven a car with outward toe, but John tells me it may be a bit darty over stuff, but much better in turns...or the exiting of turns.  I look forward to see what kind of difference it makes.  Still totally stock...just adjusted within the range and I wouldn't want to have to drive a long trip in the car.

Also, John welded a 270 degree chunk of coil spring to the rear axle.  Now when I trailer it I have a much easier way to attach the restraint chain.  Nothing to do with racing, but a nice convenience touch since it takes about 5 minutes and a big Houdini move before.

Napa remanufactured clutch disc 1 $57.09
Lunch for John and Ken 2 $9.00
12 star socket set for Volkswagen CV joints 1 $17.00

Project Cost to Date: $957.98

May 1

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Towed the car out Thursday with my new truck to practice and test the clutch.  Definitely back to normal.  the 1/4" of toe was a bit too much and the left tire actually was squealing a bunch.  It was also almost as warm as the right front.  John turned it back in to where the wheels are almost straight or maybe an 1/8" of outward toe.

Next set of laps was better.  I played with different lines and may have shaved a half second off my lap times.

Then I got John to go out in the car.  He came back with a big grin and said, "It handles like a go-cart!"

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Dale was out with the Rhoads testing the 00 Late Model.  Beautiful bright red car with even brighter yellow numbers.  Brad Rhoads drives.

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Met up with Chris Price in the #38 and offered a couple of suggestions.  His engine was sputtering a bit and seemed down on power.  I checked the air filter and couldn't see light through it.  He tried driving without a filter and it helped a bunch.  So, I've helped my fellow racer.

 Ready for racing on Saturday!

May 3

I WON THE RACE!  19 cars and 35 laps.  That's more car density and more laps to maim cars.

I led about half the race with a 2nd position draw and overtook the Festiva in the pole position.  10 or 15 laps in I started watching the scoreboard and saw  #62 in 3rd position.  By the time he got to second I started saying to myself, "Where's that damn black hood?"  Sure enough he was a few car length back and closing fast.  BAMM!, he slammed into me. He then took the lead away with turbo at full tilt.  I'd catch up in the corners, but Mike's all about full contact driving.

A few laps later I took the lead back and another lap he'd take it back.  And, so it continued until about lap 33 or 34.  I got an inside line and he got some lapped traffic.  As I came around the last half lap of 35 I kept looking in my mirrors and didn't see him.

The last turn I stood on it and took the checkered with the flagman pointing at me.  It wasn't until I came around for a victory lap and stopped that one of the race officials told me, "It was a drag race to the finish line." and I only beat Mike by a half car length. that's why I didn't see him.  He was camped out in my blind spot.

McKay even interviewed me and I vaguely remember saying, "that's more fun than drag racing old ladies at stop lights."

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I guess the crowd and track owners liked the show because we got invited back next week.

Highlights of the race I vaguely remember and piece together afterwards.

  • My rear bumper disappeared somewhere in the race courtesy of #62.  I may have run over it too thinking it was somebody else's.

  • When there's debris on the track it's really hard to tell which are the sharp pieces that might cut your tire.  Big stuff isn't necessarily worse unless it's going to get caught under your car and slow you down.  I did notice my left rear tire was flat as I trailered the car.

  • When the Volvo gets slammed and ends up lengthwise in the corner--going "low" or "high" isn't an option.  That thing is so damn big that you go "really, really high" to avoid hitting it.

  • Even though you take the checkered--you're not out of danger yet.  I came around on the victory lap and had to lock up the brakes and kill the engine to avoide the push car moving the Volvo into the pits across my line.

I've been a bit lax on keeping up with budget.  Let's see if I can update from memory.


Practice entry fee 5/1 2 $20.00
Pit entrance fee 5/3 1 $25.00
Watts Sponsorship 1 -$5.00
Paint 4 $4.20
E-STARS Sponsorship from Boss "E-STARS" on front fender -$10.00
Pit entrance 5/17 1 $25.00
Gas Premium 5 gallons $9.00
Ice for Cooler 5 $6.00

Project Cost to Date: $1032.18

Project Cost To Date: 

May 10

They raced, but I was vacationing in sunny ol' Santa Barbara.  I even heard there was a rollover where the driver landed back on his wheels and kept going.  Very cool if not scary.

May 17

Did a little prep work for racing tonight.  I changed the cut down tire with my aluminum rim.  It's the least critical tire so I'd rather toast that one given a choice and save my better tires and rims for the other corners.  Found a crack in the windshield that must be from a bump the last race.  Not too bad.  A little paint to cover the scuffs.

Added a new E-STARS logo in vinyl provided by employer.  Anybody want to be an action tracking system?  Testing and supporting E-STARS is what I do for a living.

Rained out! Actually, more like rained, sleeted, hailed, lightning, thundered out.   Next race is May 31.  We keep our $25 pit passes and they will be honored at the next race.

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May 25

Tonight was the "Spills and Thrills" show.  No big classes so us Hornets got to sit on the cement pads and were first up.  Totally weird to be considered the guys that make less debris.

I drew number 4, further dipping into my Karma reserve, only to find myself getting a strange signal from Ganske as I lined up.  He showed me his ass and slapped it.  This must have been NASCAR code or something and I failed at translating.  He walked up and told me I had been moved to the back of the line.  I started in 12, but ended up on the left side at the start behind the #15 car and got a good jump on the green for being in back.  I bumped #15 in the corner and he spun out restoring a bit of his Karma to center for the three or four times he tried to spin me.  This was my first deliberate nudge too.  ....I feel so evil.

#2 and a new car #97 moved up pretty quickly and were the front runner.  I found running consistent laps running my own race and I'd reel them in when they'd have a slow lap.  I came up along side of Brian in the #2 and trusted him.  We bumped and grinned at each other.

However, the #97 was just too fast and won by 6 or 8 car lengths.  His first outing and a first for him.

After our show the Bomber Enduros went out and banged the hell out each other.  I'd have watched, but volunteered to loan my car to a radio DJ for a celebrity race.  Big B is a BIG BOY.   He makes me look like a runt.

He took the green and a strong lead, but ending up coming in second to another DJ in the same 97 car.  Looks like we're going to have to keep an eye on the '86 Oldmobile Firenza.

The rest of the night was a kick watching car flips.  4 rolls was the record and a very impressive site.

May 31

Quick note since I'm headed out with my homie for some late night camping and beer drinking at Fishhook.....but I WON!

Came from 20th spot out of 22 to catch up about lap 12 or so to the top 4.  Traffic was good to me and took the lead from 22 and then from 97.   22 took it from me and 97 for a while and then I got around 22 again and took the checkered.

Racing Realization #6

More cars = More adrenaline = Bigger Smile = Want To Race More

Having raced about 12 cars my first race and finding the number overwhelming--I was not surprised that 19 cars was really overwhelming.  What surprised me is that in the third race back to 13 cars I found the track sparse and almost easy to drive.  With the fourth race back to 22 cars I found it again to be a bit overwhelming, but exactly the way it should be.  A RUSH!

Let the record reflect that I took some serious body damage in this race.  

I swear I drove over somebody's car in turn 4.  And, #38 and I hit so hard--I got to keep some of his duct tape.  Right fender caved in and it cut the tire down to below steel threads.  Lucky it didn't blow.  And, the right back is making some noise too.  Some real body work this week.

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Pictures tomorrow along with some of the other racers.

Red Dot asked our class to elect a spokesperson and a bit of grumbling in the class about some things.  We know we're putting on a good show and want to keep doing it.   Me thinks we should meet ourselves as a class and decide some things.  Maybe some self policing on rules and talking to the track about what we'd like as a class.  Maybe more races per night, cheaper pit entry ($25 is a bit steep for us) or a chance for some money since we're racing so many more weeks.  Or, maybe since we were originally scheduled for 12 races, figure out how to let the loyals come in free after 12.

That and those mini-stocks still look very cool to me.

The Hornets Pits are full of cars.  22 to be exact.

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The E-STARS #42 Hornet before the milieu and in Victory Lane.

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I have loyal fans!  When do I get groupies?

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June 3

More and more people are asking how I did following each weekend.  And, more and more are saying, "Oh, another first?  They're gonna buy your car from you."  And, I get defensive.  I sure as hell hope they don't.  I'd be seriously pissed.  Not so much from the fact that I've got a good car.  Partly because I think $200 for any of those cars out there that racers bought is low, but mainly because of the time to set up another car.

I'm going to just keep thinking that I and the other racers are putting on a good show, that I've been lucky, and a tire could pop or I could spin in any of these races.  And, especially since the track hasn't yet committed to how points are calculated--I don't think they'd be handing me any envelopes.

Some vinyl graphics I ordered came in.  Mainly, I was going to go ahead and buy a July 25-27 graphic to advertise the Hydroplane Races, but they wanted $30 locally.  Off the net I got that one, two sets of 20" high "42" for the door in fluorescent orange, four little sets of "42" for headlights and the like, and two scripted "Matt Watkins".  All those were $44 delivered.  I love the net!

June 4

I've been putting it off for a few days, but I had to face the fact that my car has some substantial body damage.  After thinking about how much to cut out of the front fender, how to fold the metal around, and make it look decent--I just started hammering.  A good half hour of thwacking, trimming off bit, and ripping out pieces of plastic and the fender doesn't look too bad.  A fresh coat of Wal Mart Yellow and I'm back in business.

The hood's pretty skewed too and I pondered an elaborate scheme of making hood pins out of bolts drilled sideways for cotter pins--and then I remembered laughing to myself in Schuck's over the years at the dorks that would come in to buy real pins and ruin  perfectly good street car hoods in the process.  I never thought they looked that cool.  It always seemed like some clapped out Celebrity with a leaky muffler and bubbled-up purple sun-faded tint.

Well, I marched into Schuck's and proudly plopped down $8.99 for a set of them bad boys telling the checker, "I'm actually going to use these for a race car!"  I was absolved of all guilt for these fake-fast gizmos and entitled to use them for the purpose of keeping my hood from flying off.

.....The checker still looked at me like I was an idiot.  Knocked me right back down a peg.  Maybe they'll look cooler when I go back to the track?

Practice entry fee 5/25 1 $20.00
Pit entrance fee 5/3 (raincheck) 1 $0
Broadmoar RV 1 -$5.00
Hood Pins 1 $8.99
Beer and water for guests 24 $15.00
Vinyl Graphics a lot $44.00
Tire swap 1 $15.00
Ice for Cooler 2 $6.00

Project Cost to Date: $1136.17

June 6

The new vinyl came in so I set about applying stickers and a few stripes from the leftovers.  I may have overdone the big "42"s.  I'm not sure how I'm going to fit them on the door they're so big and thick.

I also got a box in the mail that contains my birthday present from Mom and Dan.  Mom and I play this game where she'd like to find something tangible to send along with a check, but she couldn't find any clothes that seemed appropriate.  I mentioned that I was considering buying a driver suit.....NOT THAT ANYTHING WILL EVER CATCH FIRE, but just in the minute chance it would be nice to have a fireproof suit.

So, to add a bit of confusion she sends an e-mail to my sister that somehow accidentally gets sent to me instead that jokes I'm getting seashells for my birthday.  I forward the e-mail to my sister about how I'm excited about getting a seasuit or fireproof seashells.  She replies back how Mom is on a seashell kick and is starting to lose her mind.  I then create a fake e-mail account and e-mail Mom about how she has conspiring children and offer to take all the presents and give him a lump of coal.

I won't boar you with the rest of the game, but suffice it to say a box wrapped box from Summit Racing equipment arrived that sounded like it had sand in it.  And, I know I should wait for my birthday, but I'm sure if there is a racing suit in there my Mother would want me to use it in the race this Saturday.

(insert sound of ripping open a present)

Sure enough, a very nice RJS one-piece black Nomex racing suit.....and a whole bunch of seashells scattered about the box.

"scattered about the box" doesn't quite capture the moment.  Imagine me quickly trying on a racing suit when you have a mother that hides shells in the sleeves and ankles of a new suit.  First two I found in the ankles and removed them.  The third one in the sleeve I detected almost to late, but was able to grab and sort of push it out the end in my fist.

However, the final sleeve of any driving suit requires one to slouch impossibly and spin in circles as if  inertia will get your hand through the cuff.  There was the expected inertia and comical scene, but there was the addition of a sort of orbital spaceshot of a final shell across my living room.  Physics then took over and the shell banked off a wall and landed behind my stereo rack where I will never find it again.  Doh!

The suit fit just fine and makes me look like a true racing dork.  Maybe I need a mini-stock now to balance it out?

There was also one special shell in the pile painted Hornet yellow, with a black stripe and "42" on it.  And, on the back it says, "Fireproof Shell - UL Listed".  Beautiful!  So beautiful in fact, that I thought it needed to go racing with me.  And, in racing tradition I used zip ties in a creative way to secure the shell in my car.

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Thanks Mom and Dan.  Nice presents!  I'll get somebody to take a photo in my suit--hopefully in victory lane tomorrow night.

June 7

Another 22 cars showed up.  I started at the back and couldn't quite get up into podium position, but that's OK.  We had a great race going for third place and I saw the 97 car get serious air off a tire in the last lap.  I joked with Rich later, "Do you have a pilot's license."

It was great seeing Caleb Suttle get 2nd place.  He was due and held his pole position pretty well.  That darned #22 Grand Am is a fast car.

It looks like I've been elected class spokesperson and I'm going to give Joe Lewandowski a call next week.  We've got a couple issues as a class to sort out and I'm hoping the conversation goes well.  Upping our lap count to 30 was nice.  It's clear it would be nicer if there were more fans in the stands, but going every weekend is hard on the budget.  To pay $25 to be a major piece of the entertainment is taking its toll.  Like I said, go in positive and look forward to next weekend, because this racing thing is a kick in the ass!

June 14

Just a bit out of control.  A car caught fire between turn 3 and 4.  Not a big one looking like it was brakes, but driving by the driver running away from it was a bit disconcerting.  Plus, it left coolant on the track which turns out to be more slick than oil.  One lap around and I realized it would be possible to hit the wall coming out of turn 4--when you slide through coolant.  Spooky feeling.

The Volvo didn't fair so well.  She got spun and stopped at the starting line.

Made it by no problem on the bumper of #11.  In fact, I couldn't get around him for a couple of laps so stayed content being right on his bumper.  Not bumping or anything--just keeping 1 or 2 feet off him.  Well, coming around a lap I'm not sure exactly what happened, but Ron's front bumper connected with the ass end of the Volvo.  My front bumper connected with his ass.

I'll just say that all that kinetic energy turned into a nice impressive rollover for Ron.

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We got a revised schedule.  Joe came through with some changes.  A couple less races give us a few weekends off, an enduro at the end of the year with some money, and the top 5 will be honored at the banquet.  Cool!

June 25

I looked over the car tonight.  Some good licks from the 14th.  The right fender caved in again, but pulled out just with my hands.  The front grill got cracked up pretty well, but popped back into place.  Passenger door side also popped in...but popped out pretty well.

Right front rim was bent so far over that the bead popped off sometime during the last couple of weeks.  A few gentle hammer blows and it pounded back pretty well and seated back up with some air.  Any reason I shouldn't do that?  I might ask around and at least consider moving that rim to a less stressed corner.....Hmmmm.

I found a heater hose tee connector from an old car and plugged that in.  I'm now minus coolant and is straight water.  Noboby's sliding on Prestone from me now!

Figured out my electric fan hasn't been working since I got the car.  It wasn't much of a problem when it was cooler, but the last couple races I've had the temp gauge pegged.  Not quite enough airflow at 40 mph I guess.  No boil over yet, but I'm going to be careful to keep the car off when I'm not running.  I may also punch a hole in the thermostat to make sure.

I also got a new set of driving gloves and shoes...all fireproof.  That's not another reason not to mess with the fuel tank, but I just remembered.

Well, I'm saying I'm ready to race!  

June 28

Great night!  Joe Lewandowski visited to thank us for the great show we're putting on.  We got some more track time by way of heat races.  The concept is new to some because it's not just about extra laps, but sets the line-up for the main race.  Let's see if I can explain.

We all drew numbers.  Odd numbers race Heat A.  1 gets pole, 3 gets outside pole, etc.  Even numbers race in the second Heat B.  2 gets pole, 4 gets outside pole, etc.  Your finish position in each of the 10 lap heat races sets you position in the column.  Heat A first gets pole, Heat B first gets right pole.

Well, except the track threw "an invert" at us.  That means that the first place in each heat goes to the back, second is second from the last, etc.  Well, except the other exception....where a few drivers didn't race in the heats and they were in the very back.

At mid-season it was a nice addition to our schedule and racing education.

Racing Realization #7

Rules in Classes Drift

There's a natural tendency for classes as they mature to want to stretch the original rules.  With our cars taking a beating each week things are getting bent, knocked off, and more expensive to maintain.  One guy built a monstrous "cow-catcher" type bumper that besides protecting the wheel and radiator a bit--also wasn't painted yellow.  I think we came to consensus that he could race that evening--and don't ram anybody, to cut off all but the one bar simulating a bumper and trim the corners so they don't catch other cars.    Next week they come back all painted up pretty "resembling stock."

Jeff Marks took over the wheel of the Volvo station wagon and did pretty well.  It took me a lap to get passed him and he was a man on a mission.

We had another rollover, but he was fine and ended up driving the car back to the pits.

I had a very clean race and barely need to touch up the car.  I think we're also getting better as racers and diving less into the corners cutting people off--which is great.  I did get bumped in corner and plowed a tire once and had this sickening feeling as I jammed on the brakes.  Fortunately, it didn't go under the car and I got back on the gas as it slid off to the right.


Pit entrance 6/7 1 $25.00
Pit entrance 6/14 1 $25.00
Pit entrance 6/28 1 $25.00
New tire 1 $34.10
Used tire 1 Free
Pit entrance 7/3 1 $20.00

Project Cost to Date: $1265.27

July 3

Hornets got to be the feature race tonight and the track sprung a new concept on us.  Run the race backwards!!!  We got that announcement about 5 minutes before we did our heat race the conventional direction and man were there some scare cat looks around our class.  There was a made scramble to change tire pressures (including msyelf) and in a few cases swapping tires on sides (not including me).  There even seemed to be a few cases of ultra scared cat look that may have set other things to left turn mode.  Not I.

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Besides I had other things to worry about.  Driving my car in I noticed the brakes were MUCH worse than the last race.  By mid heat race I noticed they were pretty much gone.  By the final I wasn't sure what was going on, but if I had any brakes it was super weird.

Turns out I lost one of the diagonals.  Jumping ahead after the race I came in and actually had to kill the engine to get the car to stop before hitting my lawn chairs.  The left, front wheel paint actually ahd a black tinge to it like it was cooked.  I couldn't touch the rim for a half hour.  The right front was barely even warm.  I could actually hold on to the disc and not let go.

Looks I have work this week to do.  No leaking break fluid I could see, level's not down in the reservoir, and it seems to affect mostly one side.  Could it be the master cylinder?  I actually hope it is and not a leak.

So, back to racing.  Doing 45 miles an hour and getting slowed down to take a turn didn't scare me as much as the idea that I'd plow into somebody stopped in the track.  I'd pump like mad and hear a wheel lock-up and sort slow down a bit before I'd make the car go right and use the pitching car to bleed off speed.  Definitely not the fast way around the course, but there seemed to be so much attrition that they marked as finishing 3rd.  Hmmm.  I didn't feel like 3rd.

Another rollover.  52 caught some dirt or a tire and single rolled.  I haven't even been close to flipping.  I did drive over two or three tires this time and got air, but I've never thought I was even going on two wheels.

July 6

Sunday morning and I drug myself out to look at what's up with the brakes.  I wish I were 100% sure what exactly was wrong, but I'm going down the path of a defective master cylinder.  No apparent leaks on the right circuit, fluid level is fine in the reservoir, and I have to pump the brake to the floor a few times to get the left to work....thinking it's on it's way out.  Amazingly enough I've never replaced a master cylinder before and although I think I know how it works and how it bolts in, but the whole cylinder to brake booster interface is a bit of a mystery to me.

I chose to dive in.  Pulling the cylinder was a bit of a trick.  Loosening two the four brake line nuts was easy with a quick snap.  The third almost rounded off, and the fourth would have.  Interestingly, it didn't go directly into the cylinder, but a an extra doohickey of some sort.  I'm guessing a proportioning valve, but the extra threads made it so I could remove it they cylinder from the doohickey.

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Now the cost.  $59.99 for a remanufactured was the best I could find as Schmucks.  Bringing it home and it looks like the piece that sticks into the vacuum booster is longer than the original.

Seeing I don't conveniently have a friend to help me cycle through fresh brake fluid and bleed the line--I'm going to try a trick I learned in college.  Put surgical tubing on the bleeder valve and hang the tube into a mason jar under the level of brake fluid.  That way when you push on the break fluid and air comes out through the tubing, air bubbles up, but anything that gets sucked back in is fluid.

Racing Realization #8

Racing Hornets is Decreasingly Like Racing a Street Car and is More Like a Race Car

Changing out a brake master cylinder just clinched the fact that I could car less how a car might drive on the road or a brake cylinder has a life-time warranty.  All I care about is having brakes work going in to Turn 1, Turn 3, or be able to lock them up to avoid hitting a stopped car.  I also realized this when I had my last tire mounted and had to fight with the Wal-Mart clerk about how they couldn't charge me for a balance if I didn't want it balanced.

July 8

Took a serious look at pads and considering the fact that only a tiny chunk of one of the front pads still exists and fell out like a chunk of burnt toast suggests I should get some new pad.  Below is a nice picture of the destroyed pad.  Yes, the side I'm showing is the side that should have pad.  It was down to the bonding surface.  A few minor grooves in the rotor.  You can also see how the paint actually cooked off lug bolts and the rim areas right next to them...and the darkened color of the paint.  Not sure at what temperature Krylon boils, but it sure did a good job.

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One more trip to Schmuck's to trade in the core cylinder and pick-up a set of Raybestos semi-metallics.  Cool for me.  I actually bought a product from one of the many sponsors one sees at the races.  Looks like my budget is edging closer to $1500.  They better not claim my car after this investment...or I'm ripping every new part out I bought this year :)


Pit entrance 7/12 1 $25.00
Master Cylinder 1 rebuilt $64.97
Brake Fluid 1 quart $6.49
Surgical Tubing 6 feet $2.53
Brake Pads 1 set $27.06
Brake bleed kit 1 $4.35

Project Cost to Date: $1395.67

July 12

I got my mother to come out and watch this race...and my friends Greg and Suz.  Good show, nobody flipped, and I scored a second place in the end.  No protest this time :)

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I had some trouble getting started.  I thought my brakes were all set after my work last week and spent practice abusing them as much as I could.  Stop and goes, ride the brake, pump the pedal a bunch.  By the end they were very soft and pedal was to the floor.  I got back to the pits and noticed the reservoir was way down on fluid and may have even sucked some air.   I filled back up and bled out the lines with help of another racer.  I couldn't find any leeks anywhere.

By the heat race (which I won easily) it was a bunch better so just made sure the reservoir was topped up before the race and crossed my fingers.

None of us could figure out how the line-up got set.  But, I didn't complain at an 8th seed.  The B Heat had been won by Andrew in the #6 and that was his best showing far this year.  He was so stoked in the pits before the race.

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I took my hardest hit this year.  I think it was the 55 that tagged me at a 45 degree angle in the driver door.  Put a hole in the body medal and actually bent and broke my reinforcement door bar.  I actually felt me teeth slam together.  It did it's job, but hearing from other racers seems whoever was driving 55 was a bit agressive using others to help him get around the corners.  Still seems to a few folks that are driving 110%.  That seems about 10.1% too much and in my view never sustains a race.

Having only locked bumpers once and never completed a full spin my view is that you drive as close to 99.9% as you can get.  If you can stay somewhere between 90 and 99.9% you're gonna do well by the checkered flag.

......yeah I know.  Luck and car have something to do with that.  Maybe we oughta think about trading cars.  I wonder who else I could fit into?  Or at least in practice?

The other bright spot is that Josh Duquist made his first trip to the podium.  Good kid trying hard all season and he managed a third with his hood up and in the way.  Now, that's driving!

I also have a new adopted pit crew.  Dale McCain's grandkids helped me out loading my car on the trailer and are my own Rainbow Warriors.

July 19

Well, I'm writing this in advance.  I'm won't be there because I'll be boozing it up and taking an actual vacation this summer.  Good luck to all the racers and hoping some fresh faces on the podium....mainly because I don't want LeClair to widen his lead.

July 26

This day was a busy one.  I'd been on the constant go since Wednesday setting up for boat races ( and half-rumor and possibilities that Unlimited Hydroplane drivers would come out and drive Hornets.  I'd personally invited Steve David, Mark Evans, Mitch Evans and a couple of others, but didn't get confirmation from any of them.
Regardless, I was in my Water Follies finest shirt and cap and got ready to both race and have my car raced.
The night was a demolition/destruction night so we got good parking spots on the concrete pads.  The first event was a couple of heat races to establish position.  I wasn't quite as fast as I hoped and scored like second.  Something was up with the steering, but I didn't have time to fix it and it was sort of secondary to the overheating.  It was HOT out there.
Then doing a reverse race where we actually lined up all in reverse and drove in reverse for 10 laps.  Weird feeling.  I got mixed up figuring we'd do a pace lap behind the Doughnut Patrol car and shut my engine off to cool down.  Then this giant horn blast blew and I realized people were taking off.  Poor ol' Doug couldn't get by me (Sorry Doug) until I hit the starter and launched the car.
All ambitous to make up my lost ground I went hot into corner 1....or should I call it -1 and massive oversteer swung the front of my car around in a spin.  After I spun the 90 degrees my natural instinct was to whip the car around and continue on forward, but then it hit me and I had to U the car backward, slam it into reverse and get going again.  Totally disorienting!
After the first lap I sort of got the hang of it and started making ground on everybody and even passed all but the brand new guy.  I'd actually get full throttle down the straight away in this horrendously tortured "WHHHHHHIIIIIIRRRR!" as the non-synchronized reverse gear revved my engine to redline.
I also noticed that the engine was overheated and tried kicking the interior heater, but only lukewarm air would come out.
10 laps couldn't come fast enough as I pondered the death of my car....or the serious warpage of my aluminum head.  But, dangit, I was gaining ground on that front car and the track had $100 up for grabs.  The last turn and the front guy made a mistake so I mashed the accelerator to the floor.  The engine hit the redline and I still held it down.  The car either sputtered from valve float or maybe because of a rev limiter....I didn't know and didn't care.
Finish Line!  I missed by about a car length and would have had him in another half second.  Oh well, it was fun!
All of 15 minutes before we had our thirty lap race and I scored a 2nd there.
As I drove back to the pits I spotted some of the hydro drivers and started chuckling.  My buddy Mark Evans and his wife Elaine were there.  All excited he comes up and announces, "I'm here!"
Suddenly I had to scan the field of prospective Celebrity Hornet Drivers because I had promised my car to no less than 6 people.  Fortunately, he was the only one that really had dibbs so I was happy to give it up.  Mitch Evans, Terry Troxel, and Greg Hopp rounded out the field and they were wearing their hydro finest.
All belted in, seats moved around, and ready to race and Elaine and one of the other wives decided they wanted to race.
Oh no!  Images of yesteryear where a half dozen mini-stocks were torn up entered into my head.  We all trusted the hydro drivers and Hornets are OK to bump, but what kind of race would it turn into with a couple presumably non-racers in the field.
It started scarily....that's how.  Going around at half speed behind the pace car Elaine started slaloming through the cars under yellow.  She was making good progress working through the pack, but to this day I don't know if knew it was yellow and was getting away with something or she thought she was a great driver and kicking their husbands' butts.
Flag dropped and Mark tried to make a show of it with his brother Mitch, but Mitch had gotten a slow car and Mark released him to try and catch up with ?.
One yellow and restart later to bunch of the field and Elain started getting frisky and banging cars.  Mark would go buy and hunch up his shoulders as if to say, "I'm sorry."  I'd wave at him as if to say, "Take 'em out."  Next round he actually bumped somebody pretty well and when he came by he'd give me a thumbs up.
Well, Mark placed 2nd that night.  I got a couple of pictures with him and he headed off home to get some sleep for the big race.
The next day I was down in the pits and him in the Lumar trailer and said, "I'm here.  Where are the keys?"
He looked at me puzzled, "Keys?"
"Keys to your hydroplane!  I loaned you my car...I'm hear for the swap.  You're gonna hook me up with your boat aren't you?"
He started laughing in his usual humor and said, "Dang.  It's not my boat.  If it were I'd let you take it out in a second!"
Getting 2nd place in the Hornets was actually pretty good because he ended up winning that day.  First time for the boat owner Bill Wuster in like 10 or 12 years!
Great day that one was.  A fun week.  To top it all off on Monday morning I went and filed as a candidate for Pasco City Council (????), but that's a whole other story.

August 2, 2003

The night started out pleasant enough. 28 cars was another record, but I saw the strangest damn things with cars locked together accelerating 90 degrees off the turns. The heat race started off OK

I lost a motor mount and driving the car back up the slope of the track afterwards and onto the trailer was a weird experience.

I ended up posting on

It's great to see the class evolve this season with some great racing. Of course there are bumps and bangs and that's fun, but after watching the #3 Action Towing guy in the red shirt do his impersonation of a pinball around the track was plain dumb and flat out dangerous.

Talking with him afterwards he seemed like a mad dog that had gotten his first taste of blood and was screaming, "*#&&* yeah! That was a demolition derby. Let's do it again. I wanna &*(($ some cars up." Seems at least ten others in the class thought he was maniac too.

Well, I think one of four things needs to happen. a) He needs to rethink racing in the Hornet class and go join the demolition derby. b) He needs to go on the track all by himself and try racing with the wall. c) The Action Towing team might want to talk with him and help take it down a notch. Or, d) We'll race again in two weeks and take care of things ourselves as a class.

With 28 people out there we can race clean, still bump and put on a great show, and all make it to Sunday morning unhurt to talk about it.

Everybody agreed.

I also got a call from class members saying that watching the video showed 90% of the hits and spins were from Action Towing guys.

I spun for the first time with the help of the #3 pushing #11 into me. Solid hit to driver’s door made a nice dent that even shows up on the inside of the car through the door padding.

Talked to Marv and agreed we needed a meeting before racing next time. And, I called Action Towing owner, but never got a call back.

August 16

Braced for a big show down with Action Towing guys—particularly the #3 guy I wasn’t exactly eager to be “spokesperson” anymore. Lucky for me and the class that none of them showed. Still the driver’s meeting was a good talk and the track officials promised to be more liberal with black flags.

I drew #5, but got reminded I’d be in the back because of my 2nd place at the previous race. No problem. My friend/Lex Luthor—Doug LeClair drew one row in front of me and Mike Riddel with his zingy little twin cam Escort drew only a couple in front of that.

Tonight was going to be some good, clean racing!

Practice went well even though my toe-in was still a bit out. The timing advance I made just plain made the car fly! First thing I noticed was that I was hitting 51 or 52 mph at the ends of the straights. That’s 2 or 3 mph faster than I could muster before. That and I could actually feel the front tires breaking loose as I hit the gas coming out of the corners.

I also went ahead and changed my right side rubber all over to my best tires. I had been holding them out because the season has been such a threat of buying my car. But, I think I’m free and clear for the rest of the season. The idea that they’d buy my car a couple of races before the Enduro and after Joe has gone just doesn’t make sense so I’m back into all-out race mode.

I also had a friend with me in the pits of the girlish persuasion and although she was a bit apprehensive about being down in chaos surrounded by loud cars doing laps at obscene speeds (this was my impression of what her impression of the pits was)—she was pleasantly surprised to find that the pits are actually a very safe place to be. I did take her out to the back pit wall on the west and watch mini stocks coming up the back straight. It made her nauseous while I got aroused. Hmmmm, maybe one of us needs therapy.

We didn’t get a heat race, but we did get 30 laps for the race. John Rider was there that evening and helped me adjust out the tie rod enough to get back to 1/8” toe-out.

The race came and as I started off I heard the engine go “thunk” and I thought, “Oh no. I lost the motor mount again.”, but it quieted down once I started racing. Start was clean and the first turn was a bit piled up, but not so much that I couldn’t easily get through going wide. And, then I started into a nice rhythm of picking off cars. The toe apparently helped for another 1 mph because I think I saw 53 or maybe even 54 mph a couple of times on the end of the straights and the car just sounded G-oood.

I remember getting bumped once in the left, rear. Dangerous spot since I’ve got some body metal very close to the rear tire. It was totally obvious to me that with the Action Towing boys gone that racing was clean this race. A few bumps, but I only remember a couple of incidental spins and one guy that drove himself into the wall. This was racing!

By far my most memorable part of the race was when I came out of turn 2 wide along the wall and Josh Shroder was there in his car with what seemed less than a car width away. But, I was cooking so fast and had such a great turn I just didn’t want to let off. In that split second I made that unconscious choice, “I might not fit, but I’m gonna try. Be prepared for a bit of metal crunching against metal and/or metal against concrete wall.” Full throttle I slid up along side of Josh with…..I have no idea how much space….but it seemed like less than 1” on each side. Josh would later see me in the pits and say, “Man, I can’t believe you fit through there! I thought I was close to the wall, but somehow you fit in there too! How’d you do that?”

I smiled and thanked him for holding his line. The Hornet gods smile on Volkwagens.

About lap 20 I started looking hard at the board looking for my position. I saw LeClair in front of me as well as Riddell and I passed them once. I think Doug passed me back and I got in front again. It was also about lap 25 that I noticed the car making big thunking noises like I lost the motor mount again. Boy, I tried being as smooth as possible coming off corner to minimize the thunk.

Again the Hornet gods scooted me along and I took the checkered flag. My third victory of the season.

I got my 20 second interview from Mc? And he again remarked how clean my car looked. This time I just agreed. He asked what I’d do with my car at the end of the season and I joked, “I’m going to sell it to some deserving WSU student as cheap, reliable transportation.”

Looking at the mount later I found that the nut I replaced a couple of weeks earlier was just fine. The other bolt that holds the mount to the frame had fallen out. Not that it’s hard to fix—but now I get to take another trip to Ranch and Home to find a 13/17mm bolt and matching nyloc. ….or I’ll just weld the bitch permanently to the frame.

Having dinner with Mom I took over my new trophy and gave it to her to put on her fridge (an old tradition that’s turned into a bit of joke now that I’m 35).

August 28

The website I found 13/17 was apparently referring to two bolts.  One 13mm and the other 17mm.  Well, I thought metric was supposed to be easier.  13 is actually "M8" and 17 is "M10".  More conversion garbage.  But, what I found worked perfectly.  Hopefully, no more motor mount problems.

August 30

Tonight was particularly fun because Jeff Marks showed up in his mini stock and let me take it out at practice for 10 laps.  Let me tell you, it's a completely different experience.  I thought I was flying around the course, but other traffic is ripping by me 30 or 40 mph faster.  So much more tire stick, but I felt like the car could spin at any second.

I loaned my car to Brad Rhodes (00 Late Model) and watched him do some laps.  I could see the left front tire doing funky flopping things and when he came back I found two of the three lower control arm bolts were missing.  Lucky it didn't wad up right there.  Jeff gave me some replacement bolts and I was able to start OK.  Funny thing is that my toe-in problem was immediately fixed.

I gotta get in the habit of checking bolts more often.

I was placed 26th in the starting line out of 27 and made a good start picking off half the field in the first lap or two.  The new guy in the #40 was running well and Rad Rob in the turbo Laser was running strong.  I think I remember barely passing Rob Claphan in a Geo Storm too.  Scored a first.

The car is getting a lot harder to start and I'm not sure what that's about or how to fix it.  Maybe my ignition advance is a bit too agressive or I notice the muffler is about rusted off and maybe losing back pressure.  Or maybe I'm just wearing the thing out.

September 13

This was the season championship night and I had the title clinched by leading with 4 points.  Car count was over the top where even our heat races were crowded.  I counted 37 cars in the pits and I think 33 made it to the start.  I took a couple of nasty hits and crumpled in the left front fender.  Even McKay would comment later.

One of the Action Towing guys came up and had a talk with me.  He apologized for his cousin who was a jerk some races ago...and wasn't coming back.  I thanked him, shook his hand, and said "Let's go racing!"  Not sure if the some of the other's have forgiven....but you can only do so much.

Poor ol' Rad Rob.  Good kid.  Cocky and smartmouth, but good kid.  He spent all his money to buy 70 series tires for the Laser and ended up blowing one in practice.  I thought I could help with the officials since he clearly went to the effort and if he put his non-standard in the least advantageous spot on the car, but Montana and Ganski wouldn't budge.  Then Rob started mouthing off, so I figured he was on his own again.

By my count he beat me in the race and I wasn't the one who protested his victory.  Somebody else did and got their first trophy for the year, so that's cool.  I ended up with another first, but didn't care too much.

Rumors abound that the track isn't going to honor the $250/$150/$100 payout Enduro so I guess I'll call Alderman directly.

September 15

I called Paul Alderman, the track owner, and asked if he was going to honor the enduro prize money and he said it was going to be prizes and not a 100 laps like Joe promised.  He hadn't heard of that before.  A bit disappointed I don't know if I'm going to race or what others are going to do.  But, I'm definitely going to go to the $1000 race in Yakima.  Kind of a downer way to end the season, but I'm not going to let it diminish the overall season.

September 17

Some things I never would have imagined a year ago.

  • I built a competitive and safe car (with some help of friends) and could do it again myself.
  • My next purchase will be welder.
  • I met some great people, made new friends, and
  • I have a shelf full of trophies....but not a single third place
  • I raced 16 races, 6 heat races, and a backwards race and finished every one.  I actually got spun out only once.
  • My only injury was a squished pinky in the door of the car getting out after a race.  The finger nail is about to fall off as I write this.
  • I want to move up to the next class.
  • Get promises in writing.
  • When you break stuff, people come out of the woodwork to help.  From changing toe, to bleed brake lines, to handing me metric bolts from their mustang to fix lower control arms.  I did the same thing too with fuel lines, jacks, rivets, and other things.

So, I'm going to total things out for the season at this point.  I'm not going to count Yakima expenses as I think it goes beyond my original plan.

October 25

I went to the annual awards banquet and it was good.  Lots of good food, a couple of flat gin and tonics, and a great trophy.  Season done.  Hauled out the rabbit carcass to spend the winter on the farm.  Maybe fix in the spring or find it a good home.


Pit entrance 7/19  1 $25.00
Pit entrance 7/26 1 $20.00
Pit entrance 8/2 1 $25.00
Pit entrance 8/16 1 $25.00
Pit entrance 8/30 1 $25.00
Pit entrance 9/13 2 $50.00
Metric bolts misc $3.00
Banquet ticket 1 $25.00
Banquet food and booze proj. $25.00

Season Project Cost Total: $1618.67

Experience: Priceless

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. 2004 - present.

Creative Commons License