Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Officer Survival; Factory stocks/Pro-ams at Beatrice Speedway; Drunk driver sentenced to 50 years for killing 4 motorcyclists

I recently attended a 2 day Street Survival Seminar sponsored by Caliber Press. The speaker was great and the fast moving program really made everybody think. Beside the great speaker and input from attendees, we spent a lot of time watching officers being killed. Video was taken from the in-car cameras of patrol cars with the permission of the departments and families of the officers involved. By seeing mistakes made by other officers, we hope everybody can learn and avoid these same mistakes. We always need to be thinking ahead and planning our moves, no matter what kind of call we are on.

As of this writing, the ODMP.org website says 51 law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the line of duty in 2011. There is still a week left this month, making 2011 on track to be the most deadly year for officers in recent memory. PLEASE, plan ahead and be safe out there!

Our department plans to have in-service training with practical exercises on such things as traffic stops and domestic disturbances. Domestics can be one of the most deadly situations for an officer, but this year so far traffic stops and arrest warrant service are the situations in which the most officers have lost their lives. Many of the suspects were REPEAT OFFENDERS who should not have even been on the street!

Mother Nature is still very fickle. After having temperatures nearing 80 degrees last week, and 70 on Sunday, it SNOWED last night! I rode the Gold Wing to work Monday evening, and when I headed home in the morning, it was 59 degrees. However, the forecast for the next morning was rain and 40 degrees, so the Wing stayed in the garage. The forecast for the next week is for highs in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s and rain/snow. I-80 Speedway at Greenwood, Nebraska has their season opener scheduled for Friday and Saturday April 1st & 2nd. I’m not sure that will come off if the weather doesn’t change.

At the pit meeting for the Saturday portion of the Spring Nationals, it was announced that Beatrice Speedway has been in contact with other tracks to attempt to formulate rules for a factory stock/street stock/pro-am class. It sounds like in 2011 we will pretty much run the factory stock rules that have been in place the last 2 seasons. In 2012, we will be an IMCA sanctioned class, but will be “grandfathered” to run the 4412 Holley carburetor.

Details were sketchy, so I don’t understand if this will be a “new” class or will we be going back to having to buy an IMCA license and running in the IMCA stock car class. Beatrice Speedway still has not released rules to the Speedway webmaster, so there is nothing in print, just what we have by word of mouth.

The factory stock/Pro-am class had 21 cars last Saturday. Seven of those cars were Beatrice regulars. Two were regulars at Beatrice in 2009 and call Thunderhill Speedway at Mayetta, Kansas their home track. The 3rd & 5th place finishers are regulars at U.S. 30 in Columbus while the 4th place finisher doesn’t call any one track “home.” There were some cars from I-80 Speedway at Greenwood and I believe the winner came from Iowa, as I did not recognize the name. I hope our class has a good car count throughout the 2011 season. The only thing that may hurt us is the high cost of fuel to get to tracks that are very far away.

If the weather ever stabilizes to where we can ride our motorcycles for more than a day at a time, we all need to be careful as riders as well as drivers. Grand Island, Nebraska recorded a motorcycle fatality Tuesday from a crash that happened Monday afternoon. A car apparently pulled in front of the motorcycle after stopping for a stop sign. PLEASE, everybody, look both ways - twice!!

Also in the news this week was the story of a drunk driver who struck and killed 4 motorcyclists on I-29 in Iowa last August. His BAC was nearly FIVE TIMES the legal limit after the accident. He pled no contest and was sentenced in Logan County, Iowa to 50 years in prison. He was 21 years old at the time of the crash, and it was his 2nd offense. Of particular interest was the comment of his defense attorney, who said he felt he could have gotten the charges reduced or dismissed because of the crash happening in a construction zone!! If the case had gone to trail the defense was prepared to call an expert who would have laid the blame on highway construction at the crash site. Unbelievable!!!

As we venture out on two wheels this spring, please, slow down and keep aware of your surroundings. Most importantly of all, get to where you are going safely!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First race of 2011 - Beatrice Spring Nationals!

After some long, late hours in the shop (and burning almost ALL of my firewood) we finally got on the track on Thursday night. While many people were drinking green beer for St Patrick’s Day, the R & R Racing Monte Carlo was making some practice laps at Beatrice Speedway in preparation for the 2011 Spring Nationals. It’s always a good think to have some practice time before the car is on the track to do some racing because it’s sure that there will be some “bugs” to work out. Our night was no different.

Even though the car hadn’t been scaled (getting the proper percentages for the rear, left side and cross weight) it handled fairly well. Toward the end of my first set of laps, I noticed some smoke coming out from under the hood. Once in the pits, I found that the valve cover gasket on the passenger side of the engine was leaking badly. We cleaned the oil off the firewall and put a new valve cover gasket on, and Jeremy was ready to take some laps. When he finally got out, he had a problem with the shifter not wanting to work correctly. He finally got into high gear and had some pretty decent laps, but he commented that he thought the new engine was down on power.

On my second set of laps, the track had dried out and the car seemed to want to “push” in the corners if I didn’t drive it in a certain way. By the term “push” I mean the front tires are turning left but the car still wants to go straight. I could correct the condition by working the brake and throttle together, and I wasn’t real concerned because of the fact that the car hadn’t been scaled yet.

After the practice session, I still had to work that night. I was up before noon on Friday and worked on getting the shifter and linkage right. Once that was done, I was off to borrow the scales from a racer friend. I spent the rest of Friday until it was too cold to work in the shop without having to start a fire. At that point, it was time to come inside and get some sleep.

Saturday morning started off with a breakfast at the Gage County Fairgrounds put on by the Women for Racing organization. This is one of the fundraisers these ladies put on for the racers. The profits go into the year end points fund. Good breakfast - thank you, ladies!

Back in the shop, I’d started a fire in the stove before I left, so it was warm enough to work. I got the final weight and percentages about where the set-up sheets said they should be. The work on relocating the upper control arm mounts seems to have paid off too, as I was able to set my front end alignment where I wanted it. I’ve never had that happen on a car until now. I changed the driver’s side valve cover because it looked like it was leaking, too, judging by the drops of oil on the garage floor. Aired up all the tires and both air bubbles, loaded up tools that were still in the shop, and finally got the car on the trailer shortly after 4 PM.

I pulled into the pits and started to get the car ready to unload when the announcement came over the loudspeaker - driver’s meeting at 5:00. I looked at my watch and it was 4:53. Still had to get into my fire suit, put my contact lenses in, let the air in the tires on the car down to where they needed to be, and get the RaceCeiver plugged in and the ear buds taped into my ears so they didn’t keep falling out. We were scheduled to hot lap 3rd, after the sport mods and hobby stocks.

The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating with the racing program. After fairly decent weather on Friday, the temperature stayed around 50. The wind made it feel really cold, and the crowd in the grandstand was bundled up.

The track was still a bit greasy during hot laps, making it hard to tell exactly how it would be in the heat race. It felt pretty good, but when the track changes, the handle on the car will change, too.

Our class ended up with 21 cars for this weekend. That didn’t include many of the regular factory stock racers from Beatrice Speedway. I ended up in the 2nd heat race, starting on the inside of the 3rd row. The track was in good shape and the car handled well. I didn’t make the invert, finishing in 8th, which ended up putting me on the outside of the 8th row in the A Feature.

The track held up great the entire night. All the races had 3 and 4 wide racing over the entire track and it stayed dust free, despite the cold south wind. Our A Feature started 21 cars. I was just hoping to get through the first few laps without being involved in anything. After a couple of pace laps, and the parade lap, the lights going into turn 3 flashed, signaling us that we would be going green. In the middle of turn 3 things began to get crazy with everybody on the gas. We’re down the front chute and into turn 1, then out of 2 with no problems. Out of 4 and back down the front chute to complete the 1st lap. Then, just like that, some cars up front got tangled up and there’s a red flag as there are 2 cars upside down at the bottom of the track between turn 1 and 2. Fortunately, the only injuries suffered were to the race cars and the red flag was short-lived.

We’re lined up on the front chute and the yellow is out, signaling us to start moving around the track. There’s a bit of speedy-dri on the bottom of the track where the cars had crashed, but after a couple of slow laps over that, it was blown off the track. We’re lined back up and once again we’re under green

I was happy with the way the car handled pretty much any place on the track. The track was still a bit tacky and I could drive on the bottom, in the middle or higher up on the track and seemed to have no issue with the way it handled. However, I was disappointed with the way the engine ran out. I felt there was a definite lack of power, and when the engine warmed up, I felt the oil pressure wasn’t where it should be when it idled. When the A Feature was said and done with, we ended up with a 13th place finish. Most importantly, there was no damage to the car to be fixed.

There is some tinkering to do, and until we get the low oil pressure figured out, this engine is coming back out. I can’t afford to damage it. I believe that with a better set of heads, the power will be more acceptable. In the meantime, the engine we finished the season with will go back under the hood.

If things work out and I am able to borrow a gear, I may go to I-80 Speedway at Greenwood, Nebraska on April 1st. I’ll just have to see how things go between now and then.