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Old 01-15-2007, 08:14 AM   #1
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Default JACO/SMC 2007 Snowflake Classic Oval Race report

JACO/SMC 2007 Snowflake Classic Oval Race report

The story of this race didnít begin on Saturday morning; it really started the day before. By mid-afternoon, Thunder Road RC Speedway, in Gordonsville, Virginia (thunderroadrc.com) was full of racers tuning on their oval cars, and looking for more speed. From the outset, it was obvious this was going to be a fast race; with some very fast wheels wondering if they were going to be able to keep up.

As the day wore on, some racers seemed to be getting in the groove; others stayed the same or lost speed; and still more racers arrived. The damp and chilly weather outside didnít seem to dull the enthusiasm, and every one was enjoying the camaraderie normally found at our races. Lots of bench racing, reminiscing, and not a few jokes and tales of yesteryear livened the evening.

By the wee hours of the evening, most of the racers seemed to be either satisfied with their setups or resigned to live with what they had; and some of the practice sessions were better than a lot of races. A picture was starting to emerge; and favorites starting to come to the front.

Any time SPEC trucks are run, Steve Kritikakos (the lovable Kriter) is at the front of the field. This race was no exception, although he seemed to spend a lot of time on the track with chief wrench Larry Boyd holding the stopwatch. Although he was fast, there were a lot of frowns and wrenching going on. Carl Burkhardt looked both fast and confident, as he simply charged batteries and occasionally took to the track for a few laps. I didnít see him with a tool in his hand all night. Oliver Campbell was tweaking everything on his car hat could be tweaked; but he didnít seem satisfied as he chased that elusive last tenth.

Stock practice sessions were crowded; with a horde of cars tearing around at near record paces. Jamie Hanson had won the last big Stock race at Thunder Road, but he had several cars all over him in practice. Steve Downs looked fast, but not happy with his setup. Matt Tyson was able to run near the front, but couldnít quite seem to get ahead. Kevin Colburn, Jamie Hanson, Joel White, Tom Welsh, Quinn Frazier, Larry Boyd and many others seemed to be mired in a wad of cars every time they took to the track; with little to separate any of them. And then, occasionally, Jesse Bean took to the track. Every time Jesse was on the track, any one not running with him stopped to watch. Several people remarked that he seemed slow in the corners, but he was really ripping on the straight pieces. A quick peek at the practice times might have tipped them that there was nothing slow about Mr. Beanís corner speeds. He was looking very stout.

The 4300 Brushless Class was already looking like a three way fight between Jamie Hanson, Jesse Bean and Lin Vaughn (still smarting after his loss to Jamie last month). Jamie and Jesse looked fast and stable. Lin was just as fast, but looked a bit squirrelly on the corner exits. Jamie spent most of his time with the car on the stand; Jesse was tweaking all night long; and Lin was using every tool he had and borrowing more.

I left the track around 1:00 AM Saturday morning (Some one has to be in early to open up and make coffee); and it was still crowded. I donít know what time the last racer left; but Iíve heard some rumors that I probably passed him going the other way as I arrived next morning.

Saturday mornings practice just got busier and busier and more and more intense. I finally had to limit how many cars were on the track at one time and go to timed practice sessions before some one destroyed a car. A lot of racers were spending a lot of time on the track; and a lot of people were running on the ragged edge, looking for that last tenth. Fortunately, we didnít lose any one in a practice crash, although the track walls were starting to look a bit scarred.

Racing started on time at 3:00 PM; and we stayed on time all through the events. No one pushed the limit; and no one failed to report to the line on time. Good job, guys. Time and space wonít allow a full report on all the close and exciting racing in the heat races. My apologies to any one whose stellar performance (and there were quite a few) goes unmentioned. As always, a few things stood out. In SPEC, Carl Burkhardt simply charged and raced. Kriter usually led; but it was obvious he was being pushed hard. In fact, he pushed close enough to the edge that he dumped in one heat, handing the win to Carl. Oliver Campbell was close behind; but not consistent enough. Ditto for Harold Lam; and Steve Walker fought a glitch all day long.

The Stock heats showed the usual suspects were as fast as normal; but a lot of other people were nibbling at their heels. Some people who normally run at the front were obviously destined for the D Main; and it wasnít that they were slow. This was a FAST field. Quinn Frazier, Larry Boyd and Tom Welsh all displayed blazing speed at times, but werenít consistent enough to lock in at the front.

The 4300 heats showed Jamie Hanson hadnít lost the handle on his ride; and Lin Vaughn had found the handle on his. Jesse Bean looked fast; but still had some tweaking to do. Harold Ruckle was adapting to his new brushless ride; Jerry Billmyer was looking racy and John Pritchett was getting faster every time he went out.

The Stock D Main was run first. Charlie Johnson (CJ) led Buddy Hartmann to the line; and John Pritchett and Dennis Strauss trailed in a wreck marred contest. The C Main followed; with Jason Hastings, Kevin Morris, Toby Taylor and Justin Richwagn lining up at the finish. The closeness of the racing was illustrated as Jason turned a time (53 laps in 4:02:88) that would have put him fourth in the B. The B Main followed quickly; and looked more like the A. In fact, winner Tom Welshís time (54 laps in 4:00:91) would have put him second in the A, and challenged hard for the lead. Quinn Frazier, Larry Boyd, John Birmele and Joe Mayne also turned times that would have placed them well in the A. Consistent front runner Harold Ruckle crashed out early.

The SPEC A suffered as Harold lam and Steve Walker failed to make the start. They simply couldnít overcome their handling and glitching woes. Steve Kritikakos jumped into the lead, with Oliver Campbell and Carl Burkhardt chasing. Kriter eased away to a solid lead; but then Carl slipped past Oliver and started closing. With more than a minute to go, Carl closed within a few truck lengths of Kriter. Lap after lap, Carl tried to find a way past; getting alongside several times but unable to complete the pass. With seconds remaining, Carl tried a move going into turn three, but found Kriterís truck in his way. In what can only be described as a display of the best sportsmanship, Carl jerked the wheel hard to avoid a crash; almost crashing himself. By the time Carl got straightened out, Kriter had a quarter lap lead; and that was the race. Carl closed up, but time ran out as Kriter eased home to the win.

The Stock A Main belonged to Jesse Bean. He was on rails and had a motor on steroids. Several drivers chased hard, but got in each others way as they fought for the honor of chasing Jesse. Kevin Colburn dropped out with a damaged car and a couple of others looked a bit worn by raceís end. Steve Downs finally seemed happy with his car and wound up second by less than a lap; with Joel White less than two seconds back from Downs. Matt Tyson and Jamie Hanson trailed after several bumping incidents, with Colburn parked.

Jamie Hanson lined up in front for the A Main; with Lin Vaughn starting second and Jesse Bean, Harold Ruckle, Jerry Billmyer and John Pritchett in order. The start was critical. Jamie jumped out first, with Lin Vaughn determined to run him down and right on his bumper. Jesse had finally gotten his KSG dialed in; and looked like a sure winner. He tried a move on Lin on the first lap; the second lap; the third lap andÖ Well, you get the idea. On at least five consecutive laps, Jesse would dive under Lin going into turn three; drift out exiting four; Lin would slip back under Jesse going into turn one and ease ahead exiting two. All the while, Jamie was running for his life and praying Lin and Jesse would stay side by side long enough for him to escape. Jamie quickly moved into lapped traffic; and a pattern started to emerge. Jamie would slip by the lapped car; trying to be careful, but also trying to get by without losing any time to Lin and Jesse, who were only a very short way back. Lin, usually with Jesse right on his bumper and often alongside, would try to rip past the lapped car without giving Jesse a chance to pounce. The lapped cars were trying hard to stay out of the way, but were still racing among themselves. Fortunately, all of the lapped cars were running quickly enough that they werenít being lapped often; but with the first three cars running so closely, something had to give, and it eventually did. Lin was driving with one eye on his car and trying to brush Jesse off of him by using a lapped car. Something happened, and when it was over Jesse was past Lin, but both of them were a lap down. Jesse set his sights on Jamie and started moving in. With one eye on the clock, Jamie tried to run fast without slipping. Jesse moved closer and closer, but with Jamie having a lap in hand, it was soon obvious time would run out before he caught Jamie. In the end, Jesse eased off and settled for second. Lin trailed in third, Harold bested Jerry by a full second and John Pritchett finished a couple of laps back after several excursions.

Trinity, Darkside, Associated Electronics and, of course, JACO and SMC donated some nice door prizes; which made sure every one went home happy. Thanks to all our sponsors for helping make this the biggest, and probably the best, race seen for some time. And thanks to all the racers who took it on the road, seeking the best competition. From the smiles and comments, I think every one went home happy. Thanks; Ernie P.
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