Ahh well once again the TCS series begins for me, this time in Omaha, Nebraska. The HobbyPlex/Hobbytown is an excellent facility, and I have been there quite a few times. That fact also makes me a big dummy.
You see I showed up Saturday morning. I didn't think about it, but there was Friday practice, which I should have attended. The HobbyPlex's carpet is a little different than most other carpet tracks in that it rarely becomes super high traction. In the past, I have done some things not common for carpet racing. In the F103 days, I showed up at a TCS race there with a 15th anniversary car, all graphite parts, ready for some carpet racing. Well, the car was only "ok". My ever astute buddy Kevin Kane noticed one of the cars was getting around pretty good. He then asked what version of car it was out on the track. I said I thought the guy has a regular F103RM with the fiberglass chassis. "Bingo...do you have a fiberglass chassis?" 20 minutes later, I was on the track, laughing out loud about how much better the car was with the flexier fiberglass chassis. I went from ok to dialed just by going to the softer chassis.
So like a big dummy I show up with a F104 with a graphite plate and full long upper deck. The car was "ok" but it would actually 4 wheel drift on some parts of the track. Not good.
I had the A kit tires all the way around, like my Harbor hobbies setup from 2011. The car was just not very good, even after changing some of the front end setting to get more steering. Now it had some steering, but would break the rear loose a bit. I wound up a lap off the pace of Erik Whippler in the first qualifier.
Jay Streeter, long time TCS regular was sitting next to me with a split upper deck on his F104. I was reluctant to try it, but after fooling around all morning with little results, I decided to put it on. The problem now was that the car had crazy amounts of steering. I went out with A tires front and rear and the car was undriveable. So basically i threw a qualifier away, but the good thing was I had earlier tried B tires all around, and the car lost steering with the older long top deck. Jay had also been running B fronts and A rears, which he said worked great. So I went to the A rear-B front combination, and also a fiberglass lower chassis, in addition to the split top deck for max traction. The upper deck was mounted with o rings under the screws to add even a bit more flex.
I ran the car around during the break between heats, and it was pretty good. Unfortunately, i would up having a problem with the lead to my transponder. It had become stressed and frayed, allowing the lead to short itself, and kill the receiver power. Of course, it didn't cause problems until about 10 seconds before I went out for the 3rd qualifier. The car kept shutting off, and I didn't know why. It took about 30 minutes in the pits to figure out what was going on...ugh. The only good thing was that there was practice after the heats were over.
I stayed and ran packs trying to get the car dialed in. I also went to the soft tbar without the cutout. Jay had been running this too ( I was stealing a lot of ideas from Jay). Now the car was really good, and I could equal the fast lap of the day.
For the final qualifier on Sunday morning, I just wanted to run a decent race and try to move up from 4th or 5th or where ever I was. I went out with the tires doped a little more than 1/2 on the front. The track had picked up some traction from when I ran the car in practice Sunday morning, as I found out. For the first minute or two, the car was hard to drive. I was running good laps, but not fast enough to challenge for TQ. As the car settled in, I was able to be more aggressive, and run tighter and faster. I wound up finishing less than 2 seconds off of TQ, which was Whippler. Had the car driven better at the start of the race, I think I may have been able to be even closer, or even TQ. Close doesn't count for much.
Anyhow, I started second for the mains. When the first main went off, my car was very good, and came off the starting line great. Erik seemed like he was trying to stay conservative, and I tried to challenge him before he could get away. We stayed close, and I tried to pass as he was a little wide on some corners, but i could never get in far enough before he shut the door on me. I didn't want to cause contact, so I hoped to wait until he made a big enough mistake to get by. Unfortunately, I wound up making the mistake and fell back after around 1:30 or 2 minutes. I tried to catch up, but I made a couple more mistakes trying to run as tight as possible. I still finished 2nd, so I was in decent shape.
On the start of the second main, I felt my car was even better after some hot laps. This is where I went wrong. On the tone, I ripped the throttle, and got a good start, and it appeared that Erik's car may not have started as well as mine had. I gained a couple feet, but the first turn was a 180 into an S section. From my recollection (which is never too good when you're racing) I think Erik went a little wide, and I tried to go under. The problem was I realized Erik was now going to be turning into me and I tried to stay to the inside, but i dotted the board and went out to the outer wall. The whole field went by..race over... I was able to get back up to third, but Erik now had 2 wins, so the race was over. Tim Ski who had finished 3rd the first race got 2nd, so I would have to win the third race to get second. I drove just as badly the third main, dotting out on the first lap. Tim finished 2nd overall, and I got 3rd.
I drove badly in the mains for sure. The first race wasn't too bad, but I should have taken it easy after I made a mistake, since I didn't fall too far back. Trying to push too hard just lead to more mistakes. In the second main, I should have just backed down a bit after I saw I was catching the TQ car. The first series of corners was too dangerous to try any sort of maneuvers to pass or challenge. Had I waited until we came to a better section of the track, or even after the first lap, I may have had a chance. I think my car was as good as any of the others, I just was driving with my head up my butt.
Lessons learned: Get to the track for practice, and remain calm on the driver's stand!!