For the third race in a row we traveled to Irwindale, and no complaints from me. As I have stated before Irwindale Speedway is the finest shot track in America. This place is all first class. The pits are paved, electrical power is supplied, everything is just as nice as it can be, for the drivers as well as the fans. The only thing that was tough about Irwindale has been the temperature a couple of times. It is very hot there at times and twice this year it was over 100 degrees on the day that we were there. On September 16 our last visit it was 108.
Well this time it was September 23 and it was a very nice overcast day and the temperature was about 82. What a great day for racing. The air was cool so the engines ran very well, the tires gripped and I didn’t suffer in the heat. What a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We arrived at Irwindale a little early and hung around the parking lot talking to other racers. In a short time they opened the gates and we were able to get into the pits. We set up our equipment, checked over every inch of the truck, then sat down and took it easy until the first practice.
Jeff took the first practice run which was extra long that day, about 30 laps. He came in with his thumb up indicating that he was happy with the way the truck felt. Again we checked over everything on the truck and waited for the second practice. About an hour later the second practice was called. Jeff took to the track and we noticed that the lap times were not as fast as the first practice. When Jeff came in he indicated that the truck was now pushing a little. It had rained very hard the night before and washed all the rubber of the track. Our first practice was on a track that had been washed clean. By the time the second practice came around some rubber had been laid down by our first practice as well as the other divisions that were racing there that day. That is why the truck began to push a little. The track was getting a bit stickier.
We decided to make a small adjustment before qualifying. The adjustment was made and we were set to go. In the qualifying Jeff ran pretty well but the most important thing was that he found that he could get through turn four better than ever before. His qualifying time was a little better and he qualified 8th. Not a great spot but our best Irwindale qualifying ever. Keep in mind that Jeff usually races better than he qualifies.
The main event was a big one for us, 50 laps. Jeff knew that he had plenty of time to work his way up if the truck was capable. As it turned out it was. The green flag fell and Jeff began passing other trucks that had qualified faster than us. He went by three or four tucks in the first few laps, then settled in behind the #2 truck. Being patient he followed the #2 truck for several laps. When the time was right Jeff dove under the #2 and in one lap he was in front. He then tracked down the # 42 and wasted no time in dispensing of him. Jeff drove in hard in turn three on the outside of the #42 and was now beside him. As they came out of turn four they were door to door and it stayed that way down the straight-a-way. Jeff was better in turns one and two and he knew it. Entering turn one they were side by side, but going out of turn two Jeff was pulling ahead. He got a great run down the back straight and was clearly in 2nd place.
One truck that Jeff had passed early was the #37. This truck is a first class machine and the driver is first class also. He is a talented driver that has been driving for some time and he has nothing but the best equipment. His truck was now working well and he was catching Jeff little by little. By lap 25 he was on Jeff’s back bumper. He dove under Jeff and tried to make the pass. Four or five laps later he was still trying to make the pass. Finally his tires became hot and he was forced to fall back behind Jeff. A few laps later he was under Jeff again and he had the same result. They wove through lapped traffic and all the while Jeff remained in front of the #37. Jeff likes the outside groove and he knows that to be passed either he will have to make a mistake or the other truck will have to be set up much better than his. He is able to keep his momentum and he is a rocket down the straight-a-way. With only two laps remaining the #37 made his final move. He dove under Jeff one more time, hoping that Jeff would make a mistake or choke from the pressure. (Keep in mind this is Jeff’s first year to do any form of circle track racing.) It made no difference Jeff kept his cool and ran his race. They stayed side by side until the finish line and Jeff crossed the line about ˝ of a truck length ahead of the #37 for 2nd place. That is our best finish at Irwindale this year and we were very excited about it. To hold off the # 37 truck was another big confidence builder for us. We are learning how to get to the front and when there, how to stay there. First place that night went to the #01, he was just awesome and no one was going to catch him. He had already set a new track record for the trucks in qualifying and we knew he would be tough. We were right and the #01 took first on that night.
Jeff had been picked earlier to be in an autograph session just below the spectator stands and was there for over an hour signing photos of the truck. By coming in second he was interviewed by the track officials directly in front of the stands, and was able to mention all of the companies that advertise on our truck. He also got his picture made with the girls from the pace car. All in all it was a pretty good day.
We left very happy and proud about what we had done.
P.S. Our other pit crew member Kathy had to work that day and could not be there. It is tough to handle everything alone. Sorry you couldn’t make it and you were missed. Thanks to Durcella Davis (who is the person that keeps up our web page for us ) for filling in for Kathy. I appreciate the help.