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Out In The Dirt...

This is where I get serious about racing. I've wanted to race off road from the first time I saw a Mickey Thompson Grand Prix race on ESPN years ago. Pace Promotions made my dream come true last year when they brought off road stadium racing back from the grave. I missed winning the 1998 Championship by 2 lousy points. Rats! This year (1999) I'm hitting all 11 races in the quest for the title. I want that #1 plate on my car. I won the final round of the CORR outdoor season at Crandon, Wisconsin and with that win, I was given the title of World Champion, but not the overall season champion. What an awesome track they have there! I'll be updating the Off Road section as I race this year's series. Keep an eye out for more stuff!

Big Tables? No Troubles!

Clearing the table top in Minnesota back in 1999 For me, off road racing is the dream of a lifetime. I wanted to race a vehicle out in the dirt before I even had a drivers license. Originally, I dreamed of racing in a truck, a Toyota truck, but that will still have to remain a dream - for now. Instead, I race in a class called Stadium Lites or Feather Lites. It's a small vehicle that weighs about 700 pounds, has a single seat, a two stroke engine that puts out about 70 to 75 horsepower and full four wheel independent suspension.

Clearing the table top in Minneapolis, 1998
Setting up 429 for the pass in Luxemburg

Trying to make a pass I've been fascinated with the idea of racing off road for years. I used to terrorize the beaches of South Padre Island, Texas in my old beat up Toyota 4x4 pickup truck. I would take off down the water's edge running as hard and fast as the truck would let me. I still don't know how didn't manage to flip or roll it.

In1993 I purchased a Honda Pilot and brought it home to Ohio from San Antonio about a year later. I took it out to a local motocross track and quickly discovered the limits of the stock suspension. With the help of Neil, Jay and Donny of ATV Racing out in Phoenix I upgraded the suspension and began to develop more horsepower. As I began to work on my Pilot I began to dream more and more of racing off road with it, but I was totally unaware of the races going on just "up the road" from me in Wisconsin. With the new suspension and engine work, I was soon able to keep up with some of the faster 250cc motocross racers at the motocross track.

Not long after I got my Pilot's suspension and power plant up to snuff, the man that ran the motocross track decide to ban 4 wheeled vehicles from the premises. Thus, the Pilot was "out of business" and I was without a place to play. I decided to get back into motocross racing again and the Pilot was pretty much put aside for a while.

still trying to make the pass Then, my luck changed. At the end of October, 1997 I came across an article in 'Dirt Bike' magazine stating that Pace Promotions had brought the old Mickey Thompson Off-Road races back to life calling it the U.S. Championship Off Road Series. The small article mentioned the different classes that would be running in the series and there it was, one of the classes listed was "Stadium Lites - (Honda Pilots)" and I was on the phone to Pace immediately! "What do I need to do and have to be race legal?" I went into overdrive getting all the details taken care of and got my Pilot race ready.

I headed off to St. Louis on January 1, 1998 and on Saturday night, I ended up winning the inaugural race! I've never been so excited about any racing venture in my life! The following weekend I took second in the Astrodome in Houston.

I wasn't able to head out west last year, but when the series came back to the Mid-West I went racing again in the Minneapolis Metrodome where I screwed up on the final lap, rolled the car, and ended up going from second to fifth place. I still had a shot at the winning the series overall, but I would have to take, at minimum, second in a heat race and win the main round. The roll in Minneapolis ended up being my downfall. I took second place in my heat race and was overtaken in the main, thus taking another second. I missed winning the series championship by two lousy points! Had I not rolled in Minneapolis, I would have won the series by 1 point.

This year -1999 - I'm hitting all 11 of the U.S. Championship Off Road Series races. I've picked up sponsorship from Bill Moeller of Bore Tech who does a fantastic boring process called "Carbide Bore" and I'm also supported by Neil and crew from ATV Racing. This year's series will be a lot of traveling and a lot of racing and I can't wait!!


The Weekly Race Diary

You can follow me through the 1999 U.S. Championship Off Road Series racing by clicking on the listings below. I'll be keeping a weekly log of my ventures for the series.

Round 1, St. Louis, MO - Trans World Dome

Round 2, Houston, TX - The Astro Dome

Round 3, Minneapolis, MN - Hubert Humphrey Dome

Round 4, Anaheim, CA - Edison Field

Round 5, Phoenix, AZ - Bank One Ballpark

Round 6, San Diego, CA - QualComm Stadium

Round 7, El Paso, TX - UTEP Sunbowl Stadium

Round 8, Dallas, TX - Texas Stadium - CANCELED!

Can you believe it? Dallas was CANCELED!!! No body has ever been able to give the real reason. There were rumors of all types floating around El Paso, but how much truth in them is a mystery. I guess on the bright side, it gives me another week off. Pontiac is next and then the LONG trek out to Vancouver and Seattle begins. I'll be back to update next weekend.

Round 9, Pontiac, MI - Pontiac Silverdome

Round 10, Vancouver, BC - BC Place

Round 11, Seattle, WA - The King Dome -The Final Round

March 31, back home after three days of driving

I'm sitting here in my recliner thinking back on the season. I have had a fantastic time. True, I've had some really bad luck, broken or bent just about everything I could and replaced a bunch of stuff too, but the overall season has been a total blast. I've had some of the best racing I've ever experienced, met lots of great people and learned so much. Next year's series should be even more fun as Pace is supposedly upping the number of races. I've had many hours of design time (aka driving to and from Seattle) and have a new chassis about 90% designed for next year.

Thank you EVERYONE!I really want to thank a few key people. First and foremost, my family. My wife Scarlett for putting up with me being gone for the majority of three months and my daughters Karis and Hannah for not driving Scarlett crazy. I also have to thank Neil, Jay and Donny of ATV Racing. These guys kept me going while I was out west and without the hospitality and help they provided, I would never have been able to complete the series. I also want to thank Bill Moeller of Bore Tech. Bill's cylinder processing has produced an engine that went through almost an entire season without any problems. Last, but not least, I want to thank Pace Motorsports for giving the Stadium Lites a place to race.

This will bring to a close my diary of my racing for this year. I'll start up a new page next year when the season begins.

An Idea is born!I'm beginning my homework process for building a new car for next year's season. I've done a lot of AutoCad work and have the basic design figured out. As I begin this new journey I'll document all my work and contacts, plus I'll keep everyone updated on my site for next year's racing diary.

Here it is, the link you've been waiting for! Building a Stadium Lite Race Car.

 

Thanks Everyone!!!


The 2000 Series

The 2000 Pace U.S. Off Road Championship Series has finally begun to take shape. Today, November11, 1999, Pace FINALLY released four dates for the racing season. The rumor still is that there are going to be upwards of fourteen races and the season is going to extend on into late May or early June and that the majority of the races are going to be outdoor venues. I have full intention of making each race as long as my family can deal with me being gone - actually it's probably a nice vacation for them! Tee hee hee.

This year should be a lot of fun. I have a new car, a new trailer and two years of racing under my belt, so I'm pretty much "in tune" to what happens, what to expect (yea, right - this is racing) and how to plan for time on the road. I've only been planning this season's racing since last April when I started on the YDR Moskito and I can't wait to dive in and start racing!

Unlike I did with last year's diary (until I updated my entire web site when I moved it all to Yellowdogracing.com), I'll break up this years racing into individual web pages. This will let them load faster and make it easier to follow my journey.


The 2000 Racing Diary:(dates may change - How about EVERYTHING DID!)

Round 1, January 15, 2000 - Houston, TX - Houston Astrodome - What a JOKE!!!- well, sort of...

Round 2, January 22, 2000 - Phoenix, AZ - Bank One Ballpark - Rumor is that they had a good race - I know that I had FUN - AT GLAMIS IN THE DUNES!!!

Round 3, January 29, 2000 - Anaheim, CA - Edison International Field - Don't know a thing about it....

Round 4, February 26, 2000 - Las Vegas, NV - Sam Boyd Stadium - CANCELED!!!


The final work is just about done, the race dates get closer and suddenly the rumors begin to fly. Two more races are supposedly added - San Diego and a second at Anaheim. Then more rumors - "Did you hear? They (PACE) aren't going to have a Stadium Lites class!". Then more rumors - "The series is going to go through the summer." Heck, I even heard that PACE was going to cancel the entire series!

Slowly, the truth began to come out.

No, there were not two more races added to the series - in fact, Las Vegas was canceled.
There is a possibility that the series will extend into the spring or summer. Nothing definite yet.

No, the series has not been canceled.

Yes, PACE DROPPED the Stadium Lites!

But this is where a small band of racers came together and started to battle the giant.

Once the rumor of PACE dropping the Lites became factual, the earth shook, dams broke, lightning struck and we set forth. In an all out assault on the "main men" at PACE, I struck up a deal. "If I can guarantee 10 Stadium Lites on the line in Houston, will you let us run?" I got lucky and it DIDN'T fall on deaf ears! (I even had some PACE insiders on my side already!) After numerous phone calls and e-mails, I finally got through to the "Big Man" and low and behold, the OK was given. "Get 10 cars on the line and you have a class." No prize money, no series purse, nothing - just the chance to get in a stadium like the Astrodome and bang wheels and nerf bars with other Lites! I had the fire back under me and I started my work.

In one day, I was able to get five other lites to agree to show to race. My goal is to get a full field of TWENTY cars on the line at each race. We have to band together and steal the show from the trucks and buggies. It's the only way we'll ever be able to keep racing our cars. This is one of those times where some sacrifices by the Lite drivers will have to come, but I have faith in our group.


Houston is a GO!!! After too many phone calls, e-mails and contacts, PACE gave the OK to the Stadium Lites class and we've been included back in the series. We're taking a couple hits - no prize money being one, but there's also no entry fee - at least to PACE. Instead, our band of travelers that have made the commitment to race will probably put our own entry fee into a hat and then split that up as pay out.

I want to go on record that I really appreciate the effort and conviction of the group that has decided to take on PACE and make the race in Houston.

I arrived in Houston last night (Thursday the 13th). Got my Mexican Food fix (Taco Cabana - it's tradition that when I'm at the races in Houston, that the ONLY place I eat is Taco Cabana. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. I just can't find great, quick Mexican food in Cincinnati) and checked into the Holiday Inn. Two days of uneventful driving are finally over.

January 14 - I go through morning sign up and discover that there's no practice on Friday anymore! Gee, now what was I supposed to do? - Well, it just happens that I had my YZF in my van and the knowledge of a couple motocross tracks around the Houston area. I consider this area "old stomping grounds" from when I was going to college about 90 miles away. (I grew up in South Texas and spent a couple years in this general area after high school.) Doesn't take rocket science to figure out what I did with my day!

I really wanted to go to Conroe's motocross track. I spent countless weekends there back in '84 and '85 and thought it would be real cool to hit it for old time's sake. But, to my dismay I was told that the track had washed away a couple years back when Houston was flooded by the San Jacinto River.

Next on the list would be Rio Bravo. This track has some of the most impressive history attached to it as any track in the US. It was built back in 1972 and although it has hosted numerous 125, 250, and 500 Nationals, Rio Bravo is most noted for being the first track where an American beat the Europeans in the '73 Trans-Am victory.

Pretty cool, eh? I'd only ridden at Rio Bravo once, back in '85 and I remembered a very rough, tough course. Boy how times have changed. This track now seems old and fairly timid - who knows when the last time it's seen a tractor's disk. It's roots are in using the natural terrain - ala European style tracks - so it makes use of an old creek bed and it's banks. A few jumps - a couple step up types and a couple easy table tops. Pretty fast but not scary like I remember. I enjoyed riding away half the day there. Next I went to a track called Highlands Motocross Park. I'd never heard of it until talking to a couple guys at Rio Bravo. On their advise, I gave it a try.

Highlands track is a BLAST! Two HUGE table tops, a couple descent doubles, a couple of step up jumps - one wicked one that was a blast to get over and a couple medium table tops too. The track was very well groomed also. I didn't try to clear one of the two monster table tops - it was one of those that required total commitment and I was only about 90% committed! There was also a triple set of doubles (six pack) that I didn't try either. I saw a couple guys do them, but the penalty of missing was just too high for my chicken blood.

The night track was a bit different. A short tight much more technical track. I followed a couple local guys around and then decide to go a bit harder. I got around one pretty quickly and then tracked down the second guy. As I followed him over a really peaky (short) table top, I grabbed WAY too much throttle and found myself about 5 feet higher and 10 feet farther out than I needed to be. Major bottom out, then on the brakes to keep from going on over into oncoming traffic. Pretty scary stuff. I took one more lap on the night track and decided that I just didn't care for it too much. I was having too much fun riding fast on the big track than trying to ride short and technical. I discovered later that I actually had flexed the bars on my landing so badly that I displaced the cross bar. It ended up pulling itself over about an inch and tweaking the bars. Time for a set of Pro Tapers!

A couple more rides on the big track and I'd had enough for the day.

I still can't say enough good stuff about my new YZF. This thing is a rocket ship that handles fantastically, jumps and lands better than any bike I've ever been on. It does everything so much better than my old '96 RM250 and riding it is total pleasure. I'm finding that I'm starting to actually attack berms, accelerate better and sooner and ride at a higher speed than I ever did before. Life is GOOD! Tomorrow will be the first test of the Moskito. I really hope that the front end doesn't dive like I think it's going to. Time will tell - check back tomorrow and I'll try to have a full update of the day!


January 15, 2000 - This Stinks.

First, I was under the impression that there were going to be thirteen lites at the race. We ended up having SIX show up and only five of them were working. Seems that one of them decided it didn't want to race and ate it's engine while being LOADED!

I really want to thank the guys that did show up. It took guts to take on Pace and say we were going to race no matter what.

I was really pumped up about getting to finally run the Moskito on a stadium track. But I had three fears: 1) How would the car work? I only had about 20 minutes of actual seat/track time on it. From what I'd seen, it looked like it was going to work, but today would be a real test. 2) Would the nose dive on me or was that my driving? During my shake down testing when I would jump the car, the nose seemed like it was diving. I'm not sure if it's the car of if it's me being timid and taking it easy on the throttle. 3) Would the drive train (CVs) hold up? The left side had given me problems already. I'd narrowed the rear of the car by 1/2" on each side hoping to get more clearance for the CVs, but would it work under race conditions?

All three of my questions were answered during practice.

First - the car worked great. It handled fantastically. It actually steered! In fact, it may have too much front end bite. This shouldn't be a problem, though. With a bit more testing and setup, I should be able to dial in just the right amount. The suspension works great. Pace likes to put "fingers" in the corners and along the back sweeper - the fastest part of the track. These are mounds of dirt that stick out from the inner barrier out into the sweeper about half way. They're there just to upset the chassis as you are flying through the corner. The Pilot HATED these things. They would make it unload the suspension, buck the car and make me fight to hold my line. The Moskito didn't even notice them! I could hang the rear end out under power and just glide right over them. So far, so good.

Second - the nose down jumping problem. Looks like it's more my fault than the Moskito's. As I got the feeling of the Moskito, I began to get more aggressive over the jumps. As long as I kept the throttle pegged, the nose didn't fall too badly. A little more preload on the springs and a little less rebound damping and it should be just right. Once again, nothing that a little expected chassis tuning wouldn't be able to fix.

Third - Oh Boy...

My biggest fear for the Moskito was the drive train. Naturally, it decided to rear it's ugly head for me. This is not a "parts problem". Putting on new pieces doesn't fix the problem. It's a design problem.

For some reason, under load, the axles want to work their way outward into the rear hubs. This pulls the CVs by the tranny apart. Not good! What I needed to do was limit the amount of lateral play and keep the axles from walking out. To do this I needed a piece of UHMW plastic and access to a lathe. I wasn't going to find either of these on a Saturday afternoon. So, I left practice after about 4 laps and put the Moskito back in it's stable (the trailer). I figured that when I got out to Phoenix I'd be able to get the plastic and I knew that ATV would have a lathe I could use.

Down to four cars.

Being that I'm an opportunist, I decided to see if I could run in the Thunderbike Class. After all, I had my new bike sitting in the van. Can you say "Backup Plan"?

I went to Pace's registration booth and informed them that the Moskito was done for Houston. "Can I try a practice with the Thuderbikes? If all works out, I'll just race that class instead." I was given the go and got ready for practice.

I gotta tell you, it's pretty intimidating sitting in the tunnel next to Doug Dubach and other riders of national caliber. I admit it, I'm not the fastest of the bunch!

We got down to the track and started practice. The first thing I noticed was the track was made of "Ego Dirt". This is the best type of dirt there is. It allows the bike to stick in the corners like it's on rails, doesn't produce a lot of roost and lets you do just about anything you want without fear of sliding out. Neat Stuff! (when you finally do manage to screw up, Ego Dirt usually bites back hard.)

The next thing I noticed was that the section of the track for the bikes and quads (where I didn't go with the Moskito) was WHOOPS - LOTS OF WHOOPS! I don't like whoops. They have a nasty habit of eating me. I knew I was in over my head. I wasn't the slowest person on the track in my practice session - I passed three guys that looked more scared of the whoops than me - but I knew that I'd be nothing more than "filler" and a back marker for the fast guys and probably didn't have the proverbial snowball's chance of making the main. Three days into my three week adventure was too soon to end up the victim of a good slam dance with the ground.

I finished the practice session (intact!), pulled up to the registration booth on the way out of the Astrodome and told them that I was done for the day.

My first round of the 2000 series was done by 2:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

I decided to go back in the Astrodome and watch the rest of the practice rounds and then I was going to head out and see what a couple of the local motocross tracks were like. As I left the Astrodome and started to head back to the pits and my van, who should I run across? My BROTHER Greg and his son Michael! Change of plans - for the better!

Greg, Michael and I messed around for a while and then went back in to watch the heat races and the mains.

Pace saw fit to run the Lites as a "Side Show" between the heat races and the opening rounds of the evening's events. I was pretty stressed that they were treating us like they were (not making the Lites part of the main show after the majority of spectators had arrived), but then again, they hadn't made provisions in the series for us, so I can't complain too much. I was also pretty stressed that I wasn't able to race. Life goes on.

The Lite race was actually pretty good. 'Radica'l Rich Pierce in his ATV suspended and powered Pilot and Paul 'Six Toes' Sutton in his Genesis car battled for the blue ribbon honors for the entire eight laps. Rich's 500 engine allowed him to pull the hole shot over Paul (same as I was able to do to him last year), but Paul was quicker once he got his twin revved up and running in the powerband. Paul would run through the sweeper (remember what I said about Pilots and the sweepers) better than Rich and gain a bunch of ground on him, but Rich had the drive out of the corners. Paul tried everything he could to get around Rich and on the last lap Paul set up Rich after the table top and had the perfect opening and shot at taking over first place. BUT, Paul in trying to keep his line tight, he hooked the barrier and lost out. If he'd been able to keep clean, there was nothing that Rich could have done to stop Paul from passing him. Racing at it's finest!

Kurt Gallina and Tom Godfrey brought in third and fourth.

Congrats to you guys for showing up when no one else did and putting on one hell of a race. I really wish I could have been out there battling away with you guys!

That was Houston. I headed on to San Antonio on Sunday and spent a couple days at my parent's place before heading on to Round Two at Phoenix.

Little did I know that that was the end of my 2000 Pace Series racing.

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6/29/01