Friday Night, January 22, Holiday Inn, Minneapolis, MN
It would seem that the "Bad Luck Bug" has decided to take a bite from me and then continue to feed. What a day...I never broke a SINGLE thing last year...guess all those parts are now deciding it's time to give up!
First practice, second lap, I go around a tight left hand corner and low and behold, I'm suddenly up on my two right side wheels....STEER TO THE RIGHT!!!....I'm now back on all four. I go ahead and start back into the left hander and suddenly the right front side of the car falls down. What the hell is going on? I hit a bump and I can see my right front tire dangling out in the breeze. Oh what fun. I figure I lost the nut that holds the lower a-arm in place, letting the suspension collapse, so I try to limp off the track and proceed to get stuck on the whoops. Damn!
The track crew drags me back to the pits with a Bobcat and when I get out of the car I discover that the nut is gone, as I figured, but the problem is that the threads of the ball joint shaft are STILL IN THE NUT!!! I broke the ball joint shaft and a tie rod end. Now, the ball joint is is not a part that I carry with me in the trailer, so I make a quick (well, sort of) phone call to ATV Racing and I find what part I need....a Volkswagen Super Beetle part. I'm also informed that I have to machine it to work. No big deal, as Brian Bernloehr - a buggy racer that I met racing last year - owns a machine shop here in Minneapolis. He tells me to get the part and I can use his one of his lathes to modify it as needed.
So, off I go to the auto parts store. Two shops later, a bunch of wrong turns and becoming lost once, I have the part - well, I've paid for the part, but, I have to go across town to get it. Off through the wild snowy world of St. Paul/Minneapolis at the beginning of rush hour I go. I get to the warehouse, they hand me the part and it's the WRONG ONE!!!
A quick phone call to the auto parts store to check the number again and they say yes it's the right part...no it's not. I leave the part at the warehouse and ask if I can get my money back and I'm told no. They say you have to go back to the store for a refund. Back at the store, I discover that the warehouse took the wrong piece of paper and handed me the order form, not my receipt back. They won't give me my money back! Out the door I go ranting and raving that I expect to see a credit on my next Visa statement. I get on the phone to ATV Racing (again!) and Jay tells me the new part will be here tomorrow morning - I HOPE!!!
This is getting ridiculous!!!
Actually, I've kept really good spirits about the whole adventure today.
"Please O' Great Red Label Shipping God, Get my part to me in the morning before practice!"
I'll be sitting here in the hotel room waiting on that early Saturday morning delivery, probably watching some movie. What a wonderful way to start the day.
January 27,1999, Sitting in my hotel room in Phoenix, AZ
What can I say, I HAVE to get this gremlin off my back!!!
I got my new parts Saturday morning, got the car ready to go and was feeling really good about the race. Practice went great, well, pretty well...I was having a problem with the back of the car trying to bounce too much, and the heat race went pretty good too. Joe ended up winning it, even though I pulled the hole shot and finished second behind him. The race, how ever, didn't go quite as well.
I once again managed to pull the hole shot on Joe, but as usual, he cut right under me and proceeded to stay out front. His car handles the corners so much better than mine (right now). I stuck with him for a couple of laps and then, in the same place I bicycled the car on Friday's practice, I rolled it. I HATE those little "bumps" in the middle of the corners! By the time the corner workers got me back on all four tires, Joe was coming around to lap me and I found myself in seventh. To make matters worse, after the track crew turned me over, I got really out of shape over the back table top and when I landed, the steering wheel jerked violently and I managed to hit myself in the side with my elbow and break a rib. At least I finished the race! After the race, I went back to lick my wounds and discovered that I had managed to bend the same bolt in the suspension that I bent in Houston, but on the other side. I wasn't sure what I was going to do now, as I was heading to Anaheim from Minneapolis. I needed a machine shop.
I find it pretty ironic that I rolled the car in almost the same spot last year, costing me the championship and number one plate.
I really have to thank local Minnesotan Brian Bernloehr for his help with my car. Brian owns a large machine shop (Custom Contour) just to the south of Minneapolis. I was able to take my car to his place and while he replaced the engine in his Super Modified Buggy, I was able to make new pieces to replace what I had broken bent and get the rear end of the car back in race ready condition. Also, to make things even better, Brian said that he may not be able to make the El Paso race and I just may get to substitute drive for him there in the Super Modified Buggy class! Getting into a full sized vehicle after driving the Pilot could be really strange.
I made it to Phoenix this morning and things are looking up. I expected that I would have problems finding ATV Racing's shop, but, as luck would have it, the second exit as I entered Phoenix was Deer Valley Road. It just happens that this is where ATV Racing is located. I hope this means that my luck is changing.
I finally got to meet Neil, Jay and Donny. These guys have been putting up with my phone calls and helping me out for the past couple years and are some of the nicest, most helpful people I've met in a LONG time. They opened up the back of ATV Racing for me and let me set up shop so I could work on my car. Jay proceeded to help me do a couple upgrades as I pulled the front end off my car and went through it, fixing the steering problems and straightening bent parts. Jay also helped me go through the suspension setup on my car and get everything aligned and adjusted. I went from having a bad push to being able to do donuts in the parking lot - something it's never done before. Hopefully, I'll have something up my sleeve for Mr. Price in Anaheim this weekend
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