March 22, 2013

What a great start to our 2013 racing season.  The arrival of our second granddaughter Claire Sassur Johnston on March 8th  set the excitement level on high.  Leaving that highly charged environment and picking up the team at the airport in Jacksonville just kept the emotions at a peak.  Being away from the snow and cold of a very traditional winter in Canada didn’t hurt either.

Arriving at the track, the temperature was actually very much like at home; around freezing but with clear skies and very little wind the conditions improved quickly.  Our first qualifying session had track and air readings very similar to our season ending event last year at Maple Grove.  We were confident that our first lap down the track would make everyone proud and it did.  Paul peddled the car once and still rocketed to the team’s best et and top speed 5.588 @ 262.  Like all racers when you set a personal best and have to “drive” the car down the track you know there is more to come.  Back in the pits we made a few changes in the setup that we thought would allow Paul to keep the throttle wide open and produce a low 5.5 second pass.  On paper this looked good but in reality all it did was produce an almost unmanageable tire shake and slower et’s.   When the third qualifying session was wrapped up we were still in the top half of the field but had slipped from our initial position of #5 to #7.  The positive take away from this slowing effort was the data we were able to collect and we felt ready for eliminations later Saturday evening. The Meritor hot-rod had not really hurt any engine components, the clutch had taken a beating along with Paul and some chassis parts as we never got away from the shake.

Round one saw us up against a strong contender Mickey Ferro. Paul left first with a good reaction time of .024 vs. Mickey’s .040 and never looked back running a 5.688 @ 259 to defeat a somewhat crazy ride for Mickey that saw his car almost hit the wall. This set us up for a long night of bearing replacement, transmission changes and second guessing everything to get back to the 5.5’s for round two on Sunday.

Race day Sunday saw a continued warming trend in the temperature but the sky was overcast which kept the track temp down. Again we were confident that the 5.5 was just a lap away and that round two would do it.  This was not to be, Paul did his job and left first with a .050 reaction time to Headley’s .181 and we got there first with a 5.758 @ 256 effort.  This run produced the most tire shake of the whole event and again we dug deep into the data book looking for something to make the car quicker and driveable.  The pounding was starting to weigh heavy on Paul’s body and the pressure to keep winning does not make the pain any less.

Our next opponent was Todd Veney  a contender who has a reputation for getting inside opponent’s heads on the starting line.  In Maple Grove he and Paul had a good old fashioned starting line dual where neither wanted to be first to stage.  We knew he would not make it easy and the pressure was on Paul to keep calm with whatever Todd did.  Paul staged first and waited for Todd to move into the beams.  After what seemed a never ending amount of time he finally staged and Paul could no longer hold the car against the overheating clutch.  Paul red lighted by .012 of a second and our hopes for a second final round appearance went out the window.  Again we were hit with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a heartbeat.  After getting our emotions back in check we realized that it had been a fabulous start to our season, the earliest we have ever been on the track, the deepest into the program we have gone at our first race and our first of many 5.5 second elapsed time we will have this season.  With the amount of horsepower we are making it is only a matter of time before I’m reporting our first 5.4 et.  Stay tuned the Meritor hot rod will be hitting the track in Charlotte NC  April 19 – 21 and any of you in the area are invited to stop by for some good Canadian hospitality.