Kakashi Racing takes two wins at Pocono Double!!!
This was a very good weekend for Kakashi Racing.It started out right, and continued that way throughout; I was telling fellow Nissan racer Joe DiMinno that we musta had the racing angels watching over us. From being the very first two cars in line for registration on Friday to not having *any* major mechanical problems, it was just one of those once-in-a-while Good Weekends.
Joe and I are both real surprised at the results. It's not that we didn't expect to do well; we most certainly did, given our cars' strength is engine, not handling. Still, we are a bit surprised and flattered that this course favored our cars so much. You should have seen him after the qualifying session results were posted; the guy didn't come off Cloud 9 all day!
The qualifying session was a good clean one. The track is large and wide open enough such that you have the flexibility of either running solo or with others, at your convenience. The long straights allow drivers to sufficiently separate the diverse horsepower and handling advantages/disadvantages, and folks tend to stay out of each other's way. Since I'd never run this course (I hadn't raced at Pocono since the Double National in 1992, and it was a different track config) I followed out "Mr. This Is My Home Track" DiMinno. He was right: there's not really a lot to this track. Go fast, apex late, push on the loud pedal on the straights. He and I hooked up in the draft and pulled off some quick laps for 1-2 qualifying - 7th and 10th overall of 30 cars - with Andy Bettoncourt (Miata) and Ed Rodier (Integra) knocking on Joe's rear deck lid.
Then the clouds started to develop and thunderstorms formed. Two sessions prior to our race the skies opened up and dumped serious rain. Get this NER folks: it actually SLEETED again (is this a new tradition?) It wasn't one of these New England all-day-low-clouds pisser kinds of rains, it was a Midwest thunderstorms-pounding-your-head-and-then-sunshine kinda rains. Everyone stood in the garages, under canopies, and inside trailers watching the skies trying to figure out what to do, and we had two race groups to figure it out. Up to ten minutes before our race it was still pissing rain, but it seemed to be draining well enough. With five-to-the-five most folks tempted the Fates and proceeded to the grid with dry tires.
Race #1 was a wildcard, depending on where you were in the field. The rain had stopped and the track drained, but the surface was still wet. Polesitter Kip VanSteenburg paced the field at a very fast clip and Joe made a KEE-ILLER start, passing me going under the green flag. We were surrounded by ITS cars jockeying for position so I tucked in behind Crazy Joe, fully expecting him to take out a few of 'em for me <grin>. Things settled in within a lap (folks spread out quick there) and I stuck my nose on Joe's, uh, derriere and watched the mirrors to see who was working their way up. Then I see it, my arch-nemesis: Andy Bettoncourt in the blue mosquito. Damn Miata! And he's rolling his way forward, catching both of us.
Flash back 15 years: I was racing my NX in SSB at the '92 Runoffs. Mark Youngquist (in another NX2000) and I broke away from the field and charged forward, with me in arrears. I was faster, but I called in on the radio to Matt Kessler (yep, same guy!) and asked him to find Youngquist's crew and tell him to stop blocking me, that we'd work together to draft away and work it out between ourselves late in the race. Mark continued to run defensively, Matt couldn't find Youngquist's crew, and a train of cars was rolling up on us. Matt was yelling, "F*** him; pass him and let HIM deal with them!!" but I was determined to work together. Long story short, the train caught us, I got knocked off the track, and Mark went on to win the gold medal uncontested.
I was DETERMINED to not let this happen again, I wanted that first ITA win. So, I drafted my poor buddy Joe into the chicane, passed him, and dove into the lead, leaving him to deal with the mosquito. Not to be outdone, Joe gave me a nice tap on the quarter on turn-in to let me know how much he loved me. Bastard <grin>.
From that point forward it was a matter of managing traffic and keeping Joe at a safe distance. I worked my tail off to get past slower traffic and get some buffer between us, extending the lead as he got caught in traffic, and on top of that he was getting his butt knawed on by the mosquito. As the track dried and a dry line developed, everyone got faster, but a couple of laps from the end the sky got REAL dark it started to sprinkle! That "1" board couldn't come fast enough, but except for the rain scare it made for an anti-climactic finish - for me, anyway.
The weather on Sunday was a bit more stable, with low clouds, close temp/dewpoint spreads, and mist but no rain forecast. We started in the order of finish from Saturday, which put me in 4th overall and Joe in 6th, with Andy and Windell Holmes right behind. I was on my guard at the start and led Joe into T1, passing a couple of ITS RX-7s. Jeff Harding in an ITS RX-7 caught and passed me cleanly, then Ben Phillips in his ITS car made a banzai pass to slot in behind Jeff. I tried to hang with these guys to build a buffer to my buddy Joe, but they were just too fast on the straights. Joe got caught behind some cars so I did have some room to breathe, but right about that time I started to develop a monster push in the infield. To make matters worse, Windell had caught and passed Joe and they began working together to catch me. I was running solo with no drafting partner, the push was getting worse, so I just put my head down and drove as clean as I could to maintain the distance. Right about the time I calculated they'd catch me in two laps, the "1" board came out at start/finish; I knew that unless I did something stupid the race was in the bag. I didn't, and crossed the checkered flag with a comfortable margin, 5th overall, with Windell, Joe, and Andy 2nd through 4th. Unfortunately, Mr. Holmes neglected to read his Fastracks and was DQ'd for being underweight, so the official finish copied Saturday's.
As you can imagine I'm quite pleased. These are the first (of many, I hope) wins for the car in ITA livery, and a satisfactory result of five years of determined work, engineering, and fabrication. I can't say enough for the efforts of Matt and myself in finally garnering the results we've been so earnestly seeking. However, this race foreshadows the potential of not only Joe DiMinno in his rocket Nissan but Andy Bettencourt in that demon Miata; somehow I suspect I won't be close enough to swat that mosquito at LRP...
It was fun, wish you were all there. See you at NHIS. - GA
Results, courtesy MYLAPS.COM:Saturday Qualifying
Saturday RaceSunday Race