Toyota 200 @ Willow Springs, California
After a long drive across the country from the AMA season finale at VIR, I arrived at Willow Springs for the Third annual Toyota 200. For those of you who don't know, the Toyota 200 is very similar to the Daytona 200 - with pit stops and tire changes, with the exception that there are no rules on the bikes (aside from the obvious safety regulations), you can run what ever bike you would like in what ever state of tune you would like (I don't know about you but that just sounds fun)...
The race is held in conjunction with a normal WSMC weekend, so there are other races on Saturday: the 250/50; the Toyota 200; and some novice races on Sunday. We unfortunately had a mishap on Saturday with my Crew Chief crashing during one of his races and giving himself a pretty bad concussion. This meant it was up to me to manage the organization of the crew, schedule practices, prep the bike, and all the other last minute stuff that always comes up (talk about poor leadership…eekkk). So needless to say, things got pretty hectic. Of course we had a bunch of last minute problems, after getting through it we were finally ready to race.
The green flag flew and we were under way - I didn't have my best start ever but managed to work through it with a really good first lap. We came around on lap 3 in tow behind Jack Pfeifer (eventually finished 4th) and with Ben Attard (eventually finished 3rd) in sight. We pretty much stayed like that - Jack, Jeff Stern, and myself, swapping around until the first round of pit stops. After the pit stops I wasn’t sure what position we were in until the end, as it is pretty confusing in races like this.
Our first pit stop went really well we were out of the pit in approx 30 seconds (not our best, but pretty darn good). At this point in the race I started to really play the conservation game to make the front tire last. We had planned to run the whole race on one front tire unless we had a red flag (no quick change front = 2 or more minutes to change the tire).
Before I knew it, we were nearing the second round of pit stops. I was not really sure what lap I was on because my lap timer had mysteriously quit working at the start of the race. Thus, I came in to the pit a lap early. I was supposed to signal for 2 laps consecutively, but I missed the signal the lap before and the crew was not ready. Expectedly, the pit stop went very wrong. The crew did a great job, when they saw me coming down the pit road they swung into action. The rear wheel we were putting in had a spacer that liked to catch on the swingarm. We all knew this, but ran out of time to get it modified before the race, so we had to roll with it. Well, it screwed us in the end. It caught when they put the wheel in and it went down hill from there, the battery died in the impact gun and we thought the axle was cross threading. After about 1 1/2 minutes we were finally out of the pit. We went from an easy 7th place to a hard earned 9th place… frustrating, but still a very fun race.
I really need to give a big thanks to Tom Spence at Project Management Service (www.projectbuild.com); to JQ Moto for helping me all these years; and to CRS Pirelli Tires for making and distributing the best tires on the market.
Without all these people my racing would have stopped many years ago.
I also need to thank the volunteer crew - OZ, Steve, Tom, Jessie, and Jeff (the guy with the concussion) -- don't worry one of these days I am actually going to buy dinner :)