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Sep 5, 2008
Author: Bobby Martin

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It's been a dream season for us this year, but we got a taste of reality on our double header trips to Bowling Green and Indy. Bowling Green started out fine. We qualified on the pole and that secured the Spitzer Cup, something that Frank had as a goal from the start of the year. That was pretty dramatic as we were tied with Mick Snyder going into the race. Whoever qualified higher would win the Cup. But Daniel Wilkerson and John Bojec were also within striking distance if Mick and I messed up. Closing it out with the #1 spot was doing it in style, that made it extra nice.

Race day was hot and the track was tricky. We got past first round okay, but the semis against Mick was tough. This was a big match up for division points. The Parkertech/Lane Automotive/CAP Charger was a little too much for the middle of the track, and it slowed me down just enough to let Mick get by. Daniel got Mick in the final for his first win of the year.

Frank and the boys were still pumped about Indy. We felt we had some power and that power would be essential at this race. Indy is unique in that there are four qualifying sessions. As a side note, I don't think I've ever run all four sessions, either due to weather or by choice. This time we needed 'em as we really struggled to figure out the track. The first two runs were in the 5.80's. For Q3 (third qualifying session) Frank got mad. He basically went to his Norwalk combination and the resulting 5.62 was just what we were looking for. But in this tough field, that was only good for sixth. We needed a little more.

Here's the situation. It's the last qualifying session, just one shot left. On the plus side, our .62 will definitely be in the show, AND the session is on Sunday morning under good conditions for performance. Frank and Dan let 'er rip. Most of the time, when I make a good run, it's so smooth that the lack of drama makes it seem slower. All I can do is wait for the crew to tell me how fast it was. This time was different. The car was a rocketship. It just blasted off right down the middle of the lane. But then came the dreaded flash from the engine compartment. I pulled the chutes, and before I came to a stop, the Safety Safari was right along side. There was no fire and I was fine, but it torched the left head and the block. Even with the problems, it still went 5.600 at over 257, the second quickest run of my career. It would have been well into the .50's at over 260, and maybe #1 qualifier. We'll never know. I do know it was going 207+ at half track, the fastest ever for me. A lot of other teams improved and we went down to eighth. Frank orchestrated an engine swap with Mike, Larry, Kyle, and Kevin all doing their jobs along with Papa Dan. They had it ready in plenty of time.

First round was against Vern Moats. The wily veteran qualified ninth with a 5.61. I have never beaten Vern, but I never really made a good run against him either. I went up there very methodically, not in any hurry, because most of the veteran drivers carefully take their time. Even so, when I staged, I had to wait for Vern to come in. No problem, I got the jump .055 to .144. It shook a little, but again no problem, our Hemi has enough power to drive through it with a little finessing from the cockpit. I was just getting ready to pull the chutes when BANG! we had a classic blower lifting event. The burst panel went flying, the engine quit running, and out came the Safety Safari again. That let Vern go by with a 5.79 at 246. We ended up with a 5.99 at 196. Rats.

I gotta tell ya about that Safety Safari. In a Charger, you cannot see anything unless it's way ahead of you. On both incidents on Sunday, that Safety Safari truck was in view along side of me before I even got the car stopped. Then, when I did stop, they jumped out, lifted the body, and the first thing they do is say, "Are you okay?" Then they check for fire and then for oil on the track. There are about six people all over that car in seconds. And remember, they don't know what they're getting into at that point. There could be an explosion or something, who knows? In both cases, there was no fire and I was fine. But they don't wait for a problem to develop, they just move. We thank the Safari people after every run, but this time I want to say a special word of thanks. They were not only doing their jobs, they performed with excellence and they showed genuine caring concern for me which kind of chokes me up a little.

The rest of the race turned into a finesse fest. The track got hot and brute power alone wasn't gonna do it. It was painful to watch the final where Von Smith beat Roger Bateman 6.03 to 6.32. It's tough being on the sidelines knowing you had a car that could win. But we had a problem that at the end of the day we still hadn't solved, and those two guys did their jobs well to make it to the final. The prognosticators were generous, but I don't think they were wrong. We're gonna try to get our mojo back in Dallas. Thanks for reading. And check out the Norwalk Victory Photo Gallery. This stuff is sweet.

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