Saturday – Race #2 GTL Race #11 ULSB
Sunday – Race #5 ASRA Team Challenge
Coming off of the AHRMA races the weekend before, I was fresh and ready to rock at NJMP. The weather forecast was for humid oppressive heat and the grids looked full of racers. This would be a Team Challenge weekend for me, so Saturday is the only day I have to play in the sprints. The TC race on Sunday takes enough energy out of you that only a few people are crazy enough to do more races in addition to the TC.
The LWT team turn out was a big as ever and after unpacking in the heat Friday night, we all went to bed expecting a great weekend. After turning a few laps in practice to make sure the bike was running right I settled into the start of the GTL race. The race was a fantastic 25 min challenge between William “Chad” Finnerty LWT #60, Mark Evry, Dangerous” LWT #215, and myself. The four of us spent a solid 9 laps diving in an out of each other and letting the heat get the best of us. As the race pressed on we took turns missing apexes, out braking ourselves, or just flat out missing markers. By the last few laps Mark and Chad pulled a second lead over Dangerous and me. The two of us had a few great moves but in the end I was able to hold #215 off at the start/finish line after getting a great drive onto the front straight. My final position was 13th out of 17 riders, but it felt like getting on the podium for me. In all of the excitement I turned my personal best lap time at NJMP of 1:34.671.
The next race was ULSB where #215 and I again spent the race fighting each other. Thankfully he was able to get the whole thing on video. After that battle I finished in front of #215 in 10th out of 15 riders but in my mind I saw nothing but Mark Evry the entire race. I really wished I had gotten around him. Mark just had a 1/4 second a lap over me and I couldn’t get under it. I was able to turn a 1:34.8 in that race, but Mark’s 1:35.0s were more consistent and kept me behind him.
That afternoon and evening the fact that we had a Team Challenge the next morning set in. The LWT Racer group would be entering a record four teams in the GTL class. Everyone seemed most interested in holding back from the beers, staying hydrated, and getting a good night’s sleep. The weather forecast was calling for record high temperatures, sunshine, and humidity.
After a few laps to wake up to riding Todd’s 171 SV in morning practice we started moving our gear out to pit lane to prep for the race. The heat index was forecasted to hit 107 that day and it took everything in your power to stay hydrated out there. None the less, Todd and I planned to stick to our tried and true ‘short/long/short’ approach where Todd turns two short stints separated by me lasting as long as I can out there.
After the invocation and Star Spangled banner we jogged to the pit lane to pull the bike out. As we did our final pre-flight check and examined tire pressure we noticed we were down a staggering 10 lbs in both tires! This prompted a MAD scramble to get air. We started working fast when the LWT #61 entry of Sam Wiest and William Finnerty shouted over for the same air tank. “We’re short 10 lbs of air.” I shouted the best response which in hindsight saved the entire race. “GET ME ANOTHER AIR GAUGE – THIS ONE IS BUSTED”. Will scrambled onto the TTR-90 pit bike and blasted his way back into the pits. When he returned they had already announced “Third Call – all bikes to the grid”, but our warmers were still on and we were unsure of the pressure in our tires. When we got the gauge, we were not low 10 lbs – we were dealing with a broken pressure gauge. We did our minor adjustments and ran the bike out of the pits with our hearts racing. Not the best way to start a 3 hour race and we missed the out lap, having to push the bike right out to our grid position.
Once the bikes started off for the TC, I was able to breath again and relax. The race had started and now it was time to execute according to plan. I spent the next 15 minutes working on ingesting as much fluid as I could and getting my body ready for what was about to happen.
Todd was expected to do 25 laps, so when the call came from the wall on lap 18 “TODD IS COMING IN” I knew we had a rough fight on our hands. Barely ready I pounded a Red Bull, Gatorade, and suited up. We threw a full tank of fuel in the bike, spilling 1/4 gallon in the process and I jumped on the bike to get out and do the long stint. Much to my dismay as I came down the front straight I saw the “meatball” flag for a rider infraction for our team #171.
What I found out later was that in our fuel stop our team had tried their best to contain the fuel spill while we were still fueling the bike. This violated one of NJMP’s rules that only the fully dressed fuel team can touch the bike while fuel is being transferred. Thankfully the pit lane at NJMP leads itself to quick stop and go penalties and we were back out there the next lap after only losing about 15 seconds.
I would like to regale you with all of the intimate stories of the next 41 laps in the 107 degree heat, but I was happy I had clicked into my rhythm and had the laps pass by as best as I could. The only highlights that stuck in my mind was being able to see some of the LWT team bikes as I went around which provided some fun chasing down, following, or just waving at as we crossed paths. Todd gave me some good heads up as I crossed lap 26 and when I had broken 30 laps. I was still feeling strong and tried my best to stay out so Todd’s final stint could be a reasonable sprint to the end. After 39 laps I started signaling that I was going to come in and on the 41st I came flying into the pit lane for the final fuel stop and rider change.
When I got Todd out there, I started to find out what had happened in my absence. Todd’s short sting in the beginning was due to him having a hard time holding in vomit out on the track.
Sam starting off for LWT #61 pushed to hard to stay in the lead on his stint and ended up having to head to the ER for an IV. I had avoided most of the heat issues from keeping a calm head and setting a reasonable pace [1:37 average] whereas Todd and Sam were both sticking under 1:35.
When the checkered flag flew, we were in third place behind LWT #61 in second, which had the final 51 laps done sole by Will. With the adrenaline still pumping we went to the podium and all celebrated in Sam’s absence.
About 10 min after that, it sunk in. We [every last one of us] was on the verge of heat stroke and had to take emergent precautions. I grabbed my 6th bottle of fluids and rounded up all of the racers and sent us to the media center where the AC was on full blast. Most of us by then were unable to speak and just relaxed as best as we could while giving our bodies time to absorb the fluid we were forcing in.
We all survived, in one way or another – had our laughs and headed home after that. We all packed up a little slower and took our time heading out but the LWT team had an amazing showing in the heat. Next up for us is the Team Challenge race in August at Summit Point West Virginia. Thanks again to my wife, the LWT Team and Family, and my mechanical sponsor Speedwerks. Photo credit goes to the lovely Knockout Photography where watermarked.