2002 Race Report
4/26 - 4/28 Road America
If you'd like to see the track layout and how to ride it, check my 2001 race reports.
Unless you've raced Road A, you can't imagine how thrilled I was to find out that CCS was going to have 2 Road A weekends this year. It's an absolutely fantastic track, and everything else that I've been on pales in comparison. 170mph is achieved in 3 sections of the track, and the 130mph 1/2 mile, knee dragging carousel is incomparable.
They set up the races at Road A as a 'double sprints' weekend. Meaning that Sat & Sun are identical schedules and only sprint races are held. Friday traditionally has no races, but this year they started running the GT races on Friday along with practice.
I made it to the track in about 1 hour as it's pretty close to home. The weather was pretty cold (high 20's) and the line was already 50 people deep at registration. Thankfully I pre-registered. I made it in and set up with time to spare before first practice. I headed over to tech inspect and had the bike approved.
To prep for this weekend, I ended up replacing the brake pads on the right side as they were nearly down to bare metal. Now, the brakes have not even touched the rotors, so as I left tech, I dragged the front brake slightly. Well, I'm clipping along about 20 mph and the brakes got hot and grabbed the rotor. The front tire of the bike locks up and slides to the left. Natural reaction, I slammed my right leg down and saved the bike, but at a HIGH cost. I got back to my pit and had to call some people over to hold the bike while I got off because my right knee was totally shot. I didn't know if I could walk. I got off the bike and managed to hop/limp around enough to get by. Oh well, it'll have to do. Don't think anything's broken so we're racing.
I managed 2 practices just to see if I could ride, and to bed in the brakes. The practices went fine, and my leg was manageable.
First race was the GTU: I was gridded up in the front few rows, but suffered a poor start. I managed to get into a decent rhythm and held a top 10 spot for the first 1/2 of the race. Then my leg started killing me. Couple that with some nasty slides on the cold - green track and my lap times dropped 2-3 seconds. I ended up with an 18th or 19th place finish. Not good, but still managed to beat 30 others without crashing.
I slept at home on Fri night and downed some good muscle relaxers. Looking at my injury on Saturday, I realized that it wasn't one injury, it was 3. One injury to my right knee, on the outside joint, where the calf muscle connects to the knee. The second was that my calf muscle knotted up tight as a violin string which was the source of most of my pain on Friday. Thank God the muscle relaxers fixed that. And the final injury was a pulled muscle on the front of my ankle. Now the pain is in my knee where it belongs.
The weather is looking to be COLD and raining today. Great, just like the rest of the race weekends so far. The first race of Saturday was the MiddleWeight SuperSport - Again, gridded somewhere in the front I ran an okay race, but simply didn't have the right 'winning' mentality in my head. On lap 2, I closed in on my buddy Matt Weber #440 who is a target of mine this year. I caught him on the straight and inched up beside him. We're PINNED in 6th gear, side-by-side in a sick game of chicken. The demons of turn 1 got to my head, and I thought "I'm in the middle of the track, and if I take turn 1 at a faster pace, I need the whole track" so I grabbed the brake about 1/2 a second after my normal braking marker. Matt FLIES past me opening up an instant 100yard gap.
I ended up a paltry 12th. The funny thing is that a good friend of mine, Phil Lambos, was over from Minneapolis. Phil is an expert in CRA and they classed him as an amateur in CCS. He started on the absolute last row of the second wave and ended up passing me. It was pretty cool, and I was very happy for him.
I talked to Matt Weber after the race and he laughed and said there was NO way he was going to lose that position. He said he was planning to run straight off into the gravel before letting off for me. Sick bastard! (wish I had coco's like that)
The rain and extreme wind set in shortly after our first race, and the day became a crash fest. By early afternoon, riders were complaining of an oil slick that stretched from turn 2 through turn 12!!! CCS called a meeting and we were made aware of the situation and asked if we wanted to continue, or race for double points on Sunday. Everybody as far as I could hear was saying 'double points', but apparently one guy with a loud voice was right next to the CCS official and wanted to finish out the day, so that was the vote.
I was planning on just staying around to finish the race and get whatever points I could in the MiddleWeight SuperBike. When the wind started gusting +40 mph and was ripping canopies up and throwing garbage cans around, my wife asked me not to race. Normally I'd argue, but she puts up with everything I do racing wise, so I felt I had to honor her request. We packed up and went home early.
No hint of sun today, simply cold and rain. I donned the rains and hit the track. First race today was the MiddleWeight SuperBike (the race I missed yesterday). It was a 2 wave race with experts up front and amateurs in the 2nd wave. I got a decent start and raced towards turn 1. Some experts mixed it up and went down in turn one so there was a waving yellow. I made it around 2 slower riders before the yellow, but had to slam on the brakes to not pass a 3rd guy under waving yellow. I hit the brakes and 3 people FLEW by us. One being my friend and fellow racer Eric Custar (#465) and another being my buddy Phil Lambos (#314) (rotten bastages).
I got past the incident and dialed it on. I ran a good race, but couldn't catch the 3 which managed an incredible gap from passing in the waving yellow. On the second lap, I came into Canada corner and saw Phil standing on the side of the track with his bike in the kitty litter. I yelled at him as I went through the corner, informing him that he sucked. Later he told me there was oil on the outside line of the track and he hit it. I managed a 9th out of this race.
Second and final race for Sunday and the weekend was the MiddleWeight SuperSport: The rain had stopped, but it was still so cold that many riders were still riding on the mostly dry track with rain tires. I opted to go back to DOTs. Talking to an expert who also races AMA and runs Dunlops (as I do), he said to lower the pressure as low as I could get it and still maintain traction. He claims to have run as low as 24lbs. I dropped the rear to 27 and front to 28, and slapped the warmers on 1hour in advance.
I hit the grid knowing that my tires had the most traction they would have during the first lap and it would go downhill from there. I had a great start and was #2 into turn 1. I did my best around the track, and felt pretty good. The front stuck like glue, but the back managed to slide in (still wet) turn 6 and Canada Corner. On lap 2, 2 guys outbraked me into turn 5 only to go through it about 20 mph slower than I would have! I ended up getting around one of them, and the other one crashed in turn 7 while in front of me. He threw a wall of gravel up in front of me which I rode straight through. I lost a few places in the second lap, but regained one when some guy (I'd call him a fool, but he was only trying his best) tried to outbrake me in turn 1. Well, he's on the inside and grabs a handful, hoisting the rear end to the sky. He rides a spectacular stoppie right off the track. I made it around him with no problems.
On the final lap (lap 3), I'm counting bikes and as far as the eye can see, there are only 4 in front of me. Cool! That makes me 5th! That gets me wood! There's about a 2 second gap between myself and the bike in front of me, and I'm sliding the rear all over the place so I don't really want to push it. I settled for what I thought was 5th, only to find out that there was a leader who had a 45 second lead on all of us. Damn, that puts me 6th...
No wood, but I managed to make it through the weekend without crashing and added 2 more top 10 finishes to my resume. Now I've just got to STOP with these LAME injuries that I'm experiencing!!! Haven't had one decent crash yet, and I've got 2 injuries to my right leg!
All in all, it wasn't too bad of a weekend. 1 week later, and my knee is hurting worse now than on day 1, so I'm going to visit Doctor Twist-N-Poke again on Monday.
Special thanks goes out to Terry Embury of Hi-Sideracing.com for working with his vendors to RUSH me new brakes and gearing!
Phil talked me into running the Team Challenge with him at BlackHawk on 5/18, and I'm REALLY looking forward to it. I'm really hoping that my leg holds out and we can do well. For this special event, we have a new team name.
Jeff Kufalk - AKA SpongeBob
Phil Lambos - AKA Squidward
Come on out and see us and even lend a hand with a refuel or whatever. It's going to be a good time!
Thanks to everyone for your support, life wouldn't be the same without this, and you all help make it happen for me.
See all of my pics at www.sliderphoto.com. Just pick an event and rider #42!
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