36 days into 2014 and the WHO members returned to the Barn for the 3rd race of the busiest season in the club's history. This was Round 1 of Nascar 2014 which would be run on our tri-oval layout.
With the return of reigning Nascar champ Darren and five brand new members coming through the door, it was a bumper grid of 24.
In a strange coincidence, it was Hannah who became the first driver called to the driver stations in Heat one. She was up against Jonah, Mike M and Andy Player, no Parkers tonight. All four fell foul of the "ski jump" Turn 2 (which was later smoothed out) on white lane with Jonah doing the best on there. Andy scored big on the other three lanes and Hannah and Mike both collected a 40+ heat apiece.
Next up we had Stephen, Jon, Simon and Jay. Jon used his Mod winning SG+ in a Nascar spec to post some eye catching big scores in red and blue which were the highest of the night at the time. Simon also scored well in the central lanes while the two Juniors struggled somewhat with unpredictable Lifelikes.
Heat three saw Tyler go up against the big hitting trio of Mike D, Dave and Andrew but curiously all 3 were off their game at various points. Dave had ride height issues with his Lifelike for 3 heats, Mike had to do some serious tinkering between heat pairs to get the best out of his National winning SG and Andrew too had a bad pair of heats followed by a good pair.
The first of our Rookie competitors took to the track next, Corey borrowing the Player Spare Special and acquitting himself very well with some good composed driving. A few crashes here and there left him a bit behind Duncan, Ned and John F but this is hardly surprising with the amount of championships they all hold.
Corey's Dad Neil was up next against Ash, Rick (new Rick) and Brian. It was Neil who came out on top using the same SG as Corey against the three Lifelikes. Indeed the Lifelikes up and down the field looked strangely uncompetitive tonight, although I expect to see them come into their own when we go to a road course.
The final heat was made up of Gareth, Richard, Darren and our 5th rookie Tony. Tony has a great looking 1/32nd set up at home and should find the strong magnet racing of the main WHO classes quite easy to adapt to. As expected Darren's super quick SG trounced the other three comfortably, Gareth scored well in 2 heats and then some poor driving saw him fall below Andy on the grid. How many times have we seen that happen! Behind these two Richard scored consistently to pick up 99 laps from his 3 runs. A good effort.
Rick New Rick used the PSS SG against Jay and Brian. Jay's car had been sounding a bit rough all night but he kept going with it only losing out to Rick by 2.5 laps at the flag. Behind them Brian was slightly quicker than Jay on a lap but problems and adventures saw him take the wooden spoon.
Rick stepped up to the yellow lane and had a great scrap with Tony, the 2 seperated by just over a lap at the flag which was great to see. Out front though it was Stephen who got the hammer down and managed to better his best heat score by 5 laps. Bringing up the rear was Ash whose Lifelike was fast but a little too familiar with the barriers to help his score, the first victim of the tricky white lane.
After his ride height problems in the heats, Dave had finally got the setup right on his Lifelike and he eventually trounced the field from the inside yellow lane. But the race looked very different at the start with the Rookie Junior Corey leading Dave and Richard. But a string of crashes saw him plummet down the order to finish 2 laps behind Richard at the finish. A brilliant start to his WHO career though. Behind Stephen was unable to match his G final driving. White Lane Victim (WLV).
Another final and another brilliant Rookie performance as Neil carried on where his son left off by leading the race until some exciting times saw him off the road and dropping back to third. Dave took the fight to Tyler but the experienced Junior saw him off and hopped up to the D Final while brother Jonah nearly pipped Neil but was just over a lap behind when the power cut out.
Such is the SG+ dominance on the ovals that Tyler's Lifelike was now the highest placed of the chassis in the field. Some surprising names were in the D Final. Ned and Hannah are much more used to the lofty heights of the A while Mike M had been having a good solid run and was looking to progress. In the end we were treated to a masterclass by the two quickest Juniors in the club who became the first drivers in the finals to go through the 40 barrier. Ned beat Hannah by just under a lap, Mike was a few laps down in 3rd and Tyler's Lifelike heroics ended as he became the next White Lane Victim.
There are a lot of Top Guns at WHO right now as evidenced by the C Final reading like an A Final line up: Mike D, Duncan, John F and Ned. Could Ned eliminate his Dad from another final? Sadly for him the answer was no as he discovered that white lane was a bit harder than the blue lane he had just left. #WhiteLaneVictim! From the start we were treated to the spectacle of John leading with Mike down on the inside and keeping very close. Duncan was a little further back and very much in the hunt. As the drivers settled, Mike began to apply some of the most enormous pressure to John as lap by lap the gap came down a centimetre at a time! As Mike passed John, the former leader suffered an off. Hard to tell what happened next between Turn 4 marshal Richard and John's car but we all saw the car taking a rapid trip skywards before crashing onto the floor. Body and chassis separated and John had to resort to his spare car. That allowed Duncan through to 2nd and despite John driving very fast to catch up, he couldn't claw it back. Mike meanwhile took the win and produced the highest score of the finals which matched the best score of the evening earlier from Jon.
From the moment the lights went green it was clear that Mike's car was much faster than any other in the field. He soon had a lap gap from Gareth and Andrew who could only drive and hope he crashed. Which he did because guess what lane he was on? Some over-driving from Mike in his efforts to regain the upper hand meant the win was now between pole man Gareth and Andrew. Despite their fastest laps being nigh on identical, it was Andrew who looked much faster over the course of the race and he recovered from some early offs to cruise pass Gareth and pull out a 9/10ths lead by the chequered flag. Simon meanwhile had suffered a few too many offs to be able to advance from 4th place.
Darren on pole had picked his second best lane of red perhaps to ensure he was well away from white but that freed Jon to pick his best lane of blue. As the race started it was Jon with the better start and he led Darren, Andy and Andrew. The pace was quick, the top two lapping a 1/10th quicker than anything we had seen so far. Jon was the first to blink and he crashed in Turn 4. Darren added a lap before he collided with the marshal recovering Jon which enabled Jon to regain that lap. Andrew had slipped into the lead but the other two were on his tail and then passed again. Meanwhile Andy was far from out of it and despite his chassis lacking straight line speed, his consistent and error free driving saw him going up and down the order as the battle raged around him. Andrew retired after 30 laps as his car suffered a mechanical issue after a smash. A great shame as the former champ was once again looking quick in a final. At the front Jon had regained the initiative and it was Darren who was making the unforced errors. Jon fell off once more but he maintained his lead. In the final 30 seconds the two were side by side but Darren was a lap down. Heart stopping racing though as the cars were never more than a car length apart. At the end though it was Jon who won it from Darren and Andy.
A fantastic night of racing, some incredible scraps up and down the field and a second win on the bounce for our 2013 rookie of the year. Who can stop him in F1?
Ok I know you are all waiting for my report so here it is----- A few very bad choices from those in charge caused an effect felt all night not just one bad call but 2 terribale ones in the space of 5 mins set the tone for the second half of the night. Yes the ref in the football was terrible, he missed not only 2 handballs that should have been penalties but he then ignored a shove in the back for Kevin Davies that should have been another penalty. So to sum up once again this season PNE have been robbed by shocking ref descions! Now on to the race report,,,, there were some cars going round a track.
Thanks Doug. The monthly battle between mentioning as much of the action and as many of the drivers as possible while trying to not be too verbose and bore the casual reader is done for another month!
My aim is to mention each driver and show that someone was watching their racing and offer either sympathy or praise depending on what happened on their night. That can be challenging as I'm sure you well know!
But it was a really fun night. I laughed so hard with Richard's mega fumble of John's car in the C. It was so wonderfully bizarre and no one, especially Richard, quite knew what had happened!
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