The line between great and not so great is thinner than ever in Thunder Valley.

NASCAR iRacing Series Week 8 at Bristol was one of Greatness and not so Greatness. Wednesday we ran the first of the Open races and it went well, no yellows as I came around to complete Lap Five.  A short time later I found I had completed eight laps . . . and had 31 minutes of repairs. A handful of cars had planted themselves across the track and I had no place to go but through them. The team worked on the car as I grabbed a bite to eat and when they called me back I was a good 85 or so laps down and in 26th place. But I was not the only one to have issues; it is Bristol after all!

I came out with my new engine, lots of power, but my hood still pointed to the sky. With fast cars working by me, slower cars often made it three wide as they drove to the apron any time a car came up on them, the track was a mess to find your way around. I was so far down in the field that it took almost 50 laps before I moved up even one place in the standings. Needless to say, by the end of the race I did not have a finish to brag about, but I took the team to dinner for the great job they did repairing the car and getting it back out on the track. She came home 15th and that was better than I had expected. This hard workout for all would find my team 13th in the standings only dropping one spot from 12th.

Then there was Thursday night’s Fixed race. Not wanting to be part of the first mess of the night I went easy, letting the cars ahead gap me and letting anyone that pushed by. The race was good, very good for me as I came home with a clean car (as in 0 INC) and a 6th place finish. I even led three laps, but how? We had all pitted under yellow except maybe two cars and then had a small 10 or 12 lap run. I saw no reason to pit at this point, but all the guys ahead of me were called in for one reason or another. As the cars circled the track I could see the pace car five or six cars ahead. As we reached the line and took the green my spotter called out from the rooftop “Ha! You’re the new leader!” But it was early and I took off quickly, let everyone know they could pass me high if they were faster and I would not hold any one back.

Then there was Sunday Night of the Fixed Race. In this race I started back in the back of the grid and, again left a gap and logged laps. This time the race had a number of longer green flag runs. There were two times before the half way point that the leader would come within five seconds of putting me a lap down only to have a yellow fly and save me. This happened a third time late in the race. In the last 60 or so laps the guys on the lead lap were starting to race as if we were in the final 20 or even 10 laps. This created one and two cars spins that would put me into the top 10. This was nice, but still a bit bitten from the Open races I would start in third gear and let a gap open ahead, dropping to 11th or 12th each time.

In the last 20 laps we had a couple of quick yellows and the final restart took place with five or six laps remaining.  This start would make or break the races of those on the first three rows; each would roll the dice. I was lined-up on the outside in sixth and, as we came out of Turn 4 to take the green, I got right to the bumper of the car ahead. As I touched the brakes all the other cars took off and I again was gapped with just half a dozen laps to make this up; even the seventh place car beat me to the line. This would all work out though as the second and third place cars spun their tires, sending both cars sideways and opening the top of the track for me and the 4th place car to wrap around the top and move into P2 and P3 as we came out of Turn 2. The car that has been under me and beat me to the line lifted, which made it three wide as he punched through to fourth,while the next car behind me on the outside would moved from seventh to fifth in one of the more eventful finishes of the season.

This has been in interesting season so far in the Fixed series. I have this third place at Bristol and fourths at both Daytona and Phoenix. The open series has been far more effort as I have no top 10s. My best finishes are an 11th at Phoenix, 12th places as Atlanta, Auto Club and Texas and this 15th place at Bristol. The other three races are two 16th places and a 20th place.

Notes to come soon on Week 9 from Pratt’s Motor Speedway (aka Richmond International Raceway) . . . and why I have asked the International Speedway Corporation to rename the track for me!

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