JJE Blog

Welcome to the JJE Blog--detailing the October 2007 trip to VIRginia International Raceway for the Production Festival of Jesse (Prather), John (Steflik) and Eric (Prill). We'll log in and update as much as we can, driving from Kansas to Virginia and racing through the beautiful countryside.

Sunday, October 28 - 8 PM EDT (Jesse)

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It was a duel to the end...

What a crazy weekend!!!  It was a good and bad way to end the season.  The trip has been great and the track was great.  I just gave the reins over to John driving the toter after 6 hours and the wonderful scenery in West Virginia has helped my mood.  I had such a good and clean race with Brian Linn two weeks ago that today surprised me a bit.  Now that it's a few hours after the race I think that I can report without profanity.  

The race was about 10 in the morning which was new for me but also great for getting loaded up and down the road in a timely manner.  The start was absolutely the slowest I've ever seen but that was just fine.  Going into turn 1 all I saw was an EP Datsun Roadster with all 4 locked up sliding through turn 1 completely out of control.  That could have been really bad.  As the race progressed David Bryson and myself went back and forth pretty much all around Miner Wilcox with us passing him in the corners and the Caterham blowing our doors off down the straights.  I finally got around David and we did a ton of drafting with me pulling him down the straights in the draft.  My data shows me in the draft on the front straight behind Miner at over 130 mph.  On one particular lap past halfway David and I went side by side down the backstraight after he pulled out of my draft and into the fast left hander.  He thought he outbraked me, wrong, and took the usual line into the next tight right hander at the top of he hill.  I went into the grass in order to avoid him and lost complete control in the grass as one would expect.  I couldn't prevent from coming back onto the track and we hit.  What a mess.  

I got back onto the track and John said I was about 4 seconds ahead of David and that he was still going.  I took the next lap fairly easy to make sure the car was ok and in that time he caught me again.  I slowed up going under the bridge and pointed him by and then followed him for the last two laps.  Going into the last lap I thought I might just try him again in a good spot to try and make the best of it.  I got a good run onto the long backstraight and got into his draft, this was going to be easy right??  Wrong.  He pulled to the left which was the proper thing to do considering he wanted to protect the upcoming left hander.  No problems.  I got a run and pulled to the middle of the track coming to the side of him.  There was a slow HP bugeye to the far right of the track, getting out of the way which was perfect.  We'll just go three wide and I'll make the pass before we get to the end of the straight.  Well, David saw this about to happen and pushed me over to the right, using the lapped car as a pick so I just let up and followed him to the checker.  He did not hit me, just moved me over and I just don't race that way.  What I've come to realize is that I race a certain way and expect to be raced in the same manner.  Because I was not raced in this manner today I was extremely pissed off and skipped impound to go get started packing.  It's just a regional anyway.  

So the moral of the story is that even at the top ranks of SCCA club racing, you still have to be prepared to modify your racing theory.  I'm not personally going to change my style of racing but will be prepared the next time I'm presented with this situation.  There's no way David or I could have gone as fast as we did without each other's draft and that was so much fun I can't even explain it.  For that I applaud him and thank him.  I'll be back to VIR again sometime, it's a great track and a wonderful facility.  We're nearing Kentucky and should be home by noon tomorrow with a few hours sleep tonight somewhere.  It was great meeting a ton of new people and kudos to the Coffin's for putting on a great event.  Those whoopie pies were the best!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 28 - 2 PM EDT (Eric)

Well, we're back on the road heading West. I'll tell my story and I'll leave Jesse to tell his. Today started with a 10-minute warmup session at 8:20 AM. I went out and I think the Champ was just finishing up his last chapter in dreamland. It was cold but I wanted to check on some jetting as Saturday afternoon's leakdown showed I had a #2 cylinder that was not completely healthy. I was seeing EGTs over 1400 on that cylinder in the morning warmup and we made another jet change just on that cylinder before the race to see if we could help it live.

The start was insane. I'm not sure what the #50 Datsun was thinking as he went four into the grass on the right, still accelerating, as we headed for turn 1. Miner Wilcox went by Jesse on the left and I was not too far behind he and David Bryson as we went into the brake zone. Well, as you can imagine, just as a car doesn't stick real well in the grass, it doesn't brake real well either and that Datsun swapped ends and slid across the track in the middle of turn one scaring the begeezus out of everyone. I nearly got on the radio and yelled "Look Out!" to Jesse but I realized that wouldn't be much help. Somehow, he made it through without getting tee-boned. Crazy...

I know racing's all about standing on the gas, but sometimes you just gotta lift!

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Good ole #2.

So I realize on my first lap up the back straight that I can't rev the car past about 6700 in fourth (instead of the 7800 I was seeing in qualifying) because the EGT on #2 was up to 1450. I had a little dice with Sam Moore's cool BMW Z3 (I wonder why we don't see more of these?) EP car before he finally drove away. It kind of sucked having to lift in the Uphill Esses, up the back straight and front straight to keep the EGT under 1450. Gradually, as the race progressed, I was having to back the revs back even more to 6500, then 6200, then 6000 to try to keep the EGT low. On the last lap, I saw it go over 1500 (that's piston cookin' temp!) for the first time and I was just nursing it home. I saw Gregg Crandall coming hard and Peter Morton not far behind him. My last lap was a 2:30--13 seconds slower than my fastest and I just did manage to make it across the finish line before Gregg.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and I should have put that spare head on last night but oh well. It wouldn't have put me in the hunt to win anyway, but might have made the race more enjoyable. Jesse and David were absolutely flying and even my theoretical lap over the course of the weekend was still about 3 seconds off their pace. Probably not a great Lotus track, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless.

I did end up with the second place trophy, but I'll let someone else tell that story.

Thanks to Prather Racing for allowing me to be a part of this adventure. Thanks to the Coffins and everyone who helped put on the Production Festival. It was a nice, relaxing way to close out a long year that started, for me, in February in Texas. Thanks to Miata John for being a part of Jesse and Eric's big adventure and another thanks to Mrs. Prather for the good eats. 

To my Mrs. P--I'll be home soon!

Saturday, October 27 - 10:40 PM EDT (Eric)

Late checking in. No photo.

Beautiful day. Low 70s lots of sun after the cloudy morning practice.

Practice, the track was still a little damp but drying. It was only 10 minutes and we got a feel for things. Both Jesse and I figured afterward that finding a clear lap might be tough in qualifying.

Qualifying was sunny and great conditions. What a fun track! It inspires you to want to be a race car driver.

I get a semi-clear lap early as does Jesse and he's in the 2:15s and I'm in the 2:16s. After I try for a second and catch traffic, I slow and we hook up. We're both on radios and run two-straight attempts at a clear run only to find a slow moving vehicle in a bad spot. Only problem with this track is you can catch traffic in a bad spot and not get by for a while (at least no blue MGs have run Jesse off the track yet!--and this is not directed at anyone at VIR). The climbing esses are a fantastic piece of asphalt to run through over 110mph, but it's single-file only.

Anyway, we finally set up for a flier and Jesse ran a 2:13. I found some traffic and didn't improve. I think I could have maybe done a 14, but who knows.

But it's all for naught as local star David Bryson runs a bit faster than Jesse for the pole. I'm third at a low 2:16. We're surrounded by EP cars so the start should be interesting. There are some pretty long straights here so the EP cars are able to stretch their legs.

We attended the Prod Fest shindig this evening and the Coffins did a great job. Lots of good eats and company. Big thanks to everyone who helped put it on. Pumpkin/cream cheese whoopie pies rule!

We finished the night off by our campfire watching my in-car from today, Jesse's in-car from the Runoffs, my in-car from the Runoffs and Peter Morton's race from Grattan this year. Good stuff.

Straight to bed now. Need to get up to run hardship at 8:25 am and the race should be shortly after 9:30.

Jesse said he's too tired to type so he'll post something Sunday. Too many whoopie pies. He says he needs his beauty sleep and we all agree...

Friday, October 26 - 9:55 PM EDT (Eric)

About two hours ago, John said it was done rainin'

It's still pouring. It's a good thing John's good at his job because he's a crappy meteorologist.

PS, My driver's suit looked like I went swimming in the lake after the sessions. I've never been that wet. I'm talking like Noah type rain. Jeez...

PPS, This track is awesome. The beach paddock...eh, not so great. But the track is pretty outstanding.

Friday, October 26 - 8:21 PM EDT (John)

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Sittin by the fire, stayin' dry...

Rain.  Lots of it. All day, regardless of my weather predicting skills.  My iPhone has been a good link to the weather, but it can't stop it.  

Eric and Jesse made it out this morning, and found out where all the puddles are in pouring rain. It always seemed to get a bit better right before they got out, but of course, it would pick up and drench the session. In the afternoon, I must of had a dejected look on my face in the morning sending the guys out and Jesse handed over the reins and let me have a look at the track first hand.  Not wanting to do something stupid, I was a bit timid in trying to decide what to do, but eventually, I decided that I came all this way, learned to drive the toter, have eaten all the fantastic food that Jamie made us (more on that later) and drank their beer -  I better give it a go.  

Climbing into the car, Jesse leans over and tells me the goal was to "bring it home in one piece."  Intimidation just climbed a notch or two.  New track to me, not sure if it was left or right out of the pits, or where exactly the track goes after the top of the hills.  

"That is my goal."  What else was I going to say?

Awesome track.  Even the character of this place is unique and welcoming.  Plenty of runoff room (not that I was going to test that) and some very signature corners that I would bet are spectacular in the dry.  

I miss my race car not being here...

Now, back the important part - Jesse says he realizes it, but I need to second it.  Jamie has taken care of us this weekend from the food end of things.  After every pre-made home-made meal, I tell Jesse that I need to send Jamie a big thank you for the awesome food.  So here it is:

T H A N K  Y O U ! ! ! 

Now that I have dwarfed all of the other postings (and I am the graphics guy!) we are sitting at the fire having a beer and I am the only one with a laptop out, so my list of thanks comes to a close with a big thanks to Jesse for allowing me the opportunity to give the track a drive in the National Championship winning FP Miata.  People can't buy those opportunities.  Thanks! 

Friday, October 26 - 8:40 AM EDT (Eric)

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Miatas are so huge you can't even see Lotuses sitting next to them!

We rolled in at 5PM on the dot. Uneventful trip save for some rain.

Speaking of rain, it's been raining since we got here and is in the mid 50s. It feels like the Runoffs 2006! It's supposed to rain all day with some possible thunder. We're going to leisurely head down to the tower and register for the test day. Need to make sure the gearing is okay and learn which way the track goes, even if it's on rains.

Set up last night and hung out with Greg Crandall. Guess he was a Kansan for a time before I became one. The production paddock is near the grid and right next to the west bathrooms. Nice spot although I didn't realize the last time I was here (for a Pro Race) that the paddock is made of sand. It's washing away in spots and creating some ditches.

Oh yea, P Morton, we saved you a spot--better get here fast so nobody takes it while we're playing in the rain.

Nonetheless, we're having a great time...wish you were here, whoever is actually reading this.

Thursday, October 25 - 11:15 AM EDT (Jesse)

Thursday morning is upon us.  We finally stopped last night/this morning at 2am about 60 miles east of Nashville.  It's not easy finding a rest stop, etc. after midnight because of the multitude of truckers on the highway.  Anyway, the furnace worked thankfully and we got about 6 hours of sleep.  It's now about 10:30 and we're past Knoxville heading through the beautiful hills of Tennessee.  Apparently, the gates don't open up for racers until 5:30 but we're going to see who we can bribe to get in earlier.  John's at the helm for now and the Garmin says we should be there by 3:30.  Hopefully we can get all set up today because the plan is to run the test day tomorrow just to enjoy the track and become a little bit familiar with the layout.  That's all for now.  More to come later hopefully at the track with a cold one or two.  The rest of you, BACK TO WORK!!!!!  HA, HA!!!


Wednesday, October 24 - 4:00 PM CDT (Eric)

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Jesse (left) and John truckin' down I-70 in Missouri.

We're on our way! Just after 2pm Central, we finished loading the Prather Racing Pace stacker trailer with the two-time defending Champion and two-time defending fourth place (can I please get a podium?) F Production Runoffs cars. At about a quarter to three, we're headed East on I-70 and should be in Virginia in approximately 18 hours of drivin' time.

A little background. A couple months ago, after driving a kick-ass video simulator featuring VIR, I said to Jesse that I'd love to drive there for real. Jesse mentioned that VIR is his favorite race track, which is in line with pretty much anyone I've ever talked to that's been there. After a little discussion and asking the wives if we could go racing so soon after the Runoffs, we planned the trip, assuming we both made it out of Runoffs in one piece. Jesse had the unfortunate task of re-assembling his motor after the Runoffs (boo hoo!) and I had to apply a fresh coat of wax. Otherwise, we were ready to go.

Last week, we asked John if he would come along and serve as trusty wrench/additional truck driver/comic relief and he was in too.

We're looking forward to a weekend of fun, no pressure racing and most of all...NO WORK!

Tune in frequently, as we'll post whenever we feel inspired.


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