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NASA Midwest Season Opener

An International star studded cast represented the FFR community at the season opener at Blackhawk Farms Raceway in Illinois near the Wisconsin border this Easter weekend.

Considering that last year’s event was cancelled because lack of interest and this year’s event scheduled for Easter weekend it was not surprising to find all of 2 drivers ready to fly the Factory Five flag. The good news was that one of us would set the track record and the other would possibly win the race or worse case scenario would come in second. The fact that this was my first ever race and the other driver was the very experienced Lyle Riggen from Channahon, Illinois I really did not have much doubt about the finishing order of the races. Had the race been scheduled for a different weekend we could have expected a possible five Challenge cars in attendance. Maybe next time!!

This was Lyle’s first NASA experience having raced extensively with the other sc- something whatever bunch. He was ably supported by a timer, mechanic, bottle-washer and cook all rolled into one in the form of his lovely wife Julie. Just how do some guys get such an amazing crew? When we were short changed on practice time it was Julie that got qualifying extended an extra 10 minutes. When the hot pits did not make sense it was Julie that had the NASA officials standing to attention. The hot pits layout was changed shortly there after.

The driver’s meeting was somewhat long because the format was “changed” to be the same format as the Nationals. Not having a great deal of experience on what was normal, I just sat and listened to the grumpy old men that didn’t like change or just couldn’t understand some fairly simple instructions. Even though there was a very small run group of just 20 cars they still arranged a split start. Lyle qualified 4th overall but they positioned him 9th on the grid at the back of the AI, AIX and other groups. Well at least I had someone to follow that looked familiar.

My first race and I sucked the big one, blew the start, blew the first corner but soon settled down to keeping out of trouble, staying on the black bits and not bumping into anyone. Lyle was just plain fast and I never saw him again. Twenty five years of racing experience showed this weekend. And guess what? He gets to put his name on the track record for our class at BFR. The Mustangs should probably change their class name to AIX Off-Road Challenge because every other lap the yellow was thrown because a Mustang could not keep it on the not very straight and narrow. I raced about 15 laps without seeing a soul until a couple of local hot shoes in Miatas came up behind me. They were racing each other very hard so I just let them both through and then sat on their tails for the next 7 laps. I actually learned a lot from following them. I could have passed them on the straights but thought it best to let them race each other and stay out of the way. On the penultimate lap another Mustang rejoined the track after seeing how much grass and mud he could plaster all over his car. He passed me and then tried to out-brake both Miatas at the end of the fastest part of the track. He successfully ran them both out of control but they managed to recover. I was in back taking extreme evasive maneuvers. On the final straight to the checkered flag I could not resist passing them for a 9th overall finish. Sadly, I found out later that Lyle had lost 3rd and 4th gears and had dropped out. And guess what again, I won!! A very shallow victory, but I got signed off for successfully finishing my first race.

As per usual my weather jinx was with me and the next day threatened major thunderstorms so I went home to face the War Department and beg forgiveness for not helping her cook and clean in preparation for her thirty eight immediate family members that were coming for Easter dinner. As I write this I hear her calling my name. I should have stayed at the track sitting in the rain!!

--Graham McNeill


Page last updated: 07/02/2008

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