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Great Weekend of Racing in America’s Heartland

Pacific Junction, IA -- Three diehard Challenge racers ventured out to Mid-America Motorplex for a weekend of awesome racing June30th and July 1st. Brian Sanders (Cincinnati, OH) and Ed Boothman (Naples, FL) traveled twelve plus hours to join Gary McDaniel (Kansas City, MO) at his home track. “Gary travels considerable distances to run in the OH/IN region on a regular basis, so it was our turn to reciprocate,” said Sanders. Besides the company of Gary and his family and friends, as far as seat time goes, this weekend was well worth the trip. Other than just the regular NASA weekend of racing, Friday was a test and tune with up to nine hours of track time and a 2-hour endurance race on Saturday.

This race weekend actually started early Wednesday morning with Ed arriving in Cincinnati at Brian’s house to do some work on his car. The two racers spent the entire day installing a new race seat, right-side net and radiator. Those were the main tasks and several smaller ones were accomplished. That evening, after wrapping up work, Ed treated Brian to a Mexican dinner as thanks. Then Ed loaded up and set out on the long trek to Iowa. Brian headed in for a good nights sleep and took off bright and early Thursday morning.

Friday morning Brian and Ed arrived at the track for a track sponsored test and tune. Ed had a few last minute things to do to get his car track ready and spent the morning on these things. Brian took advantage of the cool morning temperatures and set out learning the new track. In the last session before lunch, Brian turned his fast lap of the day at a 1.44.69 but was not able to duplicate this again. And since this was not an “official NASA” timed session, this time had little meaning. After lunch, Ed set out for his first session on track. After getting his first look at the track, Ed sat down with Brian and discussed the line and driving it. Both drivers went out for a lead-follow session to help speed up Ed’s learning curve since missing the morning sessions. Towards the end of the day, Brian set out on a 5-gallon fuel load to try and gauge fuel mileage for the Enduro. And after turning his 150th mile of the day, decided to call it quits. Ed opted to run a couple more sessions.

Just before Brian’s last run, Gary and his entourage showed up and began setting up. Arriving with Gary was his wife Sally, car builder Richard Oben and friends Pete and Irene Tork. Joe Gilmartin arrived Saturday morning to join the team. These people were to make up the bulk of the Enduro pit crew for all three racers. Throughout the weekend, additional family and friends showed up and lent a hand.

Sally and the Tork’s, along with Richard’s grill, set up and fed the team a hamburger and hot dog dinner. It was delicious and welcomed after a hard day of driving. After eating and sitting around catching up, we called it a night and headed for our hotels.

Saturday morning, the Team arrived early at the track for a drivers meeting. When using the term “Team,” we are referring to the three Challenge Series drivers and the pit crew. This crew would be servicing all three cars in the endurance race. So even though we would be competing against each other, we were approaching this as a Team concept. As Team FFR, we wanted to show three strong in the Enduro.

In qualifying, Gary turned the fastest lap at 1.45.016. This time would hold up all weekend and will be recorded as the FFR lap record. Brian was almost a half second behind with a 1.45.460. And Ed, still trying to come to terms with the track, in third.

During the lunch break, the Team went to work on preparing for the Enduro. Parts, tools and supplies were gathered. Simulated pit stops were practiced. Everyone knew what they had to do and was anxious to put it into practice.

At the drop of the green flag, Gary took his pole position and led into turn one with Brian closely on his tail. While these two were battling, Ed was never too far behind, waiting to capitalize on a mistake by either. He almost had his opportunity more than once. It was amazing that on several occasions that paint was not traded between the two. On the beginning of lap 6, Brian and Gary decided to test the limits of threshold braking entering turn 1. Somehow Brian came out on top and took the lead without taking both of them out. But a short 2 laps later, Gary made the same move and regained the lead. So Brian settled back in behind Gary and chased him for the next ten laps. However, late in the race, Gary was able to put a Firebird between them that held Brian up long enough for Gary to stretch out his lead. It looked like it was over for Brian. But luck was on Brian’s side as the Firebird driver realized he was splitting a race for the class win and let Brian make an easy pass. Two and a half laps later, he was right back on Gary’s bumper. With only 2 laps to go, Brian made numerous attempts to rattle or pass Gary but to no avail. As Brian and Gary took the white flag, Brian pulled out for his last best attempt for a pass and as luck had it a slower car came into play, blocking Gary’s line and Brian stole the lead. As Gary worked to get past the slower car, Brian opened up a lead. With nothing to lose Gary pushed his car hard and spun in turn 10 sealing his fate. Brian went on to take the checkers and the win, followed by Gary and Ed. Brian turned the fastest race lap which NASA uses as the “official” NASA record. It was a 1.45.334.

Now with the sprint race out of the way, the Team had two and a half hours to prepare for the Enduro. Cars were fueled. Water bottles and coolers filled. The pit area was set up and the drivers took a rest.

The grid for the Enduro was set up by class with the faster cars up front. This meant that the three Challenge cars would start in P2-P4. A full report on the Enduro can be read by following the link below. I’ll just touch on a few highlights here. Brian and Gary were never lower than P4 until Gary’s car started losing power and unable to turn more than 4000 rpm around lap 43 when he made his pit stop. Ed was never lower than P6 early in the race and worked his way up to running P3 before his stop. All three drivers held P1 when they made their pit stops. After the cycle of pit stops Brian reclaimed P1 and Ed, P2 overall and kept these positions to the end. On Gary’s stop, they attempted to remedy his problems and he went several laps down. Once again FFR challenge cars have proven to be incredible endurance racing cars. To cap it off, after the race, it was learned that Brian and Ed had not only finished 1-2 overall but were the only two cars on the lead lap!

I know I speak for all three drivers when I say that this could not have been done without the excellent pit crew we had!! Our crew pulled off three perfect pit stops with no penalties. Not many of the other 9 teams could claim this. Thank you to everyone involved. It was truly a team effort!! After awards, pizza and beer, three truly tired drivers called it night. Well, that’s not completely a true statement. Gary, Richard, and others spent quite a bit of time trying to sort out Gary’s ailing car.

Full Enduro Race Report

Sunday morning Brian arrived at the track just as Ed and Gary were about to head out for qualifying. Brian had decided to take the morning off to recover from two days of hard driving. Upon arriving at the track, Brian is sad to hear Gary is still suffering car problems and qualifying confirms this. Ed took the pole with Gary in second and Brian without a time taking third.

As the green flag fell, Ed moved into the lead and led for 2 laps followed closely by Brian. Gary fell off immediately as the car performed no better. After two laps, Brian took the lead and never looked back. Gary finally retired on lap 12. Ed ran consistently and finished second.

There were two other replicas in attendance. One, an FFR, and the other, a big block Contemporary, both running in SU. The Contemporary only finished ahead of the Challenge cars by 9 sec. one day and 14 the other. The SU FFR finished 1:34 behind the Challenge cars on Saturday and retired early on Sunday.

While this was a Midwest event, the three OH/IN regulars will be returning home to run Mid-Ohio on July 14-15. Then, the very next weekend, Ed and Brian will make the trip to the Midwest at Autobahn and the second Enduro of the year. They will be joined there by Lyle Riggen.

C’ya at the track!

--Brian Sanders

Page last updated: 07/02/2008

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