Homestead Recap (or How I learned to Hate Jimmy Buffet Music) - Bill Heumann
3/7/10

It seems like race weekends are defined by all the weird stuff that happens. Kind of like a family vacation,.... only doubly so.

Seth and I had prepared for the race by joining Chin Motorsports for a two day event a couple of weeks ago. Chin runs a great event with lots of track time. Mark and Maria treated us like royalty and arranged for our run group to get a session on the pro course (less infield but includes Nascar #3-#4) for one session on Sunday. We got tons of track time in my IP race car with lots of support from Randy Mueller of Epic Motorsport. This included a major engine overhaul (head gasket and harmonic balancer) Saturday night so we could run on Sunday. It's a true friend that will stay up all night so that someone else gets to drive. Especially since he gave up a Bahamas trip to do it! Thanks Randy!The result was that Seth got me to where I was very comfortable and fast on the track and had started working on some technique improvements that are costing me time.

So fast forward to this race weekend. We had a promoter test day starting at 1 PM on Thursday. My only real job was to get the feel for the car since I was already pretty comfortable with the track. The lack of aero and running on our series spec Continental enduro tires verses Hankooks can sure take one's bravado away! At any rate I put down some decent times and was getting more and more comfortable with the BimmerWorld/GearWrench E90.

On Friday we had two practice sessions then a 15 minute qualifying session at 5:05. Dave and I decided to go out at the tail of the pack for qualifying, get a nice gap, then do our fliers. Dave went out a little in front of me, due to me being held up to be scolded by a grid official. I really had no idea what my infraction was at the time because the guy was yelling at me through my helmet, earbuds and engine noise. So I go out at the very tail and allow what I thought was a big enough gap (about 200 yards) to the two cars in front of me. Despite this being a single class, that wasn't enough of a gap and I caught them by T3. I made the mistake of backing off to build another gap for the next lap instead of making the best I could of out of that lap. On the next flier I was on a good lap for me through T5 (T1-T4 were usually my weakest parts) but when I hit the brake zone for T6 all hell broke lose. The car had an electrical short which killed ALL power. I locked up the brakes and spun to a stop in the middle of T6 facing oncoming traffic. For about 5 minutes I fiddled with various combinations of master switch, ignition, start button, etc. while watching cars come at me under waiving yellow, until blessedly, I got power again and got the car started. I got one lap on flat spotted tires before the session ended so I qualified pretty poorly (P28). Dave did an awesome job qualifying P10 with what would be one of the fastest lap times we would get out of the cars all weekend.

The electrical short was diagnosed as a broken wire hidden by shrink tube in the right rear quarter of the car (coincidentally, the corner I crushed in my test day mishap at Daytona).

Morning practice on race day went well and we were ready to go. Due to a misunderstanding of the schedule we missed gridding our cars properly so both Dave and I had to start from the back of the field. This wasn't too much of a change for me since I had qualified so poorly but for Dave and James it was a real setback. We started working our way up through the field. Within two laps, the GS leaders had caught us and things started getting really wild with a fair amount of carnage but we continued to make our way through the field. Due to worries about a cooling issue we had been fighting in the #81 car we pitted early under a FCY and did the driver change at just over 30 minutes into the race. Seth got in and started doing his usual magic of cutting through the field. One of the many incredible things about Seth (besides of course that he is Seth Thomas!) is that he can consistently put down qualifying speed laps in the heat of racing. While everyone else in the field falls off by .5 seconds or more from their qualifying times in racing, Seth kept hitting fast lap after fast lap regardless of traffic or race conditions. When the normal pit rotations came around we were leading the race for a while, but we needed to bring to Seth in for a splash of fuel due to the early stop. We ended up in fourth just behind my friend (now SOB) BJ Zacharias in the a RSR Mini. Congratulations BJ!

Meanwhile Dave and James drove an outstanding race without error on their parts and ended up in seventh. But for a series of very bizarre race control instructions and some bad moves from competitors they would have been higher. I'll leave it to them to explain the weird stuff. All I can say is that it should be entertaining to watch Speed TV try explain it on the air.... which probably means they will keep the coverage on the GS cars while the most crazy stuff is going on.

Despite some bad luck, the team held together and came away with both cars in the top 10. In this field, that is a great accomplishment and we are all very proud and pumped for the next race at Barber. The crew did outstanding jobs on all of our pit stops which is critical to having any chance of success in this series.

Thanks to the lovely Crystal Mueller for helping the crew with various tasks but, most importantly, for arranging our food for the weekend. It was delicious and makes a big difference going into an enduro!

So why do I hate Jimmy Buffet music now?

Homestead has a paddock wide PA system that played Buffet music almost non stop from 8 AM until we escaped at around 6 PM. Now unlike some of the other team members, I didn't mind a little Buffet now and then and usually Florida is a good place for it...... but 10 hours a day? Really?

As I finally made it to my departure gate Sunday morning I realized that the most demanding toughness training that comes from pro racing isn't from the racing itself, the hours practice, or even the continual comparison of every minutia of one's driving techniques to drivers like Seth, James and Dave. It comes from the continual challenge of dealing with airports like Miami International (and driving on the streets in places like Miami). But that's a whole other story!

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