Made it to Spencer, IA
I survived the Gold Cup and I made it to Spencer, IA, I will cover the Gold Cup and my eventful trip to Spencer later. Right now I'm parked in Spencer, IA by the A&W Rootbeer, hopefully I won't get kicked out of here tonight, there are signs that say no overnight parking, so I will find out later if the cops come and wake me up in the middle of the night. It is Thursday night at 10:50pm and I am watching the searies premiere of "The Apprentice", basically a bunch of loosers who all have some kind of sob story about being laid off and not being able to find a job. Please, if my 18 year old can find a job in less than 5 days, some one with college degree's and job experience should be able to find a job, they are all just to damn picky and all expect huge salaries. Now they are all bitching at eachother as they try to design a modern NY office space. Enough about a stupid TV show, lets get you all caught up on what I was up to last week.
Monday Sept 6th, I was camped at Elma, WA watching the weather just hang around wanting to rain, but it never would. So, I went to work after having a late lunch with Gaye & Walt at Betty's in downtown Elma, our waitress was an 80 yr old nice lady, I called her Betty, figuring that she was the original owner of the joint. Her name wasn't Betty, but we called her that anyway, the fun part about Betty being our waitress, watching her refill our coffee, about half the pot hit the floor and not in my cup, thank god I held it over the floor and not my lap. I made it to work and found out the rest of the guy's decided to set everything up early, so then we all just hung around to see if the rain would hold off. Well, just as Luci & Lynda were about to set up the pill draw, the rains came pretty steadily and the races were cancelled and rescheduled for Tuesday. The weather forecast was worst for Tuesday, but since we had already driven an extra 700 miles (Cottage Grove after Edmonton then back to Skagit) just so Elma could have a rain date, well now they get to use it. I wish we could take off for Chico, but no we have to stay in Elma one more night.
Tuesday, I actually woke up around 9am to blue skies with white clouds, my hopes were up and it started to get a little warmer. Walt and I went out for breakfast to the Rusty Tractor, just down the road from the fairgrounds. If you have never had the chance to eat Yak (yes I mean the animal, Yak), well go here, they have Yak burgers, Yak sausage, and other Yak inspired dishes. I didn't go for the Yak sausage, but I did have a big omelette. Looking at the radar, a bunch of rain was coming, but it had to make it over the mountain to get to us. After all the teams got parked in the pits, the weather turned crappy and it rained lightly for about 30 minutes, making a mess of the pits, but then it stopped and just misted or stopped raining completely, you could tell none of the teams wanted to unload, but Luci & Lynda opened the pill draw and we had a drivers meeting. Right after the drivers meeting, here came another rain shower, but not a bad one, but enough to really piss off all the teams. The promoters at Elma, boy they never would cancel, they just kept hoping for a miracle, anyway, to make a long pissed off story later, they finally cancelled at 7:30pm. I'm sorry they had to cancel, but they should have cancelled at 5pm, you could tell it was hopeless by then. So, now it was a race to Chico, CA, my plan was to travel with Walt & Gaye, that way if either of us had a problem, we would be there for eachother. We left the track around 8:30pm, and headed south on HWY 12 to I-5. It rained on and off all the way to Salem, OR, where we arrived around 12:30am stayed the night at the WalMart.
Gaye wanted to arrive in Chico by 3:30pm so she could cover the 360 race Wednesday night, so she had us up at 6:30am and on the road by 7am. We stopped in Cottage Grove to top off out tanks with diesel at the Safeway gas station, where the price was $2.96/gal. We were back on the road by 9am and headed for the mountains in Southern Oregon. My motorhome was running good, except I was still having altenator problems and my temp guages weren't very accurate, but that didn't stop me, I was going to get to Chico come hell or high water. The worst mountain climb is over the Syskiou's south of Medford, I cruised up the mountain in 3rd gear with no issues, passing the spot on that climb that my parents lost their first motorhome (1978 Winnabago Chieften) in 1986 to a fire. Walt and I made good time and arrived in Redding, CA out of the mountains ahead of schedule. Driving through the Lake Shasta area, I was quite surprised that this year there was water in the lake, it was probably only down about 100ft, where last year the lake was down over 300 ft and just a tiny creek, not a lake. Shasta Lake is where my family always vacationed 2-3 times a year at my Grandparents house in Lakehead, CA. I learned to water ski at age 4 and finally got up on one ski by age 7. When Waly & I got to Red Bluff, CA, we went our seperate ways, he headed for Chico on HWY 99 and stayed on I-5 to Corning, CA where the diesel is the cheapest and there is a dump station. As I drove to Corning, I could see a huge thunderstorm headed straight for me, it looked like a huge Midwest storm, something you don't see in CA very often, especially in Sept. I got out of Corning before the storm hit and headed for Chico, I arrived at Silver Dollar Speedway and got settled in at Woody's usual camping spot right inside the pit gate before the storm hit. Everyone else started to arrive around 5pm and after they all got parked in their camping spots, all uf us (Frank & Cathy, Jim & Luci, Bill & Lynda, Eloy, and myself) headed over to the Mexican resturaunt across the street. It started to sprinkle as we walked over, boy was that just the beginning, about 10 minutes after we got seated the skies completely open up. It rained very very hard for about an hour, we really didn't how hard the rain was coming down (because Frank said he was buying the food & drinks, since he won big at the Casino in Oregon where they stopped to have lunch), so we ordered it up and didn't pay attention to the rain. Carlton, Justin, Steve, and Tony arrived after we ordered, but Frank ponied up for them too. After dinner, boy did we find out how hard it rained, the road (a 4 lane road with 6 inch curbs) was completely flooded and flowing over the curbs. I grew up in Sacramento, CA for 15 years, I never ever saw it rain that hard in such a short time (the news reported 4.5 inches in an hour). Needless to say, the 360 race was cancelled, but not before they could load up their cars and leave the pits, there were spots in the pits that had over 2ft of water. All the haulers had to be pulled out by tractor or 4-wheel drive jeeps. I couldn't believe how much water there was, thank god my campsite is on high ground on pavement. Crazy shit, a Knoxville storm in CA.
Thursday, blue skies and perfect temp (75-80 degrees), the pits were drying out, but there was no way we would ever get the big haulers in or better yet, get them out. The track was good to go, but the pits were unusable, so the decision was made to pit everyone out in the hauler staging area where the ground was dryer and harder. The word of the night was cooperation, and everyone was very cooperative all night long and it worked out well. The push lane was over a 1/4 mile away from the pits, so everyone needed to pay attention and leave early. The only real delay we had was for the B-main cars, they took a little while to arrive, but a 8 minute delay isn't bad for the situation. This was the first year that all cars raced each night, forever the Gold Cup was just like the Knoxville Nationals (different point system) but split fields for Thurs & Fri. We had 52 cars Thursday night, so it was the first time all year we used the 5 heat program (top 2 in each heat + 2 fastest qualifiers who transfered made the dash) the heat lineups are top 4 inverted and top 4 transfer. The track was kinda one groovish for the heats, because it was soft from all the rain, but the heats were pretty good, a lot of yellows & reds for 3 of heats (we almost had a fuel stop for a heat race), but we made it through and there was a good mixture and locals & Outlaws that made it to the A-Main. Steve Kinser started on the front row and jumped out to a lead, then on lap 3 his LR wheel broke and he flipped hard over the edge in turn 2, he got pretty damn high (not as high as Zach Zimmerly in his heat race). After Steve's crash, Even Suggs jumped out to the lead, but that didn't last long, he spunout in turn 4 2 laps later (I think he couldn't believe he was leading a WoO race at the Gold Cup and just completely stepped on his dick hard), after that Sammy & Haud waged a pretty good duel with Haud getting out to a good lead with 3 laps to go when he stepped on his junk and did a Tommy Tipover in turn 4 after hooking a rut. Sammy dominated the 3 lap dash to the checkers and pulled off the victory with the hometown favorite Jonathen Allard 2nd, and the other hometown/CA boy Brad Sweet 3rd (thanks to the WoO postponing the 5 race suspension appeals hearing that was supposed to be held on Wednesday). The drive of the night was by Sam Hafertepe Jr, he started 22nd and drove his ass off to 5th, he was the only driver to use the high side above the cushion in both corners, he should have flipped 30 times in those 30 laps, but he managed to keep it on all fours wheels and made it to 5th. It was a good night of racing, it was also a full WoO point race and with Joey & Steve having bad nights and Meyers finishing 4th, Jason took over the point lead by 4 points.
Friday, again another beautiful Chico day, blue skies (not a cloud in the shy) and the temp was warming up (80-85 degrees), the pits were drying out and along with Alan Handy's track crew working on the pits all day, we were able to get all the haulers in the pits and none of them got stuck, that was one hall of an accomplishment. 49 cars showed up tonight, so it was back to a normal 4 heat program. Tonights track was perfect for racing, it slicked off in the middle and a good cushion on top, making for great racing. Paul McMahan and Donny Schatz waged a great 30 lap duel for the win, Paul is a Chico favorite since it was the track where he started and the crowd was on there feet the whole race. Paul led early and Donny got by him in lapped traffic in the middle of the race, Paulie had a good shot at Donny late, but Donny used a lap car as a pick and was able to hold off Paul and take the win. Saldana worked his way to 3rd and with Meyers finishing 5th, Joey was able to regain the point lead by 2 points. It will stay that way to Spencer, because Saturday nights Gold Cup will be a show up points only race (no qualifying). Friday night was the annual Chili Feed/Bikini contest, I don't normally go. But the normal party after was pretty good and I had a few too many beers with Randy, but I was able to make it back to the RV in one piece and I was able to sleep-in the next morning.
Saturday was another beautiful day and warmer (85-90 degrees). I spent 2 hours under my motorhome to try and find the bad wires for my temp guages and altenator, I finally found where the guage wires had rubbed through all the insulation and was shorting out against the altenator ground cable stud, I fixed the wires and moved them away from the altenator and hoped that I fixed my problem. Gold Cup Saturday is always kinda slow to start, first there is the BBQ Ribs cookout (the Placerville, CA group has been doing this for over 10 yrs), the ribs are free for anyone who wants to eat, they do ask for a donation for charity. So, after I filled up my belly with great BBQ & Chili, I was ready for the Gold Cup night to start. With only 48 cars showing up for Saturday and the top 12 from the two previous nights locked into the A-Main, that meant there was only going to be one 7 car C-Main with all cars transferring into the two 20 lap B-Mains. For some reason, the track prep crew decided to dump two too many truck loads of water, so it took forever to wheel pack and hot lap the track into a raceable track. Alan even brought the grader out after hot laps to remove the huge cushion in 3 & 4. Well, during the second B-Main (I think), Lucas Wolfe was leading and coming up to lap Danielle when she just turned right on the front straight just as Lucas had commited to lap her on the high side, well, I'm sure most of you have seen the video on Youtube or on the "Speed Report" Sunday night, it sent both of them flipping off of turn 1. Lucas flipped end over end almost out of the pit fence and into the camping area, instead he hit a tree breaking it off at the trunk (below the ground) coming to rest between the fence and a J-Barrier. When I got to him, I was expecting something bad, but he was already releasing his belts, I asked him if he was alright, and he didn't say anything, I asked him again and he again didn't say anything, so when i asked him a third time, he yelled, "Shit Eric, give me a chance to catch my breath". Then I knew he was ok and then helped him out of the car so the EMT's could care for him. The track had only one groove for the B-Mains, so the top 6 in each B-Main didn't really have any battles, except for the final transfer spot in the 2nd B-Main, Bobby McMahan (Paul's older brother) battled hard and finally got to 6th with two laps to go and was the last transfer to the A-Main. The 40 lap A-Main was a good battle between CA natives, Jason Meyers & Paul McMahan, Meyers might have led all 40 laps, but Paulie never was more than a car length behind. There were to many yellows & reds (red for a fan who got hit by a rock and needed the only ambulance at the track) for Paulie to get by Jason, they would get to lapped traffic, but never stay in it long enough for Paulie to take advantage of a mistake by Jason. Saldana was coming fast on the high side, but he had a tire go down and he had to go to the work area. By the lap 27 red, Steve who started 18th was up to 7th and Haud who started 15th was up to 5th, on the restart Steve got to 5th and was reeling in the leaders. With 3 laps to go, Paulie was looking for a way around Jason and was going to get his chance in lapped traffic, until his brother Bobby blew a RR and didn't drive it off the track and caused another yellow. On the restart, Steve got by Paul but couldn't get to Jason and Meyers took the checkers for the 2nd biggest race in sprint car racing and finally a CA native won the Gold Cup Race of Champions since 1989, but it still kept the WoO regular's win streak intact, Steve was 2nd and Paulie finished 3rd. I'm happy for Jason and his crew Brian & Glen, but I'm even happier for Chris Luck (who in my mind is the best car owner in the WoO), but I have to admit, I was rooting hard for Paulie, if he would have won, the grandstands might of collapsed from all the fans jumping up & down. Overall the Gold Cup was 3 good nights of racing, as for the atmosphere and campers/partiers, it was kinda quite and not as many campers this year, with only 50 cars, I liked the new format, but if we would of had 60 cars show up, they would need to go back to the split format. This was Woody's 33rd consecutive Gold Cup, Woody has never missed a Gold Cup since it moved from West Capital Speedway in West Sacramento, CA (closed down in 1978) to Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, CA.
Sunday, well I slept in to 9am since I didn't have to be in Spencer, IA (1800 miles) until Friday and then got up and spent 4 hours washing the Motorhome, Trailer, & Woody, man did all of them need it. I got on the road at 2pm and my goal was to make it to Winnamucca, NV. If you ever plan on going to Reno from Chico, I recommend you take HWY 70 through Quincy, CA to HWY 395 to Reno, it is an easier drive than going to Sacramento and then over Donner Summit on I-80, that stretch of freeway on I-80 has got to be the worst in the country. HWY 70 is a nice 2 lane hwy with only two good climbs and the Feather River Canyon is a very beautiful drive. My altenator died before I made it to Reno, but my temp guages were working as advertised. I decided to stop and spend the night in Lovelock, NV, about 70 miles short of Winnamucca.
Monday, I was up and on the road by 8:30am, my plan was to get to Winnamucca, fill up with diesel at the Flying J and then change my altenator. Well, I nade it to Winnamucca, but after I changed the altenator, it didn't fix my altenator problem, the new didn't work either. So, now I figured the problem was with my motorhome, so i looked up an altenator repair shop and headed over, I asked the guy to test my old altenator on his test bench, he did and it tested good, so now I needed to find out what the problem was. I was on the phone with Foretravel (manufacture of my motorhome) and with my trusted friends in Deming, NM who rebuild altenators for a living. After 2.5 hours of crawling under my RV trying to find the problem, I finally removed the new altenator and had it tested (it was good also), so I called Foretravel back and with their expert on the phone, he concluded that the extra ground wire (that goes to a different selenoid) that was connected to the negative stud on the altenator shouldn't be there. I didn't think that would fix my short, but I tried it and low and behold, it fixed the short and I put the old altenator back on and fired up the engine and the altenator now works great. Nothing but a 3 hour pit stop, for a simple fix. My original goal was to make it to Ogden, UT, but now I was happy to make it Wendover, NV.
Tuesday, I was up and on the road by 8:30am with a goal of making it to North Platte, NE (800 miles), it was a beautiful day, not to windy (mostly a tail wind), and not very hot (75 degrees). If you are towing anything and heading east on I-80, I recommend taking the I-84 bypass from Ogden, UT to the Wyoming border, because the climb out of Salt Lake City on I-80 is a steep one and the climb on I-84 is very mild (I climbed it it 5th gear the whole way) and it is only 20 miles longer. I made it into Wyoming without any issues and was hoping to just cruise all the way to Nebraska. Well, not so fast, the whole trip across I-80 in Wyoming is at 6,000 ft or higher, well this year my motorhome didn't like the high altitude, I noticed white smoke bellowing out of the exhuast when my RPM's got to 2100 and I was in the gas and the engine would start losing power, if kept it under 2100 RPM's everything would run good. So, my whole trip across Wyoming was a very stressful drive, after calling my Dad, I kept going instead of stopping, i was just praying to make it to Cheyanne, WY and hopefully be able to find the problem in the morning. I made it to Cheyanne around 8pm and parked at the Sam's Club for the night. The climb out of Laramie, Wy was a little iffy, but I just put it in 2nd gear and cruised to the summit at 1900 RPM's at 20 mph.
Wendnesday (for the past 3 years, this was the day we raced at Spencer, thank god we have the extra two days this year), I was up at 7:30am and crawling around under my engine again looking for something wrong with the hoses & pipes going to the turbo or something that was causing my white smoke/loss of power issue. I didn't see anything wrong, so I took off hoping to make it to Kearney, NE to the Cummins Service Center, well when I took off from a stop light in Cheyanne, my problem happened when I stepped on the gas, so now I got a little panicky and tried to get a Cummins place to look at my engine, well none of them would help me before Sunday, so after talking to a mechanic asking him if I could drive it just at lower RPM's to Kearney, NE. He told me if I wasn't having any problems at lower RPM's, then I should be ok. So, that's what I did, I didn't have any more problems and it is all down hill from Cheyanne to Kearney, NE (7ft every mile). I made it to Kearney just before the Cummins place closed for the night, they looked at my engine, tested the turbo for air leaks (no leaks), well then they asked me when I last changed the air filter, I said I put a new one on in Feb. about 30,000 miles ago. Well, to make a long story short, the air filter was basically clogged and at high altitudes and high power demands, the engine was starving for air causing the engine to lose power and the white smoke is basically unburned diesel fuel. Such an easy fix, this is the first year I tried to go a whole year without changing the air cleaner (trying to save $100), well I learned my lesson, now I will change the air filter every year at the Knoxville Nationals, then hopefully I won't run into this problem again. I have to thank Bruce from Lincoln, NE for being there for me if I needed it. If my RV would have had a major issue and needed to go into the shop, I was going to drive it to Omaha and leave it at the Cummins shop and Bruce was going to barrow a F350 dually so I could get Woody to Spencer & Deer Creek for this weekends races, I can't be missing any races. Thanks Bruce for being there for me if I needed it. After leaving Kearney, I drove to Norfolk, NE to the WalMart and spent the night.
Today, after sleeping in to 10am, I was back on the road at 11:30am and on my way to Spencer, IA. I arrived here around 3:30pm and parked here next to the A&W, where there is a laundramat. I did my laundry and then road Selena's bicycle to the downtown area for dinner, where I found a nice Bar & Grille (Weasy's Bar & Grill), I had a couple beers and a good dinner, if your coming to Spencer, I recommend eating there, it was very good. Well, I've got you all caught up with my travels, hopefully my next blog I won't have to whine about my motorhome, I am sick & tired of driving all stressed out about whether I'm going to make it to the next race. If you make it to Spencer or Deer Creek this weekend, come by and say "Hi".
Again, I want to thank all the fans for supporting me and Work 'N Woody and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. So, until my next blog, stay safe and keep all four wheels on the ground.
Work 'N Woody,
"Just Push'n Off"