Mark Faul Guest Editorial
Hello everyone! I started at Seattle and Bremerton Raceway in 1988 running in what was then Heavy bracket. I won 6 track championships in my ‘51 Chevy, then decided to try NHRA Super Stock in 1996. In 1998 I started running Stock also. In 2002, I quit my Monday to Friday job to try racing professionally. I've been very fortunate to have won 15 nationals, 15 divisionals, and 7 division championships. I won the ET Finals in 1994 and the Race of Champions in 2011. January 3rd, when a job opened up at the printing company I had left in 2002, I decided to rejoin the working force. Thank goodness, because it's almost impossible to make it work with the expenses going through the roof, and the winnings staying the same or actually going down with lack of contingency sponsors. There's much to be said about being home, and trying to have a relationship with someone. Plus all you guys and girls have really gotten a lot better, and its too hard to win these days!
This is a great opportunity Luke has presented, to write about a race that I won. The race I chose to focus on is the 2011 Sonoma national event. For some reason, I've been very fortunate at that facility the past few years. I've raced there twice a year (divisional and national) for over a decade, and up until 2009 never really did worth a darn. Since then I’ve have won the national in 2011 and 2009, and the divisional in 2010 and 2011. It’s strange how things turn around sometimes....
Let me first say, Infineon Raceway is one of the trickiest places to dial a car. The track sits down low with the banks beside the track at least 20-30 feet high. So when the wind blows, it really funnels through there. Plus the wind will change directions on you, sometimes in the middle of a round. The flag on the tower will show tail, and then down track will show head. So you really have to be on your toes. And to top it off, it's blowing usually 10-20mph when it kicks up.
In time trials, I was .025 and -.001 on the tree, so I was pretty happy with the starting point. The car was solid too, with runs of 10.65 and 10.72. Those passes were at 9:20 and 12:50, and we had a 1000' DA change and the wind went from 6mph head/cross to 5-7mph tail/cross. My little, swoopy Grand Am isn't affected tremendously by wind, and I thought those runs made sense for the most part. Confidence was decent at that point, until the ladder came out. I drew Justin Lamb, which is never easy. Justin had beaten me the first 3 times we'd raced, and I got him the fourth. He usually hits the tree very well and when he's in his Cobalt knows what it should run. The best thing I had going for me was he was driving the Comstock's Cobra Jet. While it's a good car, it's slightly more unpredictable than the Cobalt. In fact, we were joking he had no idea what it would run! I thought, "yeah right," but maybe there was some truth to that.
The wind had picked up, and was a head wind blowing about at 15mph. I guessed at a 10.78 dial, and thought it was honest to maybe holding .01. As it turns out, Justin had a great .016 RT to my .025 and getting near the stripe, it looked like he was going to get there first, so I dropped and killed my .01 plus .03 more, giving him way too much room. I was on a 10.785-790 run, and not holding that .01 like I thought. He took the stripe, but luckily for me by too much. He joked afterwards that his foot got stuck in a weird place, and couldn't get on the brake pedal. Definitely a lucky round for me!
RT .025 .016
Dial 10.78 9.03
ET 10.812 9.012
Predicted ET: 10.77
Actual ET: 10.785
Round 2 was run an hour later. Conditions were very similar, with the wind only 10-12 mph now. I was paired with John Winslow Jr. He hasn't raced as much lately as he used to, but does a good job when he goes. I chose a 10.79 based on just going a mid 78. I believed it would go 10.77 or so with the wind being down slightly. I had a nice .012 light, and as soon as I let go, looked over to see him almost hit the dash when his rear end locked up! I ran to 1000' and to my surprise was on a 10.74! I chalked the discrepancy up to the tricky wind, but of course it was on my mind all night. I like to take pride in my dialing abilities, and like to have a reason to guess so badly.
RT .012 Broke
Predicted ET: 10.77
Actual ET: 10.74
Round 3 was on Sunday afternoon. I was faced with my buddy Dave Bridgewater. We shared a couple beers the night before, and jabbed each other about how we were going to kick the others butt. Dave is a fun, happy go lucky guy, and with that I feel a very dangerous opponent. He doesn't fret much over the small things, and that demeanor helps his racing . The air was 200' better and wind was down to about 5mph. I predicted I should go 10.72 based on the run from Saturday night, but since that run was quicker than I thought, I decided to dial 10.74. Then even if it was slower yet, I still could drop the nose and pick up approximately .015. Many of you that race low nose cars or against them know that since the finish line beams are approximately 6" high, some cars will trip the beams with the body instead of the tire. My Grand Am is one of those, but only if I'm on the brakes. So I have to be careful with dumping someone because I can gain back what I've tried to kill. Or, it can save me if I spin a little, and my opponent sticks a wheel on me. By timing stabbing the brakes, I can get the nose ahead of his tire and win back the stripe. All in all, it has cost me more rounds than saved me, but it's something to be aware of.
It looked like Dave was dialed pretty honest in my mind, based on his previous runs. I hit the tree ok with a .026 and had a little too much room at 1000', so I gave it a couple whomps, then had one of those "OH NO" moments. I was full throttle through the stripe to get there .0004! I looked like a hero on paper, but felt stupid. I did have to kill a couple, but didn't execute well. I was going 10.720ish on the 74, and went 10.737. Luckily he missed it a little: .051 and -.028 under the dial.
RT .026 .051
Dial 10.74 10.24
ET 10.737 10.212
Predicted ET: 10.72
Actual ET: 10.72
Round 4 turned out to be a bye run. Nobody had won the Perfectly Strange bonus money, so why not take a chance? It was at least $250 to win, and I have Strange Struts, so it would double to $500 if I ran dead on with a 0. I didn't care if I showed my hand by making a full pass, and wanted to double check my incremental times with the headwind. I had a nice .013 RT and went 10.715 on my .72 dial. The bye run was a good run to set up the one of most important rounds, the semis. With $500 to lose that round vs. $5000 to runner up or $12,000 to win, it's huge!!!
Round 5 (Semi-finals):
Semis. Frank Grossi has been doing this forever. He's very crafty too the way he dials. Sometimes honest, sometimes holding .100. He was .024 and .018 the two previous rounds, and had just taken out Jimmy DeFrank, so I had to be on my game. Having just ran a .71, I decided to dial honest (or at least make it appear that way). The wind was close to the same, so I was pretty sure if I hit the tree, I'd be in good shape. Getting ready to go, I couldn't remember what Frank had been running, so I had a little panic attack. Then I started second guessing the wind and my dial. So I ran the fan and water pump extra long to help run slightly quicker, and figured I'd better smack the tree. I usually hit the water box at about 125*. If I'm off a little, say 110 or 140, it will make a difference in the ET. By getting it cooler, it usually runs slightly quicker, and doesn't let my opponent know I'm trying to hold a tiny bit more than it seems. Everyone in SS watches what you're running and dialed, so it’s hard to fool anyone. Obviously, it would be easier to mess with weight and do the same thing more efficiently, but since I was in the lanes, this was my best bet. I probably need to test a little more and try a little warmer to see how it affects ET and consistency, but I feel if you do the same thing every time it should run consistently.
At any rate, I had another of those "OH NO" moments when I released the transbrake, but it dropped green. Then the win light started shining when he lit the cherry. I was .000 which explained the missed heart beat, and was going about 10.714 on my .71. I should have saved that one for the final!
RT .000 -.015
Dial 10.71 9.28
ET 10.85 both lifted
Predicted ET: 10.71
Actual ET: 10.714
Round 6 (Final Round)
In the final, I was racing Ken Etter. He's a former national event winner in Stock and was doing a good job in his SS car. He had just run 10.495, and dialed .49 for the final, which is what I thought he should run. I'm a strange finish line racer with my perspective. I have a tougher time with guys running close to the same speed for some reason. I always think they will creep up on me faster than they do. That being said, I decided to dial honest, and since the car was so good, I could rely on it. I had a good light, a .021 and was out a good bit on him, since he missed with a .076. Then my confusion got the best of me, as I was out too far. I gave it a couple good pedals and took a sloppy .035 stripe, but was .042 over for the victory!
RT .021 .076
Dial 10.71 10.49
ET 10.752 10.512
Predicted ET: 10.71
Actual ET: 10.712
I was very happy with how this race played out, as my thought process was good, and my head was in the right place. Plus it capped a great 2 week run in Sonoma. I had won the division race the week before, and had some extra dough in the pocket. It was unfortunate that the win didn't count for points, as I would have made the top 10 and had free entry at nationals this year. But you can't eat points, and there is no down side to a victory. Thank you very much for reading, and thank you Luke for the opportunity to share this.