APD Member Spotlight Blog (May): Nick Shepherd


Do you ever wonder how any of us balance all of the things we have to do in life? I am personally slowly turning my life from a giant piece of deferred maintenance into something more tolerable.
For this month I’d like to share about May’s racing and my personal struggles and success to keep things balanced.
Personal Life
May is my month of recovery. As a CPA I work so much from Jan 1st until April 15th that right after the 15th I like to relax and focus on completing deferred items so I can enjoy the rest of the summer.
May starts out with no help from my wife’s dog Hans. One night he whines and requires going outside at 3am. I let him out and wait in the house until a few minutes later I notice the smell of skunk. I immediately call him to the house to determine if he was hit or if there’s just a skunk in the area. As he comes up to the house he runs right past me and inside. I yelled to April “do you think he got hit?” To which she replies “Umm yeah, my eyes are watering”. I put him back outside and go back to bed. The next morning involved an outdoor de-skunking bath with a loudly whining German Shepherd who sounds exactly like a screaming human child.
The aftermath of a de-skunking bath. Cats with white stripes are not cats.   
Another deferred item is ensuring I’m out of the racing slump I’ve been enduring since the middle of last year. While I got a win at the end of April I had entirely forgotten about one symptom that was plaguing me until we started racing this year and it reoccurred. I had been getting severe headaches in the heat. 
I have a mild blood pressure problem. My blood pressure is usually about 10 points higher than my doctor desires so I take a medicine for it. The medicine also causes sun sensitivity, so I stopped taking it and the headaches were gone. The doctor indicates I can be fine without it as long as I am careful about diet and exercise.
I’ve had more success racing this month than exercising so I’ll segway into that…..
Racing Results
Mechanically, my car didn’t start off well this year because I had been “messing” with it over the winter. I should have left it alone and done nothing different. That’s easy to say now, but the reality is that next winter I will probably do the same thing. When you’re racing anything, bikes, boats, cars, etc. it requires good skills, but it also requires good mechanical intuition, and often a mechanical advantage over your competitors. I’m always looking for that mechanical advantage.
I’m also half nutty with my ideas. My dad and I discuss racing on a daily basis. My dad is introverted and communicates only when his ideas are fully thought through. I communicate 27 ideas out loud and none of them are good. When we have conversations I have to preface my language with “ok, this is going to be crazy too, but here’s another idea…” Honestly, I am very thankful we have that relationship and my dad has been a huge supporter for me. In late rounds when I’m debating 17 different dial in options, he’s good about narrowing down my options and getting me to think rationally.
April 29 – Woodburn Dragstrip - Points
After some mechanical tweaks the old Nova was reasonably consistent, but it wasn’t delivering the ultra consistent 60’ times I was hoping for and the day ended early when I lost second round to a competitor with a .001 light.
These low .00 lights for bottom bulb competition aren’t that common and are starting to annoy me. After this race I decided I was going to start being much more aggressive on the tree.
I also decide that my old torque converter needed to go back in the car. One of my very best friends is Steve Kelly, he was the 2008 Pro National Champion and he helps me a lot. Over a winter breakfast we were discussing looser torque converters. The discussion went like this:
Nick: “My dad has a torque converter that is 1,000 more stall”
Steve: “Is it built specifically for your car with a small tire?”
Nick: “No”
Steve: “I’m not even going to discuss this with you. You’re being cheap – buy the right one”
So I didn’t listen and changed it anyway. 
Fortunately, the next week Ryan Schaefer offers to help me swap it out. The swap went really well except Ryan insisted that one rubber glove zip tied to the tail shaft of the transmission would hold all the fluid in. Below is a picture of that success.
I’m not sure what happened to the fifth finger. Maybe that’s why there’s so much fluid on the floor.
May 5 – Woodburn Dragstrip - Test Day
The next weekend I elect to go to a Saturday Nostalgia race to test the car. The intent is to make runs until the mechanics are solid. I’m pretty much prepared to do anything it takes and I’ve got every spare part I own with me.
Fortunately, things start to turn around. I was able to get the car very consistent on the testing day. Maybe my tenacity is getting me somewhere….
May 6 – Woodburn Dragstrip - Points
The following day I arrived at the track feeling great and with high confidence. Once I knew that that the car was performing well, I quickly recognized that any losses were only going to be attributed to my driving.
Fortunately, I drove well and by day’s end I was able to get another win! My average r/t was an .011, worst light was a .025 and the car repeated excellently.
I raced my friend Steve Stuart in the final round. Steve was the Div 6 ET Finals winner last year, and typically finishes #1 or #2 in points. He also sells t-shirts with a picture of his car to benefit the Woodburn Booster club. For everyone’s amusement I purchased a t-shirt of his car and I wore it all day. The final round was an excellent double breakout race as I had a .004 advantage on the tree and took .003 stripe to win. I didn’t execute perfectly but it worked out.
Something else started happening here. The deferred maintenance cloud started to part and I started to remember how to race competently. Staging, spot drops, finish line execution, reaction times all started coming around.
A psychologist developed there are 4 stages to competence. I’ve given my own interpretation of them as they relate to racing:
#1 - Unconscious incompetence – You lose and you don’t even know what happened
#2 - Conscious incompetence – You lose and you know why
#3 – Conscious competence – You’re capable of winning, but it takes a lot of paying attention
#4 – Unconscious competence – You’re capable of winning because you’re good without thinking about it. It’s natural.
Prior to this race I had been racing at the #2 level and I moved back to the #3 level. In previous years I had been at the #3 level.
I was lucky enough to get another win on May 6th. That’s my mom and dad with me.
May 12 – Woodburn Dragstrip - Points
I finally left the mechanics alone and the car delivered for me. I raced to the semis before losing. With three cars remaining I raced Steve Stuart again and he got the better of me. If you want to know a weakness of mine, I HATE racing guys named Steve – there are 3 of them I race on a semi regular basis. I was .015 to his .017, but he’s 17mph faster and it confused me and this time I took too much stripe at .022. 
May 13 – Marriage Maintenance Day
Remember that whole concept of deferred maintenance? Well I was planning to go to Seattle to race this day and changed my mind. I made a strategic move which should pay big dividends. As I mentioned last month, my wife is very patient with all of my racing. However, tax season immediately followed by race season can try her patience. Therefore, I opted to skip racing and we spent the whole day doing fun stuff. Breakfast, walking, shopping, lunch, wine tasting. It was a memorable day for us and now I’m in good shape to do lots of racing. 
I had a great time skipping the race track to spend the day with my wife.
May 19 – Woodburn Dragstrip – Gamblers
My series of excellent reaction times finally ended as I went red first round of the non-electronics gambler. Instead of heading back to the pits, I pulled the car around and entered the electronics gambler. I was able to throw down a normally winnable .007 package only to get beat with a .004 package. Not my day I guess.
Here are 2012 statistics to date:

Opponent Broke Something
Opponent Red Light
Opponent Break Out
Opponent Too Slow
Better Light (more than .010)
Good Race!


I Broke
I Red Lighted
I Had a Worse Light (at least .010)
Too Much Finish Line (>.015)
Gave Finish Line Back
Just Bad Luck (Good Race)
I Couldn’t Run My Dial

Round win percentage: 73%
Average green reaction time in elimination: .020 (still trying for an average of .017)
I also owe a favor back and this is completely unsolicited. I’m obviously a member of this site, ThisisBracketRacing.com. Luke Bogacki is the proprietor and offers a wealth of information to improve your racing. Luke has also helped me via personal emails and assistance through his chat room. The money I spent to be a member was BY FAR the best money I’ve ever spent on racing. I used to not even tell people about the site because I figured it was a big strategic advantage for me.
I will admit that I am even a little bit of a sheep when it comes to the site. If Luke says to do it a certain way, that’s the way I do it. Therefore, I am a product of this site as much as one can be.
I hope everyone has a good month. Happy Racing.

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