George McConnel's RC51 BLOG

Date:September 27-28, 2008
Track:Nashville SuperSpeedway
Bike:2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51)
Weather:Mostly sunny, highs around 82, lows in the mid 60's. Very cloudy Saturday afternoon
Conducted By:WERA

Track Diagram

The Nashville SuperSpeedway is a combination track. NASCAR racers use the outer oval, basically just a large concrete track with a back straight, two ends and a tri-oval front "straight".

The road course drops off the tri-oval into the infield, winds through turns 1-6, then exits briefly onto part of the back straight before dipping back into the infield for turns 7-10. Turn 10 is a long non-banked sweeper that exits back onto the front straight. There are transitional seams at each of the four places where the infield road course joins the NASCAR oval. At these points you have to be careful to choose a line that avoids too sudden a transition or you end up getting jarred really hard.

Much like Daytona, races are started from pit lane because the start/finish line is on a steep bank.


Morning at NSS...
Nashville is my "home" track I was able to get there early and grab some prime pit area in the garage. This was going to be Logan's first weekend of racing. I modified my trailer so it could hold two bikes and loaded his on the trailer with mine. I drove the trailer over on Thursday evening after work. I set up two pits, one for me and another for Logan so that we could ride straight through. After everything was set up I spent a few hours chatting with some of the few folks who had gotten there that early. David Brooks, Terese (the Massage Lady), Karl Lemmer, Fuzzy (the crash truck driver) and a few others were there. The weather was nice.

Unfortunately (or Fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I had to work on Friday so I was unable to spend the day at the track practicing like Dewayne, Karl and Steve did. After work I rode over on a motorcycle and helped work on Loagn's bike to get it ready for 'Tech' Saturday morning. I also pulled off my front wheel so it would be ready for a fresh tire first thing Saturday morning. Sherry had bought me some new T2 tire warmers for my birthday, so Dave Arkle was going to bring them by. When he arrived I installed the rear warmer and left the front one nearby, ready to put on when I had my new tire mounted.

On Saturday morning I woke early, eager to get to the track.

On the Esses about to enter the back straight...
In spite of the early start I knew I'd be pressed for time. I was going to have to get Stickboy to mount a new tire, get the wheel mounted and safety wired and get through tech in less than an hour, depending on when I could get Derek (aka Stickboy) to open up shop. Oh, and I had to go to registration too. But that wouldn't be a problem as I could do that while Derek was mounting my tire.

As soon as I saw Derek's door open I went over with my wheel and told him about my situation. They were going to start practice a half hour earlier than usual (8:00), and I was in first practice. I needed a new front tire. He was eating some sort of breakfast sandwich as we talked, but said he'd get me taken care of. I told him I appreciated it and headed off to registration. Fortunately I had preregistered, so there was no standing in line for me.

I got my paperwork, went back to the bike to make sure everything else was ready, then headed back to Stickboy's trailer. Sure enough he had finished with my tire. I went in to pay and told him I'd like to go ahead and purchase a rear as well even though I wasn't picking it up yet but would like to get the "set" deal. He took care of that and off I went with my tire.

Kurt Kessler arrived as I was getting my bike ready and he asked for some help unloading his bike. For some reason I didn't think to suggest that he get Karl or Dewayne to help him, which would have been the sensible thing to do as I was getting pressed for time. But we got his bike unloaded and I went back to the task of finishing up safety wiring my front tire's mounting bolts.

Needless to say I cut it too close for comfort. I wanted to get all the practice in that I could because of my lack of time on the track Friday, but they were already on 2nd call for my practice group by the time I had the lower off my bike and was ready to head to tech. I called for help and Catt and Kurt grabbed my faring lower and brought it over to tech so I could just tech and go (assuming there were no problems).

There weren't any. They bolted my lower back up as I was strapping my helmet back on and pulling on my gloves and 3rd call was being announced for my practice group. As it turned out I was the first person on the track. My perspectives have gotten so much better that even though I was tiptoeing around the track on cold tires I was already putting better laptimes together than I did at my best back in April. I started with a couple of 1:19, dropped immediately into the 1:16's and finished with a couple of 1:15's. I was dropping essentially a half second per lap.

Second practice I started on warm tires with a 1:14,

Still trying to solve turn three at NSS!
did several 1:13's and even did a 1:12.933 before the session was over.

Once again I can't help being amazed at how one's perspective changes. I knew I'd be faster and wasn't even that excited to see the 1:12's on the board, although I will admit to some feeling of satisfaction that I had managed to do it. But I knew I could be faster on that track, I just needed more practice and time to develop the rhythm to get my braking markers and turn-in points figured out.

Meanwhile, Logan was having troubles. He had to stand in the registration line for a long time because he hadn't pre-registered. And when he did get through registration he had a difficult time getting through tech. They were giving him a hard time about his bike until Dewayne happened by and offered some help. Once they realized he was "with" Dewayne, their whole demeanor changed (according to Logan). I understand the need to be careful about enforcing the rules when you see a strange bike, but it really needs to be even-handed enforcement.

As it turned out Logan only got to get one practice in on Saturday morning because of all the delays. It would have been really nice if he'd have been able to get two practices because this was the first time he'd run his bike hard and there were some problems. The main problem was that the bike wouldn't pull hard past about 7,000 RPM (not that he knew for sure where it was losing its grunt, but it was obvious that all the other 600's out there with him were revving much higher than his was). I figured it must have something to do with the tuned exhaust or servo motor that drives the flapper valve on his tuned exhaust. That night I googled around and found where someone had wired the flapper open and solved his top end horsepower deficiency. I suggested to Logan that we try that and we did. It worked. He took the bike out on the back side of the speedway and opened it up to find that it could quickly accelerate to the stratospheric RPM's he needed.

But he was still disappointed during practice as the other riders were passing him on the front straight. I explained to him that there could be several explanations for that, but the most likely one was that they were carrying considerably more speed around the final turn before the front straight. If you take the turn at 20 more mph and start accelerating at the same time it's no different than if you got to run up to the drag strip line doing 20 mph and the other guy had to start from a dead stop.

I also explained to Logan that his bike was a bone stock bike using pump gas and street tires. He was potentially practicing on the track with people who had heavily modified engines, tuned suspensions, lightweight wheels and were running on racing fuel. Better equipment, more track experience. He needed to be prepared to get spanked handily for some time.

Getting back to my adventures, I decided to go ahead and sign-up for the Heavyweight Solo on Saturday afternoon. It was going to be 75 bucks, but I'd get nearly twenty more laps of practice time. Unfortunately they'd all be in one session, which meant I'd be getting fatigued pretty early on in the session.

Starting to look really comfortable coming out of the NSS turn 2 hairpin.
And I did. By about the eighth lap or so I was already starting to feel fatigued and was starting to wonder if they were ever going to show me the "half-way" flag. Finally I passed the familiar green/white crossed flags so I knew I was halfway home. By then I was in a mode where I'd have some time to rest and catch my breath through the turn 10 sweeper and onto the front tri-oval. Getting into turn 1 I'd drag a knee through the turn, set back up and brake hard for the turn two hairpin, then work the corners pretty hard through the infield complex before exiting onto the back straight. But by the time I got on the back straight (which isn't very long) I'd be tired again and I'd work the chicane lazily before dropping down to drag a knee around the turn ten sweeper again. My laptimes definitely show about a two second slowdown during the 2nd half of the solo event.

But I made it through the event without having to pull off the track for fatigue reasons. I even went through Post-Tech even though I knew there was no reason for me to. I had placed 8th in the event. I was gridded in 9th in my class, so that's good for me -- I picked up a position and stayed in front of two other competitors.

Saturday afternoon we went over to Tom and Janell Lee's house for some nice socializing. We were going to eat supper there but it was taking Dewayne and Catt a long time to get there, so Sherry and I decided we needed to head home. We were both tired and I really needed to get some sleep.

Sunday morning I got up early once again and headed on over to the track. It was going to be much calmer this morning, as I wasn't pushed for time. Not only was I not having to do any major service to my bike, but practice was going to start at the normal 8:30 time. My rear tire still looked pretty beefy, so I didn't bother pulling it for the new tire I'd bought from Stickboy the day before. I figured I'd try to eat it up during practice and start with fresh meat for my race. So I plugged in the tire warmers, got the tires up to temperature, checked their pressures and then just started kicking back and relaxing until they started making the calls for first practice.

Sherry and I had decided to "sponsor" Logan for one more race on Sunday. I went with him to registration to pay for his race. He had already signed up for B Superstock (the last race of the day), but we went ahead and put him in for C Superstock as well.

Heading out for practice on hot tires I was disappointed to see that I did not manage to get back into the 1:12's. I did, however, string together a bunch of consistent 1:13's with one pesky 1:14 in the lot.

Second practice was a little better though. Unfortunately someone went down during the 3rd lap (he was not far in front of me and I could see his bike tumbling on the track as I rounded the corner onto the back straight). The red flags came out almost immediately. They let us back out on the track, at which point I managed to do what would turn out to be my best lap of the weekend -- a 1:12.628. This was still a far cry from the 1:08's that I'd have to do to be competitve with Rob Turner, but that's about as good as I could do on that track with the amount of practice time I had that weekend.

After my 2nd practice was over I went ahead and pulled the rear wheel and took it over to Stickboy's trailer to have that new tire mounted. He was out on track when I dropped it off so I just left it inside his door. When I got back he had mounted the new tire. I reminded him that I had already paid for the tire yesterday and headed off with it. Remounting was pretty easy because of my "system". I safety wired it all up, put on the tire warmer and got it up to temperature, then backed the pressure back to 29 PSI. I also remembered to top off the fuel.

I watched Logan during practice and he was obviously becoming a bit more comfortable. It's hard to be patient, and for a new rider on the track like him it's hard to believe that amateur racers can be that much better than you on the track. Right now he thinks he's pushing his bike almost to the limit, which just isn't the case at all. He managed to get his laptimes into the 1:21's during 2nd practice, which is very good. His best lap on Saturday morning was a 1:32. His first lap was a 1:40 and in 6 laps he became 8 seconds faster. His first lap on Sunday morning was a 1:31, and within 6 more laps he did a 1:25. He then leveled off during his second practice on Sunday morning vascillating between 1:21 and 1:24 laptimes.

After the rider's meeting was over we had a nice little "family" lunch consisting of sandwiches, chips and soft drinks. Although I was in race one I waited until after they played the national anthem to start putting on my leathers. After all, race one is always the second race of the day. I don't know why they don't just call the "minis" race "Race 1", but they call it "Race 1a".

Finally it was "go" time. I only signed up for one sprint on Sunday: HeavyWeight Twins Super-Stock. Sadly, there were only two of us on the novice grid in that class. I pulled up just to the right of Rob Turner on the grid, gridded in 2nd place. As usual we were racing at the same time the "C Superbike Experts" were on the grid. That meant that without a doubt I'd be getting lapped by the likes of Taylor Knapp and Mike Smith well before the end of the race. As it turned out, Rob managed to barely keep from getting lapped but I was getting lapped by the 6th lap. On a positive note, although I never managed to do a 1:12 during that race I did manage to stay as rock-solid consistent as a person of my level of experience might ever hope to. Nearly every lap was in the low 1:13's, my quickest one being 1:13.061. I started 2nd and ended 2nd. And you better believe I hung around to accept my 2nd place trophy and make an acceptance speech.

Logan's two races went without incident. He ran in C Superstock, finishing just out of the points in 16th place. On a positive note he did actually outride one other rider in that race. It was another provisional novice who was gridded behind him, so he didn't actually get to pass the other guy. His second race, the last race of the year in the WERA Mid Central region, was B Superstock. There were only 14 riders in his class in that race. He was gridded last and finished last, which netted him his first two ever racing points.

My two first seasons of racing ended up on "down" notes. A two-crash weekend at Nashville in September in 2006 had me almost ready to give up on racing altogether. I crashed at Barber on the last lap of the season in 2007, but wasn't hurt enough to think I wanted to quit. But I went though the entire 2008 racing season without crashing and also managed to improve dramatically as a racer. I'm not a front runner but I never expected to be. I'm just an old man enjoying doing something he's always wanted to do. One day I'll proabably get my fill, but not yet.

I ended up taking 2nd place in the Regional championship for Heavyweight Twins SuperStock. Michael Wischmeyer walked away with 1st place, and Rob Turner could have easily taken 2nd place but he had problems with his engine overheating and had to sit out a couple of races.

Like last year I'll soon get a notice from WERA that I'm to bump to expert class next year. Last year I protested the bump and was allowed to retain my novice status. This year I'm going to accept the bump. There will be white number plates on my bike next year. I'm just hoping I can retain my beastly number.

Most important lesson learned during this race day: Time to take it to the next step!

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