Dateline: August 8/9, 1998
Grattan National Race Report
Going into the race at Grattan, we were in 9th place in our Division, but the drivers in 10th and 11th were within a single point or two of catching or passing us by. Since only the top 10 drivers from each Division are invited to the RunOffs (the National Championship), we were a little concerned about slipping even one position. We had spent extra care in preparing the car – and driver – for the task at hand. We needed points! The weekend crew – Chris B, Kevin L, Tom M, and Steve S – was focused and committed as we set up camp Friday night.
Grattan is a 2.25-mile track located near Grand Rapids, Michigan. We had run there three years ago in a 1994 Saturn SC2 street car. A best lap of 1:40.7 was expected to fall in our first session out.
Practice was uneventful, with the exception of a Neon which would not let us by for 3 laps. We turned a few 1:40’s, but the Neon was really holding us up. He ended up getting defensive, we got aggressive, and our left front quarter ended up in his right rear door. In practice, mind you. The Chief Steward was not very pleased with the whole situation, and we both got a good talking to. Fortunately, no damage was done to our SC2 that Kevin could not fix with a floor jack, a deadblow mallet, and a few 2×4’s. Thanks to the polymer panels, once the body work was complete, the panel gaps were better than new. Not even the paint was scratched.
Qualifying was a blast. We found fast traffic, caught a few drafts, and ended up qualifying 4th in the field of 11 cars with a fast lap of 1:37.9, and only 0.2 seconds off of the #00 Nissan in 3rd! A Honda was right behind with a 1:37.99, but the next closest competitor was more than 0.7 seconds off of our pace. A finish in the points seemed like a sure thing.
Sunday morning brought threatening skies. Sprinkles were intermittent all morning long. With 10 minutes to go before our race, we decided to gamble and run with our full dry set-up. After all, the track was drying in spots, and our 5th place finish in the rain at GingerMan earlier in the year had given us new found confidence driving in the wet.
On lap 2 it poured. And poured. And poured. And we only got one on-track picture, which wasn’t even any good.
The rest of the field had already installed their wet or semi-wet tires and just walked away from us. The good news was that we finished the race, didn’t hit anything, and learned a lot about driving real fast on bald tires. The bad news was the we also finished dead last, best lap of 1:50.7.
So, no points, but no damage. As we packed up the gear in the rain, we began to discuss what we would do differently for Mid-Ohio in two weeks…