Dateline: Thursday, April 29, 2021
Dateline: Thursday, June 3, 2021
Dateline: Sunday, July 11, 2021

Submitted by an anonymous team scR long-time subscriber:

Austin? Virginia?
Newsletter void, it screams, screams,
“We miss the Haiku!”

Q: That seems highly unlikely. Nobody misses the Haiku. But where have the newsletters gone?

A: I’m pouting because I haven’t finished a single race on the lead lap this season. Equally alarming, Greg Gill told me personally that he does miss the Haiku.

Q: I’m not sure which of those two statements is more troubling.

A: Truth. While I am legitimately sorry for the newsletter black hole, please understand that it’s been pretty tough sledding lately around these parts. Our May fiasco at COTA and the more recent VIR debacle in June have sucked the wind out of our sails. And my keyboard.

This photo of me leading the way at COTA is much more impressive if you ignore the ‘023’ on the windshield.

Q: How bad could it be?

A: Pretty bad. Exhibit number one, please.

Bill is just fine, thanks for asking. Number 34, not so much. Number 36 didn’t fare so well either.

Q: Yeah, that seems pretty bad. What did he hit?

A: Chandler. Exhibit number two, please.

Yes, that is Chandler’s car (Number 94) that Bill is about to obliterate. Chandler is just fine, thanks for asking.

Q: I’m fascinated by the recent drama, but why are your tire pressures so low?

A: That’s a little Photoshop magic requested by the team so that you don’t go out and try to emulate what we are doing. Not that anyone is really trying to emulate us this season, but you never know.

Q: So, you’re grousing about one crash? That happens in racing. Get over it.

A: Well, no. I almost died at VIR. Twice. Exhibit number three, please.

This is me praying that I don’t roll over shortly after the car shut itself off at 132 MPH approaching Turn 10.

Q: That’s a lot of bad luck crammed into two race weekends.

A: Tell me about it. And we haven’t even talked about how the car overheated in Virginia. Three times. Exhibit number four, please.

Sitting in pit lane while a race is taking place without me. Props to Jacy for the previously-undiscovered gearshift indicator Easter egg.

Q: I have completely lost track of the chronological sequence of events here.

A: Ah, that doesn’t matter. There is no storyline this time.

Let’s change topics for a moment. You might remember in our last newsletter, we talked about Chandler’s hat. As the story goes, Chandler showed up at Sonoma with his name embroidered on the OUTSIDE of his hat. And while we were all pretty impressed by that, Bill was more than just impressed. He was inspired.

Behold, Bill’s new shoes.

Bill’s shoes. You won’t confuse them with James’ shoes. Or the other James’ shoes. Or anybody else’s shoes.

Q: Can we go back to the racing, please? You said you almost died at VIR. Twice. But you only explained one mishap.

A: Morbid curiosity?

Q: Yes. Apparently, you didn’t die, so it couldn’t have been THAT bad.

A: After the car shut itself off during my first full lap of Sunday’s race at VIR (see Exhibit three above), I was a little bit, well, taken aback. Because the problem occurred while I was braking at the limit, the ABS shut off and locked up the tires. This was bad. Unable to turn at that point, the car flew off the edge of the planet and slid clear across the grass to the back straightaway. To make things even more enjoyable, the two-way radio decided to shut itself down leaving me unable to communicate with the guys back in the pits.

In retrospect, I probably should have just parked it and walked home at that moment, but the car fired back up and seemed to be OK. Except for the radio, that is. In silence, and desperate to salvage something out of the already miserable experience, I meandered back out onto the track and slowly got back up to speed. This was not a remarkably good idea, even if it seemed reasonable at the time.

One lap later, just as I was gaining some confidence back, the car did its let’s-randomly-shut-off-now routine approaching the exit of Turn 17. Which is a right-hand turn taken at a speed of about 95 MPH. Without much grace (or advance notice), the car made a beeline toward the tree line as I tried like hell to stop it in a straight line (hey, that rhymed!). Exhibit number five, please.

This is me hoping to avoid the trees to my left shortly after the power steering shut off at 96 MPH while exiting Turn 17.

Fortunately, after driving through hundreds of feet of freshly-mowed grass, I was able to bring it to a halt, but was completely uninterested in further attempts to drive the car under its own power (and its sporadic lack thereof). And thus ended our weekend at VIR.

Q: I suppose that you are not leading the championship, right?

A: Ha. Ha. After three of seven events, we are sitting squarely in 10th place out of 18 driver pairings. Which feels like 34th place out of 18 driver pairings.

Q: Is that car with the baby cheetah on the hood leading the championship?

A: It’s a small, bald leopard (I think), and yes. But as the TV announcers tell us time and time again, “Matt Travis and Jason Hart were leading the championship at this point both in 2019 and 2020 and managed to fall short during the very last race of the season.” Which gives me personally no comfort at all, but clearly qualifies as a cheap shot taken in good fun.

Q: We don’t appreciate that, James (submitted anonymously by “M.T.”).

A: Probably not.

Q: And it’s a ferocious cougar on the hood, James, not a small, bald leopard (submitted anonymously by “J.H.”).

A: Whatever makes you happy. I think it looks like a small, bald leopard. But I agree is has some pretty intimidating teeth.

Q: Do you have any cool pictures of the car while it was moving under its own power, not crashing, shutting itself off, or otherwise trying to kill you or Bill?

A: Amazingly, yes. Here’s one of Bill going particularly fast for a fleeting moment at VIR.

It simply radiates raw speed and aggression from this angle, doesn’t it?

Q: Fake news. That picture is taken from the starter’s stand as the cars were leaving pit row at the beginning of the race.

A: Caught me red-handed. But that’s all we got. Sorry about that. Please pretend it’s going really, really fast.

Q: Can you please pretend that this is a normal newsletter and give us a little bit of a race recap? This whole thing is far too disjointed to follow.

A: You will have to wait for a minute, as just now my dog just walked into my office and puked on the floor. I’m not making this up.

I’m not going to link the individual results pages here since there’s not much to look at. Plus, I’m basically still pouting. But if you’re the weird-o type that scours race results for fun (you know who you are), you can click the blue text to view the complete race results and underlying data for COTA and VIR.

COTA Practice: Bill and I both posted times that would have had us in the top five. This was very promising.

COTA Qualifying: Bill and I both got caught up with slower traffic on a drying track and ended up qualifying 14th (me) and 13th (Bill). This was madly disappointing.

COTA Race 1: I started and moved up about six positions. This was actually kind of impressive, as I only had 2.3 laps of green flag time due to a huge wreck on the second lap of the race. Bill took over and moved all the way up to fourth at the checkered flag. This was, in retrospect, the last good thing to have happened to us this season.

COTA Race 2: Bill started but was collected in a multi-car crash on the opening lap. I never got to take the wheel. This was madly disappointing.

VIR Practice: Bill won the second practice session (yes, I know you can’t win the practice session). This was very promising, but not very useful.

VIR Qualifying: I just couldn’t get my act together and qualified 8th or something equally unremarkable. Bill had only better slightly better luck and qualified 5th. This was madly disappointing.

VIR Race 1: I moved up a few positions at the start, and Bill moved up some more during his stint, but then the car overheated. During the final laps the car was so slow that Bill finished the race in 11th place. This was madly disappointing.

VIR Race 2: Right after Bill set the fastest lap of the race (this was very promising), the car overheated. Twice. I took over at the midway point one lap down and that’s when the car started its let’s-randomly-shut-off-now routine. I was towed in before the checkered flag. This was madly disappointing.

Q: Sorry to hear about the dog. Is he ok?

A: Appears to be. Just something dogs do from time to time.

This is Axle under my desk, now sound asleep. He’s not normally this placid.

Q: Are you prepared to pick up the pieces and move on? The race season, not the dog.

A: What other choice do we have? I am told the car has been put back to good health, Bill has had some recent success as of late in that other series, and, well, um, what other choice do we have? With just a small change of luck we should be running at the front, and that’s all the incentive we need.

Q: So, when do you race next?

A: Our fourth event of the season will take place at Road America in bucolic (look it up if you need to) Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on August 28th and 29th. Long-time followers will remember that we had great success there last year, so let’s hope that’s the kick to put this car back on the podium where it belongs.

Surprise! I found a picture of the car at COTA before everything went wrong.

Q: Anything else to add? Maybe some historical musings?

A: Sure. On this same day ten years ago, Mark, Larry, Patrick, and I destroyed the field at BeaveRun as we won our first ChumpCar race together! You can relive the experience by reading all about it here. Time has not tarnished the incredibly fond memories I have of that weekend.

But enough looking in the rear-view mirror. It’s now time to prepare for the start of our victorious comeback Road America.

See you at the track!

#34 GT4