The Saturday Night Buildup...
The Saturday Night Buildup car is turning into a screamer. The new 406 engine provides a lot more torque and horsepower than we've had lately. Instead of running in the top seven, we're now running in the top three.
We were anxious to get the Saturday Night Buildup car back out on the track with the new 406 engine after finishing seventh in our first race with the new powerplant. That first race was a rough one, and we were confident that was at least one reason why our engine rpm was not as high as we wanted. The car had maxed out at about 5,600 in that first race.
Going into the second race with the new 406, we stayed with the same gearing but knew that we were switching to the new Goodyear track tires required by Perris Auto Speedway (PAS) in California, and they were a full 2 inches shorter than our tires. We guessed that the combination of smaller tires and a smoother track would get us about 500 more rpm. We were right-the car ran at just above 6,000 rpm while in, as well as coming out of, the turns. This made for a much better drive through the turns and out of the turns.
The evening started out rather unusual, as Circle Track had scheduled a photo shoot for us with master photographer Scott Killeen at the track to produce a cover for the magazine. Photo shoots are always a bit strange. Reality is twisted to get just the right look for a split second. We worked it out with the PAS officials to shoot on the track right after hot laps. We had about 10 laps on the course to get the job done. It was a pressure-packed situation, but the results were fantastic.
At Perris, drivers don't go through qualifying every night. They simply draw a number out of a hat to assemble the field for the heat races. Many of you will relate to a problem we've been having for quite a while-we suck at drawing numbers. Every week we pull a 62 or a 58 or a 39 out of the hat and start at the back of the heat race. That makes it all that much tougher to get up to the top four to transfer into the main. It's even harder to get into the top two, which guarantees a top-eight starting position for the main event. The top two from each heat race draw numbers again to see who starts where. Well, this night we had incredible luck and drew No. 3 for the heat race. After finishing second, we got to draw for the main and pulled out No. 1. Wow, it feels good to be lucky! But the action on the track is what's really important, so let's get back to that.
We started the heat race on the outside of the front row, and driver Bob Carpenter squirted into the lead right away. He ran very smooth and clean for several laps. A bobble in the middle of a turn allowed another car to come up on the inside, and the two ended up driving door-to-door for about three laps. This made for exciting racing; it's always impressive to see two cars battle it out cleanly, with no dirty tricks. Bob ended up finishing second, extremely pleased with the way the car was running.
As you already know, we drew No. 1 out of the hat, so we started the main event on the pole. This was one of those rare times where we got a break to start up front when we felt that the car was really ready to go. Many times in the past, we drew the front row when we knew we were not competitive. Other times, we started in the back when the car was ready to win. But this time, everything was right.