Club member and racer Tom Tuttle invited me to attend the 2017 SCCA National Runoffs at Indianapolis Indiana. Tom had qualified for the Runoffs via the Majors Tour and needed my expertise on applying the proper torque to wheel studs and having the correct pressure in the tires. I decided to go east with the transporter and met Joe Carr at Huffaker Engineering at Sears Point for a 9:30 a.m. departure on Monday Sept. 18th. We were in a 2017 Ram 1 ton diesel dully pulling a new 4-car stacker.
Finally departing at 10:30, delayed because the person who had the credit card for fuel decided to come to work late, we headed east on I80 planning on a late Wednesday arrival at Indy. First fuel stop in Auburn, and about every 200 miles after that, the truck getting on average 6 mpg!
After a fuel and dinner stop in Winnemucca Nev. we continued east with the truck acting strange. It started to buck and lurch and then smooth out. Across the salt flats, through Salt Lake City and up the mountains east of SLC, bucking and lurching all the way. Deciding to stop for the night in Green River Wyo. we learn that there are no vacancies anywhere. So we catch a couple of hours sleeping in the truck. On the road again before sunup we continue east finally stopping at a dealership in Laramie. We have to drop the trailer to get the truck into the dealership and they move us to the head of the line. We walk across the road to a truck stop and get breakfast, I have a deja vu moment, I think Kathy, myself and Ole Anderson ate here on the way back from racing at Elkhart Lake Wis. several years ago.
Back at the dealership they find nothing wrong, but one of the sensors has an update so they did that. Joe gives them a $100 tip for moving us to the head of the line and after fueling up off we go. Twenty miles down the road we are back to bucking and lurching! Calling ahead to Cheyenne the dealer there can’t even look at the truck until Thursday. After explaining our situation of needing to be in Indianapolis by Friday at the latest they agree to take a quick look with the OBD reader when we get there. Again we have to drop the trailer, the tire shop next door to the dealer allowing us to use their parking lot. After a quick scan that shows nothing wrong we are again told Thursday before they can get to it. Joe asked to speak to the owner and after waiting 15 minutes or so he is shown into the owner’s office. Joe comes out and we are moved to the head of the line! Turns out the owner races dirt cars and Joe builds dirt car chassis at his shop. With two techs going over everything with laptops we decide to spend the night and are driven to a nice motel across town. Our driver is retired State Police and points out places of interest. Over there is the hotel where Doc Holiday slit a man’s throat. That restaurant had a tunnel going under the street to the bar and bordello across the street so the upstanding citizens wouldn’t be seen entering. That building was built by one of the railroad tycoons, etc.
After a good night sleep we return to the dealership and are informed they found nothing wrong. As soon as the truck is shut down all the codes clear. Ok, off we go. Fourteen miles down the road it starts bucking and lurching. We call the dealership and they say bring it back, and whatever we do don’t shut it off! We head back and barely make it over the steep bridge crossing the rail yard it is bucking so bad. We pull into the dealers lot and they OBD scan the truck. Eureka! It throws a code and they know what’s wrong. We are told if they don’t have the part in stock they will take it off one of the new trucks waiting to be sold so we can get to Indy on time. Off we go, the truck running and even sounding better, even getting better fuel mileage all the way up to 6.3 mpg. We drive until around 2 a.m. and stop at a Days Inn for the night. I don’t have a clue where.
We arrive at Indianapolis on Thursday; go to registration only to find out that I am not on the crew list. The very nice lady at registration says if we can call Tom, the driver, she can add me to the list. Luckily Tom answers and everything is taken care of. Off we go to the paddock area. Indy is very impressive; the size of the facility and the history, the famous drivers who have run there in Indy cars, NASCAR, and Formula 1 cars is over-whelming. You enter the main road and turn into a narrow tunnel, which looks, too low and narrow for the trailer but we fit fine. Joe and I spent the rest of the day unloading the trailer and putting everything into our garages that have been rented. It is hot 97 degrees with 97% humidity and we can’t park close to the garage so unloading will take some time. They did have a golf cart pulling a small trailer that we could use for 45 minutes to help move things, and Michelle came by to get her tool box we had hauled for her and she had a cart and helped. After unloading everything but the cars and tires we were off to find a motel for the night, we had reservations at a hotel downtown but they didn’t start until Friday when everyone else flew in.
Tom flew in Friday afternoon and after getting him all registered we headed downtown to the hotel we will be at for the next 10 days. Checking in we walk down the block for a nice dinner, by the time we are done the rest of the gang have arrived, including club member Norm Mitchell. While at the track on Friday I also ran into club members Allen Davis and Jennifer Bickett, both working SCCA tech.
The next week is a blur. Tom’s tranny breaks, so out comes the engine and tranny; the spare tranny is installed. Luckily Taylor Transmissions is over in Vendor Row so Norm and I go over and get a new output shaft to repair the broken tranny. We have four cars all four running F production and two also running GTL (the difference is 100 pounds of weight added to the F cars for GTL). When Tom’s tranny broke he gets towed in and in doing so his splitter gets broken so that needs repaired. After a trip to the hardware store it is repaired. The replacement transmission is not working so out it comes and the newly repaired first tranny goes back in. Out Tom goes and comes in with a vibration, a bent drive shaft is found and a spare installed. Tom goes out and comes back in, vibration still there, a loose steering rack is found, Tom out than back in steering real stiff, shim the pinch mounts for the rack, steering better.
Everyone survives qualifying and the F production race is on Friday. Joe Huffaker, Tom Tuttle, Bill O’Kell, and Ray Meister are all running. As the race gets close to the end, Joe running second, when his tranny breaks on the last lap a few corners from the checker flag. Tom gets by Bill on the last corner and finishes a car length in front and Ray drives a nice trouble free race for his first runoffs finish.
ALL THE CARS WITH NAMES ABOVE GARAGE
Saturday no one runs so Norm and I hit the museum at the track and do a little souvenir shopping and then we start packing the trailer.
HALL OF FAME BUILDING
Sunday just Joe Huffaker and Bill O’Kell are running GTL. Tom and Ray fly out which leaves myself and Chris who was Ray’s crewman to help Norm with Bill’s car which has been trouble free except for a bad starter. The car starts fine for warm up but at first call to grid it won’t start, another bad starter. With three of us working on it we have it changed out in just a couple of minutes and Bill makes his race. Both Joe and Bill finish, Joe P4 and Bill P12 (I think). We finish loading the trailer with the cars and head back to the hotel for our last night in Indy. We have a nice relaxing dinner setting outside with a view of downtown and return to the hotel and say our good byes as everyone but Joe Carr and I are flying out at dark thirty Monday morning.
Joe and I return to the track Monday morning, hook up the trailer and head west. We got to see the country during the daylight that we traveled through in the night, along the way we got to drive through a lighting storm. Lighting was first away and then right next to us. We stopped for the night somewhere in Nebraska and encountered snow the next morning. We were both ready to be home so we made it to Sparks Nev. Tuesday around 3 a.m.
On the road the next morning and in Sonoma at noon on Wednesday. I jumped in my truck and headed home after being gone for 17 days. A great road trip except for the truck problems. It would have been nice to explore the city of Indianapolis more, but as they say in the funny papers, “been there, done that, got the t-shirt.