Torrance, CA - At the last NASA SoCal event at California Speedway, the JD team, in their 2007 Scion tC racecar, took the final step on the podium on Saturday in. Sunday's race would have new challenges, and the team would manage a fourth place finish in Performance Touring C (PTC). Still, it was a respectable performance given strong competition from Mazda-backed RX-8s along with a super-motor SRT-4. On both days, the team would take first in Time Trial C (TTC). The finishes in PTC bumped the team to 355 season points, a scant 15 points behind the leader.
The team is using the season to continue to develop the car for both PTC and Grand-Am's ST class, a serious challenge considering that their competition has years of development time on their cars.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed," said driver and team manager, Dan Gardner. "We go out to every event with the intention to win, but sometimes you just don’t get the job done. Still, you try to remember it's one race event over the course of the whole season, and one race isn’t going to make or break an entire points competition."
Gardner still was nursing an injured thumb, and one again donned the tape that made it possible to compete. His right hand would "freewheel" on the steering wheel while the left hand exerted most of the leverage. Saturday's race began with a phenomenal start for Gardner, as he had a good bead on the green, upshifting just before it dropped to ensure he wouldn’t be stuck wound out in the lower gear. With the gas mashed Gardner took decisive action and dove down onto the apron of the oval, shooting ahead of several cars. He maintained the position going into the infield.
The rest of the race was a dogfight between Gardner and one of the RX-8s. The RX-8 would nip Gardner in the end, crossing the finish line less than a second before the Scion. It was a clean race that would leave Gardner in third place. Before Sunday's race, during qualifying, Gardner noticed that the car sounded like it had lost a cylinder. Coming in, Gardner's pit crew confirmed that’s what it seemed like, but further investigation was needed.
A fluttering engine is never a good thing, but on further inspection, the team noticed that what had actually happened was that they had blown a good size hole in one of the runners of the header. Unsure exactly what had happened, the team decided to remove the downpipe, richen the tune a bit, and protect the motor with 112 leaded fuel. Shawn Church of Church Automotive Testing speedily sent the team a new map to use with the open exhaust. The tactic worked, although Gardner's ears would bear the wrath of the open exhaust.
Sunday's race would have Gardner moving up the starting grid a bit. The start wasn't quite as dramatic; still the Scion's torque again proved formidable, as the car showed itself to be a consistent beast on the start.
Despite fending off two of the RX-8s, the team would only manage a fourth place finish… still enough to earn Gardner and the JD team 80 more crucial season standing points. "You just never know what’s going to happen," said co-crew-chief Brad Allen. "Sometimes you’re on pace, and sometimes you just have to keep working on things, while at the same time accruing some points. We'll be looking to kick some major butt at Buttonwillow soon. We're confident that the car's got it in it."
The next NASA race takes place this weekend at Buttonwillow Raceway on April 26 and 27. Spectators are welcome and admission is $10.