2002 ProSolo Finale

Going into the ProSolo Finale, we were tied for first place in the points with Corey Smith, the Audi S4 driver from the West Coast, and with Fedja the Unspellable from Boston, also in a Talon like us. Whichever one of us placed the highest in the Finale would take the overall win for the class series.

Furthermore, we all had enough points so no matter where we placed, we all qualified for the 16-car Honda Street Challenge big money elimination round to be run at the end of the event. But as our dialin for this round would be based on the class winner's times, it was very much to our advantage to try and win outright - it would clinch the class win, the class series win, and make the Street Challenge a little bit easier.

I had planned to have my leaky CBV replaced and be up 80 or so HP, but an unscheduled transmission rebuild nixed that. We did manage to get a fiberglass hood though, and that dropped 30lbs off the nose of the car. We also had fresh Hoosiers, and of the three contenders, we were the only team to run the other Topeka event (back in the spring) and so have a Topeka setup more-or-less worked out. The brakes were a little iffy, and I discovered a rear shock seeping oil, but overall we were in pretty good shape for the Finale. Win here, and we'd have our first ever ProSolo Championship. Not only that, but this would be the first ever ProSolo Championship taken by a modified DSM, and a validation of a LOT of hard work and pain.

I wanted this event.

The drive out to Topeka was nice and uneventful. Getting that Dodge Cummins diesel turned out to be a great decision. It makes the 14 hour haul to Kansas much nicer.

Even though we had a fresh transmission, and even though I'm pretty sure it was the start line at St Thomas that hurt it, we skipped practice starts.

The course looked really good for us. A long front straight, into a pair of very fast offsets, into a double-apex turnaround, followed by a three-cone slalom that fed the usual left-right finish offsets. Being fast was going to require precision coupled to a healthy dose of raw aggression.

For the Saturday morning heats, I pulled up to the line with my nerves all a-jangle. Would it explode? Would I explode? So much was on the line....

The nerves quieted up as soon as the lights dropped. The car felt good, I felt good, and the course was FUN! Pretty soon I was slamming the car through the front offsets, with that little bit of a tail slide that seems to work so well. The car was just hooked up, pulling well, and handling like a dream. Confidence was high high high.

After the first heat, I was sitting 3rd, just 2 tenths off the lead. Corey was up front, and Fedja was right behind me.

For the second heat, I had figured out where there was some time to be found, and went out to execute - and pulled it off, running the first 26 on the left. On the right, I didn't quite pull it off as well, but I did manage to improve slightly to a low 27. More importantly, it put me in the lead, with Corey in second, and Fedja sitting fourth.

After watching the Super Stock Z06 Corvettes run, and then the BSP cars, I figured that it was going to take a high 26 on the right, and an mid 26 on the left, to nail down the class. Corey looked capable of it, and I knew I was if I got it right, so I went to bed feeling pretty good about my chances for the next day. And if it rained... we'd be done.

Sunday morning came, but no rain, so I was going to have to drive to win. I started on the left, and backed up my 26, but didn't improve. Back over to the right (where I needed a good time) and again, I backed up my previous time, but didn't improve at all. Meanwhile, both Corey and Fedja had gotten faster and as far as I could tell, I was sitting third.

Two more runs for glory.

Up on the right, I carried WAY more speed into the turnaround, and then totally blew the exit, mowing down a pair of cones...

At this point, I thought I blew it. I was slow, and thus exposed, on the right. My left side time was already pretty good, so it would take a monster run there to pull off a win - faster than I figured I was capable of. But what did I have to lose?

As I pulled to the line for my last run, I heard the announcer frantically trying to work out the math on what it would take to win. The lights dropped before I heard the answer, and then I was too busy to hear.

I gave it everything I had, and it all worked.

I screamed across the line, looked over at the timer, and saw my wife jump about three feet in the air, yelling and clapping. It had been announced that I needed a 26.5 to pull it out, and I had just run a 26.4.

WE DID IT!! We were the 2002 SM Series Champions! And we did it by a scant 0.08 seconds, on the strength of the final run.

But we weren't done just yet. First we had the Peavey Open Challenge, and then the big money Honda Street Challenge Q16 round.

The Peavey Challenge went well until the second round, when a 0.492 redlight ended the day.

Finally, the money round, the Honda Street Challenge. All that work to qualify, and now it was down to an elimination round. But because I had won, everybody in this round was running off a dialin based on my times, and furthermore, my right side time was soft - I had time in my pocket on that side. I was carrying about 4 tenths worth of sand with me on that side.

And during the actual eliminations... I was on fire. I can't explain it; it was like I could do no wrong. I'd go out for the first run, make a mistake, drop down six tenths or so to my competitor, and then rip off a smoker on the other side like it was nothing. Before the final run, I had broken out by at least three tenths a side on both sides, putting me in the 26.1 and 26.8 territory (equal to John Ames in the Z06) Calm, cool, and utterly confident, I mowed them down one by one. I was helped on the final run when my competitor hit a cone, but I don't think that even mattered, as I beat him on raw time too. It was like everything was happening in slow motion.

And then it was over. The last run was complete, and I was the 2002 Honda Street Challenge Champion, 6 tires and $2500 richer, and I was spraying champagne over the car and the crew. Man, this was a long hard haul to get here, but does it ever taste sweeeeet!.

Big, big, big thanks to everyone who helped us get here:

  • Jon at TRE Racing Transmissions
  • Robert at Forced Performance
  • David and Tym at Buschur Racing
  • Chris at ClutchMasters
  • Jim at Signs and More
  • John and Richard at General Engine Management Systems
  • all the folks at Quaife America
  • Hoosier Tom
  • Paul at Isotope Racing Wheels
  • Michael at RMDSM
  • Evan at Moriss Dampers
  • Chris at Curless Auto Repair
  • ACPT Driveshafts

and most of all, the most indispensable member of the crew, the person without whom none of this would be possible, my wife and crew chief Bethany.

Time to celebrate!