Admin Note: I’m reposting the Kartpulse Series ‘Old Dog, Old Tricks’ written by Kartpulse Contributor, Greg Wright in a series of posts on the forums. Interested to hear more from Greg and road racing, check out his Kartpulse podcast that we did a few months back! (I’ll bug Greg to join the forums soon.)
Old Dogs, Old Tricks: Part VI- “Hello, Daytona. Remember Me?”
by Greg Wright
It’s in the books, the assault on the famed Daytona high banks is over for the year and the Dean Axe Vintage Racing Traveling Road Show held its head high. But before getting into the juicy (or gory) details I must thank those that made this all happen.
First and foremost huge thanks go to Team Principal “El Patron” Dean Axe. Without him none of this would have happened. In addition more thanks go to my Crew Chief Kenny Holden AKA the incredible Gooseman (?), truck driver and gofer Randy McDaniel who drove the entire 2000 mile round trip and appears to live on Mountain Dew and peanuts, team member Don Axe and far from least my hot little wife Rebecca for all of her support.
The trip from the frozen north took place in a massive 10 passenger Mercedes Sprinter van with the trailer following along in its wake. The Mercedes was gleaming black and quickly acquired the nickname of “The Black Pearl”. With only five people on board we each had our own row and could sit, lay down, stand up (yes) or whatever. Pretty luxurious if you ask me.
As we rolled through the gates on “move in” day it was the first time for me in fifteen long years and I’ll admit to being more than a bit emotional about the entire outing. Incredibly it was sunny and in the low 80s and the opportunity to see long time friends for the first time in years was almost overwhelming, Pete Michel, Ben Ray Griffith, Robbie Harper, Buddy Long and countless others.
That was on Tuesday and come Wednesday it was a full day of open practice and we definitely needed the time. As it turned out my calculations for gear ratio didn’t take into account the massive difference in aerodynamics between a full bodied car and my vintage Margay Concept. Let’s just say it was more than a tooth or two!
Once we got the ratio in the ball park we began to take off time in huge chunks improving every session and besting the times that I had estimated would be needed. Closing the garage at the end of the day we agreed that a strategy session was required and we retired to Hooters to discuss it.
Finally Thursday and race day rolled around and after the first morning practice we discovered a slight glitch in our plans. The races that we had run here in the Midwest split the Vintage class into two groups, Vintage Piston Port (Yammies, TKM BT82, Komet K71, DAP T50 etc.) and Vintage Unlimited (everything else).
But this was Daytona and it was different and there was only one group. I had ended up on track during practice with WKA Race Director Robbie Harper who was driving a beautiful Laguna laydown with a very hot BM130 mounted. I could make time on him through the twists of the infield section but once out onto the big oval the BM horsepower took control and it was sayonara.
Once back in the garage area I told Team Principal Dean that if Harper held together we just weren’t going to win. I presented my plan which was to run as hard as we could, try to keep him in sight and hope for the best.
So we settled in and waited on race time to roll around, so here we were sitting in lawn chairs enjoying the warm sunshine when a friend comes running up and says “They’re waiting on you on the grid!!”. Quickly grabbing the schedule that we had taped to the wall and seeing that we were in the second group we realized that we didn’t have the revised schedule and we were up.
Gooseman grabbed the kart and stand and ran to the grid with me doing my best to fasten up my helmet and gloves while at a dead run. We got there just as the drivers meeting was finishing and somehow got on the grid albeit without even checking tire pressures.
As is usual running Vintage we began behind three other classes and when the green flag fell I got a great hole shot passing the entire group starting in front of us and leaving the rest of the Vintage drivers wondering where we went. I was mowing down traffic relentlessly until we got the corner leading back out onto the big oval. There I saw what appeared to be a serious incident, predicted there would be a red flag and about that time the yellow strobe light went on around the oval.
Pulling back into the pits we quickly regridded and prepared for another start. This time we gotoff the line very good but Harper went with me and soon he was pulling away on top end.
As planned I settled in and ran my own race and was reasonably pleased with our performance taking the checkered flag in 2nd place.
One day to go but with a difference, waking up on Friday morning we were greeted with temperatures in the mid 40s. Quite the shock but it did finally warm up to mid 60s by race time.
Electing to skip the first round of practice to allow the track to warm we ran a few laps in the second session and found a bit more time to boot.
This time we were on the correct schedule and the clock steadily counted down the time for our race. Once again Vintage was gridded last with three groups in front of us and once again I got a blazing start and led for a short time before falling to Richard Charest who had sorted out his B-Bomb from the day before and soon Harper was around as well.
I had thought that Harper was fast the day before but Charest literally drove into the sunset and that’s the way we finished with Charest leading across the line followed by Harper and then yours truly. We had nothing to hang our heads about, we got out motored on this occasion but we had fun, went fast, raced hard and received our second podium finish of the week.
Interesting was the fact that although the Vintage class started the race with over fifty machines ahead of us plus a ten second split the top three finishers in Vintage all were in the top five overall by the end of the race.
As we loaded up the trailer for the ride back to the frozen north I felt myself becoming emotional all over. Here we were at one of the most famous racing facilities in the world. I hadn’t competed here in fifteen very long years and we produced results. I can’t describe how I felt at that moment much less try to explain to anybody how my return to the seat had brought something back into my life that had been missing for way too long.
Upon leaving the track we quickly retired to an establishment that served adult beverages and spent much of the evening toasting our luck then toasting our health over and over.
Believe me when I say the next morning came very, very early but the ride home was a happy one and I wouldn’t have traded places with anybody.
As I had known all along the roadracing community is the warmest, friendliest and most fun group in motorsport. I’ve come back home and I like it.
Goodbye, Daytona. Maybe we will meet again.
***Greg Wright is the owner/operator of Rapid Racing Inc. in Indiana, a full time, full service kart shop since 1983.
Photos by Jason King