Race Recap - OCS July 20th, 2019
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Saturday was shaping up to be one of the hottest days on record as we prepared for our next race at Orange County Speedway on 7/20/2019. Forecasts were calling for temperatures in the upper 90's with a heat index well into the 100's, which was a fitting backdrop for the "Summer Firecracker Frenzy 200" event in Rougemont, NC. So, despite the dreadful heat that we knew we were going to have to deal with all day, we got both cars ready and loaded along with an endless supply of Gatorade coolers, tents, and fans and headed to the track. To everyone's surprise however, we ended up having a nice breeze and cloud cover for almost the entire day! Temperatures stayed in the 80's for the most part and it was actually fairly comfortable for being at a North Carolina racetrack in late July.
Race #1: Chris Gray - #5 - Limited Sportsman
Side Note: For longer than I care to admit, we've been really struggling with the #5 car. Prior to the 2018 season, we completely tore down and rebuilt the car with a new front clip, new body, new brake and suspension parts all over, and added in a freshly rebuilt engine. Since that point, anything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. We've struggled through two blown engines and even though we had installed a brand new brake system, we continuously had a problem with a soft pedal with hardly any stopping power. So, once we finally got our motor program back on track, we still were ham-stringed by these lingering brake issues that had been present basically from the beginning. Every time we thought we had the problem fixed, we'd go to the race track and things would go right back to the way they were before. It wasn't until going to Chris Dilbeck from PFC Brakes that we were finally able to get this resolved. After multiple emails, phone calls, and text messages with Chris, he was able to help us isolate the problem as being faulty master cylinders - even though they were brand new from Wilwood to begin with and we had assumed there was no way they were the culprit. Regardless, after swapping out the "brand new" Wilwood MC's for a set of AP Racing MC's we had on another car in the shop, the soft pedal problem magically went away! I'm mad at myself for waiting so long to go to Dilbeck for help, but still very grateful for his expertise and assistance. So, with the brake problem FINALLY behind us, we were anxious to get back to the track and go race again.
At last, for the first time in nearly two years, we were finally at the track on a race day with no motor and/or brake issues to ruin our fun. Practice went smoothly and while we certainly weren't the fastest car out there, we were still pleased with where we were at. After all, with all of these mechanical issues the last couple years, we really didn't have a lot of meaningful track time with this car, so we had to keep our expectations realistic.
It's worth noting that after the driver's meeting, it was decided by OCS officials that the Limited Sportsman and Late Model fields would be combined and run a single race. With the weather forecast what it was and the Hampton Heat 200 taking place the same day, the car count was understandably low and this was the best way to give the fans a good show. It hasn't been decided for sure yet, but it looks like OCS may actually combine Late Model and Limited Sportsman into one feature division moving forward. More to come on that as we get closer to the next race on August 10th.
At any rate, we started towards the back of the combined field for the 35 lap feature and Chris drove a good, smooth race all the way to the finish. At the end of the day, we had worked our way up to 4th place finish in the Limited Sportsman field after coming up just short in a tough battle for 3rd with Tracey Chambers in the closing laps. Advancing the most positions during the race gave us the "Hard Charger" award for the event and gave us a chance to really see what the car can do.
Check out the in-car video from the race below:
Race #2: Evan Ingram - #15 - Charger
For those that may not know, we have a new addition to the team in 2019 with Evan Ingram driving the #15 car in the Charger division. Evan is the son of CCI Machine/CCI Racing owner, Nelson Ingram, and has competed in all 3 events thus far at Orange County Speedway. After a good practice session at the track on Thursday, we were equally as excited to get the #15 back out on the track for Saturday's race as well. Evan did a great job all afternoon in practice and laid down his best ever qualifying lap as well. As is typical with the Charger division at OCS, the racing was very exciting and I definitely had my work cut out for me up in the spotter's stand. At the end of the day though, we raced hard, avoided some incidents, and put ourselves in position to get a solid 6th place finish in the race.
Something that the whole Gray Racing team has been focusing on lately is getting back to having fun with racing. With all of the troubles that we've had with the #5 car these past couple seasons, we were getting to the point where it was no longer fun...and we knew that was a major problem. This sport is far too expensive and requires far too much work from a lot of people for us to go out to the track and not have a good time. Getting over some of these mechanical hurdles and finally getting a couple complete, clean, and competitive races under our belts was exactly the refreshing race day experience that we needed to get us back on track. We're looking forward to getting back out to Orange County on August 10th with both the #5 and #15 cars and hope to see you there!