Matt King
May 1, 2009
Photos By: Chris Schuetze/Finish Line Productions
Paddocking in the grass "up on the hill" has been a tradition among low-buck racers at Mid-Ohio for decades. Now you know where the term "grassroots" racing comes from.

Saturday qualifying was wet, but the track dried out for the second heat race, and we were on a charge from the middle of the pack on the first lap before missing a 3-4 upshift in the high-speed run through Thunder Valley down into the Carousel. In my haste to pass the whole field in one shift on the opening lap, I jammed the stick into Second instead of Fourth, and when I let the clutch out, the rear end locked up and the car shuddered to a near halt in mid-track, causing the car behind me to tap my right rear bumper and send me spinning off the left side of the track, through the grass and into the Armco guardrail near the Turn 13 corner station. After refiring the motor, I was unable to get the transmission into first gear, but eventually got moving in second and was able to finish the race, albeit in last place

Back in the pits after the race, we assessed the dilemma facing us. With the standing starts used to begin CMC races, the loss of first gear would be a nearly insurmountable hurdle to overcome, but our spare transmission lacked the proper overdrive fifth gear we needed to carry top speed on the backstraight. The only option was to try to fix the broken T-5. With the help of fellow CMC racers Bob Denton, Bryan White and Sidney Franklin, we pulled the broken tranny out and tore it down in under an hour. Unable to find what prevented the transmission from engaging first gear, we ended up swapping the Astro overdrive fifth gear from the broken T-5 into the spare and put it all back together. With the guys helping me, we had the car back on the ground in less than four hours. Racers helping other racers truly defines what grassroots racing is all about

Thanks to the last-place finish in the Saturday race, my starting grid position was seventh among the eight race starters. Using a random countdown of amber lights similar to the dragstrip Christmas tree, the standing start is somewhere between a hard street launch and a clutch drop at the dragstrip. Stalling or spinning the tires can result in either getting freight-trained by the cars behind you, or being rear-ended, so a clean rollout is more important than a fast one. The ideal start perfectly anticipates the final light going dark and leaves with just a haze of wheelspin. I got blocked by the car ahead of me on the start, but passed him by the exit of turn 1, then picked off two more cars by the end of lap 3, and moved into third place on lap 5. I briefly took the lead on lap 6 when the two leaders came together and we went three wide down the backstraight, before giving back both places in the braking zone.