driving by wire ..NorCal Retro @ Fast Track Hobbies – 7/19/2015

When we gather to race at Fast Track Hobbies in Rocklin Ca., we often have our largest turnouts of the year. This month, we didn’t set any records but we had 11-12 racers per class this time around. Our traveling crew consisted of Russ Toy, Gary Hooks, Dick Seely, John Wilbur, Jim Fowler, Randy Keil, Richard Matthews, Bob Chaney, and Justin Colvin. Several of these guys are also FTH locals. We also had Greg (Fester) Bishoff and Cliff Gaither and track owner Dwight Adamson. Cathy Wilbur contributed her time as race director and we had a very efficient race day today.

The local racers do a very good job of helping Dwight keep the tracks up and this time out, the tracks were in very good condition. We raced Can Am and Anglewinder Coupes on the familiar Purple Angel track and we ran F-1 on the new (to most of us) Kingleman. We usually have pretty clean races here at FTH but this time, things were pretty rough. There were a lot of crashes and a fair bit of carnage in each race with the Kingleman being the worst. Starting the day, we knew that Justin was going to be hard to beat. He is among the very best racers in Nor Cal anyway and here on his home tracks, he is close to unstoppable.

I was very busy all day and thus, I don’t feel like this report is as complete as I’d like it to be. I apologize in advance for missing a few pictures and not getting in as many details as I wish I could.

We started with the Can Am race and while there were a number of fast cars, this was looking like a Justin and Jim duel from the start. Early on we were trading off with 35 and 36 lap heats with Justin holding a one or two lap edge. Gary Hooks was running consistently well but a little off the lead pace while Randy and Richard were also good and not letting Gary get away. Bob Chaney was running a new car and it was fast, but he was struggling a little bit with it and he eventually broke something. Greg Bishoff was also fast but he had an issue that I missed and he ended up down the order.

Fowler CanAm Chassis - July 2015I commissioned a new Fowler RTR, and took delivery for this race.  It is a 2/10 longer version of the loaner I ran at Modesto in June. Fast, smooth and precise. I put supply break-in time on the motor, ran 20 laps Saturday morning, and put it away in the box. I did not take it back out until race time; it went straight to tech (not the track), so no one knew how the car performed except me and Fowler.  At race time, I was the third man in on RED ..and had a typical first heat on RED.  Everything seemed a bit slippery, I was nervous about traffic collecting in the lane (although on the Angel, this is more problematical on BLACK), and as it turns out, I should have practiced with the car more to get control of the opening jitters.  The car is very good. Only 29 laps ticked off on RED; this is known as the hole you dig for yourself.  The leaders are laying down 34 to 35 laps per heat, and in the next three heats, I am within one or two of that pace. Heat five, on BLACK is a disaster, although still 30+ laps.  There is a lot of blockage in the first turn complex.  BLACK is blind through part of that section, and now vision is clogged with people moving back and forth to service de-slots.  My lack of track time effects my response to this activity, and I find myself in several heavy crashes.  The scenario continues in the next heat (on YELLOW), and the car is taking a beating.  Two heats left, procures a clean run on ORANGE until about 30 seconds left when I was collected hard in the first complex again, and the chassis broke a solder joint.  Confused and putting myself under more pressure than I should have, it required almost a minute into my last heat (on WHITE) before I was able to return to the track.  I managed good clean laps for the remaining couple of minutes, ending with a 30 lap per heat total; 240 laps for the race.  There was one more heat to finish out the rotation, during which I got to watch that total fall through the field to eighth.  I had a really good time driving this race, although my race management action was not up to par.  Should have done better on RED (always important), and stopped more than one out of ten times during the first complex carnage — Bob

As the race progressed, Justin was holding a small lead but it still could have gone either way. Then, we both started experiencing some irregular power from our motors. We were both spraying out the motors between heats but they would both pick up fast for a few laps, then drop off or start surging. In the last couple of heats, Justin was able to hold his pace, but I wasn’t and I dropped way off the pace as my car slowed and I also tried to overdrive in compensation and thus deslotted a lot. Justin pulled away to a comfortable win with me in second. Gary was a solid third but just ahead of Randy and Richard.


CanAm Podium

2nd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Gary Hooks


NorCal Retro CanAm Podium - FTH - 07/19/2015

L-R: 2nd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Gary Hooks

Bottoms UP!

L-R: 2nd / Jim Fowler (Fowler chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Gary Hooks (Hooks chassis)

Next up, we ran our Pro Slot “Big Dog” powered anglewinder coupes. These cars are rocket fast and have less downforce than the Can Am cars so they can be a handful for some racers. Justin and Gary both had new cars for this race and Cliff had an excellent loaner so along with Russ and Jim, there were a lot of fast runners on the grid. Right at the start, I experienced a poor first heat and Justin was soon holding a two lap lead. For the next several heats, we both ran strongly and I managed to come back to even and get slightly ahead at one point.

There was a lot of attrition in this race and several racers dropped in and out fixing their cars. Gary experienced enough issues with his new car that he dropped out fairly early. Cliff got dinged in a big wreck and pulled off his loaner car to keep from getting further damage. Russ had chosen to run a “China Dog” arm in a JK Hawk setup and while he was a little underpowered compared to some cars, he was able to drive it well and he stayed out of the worst of the carnage. Randy and Richard were both consistent and stayed together all race. Meanwhile Greg was off the pace for speed but was consistent and he stayed ahead of Bob who was fast but inconsistent.

Running the Russ Toy design I inherited from Gus Kelley, for the third time (with a gear change for this race).  I practiced minimally and thought I had the car/controller dialed in. Second man in on RED, and the car just does not feel the same.  I am struggling with turn one, straight off five or six straight times (with track calls because we were a marshal short, and no one comes off in that turn), then a minute or so of smooth running, and four more race stoppages as I cannot get through turn one;  28 laps in RED, at least seven fellow racers concerned with pace I am setting for them.  Heat two starts out the same way, then settles out to the end; 30 laps.  In heat three, I still cannot get through the first turn, then I dial in a little brake, and it seems better; 31 laps.  The grumbling is audible, as I tell my fellow competitors not to worry “I only have five more heats to go.”  On PURPLE for heat four, and only one off at the first corner, 32 laps completed.  I have mitigated the problem, and the final four heats are all clean, with 33 laps in each heat; I finish seventh — Bob

As we wound down the race, and after a brief stint in the lead, I dropped a couple of laps back with a poor 34 lap heat while Justin executed a stellar 37. I got it together near the end with two good heats finishing my last run just a few feet shy of a 37 lap heat of my own. Despite this, when Justin came back from his sit-outs, he only needed a 35 to win. He pulled out an easy 36, pulling out the win by two. Russ ran a drama free race and pulled in for third just ahead of Randy.


ProCoup Podium

2nd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Russ Toy


L-R: 3rd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Russ Toy


L-R: 3rd / Jim Fowler (Fowler chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 2nd / Russ Toy (Toy chassis)

Our last race of the day was on the new Kingleman track. This is a fairly flat track but it’s fast, so it is hard to keep from running over other cars. There is also a pillar that creates some blind spots for all the racers and so this was one of the roughest races we’ve had in some time. While everyone had fun, cars were flying every which way for much of the afternoon. I had a bearing start to fail right before the race and while I tried to fix it, there really wasn’t time and I spent much of this race running back to my pit to try and keep the gears from going south. Unfortunately, I missed a fair bit of the action so I can only relate what little I remember.

..I am apparently a budding KingleMiester.  The Stuebe chassis was stable, the motor came in with the 8/26 gearing, I worked at keeping smooth, and it was great fun.  Good runs through the entire set.  I tend to judge my race progress by how often I’m getting passed, and in this race there were only two cars passing me on a consistent basis. I was overtaking and passing everyone else, trading deslots on an equal or better footing with my competitors.  I look forward to racing again on this track — Bob

Gary Hooks had a new F-1 car that was really good and he stayed out of most of the messes to run second. Cliffy is a very smooth racer and he also ran well for a solid third place finish but this race was really a Justin show. Even though his car was dinged up, he ran fast to the end for an easy win and a hat trick for the day.


Formula Podium

2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Clifford Gaither


L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Cliff Gaither


L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks (Jersey John chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Cliff Gaither (Fowler chassis)

This was a solid day of racing and thanks go out to Dwight for hosting us, to the local racers that made sure that the tracks were clean and fast, and to Cathy Wilbur for her cheerful help in race directing while John raced. Next time here, we will be running Stock Cars on the Kingleman, and Can Am and F-1 on the Purple Angel.

— Jim Fowler 07/21/2015

source: http://slotblog.net/topic/61657-norcal-race-report-719-fast-track-hobbies/
additional photos by Michael Colvin

Posted in life, slot car racing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

driving by wire ..the six word memoir

Similar to the shortest story written by Hemingway, the six word memoir distills the essence of the subject more concisely than even the wasteful common tweet.

The only rule is that there can only be six (6) words, but those six words must allow the reader to create a greater story that is personally meaningful, either as insight to the narrative, or as an interpretation based on the reader’s own experience and imagination.

Not intended as definition, the six words become inspiration.

Hemingway’s famous story?

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

As a memoir, mine might be..

Honest, even when he knew better.

Posted in inspiration, observation, poetry | Tagged , , ,

driving by wire ..the neighborhood seems to have gone upscale

Just when you thought you had a handle on the lay of the land so to speak.. this notice appears in the neighborhood social blog today:

I just got a 2015 Wraith delivered and was looking for a certified mechanic in the area. Rolls Royce of Los Gatos said that they will reimburse me for most services as long as the mechanic or repair shop is certified through Rolls Royce. I really don’t have the time to drive to Los Gatos for oil changes or regular checkups – I would be willing to pay out of pocket for a really good mechanic with Rolls Royce experience. A Google search for local mechanics has not been fruitful – any recommendations?

— Allibaba Sheikh-BadDaddy (name changed for general purposes), living in WestPark

I actually think I've seen one of these tooling around the neighborhood :0o

I actually think I’ve seen one of these tooling around the neighborhood :0o

 Is he talking about my WestPark?  wow .. just sayin’ .. a little further research shows the Sheikh is an Applied Nuclear & Particle Physicist, working for the NBC tone (that’s code folks) ..this is all starting to sound like something right out of the ‘The Big Bang Theory’ ..I could not make this stuff up

Posted in automobiles, life, observation, sign of the apocalypse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

driving by wire.. where I work

great place to work

Where I work ..an inordinate amount of time (in my opinion) is spent in discussion of “corporate culture”

Generating numerical improvement on a nationally recognized rating scale, has become as important as delivery of product and services, to our customers.  Employee compensation is tied to how “we” respond to the questionaire. Management is constantly trying to define the factors, the actual actions that can be implemented to increase “the number”

This search includes an actual inhouse poll, which asks the question, “If these were offered regardless of everything else, would you say this is a great place to work?”  “These” are a list of extra benefits that might be offered to everyone, in the hope that favorable poll responses will result.

hmmm ..for me, these are not the factors that make (or break) the company as a “great place to work” .. but, as long as we are mandated to chase a number, someone will ask, “What can we do?”

Where you work is not about the benefits.  Beyond subsistence, it is not even about the money.  Where you work is about, the satisfaction you receive ..it’s about the feel of the wood beneath your palm.  Were you empowered to do the best you could?  Did you feel like you were making a gift for someone you love?  And it’s about the people.  Are you accepted?  Do you have a place in the group beyond the process?  Does common experience, help you laugh together?

Give me two weeks off with six weeks pay, and something meaningful to accomplish the other 50 weeks ..just sayin’

Posted in life, observation, opinion, philosophy, work | Tagged , , , ,

driving by wire ..NorCal Retro @ Rohnert Park – 5/17/2015

SCR FrankSarkela

SCR Owner, Frank Sarkela, promoting his salsa

Our race meet for this month turned out to one of our more successful races here in some time. We had an even dozen racers for each of the three classes that we raced, and dramatic finishes and last heat heroics in each race with three different winners. As usual, Frank Sarkela had the tracks in great shape for our race. There were no bite issues (except maybe too much for some guys) and there were no braid repairs all day. As usual, Frank provided expert commentary for the races and Russ handled most of the race entry work while I did tech and helped some guys with last minute thrashing.

Our turnout for this day was Russ Toy, Gary Hooks, Herman James, Ted Essy, Rich Matthews, Randy Keil, Hizzhoner Bob Chaney, Justin Colvin and Jim Fowler among the regulars. We had semi regular Rich Clark, Big Jeff Garrison, and veteran Mark Manion all from the SCR roster.

This was a full “switchup” race in which we ran each class on the opposite track from normal. Thus, we ran F-1 on the King instead of the usual flat track and Can Am and Stock Cars on the Flat track instead of the more normal King.

SCR CanAm Main

Starting out on the King with F-1s, it was clear there were a lot of fairly equal cars in the race. I had a bit of a speed edge early on and held the lead after heat #1 with 32 laps. However, Justin and Gary were right on the money as well and Herman was close while Big Jeff Garrison was learning a loaner car. For the next few heats, I held the lead pretty easily, but I couldn’t really pull away by much. Meanwhile, Russ was only a tenth off the pace of the lead pack and Ted Essy was running well but was down a bit on speed. As we passed through the middle of the race, everybody was running very clean and you really had to push it to gain any ground. I was slowly creeping away in the lead but it was staying very close as Herman got into the podium mix by edging past Gary while Justin was holding firm. Jeff got the handle and was soon running as fast as anyone. Just before I went to my sitouts, I did some poor driving while managing some traffic issues and dropped a couple of laps. Herman had edged into a tie with me and Justin was within a lap. Gary had dropped back just a little and being two laps back put him out of reach in this crowd.

Coming back from my sitouts, Herman and I were in a flat footed tie with Justin back by a lap. For the next two heats I worked up a half lap lead and at the start of the last heat, Herman and I were just that far apart and on adjacent lanes. Justin was one more back and he had a lap and distance on Gary. I managed to get to Herman’s back bumper to put him a lap down but didn’t try the pass so I just sat there knowing that he couldn’t run me down. We dodged and diced a little near the end but I had a lap clear and held that to the finish. Justin held off Gary for third and Big Jeff ran a very fast fifth place and was only five laps off at the end. Without really counting, this was probably the fifth or sixth time that Herman and I have had same lap finishes in the last year or so. Justin was solid in third two laps back from me with Gary fourth and Big Jeff was as fast as anyone in the second half but had to settle for fifth.

The 12 car field:



SCR Formula Podium

L-R: 2nd / Herman James, 1st / Jim Fowler, 3rd / Justin Colvin



L-R: 2nd / Herman James, 1st / Jim Fowler, 3rd / Justin Colvin


Tech note: In comparing notes at the end of the race, Herman and I discovered that we had taken very different approaches to setting up our cars for this race. Herman ran a 105 gr car with natural tires and a 10-28 gearing. I ran a 93 gr. car with Wonder rubber and a 9-29. Both cars ran great but I had a bit of an edge in the donut and could gain 1-2 feet every lap. We both figured that good handling and the lower gearing helped me win the race even though main straightaway speed was about the same.


Bottom UP!

L-R: 2nd / Herman James (Samson chassis), 1sst / Jim Fowler (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis)


We switched to the Testa Rossa flat track for the next two races and Can Am was first up. For this race, we expected the usual suspects to be in the lead but it was really just a two car race from the start. Justin and Gary both had it together but Herman, myself and Ted Essy all struggled. Herman had issues in the esses, Ted, who has won on flat tracks, looked like he just had too much bite, and I just couldn’t get my car right. Russ Toy always threatens to podium on this track and Rich Clark was running right with Russ and Ted all race. With the distance differential on the this track, the faster, inner lanes like black and purple are much faster than the outer lanes of red and white. Gary and Justin were putting down 32-33 lap heats on the inner lanes and 30 laps on the outer lanes and they steadily checked out. Herman was off the pace of the lead pair but he was able to steadily pull out from me. Russ, Ted and Rich were in a close pack all race long. With about three heats remaining, I tried a fix on my ill-handling car and suddenly, it was the best car on the track by quite a fair bit. In fact, I was able to turn the fastest laps of the race on the slowish blue lane. It was too late to do anything with it though, and all I did was close up on Herman a little.

This was really all about Justin and Gary. Gary had held a lead in lap average throughout most of the race. However, the lap distance differential between lanes can be deceiving and as Justin ran his later heats, he was going toward the better lanes. As Justin went through his last few heats, he steadily gained in lap average over Gary who was sitting out. For the last heat of the race, Gary came back on the track after his sitouts with a lap plus distance lead over Justin. Gary however, was on the slow, red lane while Justin was on the much faster yellow lane. Justin unlapped himself pretty quickly and then started to eat away at the lead. Gary ran really well and didn’t give it up but with maybe 30 seconds to go, Justin had him in sight. In the last few seconds, it looked like Gary might hold Justin off but then, he had to blip momentarily for a deslot in front of him and Justin zipped past. When the power went off, Justin had pulled it out by maybe ten-fifteen feet. Herman was a distant third and I was an even more distant fourth while Russ, Ted and Rich raced to a close finish in that order.



SCR CanAm Podium - 5/17/2015

L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Herman James



L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Herman James


Bottoms UP!

L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks (Fowler chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Herman James (Samson chassis)

Our last race of this day was for the 4.5” stock cars on the flat track. These big, lumbering beasts are almost a full second slower than the zippy CanAms so driving and race management are key. There were a lot of good cars in this race but mine got ridered into a wall blast early on so I was out of the hunt. Herman, Gary, Justin and Russ all had roughly equal speed but it was looking like Ted was just a little quicker than the rest. Mark Manion had his most competitive showing of the day as he diced with Rich Clark and Randy Keil in the mid pack. As the race went along, Justin deslotted a few too many times and Russ crept past him, but the lead pack of Gary, Ted and Herman were clearly the class of the field.

At the end of the race, I was sitting out so I got to watch an exciting and unpredictable finish. With three heats to go, Gary was slightly in front of Ted with Herman about a lap back. With two remaining, Ted took advantage of a faster lane and he took the lead with Gary and Herman very close. In the last heat, Herman moved to a faster lane while Ted and Gary were on slower ones. In that last heat, Herman drove perfectly and he pulled away easily. Meanwhile, Gary and Ted struggled a bit on their lanes and they managed to hand second place back and forth a few times. Ted had the faster car but Gary is a really steady racer too and he pulled closer and closer. Herman had checked out by then and in the last minute, it looked like Ted would hold onto second. As they wound down the last lap, Ted held second with Gary a few feet back. Ted crossed the counter a foot or so ahead but as power went off, Gary flew past and coasted in about two feet ahead for second place with Ted in third. Russ drove steadily for fourth and Justin maybe overdrove his car a bit and settled for fifth. Mark, Rich and Randy all drove well and finished in that order with one lap between each.




Awesome paint and detail on Justin’s car done by Earl McCutcheon of So Cal



L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Herman James, 3rd / Ted Essy


Bottoms UP!

L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks (Fowler chassis), 1st / Herman James (Correja chassis), 3rd / Ted Essy (Fowler chassis)

This was one of our better meets at SCR with the three lap finish in stock car being the widest spread of any of our races. If a couple of other regulars had made it, this would have made a record day for entries here. It was really cool to have everybody race all three classes today and the same lap finishes were really nice to see. Thanks go out to Frank for welcoming us and also for his long-time dedication to the slot racing hobby.

Big Jeff Garrison seems committed to Retro now and he showed that with the right car, he will run with the lead pack. Justin Colvin is at this point, possibly the best racer in NorCal and when he shows up for Retro, he is automatically in the hunt. Rich Clark is doing this the right way and building all his own stuff and he is progressing well. Ted Essy is a pro from way back and has shown that he can build his own cars and win at any venue. Randy Keil. Richard Matthews and Bob Chaney all made the trip from Sacto for this race. They all embrace Retro for what it is. This is a really fun racing experience for all concerned.

SCR Photobomb

— Jim Fowler

source: http://slotblog.net/topic/60114-norcal-race-report-517-slot-car-raceway/
addition photos by Michael Colvin


Posted in life, slot car racing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

driving by wire.. the neighborhood

Most of the time, “There is more going on than meets the eye.” And how it relates to, “Who are these people?”

Our neighborhood dwells firmly in the current century. Internet connectivity, and social networking is ongoing, including buy-in from the neighbors, to the usage of a neighborhood oriented social website, Nextdoor.

The posts found for my neighborhood range from for sale items, to advice needed on what plumber to call (although most certainly, if you are waiting on a neighbor to respond on a social media site regarding a plumber, it may be too late.) The posts often reflect a certain helplessness, a naïveté.

Loneliness is rife among the denizens of this part of my town. Where do you shop for groceries? Where can I find a good cup of coffee. Open pleas for recognition, connection, companionship.

Desperation, paranoia, indignation, and (from time-to-time), humor in the extreme. Like this.. not long ago in the late afternoon: “Please keep your black and white cat at home!!! This is the second time it has come into our backyard and attacked our Simese cat and has torn her fur out again. Our cat is scared to go in her own backyard. This will be the last time this cat does it. We control our pets please do the same.”

Later, that same date: “This black and white cat was back again tonight in our backyard. Our poor cat was so scared. This cat is big it has more white on him or her. Please keep your cat at home.”

Posted in humor, life, observation, opinion, sign of the apocalypse | Tagged , , , , , ,

driving by wire.. the honest truth

logo-v5Often when we suffer, we believe we suffer alone. That no one else in the entire breadth of humanity experiences what we experience. That we are so unique, is a fallacy. The methods we employ to address our “problems” have been used throughout history, and will be practiced, right or wrong, far into the future.

Tough talk about a truth that may take a lifetime to realize, or may never be learned.

Engendered by many factors in my life, I have the ‘honesty’ problem.

I volunteer information about myself continually. The truth about everything, as I see it. More than the average person wants to know about himself, much less about someone else. I mean, let’s talk poops..

TMI, Too Much Information

And did you know, that I am not the only one that does this. There are untold numbers of people who find it difficult to lie. And to lie, includes withholding any part of the story. “The devil is in the details,” is never more true, than when one of us, is giving you the answer to that innocent question, “How are you doing?”

Recently, one of my favorite radio programs, This American Life, broadcast an interview by Ira Glass with Michael Leviton. Michael is an artist (writer, musician, photographer) living in New York.  He grew up in an environment of extreme honesty, adopted it as his own lifestyle, and relates his efforts to overcome his open honesty.

From that program Need To Know Basis, in Act One, Michael talks about his life of  Full Disclosure.

Michael LevitonMichael created an actual written list of things not to talk about.

  1. Don’t have to give an opinion.
  2. Don’t things out loud.
  3. Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s helpful.
  4. Choose not to answer a question.
  5. Don’t fully explain.
  6. Make it quick.
  7. Say you’ll tell them later.
  8. End the conversation first.
  9. Don’t try to impress. Stop explicitly describing myself in any way, positive or negative.
  10. If you don’t recognize someone or I don’t remember their name, just pretend you do.
  11. Don’t tell anyone about your problems.
  12. Listen to how others feel instead of telling them how you feel.
  13. Pretend more and people please.
  14. Remember to make others feel like you find them smart and cool.
  15. Act like you agree.
  16. Don’t talk about: ideological commentary, unnecessary brutal truths, triggering questions, unwanted inquiries.
  17. Avoid asking people what they mean when they use certain words.
  18. Don’t take anything at face value.
  19. Don’t investigate things people say.

Remember that the minds of others are chaos. There’s lots of stuff going on that leads to why people say what they say and you can’t know what those things are. Their minds are chaos of feelings, that they’re human beings.
– Michael Leviton

Posted in life, observation, opinion, philosophy | Tagged , , , ,