Running Bulls Racing’s last event at NCM didn’t go so well. We had to deal with a blocked exhaust and fuel cut-off issue that we just couldn’t figure out so it was a bit of a blow after having a transmission issue at CMS in 2020 while running in 2nd place. After getting some help from fellow racers and the guys at DIYAutoTune we were able to go into Carolina Motorsports Park with renewed motivation especially having all of our core team members racing.
Friday test day was much needed as 3 of the 4 drivers had never been there. The only issue we found was the left front wheel bearing needed to be changed, easy enough with a 30-minute change. We also did a few changes to the tune as we still had a few little hiccups on the top end. We were done before 6:30 and headed out early for Doc’s dinner.
Saturday morning started off with us being one of the “unlucky” ones with the random draw. Mike Merrill got to start about 50th place with a lot of the heavy hitters well in front of us. We don’t have out-right speed so we just play our own race and let things fall. By the end of the first stint and waiting until the last minute to stop we had made it to 10th place. Justin Lipson, our guest driver for the weekend was up next. Another solid stint was all that was needed and he banged out some solid laps setting FTD for the day. He brought the car in in 9th place. Steady as she goes. Michael Bulls was up next and we were happy to not have issues like NCM plague us. Michael radioed in about an hour into his stint and said the brake pedal was not firm and he was having to change his braking. He was slowed for a bit to try and figure out if maybe the brakes just got hot or if there was another issue. We had brakes but they just weren’t all there. By the end of his stint, he radioed in and said “I’ve learned to drive the car way differently, but it is drive-able.” Bulls was able to bring the car in in 8th place. Next up was Andrew Sides, who wasn’t able to be with the team at NCM. “This is rough” was his first comment after getting out and taking it easy for a bit. It was definitely a totally different car with having only about an inch of pedal and then it falling to the floor. He had to drive the car with a lot of care to avoid situations on track of which he had two cars spin in front of him. All we needed was to make it to the checker and there wasn’t much possibility of us moving up into impound so he was cautioned to bring it home. Race Hero awarded us with the Hard Charger Award, just don’t ask us to stop the car! We ended up finishing 7th. Heck of a day considering all the issues we had previously and now dealing with trying to figure out what happened to the brakes.
We performed a brake pad change as they were wearing down enough that they wouldn’t last for Sunday’s race. A drive around the paddock revealed that our brake issue was not fixed. After a discussion and getting a new master cylinder from Chris Huggins we changed it out in about 45 minutes. Another drive in the paddock and we had brake pedal again.
Sunday started off with us in 2nd place at the green. Short-lived and we knew it. That orange e30 was fast out of the gate and we were pushed to 4th by the time we made it through Turn 1. Quick and steady and that’s what Justin did. Even with the heavy hitters going by we only dropped to 11th by the time we called Justin in at around the hour and 15-minute mark and Michael Bulls got in. Now it was a game of hoping for no caution. The next flag to wave was for the quiet hour. We were solidly in 10th place. Michael got back in the car and was maintaining a good pace and position. Next up was Andrew and he was made aware early in the stint that there wasn’t much we could do unless the teams in front had issues. Andrew brought the car in in 7th place for Mike Merrill to finish the day out. In the end we finished 7th again.
After-race beers were had by all with a special picture with Doc riding along with us all weekend. Our crew this race of Soozee Merrill and Al Davison were top notch. SooZee was over the wall every stop to help with cool shirt and other items, in the paddock we were never without cold drinks or food, while Al was cold side fuel help and great help in the paddock with all our various times putting the car up on stands. Our next race is scheduled to be AMP, but there may be a chance for a fill-in race between now and late October.
Thanks to DIYAutoTune, James Brooks Automotive, QuickJack, and Bendpak