Kermit’s Last Day

I’m a long time getting around to writing this up.  These events occurred April 22, 2016.

We arrived to Texas World Speedway Thursday evening 21 April.   We’ve all known that TWS’ days were numbered, we just not sure how many were left.  In reality there were two more TWS events that followed this weekend before it was closed for good, but I never made it back.

It was a near full moon.  We unloaded and setup camp as we always do.  Then we started hanging out with the group, enjoying the nice evening, the moon, and beer.  Mom and Dad came down for the weekend to hangout, help out, and enjoy the racing scene.

 

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Friday test day started as usual.  The track was pretty green from all the rain that south central Texas had received in the previous month.  The jokes and memes were floating around showing sharks swimming in the streets in Houston, people taking submarines to the grocery store, etc.  But, the day was dry, and the forecast for the weekend was the same.  TWS was always a challenge for me.  It was the fastest track in the state, and the only track where we routinely need 5th gear.  Turn 1 entering speed is typically 115+.

The turn I always struggled with was T6.  The transition from T5 to T6 is pretty busy, and it arcs from T5 into the braking zone for T6.  It always takes me a few sessions to get the timing right.  T6 is critical because it sets you up for T7 which is flatout. In reality, once you exit T6 you are full throttle until T8.  So, any error in T6 will be magnified all the way down the backstretch, through T7 until T8.

 

This day was no different.  I worked on T6 all morning, and wasn’t having a ton of luck getting it right.  After lunch I was getting closer to getting the timing right.  Finally, in the second session of the afternoon (next to last session), things were starting to click, and I was stringing together a pretty good lap.  Probably my fastest lap ever…

I absolutely nailed T6, I entered T6 0.5 second ahead of my best lap.  By the time I exited T6 I’’d already gained another 0.5 seconds.  Down the backstretch I continued to gain time, and as I turned into T7 I was 1.9 seconds up on my previous best lap.  I entered T7 at 98 mph, 5 mph faster than any previous lap.  As mentioned above, T7 is flat…no lift, no braking.  Look through the turn, turn-in, and hang on.  There is a deep camber hole at the apex, which gives a lot of downforce and consequent grip.

Just before reaching the apex, the rear end of my car broke loose for a split second.  I turned into the slip to catch it, and got it corrected.  Unfortunately, the car stepped out of the camber-hole so the downforce was no longer there to hold the car into the track.  At that point, the car just drifted to the outside of the track and dropped in to the grass sideway at 90 mph.

The car had a slight clockwise rotation as I left the racing surface, once in the wet dirt and grass, there was no tracking to further manipulate the trajectory.  I continued to pirouette as I headed towards the trees about 100 yards off track.  Ultimately the car was facing backwards as I slammed into a Cedar tree.

I hit the tree a little off center, so the car hit and rotated off the tree counter-clockwise.  There was a short dirt mound or berm where I hit the tree.  So, as I spun off the tree my driver’s side tires dug into this berm, and “ramped” up the side which launched the car into the air and a flat-spin.  I spun 360 degrees in the air and landed immediately behind the tree that I had backed into, only now I was facing the tree.  At this point the car came to a stop.

Here’s the video, it starts with me in the middle of T1 approaching the turn-in to T2.

 

In the pictures below you can see the view from the tree looking back at the track.  You can see the tire tracks in the grass.

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The tree I hit, and the spot in the berm where my wheels dug in, and the car launched into the air.

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Finally, some shots of the damage.  Note, that if you look closely at the drivers door, you can see that the crack isn’t even.  It gets wider at the top.  That’s because the frame bend downwards and opened up the space between the top of the door and the body.  My next post will detail the rebuild.

 

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