Round 8: NJMP Thunderbolt
Written by Cowboy6 Sunday, 15 August 2010 00:00
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New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) Thunderbolt Circuit

JULY 23-25 2010 NJMP – Millville, NJ

As we rolled into NJMP for the third time this year, I could not help but be a bit anxious about it. This place is the location of my worst crash ever, I have crashed here both of the previous events this year, and we were planning to feed the entire paddock breakfast on Saturday morning! This was going to be a whopper no matter what happened.

Friday was a practice day but due to financial issues as well as coordination for the breakfast, our team did not participate. Instead, I had a nice (hot) day of making some final adjustments on the bikes, installing a new chain, throttle, etc., as well as coordinating with the announcer for some advertisement and making good use of the crew for hanging posters and general preparation. About halfway into the day Chuck from Heislerville UMC arrived and the crew unloaded the equipment we were borrowing from his church to make this happen. I had the shopping list in hand and we agreed that Chuck would come back after dinner and we would trek to the local store and purchase what we would need for the morning.

With everything purchased, we came within $2.00 of the budget! Everything was crammed into what little refrigeration space we had. Alan Muse of CCS had brought tables the track was lending so we set those up to get a feel for how things would work. Everything was going well and according to plan. Danny of Angry Snowman Racing lent us his generator to ensure we had enough power to run the commercial coffee pots and five electric griddles needed to cook all the food and still have power for tire warmers that would be running during the serving time. We were quite tired and it was very hot even with the sun having set so, off to bed we went. We would have to get up really early to start cooking the bacon.

Saturday AM was here! My wife Denise, John’s wife Heather and our girls went into action. John had the power distributed and we unplugged the RV’s so we wouldn’t blow breakers. The bacon was sizzling and things were all set up. The volunteers arrived a bit before 0630 so that was a blessing. I gave them a quick briefing about what the plan was and assigned jobs to each. Now we had pancake mix a-mixin’, bacon a sizzlin’ and we even started some eggs a-fryin’. By the time 0700 rolled around, we were actually pretty ready. Travis McNerney was the first to come by and so it began. After about 15-20 minutes went by and I was comfortable that everything was in order, I set out to make sure everyone knew where to go and that they were welcome. I found that even with the forum saturation, the flyers on all facility doors, and PA announcements, people still had no idea what we were doing that morning! In the end, we had served in the neighborhood of 100 people! It was truly joyful to see all of this come together and have a great outcome. I am sure that we could have served more if we could get the word out a little better. We will be doing this again.

After breakfast was over, practice sessions started. I had decided to run both on the B bike as we can run pump gas in it and save some money. I had also changed the jetting because we are going to try out some new fuel. I have been consistently using VP 4.4 and part of what kept me with them was the fact that they supported our series with contingency. This year, despite promises and even verification from Texas, they have not come through. So, I will be trying other fuels to see what kind of power we can get. Practice went ok but not spectacular as I was running a wasted rear tire as well as the pump gas. I only wanted to re-familiarize myself to the track, job done.

The first race, as usual, was GT Light. I was gridded on the front row and was chomping at the bit to go. This start, however, left something to be desired. The front wheel came up too far so I set it down, and it came up again! By the time I had the bike going; Joey Thomas had passed me by. Then, after a lap, Joe Rozynski passed me on the front straight with his Buell. I tried my best but I just couldn’t hang with them. I did have a great race with Dave Z though. He was even close enough to cringe when I almost went catastrophic. We were coming out of the long left hand sweeper close to the last turn when all of a sudden, by bike just decided the tires weren’t good enough. Both tires gave out and I was sliding both ends at the same time off the track. I pushed the bike upward to decrease the lean angle and the tires started to grip again. About a foot from the edge of the asphalt, the bike caught again and it tossed me a bit with my left foot coming off the peg. After I started breathing again, it was business as usual as the throttle found the stop. Dave was hot on my tail for the entire race. Every once in a while he would show a wheel but I kept him at bay. Then on the last lap, I hit a false neutral braking for T7 and he passed me on the inside while I recovered. I immediately fell behind and with only few turns left in the 15 lap race, I didn’t want fourth! So, I tried my best to keep within striking distance. With only three turns left, we came upon a back marker! Neither of us could get by through the long left hand sweeper so we roared into the slight chicane prior to the last turn. I backed off a bit to get a good run and I saw Dave duck to the inside to pass this guy. Knowing I couldn’t beat him from behind, I decided to pass on the outside. Bad move, the slowman then decided to swing wide and it cut me off. I darted back to the inside though without losing my momentum. Then a small space opened up between Dave and the slow guy. It was just about big enough for a CSBRacing SV to fit and I was gaining fast. So, in I went splitting both bikes within yards of the finish line to re-take third place! That was really a tough race. Dave and I congratulated each other on the cool down lap. Neither of us won, but we were the first two bikes under 1000cc .

Next up was the Ultra Light Superbike race. The B bike had some new race fuel in the tank and a one race old tire on the rear. This was my best shot at a win this weekend. I was feeling pretty good (but really hot!) as we took to the grid. I was on the front row again. I waved to Cecilia in the tower and to Denise who had made her way to the roof of the building. Then, all focus turned to the starter. The two board came up and I clicked it into 1st gear and felt for the clutch engagement. Then the one board came up, went sideways and the green flag moved. This time, the front wheel pulled up about 6 inches as I modulated the clutch letting the bike pull hard. The front end had just touched the pavement again when I stabbed the shifter for second gear. The front end rose a bit again and re-settled as I went to 3rd, 4th, and 5th. I shifted to 6th briefly to insure my downshift count and then dropped two gears prepping for T1. As I executed all of this, Fotinopolous came in on the inside and stole my holeshot! I know I left him on the line. That bike has some real power! His corner entry moved me off my line a bit but I recovered and went through T2 about two bike lengths back. But, my race was not to go well as Eric Helmbach and Travis McNerney would get by me and leave me in 4th for the finish. I had run better though getting my lap times back down to 1.34 but it was not enough. I still have some serious things to learn about this track.

Cecilia at her job in the tower.

Katie working with me in the pits.

With my race day over, we were in recovery mode and prepping for Sunday. I was supposed to race the A bike in LWSBK but since I was running faster on the B, and needed a new rear tire if I was going to run the A, I decided to just stick with the B bike for my last race. There was no way I was getting to Joey Thomas’ 1.32s today anyway no matter which bike I was on. That night I had a blast spending some quality time with our buddies at Vondari racing, Dragonknee racing and having our traditional Saturday New York pizza night with a super cool but angry snowman. I feel truly blessed to have made so many good friends so far. After eating and chatting a bit, I hopped on Ray’s golf cart and made my rounds. I ended up at Eric Helmbach’s pit and made a new dog friend of the Castiglia’s beagle. She got up in my lap on the cart and just sat there as I drove her around the pit, ears flapping in the wind. Somehow it just made me smile.

John did a great thing this weekend that really needs to be noticed. Our mission here is to show the love of Christ to other racers. One of the ways we do this is by lending a helping hand whenever and wherever we can. John had the opportunity to spend a great deal of his time on Saturday night helping out a racer after he crashed his KTM RC8R. The bike was in pretty bad shape but John was there, helping to get it ready for Sunday’s races. He worked hard into the night sometime using some unorthodox methods and tools such as one of the torsion bars from his trailer to bend the stricken KTM’s subframe back into usable shape. This kind of selflessness is what we strive for on the team. I feel extremely grateful to God for putting John in my life. Anyway, as a result, this racer (Joe Spalding) ended up doing very well on Sunday and even saw fit to thank our team (John did it all) for all the help getting his bike back together. We do not help others in search of rewards or recognition but it sure feels good when someone does notice. My helmet is off to you John.

When Sunday rolled around, I decided to conserve my race rubber by skipping practice. So, I cleaned up a bit and put some last minute things away from the breakfast and watched my buddies duke it out in the morning races. We went to chapel and Ray delivered his sermon to a nice sized group. At the end, several in the crowd expressed their gratitude for the chapel services that Ray does and that CSB Racing does as well as for the breakfast the day before. It was a nice time all around.

John goofing off.

Me goofing off.

Then, it was time to start getting ready for my one and only race. I was feeling quite confident in my bike choice and was getting my game face on when the announcer said a storm would be arriving in about two hours. That would put it at about the start of my race. The weather still looked good so I figured we would be fine. As time went on, it started to get a bit dark and I was actually hoping it would arrive early and I would be able to race in the wet! As the race before mine started out, tiny drops started spiting on the asphalt. Cool for me! I was already prepped for the rain swap so I gave the word and Katie and I started tearing off the slicks and mounting the rains. I was so excited! I would now have a chance to win this one! Little did I know the severity of the weather we were about to encounter. The wind started blowing then howling. Canopies were lifted and blown across the paddock. The rain started coming down in sheets and pelting everything. We struggled to get our canopy down and the awning on the RV retracted. Trash cans were bouncing by and the water was already over an inch deep in minutes. Thank the Lord that John was there to help out. We would have had some serious damage for sure. Kathy Lomaskin was out taking photos of it all though so we have it recorded. What a mess.

John saving the day.

After the rain stopped, my hopes for a wet race were rekindled. But, unfortunately, the officials called off the rest of the program as the track had deep pools of water in several turns and could not be made safe in time. As we finished putting everything away and pulled out, we saw huge trees and limbs fallen on the road. Later we heard rumors of a tornado touching down as well. Poor Eric Helmbach had his RV awning ripped away from the trailer. Many others would pay the price for repairs and replacements too. We were very lucky.

So as it ended up, I never rode a motorcycle on Sunday at all! Having skipped practice and my race rained out, I ended up just a spectator for the day. We counted our blessings, stopped for our traditional after race Chinese food, and headed home into the sunset.

This weekend, God definitely provided in spades. Not only did he provide the needed support to make our breakfast possible, he also provided a beautiful morning in which to serve it. He also allowed us ample opportunity to help others and to show our perseverance in adverse conditions. We were truly blessed on many levels this weekend. Thanks to all who allowed themselves to be led to help.

We are heading to the Summit Point Circuit for the weekend of 27-29 August.

Keep us in your prayers.

……………..Joe ”Cowboy 6” Cotterino

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 00:07