Round 3 NJMP Thunderbolt
Written by Cowboy6 Sunday, 09 May 2010 00:00
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NJMP: Thunder

MAY 1-2 2010 New Jersey Motorsports Park – Millville, NJ

We left the house around 1430 on Thursday. Other than traffic, for the first time in a while, the ride to the track was uneventful. We were grateful for that. We arrived that evening and found a spot to set up that would allow John some space when he arrived Friday evening. It was a bit windy so we decided not to set up the canopy. I decided to attempt to use the on-site wireless to get some college work done. That was a failure as the connection just would not work.

Friday AM we got to work early. I was not going to participate in the practice day as I felt the fee was abusive. So, I would just spend the day working on the bikes. I specifically had to install the new fuel tank Bob Brown at just painted for me. Also, my new cartridges were to be installed in a set of forks. Denise got busy with the first of three days of breakfast preparation for everyone. I was thrilled that Cecilia and I had a day to work on the bikes together. Normally she is working in the timing tower for CCS but since this was not a CCS day and I wasn’t riding the overpriced practice day, we spent the entire day together! Everything went pretty well on Friday until I noticed the aluminum tank mount on one of the bikes was tearing. I had not crashed this bike so it must have been under engineered and just failing under my weight during cornering. The efforts that followed consumed many hours and resulted in temporary steel replacement. All day, we were getting a feeling of general disgruntlement from everyone over issues like being fleeced at the gate for $47 / person then having to pay an additional $60 to camp. This was almost triple what it costs to go to Summit Point. I personally had a miserable experience at tech inspection with the inspector jerking on bodywork “to see if there was anything else he should look at” to almost having him drop my bike in his reckless, bull-in-a-china-shop demeanor, as he pushed on this, pulled on that, and otherwise showed everyone in line behind me (whose eyes were bulging and jaws were dropping) that he had no clue what he was doing but was desperately trying to pull it off. But, as we would find out, it was only the beginning.

Celie torquing sprocket nuts.

Daddy - Daughter day at the track.

That evening, we discovered that people were being allowed on the track (unlike last year with guards at the gate) so we quickly ran out and walked the 2.25 miles of Thunder. We had received warnings from a few riders about some of the corners so I really wanted to see them up close if possible. As we walked, we saw John arrive and guided him in to our pit via cell phone from the track. After finishing our walk, we completed what we needed in the pit area and prepared for a good night’s sleep. Some would be denied such a luxury as the track was hosting some sort of beef and beer night that did not end until 2300! It was held at the small building right in the paddock area where the bathrooms and showers were located. So, riders trying to sleep were serenaded by loud music and drunk people into the night. Around midnight, my buddy Eric had a small car with four young men pull in close to his pit. They proceeded to open the doors to their compact car and “share” their lovely rap music with everyone in the area at high volume. Eric, having been asleep, woke and asked them to keep it down because he needed to race in the morning and needed some sleep. They apologized with their beer slurred speech but when Eric woke up in the morning, he found a pile of human feces in front of his truck. Welcome to NJMP!

It was Saturday AM and now the real chaos would begin. We would have two rounds of practice then the racing would start. John and I would have to make it count. Did I mention that this was pretty much an all new group of people running this event? There were two announcers working the event. The problem was, the one with twice the volume of the other, was only concerned with promoting upcoming automotive events and parties that would be held at the track. As a result, every once in a while, we would hear a whisper like voice calling for some group to practice. Of course, the guy calling for practice sessions, like most others involved, knew little to nothing about motorcycles or the standard procedures used in our operations. So, it became a reaction drill to get out on the track amidst the two hands pushing to the ground signal that was portrayed by the 2,000 security people that swarmed the facility in an attempt to enforce the 5 mph speed limit. Yes, 5 mph. You can barely keep a bike upright at that pace and you would miss your ten minute practice session that was announced by a single statement like “the track is green for group 4” as bikes pull out on the track and you are a ½ mile away at the other end of the paddock. Thankfully John brought his lovely daughter Emily with him and she worked hard to take Cecilia’s place in the pits. Thanks for all your help Emmers! You are awesome!

The track itself was ok. It has a very fast average speed with no slower corners and very little brake work. It fell right into the hands of the 125 guys and should have helped me with my power deficit in Lightweight. But, I just could not get the track down fast enough. After Cecilia sang the National anthem, we hit the track in competition mode.

Holy Smoke! They're on my tail!

My first race was GT Light. I was gridded on the pole and had a great start. I hit turn one in the lead and held it for the entire lap. But, my buddy Joey Thomas got by me in turn one at the start of lap 3 due to my being a bit slow in that turn. That was something I never did manage to fix all weekend. I always felt I could do better there. Anyway, the race went on and by the end, 3 of the 125s had made it past me which left me to finish 4th. A nice thing about this day was the arrival of Darryl Proechel with two of his little ones. He wasn’t racing this weekend but he came out just to say hello and cheer us on a bit.

Next up was the Ultra Light Superbike event. I would ride my other bike for this one. It felt a bit awkward at first because it handles a bit slower. But, again, I took turn one in first. My lead didn’t last long though as I was passed in T6 by Travis McNerney. The bike was not making any funny noises or cutting out but it surely was not pulling very hard. In fact, I was amazed at how two bikes just pulled right by me on the front straight on lap 3. But, there was an incident in T1 that left one on the floor and the other off- roading. It was of no avail though, another bike made it past me and I only finished 3rd. I was just not getting in the groove on this track. My lap times were coming down but so were the other guys. I was always a bit behind. I would eventually get into the 1:34’s but others in my classes were running 1:33’s. John was doing his best as his neck was still bothering him. He did keep his steed on two wheels save some “help” in the pits that found his bike on its side. Congrats to John on a “clean” weekend.

John on a roll.

In the mean time, we were busy visiting riders and Ray Rizzo was working the shuttling of crashed riders from the medical building to their pits. If you go down, you go to the med building, no matter what. Then, you are on your own to get back to your pit. Other tracks check you out in the “bus” and drop you at your pit if there are no issues. So, this shuttle opportunity gave us something else we could do to help our fellow racers and show them we care about them! We were also able to distribute the squeeze pops we brought to the kids that passed by. I guess because of our unusually cold weather back home, it seemed really hot this weekend.

Rolling on out of the chicane.

Saturday night brought some recovery time as well as Danny (Angry Snowman) pizza night! Marea Heck was nursing her wounds from a get off earlier in the day but other than that, the 18 crashes that day resulted in no major injuries. We were blessed. After eating, another wonderful NJMP event was about to unfold. Lucy Wesson decided she needed a shower. So off to the ladies room/showers she went. A few minutes later, she returned. It seems that some joker decided that he had to have a shower RIGHT NOW and with people already in the men’s showers, he just went into the ladies room. So, when Lucy walked in, there he was, completely naked ready to step into the shower, in the ladies room. Sometimes I just wonder about the mental stability of some people. This guy has no idea how lucky he was that it was a grown woman and not someone’s little girl that walked into the bathroom that night. I am sure he would still be in the ICU. But, security was notified but did not arrive until after he had left. We never found out who it was but security folks stood at the restroom doors for the rest of the night.

Sunday morning arrived and what a day it would turn out to be. Denise was in automatic mode with the food as people were now a bit used to coming over. This is the way we wanted it. I mean, do we have to pull your arm for you to take advantage of a free breakfast? I only had one race but we would be quite busy operating the shuttle service, doing the invocation, chapel service and well, more on that later. One of the CSBA chapter leaders and my friend Mark Hamm arrived via motorcycle to support the team today. I was shocked that the track charged him $27 to get in and then fleeced him for another $7 to park his motorcycle. He was parking in our pit anyway! I was a bit miffed at this one, but Mark just took it in stride. My wife gets a kick out of Mark being around. We went to high school together so many years ago but never saw each other again until 2006 when we attended a CSBA rally at the same time. We were never “friends” in school but our common interest in the Lord and motorcycles has thrust us together twenty-five years later!

After two rounds of practice, we had a break for the rider’s meeting and lunch. I was privileged with delivering the message at chapel service and it went quite well. I spoke about our relationship with God being one of Father and child. I wanted to read Matthew 7:7-8 but I was so caught up in speaking that I forgot! My message was focused on how we will do anything for our kids and that it is the same for God and us. The problem is that when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to, we can get angry and or lose faith. But, we need to remember that He knows far more than we do and that He will always answer our prayers, we simply need to step back and look for it.

Chapel time!

After chapel was over, and another invocation by me and the anthem was sung by Cecilia, the melee began. The third race tried twice to start but both times ended in disaster before the completion of one lap. It was postponed to the end of the day. Our friend, Marea Heck, went down again. Nate Kern went down hard in the chicane and was the first of the weekend to go to the hospital. He was knocked out and later we found that he had a bad headache and a sore neck but nothing broken. In all, by the end of the day, there were 30 riders sent to the medical building and three went to the hospital. Combined with Saturday, the total was around 48! That was a huge number and we were quite busy running them back to pits etc.

The new bike is handling well.

My only race for the day was Lightweight Superbike. I was on the front row again and I was a bit nervous as it had been many hours since the short practice session that morning and I felt a bit cold to the track. This time, I also blew the start. I let the clutch out a bit too fast and the front came up a bit too high. I had to get the front back down and when I did, I shifted to second and it came back up again! Meanwhile I was swamped by 4 riders and went through T1 in 5th. With all the races being shorted to 6 laps, I knew I didn’t have time to waste in getting back to the front. I did get back past one rider in short order and proceeded to chase the three bike lead pack. But, it was not to happen that day. I chased and chased but the gap stayed too large to jump. I heard engines behind me so I kept pushing. At one point, I thought that I needed to just be happy with fourth and ride it out. But, the other side, somehow derived from that dog in your neighborhood, decided that chasing was the best answer. So, I kept pushing harder and harder. Then in T9 on the 4th lap, I went in seemingly at the same speed as always and rolled back on the throttle to power through this high speed sweeper. I felt a bit of a twitch then the rear slid out and down I went. Of course, I remember saying “oh crap” as I slid across the asphalt toward the curb and dirt. As I reached the edge of the track, I pulled in my arms, closed my fists and tucked my head for the rolls and flips that were soon to follow. And they did. It turns out that my bike was not so diligent in its crash preparation as it faired far worse than I. We both went a good way as this was the fastest crash I have had to date.

Well, the new bike WAS handling well....

Time for a bus ride. I made the EMT laugh with some silly comment about being from outer space.

When I went to the bike afterward, I saw the extensive damage that included fuel just running out of the side of my new but now split gas tank. I found both bars bent like dog ears, the tail ripped from the now broken subframe, windscreen gone, upper fairing punched in, frame slider bent over and much, much more! While the bike took quite a beating, I was merely ruffled and would be sore in the morning. I always ask the Lord to keep me safe and He did. It was ironic to be hauled to the medical building for a check-up. I had been there so many times already but as “Chaplain.” Now, I was the patient. Little did we all know, within minutes of leaving, I would be back again, as chaplain! I always ask the Lord to keep me safe and He did.

Tons of damage.

After my return from the medical building, we proceeded to start packing up. Even though Mark needed to head home, he stepped up and helped out with the packing. Thanks Mark! It would be a long ride home with my mind swirling over so much damage to the bike and the news of Denise’s father having a heart attack weighing on us. This was one of those weekends that you wish you could just hit the reset button and get a do-over! Everyone has them. It was our turn. But, we were quite encouraged by our visitors and that folks really took something away from my sermon. That is the important thing and why we are here.

Hanging out after a race.

We will be going to the Christian Sport Bike Association Spring rally in West Virginia in a few weeks and will hang out in the area as the following weekend will find us at Summit Point for the first time this year. I hope to have the wrecked bike up and running again but, honestly, it will be quite a financial burden so it may not happen.

Please keep us in your prayers!

::::::::::::::: Joe “Cowboy 6” Cotterino

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 00:08