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One Lap of America: Part 3 of 6

by Roy Maranhao
July 14, 2012

  Day 4 - Sunday May 6: Mid America Motorplex – distance traveled: 425 miles

 

 This is the tornado we witnessed on May 6th near Kansas City

  

 Day 4 - Sunday May 6: Mid America Motorplex – distance traveled: 425 miles

The next track was in Pacific Junction, Iowa just east and across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska. Pacific Junction is located about 100 miles west of Des Moines so we still had a few hours of driving before we got to the track. Since we hadn’t made reservations and Warren Buffett was holding the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha on Saturday, we knew from experience that a room would be hard to find anywhere near the track. Also, the added benefit of leaving the last two hours of driving for the next morning is that it’s much less tiring driving early in the morning. For much of the 100 miles it rained hard and in places pea sized hail fell. We turned on the weather radio and learned that we were in the middle of a twenty mile stretch of hail and possible tornadoes. Since there was no shelter anywhere near we decided to continue on. We had to slow down as visibility was reduced and I was worried about my fresh paint job getting ruined from the hail. I slowed down to about sixty (the speed limit in Iowa is 70). A few minutes later I saw flashing lights coming up fast behind me. It turns out it was an ambulance and not just any ambulance but the One Lap ambulance. You see, another One Lap sponsor is Kicker audio which outfitted an ambulance with all their best audio gear and entered it as a demo vehicle for their wares. They follow us from track to track and play music in the paddock at each track. They also bought us lunch at a track in Oklahoma.

 

 The One Lap ambulance

From this point on, two road course events would be run at each track – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Don and I agreed that I would be driving the morning events and he would drive the afternoon events. The rain stopped by the time we arrived at Mid America and the track was dry but everything that wasn’t pavement was mud. My turn to drive came up and I was on the track with a Mustang, a vintage Porsche, a late model full size Mercury Marauder and a fairly new Ferrari F430. The Ferrari was obviously in the wrong run group but as it turns out the driver borrowed the car from his son and was being very careful with it. The track is two and one quarter miles in length with 15 turns. I was fairly comfortable on this track because I had driven there a few times over the years so I knew how much to brake for each turn. I was doing fine, when suddenly I saw the Ferrari right on my bumper and watched him pass at the next straight section of track. This broke my concentration somewhat and I started chasing him – a real rookie mistake. At the next turn, I was a little too fast and drifted into the mud and slid back across the track sideways. I probably lost 15 or 20 seconds but no real damage was done. I got back on the track and drove much more cautiously for a short distance to clear the mud from my tires. When I returned to the Paddock, Don laughed and took pictures of my muddied fenders.

 The afternoon event was Don’s and although he was also passed by the Ferrari, he managed to keep the car on the track and was much faster.

 By 4 pm we were back on the road heading South on I29 toward Oklahoma. As we drove through Kansas City the rain and hail came back. Visibility was really bad so we decided to stop for dinner at McDonald’s. While walking into the restaurant, we noticed nearly everyone walking out, including some of the employees. They went to the parking lot and were looking east and a few taking pictures with their cell phones.

Just then the tornado warning sirens began. Don and I went out to take a look and saw what looked to me like a fairly anemic tornado – one of those long spindly looking things that tends to skip around a bit. It looked like it was about a quarter mile from where we were. I looked up toward the top of the funnel near the clouds and saw what was probably debris swirling around up there so I guess even the wimpy looking tornadoes can be dangerous. We were a little surprised at the panicky reaction of those around us but respected the fact that they live with these storms every spring and were much more aware of the damage and danger they cause. Don broke the tension and got a few chuckles when he said aloud, “Ahh, happens every day [sic]" as we walked back inside.

It started raining hard again so we had dinner and waited ten or fifteen minutes for the rain to subside before we left. Less than fifteen minutes later we were driving in bright sunshine with a very angry sky behind us.

 We did have reservations at our next destination, as there was very little lodging near the track. We stayed at the Boomtown Inn in Drumright, Oklahoma. Drumright is an interesting little town thirty miles west of Tulsa with a population of around 3,000 people. Oil was discovered there in 1912 and by the 1920s population swelled to about 5,000 people. The big oil gushers are history now, but thousands of tiny oil wells still dot the countryside.

Day 5 - Monday May 7 Hallett Motor Racing Circuit – distance traveled: 618 miles

The track was about twenty miles or so north of Drumright in Hallett, Oklahoma. The track is one of my favorites. It’s only 1.8 miles long with 10 turns, a few of them blind due to the hilly terrain, but is considered a difficult track to master. It’s one of the safer tracks we ran on this year. Speeds are lower because the straights are shorter and there’s lots of grass on the sides of the track with a minimum of cement walls and other obstructions. I drove the morning event and then it was Don’s turn. One car that ran in the run group before Don’s left a trail of coolant the whole length of the track. It took a half hour to clean all that up. When Don got his turn, the fear was that there were some slippery spots remaining – especially where other cars don’t usually go. Don overdid one corner and hit a slippery spot and then went off the track. I was watching from the grandstands and saw a huge cloud of dust. I was relieved to see Don go by a minute later. He was a bit sheepish when he returned to the paddock, but no damage was done to car or driver. We chalked up another successful day of racing, packed up and headed out to Colorado.

 Don drove the first leg so I managed a nap while he was driving. We were about 600 miles from the next track. We got a late start due to the track cleanup and I70 had many sections of construction with 55 mile an hour speed limits. We had planned to find a motel about an hour and a half east of the track and then get an early start in the morning. That still left us with 500 miles to drive. I no sooner fell asleep when we were stopping at a truck stop. Don seemed to be struggling a bit with the steering wheel and reported that we had no power steering. I checked and discovered we had no fluid in the power steering reservoir. We poured in some fresh fluid and it all leaked out. A broken hose was the culprit. We drove the car out to the back of the truck stop so we could fix the steering without having to deal with the curious and the righteous who would not want us working on our car in their parking lot. We managed to bend things and use a few hose clamps for a temporary fix. We were back on the road within an hour, drove north on I35 to Salina, Kansas and then west on I70 into the blazing sunset. Several hours later we crossed the Kansas/Colorado border and checked into the Comfort Inn at Burlington, Colorado around midnight mountain time.

 

 Me, fixing the power steering

 

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