Thursday, September 23, 2010

PRILL: The Agony Of Defeat

For every success story at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, there is one of despair. I found one such story on Wednesday.

PRILL: The Agony Of Defeat
For every success story at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, there is one of despair. I found one such story on Wednesday.
Eric Prill | Posted September 22, 2010

At the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Subway, there are great stories of success and personal triumph. These are the stories you’ll read about on websites and in magazines. But for every success story, there is one of despair. I found one such story on Wednesday.

Some of the craziest, most frustrating stories come out of the trip to races. I’m not saying that grassroots racers are a menace to the highway, but I’ve heard my share of stories revolving around blown trailer tires, runaway trailers and stolen rigs out of hotel parking lots. Sometimes, the greatest adventure on a race weekend is getting to and from the event.

Harold Flescher had a difficult trip to the Runoffs. The 1995 F Production National Champion had motor home trouble, making his three-day trip from South Florida take a week. Weeks like that often set the stage for a Cinderella-type storybook ending, but it’s not happening for “H” this week.

On the last lap of qualifying, Harold had a good lap going in his aged, but highly-developed and really fast Austin-Healey Sprite. He admitted the car was a little loose in the Carousel, but, knowing he had a flier going, he decided to go flat through the Kink.

It didn’t work. Harold went wide, and figured he’d just hang on in the dirt at 120mph and ease it back on, but when he got back to the asphalt, the car hooked right and went straight into the wall. Ouch.

I was on track in the same session and you never like to see the yellow flags waving vigorously at Station 11 and 11A. It means there’s probably a yard sale around the bend and you hope one of your fellow racers isn’t hurt.

As I drove by the safety vehicle and Harold’s car, I was relieved to see him climbing out. Talking to him afterward by his crumpled car, Harold admitted he was sore and that he’d probably be really sore tomorrow. It was the hardest hit he’d ever had in his 40-plus years of racing.

I asked him what the future of the car was, and he said that his crew chief Peter would get the car into his shop to fix it. I was happy to hear that, because I know that Harold has thought about retirement, at least a little bit, in the last several years. He admitted that weeks like this make a guy consider if he wants to continue racing. I hope he does, but in two weeks time, he’ll celebrate his 70th birthday. Who could blame him if he decided that it was time to call it a career? But, then again, this isn’t a job or a career. This is for fun and Harold loves to race. He’s damn good at it too.

Thrill of Victory

Someone did taste the thrill of victory today—Benjamin Schaut, of Commerce Twp, Mich., won the second-annual Beat the Boss charity fundraiser for the SCCA Foundation. Each year, SCCA President Jeff Dahnert challenges all to a foot race around the four-mile Road America circuit. Proceeds go to the SCCA Foundation, which funds a number of outreach programs, most notably the Tire Rack Street Survival teen safe-driving program. Dahnert finished seventh—two spots better than 2009.

I guess I should be happy, but…

So my own session today didn’t go how I would have scripted it. All in all, it wasn’t bad, though. After day two, I’m in fourth place – a little more than a tenth out of second. A lot of people would be thrilled, but I was frustrated with how my session shook out and actually helped one of the guys in front of me by giving him a rabbit to chase and a draft. There’s always tomorrow, but the weather doesn’t look good.

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