It would be easy to say that I was going to race the last night of the season “just like any other night.” But with the points title hanging in the balance, well I would be lying to you if I said that was the case. Let’s face it, I had worked through all the permutations. I knew where I had to finish compared to the other 2 tough competitors (Earl Miles and Walt Obrinske Jr.), and it certainly got in my head as I could not stop thinking about it.
We came prepared, and loaded for bear. We did not want for rubber selection, and we had done some testing during the prior week. If I learn one thing from my car owner, it is “you can never be content with how the car was previously.”
Well, we struggled a bit in practice. We could not find speed near where we were the previous week. The thought was that the new shoes would correct it. Time trials did not bear that out as we were sliding a tad, and the results showed that. We barely made the invert of 9, which was the lowest we had timed in any of the regular races. This started us 2nd in the heat. If we could hold our position it would give us nearly the maximum number of points, making up for the time trial issues. But the car was worse, as our adjustments made it nearly undrivable. I plummeted to next to last in the heat. This was not acceptable, and I was choking away the championship.
Just before the feature a sage fellow driver came up and said “just drive as you have done all season and you will be fine.” At that point I was finally able to shake the cobwebs from my head, and I was able to visualize what I needed to do (a top 5 would lock it up).
Stayed patient during the feature, managing to avoid the wrecks ahead of me, which pretty much always went up the track to the wall (thankfully). Soon I was in the front 2 rows on a restart, and the top 3 of us took off. It turned out it was the 3 points contenders. I held with them for a while, but we were a tick slower. They started to pull a gap and I held my position knowing that 3rd was more than enough. The problem was that I was holding up the train! Tap, tap, tap, there was plenty of notice that the line wanted to be moving. I had no intentions of giving it up, and we held on to 3rd, and with it got the team’s first points championship! It was the way the season should have ended, with the 3 of us on the podium.
We then got to go back for some more Winner’s Circle photos – this time as the champion. It was a great feeling (I am not going to lie), and yeah I really was tongue-tied when handed the microphone. Sorry to the fans that I am bored while speaking!
From there, it was only appropriate to have a halfbakedschemes celebration at Applebee’s! ½ price appetizers made it delectable and frugal (hey, we still needed team funding for the last Top Speed race). And besides, take out the slash from ½ – and it is 12, our car number. And yes, that was almost as cheesy as my frontstretch speech.
Still glowing, -Michael