My name is Jason Beck and my hobby is racing. Maybe that statement wasn't strong enough — my passion is racing. I'm a news reporter by trade and UCAR Clash Series director Larry Walls asked me to compose a brief account of what it is like to race in his series. I'm also the webmaster at www.ucarclash.com.
The UCAR Clash series is a good fit for me as a racer on a budget. What other series can you run on asphalt, dirt and road courses with the same car? —a car that happens to cost less than a set of tires in the Sprint Cup Series. Though the vehicles may be cheaper than other racing divisions, there is no shortage of competition in our series.
That proved true Saturday at Wake County, where three wide racing was the norm and the eighth Clash winner in eight races was crowned. Saturday started slow for myself and the Richard Aliff Motorsports team. We arrived at the track in plenty of time for inspection and the first round of practice. Larry has assembled and excellent team of racers and former racers to inspect the cars and the level of safety equipment in place has certainly improved since he organized the series last year.
During the first practice session, our car was incredibly loose on the slick Wake County Speedway surface. Though the cars are totally stock, as the rule book requires, that doesn't mean UCARS are completely unadjustable. Our team, like at least 90 percent of teams on the circuit, run the Falken brand of DOT tire and the street radials are extremely sensitive to air pressure adjustments. After tinkering with the air pressure over the next two practice sessions, I became much more comfortable with the car and even felt confident enough to skip the final practice session of the day.
I lined up on the inside of the fourth row for the first heat race, and immediately understood the chore I had in front of me that afternoon. It'd been all season since we raced and emotions and jitters were in full force. Eventual feature winner Keith Brame Jr. made a three-wide move on the first lap of my heat, resulting in a multi-car wreck in the first turn. I avoided the wreck, but knew the day would be a rough one.
Since it was my first race in a new car, I played it too safe in the heat, finishing last after not pressing the issue with several cars that blocked my progress. Annoyed at myself, I knew I'd have to pass many cars in the feature to get a good points position and it would take a miracle to win from the rear at a tiny bullring like Wake County. Still, I was determined not to disappoint my new car owner and team.
As the feature started, I made steady progress up through the field, but caution flags kept the field bunched up and double file restarts made it difficult to gain any real ground. Larry's decision to implement double file restarts must certainly be exciting for the fans, since it really makes for some crazy racing every time the yellow flies.
I'd made it to 6th place from my 17th place starting spot on lap 26, only to be shuffled back to about 12th when I was forced high into the marbles by another car on a restart. The racing was furious and cautions slowed the pace of the race until about 15 laps to go, where I found myself seriously lacking track position. The closing moments of the race were some of the most exciting for me, passing my way back up to 8th place, and then running down the 7th place car with five to go, only to fall short by about two car lengths at the finish. Though it's fun to beat and bang with the pack, I'd much rather be ticking off laps under a long green flag run than constantly being interrupted by caution flags.
The thing that impressed me most about the Wake County race was the parity of the cars running in the top 10 all day. Unlike previous seasons of UCAR racing, where two or three cars had a clear advantage over the rest of the field, Saturday's event featured cars that ran laps no more than a few tenths of a second slower than the leader. There was no way for a driver to hang at the tail end of the lead lap and bide their time, because so many cars stayed on the lead lap for the majority of the race.
The event was probably one of the most competitive I've ever been in, and I worked way harder for my eighth place finish than I did the night I won my first race at Caraway Speedway years ago. Talent is very deep in the UCAR Clash Series, where several track champions show up every race. I'm thankful to be given the opportunity to drive the RAM Toyota this season and hope to provide a first person account of all my races as we try to win the 2009 championship.