One Lap of America 2006, Day 4
The halfway point in Florence, South Carolina, brings excellent examples of obsessive and compulsive.
BY TONY SWAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARY SEELHORST
Florence, South Carolina, May 9 —
Where is the border between behavior that’s classifiable as compulsive, and that we see as obsessive?
That’s rarely an easy call, but One Lap of America has historically provided excellent examples of each, and 2006 is no exception.
Compulsive applies to any number of teams in this year’s field — the guys whose cars are perpetually on jackstands in the paddock as their crews perform maintenance rituals they’ve already performed a dozen times: bleeding the brake sytems, re-checking tire pressures, checking brake pad depth, checking coolant levels, tweaking anything tweakable, then tweaking again.
A good example of One Lap compulsive was provided by Buzz Clarke and Joel Lipperini, teamed this year in Clarke’s 2006 Subaru WRX STi.
Prior to their run at Florence Motor Speedway, a South Carolina half-mile paved oval, the two were observed adjusting the Subie’s front end camber, i.e., the angle of the front wheels, to improve cornering performance.
It’s a lot work for a three-lap run that takes just over a minute.
To be fair, Lipperini, a former SCCA national road racing champion, put on a good show on the Florence oval.
But it’s also fair to say the setup activity qualifies as compulsive.
Then there’s obsessive, and our poster boy for that category is Danny Popp, the Cincinnati Corvette ace who has multiple SCCA national autocross championships on his driving resume.
Popp was among the leaders during the early time trials, but a fading engine forced him to head home after the Day 2
runs at Mid-America Motorplex, south of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The rest of the Lappers, meanwhile, headed to Louisiana for Day 3
competition, then showed up at the Roebling Road road circuit, near Savannah, for a pair of Day 4 time trials — where they were joined, near the end of the first round, by Popp’s dark blue Vette.
Rather than give up after mid-America, Popp got his Vette home to McCluskey Chevrolet, in Cincinnati (where he is the anointed Corvette guru), swapped the ailing engine for a healthy one, then caught up with the tour in Georgia just before the lunch break.
The gods of speed didn’t show much appreciation for all this effort. Popp’s first Roebling run was aborted halfway through when the Corvette shredded its accessory drive belt.
Even more frustrating, he was forced to miss the second Roebling run, while he hunted up another belt.
With a new belt installed, he was finally back in business — though out of the hunt for top honors.
The Roebling rounds were dominated by Karl Troy, who put on a phenomenal driving clinic in his Corvette-powered Ultima GT.
At Florence, however, the showbiz laurels went to Erich Heuschele — though not for dizzying speed.
Heuschele and teammate Dave Zelkowski, both DaimlerChrysler engineers, and both veterans of previous Laps, are campaigning a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8
The hot rod Jeep is handily dominating its competition class — pickups and sport-utilities — but it’s no match for some of the high-performance sports cars at the front of the pack.
Realizing this, Heuschele and Zelkowski schemed up ways to give the Grand Cherokee a little more visibility, and came up with the idea of attaching a huge, roof-mounted wing of the type used on World of Outlaws sprint cars.
Heuschele wasn’t sure what benefit, if any, the wing provided on the track. But it was a major crowd-pleaser, and several competitors wondered if a wing package would become a Mopar accessory.
The One Lap cars ran under the lights at Florence, giving the event an old-time grassroots racing flavor.
It also marked the halfway point of the 2006 tour.
Day 5 will find the One Lap field at Virginia International Raceway, the beautiful road circuit near Danville.
We’ll be there.