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© 1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

Second place is first loser.

Maryland International Raceway, Budds Creek, Md.

Bracket Race: Saturday, May 15, 1999

Josh and I were already at Maryland International Raceway with our Mustang and Firebird to compete in the Royal GTO Club Session. We decided to stay for MIR's Saturday ET Series bracket race.

The pits filled fast. We skipped open practice since we'd already raced all morning. Instead we ate lunch and checked out the mean machinery rolling off the trailers. The ET Series is definitely geared toward serious racers. Most cars were tubbed and slicked pure-race monsters.

We signed up for the Street Trophy class, as it turns out a very non-crowded class. Since we had already teched in the morning, they didn't make us drag our cars through the ever-lengthening tech line. We kept our eyes open for others in the Trophy class but didn't see much.

We wait, and wait, and wait. Then we wait.
Three hours passed before our first practice run. During that time we met the really cool father- son team of Tom and Tom Yoakum (hey guys, drop us a note!) who were out racing their 1998 Mustang GT for the first time. Josh was the center of attention, as a fellow Mustang nut.

The staging lane guy really annoyed me. I like to drive through the waterbox, then do a short clean-off burnout to remove all the pebbles and other junk left on the tires from the pits. This guy was not interested; he made me go around the waterbox. But the car did seem to hook a little better so maybe he knew something. I'm going to experiment a little more with this one.

Also, there were several heavy-hitters in the Trophy class. This is supposed to be a street class but these guys seemed to be using it as a test-n-tune! Their 8- and 9-second cars had no business being with the street cars. We do not like racing them. Their cars tend to break. MIR, please think twice before allowing these monsters in the Trophy class. Fortunately, they withdrew before eliminations.

An hour and a half after our first practice, we got a second practice run. Josh and I ran each other; both of us had poor runs that were useless for helping with the dial-in. So while we were trying to help the Toms figure their first-ever dial, we were saddled with a worthless practice for our own work. Fortunately we had a pretty good idea of how we were running from the morning session (poorly), so Josh dialed in at 14.90 and I dialed in at 13.90.

This truck smoked so bad, they sent a crew out to see whether he lost the motor.
Another hour and a half later it was time to race. We three were not too keen on eliminating each other so we took the same lane. I raced and beat a Mustang LX; Josh raced and beat a Ford Ranger; and Tom got a bye run. Now the field was cut in half, and we still didn't want to eliminate each other.

An hour later we took to the track again. Miraculously we were not paired off. I raced and beat an F150 on a double-breakout. A very close call which motivated me to drop my dial-in to 13.75. Probably the evening air was making our cars faster. Josh got a bye run; Tom raced a Nissan Maxima and lost.

Josh and I had warned Tom about slow cars. Slow cars are easy to run consistently, and consistency matters more than quickness in bracket racing. A slow car with someone who has a good reaction time will frequently beat a fast car. The trick, from a fast car's point of view, is to catch up to the slow car and stay just barely ahead of him -- not foolproof, but it's the best guess you can make.

For getting this far in eliminations, Josh and I took home runner-up trophies. Cool!

A mere half-hour later, we had to race again. This time there were just three of us left: the Maxima, Josh, and me. The Maxima got the bye. After all this time, it finally came to pass: Josh vs. Brian. We resolved to be friends at the finish line, no matter how it went.

Since Josh's Mustang is about a second slower than the Firebird, I wound up using the slower-car tactic against him. I shot past and engine-braked across the finish line, ending with a 13.97 on that 13.75 dial. Josh fared worse with a 15.20 on his 14.90 dial. Josh was done.

The officials wasted no time in resolving the pesky Trophy class, so they could get back to their stupid super pros. The Maxima and I lined up. I knew I was going to use the same trick on his 16.8-second car...

...or maybe not. I cut a 0.472 light. The Maxima won instantly. Mad at myself, I raced down the track anyway to see "what could have been." Well, what could have been was a bunged fourth-gear resulting in a comically bad 14.2 at 83 mph. I would have lost either way.

I told Tom to watch out for the slow cars. Sometimes you have to watch out for yourself.