NASA events tend to have some sort of quirky title and/or theme and in the 2021 season, the irony knows no bounds. First there’s the season opener called ‘Summer in February’ where rain and frigid temps are almost a rite of passage at this point. And that’s without the occasional snow or ice. Unsurprisingly, ‘Winter in July’ at Barber Motorsports Park was not to be outdone with some of the hottest and humid race conditions I can recall.
I was born and raised (for the most part) in West Tennessee so I am used to hot and humid summers. And living on a small hobby farm / garage, you get your work done early or you suffer. I’ve suffered a lot this summer and Barber was no exception.
In fact, I was surprised with how oppressive the heat was this year. Northern Alabama isn’t much different temperature wise from West Tennessee but the air was extremely stagnant. Upper 90 degree ambient temps with literally zero wind and high humidity are arguably some of the worst conditions for racing. In conditions like these surface temps soar.
That led to more than a few drivers, both racers and HPDE students, ending the weekend early due to heat exhaustion and temperamental cars. I myself made a mental note to add some sort of heat barrier to my transmission tunnel near my right foot as the heat was so intense it was burning my foot through my shoe. Not bad enough to cause serious damage but enough to cause serious discomfort during both races.
(Before we jump into the races, I’m gonna take a sidebar with a special message to the Atlanta area 944 Spec drivers that were all no shows. WTF! Barber Motorsports is hands down one of the best tracks in the country and only 3 hours from Atlanta. I expect you all to show up en masse next year.)
Race 1 was pretty uneventful. I started first and slipped by mixed class traffic early in the race. Leaving the rest of the 944 Spec field to battle. Even though track conditions were markedly hotter than 2020, I was easily able to consistently match my fast pace from last year. Running the same, untouched car from last year and this time on old tires. Reinforcing my theory/pursuit of constant incremental improvement on the track.
With an increasing lead I focused on keeping my intensity up and running quick, consistent and safe laps throughout the race. Resulting in a 47sec gap to P2 by race end.
This one’s a little more exciting. Shawn Taylor in the #817 blew passed me at the start taking P1 by turn 1. I tucked in behind as we worked our way through traffic consistently pulling away from the rest of the field. I attempted a few passes early but was unable to make anything stick as I would subsequently lose the position during the drag race to the next corner. Halfway through the race I switched to plan b and kept the pressure up as I noticed Shawn’s car was starting to look quite loose through certain sections. I was planning a move in the back section when about 2/3 into the race, Shawn oversteered into the grass on the inside of the Museum section (19:35); executing an almost complete 360 before hopping back on the track. I took the easy pass and was then free to put down a few fast laps resulting in another first place finish with a comfortable margin.
There isn’t a lot to say here except to shame the Southeast region one more time. Barber Motorsports Park in an amazing track with some of the nicest facilities in the country. (There’s even a Buc-ees down the street now.) Inside jokes aside, if you are within 6 hours there is no excuse to not make this one of your annual events.