RITCHIE RACING SCCA AMERICAN SEDAN
2000 SEASON UPDATE
One phrase sums up the entire race season, "When I finished, I won".
Four National wins and only second in the Southwest division.
The season got off to a rough start at the February Double National at Texas World Speedway's 2.9 mile road course. In the first race I qualified under the existing track record, but 0.234 of a second behind the Goodyear shod, four-time Division champion Mustang of Tom Himes. At the drop of the green flag, Himes and I broke away from the rest of the race group, leaving behind Ron Kerr, Bob Hahn and Carey Grant, all very competitive AS racers. I raced Himes closely for seven laps, but on the eighth lap, while in easy striking distance of the overall lead, my crankshaft broke cleanly, the forward portion separated from the car and actually passed my car as I coasted off the track. Himes drove to easy wins both days, building an insurmountable lead in the Southwest Division AS National Championship.
On April 2nd, with a new engine under the hood, I entered the Regional race at Texas World Speedway, mainly to break-in the new engine, and won the race with a one-lap margin of victory.
At the Abilene, Texas Sunburn 2000 Regional race in late April, I raced Himes in a very close race. After passing him late in the race, he went back into the lead when my engine lost power and I finished second. After the race it became apparent that the engine damage was terminal, and I was unable to start the National race the next day.
On Memorial weekend, I entered the Lone Star Gran Prix 2000 at Texas World Speedway and qualified second to Hahn. In the first lap of the race I passed Hahn, and even though there was a full course yellow flag that allowed Bob to close up the lead I had amassed, he was unable to pass me and I won the race.
In the next National race in June at Cabaniss in Corpus Christi, Texas, I qualified on the AS pole nearly a full second ahead of Hahn, and three seconds ahead of the next AS competitor. I led the race from flag to flag and scored another National win.
Late July saw the SCCA races back at Texas World Speedway, but this time on the long, fast 3.0 mile course. I qualified for the National Race on the AS pole and led every lap, winning with an average speed of over 95 mph.
Again in August, the Southwest Division of the SCCA held a National race on the 3.0 mile road course at Texas World Speedway. Again, the Ritchie Racing Mustang qualified on the AS pole. This time Himes started second in AS, approximately 1.5 seconds behind. I was able to hold off Himes and a field of very competitive GT-2 and T1 cars for the AS and overall victory, this time averaging over 97 mph.
THE RUNOFFS, OCTOBER 2000
I arrived at Mid-Ohio believing "this is the year", because I had won four National races in a row, finished a strong second in the Southwest Division Championship, and thought I had a strong, dependable car.
In the Monday practice session, I went on the track, turned three "shakedown laps" and lost oil pressure on the first lap at speed. Even though I spent most of that lap watching the oil pressure gauge, my officially recorded lap time was 1:44.548, not bad for the first day of practice while nursing a sick engine. Examination of the engine showed that the main bearings and crankshaft were damaged. Unfortunately, I had spare parts for all of the engine parts that were not damaged, but did not have a short block with me, that was still back in Texas.
It was early on Monday, and the race wasnt until Saturday, so even though my crew didnt make this trip, I decided to buy a new short block from Summit Racing in Akron and build an engine at the track in time to qualify and race. By Wednesday morning, the car was running again, with the new engine installed. The oil cooler was partially blocked with debris from the first engine and I was unable to push the car hard to qualify on Wednesday, then it rained for the last qualifying session on Thursday. As a result, I posted a very poor qualifying time, but good enough to start the race. Two laps into the race, the engine began to miss and lose power and I retired early, scoring my first DNF at the Runoffs. A post-race inspection of the car showed that two lobes of the new camshaft had worn prematurely, victims of an insufficient new engine break-in period. The 2000 season ended on a low note, but my enthusiasm for next years racing season has not been dampened.