|There's only half a lap left to go in this race as we turn left into
It doesn't look like there's any chance of catching, let alone passing, Landon.
|Exiting the Kink I'm maybe only a couple of inches closer to
Landon. It's not looking good for me.
Speaking of looking, study the video clip to see if you can spot the Marshalls waving a yellow flag over there on the left side of the track.
Once again I was focused so intently on trying to catch the car ahead of me, that I totally failed to see the flag being waved by the Marshalls. I really must learn to correct that bad habit.
|As a result of not paying attention to the flags, I was a bit surprised when Landon started braking way too early for the left corner at the end of the back straight.|
|This is where I normally start braking.|
|I was even more surprised, downright startled in fact, when
Landon continued braking way too long, and braking hard as well.
I very nearly drove right up his backside!
Well that certainly closed the gap between us rather dramatically.
|Aha. Now I see what the problem is.
It's Terry again, stuck in yet another snowbank.
|Into the second left corner, Landon is hugging the inside
snowbank. I think that's a mistake.
I keep wide right as long as possible to stay on the better traction surface before turning in late.
|The white truck is another tow vehicle waiting for a break in the
traffic so they can go fetch Terry from the snowbank.
Once we're clear of this tow truck, we're out of the yellow caution zone and can go back to racing.
Landon will run wide to the right from here, whereas I'm setting up to exit this turn on the left side of the track where there is better traction.
|I have great traction and a much straighter line
into the Esses from here.
Landon is too far to the right, on the slippery line, and will need to make a sharper right turn into the Esses.
I can smell a last-corner passing opportunity coming up...
|Landon is committed to the slippery line and slides off to the left,
from where he again has bad track position going into the left turn
portion of the Esses.
I cut across to the traction on the right, still accelerating and minimizing the amount of time spent crossing the slippery ice surface.
|From here I plan to stick my rear wheels on the snowy berm, carve
around the outside of the dark ice surface, then hook up with that great
traction spot which I found on the previous lap.
For the last several laps Landon has exited this turn tight along the left snowbank. I'm expecting him to have to "tip-toe" carefully along that ultra slippery surface in order to stay hooked up with the left edge of the track...
|But of course that was a mistake on my part.
Never ever formulate any plans based on your expectations of what the other guy is going to do!
I should have known that Landon isn't the type of guy to "tip-toe" through anything. He stays hard on the throttle, loses his hold on the inside snowbank, and drifts across the slippery ice surface, straight into my path.
|I had a great run on him up until this point. But now he has
suddenly cut me off.
In hindsight, I don't believe this was an intentional block. His bad approach, coupled with the speed he carried into the Esses, made it impossible for him to stay left. I really should have seen this coming, but at the time I was quite surprised.
I was already fully committed to going around the outside of Landon. It's too late now to try going to the left of him. Instead I'm forced to swing way out to the right in order to avoid hitting him.
|But he slides even further to the right!
Watch my hands on the steering wheel. I have to crank in a lot of sudden steering to avoid Landon as he slides ever further to the right, forcing me much farther over than I had intended on going.
|I really never expected Landon would block me. I'm still not
even convinced whether this actually was an intentional block.
The move surprised me so much that I said out loud,
"Aw Landon, where are you going bud?"
|My momentum advantage is almost gone. But I'm still just a
bit quicker at this point.
But how'd I get so far off line, way the heck over here against the far right snowbank???
Oh well, from here it's a straight out drag race to the chequered flag waving up ahead.
|The problem with wearing a full-face helmet is that it restricts
my peripheral vision. As I cross the finish line, foot still
firmly planted on the throttle, I'm completely focused on the small (and
rapidly shrinking) distance remaining to the sharp right corner.
Last I saw him, Landon was still ahead by a nose. But right now I
can no longer see where exactly he is.
Three times already this race I've gone head-to-head with Landon into a corner, and each time I was the one who backed off first. That isn't going to happen this time.
I'm certain I would have already passed him easily, if not for getting pushed offline at the last moment. So this time I absolutely refuse to back off first. I'm keeping the throttle buried until I cross the finish line, and only then will I worry about the upcoming corner.
Actually, I'm already worried...
|Drop the anchors! Engines full astern! Fire the retro
rockets! Need to slow down, and I mean right now!
I'm hard on the brakes now, but this is going to be tricky. There's still pretty good traction available right here. But, I better not allow my front wheels to lock up as I cross onto that slippery dark ice surface.
I already know I can't make this corner. But if I hit that slippery line with my front wheels locked, it's guaranteed the car will spear straight on across the track, hopefully missing the tail of Kevin Sakaluk's #24 car, but surely collecting Landon's car (who's still somewhere beside me on the left), then carry the two of us straight off into the far snowbank.
If at all possible, I'd prefer to avoid that scenario.
|To maintain any degree of steering control, I absolutely must avoid locking the front
wheels. So I need to ease off the brakes.
I just barely manage to keep the nose pointed into the turn but, once onto that slippery surface, there's no way to keep the car from spinning.
As the rear wheels cross the slippery stuff I get on the throttle to keep the wheels spinning. As the rear tires hit the better traction of the snowy surface past the slippery line, I'm hoping they'll help drive me toward the inside of the turn.
I'm sure Landon is still somewhere to my left and, more than anything, I don't want to hit him.
|As the car spins through 90 degrees, completely broadside, I look
back up the track to see if anyone is coming.
This is a very, very, bad spot to park.
Check the tach. I've got lots of revs on to keep the rear wheels turning, forcing the car to continue its spin so I can get out of here as quickly as possible.
|And there's Landon!
My car has reached 180 degrees in its spin. I put in the clutch to free the rear wheels allowing them to roll and hook up again so I can use them as the pivot point to swing the nose around further.
I still have the steering wheel cranked all the way to the left, which should force the nose to swing right and continue the spin as the car starts to roll backward. But Landon is tight up against me on that side, and I cannot allow the nose of my car to swing into his path.
Instead I centre the steering to stop the spin, pop the gearbox into reverse as the rear wheels reach the transition from spinning forward to rolling backward, and then I reverse the hell outta there as fast as I can in a straight line.
|Here comes Trent. Fortunately he's already seen me and I've
backed far enough out of the way that there's no longer any danger of me
Check the skid marks in the snow. It's clearer on the video.
I'll admit my line (green arrow) was a bit unorthodox, sliding well outside of the dark stripe of the normal racing line. But I only used a bit more than half of the track width.
That left ample room for Landon (yellow arrow) to drive around me as I spun.
|Once Landon has cleared my car, I spin the nose around to the left
and get turned around. Trent goes by, as well as Colin Lolacher in
the #3 Dale Earnhardt car.
At this point I still don't know whether Landon or I crossed the line first to take 4th place.
I say, "That was fun! That was an excellent race. I have no idea who won there. I think that was Landon by about two inches."
|It turns out that I did beat Landon across the line, but
only because he was forced to back off first this time.
Landon had already done the math in his head, come to the conclusion that I had no hope in hell of making that corner, and realised that I would very likely be taking him with me straight off into the snowbank. So he backed off and let me go.
And, he was hopping mad about it. The moment we pulled into the pits after our cool down lap, Landon stormed off to consult with Hal and Uwe.
Up until this point I was feeling elated. Despite finishing only 4th, this had been by far my most satisfying race of the weekend. I now know that Landon can be beaten, and I've sent him a clear message that he can no longer count on me to always be the one to back off first. I've shown I can play that game too, when required.
I have a lot of respect for Landon. He's an amazingly confident and skilled driver, and he's a nice guy. Had it been just about any one else, it wouldn't have bothered me as much that he was mad at me now.
But, Landon was right to be angry, and I felt guilty about it. I'd had a great battle with him, was quicker at several points during the race, and felt that I deserved to beat him. But ultimately the only reason I got to the finish line ahead of him was because I pulled a dirty trick on him.
I don't want to win that way, and I don't want others to think I'm a dirty driver. In the 1999 Championship event, someone pulled a similar last-corner stunt on me and it ended with me rolling the car. I was furious about that, for months afterward, before finally accepting that it had been almost entirely my own fault.
To his credit, it only took Landon about ten minutes to calm down. We laughed about it and he agreed he should not have backed off before crossing the line. It just strengthened his resolve to never again back off first.
So even though I beat him to 4th place, I still feel like Landon came out ahead somehow.