2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – a delightful day with my daughter

What a weekend! This 2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap is special to me, as it was my daughter Annie’s first race weekend! Bear with me, since this recap is probably going to be as much about her weekend as it is mine.

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – I need a bigger truck

I take a bit of grief about my race rig, which consists of my girlfriend’s Kia Soul pulling a landscape trailer. The Soul has a tow rating of just 1,000 pounds, and we’re probably over that at this point. Also, with just me and my gear in it, the Soul has been pretty full.

Of course, I added a bike and another person.

When I bought the Benelli, I half-jokingly told my daughter, Annie, that she was going to have to race it at least once. She took up the gauntlet and agreed! So we set this weekend as her debut, borrowed a set of leathers, and made sure she’d be able to register.

Normally, I use the passenger seat in the Soul for my suitcase and most of my riding gear, but I had to reconfigure my load setup so Annie would have a place to sit. Loading usually takes two hours, but this time it took about four, trying to figure out where to put stuff.

I drove down to Annie’s college to pick her up. We made a quick grocery stop, and off we went.

Wow, is setting up the paddock so much easier with two people! Now that Annie’s done it once, it will go even faster next time. We got all set up, made dinner, and hung out around the Solo Stove for a bit.

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – Prep and practice

Saturday morning the alarm went off about 6:30AM, and we got up and ate breakfast, and got Annie registered for the first time. Funny thing – I got asked by a WERA official if I wanted to coach her, or if he should. I asked Annie, she was good with me doing it, so once we had her registered, picked up the rental Grom, and got all three bikes tech’ed, we went up to the classroom in the old starting tower and went over track entry and exit, flags and procedure, gridding up for a start, and a general overview of the track.

I hadn’t planned on running first practice on the Ninja 300, so we went out together for the Minis practice. I told Annie I’d do two slow laps where she could follow my lines, and then I’d take off and leave her on her own, which I think went well.

As practice time for the Ninja 300 approached, I went to check tire pressures, as the warmers had been on long enough by then to get a good hot pressure. I discovered that my rear warmer wasn’t working! I tried to see if I could fix it, but I think the thermal fuse died, and those aren’t replaceable in these warmers. I decided not to risk practice on a cold tire. I borrowed a set of warmers from Doug Parker so I could race.

We went out again for Mini practice, and Annie told me that she only wanted one lap at slow speed before I took off, so we did that. She’s not fast yet, but she keeps getting a little quicker every session.

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – Saturday mini race

One nice thing about the Mini class – you’re almost always the last practice and the first race, so you’re fresh and ready when race time hits.

We grid up, and because Annie is on the Benelli, she’s on the 2nd row with Mini Formula. I’m the very last Grom, since I have no points in Grom Cup.

The green flag drops and we take off. I was in a slow group, and I could have passed several of them in turn 1, but decide that’s going to cause too much chaos and hold back until we hit the straight. I knock off a couple of them between turn 1 and 2, and then pick off the rest of them as we approach turn 3.

I think I passed Annie in turn 4, and then I caught up with a pack of guys who were all running about the same pace, led by Doug Parker on his XR100. There was a provisional novice in there on a small supermoto, and then me and one other guy on a Grom.

We must have changed positions almost every turn for the next three laps! It was an absolute blast! We were just dicing it up, four guys covering two or three different race classes, but it didn’t matter. We were just out there having a good time.

In the last lap, I thought I could get an outside pass on Doug and the other Grom in turn 4 before we hit the back straight, but I dragged a footpeg and had to run wide to keep from crashing, so I got no drive onto the back straight and came in behind all of them! But what a blast!

I ended up 4th place in the Grom Cup, and Annie finished 4th in Mini Formula. She came off the track looking at me saying “Now I get this. During practice I was like, ‘eh, this is okay,’ but racing is a whole different thing!” She then proceeded to ask all the right questions – where should I be looking? What’s the line through turn 3? I was so impressed with her! She also took 10 full seconds off her practice time, running a 1:46.

Also – this picture of her from the race is amazing! Her focus is so impressive! (Yes, Dad is proud.)

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap - Annie is focused in her first race

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – Saturday F Superstock race

I jumped on the Ninja for the F Superstock Race, and immediately there was something amiss. Every so often it seemed to skip on acceleration. When I got to the grid, the guy next to me said the bike was smoking, but I think that was just some oil on the pipes from when I last serviced the bike, because race officials cleared me after they asked if it was okay.

We got off the grid into turn 1 and I felt okay. Kyle Wagner got a great start, and Cora Leonhardt passed me pretty quickly, but nothing was coming behind me and I thought I could catch Kyle. Then I went to shift up, and when I hit the shift lever, nothing happened. The quickshifter stopped working!

I had to clutch every shift, and it just tore up my lap times. I diced it up a little with a guy in the Clubman class, which was fun, but overall it was a pretty lonely ride for most of the 10 laps, as Clubman guy stayed mostly behind me, and Kyle was fading into the distance. I finished 3rd in the class with a 1:12.5 lap time, a second and a half off my best.

After that, Annie and I ran into town to pick her up a new air mattress, as hers hadn’t survived the night. When we got back it was pretty much a repeat of Friday night.

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – Sunday practice

Sunday was National series races, so I didn’t have an F Superstock race. Minis was going to be it for both of us.

We slept in, and went out for first practice without incident. I followed Annie for one lap to be able to give her some feedback on her body position, and then we took off. She picked up a few seconds on her times from the day before.

Second practice was a different story. I passed Annie in turn 2 of the first lap, resulting in a great father-daughter shot from Highside Photo, which is the featured image on this post. I was feeling pretty good on the Grom, and managed to get back behind Annie before what turned out to be the final lap of practice. I was exiting turn 2 just as I saw her crash on the entrance to turn 3!

She went straight into the grass, taking out one of the brake marker signs on the way. She must have either still been trying to get the bike stopped on the front brake when she went off track, because when the front wheel hit the grass, it grabbed and launched her over the bars.

I should have thrown a hand up, but I slowed pretty hard, looked to see her, and gave her a thumbs up to make sure she was okay. She sat up and gave me one back. I saw her stand up and see if she could get back on the bike, but apparently it wasn’t to be.

Once she came in on the crash truck and got settled down a bit, she looked at me and said “I wanna race!”

Dad already had a plan. After a bit of finagling, she was registered for my spot on Grom cup with the rental Grom, and I had borrowed Doug Parker’s XR100, so I’d be in Formula Mini. We essentially just switched grid spots, but we were both racing!

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – Sunday race

We gridded up for the Mini race, and of course since I was up front on Doug’s XR100, I didn’t see Annie at all. When the green flag dropped, we took off.

Doug’s XR100 is… interesting. It’s a hodgepodge of varied parts from different bikes. At slow speeds, it’s terrifying. Once you get it moving, it’s crazy fast, but it still has a drum brake in front, so it essentially has no front brakes of which to speak. I guess that makes you faster in the corners, but it’s pretty freakin’ scary in a race situation.

I got past a few bikes in turns 1 and 2, and then was kind of by myself. As I was going on the short straight between 1 and 2, the bike kept cutting out and then picking back up. Initially, I figured I’d just keep running and hope for the best. As we approached the end of the 2nd lap, it just kept getting worse. I was concerned it wasn’t going to finish two more laps, so I called it and pitted in.

I watched Annie race on the Grom, which was of course slower than the Benelli. She did pretty well, and had some good feedback about chasing down a rider who is close in pace to her. Even down on power she ran a 1:50, so not bad for her 2nd race on an unfamiliar bike.

After that, we packed up and went home – a great, successful weekend.

2024 Talladega GP WERA Race 2 Recap – Gratitude

There’s a few folks I need to thank from this race weekend for various reasons

  • Doug Parker is a great friend, and without him a lot less racing would have happened, since he loaned me both tire warmers for Saturday and his XR100 for Sunday.
  • Taylor Liv, in spite of my telling him not to, got the Benelli at least rideable enough to get on the trailer.
  • Michelle Cleveland made it possible for Annie to race by loaning her leathers.
  • Joe Fischer‘s Grom rental made it possible for Annie and I to race together, which was very cool. He also made sure that we were enjoying the Grom, and that Annie had a good time.

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