High Plains Raceway, Deer Trail, Colorado
After a 10-hour transit, Jeff and I made it to Denver and the Strasburg Inn. It's been there since the 1800s and seemingly was never updated. It was late, well past midnight, and cold, about 34 degrees outside. We're in shorts and no one answered the door. This sucks.
I walk to the corner liquor store and query the nice lady inside. She says to go to the cottage in the back and bang on the door. Jeff hammers hard on the door. Finally a grizzled man pops out and asks what we want. "Um…we have a reservation," I sort of say. "Oh. Go around, I'll let you in," he barely mutters. It was freaky, and you can see lots of pictures of the place online (musclemustangfastfords.com). Jeff found a weird love note under his bed. I didn't get such a prize. Five hours later the sun was up and we slipped away quietly.
"High Plains caught many of the OLOA competitors by surprise, as in-car/on-car video (which many of us used to learn the tracks) did very little to highlight the very technical nature of the climbing and diving configuration, and the dangers of missing a braking or turn-in point even by a few inches," explained Jeff. Thankfully, we had a secret weapon--killer brakes and the supercharged 565hp 5.0 Roush engine.
Being at an altitude of 5,300-plus feet above sea level, the power of our Roushcharged 5.0 proved to be a big advantage. Helping us, a Camaro plowed off-track, knocking the fascia clean off. "One of the highlights for me was posting a faster three-lap time than a race-prepped Viper ACR...at the driver's home track nonetheless," Jeff stated. Again, we won both sessions somehow expanding our lead in class. Next stop, Nebraska... All aboard!
Motorsports Park Hastings, Hastings, Nebraska
The drive to Hastings wasn't terrible. We arrived in town in time to eat a real mid-western steak at a down-home joint named Bernardo's Steak House. We stayed in a real hotel and then attacked the track.
Hastings was the one track on the OLOA schedule that neither one of us had driven before, but by taking a pre-event walk of the track (as allowed by the rules), we got up to speed in short order. The corners had names, and one was Smooth Smitty. We figured this track would suit at least one of us. With our lead building, keeping the car on the track and pointed in the right direction was paramount.
Like MAM, this place is billboard-flat, requiring sharp focus to follow the track, especially considering our limited time there. It was also tight, so keeping a flow was important. The Roush was easy to drive here, and we used the rumble strips and all the pavement to maintain speed. Jeff and I put in smooth laps and finished ahead of the pack, growing on our lead.
Hastings Autocross, Hastings, Nebraska
"As part of their multi-discipline driving mentality, OLOA organizers set up a small autocross in the small, dusty parking lot at Hastings," Jeff explained. "The course was tight and didn't flow that well, but it was the same course for everyone."
Autocrossing a Mustang here proved to be an exercise in restraint of the right foot. With the limited traction, we concentrated on making penalty-free laps. We reached our goal--others weren't so lucky.
One Boss owner ran hot into a section of the course, locking the brakes, causing him to slide into an Armco barrier that protected an electrical box (see photo). In a strange incident, the Mustang's left front wheel and fender struck the Armco, tearing the horizontal beam away, causing the I-beam post to then rip the driver's door off the car. Fortunately the driver was okay--the Boss, however, was toast. It sucked for everyone, as no one wanted to see that happen.
We snuck out of Hastings' autocross 1st in class and 24th overall, but with the longest transit ahead of us--630 miles to Brainerd, Minnesota.
Not 30 minutes from the track, we encountered a not-so-nice police officer (nailed us for $75), got jammed in traffic from two major traffic accidents (not involving us), and endured a never-ending drive through South and North Dakota. Our saving grace was getting to visit my good friends Travis, Trennor, Lilly and Holley Gusso, in Sioux Falls. They refueled us with some real food, and we chatted for a bit before completing the drive. Hello, Brainerd, (2:30 a.m.) and good night.