September 25, 2014 10:00 pm • SCOTT HANKINS firstname.lastname@example.org
UKIAH — Several times a year, Napa dentist Dr. David Goodwill pulls into the pits of a race track, dragging a 40-foot trailer. That trailer contains a race car, rolling tool box and a “quad,” a four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicle.
This past Saturday, the race track is in Ukiah. It’s a quarter-mile, paved oval. It’s one of a half-dozen tracks Goodwill screams around in one, or both, of his race cars.
Goodwill has a sprint car and a midget. This week, it’s the midget that he’ll be driving.
The effort didn’t begin on race day. David has spent the week preparing the car, with the help of Don Kiser, sort of a crew chief emeritus for the team.
“Don was at my house every day this week,” Goodwill says, “getting this car ready.”
The pit crew varies from week to week. This week it’s Ken Whalen, David’s brother Patrick Goodwill, and Mike and Roz Shepherd.
The first order of business is to unload the trailer and set up the pit for the day. The car, toolbox and quad are all unloaded and put in their places. A folding canopy is put up to shade the car and work area. Snacks are set up in a corner of the trailer.
The race car is then changed from its towing configuration to being race-ready.
Tire pressures are taken and the fuel level is checked.
The track schedule includes practice sessions, called hot laps; qualifying, heat races and a 30-lap main event. Goodwill’s midget class is just one of six categories of cars on the schedule.
Practice time varies from race to race. This time, there are three practice sessions. This time is used to set the car up, test, then make necessary changes, repeat.
The first session leads to the determination that a different left, rear tire will make the car turn better. A tire is mounted up and put on the car, ready for the next hot laps session.
The next hot laps session produces a happy driver. The tire did the trick.
There are still more fine adjustments needed, but the team is on the right track. Adjustments will be made every time the car leaves the track, with the main event being the objective.
Qualifying is done with a two-lap time trial. There is one car on the track at a time, going as fast as possible. When it’s over, Goodwill has the fastest time.
“We’ve just kept at it,” Goodwill says. “We’ve made changes. Now, it’s just right. It was good. I can’t tell you how comfortable it was. It’s never been better.”
This is good news. The team has struggled a little with this car all year.
It’s well into dusk when the heat race begins. Goodwill starts at the tail end of the outside line. He has only eight short laps to make it to the front. He almost does, finishing second in the heat race.
Ukiah Speedway did something a little different this time. It was called a “meet and greet.”
A few select drivers, Goodwill being one of them, take their cars to the front stretch and park them. Fans come down and meet the drivers, get autographs and take pictures. This is an environment where Goodwill thrives.
Finally, there’s the main event. This is the first time all of the cars are on the track at the same time. These cars are all performance. There is nothing on them that doesn’t make the car go faster, including a starter. The cars are push-started by trucks.
It takes a few minutes to get them all running. The excitement builds.
Goodwill starts mid-pack. He works his way up to fourth when two cars spin right in front of him. He squeezes through without getting caught up in the wreck. That leaves him in second place.
Goodwill works his way up beside Tanner Swanson in Turn 2, only to have the door shut on him in Turn 3. This goes on nearly every lap until the checkered flag flies.
No last-lap pass, no story book ending, just second place. All in all, it’s not so bad.
While disappointed at not winning, Goodwill is happy his car was performing so well.
“It was so good,” he says. “I can’t tell you how comfortable it was. It’s never been better.”
Goodwill said he just couldn’t get by Swanson.
“He just drove a really good race. Every time I got a run on him, he would slow down and I would have to hit the brakes,” he explains.
After a little socializing with crew members and with other racers, it’s time to pack up again.
The shock absorbers are taken off the race car and it’s put back in the trailer. The quad and tool box go back in, as well.
The team then drives anticlimactically into the night.