Team Oppo made the trip out to the virtual Phoenix International Raceway to compete in Week 2 of the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series. Coming off of a Top 5 finish the week before in Texas set the bar pretty high for this week at Phoenix.

Making the setup was quite challenging. The iRacing fixed setup was a bit too tight and got pretty loose over the long run. During testing, I was able to get the setup to turn into the corner really well, but turn off suddenly understeered toward the wall. I had originally thought this was a cross-weight issues (the left to right side weight ratio). Looking at the data, I realized that the left side tires were not wearing correctly. No matter what I did with the cross weight, the left side tire wear didn’t make sense.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize my error until I was looking at the tire wear on Lap 33 of the race...

See the LF tire temps, that’s not right!

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The left front tire was not positioned properly. When driving an Oval car, especially on a short flat track like Phoenix, the car wants to put all of its weight on the right front tire, or the right rear tire if you have an oversteer setup. Needless to say, I overlooked this possibility in my cross-weight analysis. Had I realized it, I would have fixed the camber and would not have had to spend 30 minutes trying to find a balance.

So what was the effect? In a picture, this...

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Turning into the corner was fantastic, but as the car accelerated, all the weight goes to the right front and it slides up the track.

I tried to rectify the issues but driving up higher on the track. Though I would be turning for a longer period of time, I wouldn’t be turning the wheel as much and thus reduce understeer. This strategy actually worked fairly well, the problem was it made the car really slow.

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So back to the race. With the self-made steering issue I created, a number of challenges were set before me. Winning was out, there was no way, but a good finish was certainly possible.

Phoenix has the unique characteristic of allowing the cars to fan out on the backstretch.

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My high line strategy kept the car in about 20th place of the 37 cars. I was quite impressed with this. Even with a terrible setup, I was able to keep the car near the Top 20. Maybe there is some driving talent there after all. I have to credit that to my experience in the fixed setup races which taught me how to deal with sometimes crappy handling cars that I can’t adjust.

There were many wrecks and yellow flags which gave me opportunities to try to change the car through tire pressure and chassis adjustments. What I really needed to do was take the car into the garage and fix the camber, too bad I am not allowed to do that.

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The race was a struggle. 20th place was about where the car ran most of the night. I did ebb and flow through the field with the non-synchronous pit stops with the highest positioned reached being about 9th. Like last week, being in the Top 10 with a 20th place car was unnerving. Thankfully Phoenix has a bit of room to allow the faster cars to get by.

Unfortunately, Phoenix has a choke point on the exit of Turn 4 to the front straightaway. If anything happens at this point, it is destined to be trouble...

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As the pictures above showed, there was a wreck at the choke point and track got blocked. Getting pile driven in from behind didn’t help. The engine was killed and there was a significant amount of chassis damage.

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Sometimes racing just doesn’t go well. Everything from the setup, to qualifying, to the race itself went amiss. It happens, it sucks, and it is annoying, but if you learn something, it is not a complete waste of time. I learned that I need to double check my tire temperatures before throwing weights around in the car. That’s something...

Still not all hope was lost. Several other cars were taken out in that same wreck. Most of them decided to leave the track. All we needed to do was get the car running enough to make laps, and get out of our own way. We would gain at least 4 positions. The Team Oppo crew got together and got the car running enough to finish the last 20 laps of the race. Ended up coming home 26th of the 37 cars that came to the track. Next week Team Oppo is off to the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hopefully it will be a little kinder to us.

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