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We headed out for the 2 ½ hour drive to Ozark International Raceway in Gravois Mills, Missouri.  Yes, right in our own backyard, we have one of the most exciting road course racetracks in the entire USA.  Four miles, 19 turns, 1200 feet of elevation change, esses, switchbacks and more, everything that you ever dreamed of in a high-tech race course!

  This was the 2nd annual Ozark Vintage Festival hosted by VSCDA (Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association) and only the 2nd year since the track opened.  This is a driver’s track that takes advantage of the area’s natural terrain.  This Raceway rivals Road America in size (660 acres), length (4 miles), and being a world class facility that is perfect for vintage racing. 


Driving to the Ozarks in the fall is a real treat.  The leaves are changing colors and you drive 100 miles on 2 lane country roads.  Our path took us through Amish/Mennonite country.  We saw their horse drawn buggies on the road as well as stopped and bought some large and beautiful mums (10 for $50)!  We left on Thursday and got to the track in plenty of time to go through tech, set up our paddock in the wonderful 100 car garage, and then went around seeing old friends.  There were many drivers there from Dallas, Houston, Austin, Tulsa, and even Denver.  Quite a group of wonderful cars. 

My crew for this event consisted of Terry Zerr, Mark Shapland, and Floyd Allyn.  After we had everything ready to go, we headed over to Redd’s BBQ and dance hall in Laurie, Mo.  Crazy Place!  Lots of fun.  After enjoying some great BBQ, we headed to the house we rented on the lake.  Quite a place with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a boat dock, pool table, and more.  It was situated on a slanted property going up from the lake and actually had 4 levels.  It was pleasant, clean, and a great value. 

We had two 20-minute practice sessions Friday morning.  It didn’t take much time for me to get back in the groove as we raced here last year.  It rained during the night and the track was wet on Friday.  The winds were strong so we knew the track would dry out during the day.  My intention was to go out and drive cautiously and get familiar with the track.  I also wanted to try different driving lines to see what worked best for the Jag.  On the wet track I ran a 5:43 lap time. Really safe, really slow.  The track was still damp but improving and I ran a 4:37 fastest lap for the 2nd practice.  I was happy with some of my new lines and knew my times would come down in later runs.  The first Qualifying race was in the afternoon and the track was now completely dry.  I used the new lines and dry track and was now working on where I could speed up.  It was working as I brought my time down to 3:29.  VSCDA had a dinner in the garage and we all enjoyed the food and comradery.

Saturday was cold and misty.  Lots of low clouds on the track.  I went out for my 2nd Qualifying race and decided to hold back on the speed and try to improve my race line, especially at the switchbacks.  I finished with a 4:02 time, but was very pleased with the way the Jag was handling.  My qualifying times gave me a 2nd spot on the grid. We then had our first Race, a 25-minute Sprint race, about 8 laps, 32 miles.  The course was dry now and I used my new lines and speed to turn in a very nice time of 3:12. I finished 3rd behind a big block Corvette and a Shelby 350 Mustang.  Bill Terry’s old red XKE coupe was in the race and finished 4th.  The last race of the day was 30-minute heat race, 10 laps about 40 miles.  I had my best time of 3:11 and again finished 3rd, behind 2 Shelby 350 Mustangs.  Scott Young, in the Red XKE, finished 4th.  It was an exciting day.  The four of us went to celebrate at Big Dick’s Half Way Inn, located on the lake in the middle of nowhere. Wonderful pizza then home for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday morning brought more rain.  We were supposed to go out at 8:45 am, but I used good judgement and decided to have another cup of coffee and chat with other drivers in the garage.  The 30-minute Feature Race was at 11:45 am.  The rain had stopped and the track was mostly dry.  I decided to go out and race.  The track was cold, so we increased the PSI on our tires 2 lbs to 21 PSI.  I was gridded 3rd, but got an excellent start and was in first place by the 2nd turn.  I never gave up the lead.  There were always 3 cars in my rear-view mirror chasing me down, but I managed to stay in front.  There was a mad dash to the checkered flag and I beat out the 1962 Red XKE by 4.7 seconds.  My time was 3:12. 


Thanks goes to all those who helped crew during the year and those JAGSL members who came out to support us and several venues.  We plan on a full racing season in 2024, with many more podiums.  

Phil Taxman

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