Dave and Justin agreed to tow down, giving me a much needed break from
towing which I very much appreciated. That was made possible by having
a garage at CMS. So Steph and I loaded up the truck with everything but
the kitchen sink and started out for Charlotte. 9 hours, split into two
days. I love driving 81 at night during the week, set the cruise
control and just go. But we got to Roanoke, our pre-determined stopping
place, so fast and easily that we shrugged and kept going, rolling into
Charlotte around 2 AM. It was nice to check into the hotel we planned
to be at all weekend early and sleep in.
I get up, eat, fill gas cans and head to the track. It's mammoth, looks
like a GIANT football stadium from the outside (seats over 200,000).
There's already a line of trailers waiting at the tunnel entrance at
11:15, so I get into line and wait. It's pissing rain and nasty. The
usual suspects are already in line, Team Infiniti, Mike's yellow
Camaro, ExFed racing, Acuras and Bimmers galore. As always, the field
looks very intimidating before the racing starts. They finally let us
in at 12:30. We go right to the garages, and we have stall # 1. Very
cool to be in the NASCAR garages, they are heated with doors and
plumbing, not a fucking pole barn like at CMP. I immediately stake out
the closest pit stall to our garage, stall # 14. I get unpacked and
wait for the rest of the team. And wait. And wait. They were running
real late from suffering horrific rains and traffic the night before.
But I had beer and other racers so I went around chatting and watching
the tech/AIV process unfold. CMS is huge and overwhelming. You can see
the entire oval from the infield, very cool. Just breathing it all in.
TECH and AIV:
The guys get there with the car, and we were running late to tech so we
opted to do that first. I watched all the other Miatas go through,
three 1.6s-and they all got penalty laps. Poor or no documentation,
heavy scrutiny (flashlights, crawling under cars, peering here there
and everywhere). Uh oh. I'm thinking we're in for a tough time. Tech
was a snap, the cage is really built well (thanks Justin and John!)and
there were no issues. Now it's our turn for AIV. "A 1.8, huh? hmmm".
Ugh. I pointed out our swaybar, our homemade chassis braces (they loved
that), the home depot water line return fix and forced air induction. I
also explained the radiator was shot and we were replacing it after
this was done. Heck, they were matching VIN numbers from the motor to
the car to the ECU! So we look over the AIV documentation. I explained
they were all 1.8s, all running, and I had a gazillion spares if they
threw one out. They see our average asking value was $535. I argue
that's "asking" and Donnie said that's where the subjectivity comes in.
I hold my breath, and he writes down 1 lap. Can I live with that? Hell
YEAH! Inside I'm doing the snoopy dance. Whew, I was expecting 10 laps;
3 for the car, 5 for the bar and 2 for the camber adjustable a-arms I
didn't mention (but they saw). WIN! We change out the radiator and it
takes 2.5 gallons of water vs. 1 gallon for the stock one. Another WIN!
John and Dave are wiring madmen and put doodads and the new fans in.
Time for beers and a nice dinner. Ah, relaxing before the race. So
nice! Steph joins us and Carol is on her way.
We get there early, 6:45, and walk the track. eerie. And a
surprise-this infield track looks hella fun and challenging. Banking,
off camber, on camber, all right! It was still drizzling so everything
So we all get called into the driver's meeting, held in the NASCAR
meeting room. Clean racing, blah blah, chicanes, don't hit em blah blah
14 hour race, let's go. John straps in for the first stint and it's
still pretty slick and wet.
I got this photo early, nice shot of John in the rain at the start.
John does a good, clean stint and we are 4 laps down (there was the
unpenalized Boom Pow Surprise Probe that was decimating the field). We
are in 11th I think. Good stop, I get in. Now during John's stint and
also during my stint, people were driving super aggressively, and the
chicane barriers were hit repeatedly. Almost all the yellow flags were
for barrier resets. After an aggregiously bad impact, John red flags
the race and we have an impromptu driver's meeting at the start finish
where we were told it's $500 per hit to replace those barriers, and the
black flag penalty was doubled to 30 minutes.
So the team straps me back in and out we go...again.
The following photos will show you just how quick we were compared to
the other Miatas. This red one was probably the fastest of all the
The car behind me is the fast probe, who eventually ran me down on the
straights and dusted me. Later they had overheating issues and were not
a factor. The other cars who were fast were the winning 66 3000GT, the
08 Nissan 300ZX, and the two Acuras (one of which crashed out). My
stint is going good, I'm starting my last lap and I get black-flagged.
WTF? Turns out our new transponder ran out of battery fast, was
supposed to last four days but lasted two. It stopped transmitting. How
many laps did we lose before I came in? No one will ever know. 3? 5 ?
10? I do know we lost ten more laps (15 minutes) getting a new
transmitter and mounting it. After it's all done we are 16 laps down in
15th place. Sigh. Lesson learned: charge the transponder right up to
Pitting on NASCAR pit road, spot 14:
Now things start rolling. There were fewer chicane hits as we cycle
through Dave's stint, Justin's stint, John's 2nd stint and my 2nd
stint. There were some near misses (see related video posted earlier),
lots of 2 wheels off and one harmless spin---all unpenalized. Gotta
love Chump. Around 6 PM during my 2nd stint, I counted 26 cars still
running during a caution; CMS had wiped out 1/2 the field. We had
climbed in the standings throughout the day up to 7th, 23 laps out. We
were running shorter stints than most teams so we had more stops,
accounting for most of the lost laps.
One thing about this track were there were lots of different lines.
This is Dave in turn four.
As he was wrapping it up, full course caution pops on and then RED
FLAG. The leading Infiniti crashed out hard. The flames were high in
the air, the driver was pulled from the car by another driver, taken to
the hospital and the race lost for the leaders. They had run a flawless
race and were very consistent, but with the 66 pushing them hard, only
a lap down, they ran out of talent. This is the same team who led at
Sebring with 30 minutes to go and lost brakes, crashing there too. 20
minutes later the track is clear, Justin takes over and proceeds to lay
down what were almost certainly the fastest laps for our team on the
day. He passed his way into 6th, and the Infiniti fell below us, giving
us 5th. And that's how it ended.
We headed back to the hotel and sat in the lobby drinking beers for a
few hours, swapping tales. This race experience for me might have been
the best. Hard to beat winning at Sebring, but it was way more fun than
previous races. Being able to take the back chicane at full throttle or
near full throttle while everyone else braked equalized our top-end
disadvantage, and the car was flying through the infield. This race is
on my MUST DO list for 2012.
From autocrossing at Boeing in 2004 to racing at Charlotte Motorsports
Park now, what a strange thing life is sometimes. I want to thank the
best teammates and people I will ever find. I love going to war with