WDMS Chapter 170  ---   November 2010

Witchdoctor Motorsports + BikiniRacer.com

24 Hours of LeMons, Louisiana

Settle in folks, this is going to be a looong update. I've tried to parse it out with a 'Rebuild Bic' chapter, and then a 'Fury before the Storm' chapter, but when I start the story at the green flag at 1500 on Saturday and go till checker at 1500 on Sunday there is a LOT to tell with several folks doing the telling. Comfy? Let's get started with Frank Fertitta:

Fertitta's gear....ready to start our first foray into 24 hour racing

Fertitta starts the tale:

So Costas calls to tell me there is a 24hour Lemons race in LA and that there is a driver slot open if I want it. I did some fab work on the car (he has done fab work on ALL my cars :-) ...~Costas) and Costas had offered me rides several times before but I always let something get in the way. This time I was determined to make it happen. (Thanks the LORD!!! FINALLY!!!! heh heh.... ~Costas)

The plan for the trip over to Louisiana was to drive to Houston right after work on Thursday, meet up with Frank Bryan and possibly drive to LA Thursday night. Well at 6pm Thursday: helmet still had no HANS hardware, bags were not packed and still had not eaten dinner. Somehow I was able to get on the road by 7ish, YEA! Arrived in Houston, find Frankís house and because: A) itís late and I get grumpy without sleep (aint that the truth...ditto with hunger!! :-) ... ~Costas), and B) itís cold, the heater in my car was not working right and I donít like being cold, we decide to get some sleep and leave for LA in the morning. As I am trying to sleep the thought occurs to me that a 24 hour race in late November will involve both A and B above; wtf?

Fertitta putting in the laps as the sun begins to get low

We make it to the track and find Costas and Anna working on the car. A quick change of clothes and work begins for us too. Everything went fairly smooth with the car, one trip to the auto parts store and a short argument with the tech inspector the car was ready to race. BTW-can you define a Ďsealed batteryí for us? LOL! After a long day itís off to the hotel, clean up, order some pizza and coke, watch some A-team, laugh at B.A. sporting a camel toe (sorry Mr. T) and get some sleep.

The next morning reveals mistake no. 1- for reasons unknown I only brought one pair of work clothes. I put on my slightly stinky day old work pants and shirt and head to the track, help finish the car and get ready for the race. I got the honor of starting the race and our strategy was to take it easy, make the car live for 24 hours so we could take the checkered flag. The start was random and we were somewhere near the back of the field (41st...~Costas) when the green flag was thrown. I did not want to be the one to break the car or ball it up, so no low % passes were made and I did my best to preserve the car. The only real glitch was that I could hear the radio but they could not hear me. Also we were now in 14th place out of 50. Not bad for the first 2.5 hours! At the end of my stint I pull the car in the re-fueling area, hop out, grab a fire extinguisher and assist with the fueling. Soon after the safely stewards yell at us to put visors down and about 10 seconds later we canít see #@!* because our visors are fogged up. As a result we spill fuel and get our first penalty. Thanks to Anna the penalty was short and lucky for us none of the safety folks noticed that I had done my first stint w/o a HANS, whoops!

Costas and Ron discussing the track, Fertitta getting chased by Stroh's Mustang


For me itís back to the pits, grab some food, put on my now getting funky work cloths and time to get some rest. After two attempts of filling the air mattress I lay down to get some rest. The first attempt ended when the air chuck came flying off the end of the hose and shot inside the mattress. After hunting for 5min we found the chuck inside the mattress, finished the air-up job and now had a comfy place to sleep. (There will be more from Fertitta later....~Costas)

Beaker texting his girlfriend, listening to tracknet and spotting, and having a Coke! Fertitta getting chased by Pranav in the Jetta.

   

Our tireless ironman spotter Gary and his beloved Ranger. We salute you!! Also, Anna spotting as the light falls in the west on the trailer. 

Costas picks it back up:

Fertitta starts the race in 41st place out of the 50 cars there. We did not get lucky with the drop of the green (they drop it at random), but Fertitta goes to work quickly and his first five laps net us 41st, 35th, 30th, 27th, 26th. We are moving up quickly and all is going pretty smooth. A quick stop to wire up a low hanging exhaust (Fertitta never even unbelts and the car was stopped about two minutes) and he continues to make laps. Someone somewhere is missing a metal hanger in their trailer. Sorry. We would have brought the rest of it back, but we kept it thinking (correctly) that we'd need more later. With the race starting at 3pm, darkness is falling by 4:30 and folks are using their headlights by 5pm. By lap 79 Fertitta's 2.5 hour stint is coming to a close (he came in on our lap 80) and the standings show us in 11th, with Stroh's Mustang team #81 in 5th (wow!!) and Pranav/Brandon's #337 Jetta close behind us in 13th. For pit stops, all teams fuel in a designated area at the track exit, then you can go to your pit spot and swap drivers, fix car, etc. We make two mistakes on that first stop, we spill a bit of fuel and then Fertitta is going a bit too fast in the pits coming back to the trailer. The Officials are busy though, we get off with a 'don't do that anymore' and we complete the stop quickly and efficiently. While Fertitta was making laps, I installed radio gear in Beaker's and Anna's helmet. Some rivets, a glue gun and a putty knife and watch me go! Ron didn't have radio gear, but he brought earbuds that would plug into the side of the radio so we could at least talk to him. One way communication!! 

Above: No fog. Below: next lap, fog. Yes, for real. 

Let's pick up Ron right here and hear his tale:

Ron: Lemons New Orleans(ish)
I would like to first thank Paul for getting the car ready for me to basically just show up and race. This would technically make only the 4th time I have been on a road course in my life, only the 2nd time to actually "race" on a road course (if you consider Lemons racing), and it was damn sure my first time racing in the dark (except for those nights at Rankin Rd in Houston back in the day). 

Due to the fact that my wife had just had our second child 2 weeks before the race, I decided to leave the house Saturday morning, so that Amy would only be on her own for one night. Woke up early, and was on the road by 7am. Made great time, and aside from getting stuck on the 30 mile bridge over the swamp because of an accident, arrived at the track around noon just in time to help put a few finishing touches on the car. When the race began at 3pm, I should have gone out to see the rest of the track from Gary's position, but hindsight is 20/20. I instead just got on top of Paul's trailer and watched from there. 

Ron about to head out into the night. The Franks, pitstop completed, share a moment. 

It was decided that I would start my stint after dark, and I was ok with that. The stop to change drivers from Fertitta to me started out with us overfilling the gas tank and spilling fuel (not a whole lot of fun to get gas on your gloves when you are about to get into a race car, even if they are fire rated, I will allow Frank Bryan to tell that part of the story). Well, Costas has in car radios, which is awesome, but as my helmet is not wired for a radio, I decided to just use some ipod earbuds. Well, about 30 minutes into my 2.5 hour stint, my earbuds decided they did not like being in my ears, so I could not hear Gary or Frank telling me what was going on. Way worse than that, though was the fact that I could not see sh!t, I had never been on this course, and did I mention that I could not see sh!t. Between the dim light coming from my headlights, and the asses with their rally-style headlights, many areas of the course were difficult for me to see. On my second lap, I got offline coming into the back stretch, and hit an area where there is a bump. Apparently, I was going too fast, and went 4 wheels off. It was on a dark part of the track, so I did not come into pit, I was going to wait until they called me in, hoping that my off road excursion went unnoticed in the darkness. Well, the other bad part about not seeing shit is that the flag stations had these dry erase boards and flashlights. I did not see my number on the boards despite intently looking for the next few laps. I was driving easy, not ragging on the car, because I knew we were wanting to finish the race, not blow something up. One thing for sure, it was still fun!! So, I had no communication by this time, and on the straights I was trying to get the earbuds back in my ears so that I could hear my teammates. I would occasionally get one in, and could hear for a lap or 2, then it would fall out, and I would start all over again. I had no way to tell time, and when you are out there just trying to avoid going off course, time is tough to gauge. Finally, towards the end of my stint I got both earbuds in, and could hear Gary talking. I think the first thing I heard him say was "you're doing great, Ron, you have about 15 more minutes" Well, I came into pits at the appropriate time, for fuel and driver change. There we were told that I had indeed been black flagged after going 4 wheels off, and I was to proceed to the penalty area. After fueling, I went over to the penalty area, and they asked why I did not come in for my black flag, and I told them honestly that I had not seen my number on the board. They said that they would let it slide this time (mostly because of our extremely attractive teammember). 

Ron's stint over, he is in to get fuel and then Beaker will take over

After My stint was over, I worked the radio until I decided it was time for some sleep. The Challenger is actually pretty comfortable to sleep in.

Overall, the weekend was great fun, but a true overnight race is definitely very grueling. I learned that I need to get communication built into my helmet, and when attempting to race at night, err on the side of having too much light. I will let the other members tell their stories, and I can't wait to read Frank Bryan's account of the electrical short/sparks/fire. It was hilarious on the radio sitting up on the observation deck of the trailer.

Costas continues the story:

Quick note on our two initial drivers: They both were awesome!! Fertitta and Ron both had never driven the car, never seen the track and yet did an awesome job of making laps cleanly. They both climbed the charts as the laps went by, Ron having inherited 17th place when he got on the track and settled in to a nice pace and brought the car in on lap 146 in 13th! For comparison, while we pitted from 13th, Stroh's Mustang was cruising solidly in 8th, while the Pranav/Brandon Jetta was climbing the chart and currently in 16th. 

So Ron comes in, we execute another fueling (more small spillage), then to our paddock spot where we check everything, slide Beaker (Frank Bryan) into the car and he heads off into the night to take over on lap 147.  The temperature is still dropping and while the forecast is not calling for rain, it is calling for 'patchy fog through the night' (cue the foreshadowing tingle as well as the ominous soundtrack). But wait, before we deal with fog, we get to deal with sparks. Then fire! Wahoo!!

After Beaker speeds off into the dark taking up 16th, I'm quietly amazed that there is nothing on the ground in our paddock spot. Not a puddle of oil, trans fluid, diff fluid or coolant. Not a drip. I'm utterly shocked and I quietly sacrifice a powdered donut to the racing God and say a quick prayer that the car continues to not leak. Sadly, that prayer didn't include anything about sparks....or fire. Evidently I was tired and forgetful. We paid for my mistake. 

Frank Bryan Tells "The Fire Story":

So, let me first make a point very clear. Driving at night is really really hard. It's not like a small difference. You can't see anything. It's impossible to tell where you are with respect to the line. There were at least 2 turns that you always felt like you were going to drive off the road but you had to convince yourself "just turn in and it'll be okay."

The lighting on the track made this 10 times worse. The back part of the course was basically un-lit and it was the easiest to navigate. However, the front half was lit by the up high drag strip lights. These lights provided the ambient track lighting of a new moon and served only to blind you any time you were pointed within 45 degrees of them. The esses that bought you back to the showcase turn were a quick succession of BRIGHT-dark-BRIGHT-dark- BRIGHT. The most reliable method of finding a visual cue was to simply peer out the left side window where you could spot the curb rushing by.

All of this was complicated by the other 500 idiots around you, most of them equipped with some strange combination of headlights intended mostly to blind whatever poor bastard happened to be in front of them. I made the mistake of properly aligning the rear view mirror when I first went out. ANY time I had someone roughly close behind me, I was so completely blinded that driving was, again, basically impossible. To resolve this, I spent several laps determining that I had JUST enough flexibility to pull my right leg out from under the cage's lateral bar, across the car, and karate kick the rear view mirror to angle it. Jet Li would have been proud as I coasted down the front straight, flipped my leg out and delivered three quick strikes to align the mirror such that it pointed mostly up but I could still see a hint of the roof of the upcoming car without it bothering me too much. From then on I enjoyed  letting people pass me at the end of the front straight so I could spend the next 2 minutes with MY headlights up THEIR ass. The car had the power of a 1985 Renault Merde at that point so it was a small victory.

Anyways, the fire...So I'm driving along, generally white knuckled and entering every corner mentally screaming "don't f up don't f up don't f up!!" and otherwise enduring this supposedly "fun" activity...I get to the turn around at the back of the track. It's 3 turns that blend poorly into one. It's not a passing zone but it's also not a school zone so it tended to be the place on the track where you were either bunched up because an idiot refuses to go fast or nearly t-boned because an idiot refuses to go slow. Coming out of this sequence is a little right-left that functions mostly as an increasing radius right turn but it all depended where exactly you were able to place yourself as a result of traffic and relative blindness (lets call this bit FFSAT for simplicity as I don't want to have to describe it each time). I'm not sure whether that means Frank's freaking silly arse turn or FIRE!! FREAKING SPARKS AND TURNING!!!. Either one fits really.
 
Okay, so I driving through FFSAT (alone, for once) and suddenly the car goes dark, and the area behind the gauges (you know, the rats nest of wires) lights up with sparks, pops...yadda yadda. I remembered all my training and responded instantly in the appropriate manner: clutch in, main power off, scream "FIRE!!!" into the radio.  Car rolls for a few seconds, sparks disappear and miraculously the car fires right up. I radio that I'm coming into the pits, but simply missed the pit in because you can't see anything (see previous 6 paragraphs). As I take the next lap, things are really quite fine, car is fast [as before] , everything is okay, and so I'm like: "shoot, lets keep going".  

Car goes about 4 laps just fine until I'm entering FFSAT again, this time with half the remaining running cars bunched up behind me. I'm in the center of the turn when the car goes dark, this time it REALLY lights up with sparks...every wire in front of me starts glowing BRIGHT red. You can see it getting hotter and hotter, popping and hissing...It looked like when R2D2 blew up in Luke's X-Wing above Yavin IV. I watched the plastic insulation on the wires ignite from right to left and flaming bits falling all over me* and the interior of the car. 

*Flash back time* When I got in the car, we had a bit of a dodgy fueling stop. Think about a bikini car wash. Instead of a hot girl and soapy water, it was me and gasoline. 

I was having the same flashback as I've now got flaming insulation on my legs and that will momentarily be accompanied with a flaming Frank at any moment. The other thing about that plastic, besides it's proclivity for ignition, was it's ability and downright willingness to produce large amounts of choking smoke. It burned my mouth and lungs, stuck to the windshield. A total Cheech and Chong moment.

Meanwhile, it was Days of Thunder behind me. I can hear screeching and squalling, cars are bouncing through the dirt around me, sliding sideways past. While working turn 4 at TWS I once radioed "3 go waving, uh uh, cluster&*!$ at 4". I imagine this would have been an appropriate call here as well.

After a moment, it all goes quiet and I'm not walking towards the light. The field of misfits is proceeded without me, the smoke was clearing. I turned the power back on, and AMAZINGLY the car fired up without question. I got going and felt my way blindly back to the pits (still unable to see through the windshield).

We discovered we'd had a short and fried a not insignificant portion of the wiring in the car...half an hour of trashing later I was back in the car and making increasingly slower laps once again.

Costas' side of "The Fire Story":

(Costas:) A short time after the last stop I'm in the trailer organizing the bench, putting things away when Ron (spotting from the upper deck) leans over towards the side door and yells "COSTAS!". I pop outside and Ron does his best 'pull the headset mic away from the mouth like a NASCAR crew chief' and says "Beaker says he thinks he saw sparks in the car". Without hesitation I reply "Is the car still running?", and after Ron tells me it is I tell him "Keep making laps!". Ron gives the thumbs up and he keys his mic and relays the current order as I return to playing Mr. Clean. I'm pondering if he saw sparks under the car, sparks from hitting something....no clue. I get a few more feet of the bench in the nose of the trailer clear, "COSTAS!!!". Sounding a bit more urgent this time I hustle outside to hear "He says there were sparks IN the car, what should he do". I reply "is it sparking RIGHT NOW". Short delay. "Nope, not sparking right now, but he said it was IN the car". The edict follows: "Unless the car is ON FIRE or running bad, KEEP MAKING LAPS". Almost another foot of empty space is cleared when another level of urgency is utilized "COSTAS! He is ON FIRE and he is bringing it in!!". Great. <sigh> Stupid race God.

Fire fix action! Costas fixing engine bay, Fertitta and Ron in the car. Beaker and Anna were fetching parts and checking the rest of the car!

The next 20 minutes was an absolute blurr. Everyone was on deck and it was quickly discovered that the alternator charging wire (the big one) shorted and shazzam, we had a few feet of wire to replace in the engine bay and another 5 feet or wire to replace in the cockpit. Bad wire was quickly clipped away, fresh wire was put in, re-routed around the failed EGR cover (which made a slight exhaust leak...which is what burned the wire...and also created a nice hoopty-ish exhaust note!). All team members were fetching stuff from the trailer, replacing wire or completing the pit stop. It was seamless. The lap that Beaker came in on, instead of being a 1 minute and ~ 40 second lap, ended up being a 34 minute lap. On one hand, that is a HUGE hit to take, but on the other, we were back in action. Beaker was already strapped in as we finished up and the car fired right back up and off he went, back into the darkness and while our car number fell on the leaderboard, Beaker put his head down and instantly began the slow climb back up. 

Dead wiring and a semi-dead crewmember/driver. Beaker jumped back in the car when we told him to (snicker). 

Beaker was due to come in at 2300, but with the 30 minute fire delay, we left him out there till 2330. He put in 85 laps this stint with a 32 minute "fire break" and pitted when we now had 232 laps under our belt. Sometime in the night Pranav/Brandon's Jetta gave up the ghost and their final lap was #199, but Stroh's Mustang was still going strong and staying solidly in the top 10. We didn't have the outright speed to run them down, but what was their standing with the race God? Hmmmmm....

Beaker's stint done, they are fueling now. The wagon was a great way to move fuel easily!!

Anna's Story

Frank Fertitta started the race. A newbie to LeMons but had clean driving that kept us in the top pack. came in for some exhaust issues and a 'noise', no more speeding in the pits boys! Then Ron went in. Heh, glad they didn't flag us for the two off but they did see that spin. Luckily, it turned into a 5 min penalty. Fuel spill penalty was another few minutes at the penalty box but then they let us go back out. Then Frank Bryan went out. Clean driving...until there were sparks. Costas: 'if the car's not on fire, tell him to keep making laps'. well, a few minutes later Ron yells down: 'FIRE! Franks coming in!'. Sure enough, wires had grounded and caught on fire, burning all the way to the master switch. The boys jumped into the car, changed out the wires and had us back out on track within a very short amount of time. 

Then it was my turn to hop in the car. Early morning, minimal lighting, thick fog starting to roll in, had the least amount of track time under my belt...and I picked the late night stint. What could possibly go wrong?...other than stopping the turn too early into a blind foggy turn...and smashing the front of the car into the tire barrier. Yeah...I was worried that the car would have to get loaded and toted home and mad at myself. Tow guys come out. Paul asks me if I can start it. It fires up instantly and the tow guys are all disappointed because they wanted to haul me off on a flatbed. So, first thing on my mind is this thing started, so it should still be drivable. I ask the guys if I can just drive a few feet against the flow of track traffic back to our pit area to save time. They allow it! I get the car back, guys assess damages, fix it, throw Fertitta into the drivers seat and we head to tech for our punishment. Judges look over the car to make sure its safe to go back out and discuss what the penalty should be. They radio into headquarters: 'Hey Jay, Anna's up here after hitting the wall and they've put the car back together...' after a few minutes, we get the go ahead and Fertitta and I push the car back to the trailer and he went back out on track until the fog was too thick to drive. Sorry Cos, looks like they are going to hold the race past your sunrise stint. But at least we get to go back to the hotel for the rest. Quick sleep.

The horseshoe in daytime. Anna stopped turning where the maroon car is instead of where the blue car is. Oops. 

Next day, back out at 0800, well 0820. Costas will start the race...and goes almost 4 hours in the car. He pulls out our teams fastest lap time for the weekend during his stint (good job hun!), not bad for little sleep and not feeling very well. Smooth, clean driving...he only came in twice (both quick stops) for some minor things: exhaust fix, tire change and hood pin fix. Then Beaker is back out. More clean driving. He only came in for a fuel line upgrade. Then I hop in...in the mood to drive...and to try to drive fast...although I'm still terrified that I'm going to run off the track again. Clean driving (whew) and finished the race. We ended up 11th out of 50 cars. Not too bad with some minor issues, a fire and hitting the wall :)

My memorable moments:

*Paul flying in from another state (work), then prepping the car all day and then loading and hopping in the truck, driving straight thru to No Problem Raceway - only up for what? 38 hours? (yup...~Costas)
*Um, 6am on the highway, oh yes! just before sun-up, still dark on the drive.
*Arriving at No Problem, greeted by the very nice track manager Chris that positioned us in a great viewing spot in the paddock.
*It seemed like it took forever and a day for the Franks to arrive after splitting off the highway onto the Louisiana backroads. We've got a race this weekend boys, the Thelma and Louise road trip fun will have to wait for the ride back home ;)
*Got the test day for $60 instead of $150 because it was no longer a full day of testing and I had emailed the track prior to the race and she remembered me...bonus! Paul wanted the car out on track and for Fertitta and I to get some track time (as you wish, I made it happen).
*It's been a long time since I've heard Frank Bryan's witty comments and jokes. Hilarious!!...need I say more? 
*I learned more about the A-team by watching a few episodes and listening to the guys comment in the hotel room than i every would have watching it by itself.
*Never eaten pizza off the pizza box lid before...way to improvise guys.
*We are all in the hotel room, early morning before we leave for the track....and we are all talking to each other via text... (Didn't want to wake up Fertitta!!...heh ~Costas)
*$8 for a small can of OFF to fight off the mosquitos three times the size of the ones in Texas!!
*So we had these sausage biscuits front the hotel. They had so many preservatives in them that they would survive a nuclear winter. grabbed a few, surprise, no one at them. so Fertitta decided to hide one in Costas' tool box and see how long it took him to find it. Sorry Frank, I told him there was one in there somewhere, lol.
*I've not run this much in years. I was running from the trailer to tech, trying to get scanner codes, golf carting supplies out to Gary, taking pics from various sections of the track, spotting from the top of the trailer or from the stands and trying to find wire hangers (btw, for the team that said they wouldn't let me have the hanger if we were going to use it on our car, sorry, lol, that's exactly what it was for hehehehehe)
*'Sleep' in the truck next to the crowded viewing area. 
**I haven't laughed so much in a long time...thanks guys it was tons of fun!!

Note the angle of the dragstrip lights exiting the horseshoe and the light pattern they have. Add fog. Oops. 

The Wall Story:

(Costas:) Yeah...the wall. I was on the trailer for the last few laps of Beaker's session. Fog had become patchy, but not consistent. Sometimes heavy, sometimes none at all. Beaker ran clean after the fire (honestly, I was surprised he so willingly jumped back in the car...that's blind faith folks!!) and we pulled him in after he knocked down his 85th lap. We topped it with fuel, he brought it back to our paddock spot. A quick lookover (still no leaks!) and we slid Anna in the car and shipped her off into the dark. I climbed up on top of the trailer and began being spotter #2. Gary coached and spotted for the far side and I took the close side. She was a bit inconsistent in the car and the fog didn't help. 5 laps into her stint she settled down a bit and was trying to hang onto faster cars. Two laps later she came around the horseshoe (big U-turn in front of the trailer that leads back onto the dragstrip) and stopped turning at the wrong point. The dragstrip lights were on, and they are huge merc-vapor bad boys that basically point right at the oncoming cars. Couple that with some fog to make headlights and the dragstrip lights vague and shazam, tire wall goes flying! So I'm watching her make the horseshoe turn in front of me and she simply straightened up about 40 feet too soon. By the time she could see and realized she was out of position she was a few feet from the grass and no hope to make it. I couldn't get my hand up to the mic button in time to do anything so I simply watched as she slid into the tires (there were several layers of tires before the dragstrip wall) at about a 70 degree angle. I'd guess the impact was 30-35mph or so. The nose threw tires up and over the wall then bit into the second layer of tires compressing them into the cement wall and stopping the car then lifting the rear and rotating it to the right a solid 60 degrees. She was now facing the wall, tire wall a mess, and the rear of the car pointing toward the track. Before the dust could settle, before the tires rolling down the dragstrip could stop and fall over and before I could key the mic, my headseat wokeup with the icy cold 'I'm FINE' of a woman p!ssed off. I still ask if she is okay and she comes back with that she is fine and really okay. I tell her to stay in the car since it is the safest place for her. The tow truck folks are based at the horseshoe and on the scene in seconds. They are talking to her and thinking about a flat tow. I ask her if she smells gas or anything. She said no. Now, to be honest, the instant the tires started flying and the rear of the car left the ground I was pretty darn sure we'd be using my winch to drag Bic back into the trailer. So, I just jump straight to the point and say: "Fire it up". Now, I could have relied on her surprised voice saying "it started!!", or I could rely on the massive blow of grass and debris from under the car by the exhaust, but the scampering of the track workers away from the car told me without a doubt we had ignition. She backed it out of the tire wall and (with approval) brought it in the 150' straight to our paddock spot. We got to work. We pulled the hood back up from covering the lights (they didnt break! yellow headlight film FTW!). We pulled the fenders out from pushing on the tires. And cleaned the windshield. Had this been some little rx7 or miata, we would have been winching it back in the trailer. Sturdy FTW! The rest of the time was spent letting the judges make sure all was ok at impound. Back to our pits, Fertitta slides in the car and the delay that was almost identical to our car fire is done and the #713 Camaro is again making laps. Whew. 

Whoops. The marks are where she backed out. The entrance marks are nearly perpendicular to the left. The car rotated a lot on impact. 

Fertitta Finishes out the Day:

At about 1am I get suited back up to drive a second stint. After putting on my still wet and now cold suit-remembering the HANS I hop back in the car. I donít remember what time it was but fog started covering sections of the track making it impossible to see in some areas. It was already difficult to see sections of the track because of the lights that were set up. Instead of making it easier to see the track it was actually making it impossible to see sections of the track. Now with the fog it was even worse. Some time around 2am the race was stopped and scheduled to re-start 8am-ish. Back into my funky clothes we had off to the hotel for some sleep. A few hours later we head back to the track. It almost seems like the fog is worse but we make it back, check the car, make sure all is good and wait for the fog to clear.

My (Costas') stint:

Just a little background to my stint...Fertitta stayed out as the fog kept coming and going and at 2am it finally stayed for good. They threw a full course caution and they brought everyone in. We fueled before they closed the fueling pits and checked the car over. It was ready to keep going so we put a cover on the car and debated sleep. Gary and Laura claimed the air mattress in the trailer although I tried to give them the hotel with the Franks. It was coldish, but they had blankets....Ron was already asleep in the Challenger so the rest of us four scampered to the hotel. Jay was outside the hotel planning stuff and we found out that it would not start any sooner than 0730. We can snag four hours! Wahoo! Sadly, we left the AC on (or the cleaning folks did) and it was freaking sub-zero in the room. The unit got flipped over to heat, I shoo'ed the penguins off our bed and fell asleep. Woke up an hour later, ripping hot, fever, and stood in front of the new-on-cool unit to try and stop sweating. Went back to sleep, alarm went off, we headed to the track. I felt poorly. Then badly. Then horrible. Then it was time to suit up and get ready. This was not going to be fun. At the beginning of the race the only stint I wanted was to be driving as the sun came up, and this was as close as it was going to get. Sun was up, but the fog was still very heavy, but lifting. They lined us up and we waited. I stood by the car suited up with HANS and a coat. Fever, head throbbing, telling myself that this was fun. Finally we got the five and I slid in the car and belted in. Just doing that exhausted me. Radio check done, I started drinking from the camelbak. 

Looking at the horseshoe from the paddock exit. Lotsa fog, but we are close to the green!

We head out and I start making laps. 12 laps into the stint the hood pops up a bit on one side while on a fast section and I come in. More hanger to replace the missing pin (the track is ROUGH in some areas). Fever breaks, I'm sweating up a storm but starting to feel better and I began to push the car. A few laps later I catch myself singing and realize that the world is indeed a nice place to be. The exhaust is scrapping sometimes and over a few laps the front end starts to go away. We decide to pit for the exhaust (we can hear tracknet, so we know they were watching) before being black flagged. The exhaust is fixed (even more hanger wire) and the left front is swapped and I storm back out. For an hour and a half I was fine and then the car started to bog occasionally and full throttle was not available. I knew instantly it was fuel starvation but I knew I had plenty of fuel. So a clogged filter was likely the culprit so I just kept nursing the car. We were losing a few seconds a lap, but we were still making laps and that is what counted. 

Before the restart. Our spotter is taking in fuel, Fertitta looks grumpy, I'm sick as a dog and Ron is thinking 'what a POS!'. 

Costas fighting a fever and fog and putting in the laps. 

Beaker and Fertitta enacting the hanger-wire exhaust fix!

Let's see THAT hoodpin come out under braking in the rough spots! Quick paddock visit. 

Ron and Beaker relaxing....err...spotting!

Making laps...

At 90 laps I was close to toast and Gary and I were deciding on when to stop. The seat that was oh-so-coddling comfy (FIA Sparco) was now hurting everywhere and I was sore and hungry and irritable (sorry Gary!!). The fever and headache were gone, but I needed to be out of this car. Getting too close to other cars with smelly exhaust was especially bad now. Gary got the crew alerted and after my 97th lap I brought Bic into the fueling area and the Frank's quickly filled it up and I brought Bic around to our paddock. 

My 3 hours and 40 minute stint done, I'm resting...errr...inspecting the LF tire

Beaker slid into the car and headed out and I changed clothes and took a break. I started my stint in 15th, had two short stops, and pitted from 11th. Beaker ripped off 55 laps going out in 12th and pitting from 11th with only a quick stop for a tire change. He was ultra-consistent. When he pitted, we pulled the rear fuel filter (it had broken down fuel cell foam in it) and replaced it with straight hose. We still had a small filter up front and we were counting on that to not clog completely in the last hour. Anna went out with a mission: To Take The Checker!

Quick tire swap so Beaker can slide in and do some distance!

Beaker in front of a Mustang as the clock ticks down. 

The Finish:

(Costas:) It has been a really lengthy weekend. It's Sunday afternoon, we have a LONG drive back to DFW. We have overcome a fire, hitting the wall and are currently struggling with some fuel cell foam coming apart. With the big primary filter removed (small filter before the carb still there though) I'm hoping Anna has decent power to keep putting down good laps. There are a lot of things in play here. First off, Stroh's team has retired after going very slow for their last hour, but the motor and team finally called it 'done'. They had put in 464 laps and doing some quick math told me that *IF* we don't stop anymore and *IF* Anna puts down decent times, we *SHOULD* pass them on laps with a scant few minutes left. The second item was we were on the SAME lap as car #222 and Anna was slowly reeling them in. Anna took over on lap 437 in 12th and she fell to 13th (passed by #222) as she was getting up to speed. I really wanted a top 10, but we were simply too far from the 10th place car (which was 10 laps ahead of us AND still running....curses!!), but 11th *was* possible if it all could just work out. Would the race God perhaps honor our determination and smile on us just a bit?

Anna with about a half hour to go. Two spots are within reach, gas gas gas!!!

With 20 minutes left to go we were still in 13th, but Anna found the speed and throttle modulation to keep the car from cutting out and she was lopping seconds off her lap times. We were on lap 460 and only needed 5 more laps to get 12th. I'm on the radio almost constantly now, coaching as best I can to help. Surprisingly, there are a LOT of cars still making laps and as a slightly quicker car passes Anna, she catches that competitive fire and began to coax more speed out of Bic to not let the car get away. She is braking a lot deeper, carrying more speed in the corners and exits, and pushing the car hard. As she started lap 464 to tie Stroh's #81 (another lap to take the position) she was trailing the quicker car and they both overtook #222!! So on lap 464 we got 12th, and then on 465 we took over 11th. The question was, could she hold it? 

Of course she could! She pedaled Bic to lap 469 and the checker flag, and nailed down 11th place with the gap to #222 a scant 2.081 seconds. Wh00p!!

-----> VIDEO LINK TO THE FINISH <------

I took this picture with less than a half hour to go...lots of traffic still slugging it out to the finish!

Gary (ironman spotter!), Beaker (nice shorts!), Ron, Fertitta, Costas, Anna...all on the fire-taking wall-beating Bic!

Fertitta Wraps us Up:

By now to say my clothes are funky is the understatement of the year (glad you rode back with Beaker and not with us! ~Costas). There is nowhere to change, the bathrooms are locked so I strip down and change in the middle of the parking lot. I didnít care, there was no way I was going to leave those clothes on all the way back home. To sum it all up, for 3-4 days I: got little to no sleep, was cold, wore nasty stinky clothes, spent time with great friends, raced and worked on the car and had one of the best times in my life. When do we do it again?

 

Closeup of our fuel filter near the end of day two...looked like it was full of ants!!

AND NOW, THE RANDOMNESS THAT IS 500$ CRAP-CAN RACING!!

Root Beer??? Sweet!!! We need this!!!

The Gremlin pits. Yes....AMC Gremlin. It ran. For a bit. Really!

This team brought two cars. Unloaded the second when they started stealing parts to fix the (broken) one that was running (kinda).

See??? GREMLIN! I told ya....

More rare than an SVO, an M model Futura sporting Cobra brakes!

Oh YES!!!....do they make these in yellow????

By far, hottest car in the paddock!!