This another submission from our faithful reader and commenter, SmokeyBurnout. He stopped by during our race at the Halloween Hooptiefest Lemons race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We met, we chatted, and I forgot to give him a t-shirt and/or a sticker… and I feel bad about that! Here’s Manny’s (that’s his real name, don’t tell him I told you what it is) report from the spectator’s perspective. -KK
When LeMons first came East, one of the tracks they came to just so happened to be the closest racetrack to where I live: Stafford Motor Speedway. Stafford was close enough that I could wake up at a reasonable hour and still take in a full day of racing. It was at the race in 2009 where I failed to introduce myself to Jim Brennan, and in 2011 somehow didn’t bump into Kamil Kaluski. With Monticello being a one-off event, the closest track to me is now New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which isn’t really that close at all. I guess what this has been building up to is me admitting that I was too broke to spring for a hotel and too lazy to get on the road before 9AM, so what follows is my account of just the last 4 hours of LeMons at NHMS.
When I saw online that there were 140 cars entered, I wondered if they could even fit that many in the infield. It seems silly now, but I did remember seeing the GRC teams in an outfield lot when I was there last year. Anyway, it turns out you can fit way more than 140 when they all don’t come with their own 72-foot tractor trailers. I set off to figure out which space belonged to Team Hooniverse, and halfway across the infield I found this.
I mean this in the nicest way possible: this is one of the ugliest race cars I’ve ever seen. It seemed to be a mix of beaten original panels and fiberglass patches draped over something as close to a tube frame as LeMons rules allow.
There were marker scribblings all over the car, mostly reminders like the torque specs over the wheels, but also testimonials like this one.
That’s not a fender flare for the rear wheel, it’s the hanger support for the side pipes. This car was actually second overall on Saturday before their race was ended by contact.
Have I mentioned how cold it was yet? It was very cold, though not unseasonably so. Some teams had camped overnight in tents, but Team Ludicrous Speed had this prop.
Oh right, there’s a race going on. Here’s the Broken Tranny BMW coming to a stop in front of two IOE contenders and one going for the overall.
This gate was wide open to let ambulances and tow trucks onto the track. It’s the clearest, closest access to a hot track I’ve ever had. There were a few people with cameras gathered around all day, mostly on the other side trying to get pictures of the *fronts* of cars! Hmmph. I tended to stay on this side because I’m not all that comfortable with having nothing between me and cars coming in my general direction.
In my last Lime Rock article, I didn’t mention that on my way out I ran into Trevor Hermance, who I hadn’t seen in quite a few years. We spent maybe 45 minutes catching up. As I get older and high school recedes further into the past, I find myself having these conversations more often and thinking “That person’s life is going in a better direction than mine,” but it’s usually because they’ve said something about their stable job or apartment, not because they’ve said “I’m racing for two different LeMons teams next month.” Anyway, that’s one of those cars, the Mario’s Auto Wrecking “Hoon-die”.
…and this is the same car in the paddock 10 minutes later, getting a jump start and cranking but not firing.
All hands on deck! Scan tool spits out a code for the crankshaft position center. The team scrambles to pull the sensor off their second engine or get a new one from a parts store.
I wasn’t on the team and I was trying to stay out of the way, so no picture of the sensor as it came out, with an oily mess of shavings and a trigger wheel tooth stuck to the magnetic pickup. The tooth actually forced the sensor out and snapped its bracket. They tried cleaning up the pickup and popping the sensor back in but it still wouldn’t fire. This was not going to be a quick fix.
At this point the situation in the pit got a bit touchy, and I wandered off to check out some other teams. I’ll let Trevor fill you in on what happened when I wasn’t there (most of the weekend):
“The undoing of Mario’s Auto Wrecking at this race was mostly due to the proverbial five-cent-part failures, which figured as the car had proven reliable through two previous LeMons contests at the track. From an hour in on Saturday morning we had shifting issues, with the rearward gates of 2nd, 4th, and Reverse seemingly inaccessible due to the disappearance of a clip on the cables (always preferred a solid linkage, myself). This issue wasn’t identified until after my stint rounding out the first day (even though the opportunity presented itself while the car was in for a 75-minute radiator change after a yellow-flag-congestion brake-check on teammate Dylan in the early afternoon), and not fully fixed until just before Devon’s fateful turn at the wheel in the middle of Sunday. Though full diagnosis/autopsy is yet to be performed, the theory is that it was the “reluctor ring” (I was skeptical of the nomenclature, never having heard that word before), which sits on the crankshaft to signal that position sensor, that broke apart at high rpm, leading to the small debris and sensor issue.
With two engines (this one having been in a Hyundai I rallycrossed for a few events), the less-LeMonized one was selected for a gentle tear-down/inspection/installation for this race. My car with this powerplant had shown occasional starting issues, but would eventually get running after some awkward bump-starting and starter torture, usually showing a check engine light for a little while afterward which a scanning tool would show to be the crank position sensor. Accordingly, Andrew elected to keep his original engine’s sensor, assuming we’d have no trouble restarting if there were any stalls. However, this incident may be evidence that instead it was the ring which had an imperfection, and may have been overlooked while the engine was apart.”
Meanwhile in the next space, there was a trail of parts to follow. That’s an old American carburetor on a BMW intake manifold…
A cylinder head someone tried to remove the exhaust manifold from…
Yup, it’s Rusty Dragon Racing’s Golf/318 hybrid. They got screwed! From what I heard at the awards ceremony, the engine did this to itself while the car was just driving around the paddock, after two days of trying to get the car legal.
I caught the tail end of the big crash, but didn’t know the Firebird had climbed over the Z.
Sometimes sorry isn’t good enough. Probably a good time to check how tight that wheel is on.
NHMS does not have an infield lake like Daytona. Also, it was October!
I still hadn’t found Park Bench Racing’s space, but I remembered there was a second set of garages at the north end of the infield. After walking down one side, I still hadn’t found them, but I did see Rusty Tear Racing packing up. Walking around to the other side, I saw the Buick pull into the pits. Great, now all I had to do was follow it!
Of course, I can’t walk as fast as a car even at pit lane speeds, so I was mostly following it with my eyes until my sightline was blocked, first by garages and then by the other side of the Fiero. I was going to have to check this out first.
The outfield section of the NHMS road course is the RV camping area/spectator hill for the oval, and the transitions in and out are quite steep.
I didn’t take notes, but I think they said they got turned coming back down to the oval, the wheels dug in (to the grass?) and the car skidded on its side. The door and fender were left out on track, and LeMons requires you to have these things. The car was otherwise straight, so they carved a replacement panel from wood, but tech wouldn’t allow it back on track. This car was terrible when fielded originally by Car and Driver, but Rusty Tear had won their class with it at this race last year.
I figured I’d cut across the garages to try to catch up with the Buick, but this route led me to another distraction: a W123 like the one I used to drive, with the color I had peeking out from under the color I wanted.
Okay, so it’s not quite like mine was. That Saab crashed hard.
It turned out there was no rush to catch up with the team, because they were one of four waiting in the penalty box. I didn’t introduce myself just yet, because the atmosphere was pretty tense, and not just because someone had littered in the park.
I made a note of where their paddock space was and started wandering the garages again. The Inefficient Dynamics team may be racing a BMW in LeMons, but it looked great, sounded great, and hey, it’s not an E30.
They kept the OnBoard Computer! I have one of these lying around that’s going in a project someday.
Proper endurance-racing grime! Everyone was gathered around the front of the car so they probably had engine trouble.
Inside NASCAR Turn 3 there were concrete barriers, useful for spotters to stand on but also for getting clear shots of cars on track. It was cold up there and it’s not the most interesting corner so this was the only noteworthy shot I got. That’s not a victory fist pump, but a warning wave.
There were safer are more popular perches inside turn 1. It’s at the end of the track’s longest straight and the drivers really throw the car into it.
One of my favorite things about spectating at LeMons is watching front-drive cars without high-dollar full-race suspension driven by super-aggressive drivers through corners like this one.
The Iron Man-chanics were experimenting with repulsor technology.
Not really a valid comparison, because the rear anti-roll bar isn’t the only difference between these Sciroccos, you wouldn’t fit one just to stop your car from picking up wheels, and that wouldn’t even be an effective way to do that. Still looks cool.
A good way to keep all your wheels on the ground is to have weight… everywhere and have “adequate” suspension travel.
There were a number of late-race yellows, and 3 Pedal Mafia’s boat ran aground during one of them.
Yes, the sun actually came out at one point, before setting on this LeMons adventure.
After the race, I did introduce myself to Kamil and the team. Or, I walked into their pit space wearing a Hooniverse T-shirt. Anyway, on our way to the awards ceremony we ran into the newly appendixless Legend Speedycop.
At the awards ceremony, I took a few pictures of the race-winning car that didn’t really come out, but this is LeMons and it’s okay not to care about who won. I noticed this on the back of the boat, I’m not sure if it’s a pun I don’t get or just a typo.
On my way out of the track, I stopped to take a closer look at Trevor’s tow rig. It’s a Ford Escort wagon with over a quarter-million miles. People on the internet love to argue “In Europe [compact front-drive car X] is rated to tow [absurd number of kilograms Y]!!!1!” but if you want to do serious towing, you need to take aerodynamics into consideration and maybe strap a few Formula Skip Barber nosecones to your roof. You’ll probably also have to replace the wheel bearings.