Race Day! (Part I)

(OK, actually its 2 days) 

This is what its all about.  Months of preparation.  Toil.  Blood.  Sweat.  Skin.   Hundreds of hours of labor and dozens of dollars later, we had a race car.  

 

OK, so we _thought_ we had a race car.  Other than a few rides around the makeshift rally course I set up in my back yard and a few 4th gear, 5000 RPM blasts down the backroads near my house to bed in the brake pads, we really hadn't actually driven our newly-minted race car any appreciable amount.  Sure, it had a roll cage (from a mid-80's GM roundy-round car) a fire extinguisher (from a retired fire extinguisher salesman, free),  Nice, multi-colored wheels (from a scrapped Mercedes 240D) and some kick ass adornments (Demotivators, cage from a broken dog kennel, zoomies from a cut-up sailboat pole), but how would the steering, brakes, transmission, driveshaft, rear end, and engine hold up to five ham-fisted amateurs hell-bent on massacring the competition?

Oh, yeah, the competition.  77 other cars, hell bent on massacring _us_.  And there was quite an assortment.  A sampling:

Our Neighbors in the pits, from Alexandria, VA: 

Some cars had well-executed themes:


 

And some cars, while fairly average-looking, plainly had an identity crisis:

  

There were cars that looked like they had been through this tortuous race before:

  

This car seemed to suggest a certain amount of a female's touch:

  

Though, as we would discover later, it was actually backed by a bunch of guys who were absolutely, undeniably not compensating for anything at all:

  

Nobody was really sure what was going on here.  The front part of the car, from my limited post-1970's car knowledge, seemed to be from an early-90's Ford Escort, but the back was Full-on Ranchero and the tailgate seemed to suggest an Isuzu.  And then there were the wings.  

Words cannot describe the indescribable, ehem, *grandeur* of this fine piece of rolling stock:

  

Another Escort (the car, not the lady-of-the-night variety) might be infringing upon some copyright laws:

  

And if they don't, these guys CERTAINLY come really close to the line between fair use and "without written consent of the CEO of such-and-such":

  

And then there were cars that scared us, for no apparent reason.  

  

We arrived at Carolina Motorsports Park on Friday, July 25, around 4PM.  The "we" in this sentence were myself, Brian, and Matt, as we were the half of the team who were willing to eschew work that day in favor of getting to the track and getting set up.  Brian deserves special kudos, as he also took Thursday off to help Matt (who had pretty much taken the entire week off) put the not-quite finishing touches on the car.  He also left his wife and 2-month-old baby to come spend the weekend with a bunch of other gearheads.  Wow.  Dedication indeed.  

  

We set up our camp.  We were HORRIBLY disorganized.  Toolboxes everywhere, the carport represented the difficulty in assembly of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, and the race car still didn't sport the appropriate demotivators and other ornaments. We had packed hurriedly, driven to the track hurriedly, and now were hurriedly trying to get set up so we could get the car through tech inspection. 

There are two parts to the car inspection process at the LeMons race.  First, and arguably most stressful, is the technical inspection.  This is where hard-nosed bearded gentlemen who want nothing more than to send you and your pathetic excuse for a track car home on the trailer you came in on, pick over your car and your safety gear with something that makes a fine-toothed comb look like a...well, not-very fine-toothed comb after all.  

"Last call for tech inspection today!" the loudspeaker PA boomed, at about 6PM Friday.  While we knew there would be another chance to pass Saturday morning prior to the race, we knew we could sleep much easier that night if we could pass Friday night.  Or, if not pass, at least be informed what deficiencies we had to correct in order to pass muster.  

As Brian zippy-tied on the last piece of roll cage foam and I desperately jabbed at the starter button, Matt did one final walk around before I raced off at 10 mph (pit speed limit) to find the tech inspection station closed.  Ugh.  With the Volvo's tail drooping between its two back tires, I head back to our paddock space to return the bad news, but the insistent duo urged me to go hunting for the inspectors, so off I went again, and by some miracle found them...back at the inspection station!  After some very skeptical looks, I was sent back with a list of things to fix on the car (luckily, all of them minor). 

After darkness enshrouded CMP, Anthony showed up, and an hour or two later Rob and Jamie rolled in bearing the fire extinguisher we needed to pass tech (Brian's hoopdie-ass Mickey-mouse rigged hold-down didn't quite cut the mustard with the experienced inspectors) and some extra beer.  Rob brought with him an additional possession: the skills to set up the tents we'd brought to sleep in.  Again, Brian had tried to jury-rig them together with duct tape and a large hammer.  While this might be acceptable engineering practice on a 42-year-old Swedish automobile, it did not fare so well on camping equipment.  

Tents assembled, bellies filled with hot dogs and beer, and the first day of actual racing staring us right in the face, we crashed into our tents and cars (The back area of an extended cab Dodge is actually not a terrible sleeping accommodation; the sound insulation works wonders against the onslaught of generator thrumming and wrench clanging).  The days to come would certainly try every nerve and bit of resolve we'd established over the preceding months of preparation...

Race Day! (Part II)