When I think about high-performance cars (and trucks), I think about all the cool things you can do with (or to) them: custom fabrication, power adders, dyno testing, racing, tuning, and so on. The performance car scene is filled with all types of hobbyists who have a varying degree of interests. After spending enough time at events (and in this office), I've learned that what's cool to one person may be lame or boring to the next.
Here at MM&FF headquarters, we talk cars often. Topics range from road racing to drag racing to street performance to testing cars to latest parts, events, and much more. If it has to do with the hobby, we've probably beat the proverbial horse to death discussing it. One thing each of our staffers (Kristian Grimsland, Marc Christ, and I) have in common, is that we'd much rather be behind the wheel, than just about anywhere else. And lately, we've been getting seat time in a host of cool ponies.
Marc and Kristian attended Sebring International Raceway during Track Guys' Performance Driving event, and I had the chance to drive the '14 Cobra Jet, along with a trio of road racing Stangs. The ponies consisted of Kenny Brown's latest creation, which he calls Ruby. It has a stout suspension, sick brakes, and power to match. I cut that baby loose at Autobahn Country Club and came away with a big smile and a great story for a future issue.
With my road-course blood still boiling, I competed in the Chump Car Series at Daytona in the Optima Batteries/FM3 LX coupe, and also the 24 Hours of LeMons event in a Fox GT backed by the fine folks at Peak. The Chump event was held at the legendary Daytona International Speedway, on the full 24 Hours of Daytona course.
Car owner Jimi Day of FM3 invited me to join his team, and I thank him greatly. To say flying around the high banks was a thrill would be a massive understatement. It was flat-out amazing! We had an awesome team, and hopefully I can run a few more races with them.
Just two weeks later, I raced the Peak Mustang in LeMons competition. Josh Russell assembled our team of drivers, including Top Fuel racer TJ Zizzo and Peak sweepstakes winner Jack Wilson—neither had ever road raced. Nevertheless, we did well, finishing all 14.5 hours of racing, and that alone was amazing. Of course, having a solid crew and a great race plan helped.
Both series' are designed around affordable ($500) cars that have been modified with all the necessary safety equipment. The powertrains and suspensions are stock(ish), and this keeps the cost (and speeds) to reasonable levels. The racing is serious, and more fun than you can imagine. It didn't seem to matter if you were a complete amateur or a seasoned pro, all were welcomed.
Endurance racing requires multiple drivers (most teams had between three and five pilots), and by getting your buddies, co-workers, wives, kids, or girlfriends involved, you can bond with your friends and family. Having partners also helps to divide the costs, yet everyone will get plenty of seat time—so long as you keep your car running.
Running a mostly stock vehicle hard fender to fender for 14 hours is no easy task. I saw all types of failures, from driveline, to overheating, to the rare driver error. But it was tremendous fun. And considering the massive number of competitors (well over 400 different drivers at Daytona) with varying levels of experience, there were only a few bonehead moves, although I had one of my own when I spun the Peak Mustang in my first stint. Thankfully, I completed a sweet 360 and carried on without incident.
There is a lot to tell about each event—more than can fit in this column. Those stories are coming next month, but for now I encourage you to check out www.chumpcar.com and www.24hoursoflemons.com. If you have even a passing interest in racing, I recommend checking it out—before long you'll find yourself behind the wheel telling the stories.