Car Hauler Stories

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National Corvette Museum 2021
By Josh Castellaw

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Well it is my birthday weekend (yay me). Last year in my 20's. Let's start this off right... so I thought.

Show up at the shop everything loaded and ready to go. Adam and I literally pull in at the same time. Couldn't have planned it better. Somewhere around 3:30. We procced to prep the truck and get it rolling down the driveway to get across the sketchy narrow bridge. In the mean time, the queen of naps, snacks, and ideas (more on that later) Erin calls and says that she hasn't left the house yet and its already 3:45 and she was suppose to be there between 3:30 and 4:00... She pulls up at 4:20... so we get a late start and have to fight Nashville traffic. This puts us in a pretty serious bind since Tech closes at 6:00. So now we have to hustle to get there on time. Zach proceeds to call me on the way up and says that the half the paddock area is blocked off for something that we saw no one use all weekend. Now I am thinking great not only are we crunched on time but I have to will this bad boy around a full smaller paddock to find a parking spot.

Roll in to the paddock at 545 and see what Zach was talking about. Luckily we find a spot in the back and get the car unloaded and into the Tech line with 5 minutes to spare... Yes first win of the weekend. Not having to deal with any tech issues hours before the race. Now we have all night if they find something silly. Of course they always "find" something that needs fixed... luckily this time it was easy peezy just mount something better to keep the shoulder belts from sliding back and forth on the roll bar. Done and Done. Roll the car back to the truck and do our final prep for the first race of the year. (nut bolt, bleed brakes, check tire pressures are high enough to adjust down, etc) Once completed we retreated to a local favorite spot for dinner (Puerto Vallarta Mexican). Our pay driver for the weekend covered the delicious meal and large guac.

Saturday morning is the usual for us. I have to pee before I climb in the car and everything seems well. Took the Green at around 8:30 and we were off. I am quiet in the car which per usual which is a good sign the car is fast and there is no issues. Adam comes across the radio about half way through the stint and says "guess who is leading the class?" My response was "parts badger already..." come to find out it was us and I wouldn't know that until later on. Back to silence on the radio. After a few laps to make sure I'm not crazy I radio on "3rd syncro is dying." The down shifts had become crunchy unless they were significantly slower than the rest. Back to silence... Somewhere around 20 minutes left in the stint I am cruising down the front straight checking OP WT & Vs like I do every lap. Catch my brake marker at the 3 for turn 1A&B and hustle the car to turn 3 like I have for the last hour and some change. (not really sure in the car and I don't like to ask) Down shift for turn 3 hit the apex and back on the gas hard. The motor hesitates for a second and then doesn't pull as hard down the short straight to turn 5. I stay in it and check MPH and speed isn't off enough to be anything wrong. So I continue and hit my brake point. When I come off the go pedal to make my down shift I hear the noise no racer wants to hear... some sort of clattering over the exhaust note. I immediately calm down and give up spots I had just gained and come across the radio with "I have motor noise". I finish the lap and come into pits. Pull into our stall and shut the motor down and the guys pop the hood to see if there is anything visual that might be wrong. Adam walks up from his bathroom break and asks to hear it again. I fire it up and he immediately say shut it down. Push it to the paddock. There is nothing worse than sitting in a car as it is pushed down pit road to go behind the wall and everyone is looking at you taking pitty on you and the situation you are in. And this is only the beginning of the rest of the story...

Once back in the paddock the hunt began to see if the motor was salvageable for the weekend. We took the filter off and cut it open. "Stripper glitter and not the good kind" as Adam said pouring the oil into the drain pan. So new motor it was and on to the hunt to find a motor within reasonable distance of the track. (little back ground info 99-00 miata motors are hard to come by since spec miata has ate so many of them and they are the only 2 years available without the vvt head which is what we have) We had discussion of using a NA motor that we had at the shop but Jason suggested against it since we would be using possible hurt parts on that motor since the heads aren't the same. So the closest option found was a car in Alabama so Zach and Jason jumped in the truck and head that way with the plan to return around 10 PM that night. In the middle of all this Adam asked if I had been hitting the PTT button while in the car? I knew I hadn't but maybe I had... More on that later... Adam, Rob, and I got to tearing the car down and within a couple of hours had the motor and questionable trans out of the car and was cleaning the engine bay and our mess up. Queen Erin woke up from her nap and pretty much berated us and told us how silly it was to buy a car in Alabama and how we were not going to sleep any that night. She suggested just using the motor at the shop and risk it... she was right so we called the boys and said just bring the motor from the shop and we will check the head on the bad motor for damage. Adam and I pulled the head and looked at everything. Clean as a whistle. No glitter and no damage from possible valve slap. We disovered as well that piston 1 was the culprit to the knock knock. Now we cooked up a parts list of things we needed from the Oreilly hub store in Nashville and the boys were back on their way up to NCM. Once back we set to work getting everything ready to stab the FrankenMotor as Zach dubbed it back into the car. Tore the NA motor down to a short block and built it back up with the NB head. We had the normal issues of stabbing a motor and trans into a car but once it was in everything went smooth. Only issue we had was the water pump was dead on the NA short block... it was a newish pump but something had hurt the pump seal so we swapped that and the car fired up and the motor was quiet. Good the bottom end wasn't hurt from our Daytona wreck that killed the car that the motor was in. At this point it was almost 10 and we called it a night and would do the last few checks on the car in the morning.

Sunday morning I do a quick test drive around the paddock and the car feels good. Only issue is a hard to get into reverse gear but other than that all is well. We get to pitroad and that's where the issues start. Remember when Adam mentioned me holding the PTT on... well either our button is dead (brand new for this race) or the wiring between the radio and the PTT is having issues... so No back and forth communication but we get it worked out that the driver can hear pit road... Jason makes it half a lap under caution and the next issue shows up... FIRE in the engine bay. He pulls off track and grabs and extinguisher and pops the hood. Luckily it was an oil fire and extinguished itself once the motor was shut off... He gets towed back to the pits where we start to diagnosis the issue. Turns out we had thought and checked the dipstick that the engine had be drained of oil... that wasn't the case once we drained nearly 10 quarts out of it... Once we got new oil in it the car is fast and Jason is knocking out laps. At some point towards the end of his stint we get a caution and are excited to nail the pitstop. Then we don't see our car circulating so... Quick to the livestream... shoot we are the caution as we see the car getting pulled up on a roll back from a gravel pit. Jason comes back and the wheels are no longer connected to the steering wheel... well looks like we forgot to tighten a bolt or the bolt wasn't long enough on the steering shaft U joint. This is due to having to remove it to get the header to clear putting the engine in. We get it fixed and send Adam out for a full 2 hr stint with no issues... Thank the racing gods. Next up is Zach. First time ever doing W2W racing but not the first time on the track so he is nervous but ready. Stick him in the car with a clean fast stop. He goes out into a caution so he gets to calm his nerves before going green. He goes for about an hour and comes in shaken up from flat spotting a tire and asking about the brakes boiling... turns out he was dealing with pad knockback and not having ever delt with it was getting it confused with boiling the brakes. Jason coaches him through it and we send him back out with the intention to replace the tire when it comes to stick me in the car for the last stint. Caution towards the end of Zach's stint so we holler for him to come in. We don't see the car for awhile... Luckily an official was walking by and stopped by to tell us that we were in the wall. The ambulance was sent out and cleared Zach for being ok. Good the driver was safe. Back to the paddock we go to check on the damage. Luckily most of the damage was contained to the passenger rear panel. Reviewing the footage and what Zach said it appears the heat was getting to him and he lost control of the car in 16 and recovered it but didn't realize he was carrying to much speed for 17 until it was to late to slow down. This corner has no run off area, so if you miss it it's going to hurt. It was a simple mistake that made in any other corner would have been recoverable but the fastest corner of the track kept that from happening. This is a good learning experience for him and the car is easily fixed. Now to make the car faster and lighter. We will return better.

That was a hell of a birthday weekend... Thanks all for the support

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Road Atlanta February 2018

By Trae Forsythe

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So, with the race weekend finally in the rearview, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on what all actually went down.

Josh and I arrived in the paddock just in time to throw open the trailer and rush the car to tech Thursday night with mere minutes to spare before the good stewards of the ChampCar Endurance Series flipped off the lights in the office. We passed with flying colors even though a few keyboard cowboys decided to mock our seat brace solution that fits the safety rules TO. A. TEE.

Friday saw what was supposed to be a great day of testing prior to the real racing that was to come Saturday. Doc, the car owner, took the first flying lap at a pace compared more like a Prius than a Pagani. The complaint was the car wasn’t revving at all and falling flat on it’s face. This is something the car has been doing since it’s debut last year with the 1.8 heart transplant. *Queue the troubleshooting montage.* Eventually, we decided it was a fuel problem and pulled the fuel pump to find the quick connect had split in two, allowing fuel to bypass the inlet and therefore not give the beating heart of the red beast all it needed for a true full-bore attack.

After some redneck engineering and some hose clamps, we had the little Miata performing like AMG had just built it. Let the practice day continue! Adam and Josh proceed to test the car in separate sessions that turned out great. With 15 minutes left on the day, it was my turn to make a few laps around the fabled Road Atlanta, a place most of us have only experienced in the virtual sense prior to this weekend.

I get strapped in, check my mirrors, and head off to begin my out-lap. Checking my temps and bedding my brakes, I get to know the intricate racing line of the Hills of Braselton, Jawga. That’s when it happened. Accelerating out of T7, I make the shift from 2nd to 3rd, and the only result was the most stomach wrenching sounds this side of Valhalla. “Guys, we’ve lost 3rd gear”, I yelled across the comms. I was able to make it back to the paddock, where we ran into a shop owner that was willing to help us out with a cash offer on a replacement transmission. Ya’ll, you haven’t seen a man burn through an ATM like we did that night.

With a little help from our garage mates at West Tenn Racing and some damn good Marco’s Pizza, we got the borked trans out and the new mill in place before the clock struck midnight Friday night. Of course, we wouldn’t know if the new trans was in working order until the next morning due to quiet hour and the fact that it was in the 20’s outside.

Luck was on our side as we unloaded the car Saturday morning and it made it to pit lane under its own power. Josh would be starting the race and fight all the traffic before Adam took the reigns next. At one point during the first sting, Josh had made it up to 23rd overall/2nd in class after starting WAAAAYYYYYY back in the starting order, thanks to the unbiased Random Number Generator. 25 laps in, Josh found himself in the right place at the absolute wrong time as a Lexus decided it was 4th and 13 and absolutely punted our little red rocket off into the grassy abyss of T6, mauling the left front fender and nearly removing the rear bumper. Fortunately, Josh was able to limp the poor little guy back to the paddock where we made some quick, delicate repairs with a few hammers and blocks of wood. Josh would soon return to the action and finish out his 2 hour stint.

Next up in the driver seat was Adam. Josh and I haven’t even gotten our helmets off from the previous pit stop off before Adam returned to pit road with a left front flat. According to the video, Adam was attempting to miss debris from a wrecking NA Miata on the front stretch before hitting some large object from under the wreck. The result was a demolished left front rim. After a quick tire change, Adam was on his way to complete his stint.

Adam brings in the car for a driver change about 4 hours into the race so Doc could get some seat time in. Upon inspection, we realized the rear brake pads had been wasted down to the backing plates, meaning the car was in no shape to race at this point. Fortunately, we have a new set of pads we can throw on and be on our way. Unfortunately, one of the caliper bolts seized and rounded off. After a lesson in “Yelling like a Sailor: A complete guide”, a sawzall, and a welder later, Doc is finally on track and making laps. Fortunately, it was relatively uneventful again.

Finally, my name is called over the radio to prep for my first stint around the track for the weekend. I let my iRacing and Forza experience take hold and start knocking out some proper laps and get myself aquatinted with the competition. Within 10 laps, I have got the racing line down and am making good time on the field. I actually had a smile on my face as I saw the delta go deeper and deeper in the negative lap after lap on the AIM dashboard.

2 laps later, in the same corner, in the same fashion… the car attempts suicide by hucking the harmonic balancer out the right side of the car while shifting into 3rd on the back straight. You can’t make this luck up, guys.

I coast back to Pit entrance and patiently wait to be towed. Apparently, the tow truck drivers had a busy day on their hands. Who knew?

With a little bit of luck and a lot of stupidity, we were able to source a new balancer and remove the old one (the greatest challenge of the weekend). They fueled me up and sent me back out to complete my actual stint. It was relatively uneventful beyond a few great racing moments and some bump drafting with a former Spec Miata racer down the back straight. Apparently, people aren’t as proud of that type of contact when being approached by the other party. I swear, I just wanted to shake the guy’s hand!

Next up, Adam gets back in and has a great daylight to dusk stint in the car.

Next up, RJ wants to make a go of it and have a stint. By this time, I am up, cleaning up the mess we’ve made from working on the damn car every other hour un the paddock. RJ starts to push the car a bit more with each passing lap, eventually resulting in a bit of an off coming out of T7 while accelerating for the straight. This unknowingly destroyed the battery tie-down for the battery, allowing the hunk-o-plastic and electrons to remove itself from the terminal hook-ups. RJ is now fending for himself in the darkness of rural Georgia while trying to coast to a stop well off the racing line. Eventually, he is flat towed back to the paddock where we fab up a new mount with some up cycling techniques and strategically placed ratchet straps.

We end up sending Josh out for the final stint and to bring home the checkers. We ended up 61st overall and somewhere low in the class A standings as well, but we survived. Well, mostly. I actually destroyed my glasses in the process of loading up the stupid trailer, but I digress. We enjoyed a well deserved dinner and a movie with the Bimmer guys of Chattanooga Tourenwagen. Without them, it would have been hard to swallow what had expired over the race day.

As always, we are constantly finding ways to improve the little Miata. We are also learning about the consumables of an endurance racing program. Most importantly, however, is that we are learning every time we go back to the track. Without the ability to move forward, it would be hard to call any of this a success. I strongly feel that we will make it to the top soon. The will is there, the luck just hasn’t been yet. Soon, guys… soon.

Thank you for all the help and support. We made some new friends and didn’t create any real drama. I don’t think it gets any better than that, eh?

 

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Sebring September 2017

By Trae Forsythe

Well, the weekend started at 5:30PM CDT Thursday evening when Josh and I pulled out Nashville, Tennessee and headed south with the destination of Sebring, Florida.  After all that state has been through with Irma slapping it around for a weekend, we were relieved to still be going down to race with the guys and girls of CHUMPCAR World Series.  We strolled in to the hotel parking lot that just happened to not be 43 foot enclosed friendly at first glance at 7:30AM CDT (that’s 8:30AM Eastern for those of you keeping up with my sleep cycle) and managed to get some prime parking near the road after hopping a curb or 3, but this wouldn’t be the last time a curb was set straight this weekend.  The always wonderful staff of the Sebring La Quinta Inn graciously allowed the two road worn guests standing in front of them to check-in on the spot, allowing for a quick 2 hour power nap.  It would have been longer had the staff not made their morning *KNOCK KNOCK* “House keeping” rounds about the time I fell into that real good slumber.  We decided it was a good time to pick up some lunch and get to the track for initial pit setup and get some last minute tinkering done - Rosaries Pizzeria for the win btw.


While out, we look into getting some odds and ends including a few spare lug nuts.  Long story short,  save the 5 store visits in 2 hours and just ask the other Miata racers in the paddock for spares first before waisting your time looking for 17mm 12 x 1.5 lug nuts or whatever they ended up being. Better yet, make sure you check in the VERY back of the 3rd drawer in the pit cart before freaking out and heading out on the aforementioned while goose chase.  Chances are, they’ll be there and you won’t have a stroke in the process.  


We took some time to try and dial the engine in a bit after making some new friends and hanging out with some old ones.  Well, you know how that usually ends up, right?  Yep, 4 hours, 4 gallons of fuel, and a ‘tick' more confidence in the car running “ok” for the 14 hour race the next day.  That Dairy Queen XL Root Beer float made things seem a little bit more bearable though, I’ll admit that much.  Finally hit the hay at 1:00 in the morning local time.


RACEDAY IS HERE!  


On the way in to the track, we stopped for some ice for the coolers and cool suit, because we aren’t heathens after all, right?  Well, this genius (me) lost what little sense of direction he had left and proceeded to make a left-hand turn onto a divided highway, HEADING THE WRONG DIRECTION.  I ended up jumping the median and making the biggest U-turn of shame you’ve ever witnessed, man. Josh and I both were well awake at that moment.  Who needs coffee when you’ve got semi professional racing drivers with these mad skills?  Now a change of boxers, that’s another story.  #PuckerFactor


We made the decision that Josh would start this one out.  With the help of Randy Pobst and a random number generator, we rolled off 44th out of 74.  Josh said the car felt as good as it has, but was gutless under 4k.  His lap times said the car was more than just “alright” as he started to cut his way through the field.  Things were going great until he found out the Mighty Chumpiata makes a decent slice of sandwich meat between a 2nd gen Camaro and another Japanese import if I recall correctly.  He ended up being able to watch the aftermath from a safer distance and suffer little more than a caved in RF fender.  After a quick pit to fix it, he was back on his way.


Next up in the drivers seat was the car owner, Doc.  It has been a while since he’d been in the cockpit of this high horsepower beast as he’s been more partial to his TA2 Mustang for some unknown reason, but I digress.  He starts slow to get acclimated with the car, track, and traffic.  An hour into his 2 hour stint, he radios in that the car has just fallen flat on it’s face and that he’s getting run over from all different directions.  Well, his language might have been a bit more “colorful” than that, but yeah, car owner wasn’t happy, so we pitted to investigate.


Hood comes up on pit road to reveal… nothing. Everything still connected.  Nothing on fire.  Nada.  He looks at me and tells me to suit up and give it a go to verify if it’s just a lowly NA Miata with all of 100 bhp or if there’s actually something wrong here.  Well, I made it 3 laps before understanding that something was drastically off about the car.  It would still be gutless below 4k, but now it’s breaking up bad from 6500 for redline.  So I pit and pull it in the garage.  For 2 hours, we sit and throw literally everything we can get our hands on at it.  Between Team RYSA, ISC, RPM, and HubCitySpeed, we put plugs in it, changed coil packs around, changed ECU’s, and finally investigated the timing again after it seemed to help most the night before.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, every time we went to adjust the distributor, the motor would act up.  Well obviously it has to be the distributor, right?! Wrong.  Still acting a fool when touching the plug for the cam angle sensor after replacing the distributor… wait… you mean every time you touch the bundle of electrical tape just beyond the connector, the thing dies?!  Apparently electronics like consistent connections to complete circuits these days and wireless cam angle sensors aren’t a thing on 26 year old Miata’s.  We source a new pigtail from a team we helped in Daytona earlier this year to which the comment was made “This is why you make friends. Now please don’t punt anyone today.”


At this point, I’m too mad at this fine piece of racing technology to get back in the seat after so many failed attempts on my part to make a go of it, so we start over on our driver lineup and send Josh out to guinea pig the beast.  He’s quiet.  This either means he’s out of radio range and contemplating how to kill me in my sleep OR he’s in the zone - hard to tell with this guy.  So after a few laps, I ask how the car’s doing to which he simply replied “Car’s good”.  Instilling a lot of confidence, I tell you what.  He makes his second full fuel run of the day while clicking off his fastest times of the day so far.  


Time for the car owner to give it another good roughening and pray he’s good with it and it’s actually working well now.  Guys, he was laughing.  “Where the hell have you been hiding this car?”  Guess it’s actually fixed now?  Still too early to feel comfortable.  After all, it’s still 4:00PM and we won’t see that beautiful black-n-white checkerboard fabric for another 7 hours.  After an uneventful stint by the boss, he pits it and allows me the opportunity once again to validate the changes of the little red rocket-iata.


This thing is a whole different car now.  No, it doesn’t have straight line speed, but man will it haul once it’s got some momentum behind it.  You can just out brake nearly every other car on track and freaking SEND IT into the corner, finding the apex and dancing with it on corner exit, trying not to cut across the nose of the guy/gal you just made a slide job on.  After all, that E36 you just chopped at T10 will probably be passing you back at Bishop.  The new aero seemed to be working, or at least it didn’t seem to be a hindrance - well actually, let me get to that.  With the new found health, speed, and confidence, I started making moves through the field after a late full course caution.  This was great!  "I’ll just take this 944 on the outside.”  "Let’s see if I can make it stick just a little bit longer on this cross-over line under the bridge…. how did that actually work??”  “Oh look, those E30’s are battling, I’ll just see myself through the inside of T1, thank you….” 


That’s when those two E30’s decided to use up a bit more track than I had initially planned from afar, forcing me to back off, drop two, and mow the inside grass of turn 1 at Sebring in the process.  Good news, the splitter stayed on!  Bad news, water temp is now at 220*F.  I pit and get the grill cleaned off and head back out to finish out this stint.  


The transition from day to night was absolutely gorgeous.  I did get the chance to admire it all when not doing battle.  That sunset was special.  You know what else is special?  Good headlights.  We were able to do just fine with our current recessed setup and LED flood lamps, but I see why the “apex” lights are so popular.  You cannot have too much light out there.  Had it not been for the previous stint, and YEARS of racing Sebring on games and sims like iRacing, it would have been a chore and a half to hit those apex’s and not end up high-centered on the turn 15 rumble strips.


My first full stint was a success until it came time to get out of the car.  Josh hopped in to run his final stint of the night while I tried to recover from not eating all day and having a Monster Rehab to fight the lack of sleep.  My blood sugar likes to bottom out when I do stupid things like that.  Fortunately, Doc had supper ready and waiting soon as I got my helmet off.  That chicken was on point.  30 minutes later, I was back to my old self and ready to take the final stint to see the checkers.  Josh somehow hit a miracle lap in the dark as well and got down in the 2:44’s with me.  It’s not often you can count on a teammate to keep you honest like this.  That is something I couldn’t be more thankful for.  


With 1 hour and 45 minutes remaining in the race, Josh pits for the final time and I get in with the only goal of getting this pile home in one piece.  As I’m out there making laps and attempting to conserve fuel like a good driver, I find out my team is getting some well deserved attention from the broadcast crew in the form of a pit road interview.  I’m sure Josh loved those 15 minutes!  It was made possible by the cheerleaders we had back at home in Tennessee watching the live stream.


I tried to keep it laid back, shift early, not pressure myself or the car into a mistake, but it’s hard to not be competitive down the stretch.  I ended up running hard a few times to have some fun with the group around me at the time, cutting it closer than I wanted on fuel, but that’s all good.  The team kept tabs on me and made sure I knew what the clock read.  On the final laps, I could see the teams from up and down pit road take a break from their clean-up and line the pit road catch fence and cheer as the cars started to take that checkered flag at the start/finish line at 11:00PM Saturday night. 


All that work.  All that time.  All that effort… it finally paid off for this team.  This is our first year attempting to run.  We made it 8 hours at Daytona.  We made it 45 minutes short of Day 1 at NCM.  Finally, we saw it to the end.  I came across the radio and screamed at the top of my lungs just like I’ve seen countless professional racers do in years previous of me.  That feeling of satisfaction is something that can’t be bought.  The fulfillment of being there at the end will be what gets us excited for the weeks and months to come just to do it again.  


Nashville Trash (Wasting Money Racing) ended up completing ~11.5 of the 14 hours Saturday - 184 completed circuits around Sebring International - 41st overall.  No, it didn’t go as planned, but we are better for it.  I was so excited about finishing that I absolutely destroyed my racing glasses as they fell to the tarmac while I was trying to exit the car in the pits with all my emotions and excitement getting the better of me and my grace.  


We celebrated by loading up and saying our goodbyes to the track and the people that made the weekend so awesome.  We finally got some decent sleep Saturday night and proceeded t make the trip back home Sunday, getting back to Nashville at 10:00PM CDT in one magnificent, tired, weak, yet happy mess.  

Thank you for all of the support from friends and family and thank you to the competitors that make the racing what it is; great.  Barber is next on the schedule for this little 3 man team in December.  The goal this time is to complete the clock, start to finish.  We’ll see how that goes.


For now, thank you for everything.  Live it up, right?

 

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Photo Courtesy of Sebring

More To Come!