Car Hauler Stories
Road Atlanta February 2018
By Trae Forsythe
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?
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?