Hooniverse 24 Hours of LeMons: 11th in class for four “idiots in a Buick”

346-Real Hoopties of New Jersey-IMG_0199 The second race for the Park Bench Racing Team and our 2002 Buick Regal LS (N/A) is in the books. We finished 11th in class and 41st overall out of 151 entries. That’s pretty good, considering that midday on Saturday we were around the 60th place. We haven’t figured it out yet, but there has to be a better way of starting an endurance race better than mid-pack. What we did figure out back at the first race, and it took us a while because we’re kind of slow, is that penalties are bad and we should avoid them at all costs. Saturday started great. We were running consistent and strong. We were doing one-hour stints so that everyone had at least some driving time. With the penalty paranoia in mind, we were driving very carefully and conservatively. We only had one very minor drive-thru penalty in the morning. We were told over and over again that “it’s better to come in” and be cool with the judges even if you have done nothing wrong. It turned out that this suggestion almost kick us in the butt. On my first stint I got a black flag for an unknown reason. I came in and was told that “we have nothing on you” and went back out. Hours later, in my second stint, I get black flagged again for passing under yellow, which resulted in this penalty. I passed under a white flag, which is questionably legal, way after I passed the emergency vehicles that were on the track. If the yellow flag was there, I did not see it. When in the penalty box I was told that this was our third offense, and that a next offense will result in a three-hour stop. Somehow my proactive stop was classified as a penalty. No good deed goes unpunished. From thereon we would only go in after we were certain that the black flag was for us, even if it mean doing an extra lap, but thankfully we didn’t have to. [Image: Murilee Martin | Thanks, Saucy Minx!] IMG_9722 Perhaps it was the hot day, perhaps there was something in the New Jersey water, but Saturday afternoon was filled with a bunch of very aggressive drivers. I was literally scared a few times. Stupidity must be contentious because everyone seemed to have been driving way over their heads. Not surprisingly this resulted in at least two relatively serious accidents, not to mention many cars in the penalty box. In the last hour of the Saturday race about six teams chose to completely ignore coming into the penalty box altogether and they got a nasty surprise the following day. Sunday started with a mandatory driver’s meeting, something not always done on the second day of racing. There, Chief Perpetrator Jay Lamm gave a complete ass chewing to all on bad driving. He underscored his bitching by giving an example of how dangerous it is to completely focus on a fight with someone (who may not even be in your class) for random spot (which may not even exist), on a random corner, and that in the grand scheme of things it is much better to just give way than to try “to pass some idiot in a Buick” Well, amid total silence from all the present drivers, I took offense to that! My single word comment happened to lightened up the mood somewhat. It also gave us a mantra for new t-shirts. Luckily, we had no penalties on Sunday. 266-Real Hoopties of New Jersey-IMG_0062 The car performed well. We noticed some sputtering at WOT in Friday’s practice and spent the evening troubleshooting the ignition system. Five minutes before the start of the race on Saturday we replaced a wonky fuel injector with a quality $25 junk yard unit which solved the problem. Following the Halloween Hooptiefest , we could have spent $500 towards this car, but we decided not to. It was running well and any meaningful modification would have put us over that budget. We also realized that the car as was limited more by its drivers than by anything else. We fixed the leaky radiator hoses, got some spring compressors, two new tires, sway bar links and we cut off the muffler (cat stayed in place). Personally, I felt much more relaxed at this race; I knew what I was doing (kind of), I knew the car (sort of), and I learned the track on Friday (not really). Had it not been for that penalty I think we would have been in the top five in class B. When we were out at the penalty there were no cautions, everyone had their fastest drivers out, and right as we were about to go out the race was red flagged for additional twenty minutes. One lap penalty because my teammate wore a Red Sox had to the BS inspection did not help. For the next race, likely the October Halloween Hooptiefest, we might want to change the brake pad compound, perhaps some really sticky tires, and we’re always on a lookout for suspension upgrades. Otherwise, the car has been surprisingly amazing reliability wise and it drives well, too. I suggested a theme change or significant modification, but that was rejected. And yea, we’re getting some idiotic t-shirts made. DSC_0412

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