Wow! Ok, the ChumpCar race was really cool! I thought I would enjoy it but it was even better than I expected. And that’s considering that we had some real issues with the motor that kept the car off track for about half the race (7 hours). What makes this type of racing so fun is the TEAM driving. It’s one thing to go to a friends race and be their pit crew but it’s a whole different experience when multiple drivers all get turns in the car.
We headed down to Buttonwillow early Friday morning and got there around noon. Car passed tech no problem and after buying the 5 free laps (for a donation to charity) and being docked 2 laps for extras (headers and carb) we would be starting the race with 3 laps in the bag. After tech we found out that for a little extra money we could run the car on track right then. We should have used that time to shake down the car but we were over confident and decided to just kick back and save the car for the race.
Saturday morning we got to the track and got ready to start the race at 9am. Chumpcar doesn’t make a big fuss about the start. You’re either grided before 9am or you’re not. Race starts at 9am period. Of course at 9am we were still getting our first driver in the car. Joe, being by far the most experienced/accomplished road racer in the group took the first stint. Within a few laps we knew there was trouble. The car just had no power. Everyone was passing us… Joe kept the car going around for about 40 minutes before it died (for the first of many times).
Once the car got towed back into the pits Joe tried tuning on the carb for a while. Then Jeff went out. The car died again within a lap or two. Back to the pits. The fuel system had been plumbed with no filters and we found that the carb had gotten clogged. The fuel pump had also seized (probably because of the carb getting clogged). Anyway, we ran around for a while finding fuel filters and a replacement pump and changed to a different carb we had. Finally Jeff went back out… but the car still had no power. Jeff puttered around for a while but as the car got worse and worse Jeff got back into the pits (probably right before the car was about to die on him again).
More carb tuning ensued and then I finally got my first chance in the car…. no power. I went around for a bit and then they called me into the pits. There’s a race shop at Buttonwillow called 7s Only. Why? Because they are Rx7 experts! What were we racing? An Rx7! So I drove the car over to their shop and we put it on their chassis dyno (keep in mind the racing is still going on…) They quickly diagnosed a problem. One of the ignighter’s had failed. They put on a new one and did an initial pull. The car was making a lousy 98hp and was running way rich. They said the only reason we hadn’t blown up the motor already was because of how rich it was running. Anyway, Joe rejetted the carb a couple of times and they re-timed the motor (it was way off) and after an hour and several pulls we got the motor up to 141hp. Still probably a good 30hp shy of where it should be but we called it soup and headed back out on track.
After the dyno session Joe got back out there and put in a great stint. We were finally running fast times. After about an hour he came in and Dan got his first stint. Dan ran around for an hour too putting in fast times. Then he came in and I got back in the car. I settled in for my hour stint. I was about 10 seconds slower than the other guys but did pass one car near the end of my session. After me Jeff got back in the car right as the sun was setting and turned some fast times until the passenger exhaust rattled loose and started dragging. He got the car back to the pits and we spent about 30 minutes getting the exhaust re-hung. By this time it was pitch black and it was my turn to go back out. I’d never done any kind of night racing and don’t consider myself to have very good night vision. There were lights in the stock headlight buckets and two additional BIG lights in the middle of the hood. Unfortunately the BIG lights had blown a relay or had a wire come loose and weren’t working. I headed on track and immediately realized this was not going to be fun. Only one of my two head lights was pointing anywhere remotely useful. I came into the pits immediately and the guys tried to better position the lights. I went back out but it really wasn’t any better. I could kind of make out the track when going straight but when you needed to turn you look to where the apex should be and all I could see was black… I crawled around for a handful of laps and then came back to the pits and said I was done.
Joe hopped back in the car and went out. Came right back and had the lights adjusted again. Went out, came right back. This time, at pit out he asked the race officials if they could adjust the lights. They pointed the lights CROSS-EYED! Very clever. I wasn’t in the car but it seems like doing that gave you some light on the road in front of you but angle lights towards the corners so you could see something when you turned. Joe did the last hour plus like this and turned in really good times. He took the checked flag and the race was over.
I think the winners did a little over 300 laps and we only managed 141. We came in 12th out of 14 cars I think. Remember we only ran about 6 or 7 hours and only maybe 5 of that was when the car was running right. I think everyone had a blast and there’s talk of doing it again. I’m in!
Here’s a video. Enjoy.