Racing Series Las Vegas Gamblers Grand Prix Enduro
April 22/23, 2000
"We Can Rebuild It, Dr. Frankenstein"
Ya wanna go fast, you gotta have a good motor
(NOTE: If your browser shows broken links for the pictures, hit the "refresh" button a couple of times. And get rid of that 28.8 modem, for crying out loud, we are in the new millennium. Call your cable company or phone company and DEMAND a high speed Internet line immediately, or else you will sue as they are hindering your ability to read The NSX-Files)
At the last event for the Flamemobile, the car kinda grinded to a halt after accidentally shifting the car into 3rd gear going 124 mph. Larry performed surgery on the car. He was hoping that it would be something like a main bearing, that was easily fixable at a low cost. Unfortunately, it looked a little more severe than that. Looks like we broke a titanium connecting rod, which in turn damaged the block. So the engine was trashed. We sent the engine to Valley Motors, who would take it apart and salvage what they could of the motor. Larry was able to find a good used NSX engine on the open market, so he then put this stock used engine into the car, and then bolted the Comptech supercharger on the car. So now we need to test this new engine, and see if it could hold up to the rigors of racing.
The effect of accidentally shifting from 4th to 3rd at 125 mph
Mark Johnson, of Dali Racing fame, was having a track event at Holtville, up by El Centro. Wayne and I figured that we could test out both our cars there. He has been having shift linkage problems, and I had to test out the engine and the big lights, as our next major racing event is the PRO Racing Series two-hour night enduro at the small track in Las Vegas.
Wayne and I have been having battery problems, meaning that our batteries are always dying in his 944 Turbo, my NSX, and in the trailer. Last time at Las Vegas for our previous night enduro, the big lights we put on the car killed the battery, and we lost out on precious time with qualifying at night due to the fact that battery was so dead, we could not jump it, and had to switch out the battery for a fresh one. Larry looks at our batteries, and says we are idiots for buying these racing batteries that we have. He just shakes his head and says he imagines the following conversation by two illiterate employees of a battery making company somewhere in the Arkansas:
Jethro: We gotta make more profit on these car batteries, or the boss is going to fire us.
Billy Bob: I got an idear, what if we takes these big huge Interstate batteries we are selling, and cut them in half. That way we have half of the cost, and double the amount of batteries. That way our cost is lower, and our profits are doubled.
Jethro: Billy Bob, you dumbass, no one would ever buy a small battery like that. There will barely be enough cranking power to fire up the car, much less to fire up the stereo, lights, GPS, car phone, electric razor, etc.
Billy Bob: We can say, "Half the Size, Half the Weight", which will appeal to those guys who think they can drive fast and that 5-10 pounds will actually make a difference in their lap times.
Jethro: It still ain't gonna work, no one will buy it.
Billy Bob: But we put a big sticker on it, that says, "Racing Battery - for Racers Only", and we charge DOUBLE the price for half the size. That will make it seem cool. And you know how racers are. They buy anything as long as it is more expensive that normal parts.
Jethro: We can try it, but it will never work.
Two years later, a half million racing batteries are sold……and a half million people are cussing why their itty-bitty battery keeps dying. Billy Bob is now Vice President of R&D, smoking cigars and watching NASCAR races from the VIP sponsor section of the track…….
Four big ass headlights to aid us in the night enduro
Wayne's windshield was broken at the last event, due to one of the Ferrari racecars throwing a rock at his windshield and putting a crack in it. He just recently got this windshield replaced. So he goes out and gets another installed the day before we leave for Holtville. He shops around for the cheapest one (of course), and he ends up getting a new windshield installed for about $140, for both the windshield AND the installation, which seems to be too good a price. Anyway, Wayne is happy about the deal. I can't believe how cheap he got the windshield. I guess he did a good job of grinding down the poor owner of the windshield company to barely make a profit on this job.
April 1, 2000
So anyways, we pack up the circus, meaning Larry, Jesse, and Brent hope along for the ride to Holtville. It just so happens that the ride to Holtville is via the Indian casinos. We stop on the way there, and Wayne and I get scalped for $350 each. Damn. Damn.
Bobby's son (Future M3 Racer) posing next to the NSX
We get to Holtville, and unpack the cars. Wayne's brother Bobby came by with his 13-year-old son in their 1999 BMW M3. His son is ecstatic, as since Holtville is pretty deserted and we have the track to ourselves, Bobby lets his son drive the M3 for the first time. This is the first time that his son as EVER driven a car. Remember the first time you drove a stick shift car? We were cracking up, watching his son jerk the car after every attempted shift, due to his inexperience with letting out the clutch.
Race Control at Holtville Airport
The track surface at Holtville ain't the greatest. Holtville is an old abandoned airport, and the surface seems to be made with these huge concrete slabs that do not always match up. So there are gaps between the concrete slabs, which makes for a bumpy ride. After his first couple of runs, Wayne wipes out the front spoiler on the 944 on a bump. Oh well. We test my car with the four big racing lights on it, and the car runs for 20 minutes straight without a problem. I pull into the pit area, turn the car off, and turn the car back on. Well, I try to turn the car back on, but it appears that the car after all four lights running on the racetrack, the battery is now dead. Larry reminds us why racing batteries suck…….
Wayne goes about 10 laps, and is following me around the track. The NSX tires throw back a bunch of rocks at Wayne, and one of them hits his windshield and put a HUGE crack in. So his el cheapo $140 windshield ends up lasting about 10 miles before he has to get a new one. I am sure at the same moment in time, the owner of the windshield replacement company was probably at home in his big sofa chair, smoking a cigar, watching the NASCAR race on his big screen TV, thinking, "Any day that cheap bastard from 1-800-PhoneGuys will be calling me back for another windshield. Heh heh heh".
Wayne's car before cracking splitter and the el cheapo windshield
The new engine seems to be pulling pretty strong. It is just a stock engine
with the supercharger bolted on to it, but it feels real good. My shifter feels
a little notchy. Wayne hops into the car, and rips around the track. He comes
back, and he says that either the tranny has died, or the clutch has died, as
the car won't shift into various gears. We all accuse Wayne of breaking the
car. Bummer, looks like that is all she wrote for today. We broke Wayne's car,
(windshield and splitter), and my car, so we pack up the truck and trailer and
head for home. There are other casualties for the day, it seems like there were
about four bent rims from people going off the track or hitting the "clangers"
which are big metal balls (dots?) that outline parts of the track. We head home,
and again stop at the Indian casino. We get scalped again. Damn. They kicked our
ass on this trip.
The Dali Racing European Cup car. Full roll cage, big brakes, big sway bars, etc
But at least we learned that my engine is good, Wayne shifter linkage is working fine, we can't use the little itty bitty racing batteries to power a million candlepower worth of lights for the night enduro, and that something is wrong with the six speed tranny or the clutch. So back to the drawing board to get ready for the Las Vegas PRO Racing Series Night Enduro.
April 3rd, 2000 - Unsolicited Political Commentary
11 Reasons Why Breaking Up Microsoft is the Wrong thing to do.
Judge Jackson, who is overseeing the Microsoft vs. DOJ anti-trust case, rules that the the software giant violated antitrust laws and acted inappropriately to crush its competitors that are at the same time, trying to crush Microsoft. Microsoft competitors celebrate and dance in the halls.... for about a half hour. The NASDAQ composite index immediately drops 355 points the same day, wiping out the entire tech sector with it. You know those mutual funds that you and your parents invested in for retirement funds? Well......most of those had a huge position in Microsoft stock. Billions of dollars in paper profits are wiped out, along with the stock prices of Microsoft competitors. Judge Jackson was bitched slapped once before by the Court of Appeals along with Judge Stanley Sporkin in two other various rulings against Microsoft, with the Court of Appeals basically saying that these judges are idiots. See the "Pulp Commentary" section, and look for the previous DOJ vs. Microsoft comments from last year. How is this relevant to racing? Ya gotta have money to race, and when paper profits are wiped out, you race less, and you don't buy as much go-fast parts. Which means that the go-fast parts companies have problems paying their employees. Which means their employees spend less money, and buy less stuff. And it trickles all the way down the chain. At the rate we are going, we will be racing cockroaches on trashcan lids instead of the NSX and the 944 Turbo....
April 7th, 2000
About 15 days before we are to go to Vegas, we find out that the Night Enduro has been changed to a Day enduro. So we don't have to screw around with the battery and lights on my car, which is a relief. And I don't have to buy a big huge 100 lb. Interstate battery to power the lights.
In order to get ready for this race, we have to get some new front rotors put on my car, we are dropping the spare five speed tranny instead of the six speed tranny back into my car, and putting on the Dali one inch sway bars to stiffen up the handling of the car. Wayne's car had to get another windshield, (this time he went with a Lexan windshield he found on the Internet), ABS sensors replaced, front splitter fixed, new RACING battery, new battery kill switch, new brake fluid.
Our pit crew continues to get bigger. Jim is now helping Larry out on a daily basis at the shop, and comes up to Vegas, along with Jesse and Brent. It used to be that Wayne and I would drive our cars up to the track events on BFG R1 tires with some tools in the trunk, race in the time trial events, then drive the cars back. Now we trailer our cars up in a 48-foot trailer with two tons of equipment (portable lifts, tools, extra tires, clutches, lights, generator, grinder, welder, compressor, chairs, four ice chests, etc.) and four pit crew members. We need another 48 foot trailer just for the crew and their equipment……
We carry a lot of stuff with us
Friday, April 21
We actually get the trailer ready to go the day before we have to leave, so we are much less stressed out than usual. We take a wrong turn once we get into Vegas, so it takes us about eight hours to get from Huntington Beach to the racetrack to drop off the trailer. We then head off for Ballys. Luckily, we hooked up via a friend for some good rooms at Ballys. We get three rooms on the same floor, with two of the rooms connected. The two rooms connected to each other include a suite and about 3500 square feet of living space. This is awesome, we owe a big favor to the person who scored us these rooms. We feel like the infamous "Whales", who are known for coming into town wagering $100,000 a hand at the blackjack tables and thus get treated like royalty.
Full big wet bar with bar stools and TV on the wall, 32 inch TV, sofas, etc
At the blackjack table, I have having the worst run of luck ever. It is looking ugly. I can't win two hands in a row. I start decreasing my bets, and I lose those also. Wayne, on the other hand, is doing pretty good, and he is up $400 bucks or so. Not bad.
We get to the track, and we see that there are about five run groups, with most of the run groups comprised of the HSR Historic racecars. There are some really cool cars there. Our run group will be combined with the ProFormance NASCAR drivers. ProFormance is a group of people who are on a type of "arrive and drive" program. They are essentially renting these cars for the weekend to race in their series.
The ProFormance arrive-and-drive team. They had about 16 cars entered in our group
In the morning warm-ups, many of the NASCAR guys seem faster than us. Wayne also goes off the track early, and cracks his repaired front splitter into a bunch of pieces that are laying all over the track. Jim shakes his head, as he was the guy who spent a lot of time rebuilding the fiberglass splitter just a couple days before this race. I am kicking Wayne's ass by a good 3 seconds a lap. He accuses the new muffler tip that has a resonator on it of slowing him down, as he is not getting his usual 17 lbs of boost, he is getting more like 14 lbs of boost. Larry scratches his head, and says if he wants, we can just cut off the resonator tip. We pull out the compressor with the mini air saw (hey, we have everything in the trailer), and cut off the tip. Wayne is now getting a full 17 lbs of boost, and is running right with me. He is accusing Larry of purposely trying to slow him down so I can beat him.
Vintage McLaren race car
In the sprint race, I a gridded about 5th in our group. They are staggering the NASCAR guys in front of us by 30 seconds or so, and then our PRO Racing Series grid gets the green flag. After ripping around the track a few times, I pass a couple of the back markers for the NASCAR group. I come ripping through the sweeper turn at the end of the front straight with lifting just a bit, and start dive bombing on the two Porsches and Mike's Vette that is in front of me. The car gets a bit loose in the sweeper turn at 100 mph, but I recover and figure that maybe I just came through there too fast. Turns out one of the older cars in front of me dumped some oil. And dumped more right before the braking zone. I come diving bombing into the braking zone in an effort to catch up to the guys in front of me, hit the oil, and suddenly instead of the car immediately slowing down in a straight line, the car seems to accelerate and makes a quick unintentional right hand turn right off the track into the dirt. A huge cloud of dust comes up in the infield.. I let the cars behind me get by, and then hop back on the track to join the chase.
Cool looking Budweiser car
Unfortunately, Wayne gets by me, along with four other cars. Wayne touches side fenders with an immaculate Shelby GT350 Mustang replicar. Not too much damage to the Mustang, but Wayne's fenders do get banged up. The NASCAR guys are out there banging and CRASHING into each other (hey, it's a rental ride!). Two laps later, I see one of the faster Porsche guys, Chris Burns, pull off into the pits. Turns out that he thought it was getting a little too crazy out there, and he wanted to get the heck off the track before someone crashed in to his immaculate, newly refinished 911 racecar. He said he just wanted the points for the enduro race anyway, and this qualifying sprint race didn't mean too much to him. I don't blame him, people were getting sloppy out there, and those NASCAR wrecks were scaring me. Wayne and I were drooling over how nicely setup his 911 seemed to be. Stewart Racing had a vintage Vette and a vintage Camaro entered in our run group. Both were EXTREMELY fast. The Camaro kicked our ass and took names, and also whomped on the Porsches and Mike's Vette. Rumor has it there is a $100,000 of work into the Camaro motor to make it go fast. And we thought we were going to wipe them all over the track until they passed us....
Mike's Corvette, co-driven by Belinda in the enduro.
They start the enduro around 3:30 p.m. For the two hour enduro, we do our usual routine. I will drive the first 50 minutes or so, make a pit stop, and then Wayne will drive the remainder of the time. We setup the pits, and are gridded fifth for the race. For the enduro, I installed this funky little thermos that holds about a quart of water, and has a six foot long tube to suck water out of it during the enduro. Wayne reminds me to put lots of ice in the thermos, as the ice will melt during the race.
Within the first 10 minutes of the enduro race, five of the ten cars entered in the race puke their guts and they are out of the race. I come in and make my pit stop. I run the first 50 minutes or so without too much incident. We fill up with about 13 gallons of gas, figuring that we have to make one more quick pit stop. Wayne hops into the car and takes off. After less than half a lap, Wayne starts screaming on the radio, "There is something wrong, the car will not stay in third gear!". In the pit area, we all look at each other, thinking the same thing, that the car was working fine until the pit stop, and that Wayne broke the car again, after half a lap. Wayne is on the radio, "The shifter won't go into third gear, and when it does, it pops right out into neutral. I can't drive the car this way. It is messing me up." Wayne comes ripping down the back straight away at about 110 mph in 4th gear before the braking zone, about 100 feet in front of our pit area. Before the end of the turn, he has to brake hard and downshift two gears into 2nd. Unfortunately, he tries to make the 4th to 3rd downshift, is unsuccessful in getting the car into gear so he is ripping into the braking zone in neutral, and overshoots the end of the straightaway and drives off into the gravel run off area in a big cloud of dust. We all shake our heads in the pits, along with the race organizer who was watching Wayne on that turn. Wayne is screaming that the car is not drivable in the race in this condition.
More vintage racers
I radio to Wayne and tell him to bring the car in. I decide to just hop into the car, and take it around the track one time before we pack up the NSX for a DNF in this race. I figure I am just going to do one lap, see what is wrong, and then come back into the pit. Which means I don't even bother trying to hookup the radio and earplugs. Now this is a big mistake.
I get into the car, and while it is kinda tough to get it into third gear, I can kinda slam the shifter to make the 2nd to 3rd without too much of a problem, and can make the shift 9 times out of 10. On the downshift, if I blip the throttle, I can also force the shifter into making the 3rd to 2nd gear shift. I am dying of thirst, so I take a huge drink out of the straw. Damn, that was good planning, putting that thermos in the car. I am a genius....
So now I think I can force the car to finish the race, but I will have to do it without any radio support, and now I will have to drive another 60 minutes in the hot sun after driving the first 50 minutes. I am tired. I mean damn tired. Mike in his Corvette pits his car for gas, and his co-driver for the weekend, Belinda, takes over. Belinda has always been a good driver, but it looks like she is now turning into an awesome driver. I follow her around the track, and she is driving some really graceful lines through the turn. I actually pick up half a second a lap by following her line through the turns, and run my fastest lap, which is a 1:30.1. She gracefully lets me by after I get pretty close to her (mainly by outbraking her), but I miss a 3rd gear shift in the next lap or so, and let her get in front of me again as I don't want to bog the car down in front of her while she is under full throttle. She didn't make a single mistake or bad line through a turn the entire session she was out there. I start thinking….hummmm….I could fire Wayne as my co-driver, hire Belinda, and then maybe the NSX wouldn't break down as much.
More vintage racers
Okay, about 30 minutes left in the enduro. I am really glad that I have been working out three times a week, as well as playing a little full court basketball and tennis to build up my endurance. I am getting a little tired, but at least I have some water in the car. At one time, Wayne, some friends, and I, thought we should try to do the 24 Hours of Daytona. If we get a total of four drivers, that means each driver has to drive three 2-hour shifts over the course of 24 hours, for a total of six hours each. I grab the straw for another long drink down the back straightaway. Inside of getting ice cold water, I am getting cold air through the straw. Now I am dying of thirst, and apparently since I filled the thermos up with mostly ice, and since it is a thermos with insulation, the ice doesn't melt very fast. So now I have a thermos full of ice, with no water. Shit. And 30 minutes to go. I struggle with the car, struggle with concentrating and keeping the car on the road, and struggle to finish the race. With 15 minutes left, I make a quick pit stop for about 4 gallons of gas to finish the race. I get back on the track, and after 10 more laps, they wave the checkered flag, and we finish 4th overall! Which sounds good, except about 10 cars entered, of which five broke down early. And most of the cars in front of me are P2 cars, which means they are ahead of me in class for points. Oh well….but at least we didn't DNF. Chris Burns, who saved his car in the early sprint race for the enduro, kicks everyone's ass in the enduro. Mike and Belinda are second. Mark Van Dementer comes in 3rd in a 911. I am too tired to drive the truck back to the hotel, so Jim drives us back. I can't walk all the way from the parking lot to the room, so I have Jim drop us off at the front desk, and I barely make it up to the room.
I get back to the hotel room, and I am so exhausted, I can't even make it to the shower after being at the windy, dusty, hot track all day. I can't even make despite that fact that there are blackjack tables 22 floors below the room and they are calling out my name. I immediately crawl into bed, and decide to call the wife before I go to sleep to let her know that we finished the day at the track safely. I pick up the phone, but I can't remember my home telephone number. I dial two wrong numbers in a row. I think to myself, "Hummm….I think my phone number is 949-720-8901? Or is it 720-9801? Hummm. What is wrong here?" Then I realize what is happening. I am so wiped out from driving an hour and 45 minutes in the relatively hot sun, I am delirious and can't remember my home phone number that I normally dial three times a day to pick up voice messages. I yell at Wayne and asked him what the hell is my phone number is. He looks at me like I am suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Hummm….24 hours of Daytona? I can't even make the 105 minutes of Las Vegas and finish with my sanity intact.
Bedroom with Jacuzzi, two sinks, toilet, show, bidet, etc.
After sleeping for about four hours, and getting some room service ordered for a late dinner, I am back to normal. So I head out to the Venetian again to see John Morvay's East Coast connection in the lounge, and then play some blackjack. Larry comes back to the room right before I leave, and wants to go to the Venetian also. We cruise out there, and checkout a most excellent band for free. Except I lose a ton of money at the blackjack table at the Venetian. I think I just paid for the salary for the half the band that night. The luck at the tables really sucks. I mean REALLY SUCKS.
More vintage race cars
PRO Racing has a sprint race schedule for the early afternoon. We decide to skip the early morning practice, and just show up for the final sprint race. After all, we drove a lot of laps the day before (well, at least I did), and we can probably drive the track blindfolded. In the final sprint race, I am gridded about 6th, based on qualifying lap times from the day before. My rear tires are pretty much toast after the enduro, but I figure I won't be able to drive the car at the full limit with the shifter/clutch not working 100%, so I figure I will just keep the trashed tires on for this race. After a couple of laps, the supercharger belt is slipping a little bit, so instead of getting 6-8 lbs of boost, I am getting less than 5 lbs at high RPMS. Shit, maybe we needed to wake up early and do that early practice to see if the cars were okay for the race. The car is real slippery in turns. Maybe I shoulda put the new tires on. Wayne passes me in the race. DAMN! Mike wins the sprint race in the Vette, Mark takes 2nd in his 911, and Wayne takes 3rd.
We stop at one of the state line casinos on the way home. No change in luck, they kick my ass again. This has been the WORST gambling weekend ever for me. Bummer.
So let's see. We have gearbox/clutch or engine problems for the 4th enduro
event in a row. Perhaps we aren't enduro warriors after all. After consulting
with Larry, I decide that maybe enduros are not the future of this car. The next
big events coming up are the Virginia City Hill Climb, and the FORD Los Angeles
Street Race. Maybe what we need to do is build up the car to turn into a sprint
Next up for the car is:
1. Get the Comptech heads off the damaged engine, and put them on this new engine.
2. Throw out the Alpine Stereo, equalizer, speakers, and the 20 lb amplifier.
3. Install the updated Comptech 9 lbs pulley for the supercharger, which will give us another pound or so of boost. Who cares if the engine blows up, we need some speed.
4. Take the car out to Willow Springs with the Touring Car Club over Memorial day weekend, and do some testing there, to make sure the car/engine/tranny is ready for the Hill Climb and the LA Street Race.
Steward Racing's incredibly fast American Iron
Wayne reminds me that he beat me in both the qual race and the final sprint race. But then again, I hit oil in the qual race, and I had a mechanical DNF in the final sprint race. And of course, he only drove ten minutes out of the two hour enduro......