Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year: New Plates!

Orange and Black on the Red Abarth
Hey, Happy New Year! Have a safe driving 2018, and stay tuned right here for more NMS auto-adventures over the next 12 months!

One of the many advantages of changing jobs and moving is getting to live in another state and get some brand new shiny license plates! With the NMS North move to New York we've now managed to survive another trip to another state's  DMV and made it home with some new license plates. If you're keeping track at home, this makes the third set of tags on the FIAT since buying it in South Carolina, and then moving to Virginia. Shoot, we might as well go for the record here and see if we can live in all 50 states, keep all the old plates, and build a new garage with them. Maybe that's the story of the 4th Little Pig that they left out of the fairy tale. One built a house of straw, one built a house of sticks, the third built his house from bricks, and the unfairly forgotten 4th Little Pig built a house out of license plates. Now that I've actually written all that, it's better that he's forgotten.

You've likely noticed how many people have vanity or special group license plates, and even though it's always fun to try and read some of the more off-beat tags, I've always just got plain old whatever number they give me license plates. There are plenty of interesting ones to see and take photos of every day, and we've put plenty of them on the blog here too. Here's one I spotted today:

Hummer 3 "Boxcars"

While probably no one enjoys going to the DMV (except for 16 year olds getting their first driver's license) we're a big fan of states that allow you to renew your license or car registration on line once you've done it at least once. To be fair, there was that one time in Virginia that I visited the DMV and somehow was the only customer in line, but that sure wasn't the case any other time. It didn't help that I had an appointment on the last Friday of the month and last Friday of the year, so take my advice and stay away from your local DMV during the last week of the month if you can avoid it!

NPD = New Plate Day for the Camry Too!

Friday, December 22, 2017


The Coronet with Fresh Plum Crazy Paint
Happy Holidays everyone! Of course I'm talking about our favorite two holidays of the year at NMS: Racer Gift Giving Day on the 25th of December, and the big January 1st Happy New Year of Driving Day! We hope your 2017 and 2018 will continue to be safe behind the wheel and on the street. Rather than complain about unsafe drivers in the rain without their lights on, and the ones that don't use turn signals, oh, and pedestrians that walk in the road instead of the perfectly safe SIDEWALKS, let's look back on our NMS highlights for 2017!

In addition to the holidays, I'm a big fan of TOP TEN lists, probably thanks to the old David Letterman show and his sense of humor. As we near the end of 2017 and start thinking of driving in 2018, here's a quick look at our NMS TOP TEN events of the year, which were all rated very highly on the "HOLY CRAP THAT WAS FUN" rating scale. Heck, let's say 2017 was the biggest and baddest year in the entire history of NMS! Yep, all 5ish years so far!

Instead of counting down to the top rated event, let's just start with the best and take it from there. As always, NMS reserves the right to have more or less than 10 items in any TOP TEN list.

1: Brian and Team Coronautski competed in the 24 Hours of Lemons endurance race, and placed pretty well too! This is our highlight of the year because it was several years in the making, with Team Coronautski receiving the Coronet and working long term to get it back into racing condition. The Lemons Team-Coronautski story also gave us our post with the most hits this year, you can read Brian's wrap up below.

Brian in the Driver's Seat at Lemons

-NMS Most Popular Post of the Year:  so-how-much-does-this-lemons-thing-cost

-The Coronet Lemons Build posts:  2017-year-of-1972-dodge-lemon    lemons-coronet-update
more-lemony-goodness    painting-lemon-part-1   plum-crazy   a-safety-gear-excursion
monday-night-with-coronet   exhausting-coronet-work    4-weeks-to-go
mid-week-coronet-progress   final-august-coronet-update   nms-south-is-race-ready
lemons-weekend   brians-lemons-recap

2: NMS-North took advantage of being in between careers for a few months, highlighted by one weekend that included a Friday tour of FantomWorks, a Saturday visit to the annual Moss Motorfest, and a regular autocross on Sunday. The Moss event took three posts to cover all the cars and the facility tour just by itself, and they don't even have a TV show on Velocity like FantomWorks! If that's not a great weekend, then we're doing something wrong.
NMS visits FantomWorks

-Friday:  nms-visits-fantom-works
-Saturday: Moss 1   Moss 2   Moss 3
-Sunday: june-autocross-report

3: In addition to the Lemons car and the NMS Miata, Brian worked with two different groups of friends to buy, refurbish, drive, and compete in two different RallyCross (autocross on dirt) cars. As far as low budget cars go, this included two awesome fun-packed examples. First up was the "Dirtie Dirtsun" 1982 Datsun B210 GX, followed by a 1996 "Probeable Cause" Ford Probe GT. Somehow both these cars were made to run, and then survive 4-5 drivers making runs all day long on the dirt in the South Carolina Region SCCA RallyCross series.

Probe at RallyCross

Datsun B210gx

-Datsun build:  nms-south-gets-dirtie   october-rallycross-report
-Probe build: nms-expands-90s-stable-of-cheapness    probeable-cause

4: Both NMS drivers spent the "Sinko de Mayo" (That's Cinco de Mayo en Espanol)  weekend driving on track at Carolina Motorsports Park, during two full days of a NASA High Performance Driver Education (HPDE.) In addition to the NMS Miata and Fiat, Brian took a turn in the Lemons Dodge Coronet.

NMS at Sinko de Mayo

-Sinko de Mayo blogg-o:  fiat-track-weekend-report    what-i-learned-on-track

5: NMS-North finished up their best season ever with the Tidewater Sports Car Club in the Virginia Beach area, taking the class win in H Street class, and nabbing a TOP TEN overall PAX placing. This club was a lot of fun to drive with in various events over the last three years. They always manage to have fun and cap it all off with a bunch of door prizes and driver awards at the end of the season, to include recognizing the top ten autocrossers for the year.  Somehow I moved up in 2017, ending in 10th place for the club championship. The FIAT was out of the starting blocks very quickly this year, with a best ever 7th place PAX in the March event, and then kept the pressure on by raising the points total well over previous years.

Yes, I AM showing off the HS champ and 10th Overall hardware!

-NMS-North Season Wrap-Up:  nms-north-2017-season-review
-TSCC season: March   May   June   July   August   September   October

6: Down south, Brian competed in a variety of cars during autocross season, so while he didn't stick in one class, he attended a lot of events and did a lot of work behind the scenes. While attending a regional SCCA meeting, he even managed to get his photo in the SCCA official magazine Sports Car.

Miata Driver

-NMS in a Magazine Guy: nms-in-sportscar-magazine

7: The individual Drive-Of-The-Year for NMS goes to Brian for not only driving in Lemons, Rallycross, Autocross, Track Night, and etc, but mostly for taking 2nd place overall PAX at the  September SCR autocross. Robert was all set to nab this title after getting 7th PAX in March, but then Brian totally blew him out of the water with this drive in September! Believe it or not, he drove his own car, the NMS 1999 Miata (for a change) at Darlington along with 74 other drivers (we mean that 74 drivers in OTHER cars, not that all 75 people drove Brian's car!) As far as we can remember this is the best ever result for Brian at any autocross event, so congrats! We've forwarded his resume to the Williams F1 team, and since they still have a seat open for 2018, we should hear back from them pretty soon! Don't be surprised if Brian is named as one of their drivers at a press conference coming up in January!

Brian and Lemons Team

-Darlington Results: PAX
-Miata Build Pages: good-bye-stockstreet-class  off-season-upgrades-begin

8: Vehicle wise, in addition to the addition and subtraction of some Rallycross and Lemons cars, NMS added a Chevy Silverado to the fleet for towing duty. We said goodbye to the orange Ford Fiesta ST in the South. and the 2000 Mustang in the North that had followed us home from an auto auction. Yes, they keep making more cars all the time, and the number of used cars out there is just staggering, but we're not really trying to buy and race ALL of them.

NMS Chevy Silverado, Miata, and the Team Coronautski Coronet

-Silverado: nms-south-firing-on-more-cylinders  bad-braking

9: Brian also drove at one of the Sports Car Club of America's "Track Night in America" events at CMP, and had a great time with several informal track sessions. This lower cost and non-competitive type of event has sprung up nation wide in the past two years, and allows anyone to come out and do some track driving in their own car for fun. Compared to most competitive racing series that have a ton of rules and a higher cost of entry, the Track Night in America events are an easy way to get some more seat time.

Brian at CMP in the NMS 99 Miata

-Track Night in America: taking-on-track-night-in-america

10: Car shows. Lots of Car Shows. And Cars and Coffee. Abandoned Auto Auctions. A McLaren and Aston Martin dealership. We visited a lot of car events this year from South Carolina to New York. It seems that no matter how much you might know about cars, there are ten times as many more new things to learn. Shoot, they even keep making new ones every day too! With the future of the automobile changing and adding electric, hydrogen, self driving, and other new stuff, it will always be an interesting topic. For the record, we really stink at guessing sale prices at the auto auctions, but it's always fun to watch.

Maserati Spotting at Virginia Beach Cars and Coffee

september-cars-and-coffee-virginia   khedive-shriners-car-show   august-cars-and-coffee
williamsburg-invitational-car-show   cars-and-coffee-virginia-beach-april  motor-trend-richmond-virginia    washington-dc-auto-show   September Auction   June Auction   March Auction

Monday, December 18, 2017

Winter Testing Wrap Up

This Sunday, Team Coronautski headed down to Alabama, just outside of Birmingham, to Barber Motorsports Park. Ahead of the 24 Hours of Lemons race in February, we needed to confirm the transmission was working again, the changes to the cooling system were actually keeping the engine cool, get Jason behind the wheel of the Coronet, and get all of us a look at a new track.
The Miata tucks riiight under the Cornet to save parking space.

We just managed to get a canopy setup in time for the drizzle and rain that poured all morning and into the lunch break, so we mostly hung out and stayed dry when not driving instead of roaming around and getting cool photos.  It's a very nice facility and home to a FLEET of Porsche cars of all kinds for the Porsche Sport Driving School.  Very impressive.
Two of the three rows or Porsche cars parked in paddock.

There were cars of all kinds, but all of us were really hoping to see this prototype car hit the track.  Unfortunately, the rain kept him parked.
1000cc motorcycle engine? Pulls 2Gs in the corners? Sounds good to me!

Throughout the day several drivers managed to wipe out in the wet conditions that saw some significant standing water, but all of us kept the cars on track and had a very successful day. To finish first, first you must finish.
The Coronet zips down the front straight at Barber.

The Miata was fantastic on the Toyo tires I have and after a month at the body shop, the new hard top fit and did a great job of keeping me dry and safe.  It's a bit of an ugly Christmas sweater look (green top on a red car), but it does the trick and it may get a paint job in the future.
Kyle takes a student out in my car for some wet instructor laps.

In conclusion, Barber Motorsports Park is an extremely fun track with some challenging corners and elevation changes. The Coronet is back and better than ever. We're seeing more power, more cooling, more reliability, and it's even got brand new safety belts.  The Miata is still a blast to drive and I'm looking forward to some additional upgrades over the winter and a race in the Coronet in February.
My car and Jason's car hanging out in Paddock.

Friday, December 15, 2017

How to Get 3 Years of Free Gas!

Toyota Mirai, photo from Car and Driver

This is very simple, with no other jokes, just go buy the Toyota hydrogen-fuel-cell Mirai! They'll throw in the first three years of gas for free! Just to be clear, that gas is hydrogen gas.  Mirai

To be more specific, here is all the info on the Toyota website about the free fuel, listed as disclosure number 24 (out of 31):

"Complimentary fuel for three years or $15,000 maximum, whichever comes first. The three year period starts on the date of card activation or 90 days after vehicle sale or lease commencement date, whichever is earlier. Fuel card is nontransferable. The Mirai is a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle that must be fueled at hydrogen stations conforming to the latest SOCIETY OF AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERS (SAE) hydrogen fueling interface protocol standards or laws that may supersede such SAE standards. Refer to the Mirai Hydrogen Stations Locator App in Entune,, or call Toyota customer service at 800-331-4331 for information on hydrogen fueling stations available to Mirai."

One thing I read was that the word "mirai" means "future" in Japanese, so we'll take their word for it. Whether or not hydrogen fuel becomes the future of the automobile remains to be seen. The MSRP on this model is about $57,500.

Monday, December 11, 2017

NMS Purchases Ayrton Senna's Car!

Ayrton Senna was the three time Formula 1 champion from Brazil that raced for the Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, and Williams teams in F1 from 1984-1994. NMS is proud to announce that we have acquired one of the most famous cars in F1 history, the 1988 McLaren MP4/4. This Honda turbo powered car was used by Ayrton Senna and four time champ Alain Prost to win 15 of the 16 races held in 1988, so it's one of the all time greats.

While we don't like to talk about money very often, NMS was able to purchase the car for $2.99. Yes, that's right, two dollars and ninety-nine cents. Naturally a REAL MP4/4 would go for millions, so maybe we should point out that the $2.99 version is an extra car you can buy and race in the Codemasters Formula 1 2017 game on your computer. Oh, you didn't think we bought a real race car for $2.99 did you? Oh well! Codemasters

In other Ayrton Senna car news, in reality, the real McLaren Automotive Group  over the weekend just unveiled their newest road car. This monster has 787 horsepower, only costs a million dollars or so, and has been named in honor of Ayrton, so the model will be known as the "Senna." Here at NMS north we've just moved the McLaren Senna to the top of our lottery-winning-fantasy-car-to-buy list. McLaren: Senna

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2018 Formula 1 Schedule Confirmed

NMS has confirmed that they won't be driving in Formula 1 next year. Well, unless someone offers us a driver's seat, then we'll say yes in a heartbeat! Seriously, the Williams team still has one seat open, but all the other teams have announced their drivers for 2018. In other words, we'll be following the races on line, on TV, and just maybe live if we can get to Montreal or Austin for the closest races.

The good news (in my opinion) is that F1 returns to both Germany and France, so I bet the teams and drivers are happy to have more races close to their European bases, compared to the far off races that force them to work and compete across so many time zones.

Another highlight coming up will be what is the first triple-header of F1 races in three consecutive races. NMS hasn't been following F1 since it started in 1950, but we've been told that the stretch of races June 24 in France, July 1 in Austria, and July 8 in Great Britain are the first time this has happened. Whether or not this impacts on the driving for good and bad, we'll find out. As a fan, I think it's a good idea! On the other hand, if NFL football is special because there are only 16 games, but baseball is overkill because there are 165 games in a season, then maybe the F1 schedule of 21 races should be about right. With France, Austria, and Great Britain all being closer together than all of Texas, what's the big deal!

DateVenueFormula 1 Grand Prix
25 March
8 April
15 April
29 April
13 May
27 May
10 June
24 June
Le Castellet
1 July
8 July
Great Britain
22 July
29 July
26 August
2 September
16 September
30 September
7 October
21 October
28 October
Mexico City
11 November
Sao Paulo
25 November
Yas Marina
Abu Dhabi

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Don't Worry, Formula E is Back!

Formula E Pre-Season Testing, Valencia Spain, October 2017
We know you're sad about the end of IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula 1 and a bunch of other motor sports activities for the year, but THIS SATURDAY the Formula E season kicks off again! Formula E is all electric cars racing around tight city circuits in some of the biggest cities on the planet, with a season that stretches from December to July. You can find out tons of information on Formula E at the official website: FORMULA E

We've watched a few races on TV in the past, and a few key points really stick out. Firstly, well, they're electric, so they don't sound like NASCAR or anything else you might be used to. Next, the batteries only last so long, so instead of pit stops with tire changes or refuelling, the drivers park their car, hop out, and hop into a 2nd car for the rest of the race. Driver wise, if you've followed other motorsports (mostly F1), you'll recognize at least some of the names of the drivers who've competed in F1 or LeMans, or a couple of them that are sons of world champion drivers (Nico Prost, Nelson Piquet Jr.) On the team side, more and more of the big players in auto manufacturing are getting involved with this sport, and with the increase in electric cars and hybrids, this is probably a good thing (Renault, Jaguar, Audi.)

Another unique feature of Formula E is the "Fan Boost" voting, where normal people like you and me (OK, like you), can vote once a day for one driver to get an extra boost of power during the race. Somehow they do this with the electric powered cars, so if nothing else it's a way to get more interactive with fans. 

With the NMS-North relocation to just outside New York City, we'll see if we can get into the city next summer and report on the race there. Or maybe both, since NY like several other stops on the tour will feature not 1, but 2 races in a weekend. This kind of format works well in other series to give fans more on-track action to see if they've paid to attend in person.

On the not so perfect-happy-good news side, naturally with races all around the world they will be happening live in the middle of the night here in the US, so this weekend in Hong Kong's races are at 2AM Eastern. On the good news side, you can sleep normally and catch them on Fox networks and the Fox Sports Go app anytime, since it seems that no one watches boring old live TV anymore: Hong Kong Fox Schedule


Race 1 | 02 Dec 2017
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Race 2 | 03 Dec 2017
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Race 3 | 13 Jan 2018
Marrakesh, Morocco

Race 4 | 03 Feb 2018
Santiago, Chile

Race 5 | 03 Mar 2018
Mexico City, Mexico

Race 6 | 17 Mar 2018
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Race 7 | 14 Apr 2018
Rome, Italy

Race 8 | 28 Apr 2018
Paris, France

Race 9 | 19 May 2018
Berlin, Germany

Race 10 | 10 Jun 2018
Zurich, Switzerland

Race 11 | 14 Jul 2018
New York City, USA

Race 12 | 15 Jul 2018
New York City, USA 

Race 13 | 28 Jul 2018
Montreal, Canada

Race 14 | 29 Jul 2018
Montreal, Canada

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

NMS-North 2017 Season Review

Right here on this blog on January 3rd of the year 2017, the NMS-North squad listed their goals for the FIAT Abarth, so now that the season has finished up and the results are posted, let's take a look at how things turned out! Was our crystal ball right on the money, and if so, why doesn't it work for bazillion dollar jackpot lottery tickets? Were the team directors overly optimistic regarding the FIAT driver's abilities, or is that just a silly question for someone driving a FIAT?

Hey, the FIAT works on track too! Carolina Motorsports Park, South Carolina, May 2017

Preseason Goal #1: "Win my class with the Tidewater Sports Car Club."  

--Nailed it! This turned out to be easy mostly because the fast drivers in HS class during 2016 didn't compete in enough events in 2017, so once again, the FIAT took 1st place in a class without other drivers meeting the minimum number of events. But, first place is still first place! I missed two of the nine events myself, but that worked out fine since only the best seven events count. 

Preseason Goal #2:  "Move up from 20th to at least 15th in the overall TSCC PAX points championship." 

--Nailed it!
After November's event, and the end of the season I ended in 10th, so I'm very happy with that placing. Following October's event I was sitting in tenth overall, and guaranteed to finish no worse than 11th! That was better than I had been hoping for, since this club is chock full of fast drivers. To be honest, I think some of them didn't compete in enough events this year since we were limited to a smaller location at Pungo, but, well, you've gotta play the game if you want to win, so I'm not going to worry about things (like other drivers) that are beyond my control. There were almost 200 drivers that competed this year, but again, you've got to enter enough events to score near the top, and only 29 entered enough events to be listed in the final standings. 

Driving in the rain? Just add Gore-Tex!

Preseason Goal #3: "Improve my average points per event from 92.10 to 94.0."  

--Missed it by a hair! According to my math, I averaged 93.92, and since events are timed to the thousandth of a second, maybe I could round that up to 94 and claim victory, but no, I didn't hit 94 per event. Still, missing it by 0.08 of a point is very, very close! Instead of improving the average by 1.90, I only managed to improve by 1.82 points per event.

Preseason Goal # 4. "Upping the average points per event would bump my total points (in the best 7 events) from 644.71 to 658, and from there maybe the top 10 will be in range." 

--Result: Well, this is pretty much based on Goal #3, so since I didn't achieve that one, I didn't quite make this one either. However, with a final score of 657.45, my total is so close to 658 that I'm still feeling good about it. No excuses, but just maybe I could have hit the target if I didn't miss two events this year...AKA: the Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda-Hypothesis-Excuse!

Preseason Goal #5:  "Those are the tough goals; the easier ones will be to drive safely, have fun, and find some other events and track days to drive in too." 

--No doubt, I really had fun, went to a bunch of car shows, Cars and Coffee events, the open house at Moss Motors, toured Fantomworks in Norfolk, drove three autocross events with the Old Dominion Region of the SCCA (27th overall out of 72 drivers), and met goal #5 with room to spare! Safety wise, I kept the car in good shape, upgraded the brake pads with Brian's help, replaced the brake fluid, threw two new tires on it at the start of the season, and always used seat belts and a helmet when competing. It would have been fun to do another autocross down in South Carolina, but I just couldn't squeeze that into the schedule with all the other events, moving, and job searching going on this year. However, I did make it to the state of SC, and during the two day HPDE track day at Carolina Motorsports Park I had a blast and was able to drive 9 sessions on track with an instructor while camping out with Brian and Team Coronautski. Oh, and mostly I learned how bad I am at track driving and what areas (all of them) I need to improve. 

In addition to this year's autocross season, here's my results from all three years with the Tidewater Sports Car Club in Virginia. I'm very happy to have seen some improvement each year, as you can see in the chart below. They say that good public speakers don't read their slides to the audience, so I'll let you read it yourself!

So, how to sum up another year of driving? Never surrender, never quit! Winners never quit and quitters never win? There is only winning, because 2nd place is first loser! Pick one of those, drive safely, and have fun! Here's the link to the final results: TSCC 2017