Monday, December 31, 2018

How I Spent My Winter Vacation


Did you ever have to write a report in elementary school at the start of the new year about your summer vacation? Do you remember anything about hearing any other classmate ever read theirs? Are there any top selling books based on a great summer vacation? Well, Jaws probably counts!

We loaded up the mighty Camry, fresh on a new set of brake pads, filled up the tank, loaded up the presents for relatives, and headed out to PA, OH, MI, IN, and back thru OH, PA, NJ, and NY to complete the circuit. I didn't count the miles, but it was more than 50 and bigger than a breadbox. Along the way we enjoyed scenic vistas on I-80, had a great Christmas, and had a great time. I really enjoyed the driving, with lots of cruise control interstate time to observe the driving habits of Americans in their natural state too, and if I was Santa, I'd be passing out a lot of Driver's Education Textbooks!

It's an easy concept to drive on the highway but let me just offer a few top tips to round out 2018, tips that should make every day driving safer for all of us.

1. If it's dark, raining, and/or foggy, turn your lights on! Yes, I'm talking to the dozens of folks I saw driving in rain or dusk who might have even had their daytime running lights on, but NO BRAKE LIGHTS, so it's hard to see you in reduced visibility. Hey, didja know that many states have a law that says to turn on your lights (all of them) when your windshield wipers are on? FACT!

2. If you need to exit the interstate, and we'll assume here that your exit is on the RIGHT like probably 95% of them are, then why don't you consider (I'm being polite here) moving into that right-hand exit lane well before the actual exit? I'm talking mostly to the Jeep driver somewhere in Ohio that passed me on the left and then immediately cut back in front of me to cross over to the right-hand exit. No, I wasn't impressed with your idiotic double-lane-shift at the least second, so I'm happy that I was able to get out of your way. Oh, and thanks for the nonverbal communication you sent my way after driving like an idiot!

3. Some general winter driving tips: SLOW DOWN when it's icy, clear ALL the snow off your car (not just your front window), and make sure your windshield wipers are working. Along the way on our trip we noticed our wipers were kind of doing a C- "blah" job, so we visited the AutoZone store in Clarion PA. After buying some new wipers, our friendly AutoZone guy Tyler offered to put them on the car for us. He had those blades on so fast, I'm sure he's done hundreds of them before, and we just wanted to thank him and point out what great service we got! And, the new wipers work great, and made the rest of the trip much more visible!


4. On this trip we managed to focus on visiting the family, but as you might imagine, there were some automotive highlights and trivial tidbits of driving fun too. While we didn't see a ton of billion dollar cars on the road, we spotted this truck that might have been hauling millions of dollars worth of cars!


On I-70 outside of Dayton Ohio we passed the exit for Brookville, which would be fun to visit again some day and check out the folks at Brookville Roadsters. If you need any parts for your Ford Model A, or in fact an entire A body, they can take care of you!


On the opposite (East) side of Ohio on I-80, we've always noticed the big Lordstown Ohio GM factory right along the road, and you've likely read about this and other plants in the news lately since GM is planning to halt production at several locations like Lordstown (home of the Cruze). In a way our trip around the Midwest could have focused on a lot of the USA's auto industry, since the factories and parts suppliers are all over the place. You might have  heard of a place called "Detroit" too.


Back in PA, we passed the exit for Pocono Raceway, and while we didn't get to hit the track this time, we filled up on gas at this exit and helped the local economy a little bit at least.


Just north of Indianapolis and the famous Motor Speedway, we had some awesome pizza with my brother and his family, and just as a reminder of the Indy 500 found this framed race car in the men's room. I didn't check the ladies room, but I'll guess there was a race car in there too. People in Indy love their race at the Brickyard.


On the journey home, we spotted an exit for Tallmadge Ohio, and you might recognize that name as the home of Summit Racing. If there is something that makes your car go faster, the fine folks at Summit probably have it in stock! They are also located right on the interstate in Eastern  Ohio, and while we didn't visit the retail store, we managed a quick photo.


On the final leg of our trip we were just a few miles from  home, had just survived the George Washington Bridge, and then we spotted this car. I think it's a sign that I need to buy a Porsche! Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2019!


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Update From the George Washington Bridge

Earlier this fall I had a little "incident" of speeding through a toll gate at the George Washington Bridge, and believe it or not, the GWB was in the news again recently! This time it wasn't me, but it seems that someone famous was spotted there not speeding, but for driving thru a booth without a license plate in his McLaren!  

Yeah, me and Ice-T have a LOT in common with this George Washington Bridge thing! We both have McLaren cars, (except me), and of course we are both famous musician/movie stars (again, except me). Ice-T was stopped and cited for not paying the toll, but also for not having a license plate on his car. You may or may not know that the GWB toll booths don't have any people in them, and they just take pictures of your car's license plate and bill you that way. If you have the EZ-Pass, then the electronic gizmos read the EZ-Pass on your car and collect money that way. 

Another bit of trivia about the EZ-Pass is that for the tolls in New York, an EZ-Pass FROM NY pays a cheaper rate than ones from other states. We discovered this after moving to NY with our Virginia EZ-Pass, and noticing the different prices. Man, I'm putting this on my list of things to do when I'm EMPEROR OF THE WORLD, and making all tolls cost the same for everyone! Then the next day I'll just do away with all the tolls!

Here's the Jalopnik article on Ice-T: JALOPNIK ARTICLE

Saturday, December 15, 2018

ICYMI: Formula E Just Started a New Season!

gen2 formula e car drifts around berlin

Just today in Saudi Arabia the Formula E season for 18-19 started, and In Case You Missed It, you can watch the race on the Fox Sports app. I keep trying to kind of follow Formula E, so I watched the race this morning, and here's some random thoughts. FORMULA E

This is about the 5th year of these all electric cars racing, and they've now updated the cars and electric power systems so that the cars can run the entire 45 minute race on one charge. This might not sound like much, but you have to realize that up to now they've had a unique pit stop halfway through the race where the drivers parked in their garage, hopped out of the car and jumped into a 2nd car, because the batteries didn't have enough power for the full race. OK, so I guess they continue to improve on battery technology.

The carbon fiber cars look pretty cool, with unique "wings" over the rear wheels instead of a big spoiler in the back. Along with this they now have the world's largest diffusers in the rear too, so if nothing else you won't confuse these cars with Formula 1, Indy Car, or anything else.

The series continues to attract big names in the industry, with Audi, Nissan, BMW, Jaguar, Indian car maker Mahindra, and French auto brand DS. With 11 teams and 22 drivers, it looks like other racing you might have seen, but I'll admit it sounds different! There is a kind of high screeching electrical sound from the cars, but you will not mistake it for any gasoline powered car you've ever heard. With the backing of international governing body the FIA, and the continued interest in electric vehicles, I'd guess that Formula E will be around for a while whether we watch it or not.

Racing wise, there are some unique things to look out for too. First off, they have a "Fanboost" feature, where fans like us can vote online for our favorite drivers, and the drivers with the most votes get an increase of power for 5 seconds at the time of their choosing during the race. Hey, at least that's a way to get involved with the sport in an effort to make it interactive. FANBOOST

Similar to the Fanboost is another way that drivers can get an increase in electrical power during the race. With a specified activation zone on the track, the driver can go off the racing line and activate his boost  during the race, and boost his power a few minutes. From what I saw in the first race, boosting for that long seems to be worth a few places on track, and of course the tactics of when to use it is up to the driver. ATTACK MODE

Other than the teams and the cool technology, you might get interested in the drivers. With former F1 competitors like Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne, and others, it's nice to know a few familiar names anyway!

Another way that Formula E is trying to attract fans is to power pack the entire race, practice, and qualifying into just one day. Compared to NASCAR, INDY, or other races where you could spend a 3 day weekend to watch the average race, this schedule might appeal to fans that can't get away for more than a day. While that's good for the fans, I imagine the drivers and mechanics would like a bit more time to practice and set up their cars, but I guess you can't have everything. When the series wraps up this season in July 2019 in New York (Brooklyn), they'll go out in style with two races in two days. If  I'm still interested in Formula E by then maybe I'll ride the train and journey the 23 miles or so and see it live.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Team Coronautski in LEMONS Video Highlights!

Lemons Screen Shot, Team Coronautski Car #155

One more thing about the Lemons race in November, the 24 Hours of Lemons guys have just released their wrap-up video, and it features some nice footage and mention of Team Coronautski, which as you remember was Brian Nixon's Class C winning car along with his team mates. Hey, don't take my word for it, head to YouTube and check it out now! As the Lemons guys above state, Team Coronautski is "Hellasweet!"


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

An Exciting Camry Update: Brakes!

Thanks for helping in the shop!

Hey, did ya notice I used the words "exciting" and "Camry" in the same headline today? Hah! You can't find super high quality creative journalism like that anywhere else! As much as I make fun of the Camry, the Toyota cars are just about indestructible from our experience. In other words, like you've probably read about the danger of buying a fancy bird as a pet is that they might outlive you, so I'm thinking that Toyotas should come with the same warning. "WARNING: Before you buy this fine Toyota product, be sure you are in good health, and will be able to take care of your Toyota, take it for walks, and perform regular maintenance so this thing will outlast you!"

Brakes, however, are a normal wear and tear item, so replacing them when needed is literally a lifesaver! The Camry brakes have felt a little soft to me, and with over 120,000 miles in 8 years, I figure the safe thing to do is to check the brakes and replace anything that looks like it needs it, and besides, I need more fun car stuff to work on once in a while too.

Brake Pads Delivered from ROCKAUTO.COM

Like a lot of auto parts, we've had good experience ordering on line from RockAuto, and can recommend that whenever you spend money on parts that you at least price compare with I'd like to say that they just gave me twenty pounds of 100 dollar bills for that endorsement, but to be honest, well, I don't think anyone has ever given me any money for endorsing anything. We are willing to try it though!

One other fun part of getting parts on line is hitting that FEDEX tracking number and seeing where in the world your package is at any given time, so as you might guess I'm easily amused too. Imagine what a ball of yarn would do for my recess time! Once the brakes arrived I just needed a day to put the car on the lift and get the work done. I figured one of the upcoming Saturday's would be good, since I'd be off work, and I could get this done before driving over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house for Christmas.

Well, I'd like to recognize and thanks President George H. W. Bush for his service to our country, and thanks to today being a federal holiday, I had the day off and headed to the shop.

Front brake pads replaced, rotors looked good. Once I had the car on the lift and the right tools available, this was not too hard. Plus, amazingly enough, the 2nd wheel I did was easier than the 1st once I got the hang of it. Imagine that!

Rear pads weren't worn as much, and probably would have lasted another 80,000 miles by the looks of things. While this might be amazing after seeing my FIAT go through the original pads in about 55,000 miles, the difference is that the Camry gets driven much more gently, no autocross, no track days, no laps at Martinsville, VIR, CMP, or Charlotte Motor Speedway. In other words, your average Toyota with stock brakes will probably out live you! Regardless, since we were there and had the wheels off, we replaced the rear pads too, kept the original rotors on as well.

Special thanks to the two guys in the shop that offered to help, and did the rear wheels in the time it took Julie and I to do the 2nd one up front. I might point out that they are younger and smarter than me, and that they used the air gun instead of the old fashioned breaker bar on the lug nuts like the front end team, but, nah, they were awesome. Thanks!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Road Atlanta Report

NMS-South just reported that there was rain in Atlanta today, so the track day at Road Atlanta is even more fun then normal! The Miata driver shown above states that the mighty 99 Miata is getting tons of point-byes from other drivers all over the track, so once again we will remind you that no matter what the question (about what kind of car to get), the answer is always: MIATA!

4 Extra Tires? No Problem!

OK, Friday Night Was Dry. 

Miatas As Far As The Eye Can See.

NMS Miata, With The Original CONEVORE On The Hood. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy "Give Thanks for Driving Day!"

Robert and Brian, AKA NMS-North and NMS-South
Kind of like "Shake and Bake"

The NMS team wishes you the best Give Thanks for Driving Day ever today! We hear that some people celebrate a more generic "Thanksgiving" Day for families and friends, but we've pretty much narrowed down the day to being thankful for driving! We've been able to meet a lot of people, visit a lot of places, and have a lot of fun with various family and friends through driving.


Keep safe on the roads and at home out there, keep your car in good driving condition, and stay tuned for more updates from the NMS team in the near future. Soon we'll be holding a lot of press conferences to reveal our plans for driving in 2019, some new PROJECT X car work on a soon to be revealed racecar on tap, a full replacement for the mighty Camry brakes all around, and just maybe our end of the year for 2018 look back on top events in this year's highlights of driving. There's still a seat left in Formula 1 for next year, so you just never know! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

BMW Ultimate Not Driving Experience

This week I'd signed up for another round of the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience, to be held at CitiField, home of the New York Mets. Yeah, it was going to be a fun filled time to drive some new BMWs on an autocross course, and that means having fun. Then the weatherman predicted some snow turning into rain. Then the storm shifted a bit, and we got several inches of snow. Now I don't know about you, but I think driving in a few inches of snow is big fun, and I would imagine driving someone else's new BMW in several inches of snow, in a controlled environment in a big old parking lot would have to be one boat load of fun!

That bus isn't moving, so I had to back up and go another way!
However, there was too much snow to run the event and the BMW folks sent us would-be drivers an email a few hours ahead of time to say that the event was cancelled. Nothing against BMW or the weatherman, but that's the way it goes sometimes on our planet. At least it wasn't cancelled due to a meteorite wiping out the sun or something really bad! I'd gotten to drive this event earlier in the  year at the New Jersey version, held at MetLife Stadium, so if you want to hear what that was like, check out this earlier blog post:  BMW POST

I can't really blame them, but it was too bad to end the day with a drive home in the snow without having tried out some BMWs again. Oh well, maybe next time. Hey, and one more thing, be careful out there driving in bad weather. In rain or snow, number one, slow down, make sure your windows are clear, and TURN THOSE LIGHTS ON so I can see YOU!

To tell the truth, the short drive home in the snow was pretty tough in the FIAT, the roads were covered in slippery snow, and the traction control was working over time, along with the ABS brakes. The evening news was nothing but talk about weather and terrible commute all over New York, so at least I got home OK! Still, those BMWs are mostly made in Germany, and based on my three years of living there I know it snows, so the BMWs would have been a blast in the snow. Maybe I can find a nice ice driving school in Scandinavia to try out!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lemons Cars

Team Altimate Driving Experience.
This is a Nissan Altima, themed as a BMW, with team members wearing German
Oktoberfest hats and shirts. Confused yet? It all makes sense for a Lemons Race!
Besides the two teams that NMS joined at the recent Lemons race, we thought we'd share some photos of the other crazy cars that actually made it to South Carolina, got on track, and tried to race for 14 hours. Even in REAL racing like NASCAR or IndyCar, cars don't always finish, things blow up, and cars collide, so it should be no surprise that this Lemons race with a total of 80 crappy $500 crappy cars had all those crappy issues too! The big difference I saw for us as Lemons racers was that we were all having fun even WHEN the cars blew up! Only three teams out of the 80 won any prize money (like Team Coronautski), but of course the prize money comes nowhere near the amount we spent to enter, race, equip the team, or even cover the cost to get to the race and put tires and gas into the car. I guess we do it for the fun! LEMONS HOMEPAGE

Hey, and speaking of fun, NASCAR driver Greg Biffle was at this race and drove with one of the other teams, so I bet he had fun too!

More Awesome 70s US Power!

This actually looks like a race car!

Silver Bullet themed car


Police Car theme

This awesome car got a lot of attention, as I recall it's an early 50s Plymouth
body on a 70s Ford Fairmont or some other such ridiculous Ford. Amazing!

Friday night block party in Camden, lots of fun to hang out with the
teams, drivers, and local friends. Hey, a skeleton always comes in handy!

GI Joe from South of the Border!

Take a Ford Mustang, remove the back window, and add a truck camper shell,
and you've got the general idea of having fun at a Lemons race!

Lots of super heroes on this car, we'll say it's a tribute to Marvel Comics
founder Stan Lee. 

How do you make a Kia interesting? Add astro turf, a goal post
on the back, and make it a football field!

Can any car race? Yes, even a Ranchero!

Can trucks race? Yes, but I think this vehicle started as a car and
was modified into a truck look-a-like. 

Race a food wagon? No, this is just the delicious Italian
food vendor at Carolima Motorsports Park for the weekend. Lots
of Lemons racers camp at the track, and you get hungry!
It took me a while to notice that this was a right hand drive salute
to the US Postal service mail vehicles, but I didn't get the full story on this one!

Lemons cars are more fun with a crazy theme. Or if they're pink. Or both. 

Police car, "Boy, don't you know what yellow means?"

The Knoxvegas crew have been racing Lemons for a while. Spoiler alert, if
you didn't notice the huge wing on the back. This was taken at mid-day on Sunday. 

Bengal tiger maybe?

Racing a Buick Roadmaster station wagon? Yes, but there's more to the story.
This team won the award for epic fix, by breaking down, and then to find another '
motor that fit, bought an old hearse, went and got it to the track, and then
transplanted the motor into this Buick and got back on track during the weekend.
Or was it the transmission? Either way, it was epic!

Here's the Mercedes with the huge wing later on Sunday. Unfortunately there was a
collision of three cars and two of them were towed off the track. A good example of why
even Lemons requires all the safety gear from cages to helmets and full driver fire gear, harnesses,
fire extinguishers, and lots more. Even cheap crappy racing can get bumpy with 80 cars on track over 14 hours and many first time racers driving. I believe that all the drivers were not injured, and NMS fully supports all the safety gear as a mandatory part of any racing. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Lemons Part II

Left to Right: Nico, Zack, Bob, Adam, and Mike (kneeling)
So, Sunday morning the Team Altimate Driving Machine was feeling pretty good, having finished our first day of Lemons racing in the middle of the pack, completed a fuel line repair, and we were ready for a two hour morning on track, then an hour break, and then finally four more hours of track time. We had improved our pit stop refueling time, recharged the radios, and were ready to put in a bunch more laps. With one full day of experience for the entire team of Lemons rookies, well, at least the weather was good, and we were having fun.

Team Coronautski Branded Fuel Jugs
Tip: High Flow Fuel is Your Friend!

During Sunday's opening two hour session of track time, we knew we weren't going to do it all on one tank of gas, so we just split the difference and planned one pit stop for gas at the hour mark. Not to brag, but this plan worked great, and at the quiet hour mandatory one hour halt to racing we were close to top ten in B Class, and sitting in 28th out of 80 teams overall. I was happy to have recovered from my "fuel fumes funk" of the previous day, and looking forward to getting in the car later on Sunday.

Team McQueen

Once racing resumed in the afternoon things were still going well up to the point where they didn't go so well! Funny how it always happens that way too! Our mighty Nissan #77 had lost some power and come to a halt, but then Zack was able to get it  restarted and return to the paddock. While we thought it might have been another fuel line issue, after testing for spark we discovered it was an electrical issue. After even more testing, the best diagnosis was that the ECU had overheated and totally failed somewhere that we couldn't identify and repair. So, with about two hours of track time still to go, we had to surrender and realize that we were out of the race. As disappointing as this was, we realized that it happens a lot when you're racing crappy $500 Lemons cars so it wasn't like we lost the world championships or anything really important.

Bonus: A Triumph Stag was Racing!

Our friends in Team Coronautski finished in first place in C Class, so congrats to all of them, and NMS-South driver Brian Nixon. This was their team's third Lemons race with the 72 Dodge Coronet, and it was very exciting to cheer them on after sharing the paddock with them and one other car from South Carolina. The Coronautski Crew had helped us out along the way, given us a ton of advice, loaned us parts, helped with repairs, and so we owe them a big thanks, and a big congratulations on their victory!

Racing a Lemons Convertible? You Need a Beauty Queen!

By the numbers with Team Altimate Driving Machine:

    44th overall out of all 80 cars that finished at least one lap
    232 Laps completed, on the 2.279 miles per lap Carolina Motorsports Park full course
    528.728 miles of racing distance, more than the Indianapolis 500!
    10 hours 11 minutes and 18.446 seconds of time on track (unofficial)
    The team's fastest lap was in 2 minutes and 0.965 seconds by Mike Sullivan
    18th place in Class B, out of about 30 cars

When you look at the big picture, and that we were 5 drivers that mostly hadn't met each other before this event, most of us hadn't driven this car before, we had a pretty good race for only doing about 12 of the 14 hours! With three drivers from South Carolina, one from New Jersey, and one from New York, well, we probably beat any other team with drivers from three different states! I think most of us had driven at CMP before, so that was at least one thing in our favor too.

Brian Nixon and Special Thanks to Julie Nixon!

For me personally, it was a blast to really be in a race car (yes, even a cheap one) and driving on track in a lot of traffic, and it was a big challenge just about every second out there. Besides the normal driving skills of keeping your eyes on the road, and making all the right decisions on braking, accelerating, maintaining the car, keeping a safe distance (also known as DON'T HIT ANYONE), on the track, in a race the driver has another long list of things to be doing and thinking about. Some of the best tips I got were to always check your rear mirrors before braking, and sure enough, with the difference in speeds there always seemed to be someone slower or faster trying to go through the same corner at the same time!

Race a VW  Bug? Lemons Approved!

Here's some more things that made this slightly more challenging than every day driving: driving in a car with a roll cage (getting in and out), while wearing all the safety gear, in a racing seat,  wearing the head and neck restraint can cut down your vision, wearing gloves and a racing suit, all these things affect how easy it is to drive and even move your head around and check your mirrors. Other new skills that keep you busy are simple things like knowing where all your switches for the engine, radio, operating the cool shirt system, fire extinguisher, cut-off switch, and even getting the harness fastened and released quickly are all more things to experience also.

Brian and Team Coronautski Celebrate the Class C Victory!

The NMS Team would like to thank our fearless team leader and Captain of the Altimate Driving Machine, Adam Powlas, for putting us together, buying the car, being the chief mechanic, being a great driver, and towing the car in his trailer! Thanks to Zach Stroman, another strong driver on track and in other events and another smart mechanic. Thanks to Mike Sullivan, who set the fastest time in our BMW, I mean, in our Nissan Altima painted like a BMW! Thanks to Nico Zamora for doing some awesome driving and being our tire expert and tire supplier too. Each of these guys put a lot of time, effort, and money into making this a reality. It was a great weekend and a great experience gentlemen, thanks to you!

#77 = Team Altimate Driving Machine

Other than feeling terrible from the fuel leak smell after driving on day 1, for me I have no complaints! Plus, now that I own all the race gear and know how to turn the car on and off, it makes it possible that I just might want to do this thing again! The Lemons race series continues just about all year at different locations around the country, so if you have any interest in checking it out, NMS says GO DO IT, SEND IT!