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!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

24 Hours of ...Lemons?


I can now say that I've driven a race car (OK, a cheap old Nissan Altima painted like a BMW) on a race track in a real race! Bottom line up front: had a ton of fun, the car ran over 10 hours of the 14 hour race, and I learned a lot! While I'm not sure how to explain how much fun it was, or where to begin, or where to stop talking about all the things involved in getting 80 teams on track at the same time and spending 3 days at the track, but it was a blast! NMS-South will surely be writing up his experiences with Team Coronautski, so I'll leave it up to him to brag about what they did, and I'll just tell my side of the story!
Don't be Fooled, it's a Nissan Altima

Months ago Brian told me about some South Carolina autocross friends that were putting together a Lemons team and that they might need another driver. To do this Lemons endurance racing right you have to have at least 4 people crazy enough to want to race crappy cars around a track all weekend, so I immediately thought it would be a good idea! And anyway, who doesn't want to driver a race car? It ranks up there with being a rock star and major league baseball player in my book, so at least I could check off ONE of those things!
Cowbells = Functional Air Intakes!

Anyway, after the team bought a Lemons worthy car (cost under $500, includes a roll cage and other safety gear, racing seat, etc.) all I had to do was go buying all the safety gear such as fire resistant clothing of boots, socks, suit, gloves, helmet, head-and-neck restraint, radio headset, and then paying the fees to enter the race, and contribute to the team's expenses for brakes, tires, fuel, gas, then I only had to pay to travel from New York to South Carolina, rent a car, throw in a hotel or camping costs, food and beverages for a long weekend, and then I was all set! Oh, other than make sure the timing would work that I could get off from work! Oh, and the re-scheduled race date from the giant hurricane that forced the race organizers to move the date from September to November, and then check that I could get THAT weekend off from work too! Easy!
Lemons Poster

So the weekend finally approached and my wife and I flew to Charlotte and rented an awesome Toyota Corolla for the rest of the weekend. We took it easy that night and visited with Brian, and of course talked trash about whether his team or my team would win. That led to Friday, so while we each ran some errands ranging from getting the Coronet a wheel alignment to buying t-shirts for my team at the local BMW dealer, we ended up at Carolina Motorsports Park, where both teams had assembled and set up their paddock areas, complete with cars, trucks, campers, trailers, tools, food, canopies, and one other thing...the race cars!

Luke and Brian do the Driver Gear Inspection

Friday required each car to be inspected for safety, and even though this is non-serious racing for little prizes, the safety requirements are 100% serious, so our cars passed inspection. Like any track race, each auto has to have full cage, cut-off switches, fire extinguishers, tow straps, etc. Then each driver had their personal safety gear inspected to make sure it met the current requirements, so all my clothing passed easily enough. It sounds simple, but multiply 80 teams by 4-6 members each, and that's a lot of helmets and stuff to check!
50s Plymouth body on a 70s Ford Chassis = LEMONS APPROVED!

One big feature of the Lemons races in Camden SC is the Friday night block party, so we all paraded into town and set up the cars where spectators could check them out. There was live music, food, beverages, and a fun evening, mostly because by this time of the day the rain had finally stopped! Oh yes, Lemons racing is rain or shine, so we were glad to have the rest of the weekend dry and much cooler than it would have been in September.
Judge Phil does the BS Judging

Also at the block party is the BS Judging, where the Lemons organizers kind of double check that your car really is a 500 dollar piece of trouble, and then they assign your car to one of three classes. Class A makes up the likely fastest cars that just might actually finish the 14 hours of driving! None of our cars were anywhere near that class! Class B are the next level of cars, and most of them kind of resembled actual functioning vehicles, so that's where my team ended up with our Team Altimate Driving Experience Nissan (painted like a BMW in case you forgot!). Team Coronautski was put into the lowest class of cars, the preferred Class C. Given their history of blowing up in their previous two Lemons attempts, and having gone through 3 or 4 engines (hard to keep track), they would be lucky to finish this time around.
NMS Ready to hit the Track

Saturday was finally race day (#1 of 2 days), and with great weather (no rain!) the rookie driver's meeting and then the all driver's meeting were the final reminders that we had to follow all the safety rules, watch the corner workers flags, be safe while entering the track, and of course to ALWAYS check your mirrors a LOT, especially before braking into a corner. The biggest impression of the on-track experience for me was the huge amount of traffic out there, and how there were many different speeds of cars running close most of the time! I'm going to guess that it's about 5 times more stuff to think about and pay attention to than just driving down your average road.

Carolina Motorsports Track = 2.2 Miles of Fun!
Our team's stints ran pretty well, although we weren't quite getting the 2 hours out of each tank of gas that we hoped for, so our driver swaps were speeding up, and I got into the car around 4pm with ideally 2 hours worth of gas. However, after an hour plus, I was having fun driving but my gas gauge was low, and the smell of fuel kept getting worse. For a while I was thinking of pitting, but kept lapping and thinking that the smell would get better. Eventually, I spotted the pit board sign with our car number 77 on it, and came into the pits. Sure enough, we were low on fuel anyway, so I got out of the car and figured we'd put someone else in to finish us up to the 6pm stop time. I should probably mention that yes, we did have radio communications in the car, but since this was the end of the day our radio battery had been  used up, so I drove the entire time without any radio. Oh well, that  just gave me the chance to figure things out on my own and keep an eye on the fuel gauge.

So, getting out for the pit stop (drivers must be out of the car for refueling, one of those safety rules), and then Zack said I'd be getting back in. To tell the truth the fuel smell was making me feel not so great, but I said I'd get back in and finish the time. So, off I went with enough fuel and man the smell kept up it's strength. Eventually I started feeling pretty bad, and after trying to put up with it, I recognized that feeling in the stomach and headache that told me that it would be better to get out of the car. So I pitted and headed back to the paddock, and told the team I had to get out of the car. I didn't want to slow down the team by making this extra stop, but I just felt that bad. Zack got in the car and finished the stint, and at this point our team finished up day 1, with the car still running, and all five drivers had taken their turn.
Standings after day 1 (8 hours): Up to 28th place out of 80 teams!
(Team Coronautski was up ahead in 18th place)
Back in the paddock, the team and everyone in the entire state of South Carolina did kind of notice the very strong gas smell, so further inspection revealed a leaking fuel line from the top of our fuel tank. This explained why I felt so bad at the end of the day, and why we weren't getting the mileage out of our gas! Thanks to Adam and Zack, a heroic fuel line repair late into the night had the mighty fake BMW ready to race on Sunday. And with us holding 28th place out of 80 cars on track, we felt pretty good, and had accomplished a lot for our first Lemons race on the first day!