Sunday, September 15, 2019

Lemons CMP Fall 2019 Recap

You heard a bunch of updates from our first of two days of racing in the previous post, so I'll catch us up fast and continue through day 2 coverage. Friday morning we got the new graphics on the car while John and Jason set up the suspension modifications and aligned the car to improve tire wear over what we saw during the 24 hour race.
John and Jason work their magic on the alignment and corner balancing

The car got to the track Friday afternoon, handily passed tech inspection and then we loaded back up and headed to Camden for the block party and parade. Everyone had a good time, even if the Hellasweet sign was more popular than the car. I think we might have to start charging for Hellasweet Selfies!
Team Popcopy (we'll tag Luke back in for Road Atlanta when he's not busy with work)

The other benefit of the LEDs we installed on the sign for night pit stops at the 24 hour race was that it makes a really handy flashlight for securing your race car on the trailer at night!
Jason does a Hellasweet job of strapping down the Miata.

We had a solid, steady pace all day Saturday and finished the day in 10th overall, which secured us a top of the field start when I jumped back in the car Sunday morning. I was on track to hold position during the long 2 hour morning stint when with less than a lap to go before the lunch break, I got overly-confident through the blind left-hander, Turn 3 and the back end of the car came around on me quicker than I could catch it. The spin was putting me dead center on track on the far side of the blind corner, so I caught the spin facing backwards and managed to steer the car just off track until traffic was clear. I lost us a lap, but kept the car in tact.
John battles heavy traffic to kick off an excellent weekend Saturday morning.

John picked up after the lunch break in 11th position and held strong. We made a driver change and got Jason in the car around 1:30. He started knocking off quick laps and reeled in and made up one lap on the 10th place car.  At 3:00 (one hour to go), Kyle was suited up, and we were just about to call the next pit stop when another car dislodged a tire barrier, incurring a black flag which had all the cars come back to pit road and stop for 30 minutes.
Kyle takes the checker and holds our 11th place finish!

With the delay, Kyle's stint dropped to just under 30 minutes, which meant we didn't need to add fuel and he held us in 11th place to the checker flag. It was an excellent result, completely free of mechanical issues. Tire wear was exceptionally good. Other than my spin, we ran a really solid race! We'll check the car over, but otherwise we're just about ready to hit the track in December in Atlanta, where the full NMS crew will take on the challenge of Road Atlanta!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Lemons Race Day 1 Recap

Team Coronautski, AKA Bunch of Idiots, AKA Team POPCOPY
24 Hours of Lemons
Miata Power

Brian Nixon and his team-mates from Team Coronautski Kyle Ray-Smith, Luke O'Hara, John Fatcheric, and Jason Rucker, AKA "Bunch of Idiots", have finished the first day of the fall 24 Hours of Lemons at CMP in South Carolina in an excellent 10th place overall! Unlike many great driving accomplishments highlighted here on the NMS blog, this 10th place is really good stuff, because it's out of 93 crappy $500 cars that have completed at least one lap. Over the first day's 8 hours of racing, the Bunch of Idiots has completed 183 laps, which means they are only 12 laps out of first overall. Oh, and the Miata is themed as the POPCOPY racer, which is a reference to a funny skit on the Dave Chappelle Show.

Last minute prep before racing on Saturday

From what we can tell from following along on the Race Monitor app (only about 4 bucks for a month, you can cancel any time), they've been lapping without any engine issues, and only stopped for fuel so far, as well as driver changes. The track at Carolina Motorsports Park (CMP) is 2.27 miles per lap, so if we call on our technical analysis team at NMS HQ, they've "done the math" and come up with 415.41 miles covered so far. Compared to this team's previous car, the mighty 72 Dodge Coronet, we'd estimate that the current Miata has gone through about 2 less engines, 8 less tires, and 50 less gallons of gas after 8 hours on the track too! OK, seriously, a lighter, newer Miata will use fewer tires/gas/brakes/engines, so the team has got to be happy with a lighter impact on the old wallet at this point!

The Miata and Team Altima prep for Sunday

Again, turning to our technical analysis team and their super-computer, 415 miles in 8 hours works out to 51.92 miles per hour, so you can tell that the team is tearing up the track. To be honest, that time and  mileage includes the 3 or 4 pit stops to swap drivers and refuel, as well as at least two full course yellow or black flags that has cut down the laps for all the teams. The team's fastest lap clocked in at 2:02.974, so that one lap averaged 66.45MPH. The track does have a few pretty good straights where the car is likely hitting 100MPH or close to it, but we'll have to study the data to give you any more specifics. Keep in mind that all this racing is in traffic with cars that are mostly slower, so there's generally a lot of traffic on most laps.

Friday Night Block Party
All the Racecars

Let's see, in other technical analysis, we believe that the team has run as high as 8th overall, and their current 10th has them just 3 laps out of 7th overall, so we're looking to see them running strong on Sunday and moving up a bit higher.
Ready to Parade into Camden SC for the Block Party

Besides the overall competition, the cars are split into 3 classes, with the Miata in the likely fastest Class A, and in Class A the team is in 8th overall, with a couple of Class B cars somehow in the top 10 too. The Coronet had won the slowest Class C a year ago on this same track, so this is a step up into the faster mo-better cars of Class A. The classification is a totally non-scientific best SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess) from the easily bribed judges, but that's just part of what makes Lemons racing so much fun!

Stay tuned for a more complete wrap up from NMS driver Brian in the next few days, and the thrilling conclusion of how this thing turns out on Sunday. If this 24 Hours of Lemons doesn't make sense, don't blame me, go check it out on their website: 24 HOURS OF LEMONS

Thursday, September 5, 2019

NMS South Checking In

It's been a busy summer here at the Columbia, SC branch. The sad news first is that the home base of 7 years will soon be going on the market, so a lot of time has been dedicated to painting and some small maintenance tasks around the house. Fortunately, friend of the team, Phillip is about to buy his first home and is on track to close on a nice location with plenty of driveway and a nice sized detached shop! The NMS South stable will relocate and rent with Phillip while I look into my long term plans.
You could soon own this vintage piece of NMS history!

The happier news is we're only about one week away from our favorite race of the year, the Lemons South Fall race a CMP, complete with block party and parade! Can't wait to see everyone out there on Friday the 13th as we take over downtown Camden for our third year in a row!  The purple Miata is going to be sporting a new theme and is pretty much ready to get back on track after one last round of maintenance this coming Sunday.
Soft top out, getting some cleaning done.

As previously announced, we're taking on Watkins Glen in a few weeks and I've been sorting a few items on the #86 Miata. The soft top failed in the South Carolina sun a few weeks ago, so I've stripped out the entire unit, saving a hefty chunk of weight. The AC system was just serviced for the long trip and I've done some small adjustments to the harnesses and vacuumed out the interior (max weight savings!). The only task left is to install a new set of lights on the tire trailer and splice in a wiring harness so I can be legal when we make the trip to NY.
The window seals had been going bad and when the adhesive holding the glass in finally gave up on me, it was time to take one step closer to full racecar. 

I can't wait to wrap up house work and get back to playing with cars in the next few weeks. Much more to come as we head into fall!

Monday, September 2, 2019

NMS To Drive Watkins Glen

Spotted at POCONO last year with NASA Northeast

The NMS drivers will be meeting up in October at the historic Watkins Glen track in New York! This legendary track has hosted everything from Formula 1 to NASCAR and IndyCars over the years, and on the first weekend of October, it will be the home of NASA Northeast. With two full days of different driving events, races, time trials, and practicing, there will be a lot of miles put in and plenty of fun to be had!

NASA sponsors fun driving events
The NMS FIAT will be practicing with the High Performance Driver Education beginner group 1, with an instructor to be named, along with all the cars listed below. Keep in mind this not racing, or I imagine the Porsche Boxster and Aston Martin Vantage would tend to be faster than the rest of us! My point of listing the cars in HPDE 1 is that ANY car can get on track and have fun!

Looking at the more advanced HPDE 3 group below, you see more track-like cars, so those drivers are more serius about having fun on track, like Brian Nixon's Miata. 

FIAT 500 Abarth
NMS Driver Bob Nixon states that he's done HPDE events with NASA at Carolina Motorsports Park and Pocono, so he's looking forward to taking on the challenge of Watkins Glen and it's elevation changes (and corners of course). With multiple driving sessions each day, the drivers will be working to improve their racing line at this epic track, and continuing to improve their road handling skills. 

NASA places a big emphasis on safety, so even though this is not racing, drivers must wear helmets and only pass in certain places so that everyone is predictable and safer. 

The NMS Miata of Brian Nixon will be driving in HPDE group 3, so that group will be able to pass at will, as the drivers generally are on their own and don't require having an instructor on track. 

Driver Class Car
Stefano Viti HPDE1 Chevy Camaro SS2
Jennifer Skripchuk HPDE1 Mazda MX5
Christopher Russell HPDE1 Volkswagen GLI
Steven Phelps HPDE1 Honda S2000
Robert A. Nixon HPDE1 Fiat 500 Abarth
Christopher Keeny HPDE1 VW GTI
Pierce Kazilionis HPDE1 BMW M5
Richard Hedderick HPDE1 Chevrolet Camaro
Henry Fishbein HPDE1 Mazda Miata
Vicki Fischer HPDE1 Mazda MX5
Liam Fischer HPDE1 Toyota 86
William (Bill) Fischer HPDE1 Porsche Boxster
Phil Fisch HPDE1 Mazda Miata
Howard Finch HPDE1 Aston Martin Vantage
Robert DeLuca HPDE1 Ford Fiesta ST
Driver Class Car
nawshin basher HPDE3 Honda s2000
Christopher Ziotas HPDE3 Acura Integra
Jim Unrein HPDE3 Chevy Corvette
Brian Nixon HPDE3 Mazda Miata
Sean McElgun HPDE3 BMW M3
Jeff Levitt HPDE3 BMW M3
Alexander Kanfer HPDE3 BMW M4 CS
Dan Hagenbuch HPDE3 Mazda Miata MX-5
Adam Glogowski HPDE3 BMW 335i
John Fatcheric HPDE3 Pontiac Firehawk
Matthew Cohn HPDE3 BMW M3
Jason Burns HPDE3 Chevy Camaro Z28

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Cadillac vs. Lexus

Lexus LC, starting at $92,950. I'll take one in red please! 471 Horse Power, Top speed 168mph, compression ratio 12.3:1, it'll haul your groceries!

Sure, I know what you're thinking. The NMS guys usually write about their Miata, FIAT, BMW, Toyota, and other random bits of automotive stuff, but when are they going to go test drive some new cars they can't afford? Well, the answer is NOW! To better serve the public, or our readers, or just to fill the Internet with some more useless collections of letters and photos, NMS-North signed up for both the Cadillac Truth + Dare driving experience, and the Lexus Driving Tour. Both events were held at the spacious parking lots of Citi Field, home of the not-so-Amazin' Mets.

First off, since it's summer, I'm happy to report that unlike the BMW event that was scheduled last November at Citi Field, these events were not cancelled due to 6 inches of snow! Also, unlike one of the similar Ford events NMS attended at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it was not limited due to lots of rain. Unlike the Jaguar event we visited, there were no Jaguars to drive, just Cadillacs and Lexus vehicles. Or is it Lexi? Lexuses? Whatever, this is a car blog, not a grammar convention.

We much preferred the Lexus vehicles over the Cadillacs, here's why: We didn't go to the Cadillac event! I had good intentions, but the day of the event was right after a long stretch at work over 2+ weeks, I had a cold, and needed a day off. Honest, the sun was in my eyes, a train got in the way, I lost my license, the sun blacked out, there was a hurricane, and the dog ate my  homework!

So seriously, the Lexus event was a ton of fun, and it's ALWAYS fun to drive someone else's car, especially if it's brand new and they keep telling you to go faster! Here's the photo-story:

One quick Saturday morning drive to Citi Field, park right next to
the stadium, and away we go!

At the end of the event I filled out a customer survey, and
it asked what my primary car was. FIAT was not one of the
choices, and there was no place to write in another brand, so
I just listed my wife's Camry, keeping it in the Toyota family.

Hmm, life is full of choices, go left to drive Lexus, or go
right to the clubhouse. I always wanted to be a baseball player!

Mets Hall of Famers

and a tribute to Jackie Robinson

Signed in, and the Lexus people had good coffee. They also had
hot water for tea drinkers, decaf, and plenty of milk products to add
if you like that sort of thing. 

So we're  hanging out with the first driving group of the day, in the
Mets stadium, drinking our free coffee and this fashionable
new bracelet!

A quick peek from the room where we saw an introductory video
gives a quick view of the field. 

Walked out here from the stadium, and we're about to start driving in the
first of four different stations. 

We took on the city drive, and got to experience the ES and LS models
by driving a big loop around the stadium, on real NYC streets. If you visit
Citi Field, be sure to check out the tons of car repair shops just east of the stadium.

I drove an ES, it was very nice, definitely higher on the luxury scale
than our Camry and starts up around $40,000!
 Then I rode in the LS, and it was very very nice, more like $75,000 and up. 

Driving cars around Queens, elevated train tracks in the background
for the mass transit fans.

Viewed from inside the LS, that's an ES in front of us. 

Enough of driving normal cars, now on to the LC. a V8 two door. 

The LC drive will be in the parking lot on a little autocross course. 

Adam Andretti explains what we're going to do. His dad is Mario's twin brother.

The red LS looked nice. 

I hung back and drove last in my group of a dozen or so people.
Even though the autocross wasn't a timed event or competition, I
watched several other drivers on the course to get a better idea of
how it was laid out. We only got one chance to drive it, and everyone
wanted to drive the LC. 

The LC goes 0-60 in 4.4 seconds they told us. 

Some drivers ahead of me are swapping places. Each of these
cars had a phone mounted in it to shoot video of the driver. I'll
post that in the blog down below. 

From the staging area, there were white Lexus cones marking where
to park before driving onto the course, and this driver managed to run
over a cone before they even really got going. 

Cone rescued!

Having driven an autocross or two over the years, I had to take
a photo of these white Lexus cones, since they aren't orange!

On to the next event driving some SUVs.

I drove a hybrid on this very tight course. This was not for
speed, so they wanted us to feel the handling and small turning
radius. Hybrids still surprise me when they are so quiet. 

Besides the driving and static vehicles, this little area was handy
if you needed a break or weren't driving. They also had some
granola bars and bottled water. Overall I was probably
at this event about an hour and a half, and drove all of the four
stations they had set up. The event continued most of Saturday
and Sunday this weekend. 

Lexus RC F

They explained that the huge Lexus grill is a tribute to the
founding of the Lexus company long ago as a weaver or some
type of business that used spindles, so the grill is a spindle shape.
There's more to the story, but I'm still not a big fan. 

Next I drove the NX300. On this station they wanted to demonstrate the
technology of their vehicles. The highlight was driving a small loop, again
not for speed (whaaaa), and then backing into this
parking spot. This is my car that you can see the previous driver
got too close to the white cones, not really leaving me enough
room to open the driver door without bumping into the cone. I'll get over it. 

So, the technology was that this car has reverse parking sensors that
automatically STOP you before you back into something. To demonstrate this,
as you're backing into this spot they tell you to take your foot OFF OF THE BRAKE.
They had to tell me twice, because it just felt wrong, but I can guarantee that
the car stopped itself, and this shows you how close we got before
the car brought itself to a full stop and I parked it. 

Another LC on display, this one had the trunk and hood open so you could
check it out. Hope you like the grill more than me. 

You can see the design is built to be aerodynamic, and it does look
very cool. The LC was a concept car at first, but they Lexus people
said let's build this thing! 

The trunk is popped open, so the fit is better than this. 

I really liked driving this beast, and got a little sideways on the autocross course.

For each of the driving events we were on our own. No real
driving instruction, no Lexus rep in the car, just get in there
and see if you like it! On the auto backup braking SUV, the Lexus
guy was just talking to me with my window down. 

Like most cars, the LC has this gigantic plastic cover over the engine.
One cool feature was the rubber covers over the shocks, which pop right
off and then you can easily adjust your shocks I bet. 

Let's see, these things start at about $97,000...


The LC autocross had a camera shooting some still photos, and then through the magic of technology the Lexus folks zapped me this video, with some other footage from an LC somewhere else mixed in with my ugly mug. As a customer experience, I really enjoyed it, fully realizing that they are in business to make money selling their cars. Hey, I like driving other people's new cars for free, so everyone's a winner! If you want to spend some money and drive more Lexus cars on a real track that rhymes with Laguna Seca, see your Lexus dealer or Google it, and for just under a thousand bucks you can go have an awesome day on a world famous track!