Friday, May 31, 2024

May Autocross Showdown Report

As you can see here, the Porsche car is leading the BMW car. 

A long time ago, on a dark and stormy night, it was the best of times, and nickels only cost three cents...

NMS-North and NMS-South. It was hot. We drank water. A lot of water. 

I mean, in the epic 2024 NMS Autocross Throwdown/Showdown, we both drove our red German cars at Michelin Proving Grounds for world supremacy. Actually, I just like saying that I was at a Proving Grounds, because it just sounds even cooler than a racetrack, or a parking lot, or a big flat pancake of pavement. 

The Michelin people make these round things. This one has a lot of smooth tread, must be a racing tire. 

So, there we were, taking our runs, trying to stay on the right course and not  hit the cones. Once the dust settled, the NMS fastest driver on the day was NMS-North!

This is a screen shot from one of my runs, showing high and low speeds at various points on the course. The start is in the upper right at 2.2 mph, ends at the checkered flag. There is one small loop shortly after the start too. 

During this event we didn't know what our times were, although with my app I had a pretty accurate feel for my times. After the event, we packed up and went home, and waited for an email with the final timings. In other words, we just went out and had fun! Kind of like what people did before they had to TikTok, Facebook, and Google everything all the time. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Farewell Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR, Welcome NMS?

NASCAR in 2025?

Just yesterday, the Stewart-Haas NASCAR team announced that they are ending operations at the end of this season. That means that just up the road from NMS there's going to be some race seats available, and just maybe an entire team's worth of cars, parts, and a big old garage! One rumor we'd like to start right here is that the leading contender to take over that team in 2025 is the NMS squad. While there is absolutely no evidence of this, this reporter can see it happening. Let's review the facts, and you'll be convinced that it's going to happen this way: 

1: Stewart Haas leaving NASCAR opens up their 4 spots on the grid, and NMS already has 2 drivers, so that puts them about 50% there! Between the two of them, they just might have 2 more friends, so that would take care of the 4 drivers next year! Easy-peasey!

2: Requirements for driving in NASCAR? Make the car go faster. The NMS squad seems to have some clue in this direction. They even have helmets and stuff, so that will cut down on costs a LOT!

3: Also, and another big plus for this scenario, the NMS squad lives in a state that rhymes with "North Carolina," which is exactly where Stewart-Haas racing is located! They could just swap out the "South" part of the current NMS state with the word "North" and BAM! NMS-NASCAR will be in business!

4: NASCAR races at places like Charlotte Motor Speedway, Darlington, and Martinsville, and both NMS drivers have been on those tracks. Specifically, they've been on those tracks driving a car! Could it be any easier than this? We can confirm that the NMS team has driven at other facilities that used to host NASCAR, like at Rockingham NC, so that's just the frosting on the cake. Or the gravy on the biscuits if you prefer. 

5: We don't know the exact details of all the finances in running a NASCAR team, so we'll say that the NMS crew is easily within, oh, rough estimate, say a hundred million dollars of being able to afford to take over the team, plus or minus another hundred million dollars. Sounds legit. 

Well, that's the logic that leads us to believe that NMS will be racing NASCAR in 25! This kind of thinking is so logical and clear, it can only be described as "CRYSTAL" when someone asks "Are we clear?" like in the A Few Good Men Movie. Shoot, go ahead and say it like Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson if you want!

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Memorial Day NMS Showdown!

Memorial Day weekend racing? Brian says two thumbs up!

Coming up this weekend, which is also Memorial Day weekend, the NMS-South and NMS-North drivers will compete head-to-head for Autocross world supremacy, or at least blogging bragging rights, with both of us driving at Michelin Proving Grounds in the same event. This is a Porsche Club of America event, courtesy of the Carolinas Region PCA, and we're looking forward to some fun times at our favorite 14 acres of asphalt autocross goodness. Brian is going to be so glad he gets the next day off for the holiday, because I'll be busy all day reminding him that I'm faster. 

Three-day weekend? I say cheers!

NMS-South will be driving a fine BMW product, and NMS-North will be wheeling another German automobile from the Porsche folks, so this makes it a German competition unlike anything since, uh, well, East vs. West Germany before the wall came down I guess! Or since the great Bavarian Beer Glass Carrying Competition during Oktoberfest last year! Yeah, sure, let's go with that! Sort of like Bavarian Hefeweizen bier vs. all the rest of the German beers! Or maybe German mustard vs. mustard from other countries. Whatever.

More driving? Yet again Brian gives it a thumbs up!

Other than our driving, we suggest you check out your favorite racing too, in the annual three-way festival of speed that brings us hours and hours of racing on this weekend every year. The Monaco F1 Grand Prix, The Indianapolis 500, and then the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 all take place on Sunday, so there's sure to be something there for all race fans. Here at NMS-North we're pretty close to the Charlotte race every year, so maybe if we're not driving that day sometime we will attend. Next best thing to that, we'll be driving on the Charlotte Motor Speedway later this summer at a Track Night in America event, so that will be some big fun too. 

Did you say driving? That's a thumbs up from me!

Believe it or not, we have a connection to the Indy 500 as well, since we lived in Indianapolis for a few years, and one of us got to play in a band at the track for various practice days and on race day. The Indy 500 is always sure to be a big deal, so we'll have to catch up to the race after our autocross this year. Like the Charlotte race, it would be fun to attend the real thing again someday too. Other than watching these races, I guess every driver's dream would be to drive both Indy and Charlotte on the same day, which you might have heard Kyle Larson is doing this year. Only about five drivers have ever done this, so good luck Kyle! That's only 1,100 miles of racing in two different cars on two different tracks, about 575 miles apart! Sounds like fun!

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Dear Secretary of Transportation

Dear Secretary Buttigieg, 

I know you're busy with tons of important stuff like fixing bridges, roads, air traffic control safety, shipping, roads, and stuff like that, but can we do something about the average driver out there on the road? Recently I drove from SC to Michigan and back, and I've got to give a failing grade to a lot of drivers. Shoot let's also give a big Needs Improvement to driver training in our country. While I know I sound like a broken record, here's what needs to improve: 

1: We've got a lot of vehicles with daytime running lights, so I'll say that's a good idea for safety, but we've still got way too many drivers out on the Interstates driving in dark and rainy conditions with no lights on. These folks don't' seem to understand that we can't see them, so then when they're doing dumb things out there it just makes things more dangerous for all of us. 

2: STAY RIGHT EXCEPT FOR PASSING! I see signs about this all over the place, so maybe a lot of drivers just can't read. Let's get more reading and better driver's education going here, so that people can actually drive how they are supposed to on the multi lane roads. 

3: The Zipper. You know, when the highway workers go to all the trouble of putting up a trillion signs about CONSTRUCTION AHEAD, MERGE AHEAD, LEFT LANE ENDS, or RIGHT LANE ENDS, and ONE LANE AHEAD. Your average driver is not doing a good job of merging, blending, and doing THE ZIPPER smoothly. From my experience, the drivers in the most congested places (looking at New York City and Los Angeles) are pretty darn good at this. Let's send every driver education student in the USA for a ZIPPER ADVANCED TRAINING COURSE in one of those places, and they don't get to go home until they get it right! Mostly I'm thinking of the construction zone on I-40 between Knoxville TN and Asheville NC here. 

4: As a final all-encompassing suggestion, let's see if we can get drivers to take the advice of Dalton in the original 1989 Road House movie, "Be Nice." If drivers would be nice, look out for the other drivers, and be considerate, we'd have a lot more happy drivers tooling around on the roads. 

Mr. Secretary, thanks for listening. If there is anything else I can do to help, just let me know!

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Automotive Tech Update #4

The Ultra-Mega Crank Bolt Breaker bar

We wrapped up Emissions class last week, so that included studying gas engines, diesel engines, and some hybrid and electric vehicle information. I've gotten some hands on experience with putting a new timing belt and new serpentine belt on an Acura RDX. You can't just walk up to an RDX and take these belts off, so we also got to remove a bunch of parts first. Let's see, the engine cover, the 3 belt covers, disconnected the battery, disconnected and drained the HVAC lines to move them out of the way, drained the coolant and removed the water pump, removed a tensioner and the idler pulley too. Then on the assembly side, we installed a new water pump, new idler pulley, new tensioner pulley, new coolant, pumped up the HVAC refrigerant with our instructors assistance since they are EPA certified. Other than that, just some miscellaneous stuff like taking off then reinstalling the front passenger tire to get to the engine, and the wheel well cover and underneath covers with those dang plastic pins. 

Replaced this water pump since we did the belts. It's just one of those things you do "while you're in there."

The most fun part of this and probably every job is when you think you're done, then finally get to fire up the engine to make sure it works, the belts work, the coolant gets burped, the AC works, the heater works, and everything else still works. Hearing the engine start right up and run smoothly the first time was great!

AC machine
We wanted to move an AC line out of the way of replacing the belts on an Acura, so we had to safely empty the AC system with the help of this machine. Later we refilled with the same machine. In this case the refill stopped 0.03 lbs of refrigerant short, so we just had to run it again and it filled right up. 

I think these spark plugs were off of a Ram truck that some other class members worked on. The twin plugs here either both go to the same cylinder, or it's a waster spark system that always sends a spark to 2 cylinders, with only 1 of them on the power stroke, so the other spark is wasted. 

Passenger front wheel removed for access to the Acura crank bolt. This is the bolt that our 1/2 inch air powered tool didn't budge, so we used the big breaker bar. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

NMS-South Adds "Instructor" to Resume


Congratulations to NMS-South for earning his Instructor certification with NASA last weekend. What's he instructing? Aeronautics? Physics? Math? English? Nah, driving on track! This NASA is the National Auto Sport Association, not those outer space guys. 

NMS Nissan 350Z, #86X with X meaning instructor

One of the many safety rules with most groups that sponsor on track driving is that as a beginner track driver you have an instructor in your car with you. This is the best way to learn how to drive safely on track, since there's only about a bazillion things to think about when you're piloting a car around a race track. Sure, you could get your neighbor Ricky Bobby to show you a few pointers, but considering you might be driving a 3,000 pound chunk of metal at 120mph around a bunch of other drivers, well, we recommend you go with a licensed professional!

We can confirm that the 350Z fits inside the trailer too! You're welcome for that bit of research!

Sort of like if you learned to drive in Driver's Education with a teacher from your high school, or a local driving school, the odds are that the instructor in the passenger seat knows what in the world they are doing. Likewise, I'm sure most professional athletes and tons of amateurs have coaches that they consult to tweak their skills, everywhere from the golf course to the football field. Shoot, I don't know for sure how professional poker players operate, but I imagine somebody out there is coaching some of them too. Oh wait a minute, I know a poker coach, the Brad Pitt character from the Ocean's 11 movie! When we first meet him he's teaching rich kids how to bet in poker.

Safety rule: If your track car has 2 seats, the passenger must have the same level of safety (seat, harness) as the driver. 

Anyway, one of the advantages of becoming a driving instructor is that in return for coaching new drivers on track, the instructors also get to drive their own cars in other sessions on track. One of the main rules of how to get faster? More track time!

NMS-South is working to get the Z car down to the minimum Spec-Z class racing weight for next year. Still planning to remove the AC system.

Speaking of more track time, Brian also unveiled the NMS-South Nissan 350Z on track this weekend! After a lot of work and preparation like getting a full cage installed, NMS plans to race this car full time in 2025 in the NASA Spec Z class. Look for a lot more info on the mighty Z CAR in the next year!

Monday, May 6, 2024

Looking for an Expensive Car?

Royce.   Rolls Royce.   Rolls Royce Cullinan SUV. 

I'm not going to bore you with how much these babies cost, so let's just say that in 2024, with the cost of the AVERAGE new car sold in the USA creeping up to $47,000, these cars cost a LOT more. 

McLaren is a British sports car, but this is NOT British Racing Green color!

McLaren Charlotte. If you're not familiar with Koenigsegg, just look them up. They're under "ridiculously fast and expensive cars made in Sweden!"

If you're looking for an expensive car, here's a place you can go. Check out McLaren in Charlotte NC. Not only do they have high end McLaren sports cars, they also deal in other exotics, and they're a dealer in Rolls Royce cars too! 


Oh, and don't worry if you think it might be odd that I would go out of my way to shoot some car photos on a car lot, because there was at least one other guy there doing the same thing too. 


The cars on the lot in these phtoos were all very nice. Worth noting, however, was that the website list some other cool cars for sale, and I'll guess they are indoors. Just in case you're in the market for a used Ferrari F40, a McLaren Senna, or a Ford GT. If you're just curious about the prices, I'll quote the website here and say "Call for price."

Here's the website:             CHARLOTTE MCLAREN PREOWNED

I'd call this about 13 Rolls Royces. Do you have any Grey Poupon?

Yes, Mercedes makes some nice cars. This is a Mercedes Maybach. I guess you could say it's the luxury sub-brand of Mercedes. 

McLaren 720S, see next picture. 

On the day I visited, the F1 race in Miami ended with McLaren driver Lando Norris taking his first victory in Formula 1. Congrats Lando!

Rolls Royce

Aston Martin, more British automotive goodness. 

If you can't make up your mind on the red or yellow Aston Martin,  just buy both. 

Not one, but TWO Lamborghini Urus SUVs. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Automotive Tech Update #3

Our instructor Bobby Griffin demonstrates the smoke machine for finding leaks. 

Let's say goodbye to April, which included my favorite day of the year, April Fool's Day! The month of March wrapped up my Ignition and Fuel Systems class, and April started a four-week Emissions class that covers gas and diesel engines, as well as hybrids and electrics. I'm also enrolled in an English class and a college orientation class, but take my word for it, the automotive stuff is way more interesting. Sure, you just might have to cite something using the MLA edition 9 style book, but using a torque wrench is more rewarding. 

Exhaust gas analyzer

Out in the auto-shop, a partner and I wrapped up the head gasket job on a 2002 Chrysler mini-van, so that's given me some experience with taking off and then replacing every part above those gaskets. We were careful to follow all the torque specs on the heads, exhaust, intakes, and etc., so that will be an improvement over what we found when we took it apart and found loose bolts here and there. Another detail of this job was cleaning up and grinding the valves seats and valve stems. It was very rewarding to get this done, and have the engine start up first time with no leaks!

Compared to the head gaskets on the V6 mini van, this was a fairly quick job. We had to replace a fuel pump, so here's the gas tank on the ground. Yes, the fuel pump was in the gas tank. Yes, the tank was nearly full of gas. We also replaced the canister vent line. 

Our resource at school for each vehicle is ProDemand, which is one of the online services that garages can use that probably have all the info for lots of makes of cars. I looked up how much a subscription would be, and it's something like $184 a month. That's a bit high to use at home, but for a business that works on more than one brand of cars, it's a pretty good idea to have access to all the technical info you need to get the job done right. Like most things in life, however, if I win the big lottery, I'll be sure to get a subscription. 

The valve on the right has been ground, so it's nice and shiny, even though you can tell how dirty they are from 22 years of use. 

The shop has this old Sioux Tools valve grinder that we used. 

Check out that clean angle on the valve tip.