Endurance racing is never easy. It isn’t like regular driving, where you worry about your insurance here and making your commute to and fro. It isn’t even like regular racing. You have to go fast, but not too fast. You have to stay up for hours on end, but be sharp enough to make quick decisions. You have to order people around, but also get along with your teammates. And most importantly, you have to win. At Krider Racing we have done all of these things right, and we have also done a lot of these things wrong. Recently we remembered how to do them right again and found ourselves showered in beer and holding up a first place trophy. Here is the story of the long endurance racing road back to victory lane.
In 2008, racing against another Speed:Sport:Life staff member, Jack Baruth (he set the second fastest lap in the race, while I set the fastest –not bad for the ole S:S:L staff!), my team won the 24 Hours of LeMons at Altamont. This victory will always be remembered as one of the greatest for my team because of the come-from-behind, last lap pass which earned us the win. It was very close, since as I crossed the finish line under the checkered flags steam was pouring out of the hood from a blown head gasket. If the race had been two laps longer we would have lost.
After Altamont we won some other motorsports events, NASA Performance Touring races and even a Demolition Derby. But when it came to the endurance racing side of the house, my team went on a ridiculously insane second place streak. Six events, six second place finishes. Of course, like any good racer, I have plenty of lame excuses for every loss. In fact I have an extensive list of excuses for each second place finish, complete with media links.
1. Second Place: 24 Hours of LeMons, Buttonwillow -Leading, flipped car on last lap.
2. Second Place: Beetleball, Long Beach to Las Vegas -Leading, missed pit stop in desert.
3. Second Place: ChumpCar, Infineon -Leading, ran out of gas with 5 minutes to go (splash of fuel stop).
4. Second Place: 24 Hours of LeMons, Infineon -Leading, broken half shaft, flat tire.
5. Second Place: NASA Western Endurance Racing Championship, Buttonwillow -Leading, ran out of gas (again).
6. Second Place: ChumpCar, Auto Club Speedway (Saturday) -Leading, with 30 minutes to go, grounded distributor.
As a race team, we really couldn’t complain. Every one of those finishes is absolutely respectable and with a field of 125 competitors at LeMons, 123 teams would have loved to trade places with us and stood on the podium in second spot. However, after six events and six near misses at winning, we felt like we were truly stuck in a rut, almost like we were hexed. What was keeping us from standing on top of the podium again? Was it just racing luck? Could I blame the unpaid, overworked, completely volunteer pit crew?
I’m joking, of course, I could never blame my crew, they are absolutely the best. The only place to find fault was with me. Looking at the data from our races a few statistics were quite glaring. My gas mileage was awful in comparison to the rest of the drivers on my team and the incidents of mechanical failures were occurring 98% of the time with me behind the wheel. Some of that could be attributed to the fact that I drive the anchor position on my team, when the car is already pretty beat on from hours of racing. Like it or not the data didn’t lie, the car was dying on my watch. Sure I set some blistering lap times, but then I also brought the car into the pits shortly afterward either out of gas or with something broken. Shaving a few seconds off of a lap time doesn’t make sense if I have to spend 30 seconds in the pits for a splash and go.
They say we learn from our mistakes. Apparently it takes me six times to learn something. The light bulb finally went on when I was leading the ChumpCar “L.A. Freeway Enduro” 7-hour race on Saturday with only 30 minutes to go when the car started falling apart underneath me. I lost that race by 34 seconds after having to stop to fix the problem. I realized (FINALLY!) that I needed to work less on the car and more on myself.
Frustrated with another second place finish we resolved the mechanical problem with the car Saturday night and came up with a new game plan for Sunday. We would run the car conservatively (I know it sounds crazy!) and let the race come to us over time.
My team ran that plan perfectly. The race was ours to win, as long as my final stint went well. I promised the team I would take it easy. They smiled but I could tell none of them believed me. Just to keep tabs on me they had one person watching live timing and scoring, if I ran a lap that was anything resembling fast they were screaming on the radio for me to slow down. I couldn’t complain though, the car was lasting. Finally it was time to put the losing streak behind us. We snaked an inside pass on Team Zoom-Zoom Boom and never looked back.
I drove like a grandma, held the lead, and just smoothly cruised along. I tried to go as easy as I could on the car. And it was absolutely necessary. Because as the race finish neared, the car started running into some problems again. I was able to nurse the car along to the end, however, if I had been running hard for two hours straight there wouldn’t have been enough car left to survive. The second place curse was in the back of my mind as I crossed my fingers and hoped the car would make it. But by slowing down, like my team wanted me to, I was actually able to finish in the lead and put us back into the winner’s circle. Victory was ours again!
Who would have thought that going slower in racing would actually be beneficial? If you ask my team, they will tell you they all knew that. Apparently, I was the only idiot who didn’t.
Of course, none of this could have been accomplished without our crew, sponsors and the hard working operators that put on the ChumpCar events.
First I’d like to recognize the Krider Racing ChumpCar Fontana crew for convincing me to do the right thing and for working hard to win the race for us: Nick Brown, Andy Bai, Jim Krider and Sara Krider.
A huge thank you to our sponsors Atomic Speedware, Carbotech Brake Pads, Capital City Motorsports, T.E.M. Machine Shop, I/O Port Racing Supplies, Figstone Graphics, ST Suspensions, Performance In-Frame Tuning, Piloti driving shoes, HP 234, Circuit Sports, Racing WFO, Car Domain, Bay Ex, Napa Valley Muffler, B&G Tires, Miracle Auto Body and Paint, Napa Valley Transmissions, Bottlers Unlimited, Economy Stock Feed, Kuhtz Diehl Insurance and Financial Services, C.J. Fix Co. and, last but not least, Speed:Sport:Life.
There was also some great clean driving by the drivers on the Krider Racing ChumpCar Fontana team: AJ Gracy, Randy Krider, Keith Kramer (and myself for doing the right thing and slowing down).
Race photography from Auto Club Speedway was provided by Marco Maggiora. Teams who would like pictures can contact him at: [email protected]