The racing circus that is the 24 Hours of LeMons rolled into Infineon Raceway March 26-27, 2011. Speed:Sport:Life was there to cover the automotive mayhem represented by a 169 car Guinness Book of World record field of entrants. To get a real flavor for the event and be immersed in the car-nage we entered the Krider Racing Big Sausage Pizza Delivery Acura Integra.
The weather forecast for the race weekend in Sonoma California was rain with possible showers. If we were lucky we might even get high winds and lightning. The wet weather was not optimal for the tires we brought which sent our team on a hunt for some solid rain tires. B&G Tires in Napa helped us get some deep treaded performance donuts.
We rolled into the track on Friday and found the paddock slammed with teams. Ironically, open practice on Friday had a Ferrari club sharing Infineon with the LeMons teams. I don’t think there is an example of further sides of the car culture spectrum than Ferrari F430 racing owners with their eighteen wheel trucks filled with Italian tools (yes, they really do use Italian tools to fix Ferraris) compared to our team with a rusting car trailer and a 5 gallon bucket filled with half a set of sockets from Costco.
Infineon was smart enough to keep the cars separated on the track, but we did share the paddock together. I think our entire LeMons budget for 2011 is still less than the cost of one wheel and tire on a Ferrari.
When we lowered our trailer door we were happy to find out that the new tire rack we installed in the racing trailer from Pit Posse Motorsports didn’t fall down and scratch the hood of the racecar during the long road trip to Infineon. The last thing our LeMons car needed was more dents and scratches.
Most teams jumped into the tech line at LeMons to find out if their roll-cage would pass inspection from the keen eye of John Pagel from Evil Genius Racing. Teams were anxious to find out how many laps LeMons Supreme Court Judges, Jonny and Phil, were going to bestow on their “racecars” disguised as “$500 heaps.” The teams stood in the garages sweating as they held on to fake Ebay receipts and fraudulent Craig’s List ads in attempt to explain how new coil-over shocks only cost 10 dollars in Uzbekistan.
If the judges didn’t like a team’s theme then the judges may arbitrarily help with a theme, or maybe just spray paint on your car what they really think, like “Your Theme Sux.”
While other teams suffered the wrath of the judges we decided to run some tire tests. We found that our tires worked great but our fire extinguisher managed to fall out of the mount and jump around the interior of the car making an awful amount of noise. Luckily the damn thing didn’t go off while we were driving.
One call to Ken from I/O Port Racing Supplies and he set us up with a double strap extinguisher mount. The last thing you want while rolling into Turn 11 at Infineon at over 100 miles per hour is a loose fire extinguisher wedged under the brake pedal. Your day will be over quite fast.
As “racing” luck would have it, we destroyed a lug nut while blasting tires on and off the car during tire testing. The guys at Phase2Motortrend set us up with new extra super lightweight aluminum lug nuts from Circuit Sports. Once we transitioned to the Circuit Sports lugs we didn’t have any issues again.
At the event we were filming an upcoming episode for GoRacingTV.com. We had a bunch of GoPro Hero HD cameras to get different shots. If you have ever played with a GoPro camera then you know that sometimes you take video for forty minutes and sometimes you take only a single picture within 40 minutes. Steve Kuhtz is a great crew chief and driver for our team but he struggled with turning on these cameras. I included the above shot because that is all we ever got out of a camera he attempted to turn on -one single picture of him looking at the lens… a bit confused.
When we rolled into tech we gave the judges a LeMons themed inspirational poster. The poster was a hit and rumor has it that the poster now graces the walls at LeMons HQ. After taking a quick look at our Integra the judges said, “So this car is a prior winner, and a prior car that was on its roof.” My first thought was, “Oh crap! Here come some penalty laps.” Then they laughed and said, “Were letting the fast cars run this weekend, Eyesore Racing, Evil Genius, POS Racing, Metro Gnome. We didn’t give any of those teams laps. Go have fun.” Sounded good to us!
Friday night we cruised around, drank heavily and partied with the teams in the paddock. We swapped lies and stories with other teams and held flashlights while guys pulled off miracle motor swaps. We did a few team interviews for the GoRacingTV.com coverage. Watching the video footage later, we realized due to the party getting quite rowdy, that this episode would have to be rated NC-17 which Errol Tucker from GoRacingTV.com said was not going to happen. Maybe we can do a Director’s Cut?
The next morning we found out why they didn’t give any previous winners any penalty laps, there were so many cars on the track, going fast was going to be quite a challenge. There were 169 teams that registered laps with their transponders –a Guinness Book of World record submission.
Before our team can head out on a weekend long endurance race they are subjected to an extremely long (and lame) speech from me. The speech goes something like, “drive fast but don’t crash” and “save the car but make lots of passes” and “have fun but let’s win!”
Rumor has it nobody listens to a word I say, they just look at their watches to see who will win the money pool –a competition about on how long my speech will actually be. In their defense, the speeches do go bit long… sort of like this article.
I found a spot high up on a Sonoma hillside where I could spot most of the track. Armed with new radios and headsets from Sampson Racing Communications I was in perfect position to watch over our first driver, AJ Gracy, who owns Performance In-Frame Tuning in Napa, CA and is our team car chief. Since I was set up with a radio I could continue my ridiculously long pep talk.
Traffic was insane during the race. AJ did a great job staying out of trouble, had a reasonably uneventful stint and brought the car in for our second driver, Rob Diehl.
During our first driver swap, the team fueled the car, did a four tire swap (rains to drys) and added new cameras to the car.
The pit crew of Stephen Young, Tim Jackley, Swayne Mason, John Linbarger, Sun Massera, Rachel Kuhtz, Anna Kaufman, Amanda Hargis, Tim Bringman, Dan Bordeau, John Persico, Karen Long, Ryan Hackett, Dan Olguin, Adam Haas and Lori Carter did an outstanding job getting the car back on the track quick. They also kept us out of the grease.
Trouble and the judges are what you want to avoid at LeMons. This poor guy had to write hundreds of sentences on his car for spinning out in the rain. This car passed us a couple of times, but since it was sitting still for sentence writing we got those laps back and then some.
My brother, Randy Krider, was the final driver for our team on Saturday. The team did another perfect pit stop and we were on the track and moving up the standings. We went all weekend without a penalty and without even trying hard or driving too aggressive we were sitting in 9th out of 169 teams by the end of day one.
Saturday night they had a “Cheaters Pinewood Derby” and we entered a couple of cars: a camera car for the GoRacingTV.com footage and a beer can with wheels called “Miss Budweiser.”
When the smoke cleared our beer can won first place and we earned this badass trophy which represents the scales of justice with the rulebook on one side and our cheater car on the opposite side. You can see the sweet taste of victory video here.
The pit party on Saturday night was absolutely epic. So epic, in fact, that most of the Krider Racing crew got blackout drunk. A team rolled around the pits in a limo with a roll-cage in it passing out vodka soaked gummy bears. The results are viewable in the photo above plus one crew member mistook my RV hallway for the bathroom and peed on the floor. The details of that little incident can be read in the Man Overboard column in the Santa Maria Sun.
Due to the number of radios we had I was able to try to find the drunken pit crew early Sunday morning. Some replied they were too drunk to volunteer to work for free on the racecar all day long. How dare them!?
My dad, Jim Krider, was in charge of corralling the crew before each pit stop. His list of available guys was dwindling as more crew dropped out due to vomiting and diarrhea from being hung over. He and I brainstormed about the best way to do the first pit stop with limited resources. Maybe we would have the driver get out and fuel the car himself?
Steve Kuhtz put down a solid early Sunday stint without any problems. I stayed in contact with him thanks again to Sampson Racing Radios and we worked together to find a nice yellow flag for a driver swap.
Keith Kramer, my driving partner last year (we earned the NASA E3 2010 Western Endurance Racing Championship in his Nissan Sentra), waited patiently to get in the car to try to move us up the standings. Eventually a nice yellow flag came out and we did our pit stop.
Even after 12 plus hours of racing, the traffic was still thick on Infineon. Keith was careful to move through traffic without any fender rubbing.
As the race unfolded we started to really watch our position and fuel mileage. We had moved up to the top five and we wanted to make sure we didn’t run out of fuel (we lost a ChumpCar race in ’10 at Infineon for that very reason). We used a laptop and our nerdy spreadsheet to keep track of stats but the backlighting near the computer made the screen impossible to see.
Our solution to the viewing problem was to use a laptop hood to block the sunlight. We scored a great one from Photodon.com. It works so we can see our screen in any condition (and also keeps other teams from spying on us).
We had been watching the leader board all weekend waiting to see the number 138 make an appearance. If finally did on Sunday. We were sitting in third with only a few hours to go.
With our team short on crew, suddenly a miracle arrived at Infineon. An old racing partner of my dad from go-kart racing back in the ’80s, Craig Bulleri, arrived to watch the event. He had his three sons Nick, Jeff and Andrew Bulleri along with him. Apparently in order to be a Bulleri boy you must sport the beard.
Before they could argue, we outfitted them in Krider Racing Nomex, slapped helmets on their heads and stuck a fuel can in their hands. We came in for our last pit stop. They gave me some gas (like they were seasoned pros) and I jumped in to bring the race home.
The number 187 motorcycle powered Geo Metro Gnome was absolutely screaming around the track. I did everything I could but I had nothing for them. During my stint I think I may have lost two laps to them, only to get one back due to a penalty they incurred. With the race coming to an end our strategy went from “save the car” to “BALLS!”
The other car on the track that I couldn’t make any positions on was the number 760 BMW of Team POS Racing. These guys drove an incredible pace from lap one to the final lap. I kept waiting for them to put a wheel off and find themselves in the penalty box, but it never happened. They drove awesome and when the checkered flag dropped it was Team POS first, Metro Gnome second and Krider Racing Big Sausage Pizza Delivery on the final podium position.
Phil Greden, Jonny Lieberman and Jay Lamm from LeMons held court during the awards ceremony. Team POS earned $1,500 dollars paid in Russian rubles and a sweet bottle of $1,000 tequila.
The event was a great time. Finishing third out of 169 is an incredible accomplishment (the entire podium was previous LeMons winners –POS Racing -Buttonwillow ‘10, Metro Gnome -Thunderhill ‘09 and Krider Racing -Altamont ‘08). The crazy part about this event for our team was we had the “perfect race” which I have never had in my life. In this event we didn’t have a single mechanical problem, we didn’t get a single penalty, all of our pit stops were solid/quick and that only netted us a third place finish. Crazy.
The next adventure for the team will be a 14 hour one day enduro at Buttonwillow Raceway in Central California with the hardcore racers of ChumpCar on June 18, 2011. See you there!
The new episode on GoRacingTV.com will be out shortly (after we bleep out all of the curse words).
And last but not least a huge thank you to the crew!
Photography by Adam Haas, Rob Diehl and Amanda Hargis.