For Krider Racing, the 2012 running of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill started with rum and ended with rum. It took a fair amount of rum to garner the courage to take on such a monumental task like “The 25.” This is the story of how a group of friends came together to compete with factory backed professional race teams in the longest road race in North America, while campaigning a $500 car that was originally built for the 24 Hours of LeMons, and somehow walked away victorious. This is the Krider Racing 25 Hours of Thunderhill “Rum Diary”
Back in 2010, Krider Racing won the Western Endurance Racing Championship and finished The 25 (after being wrecked twice) with their race prepped blue #33 Nissan Sentra SE-R. After completing the long season they took a year off from a heavy road racing championship schedule but still did some random events, winning a 14-hours of Buttonwillow ChumpCar race with their Big Sausage Pizza Delivery Team and then (oddly) did some racing with big wheels down insane hills in San Francisco.
New Year’s Eve 2011/2012, after drinking a fair amount of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Keith Kramer talked Rob Krider into taking on the mighty 25 Hours of Thunderhill again. Only this time, instead of entering one car, the team would enter two cars. The NASA WERC champion blue #33 car, and the LeMons red #38 car. For that they would need twice the time, twice the money and thus twice the amount of rum.
There was a fair amount of debate within the team if two cars was a bad idea. Mrs. Krider, the team’s self-appointed psychologist, was against the multicar effort, which produced this Man Overboard column in the Santa Maria Sun entitled “Bad Ideas.” To find out if Mrs. Krider was right or if the team had the infrastructure to run a two car effort, they headed to Buttonwillow to run a 3-hour enduro. That test resulted in a destroyed transmission, a capacity problem with the stock fuel tank in the #38 car and the following video below (filled with optimism which didn’t actually exist in the team’s spirits).
Even though there were a few set backs, the team didn’t quit on the idea of two cars. They figured the best kind of plan is a simple plan. So the team went to the trailer, drew up a very simple list and used that for their goals.
The drivers for this effort would be the usual Krider Racing suspects, Rob Krider (I’ll race anything and brag about it), Keith Kramer (when I grow up I want to be a racecar driver), Dave Schotz (the American Stig), Aj Gracy (owner of Performance In-Frame Tuning), Randy Krider (Yes, I have been upside down, so what?), Shawn Sampson (owner of Sampson Racing Communications), Ken Myers (owner of I/O Port Racing Supplies) and a newcomer for the team Nissan Motorsports pro driver Bryan Heitkotter (winner of Season 1 of GT Academy). Bryan would also second as a team photographer (check out his shots).
This overhead shot of the track was taken by the guys at LifeBlasters.com who snapped some epic shots of the race, including some shots of the Krider Racing Nissans.
Prior to the race the team had a fair amount of media hype, including being featured in the “Best of 2012” issue of Speed News Magazine, a NASA Press Release and a pre-race prep article in the Napa Valley Register.
During the November video episode of Speed News, host John Lindsey predicted that Krider Racing would do very well with their Nissan Sentras at The 25. The episode showed cool b-roll footage of the team’s two cars. The video also had a GoPro Hero “Move of the Month” featuring some quick hands from Krider Racing driver Aj Gracy.
The team arrived at Thunderhill early during the week of The 25 to test the new Toyo Tires Proxes RR and dial in the set up for both the 33 car (Team Blue) running in E3 and the 38 car (Team Red) running in E2.
The Toyo Proxes RRs worked great, but the team debated different set ups for the cars. Should they run loose and fast or run tight and conservative for the 25 hour race?
Nothing came easy for the team, and a cracked windshield during testing was not the sort of start they were looking for. Replacing the windshield would mean one of the sponsor stickers, specifically G Spec Performance, would not be in the race. Sorry G Spec! Note for the future, next time send extra stickers.
This is Keith Kramer, owner of Economy Stock Feed and co-captain of the team. If he looks stressed, it’s because he is. He is the Roger Penske of the team’s effort. Every time something goes wrong on the track it costs him money. During practice Rob Krider knocked off a rear view mirror on a reflector at the apex of Turn 8 (ending the life of another G Spec Performance sticker). Keith is doing the math in his head. “How much was that?”
Luckily for the team, besides the #33 and #38 cars, they also had the #88 car. This “donor” car was Ryan Hackett’s street car, which he foolishly agreed to bring to the event “just in case the team needed a spare bolt or washer or something.” A “spare washer” turned into a windshield, a rear view mirror, a gas cap, a spindle, a radiator, wheels, fuel lines, an ECU and an alternator. The 88 car was raped before the race even started. Cars that have been at Pick-n-Pull for a year have more parts on them than the #88 car did after a single day with Krider Racing at Thunderhill.
The team worked hard to install a new windshield and overcome other minor issues that arose during testing and qualifying. Dean and Scott Cornell used the race and the Krider Racing entries to beta test their new invention for I/O Port Racing Supplies a radio interface that works with a GoPro Hero 2 camera and records audio from the vehicle and audio from the driver and crew chief’s radios. This little invention recorded all of the team’s communications during the race. It turned out the team was quite foul mouthed and thus this audio was rated R.
The cars were looked over with a fine tooth comb by both car chiefs, Steve Young for the 33 car and Simeon Gracy for the 38 car. Both chiefs ensured every nut and bolt was perfect for each car.
The night before the race the crew practiced pit stops in the dark. The theory was, “If you can do it in the dark, you can do it in the daylight.”
Even though things weren’t coming easy, the good news was the team was stacked deep with solid capable help and the morning of the race they lined up for the hero shot. Below are the characters that made up Krider Racing during the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Dean Cornell (Fire Extinguisher), Demitri Demetriou (Pit Board/Sailor Jerry Rep.), Nissa Krider (Photographer/Windshield), Natasha Krider (Craft Services), Brent Picasso (Telemetry/Windshield), Dina Krider (Craft Services), Ryan Hackett (Mechanic/Car 88 Owner), Gus Krider (Social Media/Battery-Food Runner), Tim Persico (Spotter), Chris Krider (Fueler), Nathan Krider (Tire Changer), John Linbarger (Spotter), Gio D’Adamo (Tire Chief), Scott Cornell (Communications), Simeon Gracy (Car Chief Car 38), Eli Cronbach (Team Manager), Dave Nees (Fueler/Safety Coordinator), Tim Bringman (Crew Chief Car 33 –Temporary), Ken Myers (Driver/NASA Liaison), Brad Bowles (Crew Chief Car 38), Rob Krider (Driver/Team Captain/Car 38 Owner), Randy Krider (Driver), Steve Young (Car Chief Car 33/Crew Chief Car 33 –Permanent), Travis Kramer (Golf Cart Driver), Aj Gracy (Driver/Mechanic), Travis Bowles (Tire Changer/Mechanic), Keith Kramer (Driver/Team Co-Captain/Car 33 Owner), Dave Schotz (Driver), Roy Lindlahr (Fueler), Bryan Heitkotter (Driver/Photographer), Jason Griepentrog (Fueler/Fuel Chief), Joel Schotz (Spotter), Danny Wesson (Fire Extinguisher), Chris Harris (Spotter), Art Cortez (Craft Services), Addy Krider (Videographer/Social Media), Sara Krider (Team Psychologist), Judy Kramer (Craft Services/Race Team Mom), Brandon Lindlahr (Battery Runner), Rod Kramer (Infrastructure). Not photographed: Isaiah Craig (Mechanic), Jim Krider (The Patriarch), Emma Ritchie (Sailor Jerry Girl), Evan Commins (Production), Doug Naschke (Spotter), Daniel Naschke (Super Fan), Veronica Harris (Photographer/Social Media), Shawn Sampson (Driver/Radio Communications), Adam Haas (Production/Group Shot Photographer). The Krider Racing flag in the photo is very special to the team as it came back safely from Afghanistan (along with Nathan Krider) after doing time flying off of the back of a U.S. Army Humvee through the desert dunes.
In order to be in the Krider Racing area you had to sport the official “backstage pass.”
The time arrived to begin to move the cars from the paddock and pits to the grid. Everything had to be perfect. The 25 Hour clock would not stop if a team had a problem, the race would continue without them. The anticipation was thick in the Krider Racing paddock. The crew wondered, would the cars make it to the end?
Team Captains Keith Kramer and Rob Krider discussed a few more details before the race began and they jumped into their driving suits and handed the reins of the operation to the team manager, Eli Cronbach, and the two crew chiefs, Brad Bowles (car 38) and Tim Bringman (car 33).
The grid of the 25 Hour was massive, filled with prototypes, pro factory teams, Le Mans machinery and legendary drivers like Randy Pobst (World Challenge Champion), Elliott Forbes-Robinson (24 Hours of Daytona winner), Johannes Van Overbeek (Porsche driver from Le Mans) and John Morton (Trans-Am Champion). Krider Racing, using the red, white and blue BRE paint scheme, competed in the race against John Morton, who won his Trans-Am 2.5 championship for Datsun while driving for BRE in 1972. Spoiler alert: youth prevails and they beat him.
Team Blue posed with Emma, the Sailor Jerry Girl, on the grid of the 2012 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Team Red on the grid geared up for the United States Air Force flyover and the start of a very long night. Rob Krider gives the first driver, Aj Gracy, some last minute advice, “25 Hour starts are always hectic, stay out of trouble.”
When the green flag dropped, the 33 car was already in the pits, getting the fuel cell topped off (a strategy the team implemented to take advantage of fuel capacity allowances within NASA’s endurance racing rules) while the 38 car took a conservative approach to finishing the long race –driving safe and staying on the track.
Regardless of the team’s plan to run the blue car hard and run the red car conservative, Aj Gracy, driving car 38, was almost taken out by a Factory Five Cobra during the first few minutes of the race.
After all of the hard luck the team faced in the year of preparation, they got a solid break as Aj was missed by mere centimeters. The team crossed their fingers that the cars would hold together and hope that the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil (shown below stored in the Pit Posse Motorsports trailer shelving) would hold up in the engines for 25 hours.
Eventually the two Nissans ended up running nose to tail, tried to work through traffic together and stay out of trouble.
Keith Kramer drove the first stint in the 33 car. The race was on in the Miata heavy and competitive E3 class. The 33 car was running good and fast.
The 25 is all about traffic, multi-class racing, differential speeds and a little luck. As you can see, it was crowded on the track.
The only thing that kept the team out of trouble in heavy traffic were the spotters, the eyes in the skies, in the tower near Turn 9. John Linbarger, Chris Harris (owner of Corporate West Computer Systems Inc.), Joel Schotz, Tim Persico and Doug Naschke worked the Sampson Racing Communication’s radios and kept the sides of the team’s cars straight.
As the race progressed the 38 car ran solid and stayed on track just as the team planned.
The first set of pit stops sent the crew to work. Their job was to keep 10 gallons of petrol in the cars, swap drivers, install fresh Toyo Proxes RR tires when needed and enough Carbotech Performance Brake Pads to finish the race.
Randy Krider briefed Team Manager Eli Cronbach after his stint. “The car is working great, no changes.”
It is unknown if Dave Schotz took this photograph this way on purpose or if he was mistakenly using the wrong lens on his iPhone camera. Regardless the reflection on his sunglasses of the crew working on the 33 car in the pits is slick.
Joel Schotz and Jason Griepentrog took a break between pit stops in the Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum Krider Racing hospitality area. This served as a nice spot for the crew to relax.
Jim Krider (center) watched with a careful eye over everything the crew did with the cars. Jim, who was paralyzed in a racing incident in the 1980s, had a lot on the line in this event with both of his sons pulling driving duties in the long race.
Toyo Tires continued to die a righteous death at the hands of the Krider Racing drivers. Everyone on the team liked the new RR tire, and the drivers kept the tire mounting guys very busy.
As the sun began to set, Car Chief for the 38 car, Simeon Gracy, along with Nathan Krider prepared to slap on the Lightforce lights, which make the darkness feel like the daytime.
Before darkness enveloped the track, the team discussed their night racing strategy at the command center.
The Krider Racing crew chiefs had every amenity available to them with tons of information to ensure a smooth and fluid race plan.
During the race, members of the crew were directed one by one into the Sailor Jerry trailer for a “confessional” interview. A documentary film crew recorded the team as they tackled The 25. The crew used multiple GoPro Hero 2 cameras to capture the action of the race. The documentary, which will be out in the spring of 2013, will be shown on GoRacingTV.com as well as some local cable access channels.
The sun set and both Krider Racing cars were still moving along and looking good in the standings. But anyone on the crew who had been a part of The 25 before knew there was still a lot of racing to be done before the checkered flag flew.
During the race, Krider Racing Gravity Division Soap Box Derby racers Gus Krider, Veronica Harris and Addy Krider kept the social media information flowing for 25 hours straight using the Krider Racing Tumblr Feed, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and FaceBook.
Before midnight the team’s luck ran out, directly under Rob’s right foot. In the darkness Rob Krider threw a rod out of the side of the block of the 33 car. The rod went through the header and into the radiator. The oil pressure reading on the S Gear Gauge went to zero in about one millisecond. He was able to limp the car into the pits, pissing oil all over the track. There was so much smoke in the interior Rob thought the car was on fire and jumped out of the window as soon as the car came to a halt in the pits. The crew said he looked like Ricky Bobby screaming for Oprah and Tom Cruise from the film Talladega Nights. Suddenly things were not looking good for Team Blue. The team’s engine builder, Rich from T.E.M. Machine Shop, was not going to be very happy with Rob or his heavy right foot.
Without hesitation the crew got busy ripping the engine block from the 33 car. Ryan Hackett, Eli Cronbach, Travis Bowles, Steve Young, and Isaiah Craig began the thrash.
Within what seemed like minutes the 33 car was motor-less.
With both engines on the ground the team began the process of swapping over parts. Crowds gathered around the Krider Racing paddock to watch the crew remarkably pull this motor swap off in record time.
With one car temporarily down, the team changed their strategy. Dave Nees, the team’s safety coordinator, ensured that the changes still fit the team’s mandate for safety for the crew in the pits and paddock. The 38 car which was the conservative effort, became the “go-go-go” effort. Driver orders and tire choices were switched. Shawn Sampson, who was racing for two teams in The 25, had his stint bumped due to scheduling issues from the engine failure. Tim Bringman, the crew chief for the 33 car, decided he was no longer needed and left the track as his crew was thrashing to get the 33 car back together. Steven Young stepped up and took over as Crew Chief for car 33 with the assistance of Team Manager Eli Cronbach.
While the 33 car was down for repairs, the 38 car continued to make laps through the vast darkness of Thunderhill at night.
The crew continued to work through issues as they completed the motor swap. Keith’s right arm was bandaged after an on track incident caused an unknown extent injury to his wrist. Determined to show the crew, who was working their cold fingers to the bone, he was as determined as they were, Keith later drove the car using only one arm in the race.
Isaiah Craig was absolutely adamant they would get the 33 car back on track and led the way to complete the engine swap.
Travis Bowles searched frantically for the perfect 12 millimeter bolt that they needed to get the 33 car back together.
The graveyard pit crew worked flawlessly through the night and continued to get the 38 car in and out of the pits without issue. The crew fueled the car, inspected the tires, torqued the Circuit Sports lug nuts, and checked the wear on the Carbotech Performance Brake Pads during each stop. Below is a pit stop video taken by Michael Wachholz from Torque Racing Brake Fluid.
Team Tire Chief, Gio D’Adamo, from B & G Tires, checked tire temperatures and tread depth on the ToyoProxes RR tires as they came off of the 38 car. Marc Sanzenbacher from Toyo Tires, as well as engineers from Toyo, came by the Krider Racing pits during the race to see how the Proxes RRs were performing and offer any advice.
Rob Krider fell asleep in the driver’s seat of the 33 car as he waited for the crew to finalize the engine swap by throwing in a new Jim Wolf Technology ECU. The crew seemed unsettled by the fact that the same driver who destroyed the first engine would be the same exact driver taking the car back out onto the track once they installed a new engine.
The crew did it and the 33 car ran again! Five hours after coming into the paddock with a total loss of an engine, the crew was victorious and Team Blue was back on the track, running like a champ and making competitive passes.
The sun began to rise over the east side of the track and Krider Racing had both cars making laps with the steady and strong 38 car in third place in the E2 class.
The crew worked hard to get the last few pits stops completed perfectly hoping to finish the race strong with only a few hours to go. Race standings were being closely watched. Fingers were crossed.
The team tried some strategy to reel in the second place car in E2, but the two lap deficit was too large. They decided to hold on, play it smart, and ensure a successful podium finish. A podium finish was something the drivers wanted to accomplish for everyone on the team who had worked so hard to get them where they were. With one minute left in the race, everyone on the team held their breath.
At 12:00 noon, December 10, 2012, car 33, with car owner Keith Kramer behind the wheel, and car 38, with car owner Rob Krider behind the wheel, drove across the finish line at the exact same moment. Krider Racing earned a podium finish in the tenth running of the National Auto Sport Association 25 hours of Thunderhill! They did it with their back up car, Team Red, car 38, which was originally built for $500 for the 24 Hours of LeMons.
The two cars came home to the Krider Racing pit stall, champagne was sprayed all over the cars and Rob Krider stood up and high fived the “Team Red” pit sign.
Travis Bowles and Eli Cronbach congratulated each other on a job well done, Crew Chief for car 38, Brad Bowles, was all smiles.
There wasn’t a single dent on the 38 car after 25 hours of non-stop racing. All of the sponsor decals from Figstone Graphics and the finish from Miracle Auto Body and Paint held up well.
The beer and Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum began to flow as the team celebrated their unbelievable success.
As the team celebrated, the production crew interviewed team super fan/soap box derby racer Daniel Naschke. When they asked him who blew the engine up, he smiled and pointed directly at Rob Krider.
The celebration continued as the team enjoyed their moment of glory after the longest night of their lives.
Isaiah Craig showed the team how it was done with Sailor Jerry.
Team Red and Team Blue both had their cars back in the pits, safe after 25 hours of on track insanity.
NASA impound officials sealed the hood of the 38 car. The car was taken to impound, weighed and inspected for every modification it possessed. The scrutinizing was strict but the team had nothing to worry about and the 38 car passed post-race tech and teardown with flying colors. The team’s third place finish would stick. The factory effort Mazda RX-8 of Robert Davis Racing, which finished in fourth behind Krider Racing, was hoping for a last minute move up in the standings from impound drama. It didn’t happen and Krider Racing in their $500 Nissan bested the factory effort from Mazda.
Team drivers lined up with Sailor Jerry representative (and honorary Krider Racing pit crew member) Demitri Demetrio (who ran the pit board, carried tires, and stayed up all night). From left to right: Randy Krider, Ken Myers, Demitri Demetrio, Rob Krider, Keith Kramer, Bryan Heitkotter, Aj Gracy and Dave Schotz.
The team continued to celebrate at their weekend make shift home, pit stall #60 and #61.
NASA presented Krider Racing with their Third Place trophy for finishing on the podium in the E2 class. Each driver was awarded a clock for their individual drives in The 25.
The trophies looked good on the hood of the 38 car.
These trophies are very hard to come by and will be forever cherished by the Krider Racing team.
A special trophy, constructed by the crew, was made for Rob Krider utilizing a Toyo Tire lanyard and the bent and twisted connecting rod he tossed out of the block approximately 14 hours before.
The team had goals they wanted to accomplish, and at the end of their weekend they were able to check off their “to do” list.
Every member of the crew certainly earned their “I Survived the 25” patch which they each received for their efforts. A special thanks needs to go out to the family of Chris, Dina, Nissa, Nathan and Natasha Krider who worked the graveyard shift and took care of the crew and the cars through the late night cold and darkness.
Keith Kramer’s arm didn’t quite survive the 25, and he now has the Krider Racing cast to prove it. He finished the race driving one handed with two fractures to his right arm.
The Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum vintage Airstream trailer earned itself a Krider Racing sticker and also a “I Survived the 25” sticker, to be proudly displayed all over the country as it travels around.
After it was all over the cars came back to the race shop at Economy Stock Feed in Del Rey, CA, where Brandon Lindlahr continues to take good care of them (he prepped the cars prior to the race). Here the Team Blue/Team Red pit light board sign is hung proudly above the two cars.
Krider Racing must thank, for an incredible amount of help, the following partners: Nissan Motorsports, Toyo Tires, Royal Purple, AutoSport Lab’s Race Capture, I/O Port Racing Supplies, Carbotech Performance Brake Pads, G Spec Performance, Jim Wolf Technology, GoPro Hero Cameras, Pit Posse Motorsports, Sampson Racing Communications, Circuit Sports, S Gear Gauges, Lightforce, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Economy Stock Feed, B & G Tires, Performance In-Frame Tuning, T.E.M. Machine Shop, Napa Valley Transmissions, Miracle Auto Body and Paint, Napa Valley Muffler, Bottlers Unlimited, C.J. Fix Co. Bookkeeping and Tax Preparation, J & B Farms, Torque Racing Brake Fluid, Gary C. Borge D.D.S., Bay Area Express, Corporate West Computer Solutions, and Figstone Graphics.
Here is a shot of the Krider Racing 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R purchased for $500 for the 24 Hours of LeMons.
The same car, now in the motorsports history books, the Krider Racing 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R, #38, 25 Hours of Thunderhill Podium Finisher.
Till next time, Krider Racing out. Cars are in the garage, there is rum to be consumed.
Here is the team poster given to each crew member for their efforts.
Below is a quick wrap up video from the event.
The documentary featuring Krider Racing’s adventure at The 25 Hours of Thunderhill will be out soon.
The documentary film Double Down is finally out! Check out the trailer below.
The film is available at Amazon.com.