Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chia Neon Leaves it Mark at MIS, the Full Race Report

VIR was so much fun we had to race with ChumpCar again. So, we slapped a fresh set of brakes and tires on the Chia-Neon to tackle the high banking at Michigan International Speedway. It was a roller coater ride for the Latch-Key Kids. We led the race, battled near the front, tackled mechanical issues, and then I ran into the wall. Full report after the jump.
Piloting the most abused race car in the field was Luke Keller, Ray Ayala, neon veteran Steve Baumbach and myself around the MIS ro-val. The ro-val consists of turn three, turn four, and the front straight of the high banked oval. Instead of entering the oval's turn one, the ro-val turns infield and snakes it way via eight turns back to oval turn three. Racing consisted of a seven hour enduro's on both Saturday and Sunday.

 I took the first stint and used the initial caution laps to familiarize myself with the track. Although the infield lacks any form of elevation change its reasonably fun. I realize that's not high praise but for me a road coarse without elevation changes is like a Mustang with less than eight cylinders. Running on the oval was a new experience for me. The entrance to the oval was a fairly tight left hander that limited entry speed. At the speeds we were running through turns three and four the banking was hardly necessary so I could place the car anywhere I liked. Naturally, the lack of hard turning meant maximum acceleration. By the end of my stint, I'd buried the Chia's speedometer past 120 mph more than a few times.

Saturday started out beautifully. Caintmakit Racing's spotter tipped us off that the green was about to fly and I built a nice gap between myself and the car in front of me entering the oval. When the pace truck dove into pit lane at the end of turn four, I already had the hammer down. I passed the second place car just before crossing start finish and was leading the race three turns later. I held onto the lead despite challenges from fellow LeMons veteran The Tools in their Merkur and my own team mate Ray Ayala who double drove for us and Team Under Dog. After about thirty minutes at the front, fellow Waterford racers, Bavarian Mustache Ride passed me for the lead. I continued to run near the front for the first hour until the battery light illuminated on the dash.

I radioed the issue to the team. By the time voltage had dropped enough to silence the gages, they had a spare battery, alternator, and belt waiting for me in the pits. Unfortunately, the issue was nothing we had prepared for. The wire connecting the alternator and battery broke leaving us without a charging system. By the time we diagnosed and resolved the issue, we'd spent about thirty minutes in the pits. Luke drove the second stint followed by Steve and Ray. Through a lot of clean, fast driving we crawled our way back to tenth place.

On Sunday we reversed the driver order so Ray took the start followed by Steve, Luke, and myself. Ray started off strong and led the race for most of the first half hour until a train of fast E30 BMWs knocked us back to fifth. With some good pit stops and even better driving, Steve pulled us into second place by the end of his stint. Our second pit stop was going smoothly until we noticed the pool of water gathering under the front bumper. The radiator had a pin hole leak. We rushed back to the garage and began swapping the radiator. We didn't have a bucket to catch the hot water so Steve dumped a bin of parts on the floor and slid it under the car. We swapped a hot radiator in fifteen minutes. Luke drove brilliantly but we'd lost ten laps on the leader, knocking us out of contention for the win.

I took the last stint with about an ninety minutes remaining. Ray tried to warn me about oil on the track on the oval but my headphones had fallen out of the radio harness. When I entered the oval on my third lap, I went in a little hot and turned in a bit early and paid dearly. I struck the wall hard. The submarine belt gave me a nice shove and my head tossed hard to the right. From the force of the impact I thought I'd smashed the front of the car completely in. Surprisingly, the damage was relatively minor. Something in the steering was bent giving the car inches of toe out, the right front tire was cut on both inner and outer sidewall, and the right side of the car was flattened. I pulled straight into the pits thinking our race was over. The team changed the tire and banged out the fenders to keep them from rubbing and I ventured back on track. The front toe out provided heaps of understeer and the front tires howled down the front straight. I soldiered on for the last hour, limping the car home into eighth place. Attrition had stripped the field to seventeen finishers by the time the checker waved.
David signing the wall at MIS
After the Chia was reliable for 24 hours at VIR just two weeks ago, I'm slightly disappointed mechanical gremlins knocked us out of contention for a win. I really hoped we were past that. Regardless, we had a great time and saw lots of Michigan LeMons regulars in the paddock. At times, it seemed like we knew half the field with friends on: The Under Dogs, Caintmakit Racing, Saturn Art Car, The Tools, Bavarian Mustache Ride, Buck Snort, and CavetteC6R. Hope to race with y'all real soon.

The Chia Neon has a few more scars but nothing that can't be fixed before ChumpCar rolls into Nelson Ledges for 25 hours.
From left to right: Luke Keller, Ray Ayala, David Houser and Steve Baumbach

The Chia Neon's Honorable Record:
Flat Rock 2007: Third overall, Fastest Yank Tank
Thunder Hill 2007: Second overall, Fastest Yank Tank
Toledo 2008: Fourth Overall, Least Horrible Mopar
Houston 2008: Fourth overall
Nelson Ledges 2009: Fifth Overall, Fastest Yank Tank
Gingerman April 2010: Second Overall, Fastest Yank Tank and You Got Screwed Award
Gingerman April 2011: Fourth Overall
Autobahn October 2011: Thirteenth Overall
VIR August 2012: Twenty-first Overall
MIS August 2012: Tenth Overall Saturday, Eighth Overall Sunday, Awarded gift certificate for pulling parts of Dave's street car to finish the race

(Edit: added team picture)

1 comment:

  1. Great write up! Can't wait to race the Chia again. -Ray

    ReplyDelete