Weekly Roundup: It’s A Start Edition

After the minor heartbreak of last weekend’s losses at NCM’s American Endurance Racing double enduro, it was really nice to come back and win both days at MidOhio with SCCA in my Neon. Yesterday I qualified 7th overall, 1st in class, and finished 6th overall, 1st in class. Despite being hit four separate times by the same Miata in this morning’s qualifying race, I was able to qualify 7th and finish 4th overall in the afternoon, just 0.6 seconds behind the third-place Mustang and picking up another first in class.

Click the jump for a video of my reasonably strong start, where I grabbed 3 places in the first 700 feet, and to read a rundown of this week’s contributions.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Failure To Proceed Edition

It was a bit of a heartbreaking weekend. We had everything we needed to take two wins at NCM Motorsports Park: the fastest car, the strongest driver lineup, a cadre of volunteers who could do everything from lift a fuel jug one-handed to swap a water pump in minutes. Sure enough, we were in first place by nearly ninety seconds at the 7-hour mark of Saturday’s 9-hour race. Then the overheating problems began — and they persisted through Sunday. By 5:30 that afternoon, all we could do was send Danger Girl out for the checkered flag, knowing that we’d barely managed enough completed laps to avoid being classified as a DNF.

On the positive side, we made some great friends and enjoyed some good times to go with the bad. I also had a chance to qualify a competitor’s car, which has to be one of the odder things I’ve ever done in racing. (The fact that I qualified the car ahead of ours was just the icing on the proverbial cake.) Marilyn the MX-5 Cup Car and her friends will be back in October for the AER event in Mid-Ohio. There’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot of money to be spent, between now and then.

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Weekly Roundup: Here Comes The Mom Blogger (And Others) Edition

Let me begin by thanking all of you for your patience. Last week, I asked any contributors who had not heard from me lately to shoot me a reminder email. Every one of the more-than-a-few emails I got was extremely polite and not at all hateful. Thanks for that. I’ll be spending the next few weeks putting your stories, reviews, and motorcycle pieces into the system. I appreciate all of you more than I can say.

One of the contributors who has been waiting too long for her time in this relatively dim sun of mine is East Coast autocrosser and lady-about-town Ryan Cheek, pictured above. She and her 5.0-liter Coyote Mustang, affectionately nicknamed “Hank”, have been pulling some impressive PAX finishes in her SCCA region for a while now. This September she’ll join me and 223 other drivers in the SCCA Time Trial Nationals. Two weeks ago, we had a chance to sit down at a Biscuitville and talk about our motorsports dreams. I know you’ll like her first contribution to Riverside Green, which should go up later this week.

Alright. As the real Alanis used to say, “enough about you… let’s talk about me for a minute.”

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Weekly Roundup: In My Mind I’m Leaving Carolina Edition

It was a busy week. I covered a few miles on my road bike each day, did more writing than I wanted to, parented where necessary and went hands-off where possible. The kid had a good time, and so did his cousins. Time to head back.

Given another week, I might have gotten halfway decent at dealing with the 97-degree heat and the remarkably humid air, which resembled nothing so much as a wet sock. The best I could do for a rolling average was 16.7mph. On the positive side, I managed to thoroughly test some great USA-made cycling apparel. More on that later, let’s roll tape on this week’s publications.

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Weekly Roundup: Thelonious Bike Edition

Consistency, the man said, is the hobgoblin of little minds. When I returned to BMX riding about sixteen months ago, I didn’t have a lot of respect for the so-called “dirtjumper” bikes, those odd and awkward hybrids of 26″ wheel, suspension fork, and BMX geometry. I thought of them as “easy buttons” for big jumps and difficult lines down a trail.

The more I saw of them, however, the more I liked the idea of having a little more stability. Breaking my ribs and my arm at an indoor bike park last year made me even more receptive to the idea of a bicycle that would dial back the penalties for small mistakes in the air. So here’s my brand-new Chromag Monk dirt-jumper. It’s basically a dead-stock Chromag complete with different colors on a few parts. It took Chromag a full six months to deliver it to me, because these things are only in slightly less demand than new Ferrari 488GTBs.

This loneliest Monk and I are getting along pretty well. One thing I don’t like about it: the frame was made in Taiwan. I offered to pay Chromag their standard frame rate to do a Canadian-made Monk, but they refused. So I’ll probably have Mike Laird duplicate this frame in titanium over the upcoming winter then rebuild the bike around Chris King wheels and the new frame.

To see what these bikes are really capable of, and to catch up on my writing from last week, click the jump.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Midwestern Kids Are Alright Edition

“I can’t do it.” Earlier in the morning I’d seen this boy clear a ten-foot double jump, arrogantly hanging the back wheel out motorcross style, without breaking a sweat. He would go on to win his race that day by more than ten yards, bunnyhopping the finish line in a display of exuberance mixed with outstanding fitness even in the ninety-degree heat. But now he was trembling as he clutched the flagpole. “I’ll drop it. I can’t do it one-handed. The flag,” he whispered, “could touch the ground.

His mother, standing by the ground next to the tabletop jump on which her son was vibrating with fear and concern, pointed her finger up towards his face. Her tank top fell away from her shoulder and I could see the faded Technicolor of a half-dozen different philosophies in tattooing. One of them was a man’s name in cigarette-ink blue, followed by “USMC”.

“You,” she snapped, “can absolutely do it and I don’t wanna hear no excuses neither.”

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: It’s Just Another Manic Mustang Edition

Sometimes you make your own problems. I didn’t make the right call for rear tire pressure before the start of this race, so for the first three or four laps the back end of the car was on rollerskates until I got enough heat for them to stick. As a consequence, it took me a few laps and a couple of close calls, shown above, to make it to the front of my starting group. If you like V-shaped Honda engines, you’ll want to crank up the sound.

In the end, it didn’t matter. I was the overall Honda Challenge winner, setting a new lap record of 1:39.137 for Mid-Ohio’s Club Course in the process. I caught all but four of the cars in the start groups ahead of me, moving up 23 spots to finish fifth overall. Of the thirteen laps I drove in the race, seven were good enough for fast lap of the race and my last lap was record-setter. I now lead the Honda Challenge standings with 5 wins in 5 starts.

None of this could have happened without help. I had a four-person crew this weekend: Josh and Reese took time out from their own driving and classroom schedules to do everything from loading the trailer to fixing an electrical problem that was causing Spike The Accord to cut out on right-hand turns. The infamous Danger Girl set a 1:50.26 in her stock 2014 MX5 Club around the Pro layout on Saturday and a 1:51.84 around Club on Sunday but she also handled all the logistics, meals, and grown-up decisions along the way. Last but not least, my son pitched in on Sunday to do things like return transponders, carry tools, and encourage his dad to set yet another track record in America’s last muscle car. He wouldn’t want me to tell you, but he set a track record of his own last week, running a 41.602 at GPK in Columbus and beating the next-fastest junior driver by a scarcely credible 2.9 seconds. This weekend he met our regional director, who explained to him that with a sufficient karting resume he could be replacing me in the Accord in April of 2022, when he turns 13.

We will have to ballast the car.

If you’ve enjoyed my Harkonnen-fist domination of Honda Challenge racing this year, why not help me pay for it by reading the stories I wrote last week?

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Weekly Roundup: Confessions Of A Yakuza Edition

It is widely acknowledged that creativity and inventiveness wane greatly in the face of youth. Einstein made his breakthroughs before thirty then famously stated that a scientist who had not made a great contribution before thirty would never do so. Writers tend to lose steam as they leave middle age, if not before. Then, of course, you have musicians, who often do their best work before they turn twenty-one and whose later efforts are often shambolic at best.

No surprise, however, that Bob Dylan is the exception to that rule. Love And Theft, recorded after his fifty-ninth birthday and slightly overlooked on its release date of September 11, 2001, stands easily among his most famous work. Most of the songs are musically simple, but that’s always been the case for the man who was born as Robert Zimmerman but whose reinvention as “Bob Dylan” was but the first of many such transformations. With Love And Theft it’s the odd rhythms of the storytelling, the wild swings between sentimentality and hard-nosed realism, the sly way in which the lyrics work their way into your ear.

Not all of the lyrics are his.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Putting The Hog In Hogwarts Edition

After more than a decade of driving other people’s race cars, I’ve learned that it’s important to have The Talk as early as possible in the negotiation process. I’m not referring to “the talk” that black parents are supposed to have with their children about the police, or Derbyshire’s “the talk” that white parents are supposed to have with their children; I think both of those “talks” verge on the ridiculous. Rather, I’m referring to “the talk” about whether or not I’m going to fit in their race car.

Sometimes, as with the vast majority of GT4 racers and other customer cars, it’s not an issue. Other times, as with the majority of vintage open-wheel racers, it’s a complete impossibility. For the ones in the middle, such as the McLaren MP4-GT3 or a Caterham 300.R, it’s a matter of making it work. My fitment issues usually center around my exceptionally long torso and wider-than-normal shoulders — but there are also times that I’m just too fucking fat to fit into the seat.

Being too fat to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a reflection of my choices. Being too tall to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a natural consequence of being six-foot-two with short legs. There are writers out there, such as Chris Harris or Sam Smith or my own brother, who are literally a better fit for those opportunities. I don’t feel victimized by that. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt victimized by anything.

Apparently, I’m really missing out.

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