To Finish 45th Out Of 60, First You Must Finish

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It was six years ago that my Neon last completed a NASA race. In the time since, I’ve raced everything from the 24 Hours of Lemons to Grand-Am Koni Challenge, won a ChumpCar race, won an AER race, won a NASA race in another car, and completed well over one hundred days on-track in other cars. Last year, I dragged the Neon out of the garage and spent a fairly troubling amount of money and time to qualify for, but not start, a NASA event at Mid-Ohio.

My goal for this weekend was to finish a race, even if we couldn’t impress anyone with our pace. Well, consider that goal met.


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My three-man pit crew of Dan, Jon, and my son John wasn’t able to get the car ready in time for the warm-up, and we didn’t complete a full lap in qualifying, meaning that we started at the back of our six-car field. At the green flag, I fell back immediately as the engine cut out repeatedly around 5000rpm, causing me to yield to a bunch of 944 Spec racers as well as the fastest of the Spec Miatas. After discerning that I was running in last place, my son refused to speak to me on the radio.

After knocking some of the accumulated crust off my Toyo 888 tires (date-stamped 2007), I managed to catch up to a red and white 944 and make a pass. “Congratulations, Daddy!” John told me. After fourteen laps, they threw the checker. We finished 5th of 6 in class, and 45th of 60 overall. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a NASA race that far behind the leaders. Still, it’s a finish. My fast lap of 1:48.6 was a full five seconds behind the best lap posted by the winning car. However, the data shows that our new engine is stronger than the old one up to 5000rpm. Problem is, I need 7000rpm to win something.

The team’s working right now to track down the cause of the cutting out. I’m going to get some rest and try to find some time in my cornering data. Tomorrow is another day — but having a race in the books after six years is worth celebrating.

14 Replies to “To Finish 45th Out Of 60, First You Must Finish”

  1. E. Bryant

    Congrats! A crappy day on the track is still more satisfying than a good day in the stands.

  2. Ryan

    Glad you got the Neon back out. That’s how I originally stumbled upon your writing.

    Are you still running a 2.0 (SOHC I’d guess for longevity?) or did you move up to a 2.4? If 2.4, how’d you get the top end to handle things at high RPM?

    I have a mint 96 sedan that has been in pieces and a .020 over block with DOHC pistons and an 01 Mag head I have been throwing together for a Chumpcar or AER. Have been thinking of dumping a running junkyard engine in the shell and picking up an old Specneon with a Quaife, Konis, etc.

    My thought process was it would be a much wiser decision to start learning how to drive on that than my Z06.

    • JackJack Post author

      It’s a 2.4L from a Voyager.

      I’d like to do a cam and valvetrain upgrade but we have to make it run stock first. 🙁

      You’re right about that Neon v. Z06 btw.

      • Athos

        Are you running a stock ECM/PCM/ECU or an aftermarket one?

        Also, what calibration is in there, 2.0 or 2.4?

        Is it cutting under load or you can rev it to 7K while it’s sitting?

      • Danio

        We run the same engines in our Stratus LeMons car. I assume the balance shafts were removed as they noticeably restrict performance on these, not that this would be the cause of your misfire. At 5k, that would likely be plugs, wires, coil or crank sensor. All these parts are cheap, so you can afford to throw parts at it. We had similar issues at Gingerman in April and a new coil solved it.

        If your 2.4L is stock, I’m not sure revving it out to 7k would get you much benefit. 6k tops with peak power in the low-mid 5k range.

  3. jstyer

    Congrats, I know the feeling.

    I just wrapped up a WRL race in College Station last weekend. First wheel to wheel in over 2 years. I can’t recommend the series enough… Super straightforward tech, straightforward rule book, and the racing was fantastic! Beats the pants off Lemons and Chump racing IMO. The e30 dropped a valve 33 minutes in, but they let us run our spec miata through tech and drive the second half of day 1 and day 2. Ended up 61st out of 88, and we missed 4 hours of running… But I’ll take it.

    Joey and his crew run an amazing organization, you should check it out.

  4. Bozi

    Sounds like you are running the Voyager/Caravan EDZ engine? Are you running a MAF or MAP setup? What type of ECM? What type of ignition? Where does it cut out?

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