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.
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.