(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Art Of Reigning In The Race Edition

Eleven days before this past weekend’s NASA double regional race and driver-training weekend at NCM, Danger Girl decided she wanted to drive her street Miata, “Ava”, (as opposed to her racing Miata, “Marilyn”) at the event. What I probably should have done: agreed to just go down there with her, hang out, and support her effort. What I actually did was to register Spike in the race the following day.

What followed was a frenetic week of getting the car and myself NASA-legal. Have you ever tried to get a racing physical, complete with EKG, on a few hours’ notice? I didn’t get my tires delivered until 5:45PM on Friday night. While I was waiting for the tires, I had to install new belts because the old ones had “expired” a month ago. The only safety belts available in town? The Racequip children’s set. There was so little slack left over from the install, I had to beg the tech inspector not to fail me an hour before the race. Plus. I knew that if I hit anything I would probably, uh, regret it.

I shouldn’t have worried.

On Sunday, I started dead last in my 5-car Honda Challenge field and also dead last in the field of 28 cars overall. After a standing start, I was 2nd in class by Turn 2 and in the lead by Turn 12. I ended up making up ten spots in the overall on my way to a absolute massacre of a Honda Challenge win. It wasn’t without difficulty; my brakes called in sick after the fourth lap and I had a very unpleasant set of interactions with a BMW that went off track in front of me and then almost hit me from behind after the checkered flag. But in the end I was twenty seconds ahead of the field despite saving the brakes.

So that was Sunday. What about Saturday? Well, on Saturday it was 38 degrees and raining with just about monsoon force. It was one of those situations where the radar looks like the Soviet flag. Since I hadn’t had the time to find a set of rain tires that were legal for Honda Challenge, I was bumped into “Super Unlimited”, which is the top NASA class. Using the old Pirelli rain rubber that I inherited from Spike’s previous owner, I qualified second in Super Unlimited, ahead of everything from two Saker prototypes to an IMSA Cayman. They started our class behind the Super Touring 2 Corvettes and Mustangs for maximum lulz. At the start I grabbed a few positions and went on to finish 2nd in class and 4th overall. I lapped the winner of Honda Challenge as well, perhaps proving that the series director was right to bounce me up to the unlimited class.

I won’t say it was the best race of my life, but it was certainly the most frightening. Every time I hit the deep puddles on the long back straight, I was basically a passenger in a 110-mph unguided missile. It’s no wonder that a few cars went into the wall and a few more just gave up after the first couple of laps. It’s one of those things that felt like absolute misery at the moment but is very satisfying to recall. I went into the weekend thinking I was going to get lapped by a bunch of clued-in dudes driving max-tuned S2000s. In the end, they all had to yield to my 3,176-pound (with driver and full tank) Accord family car. I might not be winning any BMX races nowadays but I can still get it done behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, Danger Girl had a great two days with Ava, battling the front-wheel-drive econocars on the rainy day then hunting down Porsches on the dry day. I would say that not a dollar’s worth of damage was done to anything but that’s not true because my U-Haul trailer popped off the hitch and bonked my Silverado in the tailgate while I was loading Spike at Sunday’s end. Until further notice, I’ll consider that five-inch to-the-primer scrape to be a battle scar. But if you see a nice Silverado LTZ electric tailgate in work truck white out there, please feel free to steal it on my behalf!

Alright, let’s get to the contribution. For R&T, I wrote about why some cars will be better-suited to the roads of the future than others.

At TTAC, brother Bark was kicking Buick while they’re down.

As always, thank you for reading… I have a few things I will be putting on this site in the days to come, so check back!

31 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Art Of Reigning In The Race Edition”

  1. Jonathan Edwards

    I would say that your driving skill made all the difference, but I can’t accurately gauge the incredible effectiveness of that “Ashley Madison” sticker. With a sponsor like that, of course you are good in the wet.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Just get them back up to World Challenge spec. The pads and fluid were both leftovers from 2017.

  2. Nick D

    Outstanding. I had my first really wet race at Gingerman (6” of rain on Saturday and 3” on Sunday). We were leading our class, and doing some pretty good damage to the next faster class, then this happened with me driving. http://www.murileemartin.com/Crap/DustBusterSpin-Animated.gif

    The tow truck kept pulling me even though I could have driven to the penalty box, but I didn’t know the hand signal for ‘drop the strap I’m fine’ and we were out of contention after that.

    • Robert

      “In the end, they all had to yield to my 3,176-pound (with driver and full tank) Accord family car.“ That is so satisfying. My first real track day was at the nasa season opener at MSR Houston in January, DE1. My second session it was pouring rain. Reeling in the pony cars and getting the point by was fiendishly fun. Halfway through the session my instructor said “you’re the fastest guy out here, I’m just going to sit back and watch,”

      They got their revenge later https://youtu.be/HxOsDRsOxV4

  3. Ryan C

    The “Roads of the Future” article was really good, but I feel like you missed the obvious avenue: rally cars!

    A WRX is basically what you’re asking for, once you give it a bit more ground clearance and higher profile tires. Similarly, you can do the same with all manner of small cars and CUVs that are out there, everything from a Juke Nismo to a FoRS (though if this caught on, Ford would be missing out if they didn’t build, I dunno, an Escape Raptor…).

    This adds AWD to the formula you’ve proposed, but that’s pretty trendy anyway, so you are telling a performance story that people want, and that works well in an urban setting.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I agree… but I would personally rather drive a lifted Coyote Mustang than a WRX. That’s just me.

    • rpn453

      That was my buddy’s strategy for a winter toy. He bought a lightly hail-damaged ’05 Legacy GT; put the STi turbo in and tuned it up to around 350hp; installed a set of studded 205/55R17 Hakka8s in place of the stock 215/45R17 size; and got a 1.5″ lift kit, which is basically just spacers on the strut mounts.

      I don’t think I will ever buy tires with the factory sidewall height again. I went with 205/60R16 studded Gislaveds instead of the stock 205/55R16 for my current winter tires. But I’d do the same for summer tires. A little more rubber almost always fits and you can never have too much on the terrible roads I use.

  4. rightwingleftwingchickenwing

    No, I never tried to get a physical performed with a few hours notice. I do dream of it though. It took me thirty days to get an appointment for a drivers medical. My follow up to review the tests are scheduled five weeks from the day of the appointment. I don’t want to go racing, I just want to renew my driver’s license.

  5. SIV

    Have you ever tried to get a racing physical, complete with EKG, on a few hours’ notice?


    A racing physical?

    Thank God Tazio Nuvolari never had to pass any damn “racing physical”.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Speaking as someone who had a whole race car totaled after being hit by a driver who was suffering from advancing glaucoma, I’m okay with the idea of requiring medical clearance.

      I *did* get an SCCA podium last year with broken ribs and a fractured right arm but that’s me being stupid.

  6. stingray65

    I also enjoyed your Roads to the Future article, but what you are suggesting already existed until the early 1980s when tire profiles started to shrink. My C2 Corvette had lots of ground clearance, its 70 series tires kept my knock-offs safe from pothole damage, and with 53% of the weight on the rear tires and monster torque it was also excellent on winter roads – just leave it in 4th gear at all times.

    I was recently watching some episodes of Highway Patrol on YouTube (1955-59) and they are always driving their big Buick patrol cars on fire trails and field roads that today’s drivers would insist require an SUV with full-time 4WD and computer controlled traction control programming.

    • dejal

      And not seen was the pile of Buicks off camera reminiscent of a Dukes Of Hazzard set. The Dukes drove off road a lot and supposedly used up 309 Chargers.

      • -Nate

        In reality those old cars handled dirt roads just fine though not at racing speeds .

        I know, I used to drive crappy dirt roads in New England in old cars .

        Good article here .


        • stingray65

          NASCAR was started by a bunch of moonshiners that drove tuned up V-8 Fords on dirt roads all over the south evading revenuers, and the NASCAR racers into the early 60s were literally stock Detroit coupes with a rollbar and seatbelts added, and taped up headlights, with 90+% of the races run on dirt and mud tracks with mediocre grading and lots of ruts and bumps, so yes regular cars could certainly move along pretty well on dirt during that era.

          • -Nate

            We didn’t run ‘shine but we sure as hell thrashed cars on those bumpy back roads ! (imagine heart inserted here)


  7. Rick T.

    Off topic but is anybody else not getting email notifications of new posts? Haven’t seen one in several weeks.

  8. Zykotec

    Congratulations on the race results .
    And I totally agree that we can call the 1979 AMC Eagle SX/4 the car of the future 🙂 (Or the ’66 Jensen Interceptor FF or the Subaru Leone, or the Audi Quattro coupe or the X6, X4, or Crosstour and the list goes on)

  9. tyates

    Bark’s “Dealers don’t need Buick” was an interesting article on one of my favorite topics – the disastrous effects of poorly thought out incentives. If dealers always have to sell one more Buick than last quarter to get their bonus I would assume that’s going to end with them just selling their Buicks to each other.


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