20th Sep2013

Drift Utah 6

by Michael Chandler

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The sun rose over a chilly Miller Motorsports Park.  The rain had stopped, but the already slick surface of the west paddock was puddle ridden.  The drivers arrived and unloaded their cars, and prepared them for a full day of drifting.

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Nick and Brandon gathered the drivers for a meeting and a rundown of the course.  Some showers had returned, which made it feel even colder than it did earlier.  After fielding few questions and introducing the DJ (Joey Harrington, aka G-Type, aka The Hair, aka Trueno the Panda), the drivers went out for a parade lap.  And then the fun began

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The guys took the first few cuts somewhat conservatively.  I say somewhat, because the slick track was a bit of a trick to get used to with the water.

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The cones at the entry of the first big right hander took a beating from a few of the drivers, but then OP went on course…

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DERP!  By the way, the E36 M3 is apparently built like a tank.  His car showed no signs of damage, and he gave ride alongs the rest of the day.

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Turbo and N/A S chassis were taking cuts, mustaches not required.

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Your favorite Pro/Am drivers and the resident Formula D driver were out giving ride alongs, and showing off some tandem skills.

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Then this showed up.  Things were getting wild, crazy even.

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Thankfully a contest broke out, which calmed things down.  David Curtis took the win, and whatever prize came with the respect and adulation.  All was calm.

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Well, at least it wasn’t weird.

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What the hell?

The last and final event of the Drift Utah season is tomorrow, September 21, in the Midway at Miller Motorsports Park.  $6 to watch, $5 for a single ride along, $20 for an all day Ride Alone Pass, $90 to come take some solo cuts, $140 to dance with a partner.  Register here, and make sure to come spectate by 4pm.  Thats when the contest starts!

And as always:

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Words and photos by Michael Chandler

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.
16th Sep2013

NASA National Championships

by Michael Chandler

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NASA racers and support crew swarmed Miller Motorsports Park between the 4th and 8th of September for the NASA National Championships.  Every class of NASA sanctioned racer were out there, along with your humble reporter/photographer.  Well, the teams were there the whole time.  I, unfortunately, only made it out on Friday the 6th, but I brought you pictures!  And results!

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Us Against One Clothing printed up some stickers for the locals to run if they chose to.  The locals weren’t going to roll over and make it easy for the out of towners to win.

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The American Iron (AI), American Iron Extreme (AIX) and Camaro Mustang Challenge (CMC) guys were taking advantage of the Full Course layout by doing what Camaros and Mustangs do best: go fast in a straight line.  There were plenty of straights for them to wring their pony cars out.  The AI and AIX classes were dominated by Mustangs that made the trip to Miller Motorsports Park from as far away as Ohio!  But it wasn’t all Mustangs (well, the winners were all piloting Mustangs) or out of towners.

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Gary Free in his RaceCo prepped, South Towne Storage sponsored FR500S took fourth in AIX, besting two other competitors.  Corey Weber and Todd Davis brought out some classic American wheels to compete with.  Weber took fourth in AI while Davis took tenth.

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TTU, 1, and 2 were dominated by the home team.  Kyle Schick ran a blistering 1:55 to take TTU, while Shawn Murphy and his full interior STi took TT1 with a 2:03.  Smith-Burke Racing took TT2 by two tenths of a second!  Their 2:01.039 was just barely quick enough for the title, while Greg Valdez missed out on the podium by four tenths.  He still managed to out run a twin turbo 911 and a 911 GT3 by four and six seconds respectively.

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George Smith took the fight to the STR-1 crowd and emerged with the title in the JDP Motorsports/Smith Marketing Services C5 Corvette.  Corvettes appeared on the podium in ST2 (won by Smith-Burke Racing), ST3 and SU, with outright wins in ST2 and 3!

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SU field was the most exotic.  A pair of  prototype-esqe cars, a pair of Thunder Roadsters, a Viper, a Honda S2000 and a Corvette all vied for the title, but when the checkered flag dropped the #7 Elan DP02 of Jon Van Canegham emerged victorious.

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Also, the Brits were represented.

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Spec Miata was arguably the most action packed field.  Most of the packs were at least four cars deep, and dueling pairs of Miatas and lone Miatas were more the exception than the rule.  Blinkers were left on, doors were smashed, it was one of the more fun groups to see tear it up.  When the dust settled Matt Schultz climbed atop the podium.  He represents the NASA Northwest region.  The best the hometown crew could do was 13th (Chris Bond, 007).  Can’t win them all…

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If Spec Miata was the most action packed, most fun group to watch; then the GTS group was the prettiest.  Porsches and BMWs running hard lap after lap.  The sight was glorious, and the noise was epic!

Out of a possible twenty-eight championships, MMP locals took six.  Nearly one quarter of your NASA National Champions call Miller Motorsports Park home…  Well, not literally, but you get my drift.  The number could’ve been more just as easily as less.  Brendon Stewart’s Evo was still in pieces, Jason Smith sold his very quick Civic, Travis Williams’s FR500S was still down from the endurance race, and I’m not sure where Dave Dingman disappeared to.  Sally McNulty’s WRX was dealing with a bad head gasket, Jordan Priestly was doing support work for some of the drivers.  Those are six locals who could’ve competed for, if not taken a championship.  And we’ll just gloss over the Snows and John Potter, because we know how well they usually do.

The championship trophies may have been handed out, but the racing isn’t over for the season.  The final two events are in October: 4th-6th on the West track and 25th and 26th on the Outer Loop.  Still plenty of good times to be had, and for the TT guys, faster laps since it *should* be cooler out.

A full list of winners, placers, show-ers, just missed its and also rans can be found here.  BUT since you’re here, I present you with a list of the Champions, their class and their home region:

  • Alec Udell, American Iron, Texas
  • John Miksula, American Iron Extreme, Midwest
  • Aaron McSpadden, Camaro Mustang Challenge, Texas
  • Matt Schultz, Spec Miata, Northwest
  • David Schotz, TTB & C, Arizona
  • Sonny Watanasirisuk, TTD, California-Southern
  • Jason Kohler, TTE, Great Lakes
  • George Smith, STR1, Rocky Mountain
  • Michael von Quilich, Super Touring 1, California-Southern
  • Team Smith-Burke Racing, Super Touring 2, Utah
  • Kenneth Smith, Super Touring 3, Great Lakes
  • Jon Van Caneghem, Super Unlimited, California-Southern
  • Tyler Palmer, 944 Spec, California-Southern
  • Dick Hunter, GTS2, Texas
  • Tony Colicchio, GTS3, California-Northern
  • Michael McAleenan, GTS4, Northwest
  • Peter Spencer, GTS5, Utah
  • David Schotz, PTB, Arizona
  • Dennis Holloway, PTC, California-Southern
  • Need Speed Orozco, PTD, California-Southern
  • Jason Kohler, PTE, Great Lakes
  • Walter Carlos, PTF, California-Southern
  • David Dirks, Spec Z, Rocky Mountain
  • Shawn Murphy, TT1, Utah
  • Team Smith-Burke Racing, TT2, Utah
  • Christopher Mayfield, TT3, Rocky Mountain
  • Kyle Schick, TTU, Utah 

And there you have it.  See you in a a few weeks, and because I told them this is where to look, here’s a picture of this AIX Mustang:

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-Words and Photos by Michael Chandler

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.
10th Sep2013

PHOTOS: Locals Win Big at NASA Nationals

by Michael Chandler

This past weekend Miller Motorsports Park hosted the 2013 NASA National Championships, and the MMP Locals held down the fort against the out of towners!

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Kyle Schick: TTU Champ in the RaceCo prepped Nissan GTR

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Shawn Murphy: TT1 Champ in the GrimmSpeed/The Boost Creep Limited STi

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James Burke: TT2 Champ in the JDP C5 Corvette

And barely missing out on the podium by FOUR TENTHS of a second

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Greg Valdez in #lelantos, the Ziptie Dynowerks/GolfTec/DC Spinal Care STi.

More photos are coming down the pipe, but in the meantime enjoy these photos of some of your favorite champions.  They might not have all gotten hardware, but they’re definitely winners regardless.

Words and photos by Michael Chandler

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.
05th Sep2013

Western Endurance Racing Championship at Miller Motorsports Park part 2

by Michael Chandler

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I arrived back in the pits to find…  The Mustang, in one piece and not on fire.  As it turns out “blew up” means different things to different people.  Unfortunately the clutch gave out, which ended the day for Travis, Todd, Dave and Jason.  It was a melancholy scene, but the hour and a half they were out there wasn’t so bad.  They’re night was done, but for others the evening was about to begin.

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Racing is a physical effort, which is why the drivers do their best to stay in some semblance of shape.  Some take it a bit more serious than others…  Seeing a man do lunges and jog across three pit stalls is a sight I don’t think I will ever forget.  As he was preparing his body and mind for the stint ahead, RaceCo was bringing their guy in for a driver change and fuel stop.

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Intense doesn’t even begin to describe the atmosphere during an endurance race pit stop.  There are a lot of moving parts and, while longer than pit stops in other motor sports, time is a huge factor.  Those extra seconds add up, and turn in to minutes, which over the course of a six hour race could become tens of minutes.  Cole Powelson, driver and chief push broom technician at RaceCo, hopped out and declared himself #1 after relaying some information about the car.  He had a couple of minutes to relax and change before it got windy again…

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Wind can be handled, but the dust and lack of visibility could cause havoc.  Seeing from Clubhouse to Release was almost impossible, even if you were standing in between the turns.  Mercifully the winds died down and visibility picked back up.  I gathered my things, hopped in my car and made my way to Black Rock, the first in a series of hairpin turns on the west section of the track.

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The turn sits at the end of a high speed section, so naturally this is where the brakes would see the most use.  Everyone was lighting up their brake rotors, especially the vehicles that carried buckets of speed in to the turn.  The Factory Five GTM and the Radical had absolutely no problem cooking their brakes coming in to the turn, lap after lap after lap.

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With the sunset painting the sky with hues of orange, blue, purple and magenta, the on track action almost seemed like an added bonus.  There was barely enough light in the sky to illuminate the racers, and when that faded we all had to resort to artificial means of light.

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The cars would cast eery slivers of light on to the track, illuminating only what was in their immediate path.  Their tail lights were the eyes of shifty demons scurrying about the track, looking for a victim to terrorize.  It was quite a sight to behold, and a rather difficult one to capture.  Unable to capture thin windows of light, I did something that seemed like a good idea: setting the camera on a tripod and capturing the trails of light the cars were leaving behind.

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Most everyone had bright, white lights.  Everyone, except the Radical.  It had a white LED light bar on the roll hoop, but red orange lights on the front of the car.  The track took on a sinister glow when it passed.  It left a devilish red-orange trail with a little white halo above it.  It was also hitting the curbing, which can be seen by the ripples on the left side of the picture.  Most everyone else played it safe and only touched the curbing while taking  as straight a path through the Attitudes as they could.

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I don’t like saying it, but the grand stands on the race weekends I have been in attendance have been rather empty.  This night was no exception.  One of the best spots to watch a race from are the stands on the outside of Release, the track’s final turn before the straight.  From those seats one can see cars coming through Witchcraft and disappear as the cross the Attitudes.  They reappear just past the clubhouse, and you can see them all the way until they dip out of sight as they travel through turn 1.

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I returned to the pits, and made my way through lifeless GP garages to a dark and busy pit lane.  Privateers and factory backed crews toiled under the work lights to ready their cars for another stint.  By this time everyone was preparing for their last outing on the track for the night.  The drivers were exhausted, the crews were fatigued but still they fought on.

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The end was in sight for those still driving.  Last minute information was relayed to drivers, fuel was topped off, lights were cleaned and finally the engines were fired.  Off in to the blackness one more time…

Words and photos by Michael Chandler

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.


03rd Sep2013

Western Endurance Racing Championship at Miller Motorsports Park Part 1

by Michael Chandler

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This was going to be an entirely different article.  It was going to be like the old Honda Challenge stuff we did: chronicling the local guys on their home track as the battle the out of towners.  I was going to talk about how Dave Dingman, Todd Ainsworth, Travis Williams and last second addition Jason Smith took the fight to them over the course of the six hour race.  It was going to be heroic and epic and all of those things.

But then their day went belly up.  Here’s how it happened: Dave went out first, and irony found him.  See, Dave pilots the Freeway Mazda Miata we all know and love in the NASA Utah events.  As he was out in Travis’s FR500S Mustang was hit by a (wait for it) Miata.  This prompted the stewardess to tell Travis and Jason that he had thirty minutes to come in and file a report.  If he didn’t the team would receive a five minute penalty.

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After a brief discussion, the team decided to leave him out.  When he came in they’d get his side of the story, top him off with fuel and send him on his marry way.  His side of the story goes something like this: he gave the Miata plenty of room going in to turn one, but closed the door because thats how his line was.  The Miata, seeing that there wasn’t any room, decided to stick its nose in there.  Contact was made, it was the Miata’s fault.  Anyway, the team didn’t have radios so Travis grabbed a white board and a red marker to communicate to Dave that he was to come in.  He scribbled something on the board and ran to the pit wall.

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As it turns out, it’s hard to see red on white as you’re at speed with the sun in your face.  The crew in the next pit stall noticed Travis’s mistake, gave Jason a black marker, and the sign was re-scribbled.  Travis again ran to the pit wall and held the sign.  It worked better that time around, and Dave came in.

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Travis got Dave’s story and explained the situation.  He also made sure Dave stayed strapped in, because if he unstrapped then his stint would be over.  Jason topped off the fuel tank and Todd held the fire extinguisher just in case.  The tank was brimmed after some more conversation, and Dave took off making sure not to abuse the clutch upon his exit.  They weren’t going to leave him out there for too much longer, so I hung around the pits so as to not miss the driver change.

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The professionals at RaceCo were a few stalls down, showcasing the professionalism, enthusiasm for produce and the proper way to kinda listen to someone’s story about something…or whatever.  They were also fielding a FR500S Mustang in the race.  The competition had been meet, and they had watermelon and a canopy in their stall.  More on them later, because Dave was about to come in for the first driver change of team TRADINGWOR’s night.

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Dave out, Todd and fuel in.  Dave took over fire extinguisher duties, while Travis helped Todd get settled in.  Jason, and his Vans, manned the fuel can.  Notes were passed between the drivers and the rest of the team.  I imagine that this is what it was like in the fifties.  All the drivers had other responsibilities and the only time they could communicate what the car was doing or feeling like was when they came in for fuel and fresh rubber.  Except I don’t think anyone would be wearing bright red shoes, but I could very well be wrong.

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Todd left gingerly, but not any harder than you or I leaving a stop light quickly.  Dave proceeded to tell us his story, and show us when the Miata decided to test just how small it was.  He also mentioned that the car felt good, and he wasn’t using the clutch much.  He was rev matching up and down shifts because he wanted to keep the clutch for later in the night.  Remember: it was a marathon, not a sprint.  With that handled, I hopped in the Subaru and made my way to turn one to catch some of the cars on track.

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Miller is a challenging track for many reasons, but one reason I have heard many times is it’s very dusty.  This is because the track is built in the middle of high desert grazing land, which will grow wild grasses and other native vegetation but not a whole lot else.  The track is never going to look like Road America, and that’s not a huge problem.  Willow Springs is in the middle of a desert in the middle of nowhere, and it does plenty fine.  However, that lack of vegetation has one drawback.  That drawback, coupled with the recently constructed motocross track in the infield of the east half of the road course, can become a calamity when it gets windy…  Like it did the whole weekend and pretty much every evening in Tooele county.  Eventually the wind died down and visibility returned to a safe level.

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An HPD backed Fit was out.  They were banking on only having to stop a few times for fuel.  They were also excited by the prospect of being lapped so it would look like they were in the race!  That’s the kind of optimism and creative thinking we like around here.  We also like E30 BMWs with crazy light bars, because who needs lights in factory locations when you have a bunch of really bright LEDs on your hood?  Oh, and there was the very patriotic Factory Five GTM.  Nothing says freedom like a mid-engined LS powered car you can assemble in your garage.

I sent a text to my friend Jenny to inform her that Jason was going to be driving the #22 Mustang.  The pack passed by a few more times before she responded.  Her response was concise and very concerning:

“I knooowwwww It just blew up though! :(”

After seeing that a few thoughts raced through my head: where did it blow up?  Why wasn’t there a yellow flag?  Why wasn’t the safety crew rolling out?  Did I miss them on the track the whole time I was stand on the outside of turn one?  I ran back to the Subaru and double timed it to the pits.

Did the car blow up?  Was Todd horribly disfigured?  Does Travis have to buy a new car?  Where are the night shots?  All of these questions will be answered in the thrilling conclusion!