February 2, 2023

Honda Challenge Day 4

Day four: championship day. The day in which all of the effort and work we put into the cars would pay off; however, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

The championship race was scheduled to begin at 1:40PM, roughly two hours after I had arrived. That two hours would be plenty of time to button up the cars, so Crew Chief Eric stayed behind to do so while the rest of us went off to the last free lunch of the week. Oh, and something about a driver’s meeting for Kris and Randy.

Before I discuss the Cheese Steak like sandwiches we had for lunch, let me tell you about the Boy Scouts. No, I’m not plugging them like President Ford did, I’m going to tell you how a Scout jambaroo puked all over the track. Thousands of Scouts, Scout leaders, parents and families were wandering around the paddock, inching too close to the cars and impeding the movement of everyone and everything there. I almost ran over twenty or thirty myself on the way in. They would just wander down the middle of clearly marked two-lane avenues NEEDED for vehicles to move about the track. They did not notice, nor care that an edgy, fire breathing car was trying to get past them. Thankfully, nobody was killed although they did hold us up for lunch.

Lunch was good, like it was the day before. Nothing out of the ordinary happened with the meal, nor with the driver’s meeting. But they did make a couple of announcements that surprised me. First was that the race was being filmed for TV, and because of that every car needed to have a Honda Challenge windshield banner, Honda Performance Development stickers and if you were in an Acura (like Kris and Randy) you needed to have an Acura Motorsports sticker on your rear quarter panels. Everyone had them, but Kris was coming under fire because his wasn’t easy to read to due the camo vinyl wrap on his car. Nothing could be done at this point, and they couldn’t keep him off the track because he did have it. But they let him know they couldn’t see it, many times. The other, and bigger in my mind, announcement was that they were going to have a standing start instead of the rolling starts they’ve been having. This changed my plans for shooting the race, because like a moron genius I wanted to shoot the start from the pit wall. Anyway, lunch ended and we went back to the pit to get the cars ready for the race.

At this point we were forty minutes away from the race, and it looked like all we had to do was fuel up the cars, put the wheels on, get the cars on the ground and warm them up. While the crew was doing that I would be getting a vest for Randy’s friend so he could shoot track side with me and Kel. It seemed like it would be easy and done with before we knew it. This was not the case, as we noticed C.C. Eric still doing something under Randy’s hood. As it turns out he was installing something that would make the engine more responsive; the something being a vacuum pump to help with crankcase ventilation. This was a good idea, if we had done it earlier. The race was less than forty minutes away, the championship race. The other competitors were beginning to pre-grid as all this was happening. I helped wipe down the cars, grabbed Randy’s friend and went to get him his vest.

We got his vest eight minutes before the start. We grabbed Kel and ran out to the wall, nearly getting run over by a blue and white RSX in the process. We got to our spots and set up as the cars were lining up. The green flag dropped and every one of the H1 cars shot off the line. Except a black S2000 CR, which stalled out and was almost rear ended by a yellow S2000, and Kris and Randy. Where were they? In the pits. At the time I didn’t know this, so instinctively I thought they were DQ’d for not being there on time. We shot the H2 class start, then made our way to the series of turns called “The Attitudes”.

On the way over we saw Kris, Randy and the black S2000 making their way around the track. However, by the time we reached our destination Randy and the black S2000 had gone missing and a full course caution had been issued. The three of them were jockeying for position when the black S2000 spun. Randy tried to avoid him, but to no avail. They collided, sending Randy to the pits and requiring a tow truck to retrieve what was left of the S2000. A tragedy for Randy and the crew of the S2000, but a blessing for Kris. The yellow separated the two classes, allowing Kris to by pass all of the H2 cars and catch up to the H1 pack. It was a new race at the second drop of the green flag.

Kris moved up with each lap, eventually winding up in 3rd place by the time he reached our new position at the hairpin turn known as “Black Rock”. His place on the podium was guaranteed by no one, and this was soon proven. Towards the end of the race, exiting turn fifteen onto the 3500 foot long straight, he lost power. He said he was up around the rev-limiter when he heard a bang. The car was down on power for the remainder of the race, and this sealed his 6th place finish. We headed back to the paddock at the checkered flag to survey the damage.

I met up with Kris and Randy at the podium ceremony. It was obvious they weren’t happy about the results of the race and weren’t too thrilled about being at the ceremony. There was the obligatory hand shake and “job well done” exchanges, but that didn’t change the fact that Randy collided with someone and Kris’s motor lost power. Their was no gloating from the winners however, at least none that I saw. And that’s admirable, not gloating about winning while there are others present who weren’t nearly as fortunate.

The week had seen its share of ups and downs, not just for our team, but for others. Randy’s car killed a piston, but it didn’t catch fire like the car of an H2 competitor. Instead of giving up and going home they bought a 2000 Civic Si coupe, that was sitting next to Randy’s car the first day, and swapped all their parts into it. The whole ninety-six hours showed me something I had no comprehension of prior to the event. I would like to thank Randy Gibb, Kris McCoy, Jason Smith, Eric Smart, Fernando, C.C. Eric and Mauricio for letting me tag along, document what goes into a race week, and putting up with me and my camera.

Words and Photos by Michael Chandler

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