31st Mar2015

NASA Utah 2015 Round 1: WE’RE BACK!

by Michael Chandler

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Words by Michael Chandler, photos by Michael Chandler and Gavin Pouquette

 

WE’RE BACK RACING!!!  Yes, our long local nightmare is finally over.  The 2015 NASA Utah season opened up this past weekend on the Outer Loop of Miller Motorsports Park, and it.  Was.  Glorious!  Let’s kick off our coverage with the TT groups, where the action was.

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Joe Sim brought out the Turbo Labs turbocharged Acura NSX and ran a blistering 2:00.305 to take the win in TTU.  The NSX made an appearance at Round 6 last year, and was even running around at GT Live back in 2007 and 2008!  Coming in second place was TW Racing in the familiar Audi R8 LMS.  Can the former GT3 car out pace the local legend?  Will we see more of the NSX period?  And what about the Lyfe Motorsports GTR?  Will it defend its title as TTU monster?  We have the better part of the season to find out!

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After a late night tuning session at Ziptie Dynowerks, Greg Valdez took his WRX STi atop the podium in his first TT1 event.  Shawn Murphy, who had an impromptu barbecue on the front straight last year, came in second and retired early with car troubles.  Third place was occupied by Dave Gilliland.

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Alex Whetman broke the Focus of Doom, but won the TT3 class in the process.  The 2:06.2 he ran was a full 4.7 seconds faster than the second place  Team Emerald West Porsche 911!  Jon Carver put his #49 Corvette in third.

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In TT2 we saw a battle between Robert Rathbone’s 911 and Frank Wilson’s C7 Corvette Z06.  In this battle, the Porsche pulled out the win.

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Paul House came out for one TT4 session in his Spec Z, and won himself a nice bottle opener.

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Richard Thiessens took some time out of coordinating HPDE instructors to take the class win in TTB.

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TTE is looking to be a hotly contested class.  Ben Lamberson and his Audi barely squeaked by Jeb Brown’s Subaru for the class win.

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We had some new faces in Open Wheel!  And those new faces actually won!  In Super Formula David Lockwood in his sharp, livery free car took race one; and Terry Biner, in the familiar Rodizio Grill car took race two.

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Formula is also seeing a new face.  Literally.  Bruno Carneiro (who is fifteen years old.  15!) has jumped from karts into a Formula Mazda car prepped by Ian Lacy Racing, and won race two after finishing behind Troy Duffin in race one.  Steven Costello took third in both races.

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Bruno and David weren’t the only newcomers to the Open Wheel group.  Askew Motorsports was out in a Radical for qualifying and a few laps in race one.  I, for one, would like to see Formula and Super Formula grow as fast and as large as Spec Z has.

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Speaking of Spec Z, it is huge!  There were six competitors for Saturday’s race, and a total of seven cars registered for the day.  In the race Arthur Golebiowski topped the podium, with Tom Kaminski in the Dip Kings 350Z in second, and Chad Aalders in third.  Shay Chappell, last year’s TT3 champion, has left his Porsche 911 Turbo at home and hopped into a Spec Z.  Shay can wheel, as is evidenced by his championship, so he won’t be in the basement for long.  With fellow newcomers Richard Fitzgerald and Askew MotorSport, this series is only getting more contested.

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In Spec Miata, David Sherman qualified on pole with Mike Ferrara and Allan Anderson behind him.  In the race David Sherman brought home the win, with Mike Ferrara and Allan Anderson behind him.  In other news, David Dingman was back out on track in a blue and yellow Miata!  David’s a great guy, and we’re glad to have him back out on track.

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And in the last Spec class, 944 Spec, Samuel Kapp and Otto Silva began what is always a season long battle for the championship.  These guys duke it out every round, and it’s always a good clean fight.

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In GTS2 Chris Haunold, in the red #9 Porsche, beat out Jim Miller, in the red #9 Porsche.  Oh man, watching that red Porsche cross the finish line after seeing the red Porsche retire with mechanical issues was something else.  Red Porsche.

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Bill “Wild Willie” Noblitt jumped from PTB to GTS3 and took the win over “Good Guy” Gus Stribakos in another all Porsche battle.

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They may have been the only ones in their respective classes, but Todd Green (#58 Paul Mitchell Miata) and Douglas Turnquist (#421 Porsche 944) took their wins and battled with the entire Lightning race group.

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Bad Luck Brendon Stewart detuned his Evo so he could drop down to Super Touring 3 and have some competition.  Long time ST3 competitors Travis Tidball (whose blue Corvette is getting wide) and Gary Free (in the Race Co FR500S Mustang) put up a fight against the newcomer, but in the end they couldn’t stop him.  Brendon won the battle, but lifted the cylinder head in the process.

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Les Long ran away from the GTSU field, and the rest of the race group in fact.  He posted a best lap time of 1:59.411 during the race.

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In GTS5 Russ Timmons held on to a lead of less than a second over Darrell Troester to take the class win.  Chris Vivolo and his blue and white 996 911 rounded out the podium.

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Byron Smith pitted his BMW against the 370Z of Lara Tallman.  It was a close battle, one in which neither driver could put much distance between the other.  By the time the checkered flag dropped Byron was ahead by 0.593 seconds, and took the win.

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Unfortunately not everyone had playmates within their class.  Dan Worley in the Tatum Racing LSX Porsche 944 claimed the ST1 win.  Mike Mielke showed up to ST2 just in time to take over as lone ranger, ironically while driving a Ranger.  And in GTS4 Shawn Tatum held court (see what I did there?  HILARIOUS!) in the Dell & Schaefer Porsche Cayman.

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And that’s all she wrote.  It was a solid opening to what’s going to be a great season.  A great season that has an event every month through October!  There’s no excuse to not come out and catch one of these events, and there’s plenty of time to start working your way through the HPDE program so you can start competing with the a fore mentioned drivers.

The next event is April 24-26, and it’s on the West course.  It’s longer straight sections favor the higher horsepower cars, so be prepared to see some blistering lap times in the Thunder race group.  Grab some friends, pile into the car and make your way out to watch some racing!

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

 

 

 

 

 

06th Feb2015

Meet Your Heroes

by Michael Chandler

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Someone, somewhere once said to never meet your heroes.  They said never meet your heroes because they can never live up to the ideal you’ve built for them in your mind.  I take issue with this.  I had two posters on my wall as a kid: a Lamborghini Countach and Michael Jordan.  From everything I’ve seen and heard, MJ is a hyper-competitive guy who has taken to posterizing old guys at his basketball fantasy camps.  The Countach is impossible to drive, you can’t see out of it, reversing it requires a spotter and someone to stop traffic, and the “creature comforts” leave something to be desired.

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One year when I was a kid two things happened: I saw Michael Jordan play and I saw a Countach in person.  The events weren’t related; however, if I saw MJ driving a Countach down my street my little head would’ve exploded.  Why am I telling this rambling story?  Because I met one of my heroes, the Lambo, and it didn’t change how I thought or think about it.  It’s still one of my favorite cars, flaws be damned.  My feelings would probably change if I drove it, but that would be getting to know it and not just meeting it.

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The other morning I went to Cars & Coffee because I wanted to shoot photos and clear my head.  At the far end of the parking lot there was this pair of Diablos: a 1997.5 Roadster and a 2000 VT.  These were the stars of the meet, people were coming up and taking photos of and with them, Chad (owner of the green machine) was revving the motor for the children and was answering pretty much every question about the big Italians.  For some of these people, these were/are their hero cars.  And they were loving them.

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Did the dog leg gear box let them down?  No.  Did the tall instrument cluster and low seating position kill the image of their hero?  Not a chance.  These people got to walk up to their hero, say hi, take some pictures and gawk at them.  None of their flaws shown through.  Were the fans aware of these “issues”? Yeah, anyone who has read ANYTHING about them knows the problems, but that doesn’t matter.  Seeing the car you had all over your wall as a kid in the flesh makes you completely ignore all of those issues.  You go back to being an excitable little kid.  It’s great.

 

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When I was in high school I wanted two cars: an Evo (to spite Trent who had just picked up a brand new STi.  I was and am a very petty person) and a Mopar of any sort.  Challenger, Charger, Dart, didn’t matter.  I just wanted one.

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When I was pulling in to park, I spotted this Challenger T/A.  I parked as close to it as I could (without parking among the cars who were there to be seen) and instantly noticed a Ford F-350 that had all of its utility modified out of it parked next to the Challenger.  The hulking mass of the diesel cast a massive shadow over the car, making a proper photos showcasing the color and graphics on the T/A almost impossible.

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Then, suddenly, the Ford grumbled to life and slowly rolled out of the parking lot.  The driver’s side of the Challenger was awash in sunlight, and was being approached by the owner and a giddy passenger.  I snapped off a few frames, and then…

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The owner fired it up, and let the 340 roar.  His passenger was grinning ear to ear as the mechanical noise of the trio of carburetors fed fuel and air into the motor.  I was giddy too.  This wasn’t the first time I had seen a nice Challenger, but it was nice running into one that was fanning the flames of enthusiasm in a young fan.

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The posters may have come down long ago, but the kid who put them up is still alive in all of us. Weekly meets like Cars & Coffee give us opportunities to be wide eyed, excitable kids.  Wake up early on Saturday, go meet your heroes.

Bonus gallery!:

Words and Photos by Michael Chandler
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.

 

 

12th Jan2015

The Ford GT: They’re Going Back to France

by Michael Chandler

Probably.  Yes, today everyone at the North American International Auto Show is going nuts over the 600hp, 3.5L twin-turbo V6 Ecoboost powered Ford GT.  And they should be doing just that.  Look at that thing!  It’s glorious!  It’s what the GT40 was!  Kinda…

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The GT40 was a giant middle finger aimed at Enzo Ferrari and his precious cars and race program.  Ferrari doesn’t do much of the factory backed GT racing anymore, because they’ve gone all in on F1.

Ok, so it isn’t EXACTLY like the GT40, but it is like it in that it is a potentially world beating super car made by a company whose headquarters are in a crumbling metropolis.  Who is it going to beat, and where is it going to beat them?

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Why are those two logos mashed together?  Because it can, and eventually will, be seen in both!  The 3.5L twin turbo mill fits nicely into the confines of the WEC’s LM GTE class.  IMSA TUDOR USCC’s GTLM class ‘s rules are pretty much the same as the WEC’s LM GTE class rules.  That said, we’ll probably see it storming around here at home in TUSC before it goes abroad and plants Old Glory in everything.  The current rumor, according to Sportscar365, regarding that TUSC endeavor is that it will be a 2 car, factory team with Chip Ganassi Racing running it.  And Chip Ganassi knows a few things about running a winning team.

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Will it be successful?  Maybe.  The new Vipers came out of the gate with a whimper, but ended with a roar and won the GTLM class before Dodge killed the factory effort.  We can speculate more on this when we get more details, but right now let’s all look at how awesome this thing looks

Words by Michael Chandler, photos by Ford Motor Company and Michael Chandler
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.
06th Jan2015

The Happiest Place in Nevada

by Michael Chandler
Photo by Becky Smith

Photo by Becky Smith, VORE

We’ve all been here before.  It’s time for a vacation, but some of those bucket list events are too far away, too expensive, or just not happening during your allotted vacation time.  What’s a gearhead to do?  Settle in on the couch and watch all the old FIA GT series races YouTube has to offer?  No damnit!  You’re not spending your vacation like an unemployed goon!  Pack your bags, book a flight, hotel and rental car.  We’re going to Vegas, and we’re gonna have some fun in the desert.  Halfway between Las Vegas and Boulder City, next to a gun range, sits a happy little slice of awesome that is the Vegas Off Road Experience (VORE).

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It is here where all sorts of fun and excitement happens.  And by “fun” I mean off road hooning to your heart’s content.  No matter what you decide to do you will get some instruction from the talented instructors.  Now, you have to ask yourself “Do I want a hopped up Raptor as my chariot, or do I want to hop in a trophy truck and get the whole enchilada ?” The choice is up to you, and your wallet.  Prices range from $295 for 5 laps on the “short course” in one of the trophy trucks or 45 minutes in a Raptor, to $2995 for a two day jaunt in the desert to give you the full Sportsman level experience.

There are also add ons to the afore mentioned packages.  Add ons such as luxurious limo or party bus transportation to and from the facility, video and photography, and shooting some guns and blowing up a car!  Where else are you finding all of these things at once???  NO WHERE!*

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Now, when we say talented instructors, we mean talented.  When they’re not teaching you how to take the jumps on the short course, or how to fly through the desert, they’re racing.  The Vegas to Reno race is a staple every year, along with the MINT 400.  The folks teaching you really know what they’re talking about, and you will leave VORE not only with memories, but with knowledge that’ll make you a better driver.

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There you have it folks.  Your next vacation is planned out.  No need to thank me, just go and enjoy your trip.  And watch out for turtles please.

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While we were at VORE we were given the nickel tour by Becky Smith.  She took us out on the short course in a Raptor, let us tag along to shoot some photos of someone on course, and let us hang out until Jason came back from giving a desert tour.  We can’t thank Jason and Becky and everyone else at VORE for their hospitality.

For booking information, or more information than what I’ve put up here, head over to VORE.com.  When you’re booking your experience ask for Jason Smith, or at least tell them he sent you.

Words by Michael Chandler, photos by Michael Chandler and Becky Smith .
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.

*Don’t quote me on that, but I highly doubt there is another place in the US where you can receive top notch off road racing instruction AND pop off a few rounds.

24th Oct2014

Tresduro: NASA Utah’s 2014 Season Finale

by Michael Chandler

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Words and photos by Michael Chandler

Every year for… many years NASA Utah, and MPRA before them, have thrown an endurance race to close out the season.  Normally it’s the standard X amount of hours in a row, on a track that has the corners in the same places as the lap before.  This year things would be different.  Very different.  Not mind blowingly, life alteringly different, but still different.  There would still be an endurance race, but not all in a row.  It would run on the Outer Loop… and the East Course… and the West Course.

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That’s right baby!  Dynamic track!  Basically here’s how it would shake out: All the HPDE groups and TT would run on the Outer Loop only, while the race group and the open wheel guys would jump between all three configurations.  If you remember the Pirelli World Challenge races from a couple of months ago, then this track switching concept isn’t so foreign.  They ran the World Challenge GT races on the Outer Loop, Spec B and Miller GT Challenge on the West Course and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West guys got the East Course.  What was foreign, and I can’t stress this enough, was having the same group of competitors running three different track configurations on the same day for the same race!  Well, technically it wasn’t all the same race, but the drivers’ times in each race would be combined and whoever had the best time would be the class winner.  Speaking of which, let’s stop talking about the track thing and talk about racing!

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The Open Wheel guys were in the same boat as the Race Group: three different tracks, three races, one time to decide a winner.  In Formula Troy Duffin and Steven Costello continued their season long battle, but at the end of the long day there had to be a winner.  And that winner was Troy, who completed 34 laps in the allotted time compared to Steven’s 33.  In Super Formula it was the the #11 Rodizio Grill sponsored car of Terry Biner running away with the class win, leaving Steve Burns and John LaBrie to duke it out for second.  In what can only be described as driving feats never seen since the days of Juan Manuel Fangio*, Steve Burns defeated John LaBrie!

*Not really true at all, but both John and Steve had really good drives in their races

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It was time for the TT competitors to take to the track after the Open Wheel drivers vacated it.  Their four sessions held weight because, while the season points chases were over for everyone else, this was a points event for the TT drivers.  While some people had wrapped up their season titles (more on that in another post), some people were still fighting tooth and nail for theirs.  People like Shay Campbell and James Pasquier, who pitted their Porsche 911s against some ST3 competitors and a healthy chunk of the Spec Z field.  Despite finishing in 14th, five spots behind James and scoring 5 points less than him, Shay locked up his TT3 points title!  Meanwhile, at the front of the TT3 crowd, Travis Tidball took the win.

In TT1 the guys of TW Racing put their Audi R8 LMS atop the podium, and solidified their championship.  However second place in the class was up for debate.  If you remember, Shawn Murphy ventilated the engine block in his WRX STi which sidelined it for the remainder of the season and seemingly opened the door for Smith-Burke Racing to leapfrog one of our favorite Wyomingans… Wyomingites?  Whatever, Shawn needed to hold off the C5 Corvette, so he did what any enterprising man with a willing girlfriend would do: he used her car for the last two events.  He didn’t win, but he scored JUST enough points to hold off the Data Motorsports backed Corvette to stay in second place.

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In TTE Ben Lamberson put used all 127 horsepower his Audi could muster to beat Steve Larsen, and cement his title.  TTU was missing it’s most notable competitor: the Lyfe Motorsports/Wild Schick Racing R35 GTR was in California doing some testing, which left the class wide open for Rhett Panter to win.  TT2 was won by David Bradshaw, and Josh Bennett took home the win in TTB.

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And we finally arrive at the Race Group, the other group that would take on the perils of driving three different tracks over the course of one race day.  It also had some interesting driver line-ups, including George Smith piloting a Miata with Les Long, Derek Wolthoff driving Brendon Stewart’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and…  Well, there’s no easy way to say this…

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PPPAAAAAAAUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLL MMMMIIIITTCCCCCCHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Which was driven by Matt Guiver, Todd Ainsworth, Alex Whetman and Todd Green.  That mighty team could only muster a third place finish in E3, behind Allan Anderson (who slid around Wind Up, but it’s cool because he has a Corolla so he knows what he’s doing) and David Sherman. NASA Utah 2014 Tres Enduro CAMautoMag Michael Chandler-59

In E0 we saw No Whammies (Travis Tidball) hit big money and stop atop the podium, ahead of Travis Williams in the #22 Discount Tire FR500S Mustang and Good Guy Gus Stribakos in the 888 Porsche.

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In a class by himself, literally, was the Idaho Mountain Touring Porsche 911 in E1.  Let’s take a moment to appreciate how pretty it is.  Ahhhhhhhh.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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ES.  The Big boys.  You know the Names: TW Racing, Big Bob Evans, Dandy Dan Worley, Steve “Mister” Burns and “Mister En Fuego” Brendon Stweart.  They were all fighting for the victory.  The gritty field went wheel to wheel and door to door all day! Except when Brendon broke a suspension component.  That sidelined him.  And Bob blew a tire in the last race of the day, so his day ended early too… But when they were running, they were threatening to take away podium finishes from other drivers!  In the end it came down to two teams: the TW Racing crew had adjusted their R8 LMS so Allen Turner could fully exploit it’s advantages, while Tatum Racing had the LSx powered Porsche 944 tuned to peak efficiency for Dan Worley.  Who would emerge victorious?

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In the end the Audi proved too much for the Porsche, and TW Racing took home the class and overall victory.

In the end, we all took home a victory.  Over the course of the season we saw drivers snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and overcome devastating events.  We saw camaraderie and good natured competitiveness, and most importantly: everyone at the end of the day could walk away uninjured.

And so ends the NASA season.  On behalf of me and the staff here at CAMautoMag, I would like to say thank you to Matt Guiver, Dave Kizerian and Dan McKeever for the awesome season, the track workers for the thankless and tireless jobs they do to make the racing happen, and especially to the drivers.  Everyone from the HPDE 1 drivers, all the way up to the Super Unlimited class drivers and everyone in between.  We do this because we have the same passion as you guys, and since we can’t get out there and drive with you guys (yet!) the next best thing is to come out shoot some photos and say some nice words about what you’re doing out there.

We’ll be at the Awards Banquet on November 22, where we’re looking forward to seeing everyone!  We will also have things for you to purchase if you so choose.

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

 

 

06th Oct2014

Officer Stucky and his Crown Vic

by Michael Chandler

Crown Vic

 

The Ford Crown Victoria has been the go to police cruiser for decades, and as such you can find nearly any vintage for next to nothing at a police auction or a private sale.  Nick Stucky found one for sale in Oregon, got it, and brought her back to Utah.  And then he went autocrossing.

 

 

Some interesting notes about Nick’s cruiser: It is, in fact, and old police car.  It came with the cherry light and window bars.  Also, it’s packing a 351 cubic inch, carbureted  V8  that was marketed as a performance option over the fuel injected 302 cubic inch V8.

Also, look at that interior.  Look at it!  It’s burgundy and vinyl and glorious!  And the body roll, which doesn’t help keeping oneself planted in any of the seats.  Tragically he couldn’t run with the hub caps on.  While it isn’t the safest thing to have them flying off and rolling around, it would just add the the spectacle that is watching something the size of Delaware run through the cones.

 *Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.
18th Sep2014

2014 Utah Grand Prix Day 2

by Michael Chandler

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Words and photos by Michael Chandler

No time for pleasantries, let’s get right to it! The day opened up with the second Touring Car class race of the weekend, and while nobody attempted to climb over anybody else there was still some close racing.

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Nathan Stacy came into the Black Rock hairpin too hot in the #14 TSG/Ford Racing Motorsports Development Group Ford Fiesta, opening the door for Brian Price to drive the #51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit right on through.  Unfortunately their battle was for third place, Johan Schwartz used the Schwartz to put his Garrett Racing/Drive4Diabetes Honda fit on top of the podium, with Andrei Kisel in the #57 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com Mini Cooper taking home second place.  Despite his third place finish, Brian Price took home the Driver’s Championship for the B Spec Class!

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TCA was an in house battle, with Jason Wolfe and Nik Jonsson battling for the class win.  Jason Wolfe in the #36 Wolfe Trucking/Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup squeaked out a first place finish over Nik Jonsson in the #38 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup.  The margin of victory was .003 seconds!  Rounding out the podium was Jason Cherry in the Autism Society of America/Avpro Jets/Purposeful Architecture Shea Racing Mazda MX-5 Miata.  Jason Wolfe’s narrowest of narrow victories cemented his Driver’s Championship.

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Touring Car wasn’t nearly as hotly contested as TCA and B Spec was, but that’s not to say it was completely devoid of action.  Steven Doherty in the #94 Skullcandy/Nissan/GT Academy Altima Coupe fired off a 1:38.411 lap on his way to victory, which was better than the existing track record!  No slouch himself, Michael Pettiford in the #41 Go4It Racing Schools/ Hawk Brakes Pontiac Solstice turned a 1:38.693 lap; however, he could not overcome the lead Doherty had.  Fred Emich, #30 Emich Racing/Emich Volkswagen Jetta GLI had the same problem of an insurmountable lead, but he still parked the Jetta on the podium.  The 4th place finisher would end up taking home the Driver’s Championship: Michael DiMeo in the #71 Grand Alarms/Compass 360 Racing/Children’s Tumor Foundation Honda Civic Si.

The Touring Car classes in World Challenge didn’t garner as large of crowds as the GT classes did, and that’s a bit of a shame in my opinion.  Sure the cars aren’t as fast or as flashy, but the racing is just as good, and just as competitive as it is in the senior circuit.  If you ever get the chance: find a good seat, settle in and watch the entire field go nose to tail and try to get around each other.

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Next on the docket was the Miller GT Challenge group.  The twenty car field consisted of eight of your favorite locals in the title class, nine United States Touring Car Championship drivers, and three USTCC GT drivers.  In the UTSCC field it was a battle of BMWs, with Jason Alexandridis in the #22 Perfromance Technic M3 beating out another M3, this being the #12 of Beau Borders, for the class win.

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In the GT field it was two manufacturers vying for the win.  Unfortunately the #34 GoGoGear.com BMW of Larry Bani retired, relegating him to third place.  Finishing ahead of him was the #16 Red Star Racing BMW of Daniel Akhromstev.  Sitting atop the heap was the #98 Honda S2000 of Andrie Hartanta.

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And finally in Miller GT we saw a three way battle for first place.  Derek Wolthoff in the #08 Makes And Models/TW Racing Audi R8 LMS battled Cindi Lux in the #5 Lux Performance Dodge Viper SRT and Cole Powelson in the #23 AMS Performance/OS Giken/RaceCo Nissan GTR.  The battle raged for twenty-five laps, but nearing the end of the race a piece of the GTR’s under tray came loose and caused them to fall off the pace.  Cindi and Derrick continued the fight, but by the time the checkered flag came down it was Derrick who was in front by 4.7 seconds.

On a side note: Cole Powelson has been a friend of the site’s for many years.  Today he announced that he would be leaving his position at RaceCo to create a new opportunity for himself in motorsports.  All of us here wish him the best of luck going forward, and we can’t wait to see what he ends up doing.

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On to the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GTS race, where championships were on the line!  Well, at least in GTA and GTS, the latter of which is where we begin.  Lawson Aschenbach in the #1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 needed to hold off Jack Baldwin and Mark Wilkins to claim his Driver’s title.  Fortunately for Lawson, and unfortunately for Mark, the prior race’s incident between the Kias left Mark looking up from third place in the standings, and 17th in the race.  Drew Regitz, #02 TRG-AMR Aston Martin GT4, battled with Lawson all race long, but Lawson pulled eeked out a .461 second lead by the drop of the checkered.  Jack Baldwin, in the #73 RESET-MD/GTSport Racing Porsche Cayman S took the class win by nearly a second over Lawson, but the win was not enough for Jack to claim the Driver’s Championship from Lawson.

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Less than 100 points separated the contenders for the GTA Driver’s championship, and Michael Mills (#41 Effort Racing Porsche 911 GT3R) secured his championship with his hard fought third place finish in the race.  Marcelo Hahn in the #0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 narrowly took second place in the race behind the #54 Black River Caviar/Black Swan Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Tim Pappas. It was Pappas who ran away from the field, and finished with a three second finish over Hahn.

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The GT class featured a podium completely devoid of Driver’s Championship contenders.  Andy Pilgrim, #8 Cadillac Racing CST-V.R, would finish fourth in the driver’s standings but his third place finish in the race secured Cadillac’s Manufacturer’s Title over Audi.  The top of the podium was decided by less than 1/4 of a second.  Robert Thorne in the #6 K-PAX Racing Mclaren MP4-12C GT3 traded blows with Ryan Dalziel in the #31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3R, but managed to hold off the Porsche at the line.

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The real battle to watch was further down the pack.  The fight for positions 6-7-8 featured your top three Driver’s Championship contenders.  Unfortunately, the incident at the beginning of the previous day’s race that left Skeen with a broken axle pretty much secured the title for Johnny O’Connell and his #3 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R.  Second place in the championship was still up for grabs, and Anthony Lazarro battled Mike Skeen tooth and nail for it.  Unfortunately for Anthony and the crew of the #61 R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, Mike knew the score.  His 23rd place finish the race before narrowed the gap between himself and Lazarro, so he had to outright beat him in the race or at the very least keep him close.  The Hawk Performance Audi R8 LMS Ultra ran well, but not well enough to keep the Ferrari behind it.  The 3.2 second gap, at first glance, would seem to vault Lazarro into second place; however,  Skeen only finished two places behind him.  The gap was not enough, and Mike Skeen maintained his second place.

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Finally on the day was the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race.  The Home Tracks series are the entry level series in the NASCAR system.  Do well enough there, and the potential to move into the Camping World Truck Series arises.  From there it’s Nationwide series, and finally the Sprint Cup.  Could one of these drivers be the next rising star? Who knows, but your third place finisher is the series’s Rookie of the Year.  James Bickford put the #6 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Sprint/Lucas Oil Ford on the podium and secured the ROTY honors.  Second place belonged to Bickford’s teammate Dylan Lupton in the #9 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Sprint/Lucas Oil Ford.  Taking home the win was David Mayhew in the #17 MMI  Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet.  Two races are left in the season, and Lupton is withing striking distance of Driver’s Points leader Greg Pursley.

And so that ends our weekend at the Grand Prix.  It was quite the two days.  Below are galleries with far more photos in them, neatly divided up into their respective series.  We hope to see you again at next year’s Utah Grand Prix, or at the very least on the 27th of September for NASA Utah Round 6.

Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GTS

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West

Pirelli World Challenge TC/TCA/TCB

Miller GT/USTCC

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

 

 

16th Sep2014

2014 Utah Grand Prix Day 1

by Michael Chandler

Utah Grand Prix Day 1 Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (11 of 189)

Words and photos by Michael Chandler

When Miller Motorsports Park released their 2014 schedule many, many months ago, I saw the Utah Grand Prix in September.  You remember Trent went to it years ago and got some very cool shots.  Well, now was my turn.  So I put in my application for credentials a few months in advance… And was told by John Gardener, the Marketing Communications Manager at Miller Motorsports Park, that I needed to resubmit them when the event was about a month out and that I wouldn’t have any issues getting credentials.  So I waited some more, resubmitted and was granted them!  I was going to my first big boy event, where there would be very serious photographers and big name manufacturers.  The scale of the event didn’t really hit me until the night before, when I felt like a very small fish in a very large pond.

I’m getting ahead of myself, and side tracked.  First, let’s talk about exactly what the Utah Grand Prix is.  This year there was NASCAR K&N West Series racing (which you’ll see in part two of this), Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy racing (All Porsche 911s, all of the time), Miller GT and United States Touring Car Championship (Your local favorites and the USTCC field running all at once), and finally Pirelli World Challenge Championship racing.  AKA SCCA World Challenge, this is the other big sports car racing series in the US.  This event was also a make up for the rained out opening round, and the season finale!  Championships were on the line!  And for those staring blankly at the screen, wondering what World Challenge is, here’s a break down:

GT/GTA/GTS

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Ahh, Grand Touring.  The Gentlemanly auto racers.  Actually, it’s mostly sports cars of varying degrees.  As we reported, World Challenge will let you run FIA GT3 spec cars in GT and GTA, which is why you see the Bentley Continental GT3 bearing down on the GTS class Kia Optima.  GT and GTA is the home of the GT3 cars (Continental GT3, McLaren MP4-12C GT3, Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, etc) along with Cadillac CTS-V.Rs, the Acura TLX GT (which was wrecked in the previous race and wasn’t repaired in time for this one), and in genreral cars that were too much for GTS (Alex Loyd’s Corvette and Louis-Phillip Montour’s Dodge Viper).  GTS is home to more pedestrian entries, if you want to call them that.  Mustang Boss 302S’s, Nissan 370Zs, Chevrolet Camaros, and Porsche Caymans represent the majority of the field.  Also running in the class are the Kia Optimas and Aston Martin GT4s, with the Kias competing for the Manufacturer’s Title in class.

TC/TCA/TCB

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TC is short for Touring Car, and if you’ve ever watched any of European Touring Car series then you know how wild the econo boxes can be!  Sorry, sport “sedans”; although, as you can see the Skullcandy Altima is a coupe.  That’s neither here nor there.  TC and TCA is populated by small displacement rear wheel drive cars, like the Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe and the venerable Mazda MX-5 Miata, and front wheel drive cars like Civic Si’s, Altimas and Jetta GLIs.  TCB is the land of the little B Spec cars, Honda Fits, Mini Coopers and Fiat 500s.  Armed with this knowledge, lets get on with this story.

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I had to be at the track early.  Not pre-dawn early, but early for someone who is usually ready to face the day at the crack of noon.  I arrived, got my wrist band and found a seat in the media center.  I chatted with Michael Wells, and finally met Chance Hales.  After the meeting, Chance, myself and Shawn Pierce, who shoots for NoBraking.com, piled in to my Subaru and made our way to some corners for the practice sessions of GT/A/S TC/A/B and Miller GT.

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By lunch we made our way half way around the track.  We formed a plan for the qualifying sessions and races, and made our way to the paddock.  I dropped them at the Media Center and made my way to RaceCo to chat with Cole Powelson and Kyle Schick, and meet up with Derrick Wolthoff of Makes and Models and TW Racing.  On the way I ran into George Smith, and asked him why he suddenly disappeared from the Miller GT session.  The crank sensor in his Corvette failed, and it was an all hands on deck effort to replace it.

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Eventually I made it to the Makes and Models garage just in time to tag along with Derrick to talk about getting some fuel from some people.  Those people happened to be Audi Customer Support Racing, Global Motorsports Group and Mike Skeen who was #2 in GT Driver’s championship.  While Derrick was conducting business, I wandered about the paddock and got some photos.  I would’ve stayed for more photos, but the next session was coming up quick so I had to get my car and grab Chance and Shawn.

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Not without getting a little sidetracked though.  The Black Swan Racing SLS AMG GT3 is the most gorgeous car in the field, hands down.  And the KPAX Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3s have names: Reginald and Edward.  Why they’re named that is beyond me, but it led me to thinking of names for the Cadillacs and the Bentleys.  The Caddys are George and James, while the Bentleys are Lord Percival Umberbottom and Duke Albert Thistleton IV.  I didn’t ask either team if they would consider naming or changing the names of their cars, but I think Cadillac would’ve been a bit more receptive to the idea.

Anyway, Chance and Shawn decided they wanted to skip the next session, and go grab some food.  I agreed with this, and off we went.

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After lunch we made our way to Witchcraft and The Attitudes for the Pirelli GT3 Cup race, which had a healthy amount of local Drivers in it who had quite a showing.  David Donner, Alan and Desire Wilson, John Scarlett, Les Long and Darrell Troester all demonstrated what is meant by a home field advantage.  We stayed in the attitudes for the World Challenge GT qualifier, before making our way down to turn one for the start of the TC race.

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And what a start it was! In the opening lap Paul Holton in the #65 Shea Racing Honda Fit collided with, and almost drove over top of, the #58 Racing.ca Mini Cooper of Glenn Nixon.  Somehow Holton’s Fit was able to continue with the race.  The same could not be said for Nixon’s Mini.  Both drivers received Driver Conduct penalties, $1000 fines and lost 20 points each.  Holton finished 9th in class, and 22nd overall while Brian Price in the #51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit finished first in TCB.  Adam Poland in the Eastex Motorsports MX-5 Miata took the TC class win, and Nic Jonsson took the TCA win in Russell Smith’s #38 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup.  After the track was cleaned up, it was time for the GT race.

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Before I tell you about the race itself, I need to tell you something we were told in the media meeting.  We were told we couldn’t be on the pit wall for the beginning of the GT race.  Why? World Challenge does a standing start, like Formula 1 does.  Most of the time, this isn’t an issue but lately drivers stalling on the start has been a problem.  When a driver stalls, and is in the middle or front of the grid, everyone behind him has to take evasive maneuvers.  Sometimes these maneuvers result in collisions, which can send pieces of the cars flying.  So for our safety, we weren’t allowed on the pit wall for the start of the race.

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This was a good thing, because guess what happened.  The GTS Kias got into each other, and Mike Skeen broke an axle in his Audi R8 LMS Ultra.  Mike made it off track under his own power, but the Kias had to be towed off.  This immediately brought out the yellow flag and the safety car.  Since this was a timed race, some of the other photographers began getting worried/annoyed, which led me to cracking off a one liner.  It was not well received.  Anyway, the Kias were finally removed, and the green flag flew again.

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After watching the calamity of turn one iron itself out (everyone is trying to get around everyone else.  Remember the incident between the Fit and the Mini?), we made our way over to the Clubhouse to grab some photos of the final three turns, where more calamity ensued.

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An incident occurred as soon as we got to Clubhouse turn.  The #6 KPAX Racing McLaren MP4-12C of Robert Thorne got into the back of the #96 Capaldi Racing/Dat Dog Ford Mustang Boss 302S of Brad Adams, causing both cars to spin out right in front of the massive and massively fast Dyson Racing Bentley Continental GT3s and Cadillac Racing CTS-V.Rs.  Thankfully nobody else was involved in the spin.

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With Mike Skeen’s race over before it began the battle for the podium came down to two iconic luxury marques: Bentley and Cadillac.  Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim battled the Bentleys of Guy Smith and Butch Leitzinger for two of the top three spots.  When the dust settled, Guy Smith was atop the podium.  His Continental beat out O’Connell’s CTS-V.R by 3.47 seconds for the top spot.  It was very nearly a 1-2 finish for the Brits, but Johnny held Leitzinger off by less than 1/10 of a second!

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Michael Mills in the #41 Effort Racing Porsche 911 GT3R took the GTA class win, and without the class leading Kias in his way or Driver’s Championship leader Lawson Aschenbach’s Black Dog Speed Shop Camaro ZL1 to worry about Nick Esayian cruised to victory in GTS in his TRG-AMR North America Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4.

And that wraps up the first of two days I spent at the Utah Grand Prix.  Stay tuned for Day 2, which held the Pirelli World Challenge final races, the Miller GT race, and the NASCAR K&N West Series race!  Below are a few galleries, neatly organized by series.

World Challenge GT/A/S

World Challenge TC/A/B

Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy

Miller GT

 

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

 

09th Sep2014

Boise Drift Day 1

by Michael Chandler

Boise Drift Labor Day Two Day event Day 1 Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (43 of 84)

 Words and photos by Michael Chandler

 

“Who’s going to the Boise Drift two day event?” It was a simple question that was posed to the Drift Utah Facebook group.  I saw photos from the last event, poked fun at everyone who had broken (i.e. everyone), but never gave much thought to actually going to one.  I would have to drive, I had no idea what their photos rules were, or even where I was going.  Plus my arm was still in a sling.  With all that in mind, I posted “If I can find a ride I can.” And that’s when this went from poorly thought out idea to a reality.

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After some back and forth with Hector Jurado and Jordan Collier, I decided to hitch a ride up with Hector.  He, and his friend Riley, were going to pick me up at 5:45AM on Saturday and then we’d head up to the Common Cents gas station in Roy to gas up, procure things and meet up with Jordan and Zack Penman.  We made good time, gassed up Hector’s new Ford F350 and his old S13 coupe and waited for everyone.  Zack and his crew rolled in, and while they gassed up we continued to wait for Jordan.  And wait we did.  Hector called him, left a voice mail, and we decided to leave him.

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The drive up was pretty uneventful, aside from Jordan calling us around 8am to say he slept in and that he’d be coming up with Mike Fulkerson (hereafter known as Mikey) so I’ll introduce you to Hector a little bit.  Before he got into drifting he was a Honda kid.  He owned three EG Civics before buying a his first 240SX off of someone on the internet.  He over payed for it, but it was his!  And it was low.  Worryingly low.  On the drive home the rear struts blew out, so he had to have it towed.  Upon further inspection some interesting things were discovered.  First: the car was said to have “coilovers” and it did.  It had two, and they were in the rear.  The front had compressed stock struts with the upper and lower spring perches bolted to each other.  No springs, just that ridiculousness.  Second: the car was said to have an SR20DET, and it had most of one.  It was pretty clearly an SR20DET at one point in time, but someone pulled the turbo off at some point and welded a “downpipe” to the exhaust manifold and then to the exhaust.  He got rid of that nightmare, and into a friend’s cleaner (and cheaper) 240.  And now he has the teal coupe you’ll be seeing a lot of.

Also of note: the day before we left for this event, Hector did something a decent chunk of American citizens can’t do.  He passed the citizenship test and was rewarded with a tiny American flag!  Also citizenship in this country, but that flag is nothing to sneeze at.

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After a pit stop at the Garden of Eden truck stop, we pulled into Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls and unloaded.  Zack and Hector brought a fair amount of tires, all mounted on different wheels for easy swapping between sessions.  We all made our way to the little shed that housed the almighty waiver sheet, exchanged money for wristbands and signed our lives away.  And then we had a driver’s meeting.  And then Hector and Zack went out.

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They gave ride alongs to whomever wanted one, and they were eventually joined on track by a fellow named Worm.  He proceeded to make some serious runs in his bone stock 350Z, while being chased by his friend in the camera car.  That camera car happened to be a turbo single cam Civic hatchback, and it kept up with everyone fairly well.  And well is how things were going, and then Zack’s problems began.

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In the course of the day his car decided to stop working entirely (top photo) and then shed a wheel.  Also along the way he managed to hurt his wrist, but he wasn’t too torn up about any of it.  His car started up again, and he got his wheel back on and went out to give more rides and play a fun little game with Hector.

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And that game was “Who can touch the wall on the front straight?” As we can see here, Hector was the victor.

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At this point you’ve seen Hector, Zack and Worm taking cuts.  They weren’t the only ones doing so! From the top down we have Jason in the multicolor Rustang, David (one of our gracious hosts) in his SR20DET swapped Corolla, Brad and the little Miata that tried, and Mike in his missiled out S13 coupe.  In a previous post I referred to Mike’s car as the “community” car because I saw many people who weren’t Mike drifting in it.  It’s not wrong, or weird.  Just pointing out Mike’s trust and generosity.

All was fun and well, and fairly normal for a drift event.  Then two fairly unique Toyotas appeared.

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First was Dennis Niedrich’s Previa.  It had a roll cage (sort of) and no doors aft of the front ones.  The bench seat was hanging around, and it was eventually mounted back in the van… Backwards.  If someone like myself (but obviously not me because I can’t be trusted to do so) were to give out awards, Dennis would get one because that looked like the most fun.  This is why I don’t give out awards anymore.

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Parked next to Dennis in the paddock was this black Celica Supra.  Seeing one out and about, and ready to shred tires is a hoot in and of itself; however, this one became the biggest hoot when I saw the 1UZ-FE sitting under the hood.  Dane, the fellow who built this, barely finished it in time to come down from Boise to Twin Falls.  He said that that drive was basically the big shakedown run.  The drive served its purpose, because (from what I could see) the car ran flawlessly.  Speaking of 1UZs…

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Guess who finally showed up. The trio of Jordan, Mikey and Brandon Wicknick (America’s Favorite Drifting Ginger! TM.  In your face Forsberg!) pulled in around 5pm, and were mostly unloaded by 5:30.  I say mostly because Jordan’s transmission got caught on the trailer as he was backing off of it, and the car kept dying.  Eventually he got off the trailer, and along with Mikey and Brandon, put on a show:

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The mere sight of Brandon’s Formula D car drew a small crowd, even before it was fired up.  It drew a massive one when he hit the track.  He even took me for a ride in it! I learned a few things while riding with him:

  • How fast a pro level drift car moves and changes direction is mind boggling.  His car is the fastest car I’ve been in.
  • His passenger seat is clearly designer for a child, or a very slim human being.  I barely managed to wedge myself in there.
  • I have no idea how to work a five point harness, let alone do it with one good arm.

After a while we (Mikey, Brandon, Jordan, Chance Behunin, Hector, Riley and myself) piled into Brandon’s truck and went into town for dinner.  Since Brandon was driving, we were going to a La Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant where the give you chips and salsa.  The chips and salsa was a big selling point for Brandon.  After dinner, we filled up some gas cans, trolled the local populace and returned to the track just in time for the weather to take a dramatic turn.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of what the wind did, but I can tell you it blew people’s tents over and almost away and it threw a pop up canopy over 75 feet into a crowd of people huddled around a fire pit.

The decision was made to sleep in Brandon’s 45′ enclosed trailer.  Only problem is the people sized door on the side doesn’t open from inside the trailer.  To ensure we’d be able to get out of the trailer without kicking a hole in the side of it, Brandon attached a bungie cord to the door, and then to a conduit inside the trailer.  Bundled in our sleeping bags, Brandon then turned off the lights, and we slept.

Did we survive the night? Does Brandon’s trailer have a new “door”? If Train A, traveling at 70mph, leaves Westford heading towards Eastford, 260 miles away.  At the same time Train B, traveling at 60mph, leaves Eastford heading towards Westford.  When do the two trains meet? How far from each city do they meet? Find out the answers to those burning questions in tomorrow’s dramatic conclusion!

 

 *Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.
29th Aug2014

NASA Utah Round 5: The Wells Report

by Michael Chandler

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Michael Wells returns with glorious photos from the entirety of the NASA Utah Round 5 weekend.  He, unlike myself, had two fully functional arms with which to drive and shoot with; and made use of his limbs by heading all over the track to grab the killer shots you see before you.  He also stuck around for the WERC endurance race and got some amazing pictures of that too.  Amazing pictures such as this:

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There are oh so many more in the gallery below.

Photos by Michael Wells, words by Michael Chandler

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