By on July 12, 2016

Jack Baruth in his Neon duels with a Scion FR-S

Moneymoneymoneymoney … Money!

“GO RACING ON A BUDGET!” It’s the go-to headline of a thousand magazine covers. When you see that headline, you can be assured of several things: the cost of labor will never be mentioned; nobody’s time is worth anything; nothing ever breaks, fails, or requires early replacement; and certain costs, like transportation and storage, will simply disappear without comment from the final accounting.

Today, I’d like to change all that. I’d like to tell you what this past weekend cost me, and what I got for my money. I’m doing this because I think some of you are interested in going racing, and the rest of you are simply amused when I suffer, whether physically or fiscally.

There was a moment on Sunday afternoon when I was leading the race, the track wide-open ahead of me, the long-stroke minivan motor beneath my Neon’s hood growling at its maximum useful revs of about 5,900, maybe doing 105 miles per hour or so, the right rear wheel still in the air from contact with the curb in this long, fast, right-hand kink, the car undergoing a sort of sinuous and sympathetic vibration as I cranked the wheel hard alee to catch the slide. In that single moment, everything that has been weighing on me these past few years just vanished. The crash in 2014. The broken leg last October — and the long painful recovery from that. All the depression, the self-doubt, the broken relationships. All the despair. Just gone. I was in command of the car. In command of the race. For that moment, I was still the person that I would have recognized in 1987, or 1998, or 2013.

“And to think,” I congratulated myself, “that I even remembered to turn on the GoPro for this.”

I looked in my rearview mirror, to reassure myself that the GoPro was still there and blinking away. It was. But the case was fogged over. I was recording a blank white screen.

Well. You can’t have everything.

Without further ado, here are the real costs of my and my Neon’s return:

Friday, 6:30PM EST: Danger Girl and I are loading up the Fiesta to head to the NASA triple race weekend at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL. My race car, a 1994 Plymouth Neon ACR with a 2.4-liter engine from a 1997 Plymouth Voyager minivan, was a non-running basket case when I turned it over to Jon Shevel and Albany Autoworks last year. In the Neon’s first race weekend under his stewardship, last October at Mid-Ohio, we snagged fourth place and briefly led the race. Three days later, I snapped my tibia in half and ripped out all the ligaments. I didn’t feel I was ready for the demands of a proper NASA sprint race until recently.

Jon agreed to take the Neon to the race and crew for me, meaning I just had to drive myself. That meant he’d be putting 800 miles on his truck and giving me two days of his time. We have a multi-race deal but for this event I’ll assign $1,000 for wear and tear on both the truck and Jon, just to give you a realistic sense of the costs. Gasoline and tolls for the Fiesta were $50. Because the U.S. Womens’ Soccer team was playing nearby, all the hotels in the area were charging $250 or more. I stayed at the Kimpton Allegro in downtown Chicago, which was $523 for the weekend including parking. Because I gave them Bark’s name instead of mine, they gave me a suite. For the first night, Jon decided to sleep in his truck at the track.

Running total: $1,573

Saturday, 8:00PM CST: Did I mention I’d bought new tires for this weekend? I’d had my heart set on the Hoosier R7, but I settled for the Hankook Ventus in C51 Road Race compound. They were $763. A lot of racers will use one new set for qualifying and one new set for each race. I used one set for the weekend.

Breakfast for the crew was $38.

We qualified third of eight. In the race, I ran second for the first half before falling victim to the superior pace and discipline of Miata driver Stuart Killian. I’m just about unbeatable in the start of any race; I see things other people don’t and I don’t get scared. But the Neon isn’t quite fast enough to hold off the best driver/car combos in my class. Stuart’s best lap time was 1.4 seconds better than mine.

Running total: $2,374

Saturday, 7:00PM CST: Today’s third place was the best NASA finish I’ve had in my own car since 2009, where I took a Performance Touring overall win in the Neon before putting it in storage for five years. Time to celebrate. Dinner for the crew and a few guests was $553. I put John up in a five-star hotel off Hotwire for $157 despite his reassurances that he’d be fine sleeping in the truck. Before we left, however, we bought a clutch cable from AutoZone. My clutch cable had stretched beyond usability halfway through the race, meaning that I couldn’t even put the car in first gear at rest. That was $52.

Running total: $3,136

Sunday, 3PM CST: Brother Bark covered my lunch, but I got breakfast and lunch for everybody else at a cost of $57. We qualified second for the first race and were holding until the car started cutting out in right-handers. Amazingly, Jon diagnosed the problem in just an hour. In the third race, I bullied my way to the front and led the entire Performance Touring series for four laps until I was passed by Stuart’s Miata and a Scion FR-S. The latter car wasn’t in my class, so I wound up with second place. It was a genuine thrill to lead the race in my own car. All of the wins I’ve had in the past few years have been behind the wheel of someone else’s property. I know that the Neon isn’t really class-competitive anymore; Stuart’s best time was 2.1 seconds ahead of me. The only way I kept second was by opening up my bag of slightly unpleasant racing tricks to keep the multiple BMWs behind me at bay. But I’ll take it. Did I mention that my race entry fee was $429? I don’t think I did.

Running total: $3,622

Sunday, 11:40PM EST Back home to unpack and sleep like a dead man until work the next morning. Dinner and fuel on the road was a reasonable $52. But the fuel for the race car over the weekend was a less reasonable 21 gallons at $4.29 each, for a total of $90.

Final total: $3,764.

Could I have saved money? Absolutely. If we’d all slept in our cars at the track, that would have dropped us to just under $3,000. I could have used my old Hoosiers from 2008 — but I would have had trouble finishing anywhere but last. I could have towed the Neon myself on a rental dolly behind the Tahoe, saving maybe $700. But I wouldn’t have had the ability to troubleshoot a complex wiring problem. In my experience, very few racers do.

Also, keep in mind that nothing serious went wrong. There were multiple contact incidents during the weekend; I just didn’t happen to be part of any of them. I could have incurred up to maybe eight or nine grand in damage had I crashed the car or been hit. The motor stayed together, the wheel bearings held up, the fuel system didn’t die. I’ve spent over $1,000 in a weekend before just on random stuff from AutoZone like sensors and fuel pumps and ignition modules.

Last but not least, I’m not including the $1,272 I spent this morning on brake pads, rotors, fluid, and a fire-suppression system for next weekend’s race with a sanction that requires it.

The good news: I’m planning on spending a lot less for my October race at Mid-Ohio. I’ll re-use the tires. The cost of towing and mechanical help will be less. I won’t need a hotel room. I’ll have reasonably fresh brakes on the car. It’s possible that I’ll get the whole weekend done for under $1,000.

It’s also possible that I’ll be watching the bent and twisted shell of my Neon being extracted from the Armco by a tractor, from the comfort of a stretcher in the green-and-white LifeFlight helicopter that services Mid-Ohio. You never know. That’s what makes it interesting.

You can do a lot with the $5,000 I just spent to race a Plymouth Neon. You could lease a BMW M4 for half a year. Pick up a slightly used GSX-R750. Wear a new Panerai. Go to Vegas, stay in a rooftop penthouse, and have a three-way with two 9.5/10 professionals. Take your children to Disney World for a week, assuming you stay at the All-Star. I’m sure the financial wizards of TTAC could invest it and get $100,000 back in just five short years or something like that. Applied over the course of a year, it would have enabled me to buy a house that was worth another $75,000, if that’s meaningful to you.

This is what I got for my money.

20160711_222923

It’s a cowbell that NASA used for a trophy this weekend, given to podium finishers in each class. There’s nothing terribly impressive about it. You could buy one for three bucks or less from Alibaba. Earning one will cost you a little more than that. Try it yourself. Don’t worry about the money. Nobody ever took a penny to the grave. See you out there, when the green flag waves and we all find out, once again, who we really are.

Oh, and one last thing: turns out that the GoPro Studio application, for which I had previously had nothing but well-earned and considerable contempt, can edit out a fogged-up lens to some extent. Who’d have thought? So, without further ado, I give you four minutes of fast and furious Performance Touring racing with yours truly from the start of the race to overtaking the first-place BMW E36:

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

85 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: The True Cost of Racing...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    I’m just amazed at the sight of a Lapis Blue Neon which hasn’t shed all of its paint by now.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I painted the shell in 2008 and it’s maybe spent ten days outside since then. It was originally red. I picked Lapis Blue because I owned a Lapis Blue Neon in 1995.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Pretty legit little car, if you could overlook the lack of refinement.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          Absolutely. And wicked fast for its day and milieu.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          The Neon would have fared much better in the annals of history had they not done some last-minute cheapening out on the head gasket.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            That’s not the only thing they cheaped out on…when I moved to Denver in ’95 one of my first temp jobs was doing durability test driving for cars up in the mountains, and we had two Neons – one coupe, one sedan. We’d spend 10 hours a day in them, so whatever faults were there got magnified.

            The engine was powerful, but not refined. The interior was completely cheaped out, even by mid’90s standards. The interior plastics were laughably bad, even by the standards of the time, the doors got clunky after about 20,000 miles, and the sedan had crank windows in the back, even if you ordered the power window option.

            They were always the last choice left for the guy who showed up too late to snag one of the better rides. When I got into my ’93 Protege after spending 10 hours in a Neon, it felt like a Benz.

            Still, they were good to drive. And they actually ran, versus the ’96 “rolling suppository” Taurus in the fleet that refused to start for a month.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Seems like the perfect cheap race car. Good driving qualities, but all the stuff you’d take out of a race car anyway sucked.

        • 0 avatar
          formula m

          Nice driving, car looks unexpectedly quick

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I thought it was Petty blue, particularly with the Plymouth lettering on the fender, which is the coolest logo I’ve seen on a car.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    And worth every damn penny.

    Racing, there is no substitute.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Yep. And Jack didn’t include the costs of personal protective gear – a HANS alone is $500 if the fantastic Motorsports Safety Foundation isn’t at your event to rent you one for $20. I’m just getting started in racing, and it is an addiction. By sleeping in my van (stow & go, natch) and a very resourceful team, I can run a weekend of Class C Lemons for <$1000. But now I want to invest in lessons, better (i.e. cooler) gear, and move to a faster class or series.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      It’s either all-in or stay home, like many hobbies. Hope you enjoy many more seasons

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ah, I see we have another diecast car enthusiast…from the look of the silver 911 I’m guessing 1/18 scale, Bburago (unless Jack wants to be profligate and drop $150 on an AutoArt to sit out on a bookcase).

    And I’m with Jack…I never regretted the good stuff I spend money on. Now, cable is another story.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I bought it when I bought my 993, fourteen years ago, so I *think* it’s a Bburago.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        What happened to them? I had a number of die-casts from them when I was a kid. Now I mostly see Maisto models, and their quality ranges from “OK” to “piece of junk.”

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Bburago is still around. Maisto isn’t all bad as long as you don’t look under the hood – they started putting in a one piece plastic shroud in place of a “real” engine. For $30, though, that’s what you should expect.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Putting a one piece plastic shroud in place of a real engine is just a reflection of current German auto industry practice.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    A LeMons weekend costs us in the $3-4K range if the car didn’t require major investment. That’s dragging a 30′ camper for accommodation, BBQing most of our own food and then splitting 4 ways. Everyone gets a good amount of seat time for the money and certainly a lot of wrenching practice.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    This is part of the reason we run ChumpCar. You pay about the same to run a season’s worth, but it’s split among four people and you get a LOT more seat time than with sprint racing, even if – err, when – you break. It still costs twenty grand to put a car through a five-race season, but you get 50 or 60 hours of track time on that car (divided by N drivers) instead of four (for one driver).

    Also, with four drivers, it’s a lot easier to find enough idiot friends who want to come help crew.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The enduros are a much better deal, but you’re also, to be frank, competing against a lower class of drivers in classes where the disparities between cars border on the laughable.

      • 0 avatar

        Some of us are lower class drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        The thing that got my heart pumping was going wheel to wheel for a position, and I just never saw much of that in the amateur level enduros.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “you’re also, to be frank, competing against a lower class of drivers in classes where the disparities between cars border on the laughable.”

        I have noticed both of those things – particularly as I’m driving a 1.6 Miata (it wasn’t my decision, OK?). But I will say that in the two years since we first looked at Chump, the quality of drivers and cars has increased markedly, at least in the North East and Canada.

        I wouldn’t even consider running LeMons, though. It’s not racing.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          Compare my NASA race video with this:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrIF_wnyqME

          Note just how much faster my pace is, compared to everybody else around me. And the Neon that I’m driving in ChumpCar couldn’t touch my NASA Neon with a five-second-a-lap pole.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            You are clearly braking later than competitors and taking more speed through the turns. Until the orange Bimmer takes you out.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    Thanks for this piece Jack.

    When it comes down to it, even going to win track day comes at around $1000/weekend. I went to VIR with the wife 2 years ago in my S2000 and my costs broke down something like this:

    Registration: $350
    Set of Hawk HP+ that I toasted: $200
    Sleep Inn for 2 nights: $220
    5 tanks of gas, 2 of which were at the track so +$1/gal: $200
    Food: $200-50ish

    I almost ran a 24 hour Chump Car race down there as well, until it was vetoed by the wife based on cost. It would have been in a prepped BMW 2002, and my share for registration, garage, and consumables would have been $1500, not including the extra stuff I would have needed to buy (don’t have a suit or shoes). It is fun as hell, but holy hell can racing be expensive.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Well, some of that is tax deductible now…

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Motorcycle on the street + racing sims + karting is enough for me. Everyone’s risk/reward ratios are calibrated differently though. $4K buys a LOT of motorcycle + racing sim gear + kart sessions

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Racing sims are going to be off the chain when the VR headsets come out and scientists figure out vestibular stimulation (confusing your sense of motion/acceleration).

      But +1 to motorcycles on the street. I’ve never lost money on a used bike. I just find one that hasn’t been cared for but isn’t too far gone, overhaul it, ride it for a year or two, and sell it / trade it. They’re more visceral than any car and you can kinda justify them by the wear and tear you save on your car and that it’s so much easier to drive soulless econoboxes when you know you have a bike at home.

      Have you ever thought about motocross? It’s very physical but a good rider could be competitive at the amateur level with a post 1996 Honda / Yamaha. My brother races it about 6 months a year and I think he spends $2000-$2500 for a whole season of racing? And his bike was $3k but he can sell it tomorrow for $2.5k.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Novice or Int might be doable on a 10 year old mx bike but not expert especially if you don`t want to spend the season mid pack. Vet class depending on ones age can be fun unless all of the Vets are former Expert/Pro`s. MX is a lot tougher on the body than almost any other sport. It also isn’t a sport than one can easily pick up quickly unless you already have a lot of “play” experience with hardcore buddies.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Yea I get way more out of my Civic + bike than I did with my Z + bike. Z was damn near as high effort and fatiguing to drive as the bike is to ride, without the flood of feedback and immersion the bike has.

        I’m not really big on dirt stuff or real life racing. Just too dangerous for me. I agree though that racing sims are looking pretty good. Hell I am happy with Forza 4 on my old ass Xbox 360 with my 10 year old flat screen. For me a move up to Forza 6 will probably be enough forever. I am an engineer and general geek so for me the fun is in tuning. The Forza 4 lobbies are all but dead so I mainly do time trials now, just continually tweaking and optimizing cars.

        But yea VR will take things to a whole other level. Dealing with vertigo and all that will be an issue though. I have to take ginger pills to deal with motion sickness from karting.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Wow. Now I don’t feel so bad about spending money flying, it’s cheaper (about $60/hour to rent the club 150).

    I figure it will cost me about $35-40K to build my airplane (a Zenith CH-650 with Corvair power), about the same as some race cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      True, but I think racing planes is more expensive than racing cars — what’s the burn rate on a P-51 pylon racer?

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I would ask you what the burn rate on an F1 car is, as Unlimited class (where the P51 Strega competes) is the aviation equivalent of F1.

        I do know people who air race in stock Cherokees. In their case, it’s no more expensive than regular flying. Of course, the automotive equivalent is timed road rallies.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Whatever floats your boat/ flies your plane/ turns your wheels. All of it’s better than sitting on the couch watching someone else.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      Is that $60/hr wet and is there a club fee on top of it? That seems really cheap. The flight school at the FBO I used to work at rents the 162s for $109/hr wet and a 172 for $159/hour wet. No club fees, just straight rental.

  • avatar
    319583076

    A Cornell Plexi 7 and a Les Paul Classic set me back less than $3k and I can enter the zone practically anytime they’re within reach.

  • avatar
    mxwlldsn

    “Applied over the course of a year, it would have enabled me to buy a house that was worth another $75,000, if that’s meaningful to you.”

    Haha this very much reminds me of my current house search- I realized I am much more excited about smaller and cheaper places that have two garage spaces… I would gladly give up 75k worth of house in exchange for cash for a new Miata and a place to park it.

    Of course, this means I’m trading home equity for a depreciating little death box, my left brain is starting to seize at the thought of it…

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, but on the other hand you’re freeing up capital for investments. Things tend to balance out.

      • 0 avatar
        mxwlldsn

        True, good point. The difficulty is ensuring that the extra money freed up gets saved rather than disposed – a house payment ensures that at least some of that money goes to principle (increasing direct deposit/auto withdrawal would be essential, otherwise I will gladly spend whatever hits my account to do my part to stimulate the economy). It would also be nice to have more of a budget for home improvements as well (bathrooms/kitchen first, I suppose- not sure how well a refinished garage adds to resale value!)

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Great post. I want to get into HPDEs so badly next year. I know your situation is a different (actively racing versus just improving driving ability), but it definitely has merit in the fact that there are many hidden costs to this great hobby.

  • avatar
    redliner

    I’m in my 20s, unmarried and otherwise unburdened, with a comfortable middle class life in the ‘burbs. Wanting to get into HPDE, I recently started looking at used cars as a potential track car. Then I took a step back and realized that I just can’t afford amateur racing.

    Skip Barber racing school – $5000-ish
    New tires, brakes, assorted consumables $1000-ish per month
    Safety gear $1000- minimum
    Shop space and storage $500 month
    Unexpected repairs $300-month
    Entrance/event/track fees $900-month
    Decent used track prepped car $15,000.
    And the list goes on…

    It was at this point that I shed a silent tear. I realized I was looking at a $10,000 hobby with a $30,000 price tag. Sigh… guess I’ll stick to street bikes.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      “I’m in my 20s, unmarried and otherwise unburdened, with a comfortable middle class life in the ‘burbs. Wanting to get into HPDE, I recently started looking at used cars as a potential track car. Then I took a step back and realized that I just can’t afford amateur racing.”

      An HPDE isn’t a racing event, and while not cheap, is nowhere near the same price league. A fully instructed HPDE weekend runs about $425 (more on the coasts or at premier tracks), 2 nights at a motel is $200, food (you’d be eating anyway, right?), gas for transit (?) and track ($100+). A set of tires will last you 2-4 track weekends, depending, and a set of brake pads 1-3 weekends, also depending. Expensive/fast cars cost more to run than cheap and cheerful. The ability to do, or learn to do, basic maintenance like a brake service is a big money saver.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      If you just want some track time, that list is crazy. You don’t need a dedicated track car for HPDE, you most definitely don’t need to go to Skip Barber, and you don’t need to do it every month.

      If you really want to try racing, pay $1500 and do an arrive and drive in Chumpcar. If you want to do trackdays, get some pads, fluid and trackday insurance and use your daily driver, or rent something, just don’t crash it. Do the latter first, though. Racing wheel-to-wheel for your first time on track is a terrible idea.

      It really doesn’t have to be that expensive, and you’re probably going to want to see if you’re any good before you get too serious about it anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        redliner

        “use your daily driver”

        I LOLed… I drive a 3 year old Chevy Volt. It’s 4 thousand pounds of “absolutely, 100%, not a track car”. Nice mile muncher otherwise.

        I was using racing/HPDE interchangeably, but I really mean HPDE. I would like to go to a racing school so an expert can yell at me and tell me that I’m holding the steering wheel wrong and that my corner entry is rubbish. I am pretty good at karting, but no track experience with cars.

        I would definitely get a dedicated track car. Nothing fancy,just somthing inexpensive, fun, light. Think NC Miata, Fiat 500 Abarth, R53 Cooper S.

        I could even stretch for a Lotus Elise, but I prefer to buy somthing well within my budget, instead of somthing on edge. That way, if I crash, (when I crash?) it’s not a big deal. Also I think a Lotus starts to get less fun and more serious… I’m terribly afraid of crashing it due to lift-off oversteer, being mid-engined and all.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          Generally speaking, HPDE implies that there is instruction available- I don’t believe you need to go to racing school, necessarily, unless you’re pretty serious about an amateur or professional racing career. Doing that to later graduate to HPDE would be backwards.

          • 0 avatar
            redliner

            I’m too old for a real racing career. I would have needed to start a decade ago to be any good.

            Sadly, I only just realized now that I already have a basic career path, that I actually want to be a race car diver instead of wearing a suit every day.

            At my age, the only racing I would likely qualify for is “gentleman racing.” I.e. independently wealthy drivers that don’t actually need to win. Except i’m not independently wealthy, so, yeah.

            I see your point about HPDE and racing school.

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            I do HPDE (actually an instructor now) and the costs are WAY more affordable. I use my daily driver… and its stock other then brake and tire upgrades. Only add ons are a GoPro and Harry’s Lap Timer for my iPhone.

            So you have your helmet (I got one for under $200), the registration (our group charges $300 per event). Then gas, tires and brakes. Sure tires and brakes can get pricey but they are consumables, thus the more events you attend the fastest they need to be replaced. I get about 4 track days per set of EBC Blue brakes. Each set costs about $260. Tires are about $900 (Hankook RS3), I just started running them so not sure on how long they will last. Maybe 8-10 track days? The problem with gripper tires is they wear faster, so you could run rock hard all seasons and have them last much longer, however you would spend all day going slower because you can’t put the power down.

            Food and hotel costs really depends on location. I’m lucky in that regard as Homestead is within driving distance of my house and my parents live in Sebring so I can stay there for free. Our group provides a light breakfast and decent lunch in the $300 fee. I bring a cooler with energy bars and Mountain Dew to stay powered up.

            Doing your brakes yourself will save you major money. Its really the only thing you must do since your stock brakes (regardless of vehicle) can’t really handle repeated track day duty.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      There are discounts to be had for Skip Barber schools. I signed my daughter up for a Street Survival course at the Skip Barber booth at the Petit LeMans, got 40 percent off.

      Also, you don’t need all that stuff to do HDPEs. Any nice legal street car will do. You don’t need anything too fast to start with, you’d be better off with something slower. Look how much fun Jack is having with that Neon.

  • avatar
    buffaloboxster

    Get into a kart. A set of tires, fuel, and track fees will run you well under $500.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      My son runs a 50cc TopKart.

      I weigh 247 pounds.

      Machete don’t kart.

      • 0 avatar
        George Herbert

        A bigger adult sized Kart would be possible; there are adult championships (and my former HR manager raced in them and went to worlds a few times). But with smaller adults.

        Something Kart-like with a bit of suspension travel (even 2 inches), and sized for 200+ lb adults (like me) could be an interesting series and still very affordable…

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    A wise friend once told me, “Life is about turning time and money into memories.”

    Memories, and cowbell trophies. Congrats on the podium!

  • avatar
    sprkplg

    I think it was Peter Egan who said that if you want to know what it feels like to go racing, stand outside on a windy day and tear up a big wad of $20 bills.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      how do you make a small fortune in racing? Start with a large fortune.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      “I know there’s money in racing. I put it there myself.”

      For those of you who remember Tom McCahill, he once took part in a panel discussion that included what it would take for Ford to win at Le Mans. (Tells you how long ago it was.) The other panelists talked about technical details like engines and chassis. Tom’s response was a terse, “Ten million dollars.” Of course, the other panelists were appalled at such a crass statement. Turned out he was pretty much right.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        I knew a technician that was taught that either for his pilot’s or A&R (airplane) mechanics license that “what makes a plane fly is money.” He’s never found it to not be true.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    A friend once owned a very competitive weekend sprint car team for many years. Other teams with a $45k motor could win every weekend with the right driver (if the stars aligned), but his ‘low-budget’ operation ran $5-10k motors (30 years ago) with pretty good good drivers, and still won a lot.

    Even when winning, he couldn’t afford the money or the time any longer.

    Although he loves the sport, he says that racing is the fastest way to turn a rich man into a poor man. I’m happy to watch others throw their money away for my entertainment.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Doesn’t using your brother’s name add the risk of the notorious Chicago DEA attention? Or have they forgiven that unfortunate incident? Seriously, the worst day racing is always better than alternatives, save for a maybe a 68 at Pebble or riding near Barstow on a late fall morning with only your own tracks in the sand. Enjoy yourself while you can, as the insurance will not be renewable after MCI and you will have to watch. Which is not bad if you have your son to coach, which it appears you do. I apologize for any previous ridicule as it seems as though you have a talent for this and a very nice touch behind the wheel. It still astounds me that you’re outdriving a rear- drive car in your Neon. That alone deserves the cowbell.

  • avatar

    I race in Chump Car.

    I pay a team $600-$750 per 2-hour stint (or $1,500 for three stints at a 24 hour race).

    I pay for food and lodging. Fuel and/or airfare/rental car to get there.

    You can race for cheap and have a lot of fun. You need to leverage economies of scale among a group of individuals to really make it work.

  • avatar
    Testacles Megalos

    Once upon a time I raced in a series that for several years had me driving all over the Midwest and New England to run about 6-7 events each year. I did all of my own construction/maintenance/repair (of course had to pay a machine shop to bore blocks, grind cranks, balance bits etc…). I drove myself to all the events with a good friend or two to crew for me, of course I picked up their costs for the trips. Excluding the cost of building a shop and the extended costs associated with that, I figured my little hobby cost somewhere between 20k and 30k each year, just to go have a really good time in a reliable but noncompetitive car. That was after buying the car’s shell and all the bits needed to build a race car (Carroll Smith’s books are a great guide, if you’re doing it yourself).

    If you do that in your late 30s/early 40s (like I did), you will probably live long enough to realize that your greatest success was delaying your retirement by several years.

    Sure, I had a great time, met some really cool people, and learned a hell of a lot about driving, wrenching, team organization, etc… It was probably worth it. A lot better than sitting on my a$$ in the evenings watching TV or spending my money at Disney (internet wasn’t much of a thing at that time, but i’d now include hours spent sitting in the glow of a computer screen in that list of meaningless time sinks).

    Bicycle racing might have been a better idea.

    • 0 avatar
      AoLetsGo

      Jack did race bmx bikes back in the day. I also still race bikes and X-ski it’s cheap, and keeps you in shape. Also I am lousy with a wrench and too poor to pay for a team. I would love to motor race, but at this point it would take winning the lottery to get me out there.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    “$75,000 of house”

    Funny you mention that.

    We’re in the process of selling our condo and buying a house right now; two bedrooms won’t play in the long run with us and two boys.

    And, in Seattle, in this market, we’re going to be spending all of both of our hobby money, for the next 30 years, to get something that’s not derelict, in a decent school district, and not 90 minutes out in the sticks.

    I’ll be content to read other people’s racing stories (and I do like to read them!) I’ll be the guy who’s paying for a mortgage, an internet connection, and some rice and beans.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Good luck finding something right now the inventory sucks, I’ve got two clients who are having difficulty coming to grips with the fact that when I say we need to look at this house right now I mean right now as it will probably be gone tomorrow.

      Maple Valley is my pick if you want a lot of house for your money, in the great Tahoma school district. The only downside is the property taxes are higher than some to pay for the new state of the art HS, complete with one of the few remaining auto shops in the state. I coach in Capitol Hill and can make it home in rush hour traffic in about a 45~60 minutes the majority of the time.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I like Maple Valley, but as someone who lives and dies by the billable hour I just can’t afford to lose that much time commuting.

        We’re looking first in Seattle, but that’s the epicenter of market craziness, with literally 20 offers on many properties and no relationship between listing and selling prices. If we can’t win an offer there, we’re also looking in the Lake Washington district (where we live now), Bellevue, and Shoreline. We’d go to Northshore or Issaquah if necessary but those are starting to get a bit too far out for comfort.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          If you are living in the Lake Washington school district then there will not be that big of a difference in your commute to Seattle unless you are paying the 405 Tolls in addition to the 520.

          I’d rate those school districts

          Lake Washington
          Tahoma

          Issaquah

          Bellevue

          Northshore

          Shoreline

          Seattle

          Has your broker shared this with you? http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=1&reportLevel=State&yrs=2014-15&year=2014-15 once you pick a district you can drill down to the individual schools as there is sometimes significant variance from school to school especially in the larger districts.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I don’t use 405 on my commute, whether by bus or car. Either way I use local streets straight to 520. It’s 20 minutes with no traffic and 35 with once-a-month-bad traffic. I live in South Kirkland.

            The overall consensus of tests has it a bit different than you do on the suburban districts, something like this:

            Bellevue
            Issaquah
            Lake Washington
            Shoreline
            Northshore + Tahoma

            But all of those districts are very good. We are not looking in the worse districts such as Renton, Highline, etc.

            Seattle is a special case; there is huge variance from school to school. Some of the schools in the north and central parts of the city are among the best schools in the state, and a couple of the high schools (Roosevelt, Garfield, increasingly Ballard) have prominent national reputations. On the other hand there are still quite a few schools affected by segregation and poverty, particularly in the far southern areas. (And some central schools are both, depending on which program your kid is in.) We are looking only in parts of Seattle with good schools.

            After waiting for half an hour on I-5 South just between downtown and the West Seattle Bridge exit a few weeks ago, I’m skeptical that a Maple Valley commute would be reliable. The nice thing about most of the places we’re looking is that I-5 will be avoidable by light rail either now or within five-ish years.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            My ratings are based less on the pure performance scores on tests and more on things like teacher retention rate, administrative responsiveness and parent satisfaction. The problem with those rankings are are heavily biased by the socioeconomic status of the district/school.

            One of the things that I like about my down town to MV commute is that there are a lot of different paths available so if there is a problem in one area there are a lot of options.

            5>405>169
            5>900>169
            90>18
            90>Issaquah-Hobart
            90>Coal Creek
            90>405>169
            520>405>all those other options though while 520 is occasionally quicker it is usually only 1 or 2 minutes and I’m not paying the toll to save 2 minutes.

  • avatar
    raph

    Hah… good ol’ cable operated clutch, they always seem to stretch but truth be told I really like the feel of a clutch cable over the mechanical linkage and hydraulic setups I’ve experienced. The clutch cable just seemed to telegraph more feel. The mechanical stuff seemed to come in a distant 2nd and the hydraulic actuated clutch just doesn’t communicate at all.

    When I’m at the local 1/4 mile track its less about feeling the engagement and more about getting used to the pedal position and the rate I let the pedal out compared to when the car starts to move with the hydraulic setup. The trade off I suppose is much better livability in day to day traffic in addition to the servo assist provided by the booster.

    When I had my 2015 GT the clutch was IMO disgustingly light and I thought perhaps removing the clutch assist spring would remedy that but even with that removed it didn’t make much difference.

  • avatar

    Good article. If I’d read it six years ago it probably still wouldn’t have deterred me.

    I built a Spec E30 and raced for about two years. Great fun, great people but financially it is a major drain. I hit ‘pause’ after two years and decided to instruct HPDE drivers instead. I still get to play with the car at the track for a greatly reduced cost but it isn’t the same as racing.

    I also have taken up motorcycling and weighing a weekend riding the bike to someplace new vs two days and a 2+ hour tow each way to sit at in a hot race paddock it becomes a more difficult decision with each passing year.

    I don’t want to give up track driving but having a $10,000 race car that only gets used ten days per year in my garage is difficult to justify. I still haven’t decided what to do.

  • avatar
    707Miata

    It was good running with you this weekend. It was one of our lower turnouts of the year, hence the Spec e30s we lured in to even make it enough for tire contingency.

    I’ll be at all remaining NASA events: Gingerman August 6-7, Mid-Ohio August 26-28, and NCM October 22-23.

    I expect the August 26-28 event at Mid-Ohio will be the biggest turnout. I think it was 17 PTE cars that took the green at the April event, so we expect nearly that many for a summer event.

    Remember, if you sign up before the 10-day cutoff, you avoid the higher entry fee.

    -707Miata

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “Remember, if you sign up before the 10-day cutoff, you avoid the higher entry fee.”

      That assumes I know the car will run 11 days before the event.

      That’s a big ask.

  • avatar
    seattle4r70w

    I do a little bit of RC Car racing and it’s not far off the numbers above with scale as a multiplier.

    For my family, the hardest part to come up with is time. It takes me a good part of of a weeks evenings to prep the cars, run to Hobbytown and them budget a whole day to fo race. Plus the universal joy of bringing home everything needing work on a Sunday night and piling it in the garage.

  • avatar
    707Miata

    Race group is filling up fast for NASA GL @ Mid-Ohio Aug 26-28th.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Ol Shel: The front is all ‘wRX-8’.
  • Maymar: So, for starters, there’s even less of a hydrogen fueling network than there are recharging stations,...
  • bubbagump: A co-worker, since retired, admitted once that she thought the Ford pickup was a Fiso. I cr@p you not. I...
  • JohnTaurus: Makes more sense than “Road Rover”.
  • bullnuke: @b534202 – a little off subject…is your screen id your old Navy service number?

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States