By on May 11, 2014

MISC LEMONS 323

Hello. My name is Daniel and I am a crapcan racing addict. My friends and I have been running a number of cars in 24 Hours of Lemons and Chumpcar racing for the past several years and have taken to offering seats to those who care to do this sort of racing for any one of a number of reasons. Temporary insanity and poor judgment tend to be leading causes.

This is a golden age for road racing thanks in no small part to the genius of Jay Lamm and friends really bad idea for 24HOL. Currently there are more options to get out on a track and enjoy real honest to goodness door to door racing than you most likely know. On any given weekend there is some event happening somewhere, more likely several. Even if you want to stay close to home, most will have access to events within a few hours of home five or six times a year.

As the premise of these affordable racing series is the mythical $500 race car, many people have a bit of a misconception about the true cost of competition. With the need for a quality cage, safety equipment and general upkeep, most cars for these series end up costing around $5000 by the time they are ready to take a green flag. This does not count the entry fees, personal protective equipment, truck and trailer to get the car to the race, the gear and tools you need to keep the car on the track and then there is the time… It takes hundreds, maybe thousands of man hours to make your average clapped out rusty old jalopy a somewhat reliable and entertaining “$500 race car”.

This is exactly where I came to the service of TTAC’s Grand Poobah and his posse. It seems that they have had some less than stellar experience with this form of racing. Coincidentally, we were in need of two drivers to help fill out our roster at the Lemons Southern Discomfort race at CMP in Kershaw SC. These fine specimens of race car driving glory were willing to pay a slightly elevated fee over and above expenses to purchase driving time and the convenience of not having to deal with any of the mundane details or pain of building their own program. We get to meet, hang out with and in effect fleece some automotive journalists out of some of their ill gotten industry cash in exchange for our hard work and professional(ish) race car development. A win-win if ever I saw one.

The team and I towed into Kershaw from Ohio late Thursday night, set up camp and got the car teched and ready to race Friday afternoon. Our well-heeled and pampered guests slummed in the nearest Westin while we sampled the finer aspects of race track parking lots and enjoyed the fine tradition of pre-race night life and (mostly) family-friendly socialization. Race morning the TTAC crew came to the track in matching his and his cars fresh as daises and ready to run. They were able to quickly get their gear checked and got approved to race. We introduced the men to the car and got Bark M belted in, radioed up and onto the track.

The race started and Bark wisely let the mayhem around him cool off while he learned the car and the track. After a number of other jokers blew up their cars or drove off the track he started speeding up and cutting through traffic and making up time on the race leaders. Then nothing… the car just died without warning. As he waited, strapped safely inside the car for the tow truck to come get him we got ready in the pits to diagnose and repair the problem.

This was sadly the first in a string of issues that took us off track for a total of over 2 hours. There is a sad reality of racing on a budget and that is that if you are going to follow the rules and actually use second hand, junkyard or improvised non cheaty parts, you are pretty much sure to have problems. We did. Thankfully through the hard work and expert skills of team members Gary and Jon, the fuel system issues were cured and by the end of the day the car was on track problem free and running hard.

We had dropped as low as 74th position out of 84 cars but by the end of the day, the speed of our car and skilled driving by Jack, Bark and our team driver Gary got us back up to 62nd position with high hopes for the second day of racing. The car needed very little adjustment overnight with only minor attention to tire rotation and safety checks and re-checks. We were able to sit back, relax and enjoy the evening.

Sunday morning was beautiful, clear and cool. The car was ready after yet another round of checks. Team driver Jon strapped in and went out to take the green flag and set a quick early pace. The cars issues were cured and the cool morning air made the car quick and powerful. After his first few, gentle laps Jon started chopping through traffic like a machete through South Carolina kudzu.

Over the course of 2 hours, we were the fastest car in the race. The car was able to safely make up time and by the end of Jons stint we had made up 3 laps on the race leader and 10 race potions on the field. Gary was in next and the rapid pace continued. The plan had been to put Jack in the car next but he somehow wasn’t at the track. We figured he was either antiquing or sampling local omelet bars so Gary went into the car next. He kept up the pace and picked up several more race positions.

At this point the cars speed started showing as excessive wear on the cars tires. Gary felt that the driver’s side front tire was going away so during the pit stop to install Jack, we swapped a tire and let him go to work.

Jack picked up where Jon and Gary left off and set a rapid pace. We started running math and figured how hard to push the car and its tires in the interest of both having fun and also preparation and learning for future races. Over the course of his stint, Jack was able to take us to 40th position overall with the last pass for position coming in the last 5 minutes of the race.

This was a victory of sorts as we all felt as if we had done well given our situation. Jack was happy, Bark was happy, other TTAC staff in attendance were happy, our crew was happy. I was and am pleased with how we did given our adversity but when I think about the time we were off the track and the laps we did not make then I think about where we would have been if we had made those laps… Its disheartening to know that we were close to contending for greater glory.

We had a wonderful time and enjoyed sharing the track with TTAC staff but we are hungry for more. The two failed fuel pumps have already been dissected and causes of death determined. A plan is in place to improve function and make sure these and other issues that took us off track never bother us again.

As it stands, we will be trying this all again with Jack and Bark at VIR in August at a 24 hour Chumpcar race. The car is close and given a little luck and some more hard work we expect good things. We hope to share our adventures and experiences with you along the way.

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4 Comments on “Crapcans: The Good, The Bad, The Sour, Part 1...”


  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “Any man that would paint his truck like this would go to a minister’s funeral dressed in feathers.”

    I remember laughing my ass off the first time I ever heard about Le Mons. This stuff is great, and we need more of it.

    Does that driver’s side exhaust stack seriously have a catalytic converter on it?

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    VIR is less than 100miles from our new house…. August 24th, I might have to check this out. Let’s see how broke I am after settling in the new place.

  • avatar
    CowDriver

    I got sucked into LeMons racing three years ago, and it has completely taken over my life. Standing in line at the store, I will strike up conversations with total strangers about it. The garage, driveway, and patio are filled with crapcar pieces. Junkyards, auto parts stores, and Harbor Freight are almost daily destinations. And it has been a total joy.

    The people I have met through LeMons are the friendliest, most generous people you could ever hope to meet. They will spend hours helping you fix your car, loan you tools, give you parts, and generally do whatever it takes to get you on the track.

    The older and more obscure your car, the more they love it. The more rust it has, the better. If it is covered in moss from sitting in the woods for 20 years, that is a mark of distinction.

    Racing is never cheap, but LeMons is the least expensive there is. You can do an arrive-and-drive for $700 to $800. You can even rent your safety gear if you are not ready to make the investment yet. Per seat hour, it is the cheapest wheel-to-wheel racing you can do.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Looks like fun to me .

    -Nate

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