"The Lightning McQueen Graphics Should Be Worth Fifty Penalty Laps"

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

It’s a little-known fact that I was the first person to coach famous LeMons Judge Phil, also known as Murilee Martin to TTAC readers, around a racetrack. It’s a semi-known fact that I was his boss for about a year recently.

That didn’t stop him from hammering the Busted Racing 944 Turbo with twenty penalty laps for its maiden LeMons race at MSR Houston this weekend — nor did it stop the team from getting three black flags while I made my usual leisurely way to the racetrack for Saturday’s nine-hour session.

Since Jim, the team principal of Busted Racing, is such a nice guy, I know he won’t mind me using him as an example of how not to get through a LeMons BS inspection. In fact, it’s Jim’s honesty that was directly responsible for those penalty laps. Let’s count the ways that honesty caused him grief by using quotes from the actual interaction with Judge Phil:

“We got the car through some people who were also members of the local Porsche Club.” Has there ever been a 944 Turbo in history that was honestly sold for $500? Probably not. This one sold for $750, mostly because it had crash damage down the entire right side. But when Jim admitted that he was a member of the same PCA region as the seller, even though he didn’t know them and didn’t get a break on the price, Judge Phil administered Soviet justice with all the capriciousness of a tribunal of pigs deciding Snowball’s fate in his absence. Lesson: Always make a fake Craigslist ad.

“I fixed all the body damage myself!” But why fix the damage? Because Jim wanted a nice-looking car, he painstakingly knocked out all the dents then rattlecanned the whole car to the same approximate shade of red. The thing to do would have been to add more dents! Lesson: Never deliberately make a LeMons car look nicer than it was when you bought it.

“Twenty laps? With ten, we’d have a chance to win this thing!” When Jim said this, I wanted to yell “NOOOOOOOO!” like I was Luke Skywalker holding on to a piece of weather-control apparatus underneath Bespin. Never tell Phil you can win the thing with just a ten-lap penalty. Yes, the car is fast — the 1:56.9 you see above was just my fourth-ever lap in the car — but in order to run in the front at MSR you need a 1:54 in the bag every lap, no matter who on your team is driving. Lesson: Undersell your capabilities.

“Yes, it’s a 944 Turbo.” This was in response to Jay Lamm’s “What, this is some piece of shit 944 with an S2 front end?” The proper response to this would have been “YES.”, followed by a smile of satisfaction as you remembered the times you spent removing all “turbo” logos from under the hood and a quick bribe to Judge Phil. The 944 Turbo used to have Ferraris for lunch! Never admit to having a 944 Turbo! Lesson: Don’t admit to having a 944 Turbo.

As fate would have it, we’re currently sitting behind TTAC contributor Stef Schrader’s normally-aspirated Puffalumpy 944 in the standings, even if you account for Judge Phil’s judicious twenty. Three black flags will do that to you. But it’s going to rain tomorrow, and I think I might actually show up in time to drive. You never know what will happen.

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2 of 16 comments
  • Domestic Hearse Domestic Hearse on Nov 17, 2014

    Especially don't admit it's a turbo when, before the race, it wasn't even generating any boost. Did you ever get that sorted?

  • Murilee Martin Murilee Martin on Nov 22, 2014

    It is possible to get a 944 Turbo through the BS inspection with zero penalty laps, but the only path to this happy result involves bringing (at least quasi-)believable documentation of parts bought and sold. This car came with no documentation whatsoever. Maybe a year ago I'd have said, "Oh hell, all 944s blow up, who cares?" when I saw this car. But now two different 944s have managed to pull off LeMons overall wins, so I am forced to take the breed seriously.

  • Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.https://www.lhd.com.au/lhd-insights/australian-road-death-statistics/
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.