My 24 Hours Of Lemons (Part 1)

(I copied this post to my team blog.)

I don't feel the need to blather about my life generally, but this experience I can't shut up about. Now that I've started blogging there are a few other topics I'll likely blog about: Music, relationships, biking, games... Yawn. Maybe not. We'll see how it goes.

24 Hours Of LeMons

The 24 Hours Of LeMons is a 2 day, 14 hour car race, held at a race track, and restricted to cars that are worth roughly $500 or less. My girlfriend called it "a bunch of dumb men going around and around all weekend". While that is mostly accurate aside from a few dumb women in the ranks, I'll add to that description.

It was the most thrilling experience of my life. It was incredibly intense and outrageously entertaining. It was like being in a Mad Max movie.

A little background: I have never raced ANYTHING before. Though often mistaken for a 'jock', I'm a pretty relaxed guy who has never been that competitive. When I was a kid my parents put me in pee-wee football. I loathed being put in the game and would hide from the coach on the sideline. I'm competent in my selected recreational pursuits, but at a young age decided the best way to ruin a fun activity way to take it too seriously. I had a passion for driving fast when I was younger, but now I find the speed limit is almost meditative in it's relaxation. There has always been a little rivalry among my brothers, but for the last decade they've been too out of shape to challenge me at much.

But the race: This is not a oval course with cars of nearly equal size and performance. This is tight course packed bumper to bumper with all sizes of shit-boxes. Vehichles no one expects to survive, or much less to preserve the paint jobs. The race started with 85 cars pacing under a yellow flag*. I watched the line of cars march around the course completely and still more cars were entering from the pits. The slow rumble was ominous. All the exhaust systems had been butchered for a cheap, loud, and effective horsepower gain. Weld in a roll-cage and remove all the lights and windows from any car and it is transformed to a machine you want to stay away from. The course was stuffed with these.

My jaw clenched when the decibel level abruptly shot up. Suddenly there was far too much sensory input to take in. I never had time to confirm the green flag**. My eyes were darting around the course looking for sources of the sounds of collisions. My attention was drawn to a cloud of smoke and the car it poured from in the middle of the course, then an uncomfortable car that has spun backwards and stalled in the first hairpin with a field of cars bearing down on it, then a car whose hood popped up on the far high speed sweeper, then cars throwing up clouds of dust as they are forced off the course in the narrow front side chicanes. My mind couldn't grasp all the insanity.

Some months previously Joe, my youngest brother, had sent me a link to a video article on the first 24 Hours Of Lemons. It looked like great fun. Yes I wanted to do it. Yes really. Yes enough to help fund a car. I knew better than to think this was one of the half-ass schemes Joe would lose interest in. His history demonstrates the crazier the scheme, the more likely Joe will follow through to the end. Later he finds an '86 Toyota MR-2 on Craigslist in his town, Medford Oregon. Doesn't run. Blown head gasket. No fifth gear. $250. Silver. Sounds perfect. A week before the race the car is running well, roll cage is in, and I scramble to get a helmet ordered in time.

Friday I take a day off and drive from Salt Lake to some burg south of Sacramento and meet Joe and the rest of the team. Randall, Joe's ex's sister's boyfriend, is the rest of the team. Randall is a contractor, has a tool trailer that fits the car, welders, generator, and a bunch of other tools that prove essential. He also is a great mechanic and driver. Our mandatory fourth driver was fictional.

Here is some one's in-car footage, Joe's photos, my photos, what happens when you bring a $30000 car to a $500 car race, a good video...

[to be continued...]
(Part 2)

*Yellow flag means there is a hazard on the course, go slow, and no passing allowed.

**Green flag means "GAME ON!" Start/resume racing.

Red flag means stop on the course while wreckage is cleared.

Black flag is for a driver to enter the pits for a penalty.

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