High Plains Raceway

by Andy

I think “Hot Plains Raceway” would be a more apt name for this race. The weather forecast called for 105F, and we measured temps up to 113F, with the track surface at about 145F. It was hot. Of course, heat is a car’s worst enemy. It is harder on tires, brakes, the driver and team, and of course, the engine. And remember that we are driving high mileage $500 cars. Attrition would be the name of the game on this one. The configuration of the event did provide teams a better chance to be competitive though. It was called a “Double-7″ which means we race 7 hours on Saturday, and 7 hours on Sunday. Each day is counted as an individual race, giving teams who DNF on the first day, a 2nd chance on Sunday, with an entire evening to work on the car.


You will notice the rental truck. At $450 for the weekend, it is about the same as the monthly payment on my pickup truck, which I sold. Since I only race twice a year, it made a lot more sense to ditch the high payment, and rent when needed. As an added bonus, I bought a 2002 WRX as my daily driver, with a monthly payment of $180. Everybody wins.

When we got to the track, it was already in the 90′s with a strong, hot breeze. I put the car through tech, and shortly after the rest of the team arrived. We installed our new radio system, which Brian had prewired to use the turn signal indicator. So when we hit the turn signal, the radio would transmit, and a red light would light up on the dash. It would prove to be much more effective than our previous voice activated system which was also activated by ANY loud noise. What a pain in the ass that was.

After dinner, we grabbed a couple beers and walked a portion of the track, telling stories, and joking about what might happen at tomorrow’s race.


 I took the green flag, and the race was off. While we weren’t setting any world-record speeds, the car was quick, and a true blast to drive. HPR is a very technical track, with many elevation changes, blind crests, and decreasing radius, off-camber downhill turns, and a long back straight. It was very easy to find and pass the limit of the car’s abilities. With the extreme heat, the engine was constantly in danger of over heating, and we would have to ease off at times to allow the motor to cool. At one point, we couldnt get the car started, and it turned out that the battery had worked loose, and the negative terminal was disconnected. Kind of a silly way to lose time. Such is racing I suppose.

The heat was also really intense, and everyone was pretty miserable. Luckily, Claudia (Mom) had thought to bring electric fan, water sprayer thingies, which likely prevented heat stroke on more than one occasion. The facility had no running water either, with the exception of the trailer bathrooms, which never worked because the circuit breaker kept tripping. So it was dark and 130deg. Going to the bathroom in there was like being in a sauna. Notice I didn’t call it a “rest”room. I think “sauna shitter” would be more accurate. I took a shower in the trailer that night, and tried to dry off, but couldn’t manage it because I was sweating faster than I could towel it off.

As his luck would have it, when John Fuggi entered the car, things started to go wrong. He noted over the radio that the temps were fluctuating wildly, and the car seemed to be overheating much more rapidly. I told him to ease up a bit, and carry on. Shortly thereafter, he got back on the radio and said “I just saw some steam come out of the hood. But not much.” To error on the side of caution, I had him come in, and drive the car into the garage. When I popped the hood, the engine was HOT HOT HOT. I unscrewed the radiator cap (DO NOT try that at home,) and discovered the radiator was empty. No, wait, the entire cooling system was empty. Every last drop of water had left the building. Damnit. The funny thing was that Fuggi didn’t recall actually seeing any water on the windshield. That is when I discovered the cracked radiator, and determined that the water must have been SO hot, that when the radiator cracked, and the cooling system pressure dropped, all of the water instantly turned to vapor and existed the system in a puff of steam. Awesome. And I brought lots of spare parts, but no radiator.

Since we had learned from previous races, we didnt let this little radiator issue slow us down. We quickly divided tasks between the team members. Fuggi and Travis began using technology to locate a radiator, Brian, Jack, and I started removing the radiator, and Jon Steele photographed the mad scramble. It didn’t take long for Fuggi to track down a radiator that would “work.” I would tell you how far away it was, or how long it took Fuggi to get there and back, but such information could be used to incriminate him. Lets just say that, with his BMW 335i modified twin-turbo land rocket, he would have been perfectly comfortable on the German autobahn passing “slower” cars that end in “i”, like Lamborghini, Maserati, and Ferrari. By the time the old radiator was out, Fuggi was back with a replacement, that uh, was really not supposed to fit. But zip-ties, bailing wire, and a saw-zall to the rescue, we made it fit, and got back out on the track. Oh, and it was hot out. Really hot. I am not sure if I had mentioned that before. Nothing quite like working on a furnace-like engine in stale 113deg air.

Back out on the track, we finished out the day pretty well. Actually, no, it wasn’t that great. We came in 19th out of 20 something cars..but we finished. Despite the issues, it was a lot of fun.

(Language Warning)

Yes, I am dedicating a section to the night and early morning. This is because Lauren and I slept in the back of a pickup truck, with no wind, in 90+deg temps. We didn’t actually sleep though. As if the heat wasn’t enough, with the sheets sticking to me and my pillow acting as a sponge, we got to listen to another team try to fix their car. They weren’t really fixing it though, as much as they were drinking, getting stoned, and fist-fighting each other. Between incoherent yelling, I was able to piece together their story. Basically, the calm stoned guy wanted to take apart the motor and find out why all the oil had gone away. The angry drunk wanted the stoner to go fuck himself, and the goofy drunk kept dropping bolts into the crankcase, and losing various tools, the bong, and the weed. Later, the angry drunk wanted everyone to shut the fuck up and listen, then he wanted them to “just fucking say something.” Only the South Park movie used the word “fuck” more often. It ended with the stoner getting punched by the angry drunk, and the goofy drunk talking about just loving one another. It was about then that I realized our sleeping arrangement had wheels. So I moved the truck to another area. Listening to the rich people’s A/C turn on and off in their land yacht was much less frustrating. I didn’t sleep.


Good morning. It’s 105 degrees already. Want some hot coffee? Well, put on your two layer fire suit, gloves and helmet and get into a steel box. Have fun!

It was fun though. The car held together surprisingly well. The only issue was a fuel leak that we determined was the gas vapor recovery system draining. Towards the end of the day though, with temps at their highest, the car started to act up. It was overheating again, and occasionally losing power. I drove the last stint, with high temps, blinking check engine lights, and over-heated tires. I also managed to get black-flagged for driving past the limit a few times to many. Oops.

Thanks, as always to the team for all their hard work!!

Photos were taken by Jon Steele. Although he normally drives with us, he is welcome to sit it out and take pictures any time. Great shots!