Team PartsBadger – Road Atlanta Recap
Firstly a big congratulations to Pinky’s Out for first place – The Car is FAST in the corners and very well driven they were great to race with and ran a great strategy. Congrats to crowd control racing as well, it was a fun race chasing Pinky’s with Crowd Control breathing down our necks. Also congrats to the 626 team on the B class win, its awesome to see that car put up a solid performance. Congrats to NotBannedYet for setting the bar with a blazing time!
Secondly I would like to apologize for the contact in practice and then again in the race. I am 100% at fault and learned a lot this race about how to drive clean. The contact in practice I thought the door was opened and it was not. In the race, I committed to the pass when I should have just backed out. Both were lines I didn’t expect, but they are 100% entitled to those lines. I’ve already changed my style greatly after Sebring, but clearly, I needed more work. Everyone has their right to own their own line even if it’s not the “race line” or “fast line”. A lot of racers are just getting started and they pay just as much as I do to enter a race and are entitled to drive their own line. It took me far too long to realize this.
A big thank you to everyone who helped us get our first podium. When we first bought the tired ITA car we had much lower ambitions but it quickly escalated to us wanted to build a top car. We bit off a little more than we could chew before Road America in October 2018 and had a number of mechanical issues. Sebring was another learning experience for us both in car prep and driving style. Low Tide Motorsports was our crew for Sebring and quickly identified many things we were doing wrong. They did a great job at the race and allowed us to get a lot of needed testing done on day 1.
After Sebring we added a phenomenal mechanic, Will O, and spoke to some veteran racers(they can name themselves if they wish) who offered great advice on everything from fueling, physical and metal fitness, car prep, and driving style. We took the advice and rebuilt the entire car before Road Atlanta with the goal of just finishing the race.
We arrived at Road Atlanta and all of us were in awe of this AMAZING track! The elevation changes are shocking. Although we all watched a few hours of videos, nothing could prepare us for the first time cresting the hill before turn 12.
We burned a lot of practice time bedding in our brakes on the skid pad and chasing some odd tire temps realigning our car between sessions. For the last session I made contact within my first few laps with the 626 car and we were blacked flagged for the day. I was still too green with the track so our third driver Chris Prey would take our first stint. We also didn’t have a lot of time to test our pit stops and were worried since the dry run didn’t go so well. We also didn’t have time to really test our radios.
We decided on a 9 stint strategy providing us the most flexibility in pit windows and we wouldn’t have to worry about fuel. If we did it right we could get a couple yellow pits.
When the race started Chris was running fast, consistent and clean. We were hitting what we believed would be solid times. Unfortunately, our pit couldn’t communicate with our car for some reason. That said we hit our first pit window during a double yellow and we had a perfect stop, so far so good.
Our second stint starts in the video below. I was learning the track and there was a lot of traffic, but near the end I was running good times and the car felt great, then I foolishly attempted a pass where I shouldn’t and made contact with a purple miata. We spun and I ended up de-beading the passenger side tire. I was able to get the car into the pits, and the double yellow dropped due to the incident (AFAIK). We did a great stop and replaced the tire and then were held for a ~5 minute penalty for the contact. We lost about 4-5 laps while being held and dropped from the top 5 to 10-15th.
Jimmy started the next stint and was running strong getting spots back. Near the end of his stint he was coming over the 11 crest and saw a yellow but was going too fast and couldn’t slow the car in time. He was black flagged the next lap for passing on the yellow and came into the pits, luckily during a pit window again. He was held for another 2 laps until released for the our pit. We had another great stop and some yellow help and Chris began going to work getting our spots back.
We had a lot of green over the next two stints and made up significant ground as some of the leaders dropped out. We had an oil scare and lost a quart during a stint which ended up being a valve cover breather. Luckily our crack mechanic was able to make a catch can and keep it together while still hitting 5 minute stops. We still adjusted our shifts to 6500 and were on edge the rest of the race hoping it was just the breather leaking.
We were running strong but during the second to last stint I hit the backside of the curb at the outside of turn 3 and the wheel began vibrating violently. It didn’t seem like a hub failure and the grip seemed ok, so I marched on for the next 15 minutes until our final pit window opened. We did our final pitstop and our finish was in Jimmy’s hands. He was turning strong laps and we were hoping we could push Pinky’s Out into a fuel issue while also keeping Crowd Control behind us.
Towards the end of the stint, reality hit that we would finish, and finish on the podium and I began frantically looking for our tech sheet for impound. After half an hour of searching I finally asked registration if they have new ones and there I saw the stack of tech sheets. I didn’t know they kept the sheets LOL.
The Checkered flag dropped and we had finished our first race.
We got to impound and Jay told us we’d need to remove the valve cover and we grabbed our tools. Once we started to remove the cover we were also asked to split the intake manifold which we did. Jay then asked me to remove the gears to see if the I / E positions were correct, to see if we did the Exintake swap(I know of it, but not the details). We removed the front cover and were trying to figure out a way to remove the gears without losing our cam timing. Jay asked us to find pictures of the cams to prove they were legal and Jimmy was searching for pictures on his phone. At this point atleast one team was telling us to just give up and go to EC, showing me values from an out of date VPI sheet. At this point the excitement from the podium was gone and it started feeling like a mob with pitch forks (reality or not, its just how I felt at the time). We zip tied the belt to the gears and removed them from the cams to show proper position. Then we were asked to remove spark plugs and they inspected our pistons. Huggy, Jer, and Troy had some kind words during impound which was comforting when we felt short on allies. A couple minutes later Jay called everyone over and gave everyone the opportunity to speak now or hold their peace. There were no takers, the race was called official and that was that.
The trophy presentation was late with a light crowd, but we were elated with our performance and our awesome new hardware. After the awards, our car was the only one left in the pit lane and we began gathering our things and taking pictures to celebrate our first finish. Security came over upset since he wanted to get home but needed to lock the gate, so we threw everything in our truck and towed the car back to the pits.
We enjoyed some very smooth whiskey and beer with our Miata pit neighbors and hit the hay with our stuff spread across the paddock. We got up at 8am lightly hung over and began packing our crap for our 13 hour drive home. After some black ice in Indiana we finally got home around 5am ready for work 3 hours later.
We all learned A LOT and are in the process of getting the car ready for VIR, hopefully with a few upgrades.
We do plan to help our Miata brothers by sharing what we’ve learned thus far, and we have a lot more to go.
We are also working on a software tool that calculates pit windows for yours and other teams, average lap times and standard deviations of lap times during stints. This will help teams see when other teams are pitting and calculate gaps and target times for the remainder of the race. We are also developing it for ourselves to use as a post race analysis tool. This should be done soon, maybe we will have a beta in time for VIR. I’m not sure if something like this exists, but if there is a wish list, let me know. We are using the API from MyLaps I believe so any of the raw track data should be available.
Stints 2, 3, and 4 –
Contact during stint 2 - At 1:13:45
Contact During Practice: