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An official statement


chisek
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  • Race Control

Nelson Ledges.

I’ve never commented on a race before because they’re your races, your stories and your opinions. But this race was different. This race represents a turning point in the rise of ChumpCar and it is important that you, the racers, understand what you did to invoke this change and what this change will be.

I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed that I spoke so highly to the track about our drivers only to have you make a liar out of me. I am embarrassed that emergency workers with 20+ years experience making hot pulls on track came to me in fear of their lives. I am embarrassed that 1st time ChumpCar teams got treated so poorly on track after months of preparing their car and spending a lot of money to be a part of our event.

We did ten events this year in the East. The first nine had good close racing. Clean racing. We had an incident here or there, but by and large these were isolated and generally explainable (fatigue, friends, mechanical). In these races the incident log fit on one 8.5x11 sheet of paper MAX. When a driver got out of hand and we brought him in, we had a few words and they were fine the rest of the race. Where did these drivers go?

I’ll be fair and state that the conditions at this race were a perfect storm that agitated, and perhaps started, all of this chaos. The track was narrow. The track was bumpy. The track was fast. The grass was soft and slick. The tire walls were close in some areas. I’ll give all of you the benefit of the doubt regarding these factors. You’re going to find the limit of your racecar during the first hour or two of the race and in doing so you will slide off track. That’s why we have wreckers ready at these races. We’ll pull you out, but you had better have learned something from that experience. You didn’t.

The driving maturity exhibited during the Nelson event started off sub-par and degraded into downright unacceptable. Despite any and all attempts to curtail the masses, the mockery of the term “driver†continued. Someone said that it was like a Saturday night dirt track race. Don’t insult dirt trackers. When they hit someone else, they meant to do it. For many of you Nelson teams, you didn’t have a clue how to control your car and you never could quite predict whether you would hit a car or a tire wall on any given lap. I hope you enjoyed yourself, because if you try and pull that next year you will be sorely disappointed. But more on that later.

Now am I blameless in this chastising? Not at all. My job is long and large. My job begins a year before the event. Planning, scheduling, marketing, organizing. Once raceday comes my job is to oversee a fun, safe event. This role is constant whether I’m on duty as steward or not. Don’t any of you dare insult me, or ChumpCar, by sitting behind your computer and making false statements about how we don’t care what happens, or we just sat around and drank coffee and let everything slide. My left ear is still ringing with all of the radio calls. My voice is still gone from all of the drivers I had to yell at over the sound of the race. My legs and feet still ache from all of the miles I walked up and down pit road. I speak for myself when I say I did a lot. It wasn’t effective and it wasn’t enough, but then hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it?

Can you honestly say that between your driving stints, repairs, naps, etc. that you saw what happened with every one of the other 73 cars that were there, all 25 hours? You can’t, and neither can we. There are nine corner stations covering 2 miles of racing surface. They see 74 cars every 90 seconds. They will not see everything! Now try and see the action at night with 6 pairs of headlights coming right at you. Every car that was called in as passing under yellow was black flagged. Period. From the green flag to the checker. I have a zero tolerance policy on passing under yellow. Does that mean we caught every pass under yellow? Certainly not. With as poorly as you guys were driving that would not be possible. When you start obeying every flag we put up (especially the black), then we'll see if we can catch more of the incidents.

Which leads me to this very important statement: YOU ARE NOT A CORNER WORKER! Just because you come running up to us and tell us about a car driving poorly does not mean I am going to pull them off the track. Here’s what does (and did) happen. I call up to the tower and ask the steward if car #XX has any recent calls. If so I black flag them for a warning. If there have been no recent calls I inform the corners to watch car #XX for aggressive driving, and the next time they call them in we sit them out for a few minutes. If I brought every car in that drivers complained about, we’d have a 4 car race. The irony to the complaints is that the biggest complainers had just as many complaints levied against them!

We filled up over a dozen sheets of paper with incidents. We recorded hundreds of black flags. We handed out nearly as many penalties. Were you aware of the 30 minutes penalties? Probably not. Were you aware of the driver changes we mandated? No again. What you and I are aware of is that these penalties were not enough. Should someone have been sent home? Probably about 10 teams. That was my mistake to not recognize that time based penalties were not working. My apologies to those team that feel as though I let you down.

So...

What now? For starters I am happy to report that despite the laundry list of incidents this past weekend, there were no injuries. But now the Eastern region is on break for the next 4-6 months. What I plan on doing during this break should be of great interest to you the racers. You see, John gives his regional directors great latitude in how we run and govern his series. It is within this latitude that I have begun to develop, with John’s blessing, a new simple and straight forward template for penalties. Due to the fact that for most of the year you drove cleanly and maturely, I could extend to you the kind of leniency afforded by mature adults. Seeing as how I have now seen that you all still have your inner child accessible inside of your racesuit, I will be publishing penalties more aligned with the behavior of children. Look for these new guidelines in the coming weeks.

I was caught off guard last weekend. It will not happen again. When the penalty guidelines come out, study them. Memorize them. Apply them to the events of this past weekend. And then make sure you’re not the first car I send home next year.

Looking forward to 2012,

Michael Chisek

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Needed words.

Thanks Mike for all that you do.

NL is very narrow, one line track, with very little passing room.

It is bumper tag with the SCCA's 35cars, that are pretty even on speed. Chumps with huge speed variances and huge variety of drivers, made this come to be a mess.

New guys that think that they have the inner apex, when the passing car is rolling through, down low.

Old guys assuming that the slow cars will part the sea for them.

The outer lane is slippery and 6in error, results in a mud slide to the tires. The exit speed of T 1 and T2 is near flat out. Going off is a long slide.

Darkness that covers the passing under yellow.

General lack of patience in conjunction with a general lack of experience.( head up A)

Thanks for taking a solid stand, CWS,

MM

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Thank you Mike and I am sorry if I have come across too harshly on CCWS in my rants. I had a wonderful time and can't wait to be back (hopefully with more horsepower) at Nelson Ledges next year with a new set of rules to keep the racing cleaner.

I still think it is the most prepared track in the country for 24 hour racing. They "get it" like no other track.

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I must have really missed something during my 1am-7am sleep break... :lol:

But seriously, this race was pretty unacceptable. To see cars coming in looking like they were competing in a Saturday night demo derby was sad. Some very well-prepared cars and teams were forced to spend unneeded time in the pits or paddock because of carelessness. What happened to being accountable for yourselves on track? I have raced in 3 Chump events (the only 3 races of my life) and have yet to even touch an opponent's car. I've never once had to deal with a team's complaints. Instead, I've had the pleasure of trading numerous "Man that was great racing" and "Battling with you was a blast" stories. I'm not saying I'm perfect (oh dear God am I not saying that), I'm just wondering how in the world things got so out of hand this weekend. And the fact that most teams involved in contact never even sought out the other team to apologize or discuss the incident is baffling. Chump had to take on the extra responsibility of seeking out accused teams and trying to police them, sometimes without any proof of an incident. As adults, you should be able to police yourselves and hold yourselves accountable for your actions. I sincerely hope the changes you make prevent this kind of thing from happening again, Mike.

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Guest davisriley

Mike,

First off, thanks for putting the event together. Overall, we had a good time. I'm not going to waste anyone's time with specifics, but we echo many of the concerns raised here. Good to see that there is some changes coming, and we can get back to racing. We will be there, for nelsons and more, in 2012. See you then.

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One can only hope the memory of this 1 event does not taint the upcoming rules/penalties in such a direction that a couple of incident-less, contact less,wheels off, yellow flag running, tunnel vision moments are not absolutely devastating to any particular team.

Treat adults as such and if the inner child persists slap em down first as individuals then team as needed. Personally receiving a black flag causing a couple minute penalty @ Sebring had me thinking real hard about what happened and it was not repeated.

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Mike - thanks for showing the teams the effort that went on behind the scenes, it's really easy for teams to e-peen criticize without all the information and you certainly showed in your response the amount of effort that was put into making this event safe and that the CCWS team wasn't just drinking coffee! ;)

I can only hope that all teams new and old take this event to heart, learn from it so we can all grow with this great racing series! :)

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Mike,

We do appreciate what you do and the work that goes into these races. Having raced Chump in the SE and never had the problems that I am reading about, I look on this race as an aberration. Devise a penalty policy, enforce it BUT let the series continue to be a racer's series. That is why ChumpCar is different and so much fun. Thanks.

Joe Downer

RiffRAF Racing TR6

Charlotte, N.C.

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FWIW - Drive down the freeway, make a couple aggressive passes, bend the speed limit a little, and in short time you will find a number of cars that will be following your example and driving the same way. (I then let them go around me and get the speeding ticket while I cruise along with out worry)

I think the same scenario might be happening to some of our races. You have a couple of bad apple over aggressive teams that stir the pot and get some others who normally would drive sane to start pushing things to far.

You need to punish those who cause the road rage not necessarily those who end up raging.

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I think the track had more to do with it than most people think. There wasn't necessarily more douchebaggery at NL than I've seen in any other crapcan race (my career prior to this was exclusively with Lemons). The problem was that the consequences of said douchebaggery are worse at NL than any other track I've been on. There's less room on the pavement to avoid bad drivers, there's nowhere to go three-wide to get around the two slow cars duking it out in front of you. The speeds are high, the speed differentials are high, there are multiple places where you unexpectedly run out of track very quickly, the track is bumpy, and the runoffs are short and muddy. When Lemons was there two years ago they ran up the highest black flag total in the series history by a LONG way.

If I was a ChumpCar organizer, I wouldn't necessarily take this as a change in the behavior of the competitors, but I would definitely expect more of the same next year at that track.

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Guest David Hawkins

I think the track had more to do with it than most people think. There wasn't necessarily more douchebaggery at NL than I've seen in any other crapcan race (my career prior to this was exclusively with Lemons). The problem was that the consequences of said douchebaggery are worse at NL than any other track I've been on. There's less room on the pavement to avoid bad drivers, there's nowhere to go three-wide to get around the two slow cars duking it out in front of you. The speeds are high, the speed differentials are high, there are multiple places where you unexpectedly run out of track very quickly, the track is bumpy, and the runoffs are short and muddy. When Lemons was there two years ago they ran up the highest black flag total in the series history by a LONG way.

If I was a ChumpCar organizer, I wouldn't necessarily take this as a change in the behavior of the competitors, but I would definitely expect more of the same next year at that track.

If that's the case, it's a more damning statement about the driving of Chumps in general than anything else I've read so far.

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Guest posnova

Let me assure all Chumps that Mike, Joey, Cathy, Rick, Monique and I will ALL be working on, reviewing and approving a "standard" for on-track penalty assessment, which will be employed at Portland International Raceway at the end of this month.

fa_ironfist1_full.jpg

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Hey Mike,

At every race I have been to You do a truly amazing job. To be honest I had no idea NL was this bad and I was there. When I was on track yes there were cautions and some cars off track. Perhaps I did not see them as all my stints were at night. My team will never forget when you stuck your neck out for us at TMP this year. The mopar 4 life team will recognize any changes you feel you need to make, to keep the series moving forward.

Stigdad,

Enjoy the moosehead.

Steve

Captain "mopar 4 life"

#1 97 neon

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I have begun to develop, with John’s blessing, a new simple and straight forward template for penalties. Due to the fact that for most of the year you drove cleanly and maturely, I could extend to you the kind of leniency afforded by mature adults. Seeing as how I have now seen that you all still have your inner child accessible inside of your racesuit, I will be publishing penalties more aligned with the behavior of children. Look for these new guidelines in the coming weeks.

I think you have it backwards. Heck yes there should be penalties. When a 12 year old attempts murder, they get 2 years visiting a counselor.

A responsible adult who does something equally egregious gets 10 years hard time. A responsible adult, or a real race driver, should understand that his actions have consequences, including the possibility of real punishment.

Do not treat us like children and say "Oh, you had a little off? Well, spend 2 minutes in the quiet corner and think about what you did wrong."

Please expect adult behavior at 110mph, and dole out adult size penalties for those who can't comply.

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That's kinda amazing Dave, as I was saying the same thing to Mike this morning. NL is just not set-up for 75 cars... the run-off area, the track conditions, wet grass everywhere, mud, etc... it all just came together in a bad way.

IF we go back... the event may have to be capped at some manageable number and we may have to limit the event to "seasoned" teams that have run 5 or more ChumpCar events, so we know who and what we're getting. Just thinking out loud...

So, in response to your thinking out loud, the BRE Datsun team (winners of the Mr. Clean award at NL) wouldn't be invited back because we only have two CCWS races under our belts? :rolleyes: That's like saying all old people are safe drivers and everyone under 65 is a danger on the road. How about look at the black flag log instead when selecting the teams that should be invited back?

I do not blame the track surface, the soft runoff, or the number of cars, I blame the lack of repercussions. Like Jim said, step up the punishments and use the Beretta theme song. Don't do the crime if you can't pay the time... Teams would self police themselves and we'd all have a great time.

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Guest davisriley

So, in response to your thinking out loud, the BRE Datsun team (winners of the Mr. Clean award at NL) wouldn't be invited back because we only have two CCWS races under our belts? :rolleyes: That's like saying all old people are safe drivers and everyone under 65 is a danger on the road. How about look at the black flag log instead when selecting the teams that should be invited back?

I do not blame the track surface, the soft runoff, or the number of cars, I blame the lack of repercussions. Like Jim said, step up the punishments and use the Beretta theme song. Don't do the crime if you can't pay the time... Teams would self police themselves and we'd all have a great time.

Seriously. We had 0 black flags between 2 cars, other than a set of lights that failed. 1/2 of the team were pure rookies. Yet we managed to not get in trouble. Want to know why? I drilled it in to our drivers heads that they were responsible for their actions, and not to drive like asshats. And amazingly, the didn't. Step up the penalties, and go from there. I think that you could drive the same amount of cars there, and be fine. You just have to make sure that the penalties have some bite to them, not the sit in a corner for a 5 minute break time. Very simple, first black flag, driver change. Everyone can make a mistake. 2nd, driver change, sit for 10 minutes. 3rd, driver change, sit for an hour. Fourth, driver in question loses band, car sits for 2 hours. 5th, there's your trailer, don't let the gate hit you in the donkey, and you are not welcome back at a ccws event for 12 months. Not trying to be harsh, but I love that track, and I really want to go back. I think that if everyone has to answer to their own teams as to why they lost the event due to a penalty, it would sort itself out very quickly.

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Guest sparkplug87

Our team had a good weekend. More penalties would have been welcomed to stop bad driving and to help put some fear into all drivers. I raced the 24 hour race at Nelson in 2009 with 122 cars and even with the bad weather we had in 2009 the driving was much calmer then.

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Mike,

Almost everything about this event was great. All the staff was professional, the roving tech inspectors, the food, the people and teams. The only problem was the aggressive driving. Having the unique perspective of not actually being on the track during the "worst six hours of driving" you had seen, the red flag driver meeting scene reminded me of a parent who scolds a child but does not follow through with consequences. The child goes right back to it. This was not your fault. You had a new set of conditions to address and very little time to come up with a way to address it. It seems we got into a unique situation for ChumpCar. I believe you guys will come up with something to address this in the future, and your comments make me comfortable that we could go back there and these items would be dealt with appropriately.

That's kinda amazing Dave, as I was saying the same thing to Mike this morning. NL is just not set-up for 75 cars... the run-off area, the track conditions, wet grass everywhere, mud, etc... it all just came together in a bad way.

IF we go back... the event may have to be capped at some manageable number and we may have to limit the event to "seasoned" teams that have run 5 or more ChumpCar events, so we know who and what we're getting. Just thinking out loud...

Not going back to Nelson Ledges? Requiring seasoned teams only? Noooooooooooo!

The top teams should be able to adjust to these conditions - mostly by adding a little patience. The rest can visit the black flag tent.

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Guest fairgentleman Z

I don't know why blame is being put on the drivers.

This whole situation reminds me of getting a substitute teacher in 9th grade. The good kids still behaved, but everyone else went ape poop.

This:

I raced the 24 hour race at Nelson in 2009 with 122 cars and even with the bad weather we had in 2009 the driving was much calmer then.

I learned that this flag (whether single, waving, or double):

yellow-flag-XL-anim.gif

Has the same meaning as this flag:

blue-flag-yellow-stripe-XL-anim.gif

Check your mirrors, and be prepared to be overtaken.

Edited by ChumpCar because you got it wrong, wrong and wrong.

Edited by fairgentleman Z because I was there. :)

Edited by fairgentleman Z
Very Bad Information
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ChumpCar has the unique challenge of herding the cats and rookie drivers while still maintaining a professional racing atmosphere without the pageantry of the LeMons series. Do what is necessary to maintain the current status quo, but should the rule book and penalties smell fruity I'll take my racing, time and, money elsewhere.

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