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First timer as a ChmpCar participant - LilRedChvt

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Sorry for the delay, but I would just like to share my experience –

Where to begin…

To many, this may be old hat, but to me, this past weekend (12 – 13 APR 2013) was one of the most exciting and adventure filled weekend of racing I have ever experienced.

First, I would like to Thank John, for creating such a cool arena of racing. And to ALL his support crew, for putting on a fantastic event at Watkins Glen.

Secondly, I must Thank Kent, for not only buying my ’87 Chevette, but to let me drive it, at the Glen, for its inaugural event. Although it did meet a rather untimely demise, the experience (albeit short) will resonate in my memories for ages. And again, a great deal of Thanks go out to Kent, as he was able to secure our team another vehicle to race – an IROC Camaro – fastest car I ever raced! THANK YOU SAL, for allowing us to not only race your car, but also to break it, fix it... and break it again. That said, this car was so much fun to drive that an hour would’ve been too easy – cause it was so-much-fun! In spite of this, as it wasn’t meant to be, this car also expired (twice) throughout the weekends event.

Along side Kent, was a crew that made me, and my wife Karen, feel as welcome as relations. Tobin, Tony and Pete – THANK YOU!

In addition to Team Phoenix, there was Johnny Lighting, Big Joe, and Edgar. I hope your weekend was as exciting and event-filled as mine.

Tobin, you, my friend, will be a force to reckon with once you finish school. Tobin is a ‘Never Say Die’ kind of guy. When the Chevette broke, we, under Tobin’s directions were able to disassemble the little engine in short time. And with the hopes of repairing any damage, we sorted out some ideas as to how to fix it. Only to find a cracked head (in 3 places) and a spun bearing, that ultimately collapsed our hopes of running the Lil’ Red Chevette at the Glen (or anything else for that matter). Thus, we were finished, as there were no parts available to make repairs. In light of this setback, as I was informed (with confidence), you have not seen the last of the Lil’ Red Chevette.

After the Chevette officially expired (Friday), we were offered the opportunity to race this car; bright as the sun, loud as thunder, and fast as lightning; a nearly 600hp, IROC Camaro – WE TOOK IT! (Thanks again Sal!)

Saturday had its ups and downs, and, yet again, not more than a few hours into the event (for all the team drivers), the engine was showing the stresses of not being ready for the rigors of this endurance event. We nursed it as best we knew how, and followed Sal's guidance. To no avail, By Sunday morning, the engine was presumed too stressed and near death. In the garage the long faces were distressing enough to pack-it-in and go home. But, as our unwillingness to fail and the determination to succeed, was well in our desires, Kent, Tobin, Sal, and the team decided to give it once last shot at reviving the engine. By this point none of the team had much more then moments on the track. But we were not willing to give-up this easy. We would fix it; at least to have the 2 (never before raced) rookies get their Hot-Laps’. Considering they only signed-up to race a 1987 Chevy Chevette, with barely 100hp, this was an opportunity highly unexpected, and greatly appreciated.

With Sal’s blessing, Tobin and Myself started disassembling the engine. Now, I have never been known for my mechanical prowess, in fact, I seldom, if ever, build my own engines. But, with Tobin’s knowledge and experience (then later), Johnny Lightning’s expertise with the big bore cars (and again Sal’s awareness of his own engine), we were able to disassemble, repair the damage (a head gasket, an intake gasket, and a serious overheating problem), and reassemble in a 4-hour window. This was well beyond anything (mechanical) I have ever done.

To many, a laugh will be had, as this is outside the norm for me. To some, a glint a pride might be expressed or shared, as we were able to get the car roaring and back on the track. Short lived though. With only a few hours of the event left to go, we sent the rookies out for a reasonable amount of time.

But, when ‘I’ gave it my last go, the car was still suffering from overheating (odd, as it was barely 40 degrees all weekend), and, the car was struggling to sync the gears anymore. So in my last ditch effort to turn in a fast lap, I sped down the front straight, exhilarating as nothing I’ve ever felt, 500’, 400’, 300’, time to break and shift – can’t find 3rd, break again, find 3rd, overshoot corner, roll up on the curbs, settle the car down… gulp of air. Feeling better, race up through the essess (super cool feeling!), slide into 4th at the top of the essess, roaring down towards the bus stop, 500’, 400’, 300’, time to break and shift – can’t find 3rd, break again, NO 3rd!!! What’s happening, no steering input, no breaking, can’t steer, (car stalled), cars to the left and right, must muscle through the corner, can’t make second turn, cars pass, I hit the grass between track and wall, car is dead – DAMN! Had to be flat towed in (thanks Rescue Team – super nice people). Car not overheated, good oil pressure, all systems go – what went wrong? I’m done.

With 40 minutes left in the event. Johnny Lightning wants to give it one last run. Car starts, still struggling to find gears – find one and goes – for one lap, only to find yet another issue (gears, clutch or transmission???). This was the last straw that sidelined the car for good (or bad, as it were).

I would like to sincerely Thank You - Tobin, Sal, and Johnny for teaching me so many things, and for your confidence to have me assist. Tony, thanks for all your support and videography – I hope this footage works out, can’t wait to share with my family, friends and students. Pete, thanks for keeping us up-dated on the weekends events and photos, as most of us were unable to see much of the racing.

I will finish by thanking my wife Karen, for having the patience to sit out in the cold, enduring auto travel of 7-8 hours (each way), only to be rewarded by a couple hours of sleep each night (and having to go to work on Monday). Even though she enjoys sharing in the sport I love, she also enjoys the meeting of great people and enjoying the company of many newfound friends.

I could not have made this any shorter, as my excitement has overwhelmed me.

Our Sincerest Thanks and Appreciation go out to ALL the Chump Car Family, for letting us experience this with you. We hope to participate, in one capacity or another, in the future.

Michael "ELVIS" (and Karen) Hintze

Velvet Elvis Racing

Waterford Hills Road Racing


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Wow. If there has ever been a better testimony to what CCWS is all about, I'd like to see/hear it.

Mike, it was an absolute pleasure sharing the weekend (and all it's adversities) with you. Don't you worry, the Lil Red Chevette is currently having it's heart re-worked and will be back better than ever. Who wants to see a Chevette on the high banks at Daytona? EVERYBODY!

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Thanks Guys - WHRRI (Waterford Hills Road Racing) may be our present Racing home/family, but I would be remiss to not appreciate the level of hospitality that was shared with us throughout the weekend.

Not to mention the piece of history that I can add to 'my' racing career.

Thanks Again to Team Phoenix and the Chump Car Family. :D

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Guest uhhouse

That’s a helluva recap, Mike. I want to chime in along with those thanks, and share a little bit of my story for what was definitely the most fun I have ever had in my young life.

About a week before Chumpkins Glen was set to start, my original team broke the news that, due to irreparable drivetrain problems and incompatibilities, the Impreza was sidelined for the time being (though my buddy is still continuing the build, and hopes to be in a Chump Race soon!). So, I posted a sob story on the ChumpCar Forum, and Kent was quick to respond, ultimately offering me a seat to drive in the Lil’ Red ‘Vette! I couldn’t believe it, because prior to The Glen weekend, I had a grand total of ZERO on-track, wheel-to-wheel experience. Plus, Kent didn’t know me from a bum on the corner, so that’s one hell of a leap of faith.

So I went from high, to low, and back to high… And I must mention that the ENTIRE team (in no particular order) – Kent, Pete, Johnny, Tobin, Tony, Edgar Mike and Karen… you were ALL incredibly welcoming and killed the pre-first-race-ever jitters. I will admit, I was intimidated to drive even a 100+hp Chevette in traffic, completely not knowing what to expect.

My eyes got MUCH bigger on Friday night, after the engine issues in the Lil’ ‘Vette, and Kent came back to the trailer with the news that Sal was kind enough to loan his 580hp (or whatever it is, by FAR the most powerful car I’d even sat in, to add to the pucker factor) Camaro to us for the remainder of the weekend. I will never forget my first moments in the car, feeling it out and venturing out on the track, fulfilling my 20-plus-year dream of piloting a car around Watkins Glen. I had an absolute blast, learned more than I could’ve imagined cramming through my thick skull, and even came out of it in one piece!

Johnny, Mike and Pete offered me a ton of knowledge, walked me through the lap, and how NOT to turn Sal’s IROC into a pile of salvage scrap in the tire barrier. I listened intently, believe me, and turned it into a safe-and-sound return to the garage.

The most amazing part to me, however, was the diligent work by Tobin, Mike, Johnny and Tony, constantly working on the Camaro to make repairs to get back on the track, even though we were only participating, not fully competing. Not to mention, how gracious Mr. Lightning and Elvis were with seat time to give Edgar and I, both total rookies, a bunch of track time on our first weekend behind the wheel. And none of that, at all, would have been possible without Sal loaning (against better judgment, probably, if he’d only known my resume!) his “Baby†to us for the experience of a lifetime.

And Kent and Pete, thanks to you both for welcoming me to your team. I look forward to getting out there with you again, and I’ll do everything I can to make that happen this season. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had, and you even helped me convert a few “Racing Is Boring†folks into “Wow. This is what it’s all about?!?†That’s saying something.

Good luck in Daytona, and I’ll see you again, everyone.


Oh, and Tony, you’re the man for posting the videos on YouTube. I think I’ve watched each at least three times, and it still hasn’t gotten old yet.

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To anybody ever needing a driver in the northeast, Joe would be a heck of a choice. Great teammate, total sponge when it comes to learning tracks, and there's definitely some raw talent in there. If somebody put him in a reliable car where he could get solid seat time and feel out a track he is a born driver. Though most race car drivers aren't built like linebackers. :lol:

Joe, we will certainly be in touch about future races. We may be running Pittsburgh, which is an awesome track for beginners. Very tight, but very flowing with lots of runoff room, so you can really learn to push the car and find it's limits. Trust me, I know. It was my 2nd ever track and by the end of the weekend I had our 2nd fastest lap of the race.

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