Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ChumpCar 'The 36:' The Rusty Hub's Preview

"ChumpCar World Series makes its annual trip to Spokane County Raceway this weekend."

Sounds kind of blasé, we suppose, until we mention that this race lasts virtually the whole weekend: Thirty-six hours of continuous racing from 10 p.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Sunday (local times), making it the world's longest continuous road race.

And it starts in the dark.

If that's not a daunting challenge and the makings of an awesome weekend, we don't know what is.

Sure, some Spaniards want to hold a 48-hour race at Navarra with "professional" GT cars, but until that comes to fruition (Don't hold your breath), ChumpCar will have the current super-endurance record.

We have to admit that it's virtually impossible to predict winners for a race of this length. Nearly anything can happen and it's going to be tough to expect that any team will last 36 hours without encountering some stumbles.

We'll give our predictions based on what the teams entered have done in the past, but you might just want to print a dart board off, write the numbers from the unofficial entry list on there and then throw a dart to "pick" a winner. It's probably just as accurate.

Early week forecasts call for clear weather and high temperatures in the mid-80s with overnight lows in the mid-50s, which is pretty great ideal racing weather. Get the full scoop on the race from the supplemental rules PDF here.


ChumpCar's entry lists in the Pacific Northwest buck much of the series' trends in the rest of the country. Of the 49 entries for The 36, only five are BMWs, three of which are E28s. However, eight Honda Civics and CRXs will take the green flag, as will eight(-ish) Volkswagens.

(Murilee Martin photo)

The biggest surprise on the entry list for us is the Tired Iron Repair (above) and Will Race for Beer entries. The multiple race winners will tow their Saab 9-3 and Saab 9-5 (respectively) entries from Pennsylvania and will be a team to watch. The teams showed well at Daytona but ultimately lost out when an axle failed late in the race. They salvaged a Top 10 of it and proved their mettle under pressure.

Local squad Martini Racing return after capturing the win in the Spokane 24-hour race last year. Their Volkswagen Golf was tested in long-distance format, so we figure that a team proven in 24 hours has a solid chance of bettering the rest of the field over 12 more hours.

(Murilee Martin photo)
The only two BMW 3-Series in the field are both in play for a win. Backmarkers finished runners up to Martini Racing in last year's 24 and are a veteran team in an E36. We think Chotchkie's Racing (above) are possibly the team to watch with five consecutive Top Tens, including a win in their most recent venture. Their E30 should be in the hunt for a win.

Martini Racing isn't the only Volkswagen with a good chance at a win. An all-VW podium is certainly possible. The Team Titleist Golf rounded off the Spokane 24 podium in 2012, just four laps behind the race winner. Rusty Rotors' Rabbit has won a shorter-distance race and reliably managed Top Ten finishes. Shift Autosports' Jetta won earlier this year and will look to come out on top again. We'd be shocked if no Volkswagen made the podium.

(Murilee Martin photo)

The best of the Japanese entries should be Apex of Failure's Mazda RX-7 (above), a very veteran crew with a couple of race wins in their history. The rotary is quick, clean and capable.

While Volvos have always done well in crapcan racing and been very reliable, no Volvo-engined Swedish box has won a race in ChumpCar or in the 24 Hours of LeMons. General Leif's Volvo 142 has come very close before and remains a solid choice because of the car's durable design and fairly bulletproof motor.

The Formula Roadster squad has racked up four ChumpCar wins with their now-retired Datsun Fairlady Roadster, which is being rebuilt for NASA competition. The team will instead bring their 280Z to The 36. The Z hasn't had nearly as much development work, but the Formula fellows know a thing or two about winning and it may translate over 36 hours of racing.

Fast-forward a few years from the 280Z's heyday to the decade of the Miata and Honda. Cone Damage's Mazda Miata and BSD Racing's Acura Integra rate as quality modern Japanese entries. Both have run well in past 24-hour races and should have a chance.

The field's second two-car team come from the well-known Squirrels of Fury crew. The unofficial entry list shows both Squirrels cars as Volkswagen Rabbits, but the last we knew the Squirrels of Fury campaigned an Audi Coupe and a Volkswagen Scirocco, both of which are quick and regularly compete. Regardless of what they're running, we think the Squirrels will be in the Top Ten all weekend with at least one of their entries.

Our handpicked longshot for this race is the Clutch on Fire Toyota MR2, which of course must overcome its inherent MR2-ness to do well. The Clutch on Fire squad were at one time one of the best crapcan squads, but they've not had as much success recently. For all we know about 36-hour crapcan races, Hour 26 could open up a wormhole into an alternate dimension where usually reliable cars develop British Leyland-caliber faults and typical basketcases (like the MR2) magically become Audi R18s.

More longshots: NNM Motorsports (Dodge Neon), The Flying Lumberjacks (Volkswagen Fox), The Eh! Team (Honda CRX), Schwarzchild Radials (Nissan NX2000), Ferrari Massacre (Ford Escort ZX2).

Think we've got it all wrong? Check out the unofficial entry list and leave a comment below, write an angry note on our Facebook page or give us a 160-character what-for on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. "no Volvo-engined Swedish box has won a race in ChumpCar"

    I don't believe that's still true, Bahnstormers' 740 turbo won the first Chump race at the TWS double-7 a couple of weeks ago.