Saturday, August 9, 2014

LeMons: 'There Goes the Neighborhood' Saturday night kind-of-live

Keystone Kops at Summit Point, 2013. (Murilee Martin photo)

Earlier this week, I previewed this weekend's 24 Hours of LeMons race ("There Goes the Neighborhood") at New Jersey Motorsports Park. In LeMons, the winners are really sidenotes to the narrative of the weekend, but for those half-dozen teams embroiled in the long endurance battles, a lot of pride is at stake. So this post will contain my ramblings for the half-dozen people who care about the outcome of some crapcan race in the Garden State.

Today's race session was a long one, encompassing a nine-hour slog around NJMP's Thunderbolt course. Tomorrow (Sunday) will see a 5-1/2 hour "sprint" to see who comes away with the overall and class trophies. The varying time slots should keep it interesting, so let's see how today ended and what to expect in the final handful of hours. Naturally, this being Saturday night, this will all be plucked directly from my mental notes in the interest of time.


1. #242 Keystone Kops (Volvo 240, V8 Swap) - 246 Laps
2. #230 Swedish Mafia Racing (Volvo 240) - 243 Laps
3. #508 Massholes (Ford Escort ZX2) - 242 Laps, Class B
4. #10 MR2 Old To Care (Toyota MR2) - 241 Laps
5. #99 FRS' Ugly Uncle (Toyota Camry Solara) - 241 Laps
6. #71 Near-Orbital Space Monkeys (Ford Mustang) - 241 Laps
7. #301 Rust in the Wind (Nissan 300ZX0) - 241 Laps
8. #745 Fast Al's Race Team (Volvo 740) - 241 Laps
9. #26 Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente (Alfa Romeo Milano) - 240 Laps
10. #35 Sorry for Party Racing (Pontiac Firebird) - 240 Laps

The toughest part of the day was, perhaps, watching surprise contender MR2 Old to Care going from a solid P2 on the same lap as the leader to missing the final 10 minutes of the session and dropping all the way back to P4, losing five laps in the process. I'm unsure what set them back, but that should keep it interesting when the Top 10 is gridded at the head of tomorrow morning's field. Theoretically, the P8 car could jump all the way to fourth on the opening lap, though that's unlikely to happen.

Keystone Kops - The Kops' V8-swapped Volvo coupe has been here before with a huge lead at the end of Day 1. The burbling Ford V8 has some serious cojones and this is the fastest of the contenders so they really shouldn't be in too much danger of being outpaced. At the risk of cursing the Kops for the hundredth time, this is their race to lose. They should be able to run the day on two fuel stops, which will be the standard for most teams.

Swedish Mafia Racing  - The Mafia will hope to be the first Redblock-powered Volvo to win, theirs being turbocharged. The turbo probably keeps them from getting astronomical race mileage so expect them to make two fuel stops, also.

Massholes - This team has come awfully close to winning overall, so we'll stick to that and talk about Class B below. The Escort can perhaps run a tad longer on fuel than either of the Volvos, but it probably can't do the 2:45 required to make the race in one stop.

MR2 Old To Care - The MR2, which was slapped with a few thousand penalty laps at its debut earlier this year, led for long stretches of the day, but Keystone Kops' anchor driver ran down the Toyota in the last hour, which then saw the MR2 lose a solid chunk of ground. They ran a very long stint to start Saturday's race, so they will likely attempt a one-stop strategy.

FRS's Ugly Uncle - A Camry is pretty unlikely to be anywhere near the front of a racecar field, yet this Solara led for a bit. It runs a bit on the slow side, relatively, but realistically speaking, P2 through P10 all run close-enough pace over a day that just about anything can happen. As for fuel, they'd be hard-pressed to stretch it to 2:45, but a few lucky full-course yellows could make the difference.

Near-Orbital Space Monkeys - The Monkeys' Mustang won this year's earlier NJMP race by stretching their fuel capacity to its very limits in that race's 6-1/2 hour Sunday session. With one fewer hour, they should be able to run on a single stop.

Rust in the Wind - This Frankenstein'd Nissan 300ZX--powered by a turbocharged Saab four-cylinder--has the second-fastest lap in the Top 10 and should get a solid jump among the five cars starting on the same lap. However, they'll also struggle to run the day on a single stop. Expect two stops and some intense flogging in the interim.

Fast Al's Race Team - The F.A.R.T. squad have had some tough luck before, missing a couple of Class B wins despite Top 10 overall finishes. They'll need a lot of lucky breaks to win outright.

Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente - This Alfa seems to run a delicate balance between speed and efficiency. At its best, the Milano can run well over three hours, though at the expense of speed. If it's uncorked, the beastly V6 can give the grunt to put down some seriously fast lap times.

Sorry for Party Racing - The Firebird will need a small miracle to win outright, but like the A.R.S.E. Milano, Sorry for Party can really clock some fast laps. They'll be right around two hours with their stints and should be fine on two stops.

Others: Vermont BertOne's Volvo 262C and the Keystone Kops turbocharged Volvo 240 sit P11 and P12 overall. They should each get a fair shake at a Top 10 finish. NYC's Fastest Taxi, an E36, is the highest BMW in the field, though Kovatch Motorsports led the early stages of the race and set the race's fastest lap (and a new LeMons track record with a 1:43.630). They sit 18th and their speed could make up a lot of ground if they don't break.

Class B

1. #508 Massholes (Escort) - 242 Laps
2. #745 Fast Al's Race Team (Volvo 740) - 241 Laps
3. #32 Speedycop & The Gang of Outlaws (Honda Accordion) - 233 Laps
4. #56 Rabbit Pellets Racing #2 (Volkswagen Scirocco) - 232 Laps
5. #63 One Lap for Dogs (Volkswagen Golf) - 230 Laps

Massholes - The Escort is a bit faster at its fastest than the P2 car, but the Volvo should be able to make some of that up with one fewer pit stop. Using the hot pits, a pit stop should take up 2-3 laps for a top team, so the Massholes will have to push hard to make up the difference.

Fast Al's Race Team - As mentioned above, F.A.R.T. has the capability, it seems, to run 5-1/2 hours on one fuel stop. They'll still need to push reasonably hard to keep Massholes from making up too much ground and they'll have to do it cleanly.

Speedycop - After nearly nabbing a Class B win at the Chicago race, Speedycop is trying once again with the Honda Accordion. If either of the cars ahead of him run cleanly all Sunday, he hasn't a chance, but if they both lose 15 minutes or more, it's game on. I believe the Accordion will need two stops.

Rabbit Pellets Racing #2 - The Scirocco is the kind of car that lingers right around the Top 5 in Class B at every race (though it's been in Class A at each previous race). The pace and fuel stops should be very similar to Speedycop's so again, if the top two in class stumble, it'll get interesting.

One Lap for Dogs - VW Golfs are, perhaps surprisingly, very fuel-efficient under race conditions. This car is virtually dead-even on pace with Speedycop and Rabbit Pellets, but it also sits right on the margin of a one-stop Sunday. 

Class C

1. #82 DeCuzzi Racing Gulf A Fiero (Pontiac Fiero) - 202 Laps
2. #235 Prompt Critical (Ford Capri) - 199 Laps
3. #400 Team Sputnik (Geo Metro) - 198 Laps
4. #42 3 Pedal Mafia (Sea Sprite/Chevy S-10) - 194 Laps
5. #34 Full Nelson (Saab 96) - 187 Laps
6. #911 Drunk Firemen (Volkswagn Rabbit) - 186 Laps
7. #5 Speedycop & The Gang of Outlaws (Ford Explorer) - 181 Laps

DeCuzzi Racing - This team was mentioned in the preview as a potential Class B winner, which gives indication to how good they actually are. However, the judicious LeMons Supreme Court allowed them into Class C with 11 handicap laps. This would be an insurmountable total if the top cars in the class held together, but they did not. So overcoming 11 laps is a major achievement and worthy of a class win. Fuel strategy really isn't going to matter. If they don't blow up, this Fiero will run away with the class from here.

Prompt Critical - This team's abject failures in the past make them prime candidates for Index of Effluency if they continue to run at this pace. Like the rest of Class C, they'll need a falter from the Fiero to have a chance.

Team Sputnik - Similarly, Sputnik's bevy of failed schemes (Nissan-powered Porsche 924, a minivan, an awful Plymouth Fury, too much involvement in the K-It-Forward debacle) is somewhat offset by their Metro's success so far in this race. It's easy to forget with their recent history that this team once won three consecutive Class C races and they could pull it off again. The Metro's fastest lap is on par with Prompt Critical's, but I'll suggest the Metro should be able to run long enough to make it a one-stop race. If the Fiero fumbles, the class battle could get interesting.

3 Pedal Mafia - The Boat was cruising in the class lead until a fuel pump failure late in the day cost them at least 10-15 laps. The Boat won't be able to outpace the cars ahead of it, but Class C is all about suffering the fewest setbacks and 5-1/2 hours is a long time for all Class C cars.

Full Nelson - The Saab 96 is powered by the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder plant from a Geo Metro and it even makes reasonable pace (about the same as Sputnik's Metro). A dozen laps is a lot to make up for a car like this, though.

Drunk Fireman - This car actually seems like it's run the entire race, but it's seriously just so incredibly slow that it actually has been outrun by a three-cylinder Metro. That doesn't seem like something that should happen to a Rabbit, but perhaps this is just a team of newbs. Either way, their fastest lap time is the slowest of any car with more than 100 laps, yet they're only seven positions from the field's halfway point.

Speedycop - Contrary to what some might have believed, the Jurassic Park Explorer's automatic transmission has not scattered its innards all over the track and the floaty truck is only a dozen positions away from halfway in the field. Whether it gets that that far or not, it should be an IOE contender.


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