|Murilee Martin photo
Great to see you again. On a scale of Awesome to Incredible, how was that preview? I agree.
Now, if someone in Vegas or Atlantic City or that seedy restaurant where people are coming and going from the back room all the time is taking bets on the overall winner—i.e. the team that the series typically cares the least about—make the jump for what passes as a tip sheet.
#301 Rust in the Wind (Nissan 300ZX, Saab Turbo swap) - Yes, this is a Nissan 300ZX with a massive, functional air brake and a turbocharged Saab engine under the hood. Strangely enough, this car won consecutive races in 2012 and 2013. They've been pretty much 50/50 between competing for the win and finishing mid-pack, but the car is certainly fast enough to make a splash.
#262 Vermont BertOne (Volvo 262C Bertone) - The much-traveled Bertone Coupe heads to its home region after much of two years racing around the country, including a long-awaited win in the car's most recent race at Carolina Motorsports Park this spring. In the car's last seven races, they have five Top 5 finishes and should be considered one of the favorites.
#10 MR2 Old to Care (Toyota MR2) - This first-generation MR2 has been among the fastest cars since it starts racing last year and this spring at New Jersey Motorsports Park, it became the second-ever MR2 to win and the first to do so since 2011.
#26 Team Pro Crash Duh Nation (Alfa Romeo Milano, shown above) - This Alfa has at least three second-place finishes and has been racing in LeMons since the first races in the region at Stafford Springs' tiny little bullring. This is a tough car and if it weren't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all. Still, look for them to take an early lead on the back of a typically very long first stint. They're equal parts a solid bet and someone to root for to get that much-sought first win.
#99 FRS's Ugly Uncle (Toyota Camry Solara) - The Solara is an unlikely competitor for an overall win, but this team clearly has the car figures out with two second-place finishes in its last three races. A Camry beating all of these cars really might be the most LeMons thing in the series history: A non-sporty commuter car thrashing BMWs and F-Bodys? I for one welcome our beige overlords.
#508 Massholes (Ford Escort ZX2) - This ZX2 doesn't run a whole lot of races compared to many of the others in the field, but they have six Top 10 finishes in their seven races since 2012, including a second-place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2013.
#230 Swedish Mafia Racing (Volvo 245) - After crumpling their veteran car on the NHMS boulder last fall, the team scored a "new" Volvo wagon and drove it to third place at New Jersey this spring, finishing just behind the FRS's Ugly Uncle Solara. The naturally aspirated Volvo won Class B handily and should run in the top class this time around.
#35 Sorry for Party Racing (Pontiac Firebird) - After finishing third overall in their F-Body's first race, Sorry For Party have languished either in the mid-pack or at the back of the Top 10. Still, this car lacks little for pace and while Thompson is not really a horsepower track, the Firebird should have the power to be competitive.
#131 Scuderia Regurgito (BMW E36) - This team once finished in 10th place with a Fiat 131 so one has to think they have a chance with a proper-ish race machine like an E36. They had two consecutive Top 10 finishes in 2013 and 2014, but followed that up with 120th and 118th place finishes, respectively. Feast or famine with the E36.
#1 Kielbasa Kids (Honda Civic) - This might be a longshot to most LeMons regulars, but Kielbasa Kids were actually the first Civic team to win a LeMons race overall way back in 2009 at Stafford. The team only ran one more race after that—the 24-hour race at Nelson Ledges in 2009—and they haven't entered a race since. Stafford was something of a relic in terms of LeMons racetracks and probably isn't a great measure for the way the series has become, but they did have a second-place finish at Stafford in their first race so it's conceivable that they might have some tricks up their sleeve to stay competitive at Thompson.
#992 SillyNannies (Audi A6) - Everything fell into place this spring at NJMP for this team, who finished fourth overall behind Swedish Mafia. They were one of the slower teams in the Top 10 and certainly didn't have anything for the three cars that finished ahead of them on pace, but it's conceivable that all-wheel drive might come into play on a wet racetrack.
#19 Scooby Doobies (Audi Coupe Quattro) - And the Scooby Doobies finished just behind SillyNannies at NJMP. They also have three Top 10 finishes in five races, though NJMP was their first Top 5. There's generally a huge leap to make from a fifth-place car to a race winner, but they've been consistent enough to make that a possibility. Again, rain might help them or it might now.
#128 Bazinga Racing (Nissan 300ZX) - This Nissan team have gotten consistently better, finishing with two consecutive Top 10 finishes. They were the slowest car in the Top 10 at NJMP in the spring but still managed a sixth-place finish. As we've seen with the Back to the Past 300ZX before, you absolutely do not need to be the fastest car to win the race; you just need to do what you do best, which is run with surprising fuel efficiency and no mistakes.
Other cars - Yep, there are other ones and it's very often the case that one or two cars has a breakthrough race of sorts with a Top 10 or even a Top 5.
Those who have read my SRS PRVWs before know that I'm also intrigued by how an ideal race strategy works out and in most cases, the key to winning—besides not breaking, not getting black flags, and keeping a consistent pace—is minimizing pit stops. Like most LeMons races, this one totals 14 hours over two days; the nuance of strategy depends on how those two race sessions are set up. This weekend, the race is 9 hours + 5-1/2 hours. Some simple arithmetic will tell you that any team that can cover three-hour stints to make Saturday's long session in two pit stops will have a huge advantage.
|# Stops, Sat.
|# Stops, Sun
|Total in-race stops
|3:00 or more
|2:45 - 3:00
|2:15 - 2:45
|1:48 - 2:15
|1:40 - 1:48
|1:30 - 1:40
Typically, an extra pit stop will cost anywhere from three to eight minutes, depending on the pit, paddock, and fueling setup, so one extra stop over the race means having to average a half-second per lap more than someone making one fewer stop, all other things being equal (which is seldom the case). Naturally, there's also time in the pits so those numbers above are probably flexible by a couple of minutes.
All of this, of course, can be thrown into utter turmoil by rain that is forecast for Saturday. Rain tends to bring black flags aplenty, so the emphasis for most teams turns to keeping their collective noses clean. Wet races create an interesting balance for teams: Driving a car on a wet track uses considerably less fuel, extending range, but it's also a lot more work for the driver to keep the car pointed in the right direction. To keep from a driver losing concentration and making a mistake, the most competitive teams may have to make a compromise to keep from having crumbled sheet metal.