Race 10: Daytona

One of the things that sets ChumpCar apart from other series is the tracks.  Racing with ChumpCar gives us the opportunity to race on world class tracks that would otherwise just remain on our wishlist.  Daytona is such a track.

It was a quick weekend.  On Friday before Memorial Day, Thomas, Mark, and I left Houston about 6:15 a.m. with the trailer in tow and headed east to Daytona.  We arrived at the hotel right around midnight local time.  John, Clark, and my parents flew out on Friday.  Art and Patrick flew out on Saturday.  Saturday morning, we took the car to the nearby Firestone for an alignment.  You have to love the lifetime alignment deal!  Then, after a lunch out on the pier at the beach, we headed to the track for tech inspection and registration.
We moved all our stuff into the garages at the track.  And like most every race, there were a few details to finish on the car once we got to the track.  We added a rooftop antenna for the radio, which worked out perfectly.  We also had to re-install the radio harness, and a couple other small things.  We finally left the track around dinner time, got a bite to eat, and a good night's sleep.
One other thing we did Saturday afternoon:  Picked up our FREE OPTIMA BATTERY!  Many thanks to the fine people at Optima for sponsoring ChumpCar and providing batteries to the teams.

The cars rolled out on track a little before 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.  119 cars took the green flag.  I started the race in 98th position.  Having only driven the track on my Playstation, I was a bit slow during this first stint.  It took some time for me to get used to the track and the speeds.

John had done a lot of work on the car since the last race.  He cut a total of 75 lbs out of the car.  He also did some aero improvements.  All the work really paid off.  Once we got used to the track and the traffic, we were routinely seeing speeds of 130-135 mph.  With some drafting, John hit 140 once.  That's a lot of speed out of our little 2.4L Nissan engine.


During my stint, a lot of cars pitted early, I passed a lot of cars, and I was passed by a lot of cars.  The net result was that by the time I pitted on lap 34, we were up to 24th place.  John went out in 45th place after the stop, and worked his way as high as 10th.  He pitted in 12th.  Thomas and Clark went next, then we repeated the order again for a total of 8 stints.  We generally ran in 12th to 20th place, depending on the timing of pit stops.


At the next to last pit stop, we installed our lights on the car.  We made a tactical error with our lights.  The only night races we have done in the past were at Texas World Speedway and Eagles Canyon Raceway.  Both of those tracks are far away from any urban area, and have no lights for the tracks.  Therefore, we mounted huge lights on a light bar, trading some aero for vision.  But we didn't revisit this decision before Daytona.  Daytona has lights, and although it wasn't lit up like for a NASCAR race, we certainly didn't need our gigantic lights.  The net result was that the aero drag from the lights cost us about 10 mph on the oval, for about a 5-second a lap penalty.  The lights alone might have cost us 5 or 6 places in the finishing order.  Consider it a lesson learned.

The final result was 17th place.  Overall, we were very pleased with the result.  We said coming into the race that we would be happy with a top 20, and we are.  Very happy.  There were no unscheduled stops.  The new Dunlops lasted the entire race; no tire changes needed.  The car used a lot of oil, but otherwise ran fine for the entire 14 hours.

But, we also learned a lot.  In the end, we had a car capable of a top-10 finish, but we didn't execute a plan to get us in the top 10.  But now we know what it takes, and we'll be back, gunning for that top-10 finish.

Stats for the race weekend
Miles on my truck to get there and back:  2050 miles
Diesel fuel for my truck:  $690
Super unleaded for the race car:  $345
Laps:  282
Race Miles:  1004

And all our photos from the weekend: