ChumpCar Racing Watkins Glen, NY
This last weekend our “Car 54 Where Are You” team made the 2200 mile round trip for a Chumpcar race at Watkins Glen. 94 cars registered and over 400 drivers made for a potentially crowded track. After having an overheating issue at Hallett last month, I dropped in a replacement motor and trans that we had for spares and we loaded the car without any testing and headed out! We met up with our good friends from South Dakota (Chump Faces) and had quite the memorable weekend.
It wasn’t without peril though, as we left Kansas City in a torrential downpour which didn’t let up until Terre Haute, Indiana where we stopped for the night. In St. Louis, there were 8 tornadoes, one of which toppled a tractor trailer over on 270, taking out the center concrete barrier. Unfortunately, a large chunk of barrier ended up in our direction of travel, and with no visibility, our Jetta support vehicle went right over the top of it. Coasted to the side of the road expecting a punched oil pan, but it seems we got lucky and the impact was square with the caster block mount, only taking out the under body tray. In the pissing down rain and darkness, I tore that off the car and we kept going with out any issues from the car (i’m still a little scared to put it up on the lift, lol).
The crew chief couldn’t understand how the thunder and lightning could follow her in the car for 6 hours, but she was in good spirits.
The next day we crossed into NY and promptly blew out a tire on the trailer. In record time, we had it changed in about 5 minutes and were back on the road, eventually arriving in Watkins Glen thursday night.
Since we had about 15 people reserved for the Longhorn Lodge Motel, they upgraded us to the actual B&B Lodge….all to ourselves. What a fantastic place to stay.
Friday was spent teching the car, and some light test and tune on track to make sure the car was ok. Everyone got a stint in to familiarize themselves with the track. Chumpcar started out as a $500 race series, try to keep it running and wrench on it if it breaks type deal. Not anymore. The teams are all getting it down to come with a well prepared car, as they know a mechanical will cost you any chance of a good finish. We are seeing some incredible racing, better than any of the other series I have seen. Pretty cool to see the series progress into a solid race organization that is still about having fun. You won’t find better camaraderie anywhere.
Oh and it rained the entire day….errr weekend.
Meanwhile the girls found something better to do…….
Saturday started off great. Luck of the draw had us starting in the high 40’s IIRC. Throughout the day we slowly worked our way up.
As you can see, the weather was cold! Val quickly found the sleeping bag 🙂
And the crew chief made sure everything was running smoothly in the pits.
Eventually Val ventured out around the track and got some great pictures.
Our frozen pit crew! Car 54 and ChumpFaces
With everything running like a well oiled machine, the crew chief got some shuteye.
And the race went on. A quick driver change, Wes going in the car.
We ended up finishing 22nd on Saturday. The last couple of sessions the clutch started to slip in the higher gears, so we had to nurse certain spots of the track along with 50-75% throttle. 5th gear was pretty worthless unfortunately. With the clutch about gone, we elected to get some short stints in on Sunday and head for home around noon. To my amazement though, Sunday the clutch held pretty well, only having to nurse 5th gear occasionally, but the guys were geared up to head for home at noon, so we put the car on the trailer still running and took off. The track was without a doubt the best track I have driven so far. I love Road America and High Plains, but they just don’t compare in regards to the actual track. While Watkins is known as a “tunnel track,” meaning there is armco (walls) everywhere, there was only a few spots where you worried about the wall. At 3.5 miles long, it is a fast track! Our good friends on the Chump Faces team took their e30 to 1st on Saturday, and 3rd on Sunday! A group of very fast drivers.
By Sunday night, the crew chief’s fun meter was on empty. It is hard work keeping constant track of 15 people!
Tuesday morning I had a few minutes, so I pulled the trans to see what was going on. We had spotted a really oddly dark oil leak on the car Friday night, so I figured our rear main seal was blown and contaminating the clutch. I have never seen this actually happen though, as the oil can’t really get to the disc (even though people claim it can). I was surprised to see we actually had a blown input shaft seal on the transmission, which was traveling down the input shaft into the disc area. By dripping down in the bellhousing, it was picking up clutch dust, turning the fluid extremely dark, which is what we found on the ground. A new seal, clutch, and a few other minor repairs, and we are ready for Brainerd in July!