Nine Lives Racing goes 24 hours in a car that shouldn't

  Every year, my fiancé Andrea and I join forces with Team Resignation for the racing of the 24 Hours of Lemons. This year was no different, except that we brought Nine Lives Racing member Norbert Sobo, too. I should take a moment to explain a few things: First, 24 Hours of Lemons is an exclusive endurance  race for $500 cars. That means you have 500 bucks to buy, decorate, and upgrade a race car (Safety items have no budget). The best roll cage and seat are accepted,  but it's hard to justify spending $4,000 on a $250 Buick. Team Resignation consists mainly of car nuts/NIU alumni that never left the English department. They are the most well-spoken bunch of crazy people I have ever had the honor of working with.

Team Resignation started with a 1991 Ford Escort. They cleverly swapped a more powerful Ford ZX2 motor into it. From my understanding, the ZX2 motor is marginally more powerful than a standard escort motor. We are talking maybe +10hp, and based upon condition of a motor, it can easily lose 10hp.  I asked about weight saving between the cars. They told me that there was almost no weight difference. So the swap, in a way, was pointless.        
The team got its name via the Richard Nixon theme: A life-sized Nixon bolted to the roof, and wood contact paper completes the 1970's montage. And yes, that's the air intake sticking out of the hood. 

We almost didn't get the chance to run this year, as team leader/car co-owner Alan Cesar  received an opportunity to fill a career goal. As a result, he moved to Daytona to work as an editor for Grass Roots Motorsports . Go Alan! When he took the job, he sent out a remorseful email to the rest of the Lemons drivers. In his email, he stated that due to his inability to manage the team, there would be no lemons race and selling the car may be in the future. Quickly I responded that I would force team lackey/other co-owner Eric Rood to manage the team. I actually volunteered myself too, but my own racing warranted more time than expected. This resulted in Eric doing almost all of the work. Despite my absenteeism, Eric did an amazing job. Not only did he get the car working, he “upgraded” it too!!

On the day before the race, we loaded the fly hooptie into our trailer. It even started on the first try. Amazingly,  the car itself it still road legal, thought at one time the turn signals need to be activated by the passenger touching two wires together. Which meant that the day you drop off your friend is also the day you get a ticket for improper lane change. 

We got to the track at Autobahn Country Club and quickly unpacked everything.  Fearing the People's Curse (see below), I quickly introduced myself to all the neighbors.  Alan's mom (his dad Kiko is one of the team’s drivers) packed about 50 lbs. of cookies that I quickly offered to everyone. After that, we headed out to the driver meeting.

The people's curse

Lemons events draw people. Lots of them. 100ish cars registered, 4-6 drivers per car, and pit crews. By the looks of this, you would think there would be a line at the bathrooms, but this ain't Gingermen. Autobahn Country Club has the finest grounds I’ve ever seen.  

After the driver's meeting, everyone headed out to prep their cars. Feeling that no amount of adjustments would make our turd shine, I grabbed my camera and took some shots of the amusing rides.



I suited up and the green flag swung sometime around 10 a.m.

The car ran fine, except for all the” upgrades” we did over the winter. My first hour in the car resulted in many pit stops, including some serious detonation that we later figured out originated from our “upgraded” ECU.  We kept the car on track while Eric ran for some replacement parts.  


Toward the end of my stint, Latch Key Kids' Neon was pushing hard. We entered a turn at the same time and I defended my racing line. We swapped paint a bit and the judges brought us in (In lemons racing, no contact is allowed). As I stopped in the penalty box, the judges came up to the car.

Judge: What the hell happened?!

Me: We got in some traffic and we rubbed. It was my fault, I should have backed off.

Judge: You’re admitting that you did something wrong?! Don't you know who is on your roof? [Points at Nixon and makes “V” signs with hands] I am not a crook!!

Me:  Yeah…

Judge : [Rattles off some obscure Nixon trivia]

Me: Eric! I need some useless Nixon Facts!!

Judge: Get out of here and race nice!

Me: OK!!

This was clearly the strangest interaction I have ever had with a race official.

Eric had a similar experience

Judge Phil: "What happened out there?"

Eric: "Well, I went into Turn 1, then I went out of Turn 1. Somewhere in between, I ran out of talent."

Phil: "Wait, what? Isn't the Nixon team supposed to deny, deny, deny?!"

[Race Organizer] Jay Lamm: "Hold on, hold on. They're admitting to being terrible; we don't want to send the wrong message here."

Phil: "OK."

Jay: "Why don't you turn your driving down from about 3/10 to 2/10?"

Eric: "Well, I would, but I think I've only got 1.5/10 in me."

Jay: "That'll do."

After that, the rest of the weekend rolled on without a hiccup. The only issues we had were broken axles, exhaust falling off, tire blowing up, clutch-throttle problem, and a funny smell. So nothing too major.


Eric over at Team Resignation did an amazing play by play of the whole weekend.

The Team top down: (Me) Johnny C, Norbert, Nixon, Dave, Eric, Andrea, and Kiko.

1 comment:

Eric Rood said...

Sweet pics! I hadn't seen those.

Just wanted to defend [one of Alan's and my] bad ideas: The '91 Escort we bought had a 1.9L motor with (at one time, at least) 88 HP in it. We swapped in the ZX2 motor that we had (for free), because it makes 130 HP. So the power jump was 42 HP, and we chopped a couple hundred pounds out of it. I think we estimated it at 130 HP and somewhere around 2100 lbs. But yes, most of our other "upgrades" failed miserably. :P

The bottom line is that it's Lemons, where even if you win, you still lose because you have to take the car home with you.

One last note: you NLR folks are TR's secret weapons; the rest of us are slow/old/weak.