NLS Racing #977 - Carolina Motorsports Park 2021 Race Report:
After a very successful 2020, we have been struggling to get a handle on our engine temps this year. The only change was the deletion of our oil cooler due to having to pay points for our intake manifold. We spent the last few months trying to build a real "Race" engine. Resurfaced the heads, checked block deck for straightness, did a fair amount of porting, gasket matching everything. The only thing we didn't get a chance to do was to get a fresh tune and Friday morning practice showed us that we should have. The engine seemed fine but was a little flat. We played with tuning throughout the day, mind you we are not pros at tuning, but a little bump in timing seemed to wake it up on the final practice session of the day. Final checks complete, we were ready for battle on Saturday.
We got a favorable draw for starting position, placing us 9th on the grid. We held onto that for quite a while as we circulated around under that early caution for what felt like forever. Finally on to green flag racing, hovering around the 4-6th position for most of the first 2hrs. We had some great racing with the Hong Norrth blue MX3. Any thoughts of winning this race quickly went away after we saw what Flatout Nemesis could do. Damn, that's a fast, very well-built car. We pitted a little early to avoid the rush onto pit road. Second driver strapped in and sent on his way. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the temps started to climb. Not wanting to do any further damage to our new "Race" engine, we headed for the garage for inspection. No real obvious culprit and already out of contention, we parked it for the time being. Our fearless leader Cliff hopped in his car for a 5hr round trip back to Hickory to grab our old oil cooler setup and an extra steering wheel, as I forgot to mention, it broke pushing it into the garage. Perhaps a blessing in disguise we called it early. During this, we also found our brand new LF wheel was broken and the tire losing air slowly. We prepped everything we could while he was gone, hoping to get back on track before the race ended. He hauled butt back to us and made back on track with about 30 mins remaining. But alas, it was all for nothing as the damage was already done. Head gasket was blown. These dang VQ30's are sensitive to temp spikes.
Now we had a call to make, pack it up with our tail between our legs or swap in our spare engine? We came to race, so engine swap it was. Challenge accepted. We divided and conquered. A couple guys pulling the engine while the others prepped the replacement. We suspected the spare engine may have been wounded as well. So it got torn down to retorque the heads. All the cams had to come out and back together, retimed, and a mile of silicone scraped and resealed. We began at 5pm and had it running by 11 that night. Not too bad for our first at-the-track engine swap. On a side note, Harbor Freight engine hoists have a laughably short boom that barely reached past the radiator. Somehow we made that work.
On to Race day 2. Starting near the back this time, we slowly clawed up into the top 10 but any optimism of finishing the day went out the window as the water pressure and temps rose above comfort levels. Brought it to the garage for a coolant bleed and fill for one last-ditch effort, looking to make it to the red flag break. Our next driver took a little easy, coasting into corners and lifting early to help manage temps. We did our best to stay out of anyone's way that was faster or a contender, pointing them by when time allowed. Not much free time around CMP. The car had been smoking throughout the second stint. During the red flag break, we noticed a fair amount of oil dripping from seemingly everywhere. So as not to oil down the track or grenade the engine, we made the decision to push her back to the trailer and pack it up.
We've got some work to do and figure out our issues. A bad weekend at the race track is still a good weekend. We had fun together, got to chat with our racing friends, and make some new ones. This weekend reiterated why we love ChampCar Endurance Series so much, everyone was so helpful, giving us parts, tools, advice, or pointing us in the right direction. I'm not sure I remember all the different teams that helped us, but a huge thanks to Hong Norrth Racing, PQ Racing, Prefect Racing, GMS Racing, Grit 'N Grind Racing, the team in garage stall 20, James Ballenger, and anyone else we forgot. We do our best to help anyone in need as well, so anytime you may need something, don't hesitate to come ask us. Keep up the great work Champcar. Thanks to all that make this happen.
We're scheduled for a return to AMP in October, followed up by VIR North in December.
This time we will have 2 cars.........