NLS Racing #977 Road Atlanta Championship Race Report:
We begin our 8th season in ChampCar coming out of our best season yet. Qualified for the Championship w/ 2 wins including Road Atlanta. So, we had no doubt we could do it again, only this time was for that awesome eagle trophy and bragging rights.
Holidays and vacations left us with little time to prepare for this but we all put in a team effort. “New” junkyard engine and a new fuel system. We didn’t fire the engine until the Tuesday before the race. So we had little room for error. Luckily everything was perfect. Aligned the car Thursday morning before loading up. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. Thursday was kind of a debacle, all the rain during the week left 2 separate trucks stuck in the mud while hooking up trailers. We made it to the ATL and snuck in at the very end of tech inspection.
Test day was uneventful, not even going out until the afternoon as we buttoned up the last few loose ends. We also debuted our 3rd car, 2003 VW GTI 1.8T. This weekend was just a shakedown for it, as we have never been on track with it before. Only turned a few laps on test day as we dialed it in. All seemed good w/ both cars, so we called it a day.
As usual, we got stuck near the back of the contenders after the random draw, but w/ 14hrs of racing ahead of us, we were not too concerned. Plenty of time to get to the front. Got to the top 5 by the end of the first stint and basically stayed in that range all day. Overall an uneventful and trouble-free race all day. We nailed every pitstop but one under caution. This really helped us out late in the race as our window was wide open to pit when needed, whereas a lot of the competition was forced to stop under green flag conditions. Ultimately that strategy allowed us to leapfrog a few cars in front of us during the final stint.
NLS RACING brought it home in 3rd place only 40secs behind 2nd and a lap or so behind the leader. After a lengthy post-race tech inspection, it was found that the 2nd place car had an illegal engine. It did seem a bit weird that a 4-door sedan w/ the same engine as our car could just blow by us down the back straight. Kudos to ChampCar for upholding the rules and giving the top 3 a thorough inspection. We came up one spot short of the Championship, but we can still hold our heads high. We held our own against the toughest group of cars in ChampCar. Congrats to Rockwell, Danger, Pinkies Out, and everyone else there. Awesome racing all weekend.
As far as our other car, it ran great in the first stint. Came in for a pitstop and it wouldn’t fire back up. Went behind the wall to diagnose it. Finally got it running again and turned some more laps but the gremlins kept showing up. Not sure if it was an electrical issue or a fuel issue but after messing with it for a while, we decided to just park it and focus on the Championship car.
And last but not least, thanks to all our wives who put up with us and the long hours in the garage. Thanks for keeping us fed all weekend. Thank you to Ava Danley, Ryan Brown, and Alec Petty for your help with fueling and clean-up. Thanks to the rest of our family and friends who make this all possible. A big THANKS to Scott Autrey for all your help. Thank you ChampCar for putting on the best endurance racing anywhere. And thanks all around to the corner workers, volunteers, and anyone else that makes the show go on.
See you soon at VIR.