NLS Racing #977 VIR South Race Report
We had a lot of work to accomplish if we were going to make this race after our accident at Road Atlanta. Lots of long nights in the garage repairing the left rear section of the car, quarter panel, fuel tank, brakes. We even had to squeeze in a full engine teardown and replace head gaskets and swap out 2 pistons that melted down due to our overheating issues. Mission accomplished....... we loaded her up with a day to spare.
We had our eyes on the prize for this one after last year's engine woes kept us out of victory lane. We started around top 15 and settled in for what's usually a caution-filled 1st stint. The race did not disappoint as the cautions came quick and early. A few of the restarts were a bit frantic, but we squeezed through unscathed. Then came the black flag, no brake lights. After a second attempt to fix them, we decided to go ahead and swap drivers and fuel it up. We were early on our pit schedule and this really boxed us in on strategy for the remainder of the race. On a side note, the Flagtronics unit did give us the black flag first to see if we'd pit, but our driver waited until given the physical black flag before pitting. The Flagtronics was spot on for us all day.
We seem to have a bad habit of digging ourselves a hole early and having to claw our way back for a good finish. The brake light issue put us some laps down, but our 2nd driver just logged laps, knowing there was lots of racing left. Same with the 3rd stint, issue free and now back to only 2 laps down and back into P2.
Then came the tire rotation after the fronts were taking a beating. Normally, no big deal for us but a stripped lug stud and or nut slowed us down, costing us another 3-4 laps. Little did we know at the time that this stop would be our final undoing.
Now with our "hot shoe" driver in, we had another hole to dig out of. 5-6 laps down at halfway. On such a short track, it didn't take long to start gaining those laps back. We kept plugging away, getting about 1.5 laps back per 2hr stint. Darkness fell and we found our light bar was not aimed correctly, our driver did an admirable job driving with what he had. 2 hours remained and we were back up to 2nd position, inside of 2 laps down. We did the math and didn't look like we would have enough time to catch the leader. Content with 2nd, we soldiered on. 50 minutes to go in the race and the car is stopped off track. The LR tire fell off.
Now back to that earlier pitstop.....We suspect the hub-centric ring may have not been seated all the way, combined with a fractured wheel stud from our Road Atlanta crash just a month earlier. Then we had to do the sad walk back to the paddock to wait for the flatbed and assess the damage. We fixed it enough to get it in the trailer and called it a night. No one ever said endurance racing was easy.
No complaints here, we had a great weekend of racing. Got to spend time with family and friends. Congrats to Where's John on the victory, you guys drove a clean, smooth race. Thanks to ChampCar for keeping this going. Thanks to all the others that make this happen. Thanks to James and the Flagtronics crew for all your work, looking forward to getting that unit permanently mounted in the car. We'd also like to say THANK YOU! to Johnny Conner and Conner's Supermarket www.connerssupermarket.com for the donation. This is budget racing and everything helps.
And finally, a big thanks to all our family for putting up with all the long nights in the garage.
We shall return.......
June 26-27th, 2021 at Carolina Motorsports Park