Thursday, October 29, 2009

Initial Recap of Yee-Haw it's LeMons Texas - 2009

Now that I've had a few days to recover from the 2009 running of Yee-Haw It's LeMons Texas, I must say that it was very fun but not entirely successful for our team.
  • With the larger number of entries, the race was run on the full-length MSR Houston track instead of the shorter "North Loop" that was used for October 2008 and February 2009. The additional space made it less crowded and I enjoyed the variety. One's approach does change substantially without the tire chicane and with the higher approach speeds returning from the southern portion of the track.
  • Now that we've done several races our organization is much better and we were much better at our driver changes and pit stops. The headsets and radios we recently purchased have been a huge help there. Instead of watching the clock and wondering, we can discuss fuel levels and stint time with the driver.
  • Also, the "network effect" is kicking in with interacting with other teams. The paddock at any 24 Hours of LeMons race is always an entertaining, friendly place, with technical advice and tool loans available -- but it's even better when the discussions and loans are with people we've met before and know are trustworthy, fun people. It's even happening with food: over the weekend I ate nicely from generously offered gumbo, BBQ ribs, and boiled shrimp from different teams. We shared beer.
  • Ramon got a bus. He then painted it to match the race cars. Juan drove the bus to the track where people fell in love with it, and it even became the pace car. I don't think a LeMons pace car has ever been able to give so many people a tour of the racing line at once-- Doctawife said the bus had about 20 people on it.
Cons of the weekend:
  • Sadly, one of our cars developed a host of hard-to-trace electrical issues that kept it off the track for far too much of the time.
  • Also, another team we know well (Brian and Joe) had issues with their car too
  • I and the other drivers in the other car weren't able to offer much help to either non-running car since duties on the functional car kept us pretty busy.
  • Thanks to other events planned for the weekend (for example, a friend's wedding) not all of the team stayed at the track Saturday night, denying us some of our usual hang-out-and-BS bonding time.
  • Unlike the last two Texas races, even our "reliable" neon wasn't running at the checkered flag due to bad wheel bearings. It's a little thing in the larger scheme of things (31st is 31st no matter how you slice it) but just having a car running at the end puts a nice glow to the end of the race. Endurance racing is all about persistence, and not getting to the end is a bummer.
Enough carping. The only postmortem that matters is that we will be back, and even more of our friends and family are interested in giving it a try. Gator-o-rama 2010, here we come!
Photo mishmash follows.

Rich's semi-truck/Transformers themed pickupRich rebuilt our cage and printed up our beer-label stickers. This is the other thing he was building: a small pickup now disguised as a semi!

Pace bus!Pace bus!

Oktoberfest churning away, not long before the wheel bearings were deemed too messed up to continue.Oktoberfest churning away, not long before the wheel bearings were deemed too messed up to continue.

Lawnmower at speed
One of the good laps for Lawnmower. The car has great handling when it goes, which is why the electrical issues were so frustrating.

Oktoberfest gets pushed back to the pit...and the day is done. The bearings had wallowed out enough to interfere with brake operation.

Spike and Brian hitch a ride on the CapriStang: Mercury Capri front, Mustang back.Spike and Brian hitch a ride on the CapriStang. This was likely the 'stang's last race since the old cage needs replacing.

Jay Lamm addressing the crowd at the awards ceremony
Jay Lamm addresses the masses at the awards ceremony.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Final: 31st. Big fun for the weekend. Pictures later; watch for other coverage.

Still rolling

Mike is still out there, babying the car, and we are hoping it holds
up until the end. Wheel bearings are now the top of our shopping list
for next time!

Day 2 so far: still in the top 20! (barely)

I need to get faster! I'm driving better than March but still slipped from 14th to 17th during my stint this morning. Lawnmower is done; still having fuel pump issues. Also I think our hopes for a top-20 finish with Oktoberfest are done because the front wheel bearings are going bad. Andy is still out there getting laps but is having to take it easy, unfortunately.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Results are tough to know

With so many cars on so much track for so long, it's always tough to
know how you're doing during a 24 Hours of Lemons race. Yee-Haw is
about 35 minutes away from being done for day one, and I snapped this
photo o everyone awaiting the 5pm hourly posting of standings so far.
As pit stops come and go we've bounced around the mid teens for
Oktoberfest's position so I hope we'll be in top 20 for end of day
(knock on wood). Lawnmower? Um, don't ask. Cooling and fuel pump
problems suck.

Mixed results so far

Lawnmower keeps blowing the fuel pump fuse but goes fast when it goes
at all. Tetanus (Oktoberfest) is plodding along fine but fuel use is
higher than we'd like. That means we'll have to make 1 more extra pit
stop before the end of today's racing.
One hour in. Lawnmower got fixed late yesterday and passed tech this morning. Charging problems had it off track for a bit but it's racing again. Tetanusneon is a lap down from the leaders but doing fine so far.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Test day

Passed tech fine, and got some practice laps in. The car runs well but
still keeps its lemon-hood on display prominently: the speedometer
thinks we hit 10mph and the gas guage seems to offer vague estimates

Also, I'd forgotten how little traction this beastie has...

Ready for tech inspection

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Durn near ready

The race is this weekend, and we're almost ready for it all. TetanusNeon (now Oktoberfest) is in good shape but the fuel pump on Lawnmower is acting up. Back to the junkyard for somebody!
A quick snapshot of some of the build & race team: Simon, Ramon, Andy, Mary, Kevin, Lee, Rob, & Junior. Not pictured: Mike, Chuck, & Kathy.
Wish us luck!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lots of work this weekend. These last two posts would make a lot more temporal sense if blogger hadn't been broken. Chris' post was about Saturday, I'm all about Sunday.

We had an awesome day. Everything is coming together - at least for Oktoberfest. The muffler is now kosher (i.e. not held on by metal ties), our mirrors are taped and we have numbers! Numbers, I say! Oh, I also fabricated a radio support. From a license plate. 'Cause everything can be made from license plates.

Lawnmower still ain't runnin'... but that' not our fault. Oktoberfest only needs minor stuff before race day. So we're set! Hopefully, Oktoberfest will reward our confidence. If it breaks, we'll all be very, very sad.

Continuing preparations for Yee-Haw It's Lemons Texas

This is our last weekend for work on Tetanusneon and the Lawnmower before the next Houston race in the 24 Hours of LeMons. We replaced the Kirkey seat that had been in Tetanusneon with a Sparco seat more suited to the size range of the drivers-- the Kirkey we had was made for taller folks-- and worked a little more on its Oktoberfest livery, an homage to St. Arnold brewery's seasonal beer. Gluing some coasters to the wood on the back makes it more than a spoiler, now it's also a picnic table. Other than that this car is mostly set. A little bit of safety-equipment work, paint on the numbers, and it's ready to go.

The engine swap on the neon formerly known as "Margarita" is done, but it isn't running quite right yet-- Junior and Juan will be working on that. Those of us with less engine-diagnosis talent went ahead and pulled out the spray paint yesterday to turn the paint job into a tribute to the St. Arnold Lawnmower pilsner beer. We think it turned out pretty well. I just hope we can get it running right.

Earlier I wasn't sure about neon engine "swappability" for DOHC parts vs. SOHC parts. We had an SOHC block that was going to be frankensteined together with our DOHC head, but it turns out although the engine blocks are the same, the engines use different pistons. While calling around to try to find us used pistons (great idea, right?) Junior located a DOHC block and put that together with our old head. I don't know what we'll do with the now unneeded SOHC block-- keep it around as a spare for Tetanusneon/Oktoberfest, try to sell it back to a junkyard, recycle for a bit of money, or turn it into a boat anchor.

A few more random photos from yesterday's work -- enjoy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New powertrain

While rebuilding the Margarita into the Lawnmower, Chuck and Juan suggest switching to an "alternative" powertrain.
Very Flintstone-esque, but I don't think it will pass tech inspection.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Hey there, it's doctawife.

We're only 11 days away from Yee-Haw It's LeMons Texas... and we're scrambling. The TetanusNeon has been completely rebranded. The good folks at St. Arnold are letting us create the Oktoberfest! As you've seen above, we've stenciled the shiz out of Tetanus, creating a lovely autumnal theme. On top of that, we'll have a vinyl Oktoberfest logo. Supersweet!

I have to say stenciling is work. Who knew? I seriously got a blister on my spray-can hand, and a cramp in my forearms from holding the stencil to the car body. How does Martha Stewart do that all day long? I would die of both exhaustion and boredom.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yet more prep

TetanusNeon is back with its beautiful new cage. Time to weld the back
doors shut again and ready it for its new theme. No worries, it will
still be the lovable rusty neon racecar we know and love, but the
decorations will be more seasonal and less vaccine-centric.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

All done

Okay, my math was incorrect... The course was 2 miles, so we covered
1190 miles on the track. Coincidentally that's about the distance we
must travel back to Dallas now.
Done. Clutch cable snapped. 595 laps, so 1309 miles. We aren't winners but it was great fun.

Night racing

Night racing is spooky. The difference in depth perception and apex
visibility really screwed up my lap times. Brian had no issues-- in
fact he's puzzled tha I had issues-- and Doctawife has dine well too.
Joe is a night-racing veteran so hopefully he can gain some positions
for us again.

We've fallen from our earlier high position and are now 28 laps back
of the leaders. The starter has developed issues so we lost time
trying to fix that, but it seems to be a problem with the connection
on the starter itself. The connection is too buried between the block
and exhaust manifold to handle here, so we're just push-starting the
car after every pit stop.

Time for another nap. Next driver change at 6:30.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

1/3 done

19th place, 15 laps back of the lead car. Our starter is acting up so
the pit stops got longer. Team captain Joe is out there now to make up
the time.

Six hours in ...

Brian has built a quick car from all those mustangs and the Capri.
Power to pass and fun. Brian has us in 7th for a bit but I lost a
bunch of spots in my stint.

Doctawife has leapt in skill and was setting really good lap times.

Only 18 hours to go! (ouch)

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Budget racing sometimes bites us. Poor old tires on our tow vehicle
are having problems so we've had to stop to replace some.

Partway there

One of many fuel stops on our way to The Lamest Day at Nelson Ledges.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ohio bound

I haven't said much about it, but Houston prep isn't all that has been
going on. Doctawife and I are joining Brian and Joe's team for the
Ohio race this weekend! Wish us luck using an unfamiliar Mustang on an
unfamiliar track for an actual 24-hour race.
Yep-- this race is the one 24 Hours of Lemons that actually lasts 24
hours. Brian swapped the Mustang's grill for a Capri front end he
found since we need headlights.
Updates here if cellular coverage permits.

Friday, September 18, 2009

As for car #2...

The Margarita neonMargarita Neon race car in pits at Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez, Louisiana event in 24 Hours of LeMons race series had a pretty rough time in Louisiana during "Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez"-- our rush-job engine rebuild (top-end) after the Gator-O-Rama race wasn't up to snuff, so it spent way more time in the pits than on the track. We're hoping to change its luck by renaming and redecorating it: now the vehicle will be known as the Fancy Lawnmower. (If St. Arnold's Brewery approves of the homage to their beer, we hope to get a sticker for it. If they disapprove, it will become the Rusty Lawnmower.)

Last weekend the team finally got around to pulling out the motor to see how bad things were going to be repair-wise. Bear in mind that the sparkly goo in the green panoil from MargaritaNeon race car with many small metal shavings in it pictured here was the oil from the car mid-race in Louisiana, and during my final lap with the car it let out a very impressive cloud of smoke, steam, and chaos before expiring. We knew things would be bad.

Once Andy started draining the oil pan of the car we knew it would be very very bad indeed. The Sludge: 2 gallons of ick from our engineThe oil, water from the cooling system, and oil treatment (added to try to quiet the knocking con-rod for a few more laps) had been churned into a grayish, thick goo that took ages to drain from the engine. Rob dubbed it "The Sludge." With all that tasty water, oil, and metal shavings, I declared it a suitable salad dressing for robots.

I left the engine pull to others while I did my hack-job of welding on Lockjaw, team members attaching hoist to pull out race car enginebut once it was done I joined in the laughter at the poor motor.
Here's a closeup of cylinder 1: badly mangled piston in our race car engineit didn't move at all when the crank was moved, the piston is rotated, cracked, and the cylinder wall has been punched through completely. Needless to say, we have about six people making calls and emails to try to locate a new motor in a junkyard. We already have a junkyard block but it's from a later-model SOHC and we're not sure if it will work with the DOHC head from the car. So if anyone knows of a cheap (or even free) motor from an early Neon, please let me know.

Junkheap coverage takes to the air

Would you like to read about LeMons stuff from professional writers? Within a short interval of each other, both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines featured stories about the 24 Hours of LeMons in their in-flight magazines. Both covered the Houston race back in February, the "Gator-O-Rama" event.

Gearing up for October

The team has been a busy bunch this summer, preparing things for the next Houston-area 24 Hours of LeMons race in October. Making major repairs to two rusty neon racecars wasn't challenging enough, so Ramon & his son have started building out a third car. Our unofficial motto: "Gluttons for punishment (and beer)."

As I mentioned in the post-Louisiana entry, due to some rollover incidents at other LeMons races the tech inspections have gotten very thorough about roll cages. Upon close inspection of the cage in our original TetanusNeon we found some bends that would probably not pass tech inspection again, so the cage has been removed and a new one goes in this Saturday.

In addition to needing a new cage, Lockjaw needed work to the lower radiator support. Yep, the roof of this fine motoring machine isn't the only part with rust, and the lower support was so perforated that the engine shifted several inches when we revved it.

If this happened to a normal car, one would go find a new support, or perhaps a full donor front end, and replace the poor perforated beastie with metal of the size and shape that Dodge intended. That, however, is not The LeMons Way (especially as interpreted by SNAFU Racing). Our way? Take a brief 4-hour workshop on welding, buy a reconditioned welder, and start tacking in whatever metal can be scrounged from everyone's garages and workshops. Hammer whenever needed, repeat as necessary. Here I am making my first weld that isn't part of a class. Let's just say it was not a textbook example.

We did find two metal chunks of about the right size and it's all together now, with radiator held near where it once lived, a less-shifty motor mount, and even a tow hook now (may it never be needed). P.J. got the hang of welding very quickly, so unlike my work, the side he did doesn't look like it was done by a monkey with shaky hands.

Up next for Tetanus Neon: new cage, then we try to spruce up the visuals on the car.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another dose of LeMons Lessons

A longer re-cap will have to wait until we have pulled photos from our cameras, but here are a few things we learned at Laissez Les Crapheaps Roulez this past weekend. For other information about the teams that actually won and stuff, I recommend Jalopnik.
  • LeMons tech inspectors are being much pickier about cage construction, and if not for the friendship we've developed with Brian & Marty's 4-cylinder Mustang team from Dallas, we would not have been able to race. Brian saved our weekend with some much-needed welding.
  • Having radios and a headset for the driver is really nice. Far better than pit boards and hand signals. Maybe I'll send Brian a set as a thank-you.
  • No Problem Raceway is a good facility, but only so-so for spectating when one has to remain near the pit areas. We needed more people with us so I could go hang out in the bleachers with the good view!
  • The teams who went were really cool to talk with, helpful in cross-team cooperation to solve problems, and I hope to see lots of them in Houston in October.
  • Oil leaks can really ruin your weekend.
  • So can overheating.
  • So can loose coil wires. Always, always, always check all the connections first.
  • Finally, perhaps rebuilding an engine on Wednesday to race on Saturday was... optimistic.
Results? The Margarita Neon is just not as well sorted engine-wise as the Tetanus Neon, but it does corner and brake quite well. So, um, we did some laps. Two more than it got in Gator-o-Rama in fact, and on a longer course, but it was sadly not running at the end of the race. About 50 teams entered, 46 started the race, and we came in 40th.

Read Jalopnik for the story on the unexpected flight of the team voted Peoples' Curse. That's right, rather than watch their $500 Miata get crushed, they trailered their car right out of the racetrack.

As I see it, some folks have difficulty tamping down their own competitive spirit for the amateur-filled crapheap LeMons experience, and that leads to problems as they fly by all the novice drivers. Brian said it simply: "Nobody wins LeMons." My own version: once you enter the 24 Hours of LeMons, you are a participant, not a competitor. While LeMons wears the trappings of a competitive driving event, in reality it's a wacky circus of unreliable cars and shoddy drivers. Set aside your game face and put a smile on instead, even if you have to use clown makeup to do so.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ugh. 36th of 46 cars that started the race. 107 laps and a noisy rod.

Crazy day

In 24 hours we've welded, patched, overheated, oiled, and sweated.
Lots of sweat.

Yet despite the toughness of the day, it's still a fun day. Some other
teams have broken and left, so we won't come in last place. :)

More action awaits us tomorrow!

Pit time!

We keep having to pit for minor tech issues, but when running Jeff was
getting good lap times. After some more fixes Mary will be heading
out. A top finish is out of the question so now it's all about fun and
practice for October.

Friday, June 5, 2009


After a long day of driving, tech issues. They no longer like the roll
cage that was ok in February. :(

We're adding a brace, but time is not our friend.

Packed up

We're almost ready to set off for Louisiana!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What? Racing again already?

Although I've been silent about it here since Junior was serving as the team captain, the Margarita Neon is going to be at "Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez," the next running of the 24 Hours of LeMons, this weekend. The beloved Lockjaw (rusty neon racecar extraordinaire) will sit this one out, since it needs a fair bit of work to address issues from the last race.

No changes to the car, other than a new head gasket and much adjustment work to the valvetrain to try to prevent a recurrence of the issues the car had back in February. It'll be a lean operation this time-- one car, 5 drivers, no extra pit crew. Hopefully our new foray into technology will make up for that: we bought walkie-talkies and even a headset for the driver! (Yes, I know: welcome to 1960, about frickin' time, yadda yadda yadda.)

Pictures and updates may arrive sporadically based on cell-phone signal strength.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Sorry for my results malfunction earlier - I was looking at the October 2008 results. Not only has Jalopnik confirmed our standings, they've provided photographic proof that I actually drove! The driver in our pic has pink sleeves. Therefore, the driver must be me. None of the guys would be caught dead looking so girly.

I love my fire suit. I rocks so hard, all pink and feminine. Unfortunately, I am also allergic to the Nomex in my suit. I figured this out when an ugly rash appeared around my neck where the collar hits. Such a bummer. But do I care? Hell no! The racing bug has firmly bitten my as and I'll be back, terrorizing good drivers everywhere.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Actual final standings (maybe)

I found the timing results at for Gator-O-Rama. We did indeed get Lockjaw into 27th place. Mike was our hot shoe this time with our fastest lap, 1:21.07, and we obviously were more reliable than last year since we covered only 62 fewer laps than the race winners. Yep, our little rusty neon race car covered 380 laps this weekend -- almost 500 miles!

Despite all the time necessary to work heroic repairs on Margarita Neon, those drivers were able to crank out 111 laps. I don't know who did their fastest lap, but he used that extra 25ish horsepower the DOHC car has vs. the SOHC in Tetanus to get an even faster best time of 1:20.456. That's amazing for a car that didn't even get purchased until late November or December. (For comparison, we had Lockjaw for almost 8 months before LeMons TX '08.)

Final standings

So, the official LeMons website links to MSR for the final results. Gotta say, it's a little confuzzling. The MSR website lists the SCHWING team as winners - we know that's not right. The Formula M for Mullet clearly won (the proof is in the nickles)... but the team is listed in tenth. So when the website lists us in the 37th position, instead of around 27 or 29, I have my doubts.

I say we placed in the top third.

I say we rocked the house.

I say I bashed crap out of Lockjaw - accidently, I swear. I came down the front straight waaaaay too hot for my skill level, braked waaaaay too late and just creamed the traffic around me. I was quite lucky to be in traffic - thinking about how and where I hit (driver rear rather lightly followed by passenger front HARD) the collision probably saved me from spinning out. So yay for traffic! And yay to the distracted judges who somehow managed to miss my mishap - I didn't get black flagged. Trust me, people, I would have deserved it. But karma came back to get us, and we got flagged later in the race for an infraction what was purely fictional. So it all came out in the wash, I guess.

I have a lot of work to do before the next race. I'm slow, and I'm not nearly skilled enough to be throwing myself around MSR at speed, in traffic. Provided that the knee holds, I have ass loads of training to do. Hopefully, we'll even find an autocross that will let us use our crap heap for rallying. Woot!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Unless things changed drastically in the last fifteen minutes of the
race, we finished in 27th of 94 in Tetanus Neon. The Margarita Neon
team did get some good laps in and I think that car will have a good
future. Thanks to all of the team members, and thanks to anyone out
there who's been reading along with us.

Streak ended

Our penalty-free record is gone. This weekend they're doing local
yellow flags, not full-course, and Mike accidentally passed in a
yellow area.

As first-time offenders we got a light sentence-- instant driver
change-- so Ramon is driving now.


Lime green never looked so happy to be moving.

Margarita neon lives!

Heroic head swap done!
Jeff finally gets laps at speed and looks good. Only about 100-
something laps back.

Had a flat

Mary is driving now but we lost some laps because Lockjaw had a flat
just before the end of Andy's shift. Before that we'd gotten to 25th--
we'll see how things hold up.

Sunday so far

LeMons Gator O Rama resumed bright and early today at 9:15. I drove
first today. I'm even slower today-- feeling some fatigue so I was
only able to gang in there for 67 minutes instead of the 90 I did
The car is still running well but a little rougher.
We've moved up to 28th, mostly by avoiding penalties.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Head work in progress

We're darn lucky Mike thought to bring a torque wrench.

Driver change

Driver change - Ramon Sr about to head out.

Yep, still working

Margarita neon WILL race, darmit!

Margarita resurrection attempt

Work is in progress to try to get 'rita back in action. Tetanus neon
is set for a batch of preparation for tomorrow-- new brake pads and
tire rotation.

Penalty box

So far we've been careful and haven't spent time here. I hope we can
continue that streak tomorrow.