The 1st Annual ChampCar Endurance Series
RVA Graphics and Wraps National Championship
at NCM Motorsports Park:
What to Look For
By Doc Waldrop
Pictures by Bill Strong, Don Bok, NNM Motorsports
So, what can we expect from the first ChampCar Endurance Series RVA Graphics and Wraps National Championship at National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park on June 16th & 17th, 2018?
There are sixteen hours of racing split into two eight-hour segments with Park Ferme conditions set overnight on Saturday and 23 teams eligible for the Championship.
The teams that are eligible were qualified by their 2 lowest finishes in the past year and had to be in the top 80 cars overall and it’s a pretty tight grouping. We have 4 teams with only 2 points meaning they won 2 races outright during their Championship hunt. We have 6 teams that had a win and a second-place finish, so they are in pretty good shape. There are another 5 teams that only have 4 points, a couple that had 2nd place finishes and three teams that had an overall win and a 3rd place finish. Five teams are going into the race with 7 points, 2 at 9 points, and one at eleven points. The TWOth Honda entry with 12 points has been withdrawn.
Now that we have set the field, let’s look at some of the keys to victory. To win you must have no mechanical failures, none, nada, zero, none. You might get away with a very minor problem like a flat tire, but that’s about it. No brake pad changes unless your team is really at the top of their game. A broken hub, control arm, faulty fuel pump, or certainly anything that can’t be fixed on pit road takes you out of the hunt. A trip to the garage and your hopes are gone.
Flawless execution on pit row and on the track is a must. You must be ready for pit stops and accomplish them in a timely fashion. No dawdling. Pit road and the access to it is rather long compared to a lot of tracks so you have to minimize your time fueling and changing drivers. On the track, an infraction like contact with another car will be very costly as will be a passing under caution penalty. Being held at pit in for any length of time will set you back significantly. I doubt a team would recover the time lost.
The format of 8 hours means you don’t necessarily have to maximize your stints for 2 hours on fuel, but you better be close. I doubt you can spend too much time short shifting and running conservative lap times to save fuel and still come out on top. Too many of the championship contenders have proven they can make 2 hours on a fuel run easily. As NCM Motorsports Park does hot pulls, I don’t see the opportunity to take advantage of pitting strategy using full course yellows like you see at other tracks on our schedule.
Track conditions could play a part in the finish as thunderstorms can pop up at any time. Right now the weather forecast for sunny conditions with a 10-20% chance of rain Saturday and Sunday. But this is more or less the South. The weather can change in a heartbeat. Last year we had a similar forecast and ended up red flagging the race because of lightning. If it does rain, look for the front wheel drive cars to take advantage of the conditions. Any foul weather could also benefit those cars that may be a little short on fuel because of the reduced pace. The track is fast and long as well having been built across from the Corvette Assembly Plant. Long straightaways, sweeping open turns, and a couple of nice technical sections makes for some interesting racing. It favors the higher horsepower cars for sure.
Racing luck. The most fickle of the racing Gods. She can be sweet as a Mint Julip, or as mean as they come. Who gets the break when they need it? Are any breaks? Sixteen hours is a long time and a lot can happen during the course of the race. Now, on to our contenders in order of their seeding in the field
RBankRacing.com #90: 2 points
#90 1999 Saab 9-3
#194 1988 Honda CRX
This is the #981 car renumbered after the original #90 was written off on Saturday, the first day of the Double 7 at Watkins Glen a few short weeks ago. That was on the heels of a new build that was lost earlier this year at Daytona. Tough way to start the year, but the resilient team bounced back on Sunday with the #981. Those Saabs are fast, usually pretty reliable, and no one calls a better race than Robin Bank when it comes to strategy. They are also bringing the Honda CRX #194 (4 points) which might not be as notorious as the Saabs, but still a real threat having taken an overall win at Road Atlanta back in 2017.
Cone Crushers #917: 2 points
#917 1987 Porsche 944
They have won here before. They have momentum. They have a fast car. I look for Cone Crushers to do well here considering they have experience here and are coming off a string of some pretty good finishes. A win here last year on Saturday, a 6th on Sunday, a 2nd place at Sebring in the 14-hour race last August, a 4th at AMP in the Eastern Chumpionship, back to back wins at Barber (granted, one was a gift when McKibbins Biohazard and Burningham Too tangled late in the race), and a 2nd at Daytona in April this year.
Premium Dudes #32: 2 points
#32 1988 BMW 325is
Back to back wins at Autobahn got them this spot but a dismal Road America race must have been a real disappointment for this team. Those were the only 2 races the team entered last year so the question would be are they perhaps rusty or very well prepared having had lots of time to go over the car.
Slugworks #49: 2 points
#49 1992 Mitsubishi Eclipse
Like Premium Dudes, a sweep at Laguna Seca got them here, but that was the only race they entered last year. The Mitsubishi Eclipses have proven to be fast, but I just don’t know if a team with some rust to be knocked off their team of drivers can really contend for a Championship.
RVA Graphics & Wraps #111: 3 points
#111 1989 BMW 325
Here is a team whose BMW E30 325is came alive as of late. The addition of an aero package really vaulted them up into a perineal front running team. A 2nd here on Saturday behind Cone Crushers started a pretty nice streak of top finishes, culminating with their 1st overall win at VIR North late last year.
Uncommon Friends #146: 3 points
#146 1971 Datsun 240Z
If you were going to award the Championship to a team based on their racing resumes, this would be the one to give it to. Every one of their drivers has DECADES of racing experience to draw upon, led by famous Datsun pilot, John Morton. Based on the west coast, we will see how the 240Z stacks up against the best the Central Region and the East Coast have to offer.
Nine Four Motorsports #840: 3 points and #83: 4 points
#840 1992 Lexus SC300
#83 1994 Toyota Supra
A strong season of top 5 finishes guaranteed they would be in the running for the Championship. This team races a LOT all over the country. Long straights play into the #840 Lexus SC300’s strengths as does its handling and braking. The #83 Toyota Supra 2JZ, sister car to the Lexus SC300, has a very strong finishing record of top 5s as well. A two-car entry means they could shift resources around to give them a slight advantage over the field.
Guarino-Watson Racing #991: 3 points
#991 1987 BMW 325is
Aside from Huggins Racing’s 325is, this is probably the most developed BMW E30 in the ChampCar Endurance Series. Not a whole lot of really decent finishes as of late, but when this team is on their game, look out. Visibility problems have hampered the team as of late in foul weather, suspect the team has worked on that problem and solved the issue.
McKibbins Biohazard Racing #1: 3 points
#1 1991 Toyota MR2
The defending (and last) Eastern Division ChUMPionship winner at AMP last year, this MR2 hasn’t seen a lot of track time lately except a “shakedown” run at Watkins Glen. They are down a few drivers from their normal lineup, but the ones that are here are fast. As is the car.
Burningham Too #755: 3 points
#755 1992 Lexus SC300
This team, based in Birmingham, Alabama, showed their mettle at AMP last year, taking the overall win over Biohazard, and tussling with them a month later at Barber, dicing with them in a very spirited battle. They have some tough, fast drivers and the NCM track is a lot like Barber in some respects.
Visceral Racing Group #918: 4 points
#918 1987 Porsche 944
Another very fast Porsche 944 that gets around the country to race at a lot of tracks. Very strong top 5 finishes capped by 2 consecutive 2nd place finishes at Road America. They backed up those finishes with strong runs at Pittsburg before ending 2017 with a 3rd at AMP in the Eastern Chumpionship.
Team Jacky Ickx #935: 4 points, #66: 7 points
#935 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT
#66 1994 Mitsubishi 3000GT
Another 2-car team entry of Mitsubishi 3000GTs. An overall win at Sebring (their own personal stomping grounds) along with several other good finishes fueled the #935’s way into the Championship. It’s been sort of a rough year for the #66 Gulf liveried 3000GT, but several strong finishes got this Sister car and the #935 into the Championship as well. This is another team that can benefit from shifting resources around as the race unfolds.
Pomona Speed Shop #236: 4 points
#236 1995 BMW 325is
Another West Coast team with a fast car in their BMW E36. Back to back 2nd places at Buttonwillow got them here but they had a strong showing at Sonoma and Vegas proved they know how to race. A trip to Daytona got them ready for some East Coast racing although they finished a disappointing 60th.
Time to take a break. So those are the teams that stand the best chance to be crowned the 1st ChampCar Endurance Series National Champion. Frankly, the rest of the teams that qualified and entered this race are going to need some help to take that #1 plate home with them in my opinion. The Champion is going to be decided by the lowest total when their finishing position in this race is added to their total. A lot of top running teams are going to have to have problems to make these team’s dreams come true along with a little of that racing luck.
MiElan #150: 7 points
Don’t let this plucky Mazda MX5 fool you into thinking they don’t have a chance. They finished well up in the order at Road America and had several other top 5 finishes. If any A class car (besides RBankracing’s Honda) can do it, this one can.
Blue Shells #38: 7 Points
#38 2003 Ford Focus
A B-class Ford Focus that had some good finishes, but I just don’t think the team has the speed to compete here, although a 2nd at Road America was quite a finish.
Ludicrous Speed #162: 7 points
#162 1991 Toyota MR2
A strong run in the top 5 at several tracks proved the MR2 belongs here and they had 4 top 5 finishes out of the 5 races they entered, but no wins, unfortunately. Something I’m sure the team would like to change here this weekend.
NNM Motorsports #15: 7 points
#15 1998 Dodge Neon
This Dodge Neon got here by virtue of two nice finishes at Brainerd, a 3rd, and a 4th. They only entered one more race after that, Pittsburg, and had a mediocre finish. I think they might have the speed, but do they have the necessary experience to beat teams that race 5 and 6 times a year?
RPM #102: 9 points
#102 1994 Mazda Miata
It would be a long shot for taking the overall win for this A class Miata, but they sure have some great finishes at some tracks that are similar to NCM, like namely here with a 7th place last year, a 6th at AMP and a 3rd at Barber on Sunday.
Level 1 Racing #412 (9 points)
#412 1994 Mazda Miata
Another A class Miata with an incredible 3rd overall finish at Daytona. They backed THAT up with a 6th at Sebring. THAT is punching above your weight for sure!
Momo Champ #230: 11 points
#230 1994 Mazda Miata
Another “overachieving” Miata that just doesn’t know it’s not supposed to be running up with the “big boys”. No less than 4 top 10s out of 7 races entered is a pretty good record in anybody’s book.
Those last 3 Miatas exemplify what it means to never give up no matter what the odds. They are the original “Where did they come from???” finishers and one of the most fun battles you will have on track when the turns get twisty. Then some of them have the nerve to pass you on the straights as well. Yeah, they belong here for sure.
who’s your pick for the first National Champion in the ChampCar Endurance Series?
My pick is clearly….Ooooppps. You are going to have to tune into ChampCar Live to find out.