Last weekend, we showed you one of the best multiple-car 24 Hours of LeMons themes we’ve seen from the LeMons BS Inspections at the ‘Shine Country Classic at Barber Motorsports Park. Now that the throbbing in our ears from clanking hooptie motors has ebbed, let’s recap the opener for the 2016 LeMons season, a year that will see the series’ extremely unlikely 10th anniversary.
Most of the 86-car field came from LeMons’ significant team base in the Carolinas and Georgia, but Barber’s fun layout and first-class facilities bring in teams from all over the country, including MOONBOOSTIN’s and their debuting Chrysler Conquest TSI towing down from suburban Chicago. This is how LeMons’ staff found them two hours before tech inspection: repairing a cracked bellhousing and some broken ancillary pieces from the unobtainium 2.6-liter turbo engine.
They eventually fixed it and got it running, albeit in a Cheech & Chong-worthy fog of oil smoke. That got sorted and the car managed to turn an astounding 33 laps before the engine went nuclear Saturday on the racetrack. While 33 doesn’t sound like a lot, the Mitsubishi Starion and its Chrysler badge-engineered cousin(s) have a track record that makes that total admirable.
Not only do Bad Decisions Racing have LeMons’ first U-body minivan, they also have killed it with the van’s themes: a Black & Decker Dustbuster, Princess Vespa’s Mercedes spaceship from Spaceballs, and a safety-orange doorstop. Owing to the recently released Star Wars film, Bad Decisions turned the Dustbuster van into a credible Imperial shuttle.
They debated running without the wings and stabilizer to try competing for a Class C win, but like any good LeMons racers should, they elected to choose thematic dedication over performance. The van ran well until the race’s final two laps, when the transmission popped a line and created a smoke show that left the race to finish under full-course caution.
This British Invasion Triumph Spitfire team came up with a creative solution for potentially having to run in the rain with a convertible: Lexan bubble top! Naturally, the rain stayed away this year at Barber and the weather was actually pleasant all weekend. Meawhile, the Triumph ran as well as any Spitfire ever has.
We’ve seen all kinds of Volvos in LeMons, but NEZ Racing brought the first soccer-mom-spec Volvo V70. The turbocharged five-cylinder engine should theoretically put out good power, but the team spent most of the weekend under the hood swapping out head gaskets and sorting other typical first-race failures.
As usual, Friday’s BS Inspections included the usual array of befuddling costumes.
No LeMons race is complete, of course, without a commemorative “BRIBED” stencil for those racers paying tribute to the LeMons Supreme Court during BS Inspections.
That said, the best bribe still remains a terrible car and/or a good theme. Morrows Racing are legends at that and their fuzzy, supercharged GM 3.8-liter V6-powered AMC Gremlin was already a great LeMons car. However, they added some roof-mounted Gremlins, fake blood on the bumpers, and a Roadkill paint job on the Gremlin’s fur. Hey, we’re not immune to pandering.
Florida’s NSF Racing are staples of Class C and winners of multiple Index of Effluency trophies. They frequently pull some of the ickiest vehicles on the planet from the depths of the Sunshine State’s swamps. We’ll cover their entry for this race momentarily, but one of the NSF clan found a functioning—if a little beat-up—Hoveround mobility scooter for $100 on CraigsList. It might be our new favorite pit vehicle and the addition of a Bluetooth boombox made for a most effluent mobile paddock boombox.
As far as race vehicles go, NSF debuted their 1949 Nash Airflyte last fall at Carolina Motorsports Park and it reappeared at Barber. The gator-infested pond from which they pulled Bathtub Nash had completely disintegrated the Nash frame, so NSF cleverly stuck it on a (very) slightly-less-disappeared C3 Corvette frame they also yanked from Florida’s swamp. It looks magnificent.
As they had done in 2013 with the horrendous K-Car, NSF started the year out with an all-women crew and then planned to turn the car over to Maryland team Sputnik, who was at Barber racing their Nissan-engined Porsche 924. The Nash was to travel the country and run in nearly all of the races this year under different ownership like a hot, rust-flaked potato.
There is, however, an old saying about the best-laid plans, though I can’t recall what it is. The Nash had started to run poorly with Jalopnik writer and Roadkill friend Stef Schrader at the wheel. With the engine sputtering, she tried to limp it up the last hill before the pit entrance to get to the paddock, but the car stalled and wouldn’t refire while the Nash sat on the outside of the corner, where visibility is limited.
Unfortunately, the Grassroots Motorsports Magazine Mazda Miata came up on the stalled Airflyte at high speed and, as Stef described it, spatula’d the Nash: The front section of the Miata slid under the Nash and just flipped the Airflyte over like it was a pancake. The Burningham Racing Porsche 944, which had been following the Miata, was close enough behind to have nowhere to go and rear-ended the Miata hard. All three drivers walked away with no broken bones, though Stef Schrader later was diagnosed with a concussion.
NSF Racing, who are based just a few miles from Grassroots Motorsports Magazine’s headquarters, dropped off another Miata for the GRM crew earlier this week and we’ll hope to see them racing their “new” Miata soon.
The Burningham Porsche was bent pretty well and despite initial thoughts of straightening the car, they instead opted to trailer it and continue on with the team’s two other cars, a Honda Civic and a Lexus SC300.
Unfortunately, the Nash-It-Forward saga ends here with the car banned from future races over structural integrity issues related to the crash. We understand a replacement car-exchange program is already in the works and we’ll have more on that here soon.
As for the winners, LemonAid Racing at last managed to win the race outright with their BMW-powered Geo Metro. Yes, you read that right: This car originally ran with a three-cylinder Geo Metro engine. The Iowa-based team cannonballed that 1.0-liter engine into the Mississippi River (figuratively, of course) and instead stuffed in a 200-horsepower BMW straight-six.
That only took a few thousand man-hours of work, but the finished product is an absolute rocket. Their overall win completes the set of LeMons wins, also: They’ve won all three classes and Index of Effluency now with the yellow Metro, only the second car to do so. The team that beat them to it, ironically, was also a Geo Metro, that belonging to Knoxvegas Lowballers’ Ford V6 Metro.
It wasn’t an easy win for LemonAid, either. They held a four-lap lead late in the race, but the final hour saw puffs of smoke emitting from the exhaust periodically. With the team on pins and needles, the Metro limped home, literally dragging its radiator across the finish line. After getting the car into the paddock post-race, the car simply would not fire back up. LemonAid used every ounce of the car to win it, which is something we’ve seen from them before.
Class B was a Honda-battle royale between the Duff Beer Civic, Our Lady of Perpetual Downforce’s winged Civic, and Terminally Confused’s Del Sol. In the end, the Duff Beer car made their fuel last a bit longer, giving them their second Class B win and punching their ticket to Class A for life.
The field in Class C (for the least-capable cars) was particularly excellent at this race, but when the checkered flag waved high at 5:00 on Sunday, Team Fairlylame’s 1964 Ford Fairlane just barely edged out Idle Clatter’s Toyota Hilux-bodied Mercedes Diesel.
The team drive the Fairlane on the street regularly and take it to car shows, often having the car mistaken for an “in progress” work. Nope, just a Roadkill-worthy, LeMons-winning race car here.
If you’ve never been to Barber Motorsports Park, it simply is one of the nicest racing facilities in the world. The grounds are finely manicured and the track’s museum is full of unbelievably unique and valuable vehicles, mostly motorcycles but also a great Lotus collection.
Barber typically hosts club racing events and even an IndyCar weekend in the spring, so the LeMons clientele is a bit…different. While LeMons teams are typically gracious for their hosts and clean up their inevitable oil stains, the general stink of LeMons racers is typically the hardest thing to rid a paddock of. For this simple fact, LeMons awarded the I Got Screwed trophy to Barber’s kickass grounds crew.
That said, the track’s owner, George Barber, fielded a completely badass car in the race. The aforementioned museum contains a replica of Peter Fonda’s chopper from Easy Rider, so the theme for the track’s Datsun 200SX was an easy and well-executed choice.
The 200SX called it quits late Sunday, but with a bit of idle time on their hands, the Barber chaps brought over a raucous LS3-powered Lola T70 Spyder replica that gathered a throng of gawkers. Despite prodding from LeMons’ Chief Perp Jay Lamm, Mr. Barber (as he’s known around the track) was a bit reticent to put it on track with the hoopties on the other side of the pit wall, but he did think long and hard about towing the Datsun to other races in the region.
LeMons hands out at every race the Heroic Fix trophy, which is usually a reward for slapped-together apologies for poor planning rather than actual heroism. However, Mock Grass Racing actually managed to enact a real heroic fix.
Some team members boarded the elevator at a nearby hotel Sunday before the race with some members of Morrows Racing and Tetanus Racing, including the team’s junior members (one of them picturedabove). Naturally, the elevator broke en route to the lobby, leaving them all stuck and in the dark because the lights likewise broke.
The Mock Grass team members in the elevator called the rest of their team, who were able to finagle open the door in the lobby, where the elevator had broken. Although delayed, all three teams were able to get to the track in time to take the green flag. Mock Grass’ Kia has worn a football theme for years, but we’re hoping for an Elevator Repair Company theme in future races. Heroism!
The Judges Choice award at this race came from an actual race between two judges. Late Sunday, Judge Steve McDaniel and Judge Dave Montoya, both very experienced LeMons racers, each strapped into similarly capable Class B cars at the teams’ behest to settle a grudge over who was the better driver. Judge Steve took the Fireball Racing Ford Escort while Judge Dave opted for some time in Apocalyptic Racing’s Toyota Celica.
The two traded position on the track for a bit, but before long Judge Dave committed the ultimate LeMons Supreme Court sin by spinning a race car that was not his. For his penance, Jay Lamm taped him to the Celica’s roof and forced him to apologize to the entire paddock.
So the question soon became: Who should Judges Choice, Fireball Racing for being a bit quicker or Apocalyptic for lending the Supreme Court a car for a few minutes only to have it nearly obliterated by a tire wall? After appealing to the crowd for an opinion, it was decided the two teams, whose captains are good friends, should split the award.
There were so very many things to love about the Lunar Lemon Chevy Astro van. At a race with a Star Wars shuttle van already, this college class turned up with a NASA shuttle complete with rocket nozzles made from office supply store garbage cans and proper wings.
Unfortunately, their cage wasn’t very good or, as it turns out, at all welded to the van’s frame. Some teams would have packed it up after being told they needed to basically start over from scratch—in fact, at least one team did that—but the Lunar Lemon crowd would have none of that. They sweated and strained for about 30 straight hours, including cutting steel plates for plinth boxes with a tiny Dremel because they didn’t want to inconvenience anyone by asking to borrow an angle grinder or cutting wheel.
Nevertheless, the untold hours of sleepless welding paid off. The Astro, which was the first ever in LeMons, passed tech inspection Sunday morning and trundled onto the track not long after. It was far and away the slowest thing on the track, but they still beat a couple dozen cars that had a day’s head start and 30 seconds a lap on them.
For their hard work in laboring over a hopelessly stock Chevy Astro, the Lunar Lemon squad took the event-specific Eternal Optimist Trophy back to their classroom.
Sometimes, the Organizer’s Choice award is a tough one, requiring lots of deep thought and comparison and Top Secret formulae. This was not one of those races; the Knoxvegas Lowballers took this one without a second thought for their three-car Hoonigan and Gymkhana parody, which Ken Block even took notice of.
All three cars looked great on the racetrack and while they were never really contending for class wins this time around, they were head and shoulders above the rest of the field where it counts. Read more on these cars here.
That only leaves Index of Effluency and this was, again, a tough decision. The aforementioned Spitfire ran a solid race, but in the end, the effort from the J Crew Jaguar XJ6 could not be topped. Actually, that sentence ascribes too much value to the car itself, which was properly terrible with the original cushy suspension, gutless six-cylinder engine, and vaguely operating automatic transmission.
No, the most impressive thing about this car came from its team or rather the lack thereof. One lone man, Joshua Clabo, wrenched on this car and coaxed it to run the entire weekend. He lent the car out to a couple drivers from other teams to allow a short rest, but Clabo otherwise drove and wrenched on the rust-and-must Jag all weekend without major help.
Not only that, he also spent the entire weekend (when not driving, of course) wearing khakis and dress shirt. Pulling the ugly heap off the trailer? Khakis and dress shirt. Taking a break for a sandwich? Khakis and dress shirt. Doing some light welding? Khakis and dress shirt.
Pay attention, folks. This is how you race a Jaguar.
That wraps it up from Barber Motorsports Park, but be sure to check Judge Phil’s Uber Gallery for more photos and LeMons’ YouTube channel for a wrap-up video in the near future. This weekend, LeMons races at Sonoma Raceway in California, kicking off the first of six West Coast races in 2016.