Q: How do you know there’s a racecar driver in the room?
A: He’ll tell you, and also he’ll tell you the track is bad.
Alrighty, our boy Kevin Wesley set himself up for that one, but he’s still high on a win, so he won’t be too mad. Probably. Kev’s a pretty good shoe, and when he asked for a Roadkill sticker to slap on the Dodge Viper ACR that he was taking to Gridlife at Road Atlanta, we figured that if anyone had a chance of not failing while repping Roadkill, it was Kevin. So we sent him a sticker and sat back to watch the action. Here’s his story.
Proclaimed by the promoters to be an “experience,” Gridlife is truly a one of a kind event. Typically, there are three days of racing, high performance driving schools, music, camping and parties–lots of parties. There’s autocross for newbies and hardcore drifting and time attack for those of us prone to the red mist. Some of the events aren’t a full-blown festival with all the music, but the big ones draw the crowds and we love a crowd. We chose the last festival event of 2017 at Road Atlanta, where the goal was to set a record with a crowd of more than 12,000 people partying their butts off while we raced.
My plan for the weekend was simple. Win the class and set the Road Atlanta #GRIDLIFE track record for the Track Modified RWD class. My team was small, just me, my son, my dad, and my brother. For a car, we chose a 100% bone stock Press Pool Dodge Viper ACR. Since engineers Chris Winkler and Tom O’Dell from SRT did such an awesome job setting 13 Production Car records with the Dodge Viper ACR, I knew there was an excellent chance that even a mere mortal like me could run under the existing Gridlife record. It did help a bit that the Production Car record the Viper holds was almost 8 seconds faster than the Gridlife track record we were trying to beat. But, this was a Time Attack event (I’ll make excuses and cover my ass several more time, just wait). Track time is very limited, car count can wreak havoc on getting clean laps and it was August in Atlanta… HOT HOT HOT! Even with all of those factors playing against us, in true Roadkill fashion, we decided to go for it anyway.
Let’s be honest, the first day was a struggle and not my best showing. There was a lot of traffic, it had been several years since I was at Road Atlanta and other than the 2016 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (see HOTROD.com for that story), this was my first real experience with the ACR on a technical track (more excuses… must be a driver). Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for how much grip the car has in the high-speed sections. Truly it is something that you have to personally experience to grasp. It’s completely over-the-top amazing and something I felt at Pikes due to the elevation (lots less power) and road layout. My timing was off, my car placement coming down the hill into Turn 12 was wrong, and I just wasn’t getting a good lap on the boards. I finished the day on Friday 3rd in class… ugh. Luckily, I was already running three seconds under the previous record, but so were the two cars ahead of me! It was turning out to be a real battle.
Saturday morning, I spent about an hour watching Chris Winkler’s Road Atlanta video on YouTube.
This helped immensely and got me sorted for the day. Right off the bat in the second session I was able to drop more than two seconds off the previous time and get down to a 1:29.775. That lap ended up being the best of the weekend with the car slowing over the next three sessions due to heat, traffic and the fact that I didn’t have a rabbit to chase. Once we were in the lead there was no reason to push and risk the equipment. That time not only vaulted me into the lead for the Track Modified RWD Class, it also set the Track Modified RWD Class record, set fastest time out of all Track Modified entries (RWD, FWD and AWD) and put the ACR Viper in a group of only about a dozen cars at Gridlife that have ever run under 1:30 at Road Atlanta.
Boy was it close though! We ended up first in class with that 1:29.775, the 2nd place class car of Tony Fuentes in a highly modified BMW 135i was only 3 tenths slower and another Viper ACR driven by Josh Hill was in 3rd less than 7 tenths back. Less than 7 tenths of a second covering the top three cars in Track Modified RWD and all of them on Kumho V720 ACR tires. In a class that allows treadwear down to a UTQG rating of 100, a treadwear 200 tire took the top three spots. Not only a great victory for Dodge and the Viper, but also an amazing weekend for Kumho.
Was there more time to be had? Definitely, I could have pushed harder and went a bit faster. I didn’t have to though. We hit our goals, closed out the weekend super stoked with a win, set the record and had a car that drove into the trailer at the end of the day with all the body panels on—which is good, because it’s hard to remove the hood on a Viper. That’s a successful weekend for everyone, especially Roadkill.
Class Win: Track Modified RWD
Class Record: Track Modified RWD and Track Modified Overall
Overall: 7th out of 92
Fastest: Production Car, On Street Tires, Normally Aspirated
One of the coolest cars there was this Camaro owned by Mike Dusold.
The Neon SRT4 is wheeled by Doug Wind. He won Street Modified 2WD and had the fastest Street Modified class time.