May 7 - Tennessee : Memphis International Raceway

Up at 630am again. Ready to roll at 7. We were feeling the burn. Badly.

Packing up at the hotel.

Packing up at the hotel.

We wanted Chick-fil-a for breakfast, which we saw on the way to the hotel, but it was Sunday. No Chick-fil-a. So we went to Hardee’s. Taylor wanted a breakfast burrito, so I asked the cashier for a breakfast burrito.

“You wan dapohcuhlips?”

Wait what?

“Dapohcuhlips”

She pointed to the menu.

Oh, I see, the APORKalypse Breakfast Burrito. Obviously.

The end is upon us.

The end is upon us.

Well of course we’ll take the Aporkalypse. Taylor later reported that the pork flavor was overpowering. Too porky. And so the legend remains.

We were at the track, chowin down by 7:50am. I’m so unused to getting to the track early. During the One Laps I did in college, we spent so much time repairing the car, we’d arrived at the hotel between 3-4am, sleep for a couple hours, then flail our way to the track, barely making it in time for our run group. Then repeat the next day.

As we were unpacking, I realized that because Memphis is a short race track, about 1.8 miles and 8 turns, I actually had time to do a track walk! A lot of people bring razor scooters and bicycles to see the tracks (some of them are up 3.4 miles long), but I decided to go for a jog around. I didn’t have a bike or scooter. 

Setting up for the day.

Setting up for the day.

I certainly got to see the track, but I was really overheated and sweaty when I got back to the pits. I suspect that will be my one and only track walk.

We finished unpacking and setting up the ez-up shade. Dad ordered this. So crazy smart; I assumed it would be too much effort to put up and tear down each day. The one he ordered is super light and easy to use.

We finished setting up just as the first cars were headed out on track. This was the first time we would see them on track, so Taylor and I went over with Mike and Chris to watch a short section of track. Definitely some fast and loud cars. I have some cool video for later.

Watching during the morning session.

Watching during the morning session.

The morning session was going to be used to determine our running order for the rest of the week. Now, that may not seem too important, but that’s the opposite of the truth. This is pretty much the most important factor on One Lap. In the morning, everyone gets to the track around 8, the first cars start at around 830am. We run a morning session, then have lunch, then do another round in the afternoon. As soon as you are done with your afternoon race, you can pack up and leave. That means the first car in the run order can leave the track before 1pm. The last cars end up on track well after 230pm and usually leave around 3pm. This extra time translates directly to sleep. The sooner you get to the next stop, the more sleep you get. With 500-700 mile drives between tracks, sleep is in precious short supply.

So, the results of this morning session in Memphis were of dire consequence.

In the meantime, we needed to keep an eye on our tire wear, so I took a picture for reference. 2,800 miles, 1 wet skidpad, and 1 autocross on them by this point.

Hang in there, tires.

Hang in there, tires.

We started by car number again, for the last time, so we were towards the back. Expectations were pretty low for the Volvo, so my fellow competitors recommended I go to the back of the run group. No problem.

I’d never driven the Volvo on a track, and I’d never been on this track, so expectations were low from myself as well. Try to keep in on the track and shiny side up. The format was drive one lap as a warm up, then stop in a line at the start/finish line. From there, the flagger would give us the green flag one by one, and we would complete 3 laps as fast as possible. The time that counted would be all 3 laps cumulatively, not just fastest lap.

I tried to drive the warm up lap pretty fast, to try to get a feel for how the Volvo behaved. Dad had reported that the car had a massive and surprising amount of grip; I was finding the same thing on the warm up lap.

We lined up, me last, and finally it was my turn. We were off!

The Volvo was proving to be great on the track! It was decently fast on acceleration, stopped great, and had tons of grip in the turns. Not knowing the track was definitely hurting the elapsed time on track, but the car was really great. So much fun!

I didn’t go off track and had a ton of fun- success! Dad got some short videos that I hope to post some day.

Way to go, Volvo!

Way to go, Volvo!

Back in the pits, we were all smiles. The car looked great and ran great. People were coming over to tell us how much they loved the car and how surprised they were at how fast it was. I guess nobody believed us when we previously told them it was decently spicy.

The results were posted- 50th place out of 68! We were so happy- the average car in this event is a 500hp Corvette, so to beat 18 cars was a huge win in our book. More people came over to marvel at the meat/speed wagon!

Once everyone had run in the morning, there was a lunch break. I decided it would be a good time to address my Ribbons of Shame.

Shame.

Shame.

I reviewed some internet posts about how to remove the passenger door panel so we could inspect the damage, order parts, and repair. I found some good instructions, Dad joined me to help, and Taylor went to get us lunch. The team was firing on all cylinders!

The door panel came off nicely and we inspected the window mechanism. It appeared that 1 of the 2 clips holding the window to the regulator (which raises and lowers) was broken, and one of the metal arms of the regulator itself was bent. Too bad the suction cup was so high quality. Usually I get cheap junk which would have just popped off. Classic.

Dad and I were able to reattach the clips to at least hold the window in the right place, and Dad bent the regulator arm approximately back into shape. We tested the fix, and it worked! Ribbons of Shame be gone! The regulator wasn’t fully fixed and will need to be replaced, but for the rest of the trip it will be fine. The window will stay in place. We just need to remember to not roll it down.

Ribbons be gone!

Ribbons be gone!

We reassembled the door and enjoyed the Polish Sausages Taylor retrieved from the snack shack. Even more relieving was that I would be able to stop telling the story to everyone who saw the duct tape, which was every single person. Yay.

While we were waiting our turn for the afternoon session, a fellow competitor stopped by to ask if he could borrow some jack stands. They had blown the motor in their car during the very first track event. We were happy to let them borrow the jack stands, and we went over to inspect their carnage. It was thorough. The oil they drained from the engine was full of metal shavings; it looked like glitter. This is evidence of a problem that cannot be fixed without removing, disassembling, and rebuilding the entire motor with lots of new parts. It wasn’t looking good for these guys.

Bad way to live, man.

Bad way to live, man.

Actually, for those familiar with the YouTube channel, Road Kill, the car in question belonged to them. It was their old Pontiac Firebird. Their version of the story ought to pop up on their channel at some point in the future. I’ll link it here when it shows up. While they were diagnosing/loading, one of their teammates interviewed Taylor for the Road Kill livestream.

Our surprising result from the morning meant we got to move up in the run order. In fact, we ended up in a run group with Porsches and Corvettes!

A fast group of race cars.

A fast group of race cars.

The protocol was the same for the afternoon session: one recon/warmup lap, then 3 timed laps. Again, the car felt great, and I had a really fun time driving. I felt a lot better about the second session since I knew the car and track much better.

Apparently, the Corvette behind me switched to a faster driver in the afternoon, so despite leaving 10 seconds after me, he caught me near the very end. I beat him to the finish line by a couple feet, but his time was a lot faster than mine. The organizers try to prevent this sort of situation because it slows both cars down, but when someone is surprisingly fast or slow, passing does occur. I chatted with the driver, Pete, once we came back to the pits. He was so nice and excited, saying how much fun we’d had racing so closely. I was glad he wasn’t upset with me for holding him up. I suspect we’ll be hanging out more during the week, especially because we will be racing in the same group frequently.

The results came back from the afternoon session: 43rd- even better! There had been some mechanical problems with multiple cars already too, so some weren’t able to post any time for the second session.

Happy with our performance.

Happy with our performance.

Normally, we would pack up and drive out as quickly as possible to the next track, but we were to do the one drag racing event for the week. There would be one attempt for the fastest time, then a tournament-style event called a bracket drag.

Relaxing before the drag event.

Relaxing before the drag event.

Really briefly, a bracket drag race is a two car race where the slower car gets a head start. The length of the head start is determined by the two drivers. Each driver guesses how fast his car will go from the start light and tells the race starter. If one car estimates 10 seconds, and the other 15 seconds, the slower car gets a 5 second head start. If both cars leave at the perfect time, have no mistakes, and their estimates were correct, they should arrive at the finish line at the same time. However, nobody’s perfect, so someone will arrive first and be the winner. It’s a way to allow fast and slow cars to compete against each other. If you happen to finish faster than your estimate, you’re disqualified. That’s called “breaking out”. If both cars break out, the car who broke out by the smallest amount is the winner.

Over 90 degrees, so Taylor cooled off in the (semi) shade.

Over 90 degrees, so Taylor cooled off in the (semi) shade.

Dad did a lot of drag racing back in the day, so we were happy to let him do the driving. Everyone got in line to do the first part which was just going for your lowest time. This would also help you come up with your estimate for the bracket drag.

Well, Dad was so busy watching the driver in the lane next to him during his first race, he completely missed the start light. He eventually figured it out and launched for his 1/4 mile pass.

14.552 @ 98mph.

It was really hot, so times for everyone were pretty slow. Well, except the GT-R’s running in the 10’s. The Volvo would be a lot faster in cool weather.

Right at home.

Right at home.

The bracket drag was elimination style, so each race, 1 person of the 2 would be eliminated until no-one was left.

Dad was up against a Dodge Challenger Hellcat (707hp) for his first round. He actually ran really well: 14.6 vs his 14.4 estimate. That would have beaten a lot of people, but the Hellcat got within 0.1 seconds of their estimate, so Dad was eliminated. Oh well, that just meant we got to pack up and head out to the next stop- Road Atlanta in Georgia!

Pack em up, move em out.

Pack em up, move em out.

On our way out, we saw the 3rd fastest car in the event, a highly modified Mitsubishi Evo 9, being loaded onto a trailer; they’d broken the crank in their engine. They were hoping to swap in a new engine and meet us in Florida on Tuesday to continue. Poor guys, we hope to see them soon!

Hope they can make it back.

Hope they can make it back.

We loaded up and hit the road for our next stop, Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia. We stopped right outside the track to top off with gas. It was hot out and the a/c seemed to not be working properly. It was moderately uncomfortable. We'll try to get a can of freon at Autozone or something to see if that can help. Taylor never really noticed, living in Seattle. Imagine that.

Our drive to the hotel was about 450 miles, or 6.5 hours. Unfortunately, we were going to lose an hour again. This should be the last hour we “lose” for the trip. All gains from here on out.

Dad was driving and we found a few fellow One Lappers out on the highways. Everyone likes to drive at different paces, ranging from the actual speed limit, all the way to definitely-jailable pace. We end up somewhere in between.

Definitely not speeding.

Definitely not speeding.

Dinner became the topic of discussion (again), so I started searching ahead for a food and gas stop.

KFC!

We’d been trying to coordinate a KFC stop since we left Seattle, and it looked like there was one in the perfect spot for us- score! We sang songs of celebration and merrily imagined what we’d order. It wasn’t long before we arrived.

Getting out to experience the glory.

Getting out to experience the glory.

KFC isn’t particularly fast, so I volunteered to get an order started for us while Dad and Taylor got out of the car. I entered the restaurant to find a grim scene. 

There was one lady sitting, clearly agitated, and one man standing at the register, waiting to place his order.

There were 2 workers milling around in the back, laughing, yelling, and not preparing any food.

My happiness drained away.

After 2 minutes of standing there, nothing had changed. The seated woman finally got up. I asked her how long she’d been waiting on her order.

“20 minutes!”

I asked the man how long he’d been standing there trying to place an order.

“10 minutes!”

I steeled myself to deliver the bad news to Dad and Taylor. We needed to try somewhere else. Who knows how long we’d be stuck there.

They took it hard. There was disbelief and disillusionment. Dad had to see for himself, so he went in, only to return and agree. We had to move on.

Back into the car, we silently soldiered on to a Hardee’s down the road and unloaded. The Aporkalypse poster on the window mocked us.

Not happy to be here.

Not happy to be here.

The food was actually pretty good. We all had chicken. Dad and I had ordered the same thing, but the chef only made one, so I had to wait while they made a second for me. Dad went and filled up the gas tank while Taylor and I finished our meal.

Back on the road.

We made it to the hotel by 11pm and were greeted out front by bunch of fellow One Lappers drinking beer and telling us that we looked rough and this wasn’t even the long drive.

Thanks, guys.

Nice to see you, too.

Nice to see you, too.

I maintain that we did a good job. We took a few minutes in the room to clean up, organize, and regroup. I unpacked all the camera and computer stuff to recharge, and offloaded footage to a hard drive. Fresh batteries and empty media cards to start tomorrow.

We were in bed by 1230am, ready to hit Road Atlanta, a greatly feared and respected race track, in the morning.

Damen Hattori

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