2015 Solo Nationals
It’s been a long road, but we’re finally here – the 2015 SCCA Solo National Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska. Every year we look forward to this event with sometimes optimistic plans and expectations. This year we knew would be a year of development with a switch in tires and I’m happy to say that we mostly pulled through with meeting our goals!
The cliff notes version of this story is that Todd and I ended up 4th and 5th out of 38 and the competition was tight at the top! Had a few things gone differently, the results might have been a little different, but we’re happy nonetheless! For those who are interested in a little more than the cliff notes, follow along!
This isn’t where you want to be with less than a week to go until you leave for Nationals. Thanks to Mike Lapp of Lapp’s Paint and Body in Bryan, TX we went from the above, to what you see below!
Mike did some amazing work blending in the fiberglass flares into the quarters of the Camaro.
In the meantime we finished up a few other little odds and ends, including re-packing the muffler and making arrangements for an exhaust cap/baffle in case we bust sound like we did at Spring Nationals. We loaded up Saturday and got on the road.
My Dad, Todd, Jeff Minor (Sweaty Jeff), and myself were in the truck towing the Camaro and the Malibu behind us. We met up with Casey Weiss (Soupdaddy) north of Ft. Worth and drove onto Lincoln. My wife had cooked us 12 dozen cookies and 2 batches of rice crispies or “air biscuits” (since they’re mostly air!) for us.
We were stoked this year as Tye Jackson returned to cook for the week. If you’ll recall from year’s past, Tye and his brother Jacob treated us to a week of Texas BBQ and other good food throughout Nationals. It was a bit bittersweet as Jacob passed away a few years ago in a tragic accident, but we were very happy to have Tye with us!
Saturday and Sunday are the Pro Solo Finale. On our way up on Saturday, we learned bad news that Mark Madarash had blown his motor in the Finale. Mark had just put in a new engine, which was very stout as we found out at the event at Lone Star Park! Offers of rides came for Mark, but he picked the tougher road and decided to drive all the way back to Texas and swap in his ESP engine! Fast forward to Wednesday and Mark was back with his old motor in the car and ready to race!
Along with the Pro Finale was the CAM Invitational. Some really neat rides competed. It was neat to see Speedway Motors putting in some development time on their cars as well as their new 2nd Gen Camaro. The cars still were in need of some development, but it was neat to see.
Fellow Houston autocrossers Daniel McCelvey (past CS National Champ) and Jim Kritzler were competing in Kritzler’s C4 Corvette in BSP. Both were very fast and we were all anxious to see if Daniel could compete for the top spot in BSP in a car that many had written off in the class. Daniel had cone trouble on both days, but if he hadn’t, he’d have taken the championship! It’ll be interesting to see what happens with these guys next year.
FS competitors, Doug Wille, Jackie Mutschler, and Soupdaddy got stuck in 1st heat which rained on Day 1 which made for the dreaded “drying conditions”. Unfortunately with the challenging conditions on Day 1, none of them were able to trophy, but they had fun anyways!
Kent Kroll and Casey Brown ran in ESP. They had an uphill battle in the class as their 3 valve 4.6 was outgunned by the strong Boss 302s in the class. This didn’t stop them from trying though. I’m sure with a little more development, they’ll be back in better condition for next year!
We took some runs on the practice course to scuff in tires and so did Sweaty. The rear axle seemed to be acting oddly and lots of tire smoke was evident out on course.
After the runs, he parked the car and looked in the trunk and we found that the Watts link was loose. Fellow Texans, Chris Cargill and Wayne Atkins jumped in to assist. We also replaced his electric water pump which failed while he was loading it into the trailer!
He wasn’t the only one who had work to do on his car. Tony Espinosa had Todd put in a Wilwood pedal cluster into his Mustang, but Todd wasn’t able to get it finished before leaving for Lincoln. A few parts store runs later and Tony was in action, assisted by my Dad and Todd who had to do some creative math to figure out how the new hydraulic throwout bearing needed to be shimmed in the car.
CP was a pretty sizeable field for this year with 38 entries. Most importantly, there were 3 new cars at Nationals which was awesome to see!
Adam George competed for the first time in CP with co-driver Samuel Vassallo in his 2005 Mustang GT converted from ESP trim. Adam hadn’t done much more than stripping the interior out of the car to make it CP, so his 10th place trophy was even more impressive! This is a car to watch in the future!
Fred Pascual also made his Nationals début in CP with his 1987 Ford Mustang. At first glance this car almost looks stock, but looks are deceiving. Fred’s car has a nicely setup suspension, including a 3-link out back. Under the hood he’s got a 480 HP 302 with EFI! Fred impressed with a 7th place trophy, made even more impressive by his tire choice of Avon. We’ll be looking forward to seeing more of Fred in the future.
A controversial entry in CP was Brett Madsen’s 1999 Roush Mustang. Some questions were raised as 3 items stood out as illegal – hood louvers, side skits/ground effects, and a front splitter that extended outside the body lines. Fortunately Brett was very understanding and no protests were raised. Brett’s car has had some attention in various Mustang magazines and has a very stout 2-valve 4.6 which he said spun to 9,000 RPM. It’ll be interesting to watch Brett in the future. Brett finished up in 17th spot.
Before we run at Nationals, we always have a little CP chant. Historically this has been led by Grayden Obenhour, but in the past few years, Grayden hasn’t been able to attend Nationals. Mike Maier has taken up the call though and did a great job. The theme of Mike’s speech was “sweat equity” that we all have in our cars and builds. I thought this was especially true with 3 new cars at Nationals which I noted above.
The East Course was FAST. We saw the shift light 3 times out on course and buried the rev-limiter twice. It was a blast! Robert Lewis and co-driver Tommy Pulliam put his Mustang’s big power to good use and led day 1, followed by Mike Maier, Todd Farris and myself. Just 1 second separated the top 5 on Day 1!
Sweaty’s Malibu continued with its Watts Link woes, tearing a weld during the runs. Luckily we were able to track down a welder to fix it.
Art Martinez and his son, Kyle had bad luck in their Firebird when a Wide 5 wheel adapter failed (credit to Vitek for the picture!). Frank Stagnaro lent them a pair of front wheels so they could compete in Day 2! The camaraderie in the class is just amazing.
The skies opened during the 5th heat and the rain just dumped down. Several of us took a course walk after the rain had stopped for a few minutes and Zack Barnes snapped this picture. Lincoln has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets anywhere.
Meanwhile, the skies opened again while Todd was trying to get Sweaty’s Watts mount welded back up. He had plenty of help despite the pouring rain from Aggie first-timers at Nationals – Cole, Chris, and Chance from the Texas A&M Sports Car Club.
These guys were the first A&M Car Club members to come to Nationals in 9 years, so it was great to see them get involved. Luckily they were able to get everything buttoned up despite the rain so that Sweaty could run on Day 2!
Day 2’s course was much different than Day 1. Designed by Houstonian, Roger Johnson, it was a narrow course that you had to be very careful to not hit cones. Roger designed it so that it was a “regional” feel and you could say that he accomplished that. It wasn’t my favorite course because it was so narrow, but it definitely was a challenge.
The temperature had dropped over night. Running 2nd heat, tire heat was critical to get in good runs. My 1st run was an absolute disaster. Between a car that was way too loose, cold tires, we had a brake bias issue that had the front tires locking on every corner. We made some changes and it got a little better for Todd’s 1st run, but still didn’t get all the way there. Huge thanks to Doug, Jackie, and Kritzler for loaning us their tire blankets in an attempt to keep our tires warm!
A broken car delayed 1st drivers going out, which meant that my 2nd run was basically on cold tires. With the cold tires, I wasn’t able to improve and did some major cone carnage during the run.
The driveshaft broke on Mike and Franks’ Mustang and they swapped it out for a new one. This meant another delay though which cooled down Todd’s tires, making for not much of an improvement.
With the broken cars and cold tires, it came down to 3rd runs for everybody. I went out and was able to put in a good, but not great time. It was enough to move me from 10th up to 5th spot. Todd went out on a flying run and put in a time that was 1.2 behind Mike’s best time, but good enough to put him in the 4th spot. Final results put Mike Maier at the top, followed by Robert Lewis, Tommy Pulliam, Todd and myself. Following closely behind was Mark Madarash, Fred Pascual, Chris Cargill, Frank Stagnaro, and Adam George rounding out the Top 10. Wayne Atkins narrowly missed the trophies and might have made it in, but his Camaro broke a rocker arm stud on Chris’ last run and he wasn’t able to take his third run.
After competition runs were over, we took the opportunity to take a few pictures. Unfortunately we didn’t get Madarash, Chris, Wayne, and Kurt to round out the Texas contingent, so had to settle for a Houston CP picture instead!
We considered Nationals 2015 to be a success. While we didn’t finish at the top of the pile, the competition was fierce and we had a hell of a time. We’ve already got some ideas on how to improve for 2016 so we’ll be back!