PRO PETTY PLAYS

Kyle Petty

Kyle Petty

KYLE PETTY was the life of the party Friday afternoon for the post-qualification media conference after qualifying for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race at the 40th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He qualified on the pole, overall and in the Pro category. He was clearly at ease with the other drivers as well as the assembled media. Petty’s lap time was 1:45.100. This was his second time running the race, the other being back in the day. He thanked Toyota for asking him back, for many reasons, including fulfilling an item on his bucket list – the fact that now Petty has raced every marque of car in racing. Petty thanked Toyota for letting him race, treating them all with respect, and for putting on such a fantastic show.

The other two Pro drivers were AL UNSER Jr at 1:46.323 and RUTLEDGE WOOD at 1:46.590.

BRETT DAVERN was the top Celebrity driver, with a time of 1:45.638. He is known for being on MTV’s “Awkward” show.

Davern was pretty excited at being the fastest celebrity. Last year he was second, but not for the lack of trying. Davern said he begged anyone and everyone to come back again this year – “I would really love to race” PAUL NEWMAN is my model – as an entertainer who started racing later in his career.” Davern said he would race anything, anytime, anywhere. “I’ve always loved racing since I was a little kid. Just give me a car with stickers and I’m in.”

Petty regaled the group with stories, including his so-called rivalry with Unser, with whom he’s raced against in the past – 1983 Daytona 500, where they got in a wreck. The two were “a bit too competitive’ during their pre-race training on The Streets of Willow Springs race track. They were given a time out on the first day.

Petty said ” The King and I were talking after I went to Willow and spent days with Al, following him around was phenomenal for me. He helped me. I never was a good road racer. The King said during that period of time that Al Jr was the only driver that could go from one series to the other. The King doesn’t compliment a lot of people. Al was competitive that year, the only race he ran. it’s been a lot of fun to compare Al Unser Sr and Petty stories. I think we have the same father.

“We’re all competitive but not real rivals. We don’t want to end up in the wall, but would like to see a full ten laps of green.”

Petty admitted, when asked, nothing embarasses him, so if he got beaten by another driver, he could take it. The Pro Drivers start further back, a split start so to speak.

VANESSA MARCIL qualified second from last, but warned “It’s all an act. I’m going to win tomorrow.” Then she admitted “I’ve been terrified the entire time, racing against these bad ass guys. Can I say bad ass? I’ve never been in a race car, and never even seen a car race before. I’m the token female.”

Marcil, a TV actress from “General Hospital” is one of three females, along with LISA STANLEY and TRICIA HELFER. “We love watching the guys compete and go at it with each other. We girls are trying to beat our last time. This is the nicest group of people with whom I’ve ever worked. Everyone works together.”

MAX THIERIOT qualified second in the Celeb category, an actor known for being on TV’s “Bates Motel.” He didn’t get much chance to get a in word edgewise, with all the palaver among the others. He did admit that the Streets of Willow were more daunting than the regular course at Willow Springs. The Streets were pretty narrow, even more so than Long Beach, although Long Beach did have walls. “Wall is a four letter word.” What he took away from the training was learning the line, sticking with it and then carrying it over to Long Beach.”I spent a lot of time in the sand.”

The Streets of Willow is where DANNY McKEEVER’s Fast Lane Racing School trains the Pro/Celebrity drivers for two days, and they run the tight course in both directions. Petty said it is a very technical track, while Long Beach streets have more speed.

On a different note, when asked, Petty said his father was doing “pretty good since Mom passed. He’s used to being at the track alone, but not used to coming home alone. They were together 57 years, fifty of which he was on the road. It’s been a lot harder as she was sick the last four and a half-five years.” Kyle said he himself was having a hard time too – and he and his siblings are spending time staying with their mom.

The Toyota Pro/Celebrity race runs noon on Saturday.

BRINGING HOME THE LOOT • ORIGINALITY VS IMITATION

The winner of The 24 Hours of LeMons Arse Freeze-A-Palooza Race at Thunderhill Raceway Park will carry home (with help) $1500 in nickels. The Index of Effluence winner gets $1000 in nickels, for having the crappiest car which does well. The Organizer’s Choice Award winner gets $500, in nickels. Chief Perpetrator JAY LAMM has a banker friend who obliges by packing the nickels in neat cardboard box containers.

I would think that making subjective choices in this large field of 155 cars would be more than difficult.

This year’s LeMons season was comprised of ten races and the inaugural Concours d’Lemons in Toro Park near Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca the weekend of the Monterey Historics. That event will repeat next year, along with 21 races, and another Concours and Track Tour at Infineon Raceway. That is double the 2009 events. Lamm said it meant a lot of frequent flier miles checking out race tracks all around the country.

LeMons has grown. It all started with one man’s conception in 2006. “It seemed like a fun idea, entertaining and cheap. Nothing too serious,” said Lamm. Now in addition to Lamm, who eased out of his day job of editorial publishing to handle LeMons full-time, there are two other full-time managers – Event Manager JEFF GLENN, and Race Manager DAN RADOWICZ. Lamm has an Assistant Perp, NICK PON. There are also six or seven part time contractors.

The Judges this weekend were PHIL GRAYTON and JOHNNY LIEBERMAN, who were “inhabiting their persona” said Lamm. They were aided and abetted by Auditors and Punishers working in the Penalty Box.

The race officials are often found in each track area. At Thunderhill, most of them are SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) workers from San Francisco Region, along with a couple of Cal Club workers and one flagger who came all the way from Amsterdam just for the race.

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Somehow I doubt that Lamm sees it that way about the new Chump Car Series, which is for $500 cars without the wackiness. Co-promotor of Chump Car, JOHN CONDREN, said his series is “North America’s home for $500 crap-can endurance road racing, for more serious endurance racers on bigger, more well-known race tracks.” Chump Car – whose logo is a direct knock-off of the late Champ Car World Series – had its inaugural race over Halloween with 20 teams which had irreverent names. Chump Car will have 22 races next season, ten of which conflict with LeMons. Some have been saying that Chump Car had the blessing of LeMons. Not so, said Lamm. There is no relationship between the two series, no history, no cooperation and no approval.

CLEVER CONSULAR CAR

Part of the process of running in the 24 Hours of LeMons includes Judging. This weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park for The 24 Hours of LeMons Arse Freeze-A-Palooza Race, the Judging was Friday, after the more serious Scrutineering.

The judges can assess laps if the car is thought to be a cheater car. One such car Friday was the No.140 Diplomatic Immunity team. The car is a 1995 Mercedes S600 V12, which retails new for $135,000. The owner/builder SETH SCALLY, bought it for $1,000 on Craig’s List. He sold the air bags and driver’s seat for $500, thereby fulfilling in his mind the $500 purchase limit. Everything else remained in the car, which weighs 5000 pounds. This was no stripped down race shell. While it is not armored, the Mercedes does have double-pane bullet resistant (not bullet-proof) windshields. The car itself has had many owners, perhaps originally a drug dealer. It’s possible the car was part of a drug bust and couldn’t be sold in the US without a title or smog certificate, so it turned up in Mexico. All the Bills of Sale indicate it was sold at auction after auction, and ended up on Craig’s List. Scally decided it would either be a parts car or a LeMons car. He chose the latter.

The Mercedes has assumed the persona of the Republic of Paraguay, complete with official seal and (cleverly forged) Consular license plates. A license plate frame says “I collect 42 % G.D.P.” Team Captain/co-driver, JOHN MAGNUSON, is channeling the late General Heissman from Paraguay, complete with uniform, medals, sash and boots. In the Judging, the Generalissimo drove the car very slowly, while the crew – dressed as Secret Service men with sunglasses – ran beside the car.

The LeMons judges assessed a world-record 13,500 lap penalty against the Mercedes. The General does not accept any penalties and chose to run the risk of being voted The People’s Curse. He dodged the bullet. No car was voted The People’s Curse.

Team Diplomatic Immunity is not especially fast and not without mechanical problems. It’s car number was almost its position after Saturday’s run – P137 at 1:49.01.662. But it’s still out there and having a good time…and has no dents.

CLEVER CONSULAR CAR

Part of the process of running in the 24 Hours of LeMons includes Judging. This weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park for The 24 Hours of LeMons Arse Freeze-A-Palooza Race, the Judging was Friday, after the more serious Scrutineering.

The judges can assess laps if the car is thought to be a cheater car. One such car Friday was the No.140 Diplomatic Immunity team. The car is a 1995 Mercedes S600 V12, which retails new for $135,000. The owner/builder SETH SCALLY, bought it for $1,000 on Craig’s List. He sold the air bags and driver’s seat for $500, thereby fulfilling in his mind the $500 purchase limit. Everything else remained in the car, which weighs 5000 pounds. This was no stripped down race shell. While it is not armored, the Mercedes does have double-pane bullet resistant (not bullet-proof) windshields. The car itself has had many owners, perhaps originally a drug dealer. It’s possible the car was part of a drug bust and couldn’t be sold in the US without a title or smog certificate, so it turned up in Mexico. All the Bills of Sale indicate it was sold at auction after auction, and ended up on Craig’s List. Scally decided it would either be a parts car or a LeMons car. He chose the latter.

The Mercedes has assumed the persona of the Republic of Paraguay, complete with official seal and (cleverly forged) Consular license plates. A license plate frame says “I collect 42 % G.D.P.” Team Captain/co-driver, JOHN MAGNUSON, is channeling the late General Heissman from Paraguay, complete with uniform, medals, sash and boots. In the Judging, the Generalissimo drove the car very slowly, while the crew – dressed as Secret Service men with sunglasses – ran beside the car.

The LeMons judges assessed a world-record 13,500 lap penalty against the Mercedes. The General does not accept any penalties and chose to run the risk of being voted The People’s Curse. He dodged the bullet. No car was voted The People’s Curse.

Team Diplomatic Immunity is not especially slow (1:49.01.662) but is not without mechanical problems. It’s car number was almost its position after Saturday’s run – P137. But it’s still out there and having a good time…and has no dents.

PUCKISH PENALTIES • PEOPLE’S CURSE…NOT!

Sunday morning the weather at Thunderhill Raceway Park was chilly, breezy and overcast for the second half of The 24 Hours of LeMons Arse Freeze-A-Palooza Race. The forecast had been for rain in the am, and the drivers were told in the morning meeting to have rain tires and windshield wipers if they could.

At the Sunday morning drivers’ meeting, conducted by Chief Perpetrator, JAY LAMM, a tall bundled-up driver asked to speak. FOMFOR, speaking with an accent, denied he was washed up driver/journalist, TOMMY KENDALL and wanted that clarified … before he asked about a white line rule. Kendall later said he’s always wanted to have a single name, a la Madonna.

PENALTY BOX
One of the most fun parts of the LeMons races is the Penalty Box. There are various reasons for getting a black flag besides a mechanical problem – overdriving/aggressive driving, passing under caution, body contact, pit lane speeding, offs or spins, etc. There are three judges and sometimes Lamm, meting out the penalties in the large central paddock car port.

Penalty Assessment starts with the Wheel of Misfortune, which is spun to determine what penalty will be given. Some penalties are based on local track setup and weather conditions, such as water balloons heaved at the very hot Altamont races.

Among the penalties are “Mime The Crime”; an archangel in costume welding a barn animal air brake on the top of the car (pig, cow or humping rabbits); sitting in the Dog House; Sharpie writing ‘I Will Not —‘ 100 times on the race car; Preaching to the Converted; LeMons Trivia Quiz; Studs and Spurs; Barret Jackson; Bobby Bosch Relay; Faces of Math; Puzzled in the Pits; Three-legged race; Paint Your Whip with Bob Ross; Bart Simpson; Judge’s Choice; LeMons Haiku; Buying Lunch for the Judges; The Chronic Search; and Cultural Revolution. New this weekend was  dressing up as a Red soldier with Mao cap, goose stepping around the area and reading from the Red Book, and wrapping the car with Christmas paper.

The Penalty Auditors have a large chart taped to a long table, listing every car by name and number, and space for listing the errors. A team of Punishers carry out the penalties.

As of noon Sunday there were 26 teams which had no penalties.

As the race progresses, the lines are longer in the Penalty Box. It is also a fun place for spectating.

The biggest penalty of the weekend is The People’s Curse. All teams are given ballots at Registration, listing every entered team. Each team can choose the team it wants to see crushed…or not. The deadline was 10 am Sunday and the crushing scheduled for noon. It’s not a first that no team ticked off enough people to be voted The People’s Curse. So the giant Excavator Crane will sit idle and the paddock spectators and teams will have to find something else to do for fun.

As of noon, still no rain and the sun was shining through some breaking clouds.

IRREVERENT PERFORMANCE ART CARS

So many cars, so little time. Even with The 24 Hours of LeMons Arse Freeze-A-Palooza Race being a not quite 24-hour event, there won’t be enough time to track down all of the 157 cars at Thunderhill Raceway Park this weekend. Each car has four or more drivers.

Some of the 625+ drivers are running under alias. Race promoter aka Chief Perpetrator, JAY LAMM, said, tongue in cheek, “the smart drivers changed their names.”

Among the famous (or infamous) drivers this weekend is a well-known professional SPEEDy racer cum motorsports TV star who folded his long limbs into a small BMW, which was ninth overall at days end, with 128 laps. He raced under a pseudonym as the Gift With Purchase team owner felt it’s what Fomfor would want.

On the other side of the coin, a well-known motorsports artist competed in his first-ever race of any kind. BILL PATTERSON raced under his own name, and got half an hour in the car before a driver change. It turned out to be his only time in the car, as the yellow 1977 Killer Bee MGB later did a spectacular roll, side over side and then barrel roll. The driver was very much unhurt, but the car was not. The  MGB was 114th of the 155 cars on course.

The Killer Bees were pitted across the road from a 1977 Triumph – The Wedginator. It turned out to have come off the same assembly line as the MGB. Small world.

The basic concept of the series, which began with a single race in October 2006 at Altamont Speedway in Livermore Ca, is that the race car can’t cost more than $500 (excluding safety enhancements.) Those cars go through serious Scrutineering, followed by a more subjective Judging. The judges can deem a car to be a ‘cheater’ car, worth more, and assess penalty laps. The amount is determined by the bribable magistrates who are appropriately garbed and wigged. It is almost a badge of honor to have a ‘Bribed’ insignia painted on a race car. The Killer Bees earned two such honors, by having strategically placed honey mead in the trunk during Judging.

There were 248 total entries for the Arse race, but only 160 were accepted by Lamm, based on paddock and track size. Each team had to fill out an entry form which included team concept. Lamm prefers teams which aren’t boring and don’t take themselves too seriously. There’s extra points for a car and/or crew that is fun to see. I call it a motorsports costume party. Even the  race officials get into the spirit of things. One female working the pit lane was a pit bunny – literally, complete with a Playboy fire suit, big pink ears and a fluffy cotton tail.

Word’s can’t begin to describe some of the cars. Truly an example of a picture being worth a thousand words. I call them art cars.

Lamm’s description of his LeMons Series is (low) performance art cars – meets racing – meets Burning Man.

At the Saturday morning ‘Newbie” Drivers’ Meeting, a show of hands came from all the drivers for running their first LeMons race, and half the drivers raised hands as first time ever drivers. What fun!

At the end of the first half of the race (six hours 35 minutes), the best time around the 2.866-mile elevated road course  was 2:18.013, set by the Save The Whale team, which was eighth overall.

The leading team, Pandamonium Racing, ran 131 laps. Only one other team, Fast Times @ Placer High, was on the lead lap.

This is not the first time for the wacky, irreverent series to run at Thunderhill, but it is the first time in November rather than December. For TRP President/CEO DAVE VODDEN, who holidays in December, this is his first experience with the group and he’s loving it.

The day ended just prior to a stunning and spectacular sunset.