Finishing Moves

As I sit down to write this, it’s 9:55 p.m Eastern time on Nov. 23, 2009, a full 12 days before the start of the 2009 NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The reason this intro is being written now, and not after or even during the race, is to drive home the point that an endurance race really starts well before the green flag drops. Those of you who have been reading this magazine for a while know the story already, but for those of you who have just joined us, here’s the deal: Each year we team up with a lucky (or not-so-lucky, depending on your point of view) group of racers to compete in NASA’s premier enduro, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. For 2009 my host is RJ Racing, a group based out of Southern California. Team owners and brothers Rob and John Gibson have offered me a seat, a look into the inner workings of their team, and a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to challenge the twice-around-the-clock adventure that happens annually in northern California. They are also challenging my personal curse. See, although endurance racing is one of my favorite expressions of car-to-car sport, my record is far from stellar in the venue. After several 12-hour races, I’ve never been part of a team that has finished on the podium. After several 24- and 25-hour races, I’ve never been part of a team that has finished. So although it’s not a good record, it is consistent. Now, thankfully I’ve never been the cause of the non-finishes and, honestly, neither have any of my fellow drivers. The culprit has mostly been fate, and over the course of 25 hours fate has a lot of chances to mess with you. The RJ Racing guys know of my streak of bad luck and have decided to help me break it. Of course, their motivation isn’t simply to help a dashingly handsome journalist overcome his personal demons, but to compete as hard as possible in their E2 class Mazda Miata. Aside from the Miata, their prime weapon—at least, if the information I received earlier this evening is any indication—will be organization. Tonight, the entire team participated in a conference call. While a conference call would not normally be a newsworthy event, this one is worth noting because it was the most intensive discussion we’ve had about the business of conducting the race. Once the actual race arrives, there will be no surprises. Signing off until then.

Hello, Thunderhill

Strategy is a vital component of any enduro. Rob Gibson, Dion Johnson and John Gibson pore over spreadsheets and time charts to plan out driver swaps as well as fuel and tire service points.

I was wrong. There was one more surprise: I was shocked at the cold that greeted me upon my arrival in Sacramento. That did not bode well because Willows, where Thunderhill is located, is a good hour north of Sacramento, up in the high California desert; there was no way it was going to be any warmer than the low 30s that greeted me at the airport. While the temperatures were frigid, the hospitality was anything but. (I’m almost ashamed to use such a horrible cliché, but the RJ Racing crew turned out to be such nice folks, they seemed to warrant a down-homey cliché or two.) Brothers Rob and John Gibson share the driving and prep team management duties. RJR also includes younger brother Tim Gibson, who served as crew chief for the weekend. Normally Rob would also serve behind the wheel at some point, but a broken wrist received at the NASA Nationals put him out of action for the 25. He dealt with it in stride. In fact, he almost seemed to welcome the chance to focus on a single aspect of the race rather than splitting his time between managing and driving. If that wasn’t the case, he sure hid it well.

At 17, Andrew Novich (right) is well on his way to becoming a big name in motorsports.

The other notable fact about day one of the race weekend was the utter lack of panic evidenced by every member of the team. The car had made it to the track on time, with no last-minute thrashes or all-night wrenchathons, and there was very little mystery left before we set out for practice. Actually, the only real mysteries were the tires. The team was going to run the BFGoodrich g-Force R1 for the first time on their E2-class Mazda Miata, and they had little preexisting data regarding setup or car prep. As with everything else so far, though, even this hurdle was overcome with a calm, direct approach—and some really smart guys in BFG jackets. The techs and engineers at the BFG truck were all too willing to help out with setup tips, and it also didn’t hurt that one of our other team drivers—Honda engineer Lee Niffenegger—was a regular competitor on these tires. By the time the car went out for practice, everyone felt that it was well dialed and able to use the tires to the best of its ability. So, it’s about here that I’d usually employ a literary technique known as foreshadowing, where I drop a subtle hint about some impending disaster that would strike us when we least expected it, though we should have seen it coming because of some prescient clue that had revealed itself earlier. Unfortunately, nothing odd happened, except that I got the fish and chips special from the Thunderhill Grille and, okay, maybe I left a couple of olfactory treats for my co-drivers during my subsequent practice session. I didn’t want to tell the Gibsons, though, because they’re such nice guys, and they deserve better. “Unremarkable” was probably the best adjective I could come up with to describe the RJ Racing Miata and its mannerisms. And I mean that in the most flattering way possible. RJ Racing’s car started life as a Spec Miata, but since the team wanted to focus on NASA enduros, they altered the prep level to NASA Performance Touring specs. Their car is very similar in prep to a Spec Miata, but with a few key differences, like no restrictor plate, the ability to use any spring rate, and the freedom to do a bit more gutting. Little adjustments like these allowed RJ Racing to tune the car more to their liking and still compete in NASA’s E2 enduro class. The final product is a racer that I could drive with my eyes closed, though I shrewdly chose not to. It was clear from my early lap times that I wasn’t going to be the fast guy in the car, but when it comes to an enduro I’d much rather be the slow guy than “that guy.” I found a comfortable pace that invited little or no drama while passing and being passed. Speaking of comfort, about the only other major thing we did on day one was to create foam seat molds for all the drivers. Oh, and we applied some stickers, and I think the team changed the oil. My usual perspective of the pits at a 25-hour race is that it looks something like the Battle of Thermopylae, except without all the perfectly sculpted abs, but this image was being shattered with each problem-free driver change during practice. During that mellow yet purposeful practice day, I got a chance to get to know some of the other folks I’d be spending the weekend with. Besides me, John Gibson and the aforementioned Mr. Niffenegger, driving duties would also be handled by two others: RJ Racing regular Dion Johnson and 17-year-old Andrew Novich. Novich was fresh off a full season in the VW Jetta TDI Cup, and he’s been karting from the time he barely came up to my knees. Actually, he probably came up higher than that when he was born, since he is very tall and I’m shaped a lot like Mickey Rooney. So we’ll just say he started karting in middle school and he’s been getting faster ever since. On the wrench side, our all-volunteer crew faced the prospect of a frigid weekend with an enthusiasm that probably bordered on some sort of pathological disorder. Still, the thing that struck me was the casual yet methodical approach that everyone seemed to bring to the event. The unspoken truth was that nothing needed to be done so quickly that it would sacrifice doing it correctly. It takes 25 hours to finish this race, but barely a second to lose it all if someone does the wrong thing—and like me, nobody wanted to be “that guy.”

Green Means Go

We worked out a lot of the logistical issues—everything from driver fitting to pit stops and driver changes—before the race even started.

Saturday morning was even colder than Friday, with the prospect of continued coldness throughout the weekend. When you’re born and raised in sunny Florida, any temperature starting with a number lower than 5 seems somehow inconceivable. We were facing the prospect of 30s, and even low 20s, before the end of the night. Of course, we’d have to still be running to face those temps, and you all know how that usually works out for me. I rarely have any worries about the weather at endurance races because it’s always warm and dry back at the hotel. I looked forward, however, to the possibility of freezing a little—suffering to overcome my demons. Just as a junkie has to go through a couple of nights of sleeping in his own excretions to get clean, I figured I’d have to put on a sweater and long pants to triumph over my personal challenges. Throughout the buildup to the race, however, what permeated life in the RJ Racing pits was the utter lack of drama. To a guy whose experiences with this race had mostly been constant thrashes leading right up to the moment the green flag dropped (and beyond), it could have been easy to misconstrue this lack of activity for a lack of effort. But the truth was that the effort had already been expended. RJ Racing had been campaigning this car for several seasons—they even won the Western Endurance Racing Championship E2 class in the car in 2008 and 2009. They knew the strong points (everything) and the weak points (nothing except probably me in this particular case). The lack of activity reflected not apathy, but a complete knowledge of what needed to be done, what had already been done, and what each person and piece of equipment was capable of. When Clint Eastwood rode into town in a Sergio Leone western, he didn’t make a big fuss about loading his guns and adjusting his serapé and making sure his scowl and stubble were the right level of awesome. He just rode in, shot the bad guys (or good guys, depending on his mission statement) and went about his business. Two hours before the green flag fell, there were a dozen Clints in the RJR paddock. Now, you’d think all this would have me in a good mood and excited about the prospect of finishing my first round-the-clock race, since it was clear that there was no doubt in the minds of any of the assembled crew that this was not merely the goal, but the expectation. To my own paranoid logic, however, this almost made things worse. Once you’ve spent hours thrashing and banging and scraping by on duct tape, bailing wire and unicorn farts, the inevitable failure seems almost welcome. But the pervasive sense of calm and confidence exuded by the RJ Racing guys meant that failure would be a true blow to everyone’s spirits. It would be like buying tickets to your favorite movie and ordering a large popcorn, only to be forced to watch “Glitter” with a side snack of kick-in-the-face instead. And the guys I’d feel really bad for were the Gibsons. It had become clear that they were truly interested in seeing me through the entirety of this thing—and not just in that “we want to see our names in GRM” way, but in the “here’s a guy we’ve never met and don’t know who could be a crazy underwear sniffer, but he’s had a string of bad luck at this race, so we want to see him succeed and think we can help him attain that goal” way. It was an amazingly selfless gesture, and I found it quite touching that they were interested in having me aboard. It would be especially hard for me to watch them suffer because of my curse. I would welcome the beating that they would give me—and that I would fully deserve—once my curse caught up with reality. First there was a race to start, though, so with the temps barely above freezing at midday Saturday, our E2-class Miata took its place in the middle of the 70-plus-car starting lineup. It was a lineup that included some very, very serious hardware. Seeing a pro-series car at this race was an interesting novelty in years past, but this year’s field included three GT3 Porsches, a couple of extremely serious BMW M3s, and numerous other machines that would be right at home on any major pro racing grid in the country. The 25 Hours of Thunderhill has officially become serious business. Despite the swollen field and the frigid temps that kept tires well below their ideal working temps, the start—and the entire race, actually—was obscenely incident-free.

In the Groove

Through the early stages of the race, the RJ Racing Miata carried on in a completely uneventful fashion. Pit stops were like clockwork, and our driver changes were routinely faster than the fuel filling, which is always an admirable goal. This was especially impressive considering that all of our drivers didn’t really know each other before the race and, for the most part, each had their own seat insert that needed to be swapped every time. We had a quick drivers’ chat and practice session on driver changes the previous day, and as a result we made some belt adjustments. Barely 20 minutes of organization and planning made what can occasionally be a Mongolian clusterbang into a smooth exchange with little drama. Man, was it cold, though. My first stint came at sundown—I had to hold my hand in front of my face going up into Turn 9 because I was driving straight into the setting sun. When it finally disappeared over the hill, that one less distraction reminded me that even though I was behind several layers of fireproof fabric, I was still really, really cold. It was so cold, in fact, that it was causing issues. The BFG tires were impressive in practice. They were predictable, with a good, large, useable slip angle and good ultimate grip. When the temperatures started to drop into the 20s, however, we could barely get the hot tire temps past 150 degrees, and the once-unflappable tires started to feel a little more sketchy. Our approach to the problem was twofold. The first task was a chat with the BFG engineers, who recommended some different pressure settings to try as the temperatures dropped. They were beyond helpful and enthusiastic when it came to providing knowledge and advice for the entire race. The second solution we employed was to get as much heat into the tires as we could before they went on the car. Obviously a tire with an ambient temperature of 80 degrees is going to be of more use than one that’s 20 degrees because it’s been sitting in the cold pits. So we found the warmest place we could find, which in this case was the bathroom of the well-heated motorhome that had been provided by RentMyRV.biz. The outlet vent for the propane heat was right next to the bathroom, so by arranging a few doors we created the world’s largest electric tire warmer. When we did our first tire change a few hours into the race, it was mostly because we decided to jump at the chance during a full-course caution. The BFGs certainly weren’t wearing to the point where they needed to be changed, but by swapping out all four we could analyze the wear patterns after a few hours and better ascertain what our overall tire picture would look like. It looked good. It was clear that if we were going to have a failure, it wouldn’t be tire-related. We were also keeping a subtle eye on our position throughout the hours heading toward Sunday. Our consistent and drama-free performance had us firmly on the podium for much of the opening stages of the race, hovering between second and fourth in class and solidly challenging several other Miatas. In the bad news department, our good friend Charles Espenlaub caught on fire that evening. You can read his version of the story elsewhere in the issue, but for those of us at the race, the incident was a sobering reminder that this sport truly is serious business from time to time. Please take the time to read and digest what he wrote about his experience.

Paging Dr. McSurly

Our late-night GRM snack wagon was on hand to bring hot coffee and good cheer to all of the hardworking crews.

One of the great things about a race as extreme as this one is that so many teams and manufacturers use it to showcase their ability to overcome. To that end, there was not one, but two individuals attempting the unthinkable: driving the entire race on their own. We were keeping a close eye on the progress of both these guys, Donny Edwards and recent SCCA Spec Miata Runoffs winner Steve Gorriaran. Edwards was taking the more laid-back approach; when we checked in on him Saturday night, his one-man crew informed us that he was getting a massage. Gorriaran was taking a different tack; he’d sprint from the car every couple hours for a snack and a bathroom break, but his stops were barely longer than anyone else’s. Although he was a one-man band behind the wheel, he was not a novelty act. This was his first NASA race ever (which may explain why he couldn’t find a co-driver), and he was there to compete. Mazda was also there with an interesting factory effort. As an after-hours project, several Mazda employees had built an MX-5 Cup spec car with the intention of entering it in the 25 Hours. The theme was “25 in 25,” so in addition to the employees who completed the build, several guest media, celebrity and pro drivers would round out the 25-driver field. Every hour, they’d make a driver change. Longtime Mazda racer and preparer Rick Weldon oversaw the logistics of the driver changes and pit management, which basically meant his job was akin to herding a group of squirrels. By midnight his driver roster looked like an early draft of the Constitution, or at least what it might have looked like had the founding fathers decided that “rock and roll all night and party every day” should probably not be part of the initial charter of the country and started over. There were scratched-out names, arrows, brackets, check marks, stars and circles. I think I even saw a drawing of a centaur on there somewhere. The reason I was over there to begin with was to fill in for Patrick Dempsey, who was supposed to be one of the guest drivers. Mazda’s John Doonan had found me early in the race and asked if I’d like to do a stint in the “25 in 25” car, and I said I’d be honored. He mentioned that Patrick Dempsey was scheduled for that slot, but he couldn’t make it, so I’d be welcome to take over. Because, clearly, if you can’t get Patrick Dempsey, I’m your best second choice. I called my wife to tell her I was filling in for Patrick Dempsey, and she replied, “No, you’re filling in for a guy who doesn’t want to be up at 1 a.m. driving a race car around in the dark because he knows it’s stupid.” Maybe she had a little bit of a point. So at about 12:30 a.m., I wandered away from the RJR pits, which were still a non-bustle of terrifying non-panic, and headed over to the Mazda pits for my stint. I was secretly hoping that no one had mentioned Dempsey wasn’t going to be there, and that I’d be mobbed by a group of screaming Demplings (that being what his fans call themselves—or at least, it should be) who thought I was him, just maybe after he had gotten into a horrible accident that made him shorter, fatter and less handsome. Sadly, though, it was just me. Me and the cold. It was now in the low, low 20s. Just as I arrived at the Mazda pits, I heard the telltale “ssskkkkrrreeeee… boof!” of a metal-to-metal incident on the back straight adjacent to the pits. “Dumbasses,” I thought to myself. Then I saw the results of the melee limp into the pits; one of the cars was heading for the RJ Racing stall. Our No. 23 Miata, with Andrew Novich aboard, had been the third car in a three-car chain reaction. An Integra put two wheels off and then went flying back across the track, contacting a Spec E30 BMW as well as our Miata. From where I was standing, all I could see was a badly damaged right-front suspension. It was devastating. Not only was I looking at what appeared to be the end of the race for our car, but I couldn’t even go over there and see what was going on because I was about to get into the “25 in 25” MX-5. I was watching the world come apart from Patrick Dempsey’s hot tub. The worst part was that I was letting down these wonderful people who had taken me into their team. I felt like a bad, selfish person. Shame on you, Patrick Dempsey. My stint behind the wheel—or, rather, under the wheel—of the “25 in 25” car was uneventful. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have known if it had been eventful, because I couldn’t see any of it. As a late-hour fill-in, I had never even sat in the car before hopping in at the beginning of my stint. To properly fit me in and get me belted up, we had to yank out the seat padding. That little move gave me a nice view of the center of a Momo steering wheel. My hour was fun, and the MX-5 Cup car was a dream to drive, but my thoughts were almost entirely with the RJ Racing team. Each time I passed the pits, I looked over to see if there was any activity. I searched for the car on track, hoping to see that it had recovered. My hour felt like an eternity. I am forever grateful to my friends at Mazda for considering me worthy to assist in their magnificent “25 in 25” endeavor, but I really wanted my new friends to know I wasn’t letting them down.

Long Walk Back

When stuff breaks, you fix it. A late-night shunt put us in the pits for just over an hour.

As soon as I got out of the MX-5, I said my thanks and goodbyes as quickly as I could and hightailed it back to the RJR paddock. It was one of those weak-kneed, lousy-report-card-in-your-bookbag walks that you don’t really want to face, but you know you must. Plenty of times I’ve walked away from a paddock spot only to return to a broken car that would not see any more action. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, but not at all fond of. But that didn’t happen this time. Instead of seeing a broken race car, I saw a Miata that looked an awful lot like the one that had started the race—only with a slightly wrinkled right-front fender. It was sitting on the chassis alignment plates, undergoing the final stages of an alignment and getting ready to go back out on track. The car’s right-front suspension—including the upper control arm, upper control arm bolt and inner tie rod—plus the wheel and tire, were damaged in the crash, but it had all been replaced. The car returned to the track barely 70 minutes after it rolled in, as good as new—maybe even better. John Gibson was the first one on track with the newly repaired car. We all huddled around Norm Sandstrom in the pits, who was receiving John’s feedback from the other end of the radio. “He says it’s a little looser in the rear than before,” Norm reported after about a lap and a half. His follow-up was encouraging: “He kind of likes it better, though.” Later in his stint, John went a second faster than we had in qualifying, turning our quickest lap of the race so far. Now, while we don’t specifically recommend crashing your Miata into an Integra and a BMW, we can’t argue with the results. Perhaps some magic was created when the three most popular cars of our readers (as shown by our last three demographic surveys) collided. Or maybe these RJ Racing guys just know what they’re doing. Speaking of which, while I only got to see the last few minutes of the repairs, I have no reason to believe that the first 60 minutes of work strayed from the methodical, professional approach I saw. There was no screaming, no tool throwing, and no self-pity—just a bunch of guys going about the business of fixing their car. As soon as the Miata started going back together, a sticker was slapped on the fender above the damaged corner. It featured torque specs for every fastener that would have to be reassembled. Questions were answered before they were asked, and nobody panicked.

On to the End

Mazda Miatas and MX-5s are favorite weapons for the round-the-clock crowd. For part of the race, the factory “25 in 25” MX-5 was tailed by eventual E2 winner and super ironman Steve Gorriaran.

My final stint in the car would come at about 5 a.m. Sunday. As the previous drivers had reported, the car was just as easy to pilot as ever. During my stretch I started thinking a lot about my record at this race, the people I’ve met doing it, and why it mattered to me that I finish. I realized that, deep down, I wasn’t really interested in conquering this race personally. On a purely personal level, finishing would be great, but whatever happened I’d have a great story to write, and you’d enjoy reading it. I realized that I really cared about the ability to share these accomplishments with others. I think this is what motivated RJ Racing a little in inviting me aboard. They’ve been there and done that. They finished on the podium in this race last year, so they know what it’s like to see that checker. But they knew that I didn’t. They knew that and they wanted to use their resources to share that experience with me. I realized that it was a great honor to be sitting where I was sitting, and to be associated with such people, and to be involved in a competitive sport that produces such honorable endeavors. When I got out of the car, just as the sun was peaking over the horizon, I knew that “finishing” this race is a false goal. The rewards you get from the personal relationships and displays of talent are better than any checker. Oh, God, who am I kidding? I still wanted to finish this mother once and for all.

Final Drama

The Porsche GT3 is no stranger to the winner’s circle. After 25 hours, the all-star lineup behind the wheel of the Mercer Motorsport Porsche had taken the overall win with a record number of laps.

Although the recovery had been complete and successful, there was no escaping the fact that our incident had sent us off track for a little over an hour. We were now sixth place in our class, but attrition was starting to rear its head among our competition. At the front of the E2 class, the Miatacage.com Mazda held a solid lead after taking over the spot from the Atlanta Motorsports Group Miata in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Steve Gorriaran, still on his maniac ironman mission to drive the entire race solo, was a close second heading into the final stretch. At the very front of the field, the Mercer Motorsports Porsche GT3 held a commanding lead and was well on pace for a record number of laps. Of course, having Grand-Am regulars Jon Fogarty and Johannes van Overbeek on board probably helped their cause quite a bit. Their final checkered flag record of 761 laps represents roughly the distance from Las Vegas to Orlando. In what appeared to be one of the most surprising and impressive performances of the race, the Caterham of Beachman-McClure Racing was in a solid third overall, despite averaging lap times nearly 10 seconds off of the leaders. Just looking at that tiny, wide-open Lotus 7 clone buzzing by sent a cold shiver up your spine every time you saw it, but somehow the drivers managed to avoid hypothermia and were wowing the field with a smooth, consistent performance. In the closing minutes of the race, the Miatacage.com team suffered what would be a race-ending failure. Their lead at the time was substantial enough that they held on to second place in class, with a one-lap margin over third. Their late-hour trouble also meant that the amazing Steve Gorriaran won the E2 class after completing all 25 hours solo. He even showed up to the trophy presentation looking uncomfortably fresh for a guy who had just driven almost 2000 miles as fast as he could by himself. He then returned to his paddock, ate a tire, and killed a buffalo with his bare hands before ascending into the clouds while shooting lightning from his eyes, leaving us mere mortals behind to wallow in our flesh prisons. The RJ Racing squad crossed under the checker with a flawless race car in fifth place in E2, 26th overall. Moments later, the “25 in 25” MX-5 crossed the finish line in sixth place in E1, 22nd overall. So it turns out that I not only finished, but finished twice within a couple of minutes, which hasn’t happened since I was, like, 18. Only six laps of the 25 hour race were run under a full-course caution. We’ll pause while you attempt to get your head around that. However, the real victory was not on track. (Which, of course, I can say now that I’ve finished the race.) It’s a heck of a thing to offer kindness to a stranger. The Gibsons didn’t know me, aside from some ink on a page telling hard-luck stories for the past few years. The fact that they brought me on board and wanted to share the experience that they’ve had with a guy they’ve never met says a lot about our sport. Winning and losing, finishing and failing, the green and the checker, these are constructs and abstractions that we create to define the journey. The real victory is defining your limits and surpassing them, whether that means undertaking an endurance journey by yourself, tackling the nightmare logistical challenge of getting more than two dozen drivers to the finish line, or simply sharing an incredible experience with a complete stranger.

Thanks

The RJ Racing gang consisted of Dion Johnson, J.G. Pasterjak, John Gibson, Steve Stepanian, Norm Sandstrom, Eric French, Tim Gibson, Bob Rinck, Rob Gibson, Andrew Novich, and John Mueller.

While a list of sources is nice, it really doesn’t do justice to some of the people and companies that make an undertaking like this possible. So we’d like to give a few shout-outs. First, to RJ Racing (rjracing.net). The term “amateur racer” gets a bit fuzzy when you deal with guys like John, Rob and Tim Gibson. Although they do not get paid for their racing endeavors, they undertake them with a calmness and professionalism that any pro team could aspire to. The utter lack of drama and panic was one of the most memorable aspects of the weekend. Crewmembers Steve Stepanian, Norm Sandstrom, Eric French, Bob Rinck and John Mueller (who operates weekend-racer.com) basically stayed awake for the entire race in bitterly cold conditions to make sure everything ran smoothly. When the car broke, they fixed it. When it ran out of gas, they fueled it. When it was dirty, they cleaned it. When the car finished the race, it was, quite literally, as good as new. Our fastest race lap came on lap 551 of the 597 completed. A post-race teardown showed no unusual wear anywhere, even though the bottom end of the engine had well over 100,000 miles on it. Rob Gibson said that he wouldn’t hesitate to run another 25 hours with the same car, just as it came off track. BFGoodrich (bfgoodrichtires.com) not only provided the tires for our effort, but were a monumental help in overcoming setup troubles brought about by the cold temperatures. We used 12 tires throughout the entire race, and we could have easily gotten by with less. A final tire change was performed out of pure guilt and just as a precaution. Our well-heated motorhome from RentMyRv.biz was certainly a help in overcoming the cold. It also made a great tire warmer. You might have noticed that I never mentioned a brake pad change anywhere in the story. That’s because we never changed brake pads. Andy Porterfield (porterfield-brakes.com) sent a set of pads that easily lasted the entire race. Let that sink in for a minute: One set of brake pads lasted 25 hours—and they were awesome every time you hit the pedal. Here’s the complete list of folks who made this impressive undertaking possible:

  • BFGoodrich: tires, bfgoodrich.com
  • Cromwell Pacific Corp.: engineering and construction, (949) 852-9960, cromwellpacific.com
  • Fat Cat Motorsports: fatcatmotorsports.com
  • Gibson Law Group: thegibsonlawgroup.com
  • Hartzel Automotive: hartzelautomotive.com
  • Miata Parts Source: miatapartssource.com
  • Porterfield Brakes: porterfield-brakes.com
  • Rent My RV: motorhome, rentmyrv.biz
  • RJ Racing: team, rjracing.net
  • Santa Ana Tustin Physical Therapy: satpt.com
  • Slime: tire protectant, slime.com
  • Stewart Development: suspension tuning, stewartdevelopment.com
  • Weekend Racer: gear and crew, weekend-racer.com

2009 NASA 25 Hour Class Winners

  • Class ES: Team Mercer Motorsports, 2009 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 761 laps, 1:47.224 fast lap.
  • Class E0: Team Nitto Tire/Bullet Performance, 1999 BMW M3, 682 laps, 1:58.526 fast lap.
  • Class E1: Team Atlanta Motorsports Group/Mazdaspeed 2, 2006 Mazda Miata, 670 laps, 2:01.338 fast lap.
  • Class E2: Team Gorilla Racing, 1999 Mazda Miata, 654 laps, 2:03.724 fast lap.
  • Class E3: Team Calling Chicken, 1996 Honda Civic, 526 laps, 2:17.175 fast lap.
  • Class ESR: Team CSR Performance, Spec Racer Ford, 409 laps, 2:03.111 fast lap.
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