1 (edited by EriktheAwful 2013-06-13 09:03 AM)

Topic: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Expectations for a prospective Lemons racer:

There are two ways to go Lemons racing: Arrive & Drive or Organize a Team.

The simplest is to Arrive & Drive with an existing team. Typically a team will ask you to fork over about $700 (give or take a couple hundred), bring your own gear, not wad up the car, and not act like a douchebag. In exchange they promise a spot on their team and promise to bring a car, but they don't guarantee the car will run the entire race. This arrangement is the easiest way to race, but there is a lot of risk in dealing with an unknown car and unknown personalities, and you may have trouble finding a team willing to take on an unproven driver. If you go this route, do your best to be a contributing teammate and not a primadonna. In this crowd keeping a good reputation is important. If you work out well for the team, they might make room to invite you back or recommend you to another team if they don't have room. If you act like a jerk, expect other teams to know it. Also, ask ahead of time what is expected of you. You don't want to show up late on Friday to learn they expected you to go through the BS inspection with them while wearing a costume and that by being late you ruined their theme. Some teams also show up to race with unfinished cars, expecting their paying drivers to help finish the car.

It is highly recommended to Arrive & Drive with an existing team once before you try and organize your own team.

Organizing a Team is expensive. Expect the complete team costs to run about $5000, or about $1000 per driver AFTER personal safety equipment. It is possible to come out a little lower, but not by much without compromising safety. Make sure your drivers know that they are NOT going to spend $500 split 4 ways.  Prepare them for $1000-2000 EACH for their first Lemons race on a newly-built car.

Organizing a Team is a pain in the ass. Expect at least half your teammates to drop out due to money or time conflicts. Expect personality conflicts. Expect spousal disapproval. Expect time crunches. Expect tow vehicle failure. Expect lack of attendance for car-work-days. If you still want to go this route, here's our advice, learned the hard way.

The best way to manage expectations is to draw up a rules contract and make sure everyone signs and reads it. Once everyone is recruited, start making lists. You'll need a list of who's in charge of what part of preparation. You'll need a list of what needs fixing on the car with checkboxes that you can initial off as each repair is done. You'll need a list of what parts and gear is needed and what has been bought. You'll need a spreadsheet of who's paid up. Most importantly you'll need a packing list for the race.

The team captain pretty much ends up responsible for taking up the slack when it comes to funds. Get your teammates to pay up front. Getting them to pay up after the race is over doesn't work. If your team is short on drivers, don't settle for lousy teammates just because you can't find anyone else to be on your team. The corollary to this is "don't be a crappy teammate", especially if you're having trouble paying your share. Do your best to keep from putting the team captain in a bad position. If necessary you can sell your plasma for up to $300 a month. Arrive early on Friday so you can help get the pit area set up and help get the car through tech. If you can't find enough good drivers, forget building a car and Arrive & Drive. If you've built a car and your team bails, ask if there's a team that doesn't have their car finished that would be willing to pay to drive it. I would shoot for $500 + a $500 deposit for a decently sorted car, less for something you'll finish building at the track or something slow, more for a top-contender.

Set an early due-date for fees. If your drivers are hesitant, you don't want to commit by paying for the race and then have them back out. Know before the due-date if they really are committed. If they aren't you will still have time to shop around for more teammates. Consider adding this section to your team rules:

Race Fees
Each driver shall be responsible for one driver's share of the team fee ($500 divided by the number of drivers), one driver's fee ($150), paying their annual competition license ($50 annually), one driver's share of the transponder rental ($50 divided by the number of drivers), and, if camping, one camper's share of the camping fee ($50 divided by the number of campers).

Each crew member shall be responsible for one crew member's fee ($75). If he is camping, he is responsible for one camper's share of the camping fee as mentioned above.

Drivers who have been notified they are on the team must pay a deposit of one-half their fees by the entry deadline. If they fail to pay up by that time, their position will be opened up to other drivers, to possibly include asking for drivers on the Lemons Forum. If there are not at least four paying drivers by the entry deadline, [the team] will not compete in that race.

If it's coming down to the last day to enter a race and it doesn't look like the car's going to be ready, consider your team. Would they be willing to show up with an unfinished car and complete it at the track, possibly missing track time, or would they rather pack it in and go for a later race? How much more work does your car still need? Paying for the event and then missing it really sucks.

Finding a Car:
The first hurdle many teams face is finding a car for less than $500. It doesn't matter where you live, the problem is not insurmountable. Never underestimate the power of networking. Talk up what you're doing with your friends and co-workers. I had a co-worker offer me his daughter's Pulsar NX for $500, running, driving, and titled. I also had a friend who works for a tow company offer me an abandoned Dodge Neon dirt cheap. The deals are out there, expecially if you deal in cash. Search craigslist for "no title" or "ran when parked". Search for cars from $50 to $1500. It is within the rules to find a craigslist ad for $1800, offer the seller $900 cash, sell $600 worth of crap you're not using, then spend $200 on junkyard go-fast parts.

Obscure cars are great and the judges love them. Pick one that's small and lightweight, made by a ubiquitous manufacturer, related to a performance model, and has a common wheel bolt pattern. Parts for cars made by rare manufacturers are expensive. Heavy cars are slower and burn through brakes, tires, and gas. Performance tires in less than 17" diameter are difficult to find and most older cars run 15" wheels, so having a common bolt pattern makes your wheel and tire selection much easier. An obvious choice for a LeMon would be a Dodge Omni, which had many parts that interchanged with the Dodge Charger. Ford Fairmonts and Futuras interchange well with Mustangs, but they're not lightweight. Mazda GLCs/323s can accept some RX-7 parts, but be aware that early RX-7s have a rare bolt pattern and some people consider rotaries to be unreliable and difficult to work on. Also consider Nissan Pulsars, Ford Fiestas, Toyota Tercels, Chevy Aveos/Prisms/Metros/Cavaliers, Dodge Neons/Shadows, etc.

Sports cars usually get penalty laps, except for Fiats, Alfa Romeos, Subaru SVXs, Lotuses, Jaguars, etc. The downside of cars like Fiats, Alfa Romeos, Subaru SVXs, Lotuses, Jaguars, etc., is that they are horribly difficult and expensive to buy parts for. However, just completing a race with an unreliable, rare car puts you strongly in the running for the Index of Effluency.

Manual vs. automatic transmission doesn't really matter. Manuals blow clutches, automatics fail if you don't keep them cool (and then sometimes just fail anyways). If you don't mind replacing a clutch in the middle of the race, go manual. Just be sure to bring spare clutches and pressure plates and make sure all your drivers know how to drive it before the race. If you go with an automatic, convert your A/C condensor into a super-sized transmission cooler. It's as easy as using a tubing cutter to cut off the A/C fittings and soldering some fuel tubing into the larger line. Use a propane torch and lead solder, not electrical solder.

Car Prep:
When prepping the car, start early! Prepping a car will take longer than you think, even if you just gut and cage a car. If you buy a car cheap, it's probably going to need a lot of repairs. Reliability is everything. Forget hot-rodding the car, focus on bulletproofing everything. Visit websites and forums for the car you're racing and see what the common problems are so you can engineer fixes for those systems. Ask racers you know for advice on setting the car up. Ask if they've been to the track where you're racing and what to expect. You can get a big step up on your competition just by knowing what you'll be facing.

Read the rules. Everyone has to pass the Tech Inspection, and you can't pass Tech if you don't know the rules. Download the rules, read the rules, follow the rules during your build, and you will have a much better chance of passing the Tech Inspection. Print a copy of the rules especially for the purpose of blacking it out with a chisel-tip Sharpie, line by line, after that item has been met in full.  This makes it much easier to pick out the areas that are still of particular concern. Don't forget to read the rules. In the unlikely event you think your car is ready to pass tech and you aren't at the track humping it to get through tech before they close, minimize your chances of failing by printing off copies of the Official Lemons Tech Inspection checklist for each teammate. Have them read the rules. Then have each team member go completely through the checklist and document any problems they see. Expect this to cause some division and worries, but know that you're ahead of the game because many teams are just now buying their car. Print off a few nice, clean copies of the Inspection checklist to take to the race. They usually have some at the tech shed, but you need to have them filled out before you get to tech and it's a pain having to walk across the paddock and back for a sheet of paper you could have printed off at home. Still, count on misinterpreting something in the rules and having to go out and buy parts at 4pm Friday afternoon.

Geographical separation can make car prep a real pain. If your teammates are neighbors it's easier to get everyone together for work days, but if your teammates are half an hour away, expect some difficulty. If you can talk your wife into watching a couple of extra kids while you and your teammates are slaving away in the garage, you might get more participation.

When the race comes around you probably won't have everything on your to-do list done, so before you start, here's your priority list:
1) Tear out the interior.
2) Cage it.
3) Mount the seat and fire extinguisher.
4) Install the kill switch and belts
5) Fix what the car needs to be driveable.
6) Fix what the car needs to be reliable.
7) Theme.
8) Fix what the car needs to be fast.

Spend time and money on brakes. Take the brakes on each wheel apart and check them. You want calipers that work properly, good rotors that aren't warped or under the minimum thickness, hoses that aren't weather-cracked, and race pads that won't melt under heavy braking. Some cars can get away with parts-store pads, but ask other teams about the particular race you're taking your car to. Some tracks eat brakes. Remove the brake dust shields and duct cool air to your brakes. Too much heat can even kill race pads.

After brakes, the cooling system is the most important system on the car in an endurance race. Replace hoses and double-clamp them. Spring clamps from Japanese cars are great and cheap from your local Pull-A-Part. If your cooling system is barely big enough, put a second radiator on your roof.

Run the best cheap tire you can. If you can get Dunlop Direzza Star Specs or Falken Azenis, then do it. For cars over 3000lbs the Star Specs are recommended. If your wheels require a size that isn't available in those tires, ask the forum for a tire recommendation available in your size that is cheap, durable, and sticks well.

Save every part you take off the car until you get it running. You never know when you'll find that some engineer ran a stray wire from the transmission control unit to the right rear window motor and the car won't shift without it. Throw every nut, bolt, and washer into a coffee can. You will find yourself constantly digging through it to avoid a trip to the hardware store.

Test your battery shutoff switch a week before the race. Most first-time builders get it wrong, even when they know what they're doing. If you have to run 6 feet of 4 gauge cable across your engine bay, you'll want it done in advance instead of running to a parts store Saturday morning while everybody is already circling the track waiting for the green flag to drop.

If you're actually worried about BS laps, print off the craigslist ads you answered, take pictures of money changing hands, get notarized witness statements, get anything you can to support your story and arrange it into a nice, neat, easily viewed binder. At the very front of the binder you will want to put a single sheet of paper with simple numbers on it (BS judges like simple) showing your car's initial cost, what you earned from selling bits of your car and what you spent. It helps if the total at the bottom is under $500 without a lot of creative accounting.

A couple weeks out from the race you need to get some track time with your car. Autocrosses aren't quite endurance enough for a full shake-down, but they'll show you any glaring errors. This is also a good opportunity to try putting your car on and off the trailer. You don't want to be loading up at home on the morning of tech inspections and find out your car is too low. Check all the trailer tires for tread depth, bubbles in the sidewall, tread separation, and proper pressure. Pop off the wheel bearing caps to see what the condition inside is. Check all the wiring to make sure it's working and that it's not exposed to road debris. Make sure the ball socket works as it should.

Don't skimp on safety. The last thing you want to do is explain to a teammate's spouse that they died because you went cheap on the safety equipment. Don't underestimate the power of Mom when it comes to buying safety gear. I'm not saying mooch off your parents, but when my mother heard I was going to a Lemons race, she made a monetary safety equipment donation that allowed me to upgrade from a foam collar to a Hans.

At a minimum you will need two full sets of: suit, helmet, gloves, shoes, and socks. If you've bucked the trend and read the rule book before asking questions (good for you!) you should remember that you need two fully suited team members to refuel.  There are some options when it comes to suits and neck restraints. My recommendation is to get the 3.2A/5 suit and share a true neck restraint with the team.

Many first-time teams have members who fall short on gear, either by lack of funds or by forgetting to order until the race is a week away and their preferred race shop takes 10 days to ship. Lemons is like kindergarten in that sharing is okay. Well, that and we all behave like five year olds. When my team got our car to the track, we had two suits, two sets of gloves/shoes/socks, one helmet, and a Hans. Luckily the team next to us loaned us a helmet so we could refuel. Don't count on being so lucky. We were also fortunate that it was only about 80 degrees. If it's any hotter and you're sharing a helmet, get balaclavas. They'll help keep your sweat off your friends' faces and vice-versa. The recommendations are to get a single-face-hole, not the two-eye-hole version. A thin seam is important, as a thick seam will dig into your skull and drive you nuts. We don't want you driving while infuriated.

If you're racing in hot weather, a Cool Suit IS safety gear. On a 100 degree day most racers with neck donuts and no Cool Suit start making bad decisions after 15 minutes. With a Cool Suit you can run comfortably for about 45 minutes. If you can't afford one of the ready-made setups, build your own cooler/bilge pump contraption or buy a used one from a medical supply store. Make your own Cool Shirts with cotton t-shirts and the thinnest surgical tubing you can find.

Don't skimp on the theme, especially if you wimped out and bought a BMW E30 or Miata. Too many cars show up with some crap spray painted on them to try and make them look crappier. The judges aren't buying it, and may give you penalty laps for not trying. On the other hand, you can make up for having a "cheaty" car by having a very good theme, especially if your theme limits your car's competitiveness. Be creative with the paint! You'd be amazed how much goodwill you will get from the judges if you spend a couple of hours with some masking tape, paint, and rollers. Mix Rustoleum 2:1 with mineral spirits and it will roll on smooth. Try to pick a theme that hasn't been used. If you have to take an overused theme, do it EXCEPTIONALLY WELL - to include costumes, detailed paint, and plywood bodywork. Overused themes: Cop car, tank, plane, General Lee, Richard Petty, rednecks, Lightening McQueen, Gulf Oil, Poorshe, Plymouth Superbird, pimps, Blues Brothers, Mad Max. There's a whole thread on overused themes.Try to avoid them unless you're going to do it well. Themes the judges like: hot girls in skimpy clothes, obscure movie cars (e.g. Murph & the Magic Tones' Cadillac), 3rd world despots, and jokes that only "smart people" (Judges) get. To get more lovin' from the Judges, keep your theme going during the race - including the extra plywood bodywork.

Lead by example. If you're the team captain, be willing to go it alone if need be. You'll need that level of commitment to get it done in light of the usual obstacles, and the team needs to know that you'd push it through on your own and even drive alone if needed. Your teammates' level of commitment will be in proportion to, but never greater than, yours. That said, you'll still need to push them to hold up their end. Setting up and teching by yourself on Friday can be a real pain, and the Judges will wonder what's up with your theme if you're the only team member there.

Make sure your teammates have a sense of humor and know that Lemons is the place to let it show. Make sure they're cool with looking like dorks for the sake of a good theme. Don't put up with flaky teammates, and don't think that they'll get better on their own.

Keeping your team involved is important. If your team loses interest you become a one-man arrive and drive shop, which is an incredible amount of work. Assume your teammates are more talented and experienced than you, and let them express that talent by giving them room to create and improvise. Any time you describe their work be generous with praise and credit, but not so generous that they get a big head and start demanding a paycheck or threaten to go off and join Eyesore. If the car is streetable and you can afford to insure it, drive the car around town so that their work is seen. Put their names on the car. Let them take the car out to track days, autocrosses, or let them take it on dates after you've cleaned out the dead rats and turds. If nothing else they will have more seat time to get comfortable with the car.

Hold social activities with your team. Team meetings can be held at a restaurant over enchilada dinners and Dos Equis, or at the home of whichever team member has a pool. Have an organized agenda of the various points you need to discuss, take notes, and keep focussed on answering the questions. Once the agenda is covered, loosen up and brainstorm fun ideas, theme-related jokes, and costume ideas.

Get all of your teammates' and prospective teammates' email addresses. At least once a week send out an informative email on your race preparations, even if nothing's been done since last week. Post links to articles on Judge Phil's Lemons blog that your teammates might find interesting. Post information on upcoming work days. Try to communicate every week! Make some team memorabilia, such as team membership cards, t-shirts, framed team photos, photo CDs, DVDs of the race video, calendars with half-naked women (or men) posing with your car.

When it comes to working on the car don't let team members confuse input with ownership. Only the car owner should pay for any part that goes on the car, and only the garage owner should pay for any tool you need. It is a very wise idea to have a set amount up front that everyone will pitch in on the car with the car owner actually doing the ordering and paying. If you go over the amount, the car owner takes up the slack, which is why he has the final say-so on what work gets done on the car. During the initial build the fee should be about $500 per person with the owner paying a larger share. If you want to build a new car and rollcage every race, bump it to $750 per person and the owner is responsible for taking the wreckage to the scrap metal yard. After the initial race the amount should be a "maintenance fee" per race of about $200-$400 per person to replace brakes, replace tires, and buy a little performance improvement. The car owner needs to keep a spreadsheet and binder with price comparisons, receipts, and anything else that explains where all the money is going.

Learn to delegate. You can't be the whole team by yourself unless your name is Spank. Lean on your teammates. Break everything down into tasks they can help with. One of the rules of leadership is that you only put one person in charge of a task. If you put two people in charge each will think the other has it covered. For instance, put one person in charge of getting the theme work done. They have every right to ask others to help, but they are responsible for making sure it gets done. Who are you going to put in charge of your theme? The most artistic person who is the least mechanically inclined. Put one person in charge of researching what wheel/tire combo will fit on your car and finding the least expensive, lightest, most sticky solution. If you have a cage builder, put that one person in charge of getting the cage built. If you don't have a cage builder, put your most reliable person in charge of getting the cage done - the cage is going to be the biggest part of the build.

Whatever you do, don't forget the most important member of the team: your significant other. Even if she (or he) isn't on the team, you have to keep her happy. If momma ain't happy, ain't noboby happy. The most important thing I've learned about marriage is that it's easier to cultivate a good mood than to turn a bad mood around. About once a month I stop by the local grocery-store florist on my way home from work and pick up a small $5-$10 bouquet of flowers for my wife. I don't buy them on any kind of schedule, and sometimes I buy them more than once a month, sometimes once every other month, it just depends on when I remember to get them. Because it's never regular, she never expects it, and if I forget them I don't get in trouble. I'm not buying forgiveness for a transgression, I'm building up harmony. This way, when I tell my wife there's a race coming up, she just starts planning on me being gone that weekend. No fuss. Not until about a week before the race. Expect her to get short-tempered. Expect your honey-do list to explode. Expect her to accuse you of having a trackside girlfriend. If she's not too upset, send the kids away for an evening and take her on a date. Don't mention the race, just talk about your relationship (or try to). When you get home from the race, she's going to be angry for a day. Don't mention the race! Act like nothing's doin until she calms down. When she's happy again, tell her how your weekend went.

Realizing there's no way you can get the car finished and that your fees are lost:
This sucks. This is the most sucky suckness you'll likely feel. You realize you just lost a serious amount of cash and Jay won't give it back because whether or not you show up, he has to pay his people. There is a way to keep that knot in your stomach from turning into an ulcer. If you're on the team that doesn't have their car ready, post in human resources. Say up front that you've paid your fees and don't have a car. If you can wrench, advertise it. Let them know if you're willing to pay a couple hundred for a spot on a team. You'd be surprised how many teams can make room if you're already paid up as a driver, know how to swap pads, and are willing to front some gas money. Would you rather spend $500 to sit on the couch or $700 to actually race? Try and look out for your teammates. If you find a team that's willing to take more than one of you, let your teammates know.

If you're three drivers short of a minimum team, post in the human resources section and offer the teams that paid and don't have their car together the chance to arrive and drive for a nominal fee. Explain expectations and set ground rules with them. Don't think of them as second stringers, think of them as your second chance at glory. Be patient and expect personality clashes. If all else fails, show up with your small team and let the car sit for the stints with no drivers. Get yourself plenty of track time. Let one of the Judges take your car for a spin. Enjoy the fact that you made it, even if the rest of your team is a bunch of jokers.

Going to the race:
Remember that packing list I mentioned earlier? Put it in action! Pack an extra copy of the packing list to use on the way home. Get plastic tubs that you can zip-tie the lids shut. Pack spare coolant hoses, fuel hoses, any spare brake parts you can find, belts, a spare set of tires, and most importantly, any tech data you can get your hands on. Even if you have a thorough knowledge of your car, it's wise to have a good manual on hand. You never know what you'll forget in the heat of the moment.

Pack all the spare parts you might need for your car. If you have spare room in your tow rig and you have any really common parts laying around (spare Holley 4 barrel, generic fuel pump, gasket material) strongly consider bringing them as barter material. You'd be surprised how many teams run around looking for spare battery cables when their cut-off switches fail tech (thanks, Team Lemon-Aid).

Plan out meals and lodging in advance. Stopping by the local Wal-Mart on Friday morning with a fuzzy idea of buying a tent and some food doesn't count as planning. Simple planning is 1 package of Pop-Tarts, 2 sub sandwiches, 4 waters, and 2 Gatorades per person per day. Pack a small grill, plenty of grilling food, and an ice chest full of beer for dinner. Know where everyone is staying before you leave for the race, and make sure everyone has everyone else's phone number.

If at all possible, caravan. Nothing sucks worse on a 6 hour tow than breaking down 5 hours away from the track while your teammates are pulling into the paddock. If you have a second vehicle available that is capable of towing the trailer, seriously consider bringing it in case the primary vehicle fails.

At the race:
Treat the Judges with respect. They're putting their time and effort into making the event fun for everyone, and getting upset at them will never help your case. If you're involved in an on-track incident (or even an off-track incident), start by admitting your guilt. If you're not guilty, stop, reassess and figure out what you MIGHT be guilty of. The Judges have heard it all, but they do have a sense of humor! Telling them your $1000 car only cost $479.35 with a straight face is okay, but when they find $800 worth of go-fast goodies, it's time to own up and take your laps.

Even if you're legitimately under $500, you can get laps if the Judges think your car is cheaty. When you go through the BS inspection, don't offer up any information the Judges don't ask for. If they misidentify your supercharged Pontiac Grand Prix GTP as a naturally aspirated GT, don't correct them. If they think your Mikuni carburetor is stock, don't mention you bought it separately. If you spent ten hours getting your documentation to add up and they send you on without looking at it, don't insist on showing it to them.

If it's your first race and you're in it to win it, you're in the wrong series. If you have a couple of races under your belt, have a well sorted car, a set of good drivers, and have your pit stops well orchestrated, then try and win it. Otherwise just turn laps and have a good time! Make sure your drivers understand it's an endurance race and not a sprint. Nothing sucks more than having a 50th place driver blow the motor trying to win it all in his stint.

Speaking of stints, if a beginning driver is out on track for more than an hour, their attention span is going to start slipping. In hot weather, expect it to happen sooner. If they're having a ball and driving good, they can stay out there two hours. If they're pro drivers and they're comfortable with it, then sure, leave them out there four hours. Don't push first-time drivers to take on four hour stints, although I've seen first-time drivers who were so excited they refused to pit until the car started sputtering. The most important thing if you're driving is that you keep focused on driving. If your mind starts wandering to anything other than what is happening right now, pull in to the pits and put the next driver in the seat. A lack of attention to a developing situation can cause an accident.

Be courteous to other drivers. This is not a sprint. Cutting someone off at the entrance to a turn might save you half a second, but it may also cost you a spin and time in the penalty box. You should be driving to outlast everyone else, not driving 10/10ths every lap. If you're in a slow car, be consistent with your driving lines so faster cars know which line to take to pass you. If you're in a fast car, don't pass if you can't make it a clean pass.

If you have more than a love-tap contact with another car, go directly to the penalty box and tell the Judges why you're there. If you're already there when they get the call that you're coming in, they're more likely to simply slap your wrist. If they get to wait and simmer for ten minutes before you show up you're going to be there a while. Once you're done with your penalty, go apologize to the other driver, even if it's all their fault, because most likely you unknowingly had a hand in causing the contact. Even better is if you help them get their car back on the track. If you drive like a spasmodic crack fueled monkey, total someone else's car, then ignore them and continue to drive like a crack monkey, the Judges will hear about it and you can expect a harder time getting accepted to your next race.

Repairs go faster when everybody is working what angle they can towards getting the car back on the track. If your pads need replacing but everyone is trying to cram into the engine bay to work on a water leak, grab the guy who's least needed under the hood who's also competent enough to slap pads and put him to work there. Need a tool? Grab the guy who's watching everything with a lost expression and send him on the mission. This goes doubly for pit-stops. Practice your pit stops before hand so that everyone knows how to do it. Running around like a bunch of headless chickens trying to get the car back on the track will raise tempers.

Having a dedicated non-driving crew chief makes pit stops and repairs quicker. Give that person a numbered checklist of things to check before the car leaves the pits, like tire pressures, Cool Suit on, etc. Have them memorize it. Have them memorize the procedures for refueling, then have them stand back and supervise your drivers during the refueling process. Somebody jackhorsing around the car while the drivers are refueling? The crew chief should be chewing some tail. When repairs are going on, the crew chief should keep his hands clean and direct others in performing the tasks they're good at that will get the car back on the track the fastest. To be specific, when performing a driver change, fuel stop, or paddock stop, the driver and attending crew need to be looking over the following items.

Before the car exits the track:
    Is the team ready for the driver, or are they watching surprised as he pulls into pit lane?
    Is the refueling crew suited up and waiting close by the hot pits?
    Is the replacement driver suited up and ready to go?
    Does the driver have a driver's wristband?
    Is the driver wearing SFI-rated shoes?
    Is the driver wearing SFI-rated gloves?
    Is the driver wearing a Snell SA2005 or SA2010 helmet?
    Do the attending crew know their pit duties?
    Are commonly used tools, parts, fluids, etc., readily accessible?

Once in the pits/paddock:
    Is the driver being cautious? Or is a Judge about to crush him for speeding in the paddock?
    Is the driver calm and cool, or is he arguing with the officials?
    Is the team following refueling rules, or is Judge Phil about to make an example of them?
    Are the harness belts accessible and loosened for the next driver?
    Is the coolant topped off?
    Has the oil been checked?
    Are the tires at the right pressure?

Before getting back on track:
    Are all the tools removed from the car and accounted for?
    Is the hood secured?
    Is the fuel cap on and secure?
    Has the team “documentarian” finished dorking around with the cameras?
    Does the driver have his driver wristband ready to show?
    Does the driver have his neck support in place and/or connected?
    Is the harness latched and tight?
    Has the driver completed a radio-check?
    Is the fire extinguisher in place and secure?
    Does the driver know how to start the car?
    Does the driver know how to enter and exit the track?
    Does the driver know the backup plan if the radio fails?
    Are there any obstacles to the car getting back to the track, i.e. pedestrians or vehicles?

Emergency situations
If you find yourself or your team in an emergency situation, STAY CALM. You can't respond to the situation if you can't think clearly. Prioritize what needs to be done to make the situation safe, and work towards resolving it. Staying calm comes with practice and training. Know how to work the belts in your car. Know how to get out of your car quickly. Practice it! If you can voice the situation to someone, either directly or by radio, keep your voice steady and clearly state the situation.

Know where your fire extinguishers are and how to use them. If you took your only fire extinguisher to the hot pits and your car comes into the paddock with the brakes on fire, it's a good idea to know where your neighbor's fire extinguisher is (thanks, Ross). Know where the nearest first-aid kit is. Know how to render first-aid. (pages 174-186)

Once everyone's out of danger, assess what it's going to take to get your car back out on the track, turning laps.

Facing up to potentially race-ending failures
Safety first!

Don't give up!

Online forums are great for building your car, but don't discount their worth for scrounging parts from the track. Make note of which forum members live near the track, and if you've built up a repoire with them, ask if you can keep them on speed-dial for the race in case you need parts or advice.

Keep your phone charged up so you can use it to call or surf the web and see which Autozone, O'Reilly, Advance, salvage yard, etc., might have the parts you need. Don't forget to ask for directions if you're unfamiliar with the area.

If another team is running a car similar to yours, see if they have a spare of the part you need. The corollary to this is if a team with a similar car comes knocking, try to be accomodating. If you lend them a part that helps them collect nickels, they'll be much more likely to reciprocate at the next race.

Ask the track personnel if there's a place nearby where you can make repairs. The tractor shop down the street from MAM has welding equipment. MSR sometimes has a guy on-site who repairs radiators. ECR is miles from anywhere. You may never know this stuff if you don't ask.

When all else fails, improvise! If nothing else, Lemons is a breeding ground for creativity. Whether it's welding plastic radiator end-tanks back together with a soldering iron, making a new clutch from a scrap clutch and used brake pads, slopping anti-seize compound into a noisy rear-end, or adapting a carburetor onto a fuel injected car with some scrap metal you have on hand, don't give up.

If, after the race, you manage to cheat your way to a trophy or prize money, remember that you are a member of a team with your teammates. Divide any money into equal piles, then pull out your spreadsheet of who's paid. Give the ones who've paid their pile. Have the ones who haven't paid pay you from their pile. When you get home, let your teammates each have the trophy for a week to display on their desk at work or to show their mom that the safety gear money was well spent. If possible, get the team name and team member's names etched on it and put it on permanent display in a location where all the team members can point to it from time to time.

2 (edited by EriktheAwful 2011-07-04 06:57 AM)

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Feel free to cut and paste this into your favorite word processor so you can realign the section just to the right below this. I highly recommend editing the tools to accurately reflect every tool you put in the box. You can empty your box, clean the trash and leaves out, and then ensure every stinking tool you might need is in there. On the way home this list will help you remember which tools were loaned out - just be sure to start going through the list about an hour before the end of the race.

Packing List                                                   ___  Pack Car
                                                                      ___  Pack Tools
___    Pack Car                                               ___  Pack Fluids & Tapes
___        car key                                           ___  Pack Spare Parts
___        battery shut-off key                       ___  Pack Individual Gear
___        battery                                           ___  Pack Team Gear
___        bolt down hood
___        fire extinguisher
___        panoramic mirror
___        seat cover
___        Cool Shirt unit
___        Official Lemons tech inspection checklist
___        all trailer tie-downs
___        all tow straps
___        trailer ball lock
___        trailer ball release lock
___        trailer lock and chain
___        lock trailer ramps in place

___    Pack Tools
___        red tool box
___            1/4” sockets
___            1/4” ratchet
___            spare 1/4” ratchet
___            1/4” locking extension
___            1/4” 8mm impact swivel
___            1/4” 10mm impact swivel
___            1/4” 12mm impact swivel
___            1/4” 14mm impact swivel
___            hex to 1/4” adapter
___            3/8” standard sockets
___            3/8” metric sockets
___            3/8” deep sockets
___            3/8” ratchet
___            3/8” short extension
___            3/8” medium extension
___            3/8” long extension
___            3/8” 12mm impact swivel
___            3/8” 14mm impact swivel
___            3/8” 14mm deep impact swivel
___            3/8” 17mm impact swivel
___            3/8” 17mm deep impact swivel
___            3/8” 19mm impact swivel
___            3/8” to 1/2” adapter
___            5/8” spark plug socket
___            13/16” spark plug socket
___            1/2” breaker bar
___            1/2” ratchet
___            1/2” to 3/8” adapter
___            21mm socket (lugnut size)
___            cheap torque wrench
___            metric wrenches
___            standard wrenches
___            brake wrenches
___            small punches
___            adjustable wrench
___            prybar
___            phillips screwdriver
___            stubby phillips screwdriver
___            big phillips screwdriver
___            flathead screwdriver
___            stubby flathead screwdriver
___            big flathead screwdriver
___            ratcheting bitdriver
___            pocket screwdriver
___            screw extractors
___            magnet
___            hemostat
___            straight pick
___            90 degree pick
___            bent pick
___            hook pick
___            chisel
___            files
___            gasket scraper
___            mirror
___            gray puckey
___            pocket flashlight
___            white touch-up paint
___            pencil
___        gray tool box
___            cobra-grip pliers
___            pliers
___            diagonal cutters
___            needle-nose pliers
___            long angled needle-nose pliers
___            long straight needle-nose pliers
___            hose pliers
___            safety wire pliers
___            snap-ring pliers
___            vise grips
___            straight tin snips
___            door panel tool
___            leatherman
___            hex bits
___            metric hex keys
___            standard hex keys
___            punches
___            hacksaw
___            spare hacksaw blades
___            small hammer
___            drill bits
___            baling wire
___            Mag-light
___        harmonic balancer puller set
___        slide hammer & attachments
___        2 floor jacks
___        4 jack stands
___        generator
___        4-plug extension cord
___        4x safety glasses
___        bag of earplugs
___        4x gloves
___        compressor
___        1/2” impact
___        3/8” impact
___        air chuck
___        battery charger
___        halogen light
___        rechargeable spotlight
___        rechargeable spotlight charger
___        jump box
___        jump box charger
___        jumper cables
___        cordless drill
___        cordless sawzall
___        2x cordless batteries
___        cordless battery charger
___        grinder
___        mini sledgehammer
___        big ball-peen hammer
___        dead-blow hammer
___        butane torch
___        emory cloth
___        sandpaper
___        wiring kit
___            yellow ring terminals
___            blue ring terminals
___            blue male blade connectors
___            blue female blade connectors
___            blue crimp connectors
___            16ga wire
___            4ga wire
___        wire strippers/crimpers
___        sheetmetal screws
___        nut and bolt assortments
___        o-ring kit
___        cotter pin kit
___        gasket material
___        gasket scraper
___        razor blades
___        4 gas cans (5 gallons ea)
___        two big, flat, metal drip pans
___        two drain pans
___        waste oil drum
___        rags
___        8' angle aluminum x2
___        string
___        car manuals
___        build/tech data binder

___    Pack Fluids & Tapes
___        1 case dexron
___        2 quarts type F
___        1 case 10w30
___        brake fluid
___        gear oil
___        3 tubes gray puckey
___        plumber's pipe dope (for sealing fuel fittings)
___        PB Blaster
___        2 cans brake cleaner
___        silicone spray
___        glass cleaner
___        clear tape
___        masking tape
___        F4 tape
___        electrical tape
___        2 rolls non-silver duct tape
___        exhaust tape
___        teflon tape

___    Pack Spare Parts
___        old brake pads
___        spare brake parts
___        hoses
___        belts
___        spare wheels/tires
___        alternator
___        spare fuses
___        spare brake bulbs
___        spare wire

___    Pack Individual Gear
___        safety gear
___            race suit
___            helmet
___            shoes
___            socks
___            gloves
___            neck restraint
___            cool shirt
___        personal stuff
___            shady hat
___            sunglasses
___            sunblock
___            insect repellent
___            camera
___            cell phone
___            cell phone charger
___            small amount of snack food
___            a reasonable amount of cash
___            credit card for transponder
___        personal camping gear
___            sleeping bag
___            tent
___            chair
___            pillow
___            clothes x4
___            rain coat or poncho
___             warm coat
___            gloves
___                   warm hat
___            towel
___            toiletries
___                soap
___                shampoo
___                toothpaste
___                toothbrush
___                toilet paper
___                kleenex
___                aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen
___                allergy medication
___                prescriptions

___    Pack Team Gear
___        canopy
___        2 folding tables
___        radio gear
___            spotter radio
___            pit radio
___            car radio
___            2 sets of spare radio batteries
___        pit board, dry erase
___        dry-erase markers
___        spare credit card for transponder deposit
___        judges' bribes
___        theme materials
___            costumes
___            paint for emergency re-theme
___            paint brushes
___        first aid kit
___        3 rolls paper shop towels
___        hand cleaner
___        baby wipes
___        roll of trash bags
___        broom
___        1 bag kitty litter (floor sweep)
___        permanent markers
___        spiral notebook
___        edibles
___            1 case water per person in hot weather per three days
___            2 small gatorades per person per day
___            sandwiches
___            beer
___        2 ice chests
___        3 gallon water bladder (general use water – hand washing, etc)
___        cookout gear
___            cookout food
___            grill
___            tongs
___            charcoal
___            starter fluid
___            matches

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

All good info.  I'm going to sticky this so please keep replies and comments on topic and keep the witty banter to a minimum.  I'll be a bit more aggressive in policing this one to keep it a nice clean newcomer info thread.

OTTER: "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part."
BLUTO: "We're just the guys to do it."

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Wonderfull info we have racing for years and this info could really help a rookie team or even a seasoned team that has not read or made lists!!! Thanks Lobster

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Excellent work that man! 

If it's not too rude, I'd like to add that it's always a good idea not to neglect your towing apparatus.  Plan to spend some time on it a few days before the race to check general condition of trailer/dolly, check brakes, lights, tyres (yes, I'm foreign) and your tie-down straps, etc. Take spares (especially a wheel/tyre and straps) on the journey to and from the track if you can.

We drive to the race in convoy when possible and we're fortunate enough that we have more than one vehicle capable of towing our car so if the worst happens and the original tow car breaks down, we can still make it to the track if it can't be fixed in time.

Thanks for the great write-up.....I shall be printing and using smile


Pulp Friction #333 - Overall & Class 'A' winners of the 2012 North Dallas Hooptie
The Lap of Shame - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5U2S-cRd3U

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Added some bits on checking your trailer and considering a second tow vehicle. Thanks!

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

EriktheAwful wrote:

Added some bits on checking your trailer and considering a second tow vehicle. Thanks!

Absolutly.  Glad to see beer is on there, I think that's the most important part of the whole thing.

Bloomington, IN
We'll bring Beer!  Motorsports
Team Fiery Death! #0 2009 Lamest Day(65th), 2010 American Irony(24th), 2010 Detroit Bull(4th),2012 Capitol Offense (8th) 2012 American Irony (11 th), 2013 Capitol Offense (3rd) 2013 Chubba Chedder (4th, Judge Choice!) Now sadly part of a scrap pile. 
Toothless Racing Deadbeats #110 2011 Summit Point (61st) Currently being rebuilt into the new car!

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

pack cash as most tracks do not have an ATM.
If someone askes for a spare part you have, barter with them. They may have a bigger radiator that will fix your overheating problems.

Yee-Haw 2010 "Most Heroic Fix" & "I Got Screwed" -2 trophies for 1 lap, but I took checkered on my lap.
Gator-O-Rama 2012 "Organizers Choice" -2 laps 1 trophy, but i still finished ahead of an E30
Yee-Haw 2013 No trophy -26 laps, I think I see a pattern here
Gator-O-Rama 2014 "Waiting for the Last Minute Call from the Governor Award" -who's counting? John

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Race for laps, not position.

ZeeGuys 300ZX

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Hoonatic Racing wrote:

pack cash as most tracks do not have an ATM.
If someone askes for a spare part you have, barter with them. They may have a bigger radiator that will fix your overheating problems.

On that note pack every spare part you can fit in your trailer/tow vehicle.  Even if you cant use it parts are like cigarettes in prison around a Lemons paddock.

OTTER: "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part."
BLUTO: "We're just the guys to do it."

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

A copy of the inspection checksheet needs to be on the packing list. Preferably several. Sure, you can probably track one down, but that's one less thing to worry about, and one less trip to HQ to make.

Furthermore, a surplus credit card for HQ to hold in hock for your transponder rental (meaning you can't use it for other purchases that weekend)

Driver, Pit Monkey, Rod Buster and Engine Fire Starter
Team FinalGear

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Glad to see beer is on there, I think that's the most important part of the whole thing.

I know my audience.

pack cash as most tracks do not have an ATM.

Cash is already listed under individual gear.

If someone askes for a spare part you have, barter with them. They may have a bigger radiator that will fix your overheating problems.

Got it.

Race for laps, not position.

That's already covered in other terminology.

On that note pack every spare part you can fit in your trailer/tow vehicle.


A copy of the inspection checksheet needs to be on the packing list.

Got it.

a surplus credit card for HQ to hold in hock for your transponder rental

Got it. I put it under team gear.

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Added a tip on not hanging yourself in the BS inspection.

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Possibly a subject for another sticky, but how about some tips for keeping the team together?

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Great. Got any?

16 (edited by m610 2010-12-16 08:46 PM)

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

I started a thread already, but here are a few distilled points I keep in mind, and mind you, we've only been to two races.

1. Assume they are more talented and experienced than you, and let them express that talent by giving them room to create and improvise.

2. It might be Alan's and my car, but it is also their creation, so any time you describe the work be generous with praise and credit for the person who did the work or had the idea, but not so generous that they get a big head and start demanding a paycheck or threaten to go off and join Eyesore.

3. Other social activities.

4. Make sure the car gets seen around town, so that their work is seen around town.

5. Put their names on the car. (I need to do this, but the car is already so tiny.)

6. Memorabilia, such as team photos, other photos, DVDs of the race video. I even made them team membership cards.

7. Don't let them pay for any part that goes on the car, or tool you need. Don't let them confuse input with ownership.

8. Lead by example. Their level of commitment will be in proportion to, but never greater, than yours.

9. Let them take the car out, say, to track days or autox, or on dates. Obviously certain limits apply here.

10. Get everyone as much seat time as possible, if not in the race, then at track events or driving it across town to a shop or restaurant.

17 (edited by EriktheAwful 2010-12-17 06:37 AM)

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Edited it into the Teamwork section.

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

If you are a team captain and most of your team members don't live in the same town as you, expect to do most of the work and organization yourself. When we started our team and first started building the car, 3/4 of the team lived here.

But in the years since, about half of that 3/4 has moved away, and now the vast majority of the work on the car is done by me. When there's a big job to be done, I organize a big work weekend and members of the team will come down and help out.

The Homer: Powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball.

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Mentioned geographical location of team members, also added a bit about talking your spouse into watching kids, and removed a couple of unnecessary "Be sure..." bits.

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

What has really worked for us is keeping everyone in touch on what is going on with the car. I send out emails couple times a week, or after every work night. The people that dont show up to work on the car are urged to. I even have talked about the non-working to pay more towards the car. Its only fair to the people that have to cash in the "WIFE CREDITS" to work on the pile anyways. Get the crew involved from the beginning and then they know what it takes to prep the car. I made the mistake of doing alot of the work myself in the beginning, others come and work a day or 2 and see alot done and dont think it takes as much time as it really does to get it done. If they cant comit when find others that will. When you pick your team find people that have something to offer to the team, welder, machinest, of course mechanic, liquor store owner. Tap the resorces of your team, I have a guy who is a surgery tech. He doesnt have a lot to offer, but can get storage crates for all are spare parts. Another guy is a roofer, great with sheet metal. Finds their strengthes and use them..

If its not broke fix it till it is...

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Crew Chief-

Beg, borrow or steal one.  Have someone with you that is not thinking about driving but is thinking about rotating the tires, getting other team members ready for pit stops, make sure visors are down for fueling and just someone to keep things going in the right direction.

Fall South 09- 23rd place
Southern Discomfort '10 Magnum PU- 5th place
Spring South '10- 1st...... LOSER!

22 (edited by Mick25 2011-01-05 03:05 PM)

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

We may be in a unique situation, but we are a family team.  Not "Fuggedaboutid" Family, but brothers, cousins, wives, parents, and children.  Three of the drivers have raced wagons, baby carriages, karts, and cars against each other their entire lives, and the entire family is involved in the team.  Each has their specialty.  Mom's specialty is packing more food than Atilla's horde could eat, Dad is the wizened old pro that is there for advice, the kids for comic relief, my wife to remind her idiot husband to eat, brother's wife is spotter, driver, fuel person,  etc, etc.  Yes we argue, but we work it out because we are family.

The main thing is Get On The Same Page.  What is Goal #1?  Getting the car to Lemons and having a good time.  Every single activity and goal after that should go toward completing Goal #1.....  If not, you are going to have problems.

#508 Team SOB

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Much of modern auto repair is basic remove-and-replace after you've made a diagnosis.

With a Lemon, you'll eventually be doing some more creative operations: putting in parts originally intended for a different car, moving things to another area of the car (battery relocation etc.), or complete fabrication (theme stuff, brackets for everything, home-made wiring harnesses, and so on).

The creative operations take substantially longer than remove-and-replace operations and for a while they'll royally screw up your attempts to guess how long stuff will take to complete.

ONSET/Tetanus Racing, est. 2008.
Guest drives: NSF, Rocket Surgery, Property Devaluation, Terminally Confused, Team Sputnik, The Syndicate, Pit Crew Revenge, Spank, Hella Shitty, Sir Jackie Stewart's Coin Purse, Nine Finger Drifters, Salty Thunder, Panting Polar Bear, Vistabeam, Hangar 13, and Escape Velocity.
74 races so far.

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Added a paragraph about emailing teammates weekly and also added a paragraph about having a dedicated non-driving crew chief.

Re: The best tips from us idiots on getting started losing money in Lemons

Added plumber's pipe dope to the packing list. If you want to make sure your fuel fittings won't leak, there's nothing better.