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:
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.
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.
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?
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
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.