Barn Finds Race Team Report: 24 Hours Of LeMons

 

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photo courtesy Murilee Martin

That’s us in the near car to the camera, the purple and black 1994 Ford Mustang of Grim Reaper Racing. If you’ve never heard of the 24 Hours Of LeMons and you like cars, you really ought to investigate it a little. Basically, it’s endurance racing for cars that are worth $500 or less after the safety equipment, wheels & tires aren’t counted. Normally, I race the official Barn Finds Racing Team 1975 Austin Marina, but this race was a little different. We were at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina for the 2016 Southern Discomfort race.

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The “Team Greg Driven” on the right hand of the bumper is the reason for the difference. I have a wonderful friend and teammate who has been temporarily waylaid by cancer. While he’s in treatment, Grim Reaper Racing needed a substitute driver, which I was happy to do (although with some trepidation, as this team generally is on the podium). It’s a seemingly normal 1994 V6 Mustang, but there’s something magic about this car, which has run over 20 LeMons and ChumpCar races. It’s certainly the most forgiving race car I’ve ever driven!

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What I wasn’t counting on was the rain. It’s been a while since I had driven a race car in the rain, and I hadn’t driven the Mustang at all other than up and down the street. But we made it through without incident, and managed to end day one in third place overall (out of 72 cars) after 8-1/2 hours of racing.  Our friends, the Hard Parkers in another 1994 V6 Mustang were in first, and in second was a Ford Contour modified with rusty 1965 Mustang body panels to look like Ken Block’s Hoonicorn. If you click on that link, I promise you that under those panels is a Contour, complete with front wheel drive!

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Here we are, buckling David in after a delay for lightning. On day two, after falling to fifth at one point, we were able to climb back up to third by the finish (6 more hours, for a total of 14-1/2). Pretty darned good for an almost stock V6 Mustang! Yay for the team, but special cheers for Greg who encouraged us with texts and emails from home! I’d appreciate it if you’d keep him in your thoughts and prayers–we want him back in the car soon!

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Comments

  1. Chris

    500 for a mustang? Seems like that rule is ignored a lot.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      The car was actually bought for $150, I think, and hauled from behind a shed where it had lived for quite a while…

      • Chris

        Wow. I looked for a while. Guess not hard enough.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Chris, a lot of times you can find one that’s listed as a “parts car” but would work fine for racing.

  2. Matt Tritt

    Very funny. There are plenty $500.00 LeMons around here that would qualify.

  3. Gammur

    Thoughts & prayers for Greg… You’ll be back behind the wheel in record time!

  4. Cody

    I have always wanted to do the 24 hours of Lemons race. I even went as far as buying a geo prizm for the race that comes to my local track. I never had the time to work on it and eventually sold the car, but the dream still lives on.

    So, lets say I bought the car listed below. What should I expect to pay for a roll cage? What about other costs beyond the cost of the car. I have seen several TV shows and read articles that have featured Lemons. I really get a vibe that the tech inspection guys are a little “difficult” and would give a beginner like me a hard time. Is that the case? I also understand that their driving penalties are a little bizarre(being taped to the roof and driven through pit area). Are those a must, or can you do a stop and go penalty instead?

    https://lincoln.craigslist.org/cto/5567621487.html

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Cody, I’ll get you a longish reply shortly! Good questions!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Ok. #1, yes, the Civic would be a decent choice, and you could more than likely sell enough of the interior parts to get back below $500. Remember, wheels/tires/brake friction material doesn’t count against the $500.

      #2. Roll cages are tricky. I use a supplier out of Richmond, Va. that I would HIGHLY recommend, but then you are left with cutting/welding yourself. If you are not an experienced welder, do not try to weld a cage. Literally your life may depend on it. LeMons has a GREAT primer on what a cage should look like on their site. IF you go to a cage builder make VERY sure he/she follows that exactly. There are no “passes” for cages…if they aren’t correct you won’t be racing. Join the LeMons forum and look at some posts there about cages, that will help. I pay around $600 for the components and then spend weeks welding/cutting/trimming. I’ve had one installed professionally and it was about $2,000. I can’t stress enough not to cut corners here.

      #3. Other costs. Tires and gas mount up quickly. Highly recommend first races with stock tires (i.e. whatever the car came with). Actually, scratch that. Highly recommend first attending an HPDE or two and then try an “arrive and drive” event (i.e. pay for a ride, they are available on the forums) to get the flavor. You can even rent your gear from a very reputable supplier OR buy used gear, but don’t skimp on the helmet. I have ~$1,500 in my gear, but this is my second set, I upgraded a lot. Highly recommend Apex Performance for gear. Other costs: food/lodging, most hotels near tracks know what’s going on and charge accordingly. Camping may be available if that works for you. Other costs: fuel jugs (prescribed types), fire extinguishers (in car and out), HANS or similar device (you can share, but it slows down pit stops if you do). Stock fuel tank is fine; if you end up going to a cell (not recommended unless you absolutely have to) it’s WAY expensive.

      #4. Penalties. First off, they are easy on newbies. Attend the school the night before. Attend a race if possible and stay around the penalty box for a while to learn what to do. Above all, if you get black flagged, come in, be nice and respectful if it was your fault or not. First flag is generally “don’t do it again” and get back out there. Second is a short talking to, perhaps change drivers, maybe a 10 minute wait to get back on track. Third is when the real penalties start, and fourth (in a single day) gets you sent home for the weekend. Many teams park after three (although few get that many) to avoid the fourth, because ALL contact is a black flag for ALL participants. Tends to make folks avoid situations where contact will happen. Now, if you act like an idiot (speed through the pits, ignore blend lines, pass emergency vehicles like they aren’t there, etc.) you’re going to get treated appropriately. In 8 LeMons races I’ve gotten one black flag for contact, and it was totally my fault (should have adjusted mirror during pit stop, cut someone off that I was “sure” I was by). I went in, stated that I was an idiot and that it was my fault (i.e. they should send the S10 I hit out immediately as they were flagged also) and I was talked to for 30 seconds and they sent me back out.

      LeMons is more fun that I can possibly explain. Attend a race and you’ll see!

      • John

        Ditto to what he said. Also figure out what you are going to spend. Then double it. Stuff breaks. Bring spares.

      • Cody

        Thanks for answering my questions. You summed it all up well with good information. I understand the importance of the cage, which is why it’s been my biggest concern. No, I don’t weld so I will need a professional to do it. I didn’t even figure the costs of the gear. 1500 in gear alone is a lot, and the HANS device is 500. I suppose the costs will be easier to deal with when I get more of the team to help pay. This is why I asked about the penalties. Most of my friends that I could maybe get to go along with this would be very skeptical of the odd public shaming penalties, so it was good to hear some first hand experience about that.

        I just looked at their schedule and it looks like they are no longer coming to the track close to me. They used to come to a city an hour from my home, now it seems the closest race is around 10 hours away. That may be the final nail in the coffin for me at this time.

        Again, thanks for the reply. Maybe the race will come back. I can only hope.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Cody,

        Where are you? There may be one of the other budget series running close to you. Also, the $1500 included my HANS. LeMons does offer a pretty good deal on starter gear through their website — it’s good to note that the series is VERY serious about safety. But when you end up spending over $20 per 3-foot length of SFI-rated roll bar padding (and you’re going to need a lot) it adds up in a hurry (just one example). A few additional thoughts: 1) If you are still interested, you’re welcome to come to any of our races to observe. We’re usually in the Southeast. 2) As far as a car goes, it’s FAR less expensive to purchase a car already in the series–just be aware that safety rules change over time and you’ll want to make sure the car is either up to the current rules or can be updated easily. Hope something works out!

      • Cody

        I am in Lincoln NE. They used to come to the Mid-America racing complex in Council Bluffs, but that was 5 years ago when I actually checked. I’m not sure when they stopped. It is now called the Midlands Motor Complex, so maybe when they changed hands and name is when the series stopped coming. They do have SCCA racing there. Considering all of the costs in doing LeMons, maybe going racing in SCCA would work out to be roughly the same. Even if it’s more expensive, it’s local.

        I considered cars already built up for racing and quickly found a couple on craigslist. That was going to be my next question. I didn’t find any LeMons racers but did find some SCCA class racers. The two cars are already caged up, so I wondered how much of the final cost would be adjusted for the installed safety equipment. Than I thought, maybe I could just compete in this SCCA organization. I am now researching the local chapters web site and it all sounds pretty cool too.

        I will someday race on a closed circuit. It truly is a dream of mine. When I bought that prizm for LeMons, I was a new father, and was going back to school, so it was never really in the cards at the time. I’m getting to a point where this is very doable now, so I will continue to explore my options. Again, thanks a lot for all of the info.

        Here are the two cars I found:
        https://omaha.craigslist.org/cto/5528372604.html
        https://siouxcity.craigslist.org/cto/5553839323.html

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Safety equipment is free, so for example you could deduct ~$1500 – $2000 from the costs for the cage, etc. + more for belts if they are still in date. That being said; keep in mind that in LeMons as well as ChumpCar, WRL, AER, etc. if you bring a car that is in the spirit of the rules, especially if it still has the original engine/tranny combo, they’ll find a way to get you in. The one advantage of the endurance series is that you get a LOT more seat time for not a lot more money. Depending on the event, it can be less expensive to compete in one of the race series than it is to run an HPDE! Also, there are many cars that could compete in ALL of the above as well as SCCA classes, so choose carefully! Both of those cars would work, although at a glance the Mazda seems a little expensive compared to what I see around here (North Carolina). Above all, read the rule books; LeMons is really easy with a lot of discretion of the organizers, ChumpCar is the opposite, and I haven’t looked much at the other two yet. Again, good luck!

      • Cody

        You make a very good point about seat time. Really, that’s the reward for the investment so get as much as you can. Those cars were really just examples and the only examples in my area. When I go as far as making a purchase, I will take what you have said and current race rules into consideration when inspecting the car. Whatever I come up with will definitely be in the spirit of the race. Truly I just want get on the track, winning is not that important to me.

        Again, thanks for answering my long winded questions Jamie. It really does sound like a great time. Also, you and the other contributors have a great web site. Keep up the good work. Now, I have to raise funds to restore an epic barn find and fund a LeMons racer. First world problems.

  5. jim s

    i hope your friend is able to recover, get on with his life, and get back behind the wheel again. i also hope they find a cure for cancer soon! great job on the race. it is funny how vehicle that on paper should do good as a race car don’t and others that on paper should do poorly win. has to be great fun. thanks for sharing.

  6. Ceezy

    If I would have knew about this, I would have checked it out, I live about 30 minutes away. I’ll definitely try to make it to the race in September, my son would get a kick out of it.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Careful, Ceezy, it’s very, very addictive! :-)

  7. HeadMaster1

    Best of luck to Greg, hope the road to recovery is full of twist, on and off camber turns, and a nice long straight :-)

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Thank you, HeadMaster1!

  8. Chris A.

    Does Nelson Ledges hold one of the Lemons 24 races? If so, when? I shot photos years ago when Nelson Ledges had a 24 hour race and was freaked out when Innes Ireland showed up. I’d met him years previous at Watkins Glen after he won the first GP for the Lotus factory team.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Not this year — ChumpCar used to run there (similar series) but has not lately.

  9. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I just watched an episode of the American version of Top Gear last night where they participated in a Lemons race at Sonoma. It was pretty hilarious, especially when they got black flagged and had to dance. If contact means a black flag, they should have been kicked out of the race.

    The feeling the guys had was that no one except for them adhered to the $500 budget, saying most of the cars where all out racers.

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