I am not really sure where to start with this entry as it will be the first of many that I'll be writing in 2014. For our first race of the year, we attended Import Face Off held at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield California. We started our trip Friday evening with the truck, trailer, 2 vans, & 16 team members. 1006 miles & 20 hours later we arrived at our hotel for the evening on Saturday just in time to have a great group dinner with many friends in the industry and racing community. After dinner we called it an early night and headed to the hotel for some much needed sleep before the race on Sunday.
Sunday morning we woke at 5am to head to the track because last year the line to get in went for miles. As we pulled in there were already 50-100 racers, spectators, and car show attendees waiting to get in. After about 30-45 minutes we were parked and began to setup the pits for raceday. The weather was overcast but mild at about 55 degrees in the morning. The sun came out later warming the conditions to about 70 degrees. The setup of the pits went well, everyone doing their assigned jobs and preparing the cars for 1st round qualifying. This is where the day gets interesting to say the least. For those of you who weren't aware Kevin Kempf was returning to the driver's seat in the Competition Clutch Civic for the first time in over 2 years. He had handed the driving duties to James as he recently fathered 2 baby boys with his wife Crystal. He'd been wanting to return to driving for some time so it was decided that he would return to the seat at this race. With nerves and pressure on his shoulders, Kevin ran a 9.65@132MPH for his first hit, which is far from the normal 7.90-8.10 passes that we are used to making. Learning to drive the car with all the changes since he drove it in 2010 was going to be challenging. Next pass up he did a fantastic job taking the #1 qualifying spot in FIP with an 8.07@188mph. He would hold the #1 spot going into eliminations later in the day.
Cole Marmon in the Vibrant SFWD Civic also had his sights set on the #1 qualifying spot but the racing gods had other plans for him. First pass of the day the car had a boost control issue as well as some fueling problems that resulted in a 10.47@165. We looked to improve on that time to better our qualifying position with the next and last pass. Cole launched well, clicked 2nd & 3rd gears, and then as he shifted to 4th - boom, giant billowing smoke rolled out of the hood and over the car as he braked to a stop after the finish line. We had an issue with our normally reliable turbo that caused massive amounts of oil to blow out of the downpipe causing the smoke screen effect down the track. The FWD field was so large that IFO decided to expand the normal 16 car field to a 32 car field, we were definitely a benefactor of this as Cole sat at #24 overall with his 10.47 pass. Getting the car back to the pits we inspected the damage and determined that the engine was 100% healthy and we only needed to swap the turbocharger. Thanks to Precision Turbo we have a spare turbo for each car and we were able to get it swapped out and got the car running again for first round eliminations.
AMP is the all motor class at IFO and the Avid Racing Civic driven by Joel Sipes had set his personal best ET last year at this same event. His first pass of the day, the bad luck followed us and 2nd gear broke in the transmission, even with that he was able to qualify with a 10.90@130mph. We rushed to swap in the backup trans and were able to make a second qualifying pass which netted us the #1 spot in AMP with a 10.22@131mph. We were feeling good about our chances going into eliminations as the car was running strong and Joel was settling back in to driving after the off season.
First round eliminations all 3 cars had a bye into round 2 oddly enough. Round 2 the Competition Clutch Civic takes the win but hits the wall after the finish line causing some damage to the passenger side front fender, bumper, intercooler, and also damaging 2 wheels on the same side. Kevin had deployed the parachute and the car walked to the right causing him to swipe the wall, luckily he was not injured just slightly shaken up from the impact. The damage was not too severe and Kevin had won the round so we decided to try and make the next round if possible. Having bent 2 wheels we needed to change the front wheels and tires but the only set we had was a 13" wheel and 25" tire that is much smaller than our normal 15" wheel and 26" tire. With the race still winnable we decided to go for it and see what would happen. The semi-final round paired us with Jeremy Lookofsky, a well-known All Motor Pro racer. Kevin took the win with an 8.96 to Lookofsky's 9.05 to move him into the finals. In the finals we were matched up against a RB26 powered Mazda Miata that had been running mid to high 8 second passes all day but some questions arose about the legality of the drivers NHRA license and the lack of a competition certified roll cage. The driver was allowed to make the pass but the Comp Clutch civic took the win while simultaneously blowing the engine across the finish line. Kevin Kempf - winner of FIP.
Cole Marmon in FWD also took the win 2nd round with his competition red lighting and handing him the victory moving him on to round 3. As the day progressed we continued to battle some issues with the Vibrant car but we slowly started to make progress. 8.61@177 was the number that moved him on to the semi-finals in round 3. In the semi-final round Cole lifted at the 1000ft mark as he had the other lane covered by plenty to coast to the win and move on to the finals. In the finals we were feeling more confident in the car than we had all day and Cole piloted the Vibrant civic to the win with an 8.65@175mph. Cole Marmon - winner of FWD.
The Avid Racing Civic received another bye in round 2 moving him into the semi-finals in AMP. In the semi-final round we ran our best ET of the day with a 10.15 but after the stripe the engine blew and we knew at that point that our day was done. We were not able to make the call for the finals and ended up the runner up in AMP. I have to say this was one of the hardest days at the track that I can remember. We had some massive destruction of parts and still managed to take home 2 first place trophies and 1 runner up. I have to say that I am proud of our team and their resiliency to keep battling through the day and stick with our program. We have the best group of people that make our team what it is, from the drivers of the cars to the crew that transports the cars, everyone does their job and they do it well. This will be a race that I won't soon forget and now we have some work ahead of us to get the cars prepped, fixed, and ready for the east coast events that we have coming up in April.
We have so many people and companies to thank for all your support. We want to thank all of you who help make this possible for us and we are proud to represent your companies in our daily business as well as at the track. This year is shaping up to be a great one and we can't wait to see what unfolds!