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|Nissan 350z Factory Service Manual|
John Evans and a couple of buddies learned that their art teacher in high school, who was just a few years out of college and not much older than they were at the time, was an automotive enthusiast. And not just a car guy, but a car guy who raced a Formula Vee.
Like so many NASA members, Evans has been a car nut as long as he can remember, and he figured working on a pit crew for his high school art teacher would put him one step closer to getting behind the wheel himself. Turns out he was right.
The interesting — or frightening — thing about Evans’ first time racing was how little it took to get on track. Essentially, all it took was a letter of recommendation from an IMSA-licensed driver and $20, which was good enough to put him behind the wheel of a Pinto in a six-hour enduro at Sebring in the 1970s.
“That’s how loosey-goosey IMSA was at that time,” Evans said. “I had just some progressive street driving and been hanging around racetracks my whole life, and that’s really the way things ran at that time. We ran the whole series, and as long as we had money we ran that Pinto. That was the car we built and maintained in my basement.”
A lifelong resident of Atlanta, Evans went to work for the phone company right out of high school, and began working with mainframe computers. He said he was making a lot of money at the time — about $100 a week — which was enough for him.
“That funded my desire to play with race cars, drink beer and chase women,” Evans said with the breezy lilt of a Southern gentleman. “Next thing I know, I’m almost 60-years-old and doing the same thing. Minus chasing women.”
Married for 35 years with a grown son and daughter, Evans brings his whole family with him to the track. His 5-year-old granddaughter is on the team, too, and when his next grandchild is born, he or she also will become part of G Daddy Racing, the team’s name, which is short for grand daddy.
While he and his wife were raising a family, racing took a back seat. Evans eventually started a business of his own, which took a lot of his time and effort. He stayed involved with the car hobby, and even got his kids involved.
“They’re both a little tied up with families and kids themselves now, but they have been active in HPDE, as well as autocross through the years as little snotty kids hanging out at the track,” he said with a chuckle.
But once the kids had grown and gone, Evans was looking for a way to get back on track. He had been doing driving experiences with different clubs when he discovered NASA, which was ideal for him because he knew he wanted to go racing again. He started climbing the HPDE ladder in 2007. In 2008, he earned his Time Trial license, and in 2009 he got his competition license and began racing a 1994 BMW 325 in GTS2.
“I started to get the feel back for going fast, because it is not like riding a bike. It is something you have to get back on and work pretty hard to do,” he said, adding that he won Rookie of the Year for the Southeast Region in 2009. “As I tell everybody, it was either a poor year for drivers, or I did a pretty good job of not wrecking myself or anyone else during that rookie year.”
Through his interaction with others as an instructor for the region, he found a deal on a ready-built 350Z Performance Touring B car. Evans has owned upward of 10 Z cars throughout his life, everything from a 240Z on up, so this was right in his wheelhouse. And since the seller was mired in the middle of divorce proceedings, the price was right. Then, not long after he bought it, he learned that NASA was announcing a new class, Spec Z.
“I’ve always been a Z car fan,” he said, adding that he immediately approached NASA Southeast Regional Director Jim Pantas about being the series leader for the region. “Everybody has an emotional attachment to some type of car. For me, it’s the Z.
“I’m almost 60, so I won’t be racing forever, so this will be a great series for two or three years,” he said. “Maybe I can give something to it and it can give something to me.”
So far, it seems to be working. The Southeast Region now has five Spec Z’s making regular appearances on grid, which makes it one of, if not, the leading region for Spec Z cars. That’s due in some measure to Evans’ stewardship of the class and, he admits, a bit of good fortune smiling on him.
“I guess one way to describe me is I’ve always been pretty lucky,” he said. “I’ve never had a lot of bad things happen to me, even when I probably deserved it. I’ve been pretty lucky. And that’s continued through most of my life.”