In this column space, I usually like to cover one topic, but there seemed to be a lot of things to make you aware of for this year, so it’ll be something of a smorgasbord of news and notes.
I’ve been sitting on a lot of photos I’ve taken over the last couple of years during my trips out to the different NASA regions across the country. It’s a big part of why I travel, to cover some of the most interesting and well-prepared cars. When the COVID shutdowns hit, I kind of got out of the habit of publishing one of these stories per month, because I wasn’t traveling, and I didn’t want to run out of features before I could get back out to the regions. Well, if I photographed your car in the recent past, you can be sure you’ll hear from me for the stories we’ll be doing.
Anyone who has ever been to Pittsburgh International Race Complex can attest to how much fun it is to drive, let alone race, there. The first time I visited there in 2021, I was able to drive some laps around Pitt Race in my rental car and I was gob-smacked by how much fun it was. That track flows in spectacular fashion.
I get to travel to a lot of different tracks as part of my job, and I would have to say PittRace is one of the finest tracks in the country, and that includes the legacy tracks we all know and love. I’d love to race there if I could, but covering the Championships is my job, and racing isn’t. I’ll be there cheering on my favorite drivers while simmering with envy the whole time.
Seriously, if you’re thinking about racing at the 2023 NASA Championships, do it. Even if you’ve never been to PittRace, you’ll be glad you went. You can thank me later.
Easy Pay Program
One of the greatest programs NASA has created is the Easy Pay registration program for the NASA Championships. With Easy Pay, you can reserve your spot at the lowest entry fees on the schedule for just $299 down, and the balance is due at the end of July. The $299 is nonrefundable, but if you’re committed to race in the NASA Championships, it’s the ideal way to secure your spot without compromising your early-season racing budget.
25 Hours of Thunderhill
I know we always harp on the notion that teams planning to race in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill need to begin preparing months in advance, so consider this my harping on it again. But it’s not your usual harping.
This year’s 25 Hour will take place Nov. 11-12 as we pointed out in the original announcement in the Dec. 6, 2022 issue of Speed News. That means there is one less month to prepare for the longest closed-course endurance race in North America. If you’ve ever wanted to tackle this race, the new date might just be the motivation you need. Scheduling it in November puts it ahead of the hectic holiday season ensures better weather.
Nobody remembers who won a crap-can race, but everybody knows who won the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Start preparing now.
Lastly, there’s a new project car in our household, and you’ll be seeing a fair amount of it in Speed News. If I can back up a bit, it wasn’t supposed to be a project car.
I bought a 2006 Mazda MX-5 off Copart. It already had a roll bar installed, so I was going to use it for autocross and Time Trial and let my son have some fun with it. Its body damage was minimal, but the insurance declared it a total loss, which is how it ended up on Copart. Well, when it arrived here from Utah, it was a little worse for wear than it looked like online, and it also had a pretty severe clattering on the top end and.
I got it cleaned up decent, so I figured I’d enjoy it as a daily driver despite the engine noise. When I loaned the car to my son because he wanted to see what an NC chassis was like to drive, he called me later and told me the engine light had come on and the 2.0-liter engine was misfiring.
The car had 144,000 miles on it, so I figured I’d find a used engine for it and swap it in. When I started doing some research, I learned that you could buy a 2.5-liter MZR from a Ford Fusion, among other models, make a few modifications, and it would drop right in where the 2.0-liter was. It didn’t take much to convince me to do it, especially when comparing the price of a used 2.0-liter and a used 2.5.
I sourced all the parts, including an ACT lightweight flywheel and clutch assembly, and I’m now in the process of swapping the engine and documenting the modifications it takes to do the swap. Yes, there are other websites and YouTube channels that have covered the topic, but I’d like to do it more comprehensively. Why? Because I’ve watched all of them and I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve gotten myself into. The aim of the stories we’ll be doing in Speed News is to show readers exactly what’s involved.
That ought to keep all of us pretty busy this year. See you out there.