Brett Becker

When I had the privilege of visiting Circuit of the Americas last year, I was blown away by the scale of the place. I remember when the facility was built, and the timeline in which it had to come together to host its inaugural Formula 1 race. It’s an impressive place.

The “Regional Spotlight” story that resulted from it ran in the August 2017 issue. I also picked up a number of other unique stories while I was there, namely the features on the only American Iron GTO in the country, a quirky VW Corrado racecar, a Grand Prix-bodied Trans Am car and a couple of other scoops.

Stories are my stock in trade. They fuel my passion and my livelihood and they are what fill the pages of Speed News, and I’m eager to see what stories come out of the NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires this September at COTA.

Some stories don’t make it into the magazine, namely the one I’m about to tell, which I’ve only told orally to my friends over beers after the day’s racing is done.

One of the perks I enjoy when I visit NASA regions is sampling a few laps of each racetrack in my rental car. My method is the same at each venue. Work like crazy all day Saturday getting photos and rounding up stories to bring home, and continue that through Sunday morning and early afternoon. At that point, I can pack up my cameras and gear, empty out my rental car and enjoy a few laps on the track before it’s time to head to the airport.

Most of the time I’ve got some front-drive econobox that I wouldn’t suggest for HPDE use, but since I’m traveling on the company dime, I have to rent what’s cheap. When I visited COTA, I wanted a rear-wheel-drive rental car, so I reserved a V6 Mustang from a rental car company I probably shouldn’t name. However, when I arrived, there were no Mustangs in the stable, so for the same rental rate they put me in a Dodge Challenger. With a hemi.

I had driven Challengers on track before at press events. They’re heavy and they understeer quite a bit, but that hemi is a sweetheart of an engine and a step up from a V6.

Sunday afternoon I packed up all my gear and stashed it near the registration desk, taped some numbers on the car and headed out.

What a glorious racetrack. After three or four laps, I started to get the hang of it, but the car was overheating. I pulled off track and drove around the paddock to help it cool off, but that didn’t work, so I parked it in front of registration, opened the hood and began looking at my watch, hoping the car would cool off in time for me to leave to catch my flight.

Turns out the upper radiator hose had slipped off the radiator. It looked like the spring inside helped push it off. Why Dodge put a spring in an upper hose isn’t clear to me, but there was essentially no coolant in the car. I got the hose back on and began filling water bottles and trying to fill the car up, but it was a lost cause.

I got the rental agreement and called the emergency road service number, pulled the taped numbers off the doors, and waited for the tow truck, which took me to the airport first, then returned the car.

There’s even more to the story, but you get the idea. I’m hoping for better endings to the stories that come out of this year’s Championships at COTA.

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