-A little editors note before we get to brad's 2015 season (its long!). If you at first think "who is he talking about ? So many names!", yeah, we know. Deal with it. I'd suggest reading this with a bit of a southern accent in mind, its better that way. Brad "BRAP" Adams is a dear buddy of mine, and I love his ramblings. Listen to the "bunch of idiots" podcast from ITRexpo 2015 if you want to hear his voice for real, and Brad will also likely be joining us for interviews at the upcoming PRI show in December, so you'll hear more of this silly goose. This tale shows the hardships and fun associated with a first (or any) racing season. Throughout the 2015 season, Brad and I have texted a lot, and many times, I've typed "yup. racing is hard". It is. Read, Learn, and enjoy ! -Adam
Words/story by Brad "BRAP" Adams, Mediocre "im new to this website thing" layout and edits by Adam "NO COOL NICKNAME" Jabaay.
Before I get started on this season, let’s take a step back. My first DE was West Michigan Honda Meet in 2009. Honda Meet has three major players, Chris Stewart, Adam Jabaay, and Luke Wilcox. Those guys started running LeMons in 2012 with a CRX that Lee Grimes donated. Come 2013, Luke had a prior commitment, so they needed another driver. Adam asked me and I said yes, of course. We ended up winning B class, that was cool, but just being out in race conditions was the best part!
After running LeMons, all I wanted to do was race. So, when Adam and I headed to VIR for NSXpo, he put the plan in place. 2014 was busy with Bryson’s birth was in the middle of the summer. Towards the end of the year, Travis George and I got the drivetrain going. Then, I took the car up to Adam and Kyle, they worked their roll cage magic in a week!! I brought the car home and started buckling up the loose odds and ends. It made for a long couple weeks, but I got the car up to Mikey at ProFunction in time for a tune. I think I got the car tuned on a Wednesday and left for competition school on Friday.
I did my comp school at Gateway outside of St. Louis. Even though the car was way different than the last time that I drove it, it didn’t take too long to adapt. I only had one session in the car in 2014 which was in the wet, on slicks, so I didn’t know any better than the car that I was now driving. Saturday was going over drills, flags, etc. I forget what we were supposed to do the first session. But, the second session, we were supposed to pair up and swap sides. My partner was a bit slower than I and, eventually, there was a CMC Mustang and a GTS3 M3 catching up. So, instinctively, I bailed on my partner and went and had fun with the other two. It was pretty cool; we went back and forth between the three of us. I finally got by them and caught back up to my partner. I figured that I’d hang with him for a bit. But, here came John and Dino again, so I rejoined those two. Haha. The last drill of the day was mock starts and they invited the Thunder guys out to scrap the crap out of us. We gridded by the way we got to grid, so I waited FOREVER. But, guess what, I was starting P2. My first “legit” start and I’m on the outside going into T1 on a roval, perfect. The green flag drops and OH MY WORD, Thunder rolled by!! Wow, glad I got that out of my system. We would race to T7 then form up for another start. Second start, I’m mid-pack on the outside and get a marvelous start. Start three, I start dead last and weave my way up through the pack. Start 4 turns into the mock race. I start basically where I did for start 2. Again, I get a good start and I’m right behind Joel in Sam Myer’s CRX with someone in front of him. Holy crap, I started like P14 and I’m P3, this is awesome!! I get my provisional license that night. Awesome, this is real!!
Come Sunday, it’s time for the “real deal”, time for the butterflies to start rolling in!! I did well in LeMons, I’ll do fine here. I’m on a provisional, so I need to not do anything remotely stupid! I did well in qualifying, 10th out of 30ish cars! When they set the grid, I’m starting P11. I get a decent start, but when the faster cars start coming by, I get into defensive mode. Now I’m a robot, a slow one at that. I finish 24th!! I didn’t poop my pants, but that wasn’t LeMons racing, that was gnarly!! Race 2, I did better, but halfway through the race, my motor went “soft”. I limped it around for a few laps and then brought it in. I was excited to get through the weekend, but concerned on what the heck happened to my motor and wondered why I never got to see Nelly.
Between Gateway and Autobahn, Adam and I went over possibilities of why the motor lost power. He brought up the distributor which I had been running since 2010. I hadn’t replaced any of the internals in it, so I ordered some parts. With all new internals, I was anxious to get to Autobahn with other cars in class.
All week, it showed rain in the forecast leading up to Autobahn, so I bought some full tread RA1s. The trip to Autobahn was nuts. While towing, the van felt sketchy, and once I got to the gas stop, I found out why. As I came out of the truck stop, I heard a hissing coming from the left rear. It was the valve stem and guess what, the right rear was leaking too, down to 30ish psi. So, I limp it up the road 15 miles to Merriville to a Discount Tire. They took great care of me and the guys who did the work also helped me get the trailer hooked. But, now, I’m several hours behind schedule. Come Saturday morning, sure enough, it rained and it did so in buckets! I went out for practice to find my way around and it was traction limited everywhere. The back straight was probably the worst. It came time for qualifying and I get suited up. I’m ready and hop in the car to fire it up, nothing. The car is flat dead, so I bump the starter and it fires, but by this time, the session is almost over. Neither of the two competitors in class ran in practice or quals, so I figured that I’d be on pole due to my practice times. Nope, I’m starting P3 in class and dead last in Lightning. I could hardly see a thing on the start, so it wasn’t much to write home about. I tried to pace the other two and we stayed close for several laps, then Helen went off in T8. I kept pace with Jeremy, but wasn’t closing at all. I got held up behind a Miata who wanted to race me out of class and once I got by him, Jeremy was gone! I pull into Impound and once the revs got low, the oil pressure light came on! Great, cue Guns N’ Roses because now we are ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’!! I packed up mid-morning, Sunday, and headed home, bummer. It turned out a baffle had came loose in the oil pan, and was likely blockling the oil pickup, which eventually killed the motor.
Now what to do! I got lucky enough to get contacted by Mike Pieko about “borrowing” a motor. I didn’t know how I felt about borrowing a motor to go racing on, so we met at a price and a mutual buddy Dil brought it to Jabaay-land for me. From there, Jabaay and Kyle brought the motor and a hoist to GridLife where we swapped the motor in the paddock. I can’t say that is was one of my “funnest” moments in life, but it got done in some horrendous conditions. I skipped the Mid Ohio race to get the motor to where I want it and focus on making Gingerman.
For Gingerman, we had five signed up in class! Rob had never been to Gingerman, so he did the test day, but had nothing but issues. He had a distributor fail and then had his differential blow! So, now we are down to four. But, come Saturday morning, Jer Myers is nowhere to be found. His car didn’t have oil pressure on the dyno, so we are down to three. We go out for practice and my car is having weird electrical issues, so I come in after a lap. Sam’s CRX comes in on the flatbed, blown motor. Now it is just Helen and I in class. I don’t qualify so that I go over the motor. Phil brings a distributor down, so I put that in. Once I install that, I go for a test drive, and I don’t have a tach signal. I back trace that to a butt connector from, what I’m guessing, used to be a splice for an aftermarket tach. My buddy Nick and I tag team that real quick, but I miss qualifying. I go out for the race and after a half lap, I don’t have VTEC. Since I didn’t qualify, we started from the back again. I just kept turning laps and then we had a black flag come out. Under the black flag, I about got T-boned, so I wasn’t too pleased. So, after the black flag session, I drove with a bit more aggression. Without VTEC, I was nowhere near Helen, but I figured keep turning laps and maybe something would happen. Well, something did, she got radioed in for passing under yellow. So, even though I got two “wins” in Gateway, I don’t consider them that because I was the only one there. This was my first win with competitors in class, but I wasn’t too excited about it because it wasn’t like I won heads up.
On Sunday morning, I had more gremlins kick in, so I didn’t get a timed lap in qualifying. So, I sat out race two to try and diagnose the car, AGAIN. During race 2, Helen blew her clutch, so now I’m really the only one left in class, even though I have my own issues. Helen took the start to get a race-quota to qualify for Nationals, but I ran around to take the “win”. I had a CEL, but had VTEC and the car ran “fine” besides the odd rev cut issue. I had a big ol’ gnarly restart where I was two wheels in the grass up against the wall on the front straight, which was exciting. I started P22 overall and finished P9 with the fifth fastest time, so I was getting better.
The next track on the schedule was NCM. This place was gnarly and HUGE! It was hot and muggy all weekend. It was already 73 degrees when we left the hotel in the morning! We again had five in class with one being a H4 car running with us for contingency purposes. We go out for Saturday practice, the car is still doing the random rev cut junk, but go for it anyway. On the very first lap there ever, I carry too much speed into T6 and get all crossed up. I did a big ol’ slide into the dirt and kept it going. In typical fashion, I didn’t qualify to try and sort, via phone calls/texts, the issues that I was having. I started P5 in class and finished P4, nothing to exciting. It was about 95 degrees ambient with a heat index of 115, so 35 minutes was tough! I datalogged the race and Tom Creen from IPG was kind enough to look at it. The car was revving to 7800ish even though the tach would jump around between 5 and 7k. So, the tough thing was driving to where it would hit limiter and mentally noting where it was. But, once you figured that out, it would climb to a higher rpm. So, if you didn’t pay attention to it, you’d be leaving revs on the table.
On Sunday, Breck went back to H4, so I qualified P4 and was WAY off the pace of Rob and Jeremy Lucas. Kevin and I went back and forth for most of the race. Somewhere near the middle of the race, Jeremy got stuck in the sand in T1b. On the last lap, I come into the Sinkhole behind Kevin, but stuffed my car to his inside of P21. We went side by side out of the Sinkhole complex and got behind Dan Pina. I was hoping that Dan would go inside and cut Kevin off, but instead, I think he saw yellow and chopped me off. But, after a well fought race, I was pleased with the result. Kevin and I shared a fist bump and a smile after the race. It was another HOT race, but I think my body had adapted pretty well.
Race three came soon after and it again turned into me and Kevin going back and forth! He would get me, we would get in traffic, and I’d get back by. I kept overdriving the slow hairpin and kept telling myself to calm down. But, I kept overdriving and then on the last lap, I’m a few lengths back from Kevin and he goes straight off at the hairpin. I didn’t have the pace for Jeremy or Rob, so I got P3 which I was super pleased with!!
The next race weekend was at Road America, another new track to me. So far, 3 out of 5 weekends have been at new tracks. I unload on Friday and go to dinner with the Demorests at a cool, little spot. It is Helen, Jeremy Hopps, and I for the weekend. They had run here before, so I’ve got time to make up. We go out for practice on Saturday and one lap in, I have issues! Seriously, AGAIN!! Above 4,500 rpm, the car just breaks up like Lamar and Khloe. Again, I skip the qualifying session to see what I can figure out. I go over everything visually. Jason Kohler looks at my Hondata logs to see if he can find anything that jumps out. Nothing did, so I reset the ECU and hope for the best. I go out for the race and it does the same thing, so I just stay out of the way and cruise. On lap one there is a black flag, so I come onto pit road and sit. Once they wave us out, I let everyone by and head out. I just cruise for a few laps then come in. Once the car cooled off, I opened the distributor and put in the old igniter and coil just to see what happens.
On Sunday morning, I wasn’t thinking that it would be any better, but it ran fine in qualifying except for the random tach issue. So, I went from running in the 3:15 range, for the couple “race” laps that I had, to a 2:51 in two laps. I was just .07 from Jeremy, so I thought that I’d be ok come race 2. Race two, I got a good start, but overdid the brake zone in T5. Jeremy got underneath me, but I got a good run out of T13. He locked them up going into T14 and I got by. On the next lap, I didn’t have a brake pedal going into T8. So, he closed the gap up, but I kept it for most of the race, then he went off at Canada Corner. Neither of us had anything for Helen, so she was gone.
Jeremy didn’t race in race three, so it was just the two of us like Bill Withers. I got a good jump on the start, but she had 4 cars on me by T1. I stayed close until about T6, then that front group of 4 was gone. I kept turning what I called DE laps, but I had a moment in the kink and figured that I’d turn it down to keep it out of the walls. I got to see some of the Pina/Agran 944 battle, so that was fun. I got a Gearbox Melt and cheese curds then loaded up and headed home.
Over Labor Day weekend, I finally got the chance to run a DE with ITR Expo at Gingerman. I hadn’t had a chance to just go out and throw the car around because I’d been busy with race weekends since it’d been built. I had a blast, learned the car a bit and turned some decent, consistent laps around there. Not to mention, I had a great time with buddies that I only get to see a couple times a year.
The next race weekend was back to Autobahn. It started off how the first Autobahn weekend did, it rained from the time that I got there until early the next morning. I was sleeping in the van, so I laid down around 8pm because there was nothing else to do. I got up in the morning to put the bumper cover on, etc for the morning session. It was still overcast, so the track was still damp. I skipped practice since the track still had a lot of water on it and I had a few cooling issues at Expo. I went out for quals and the car did fine, but I was a couple tenths off Jeremy Hopps and a second off of Helen. Jer Myers got his car squared away, so we had 4 that weekend! Like normal, we, HC, started at the back. I went from P28 to P15 in 5 laps and then we had a full course yellow. I was P2 in class at the time, but when I caught the “yellow train”, the water temp gauge went sky high! I popped out of line and brought the car in. It was a definite bummer to have the issue, but it’d basically been the story of my season. The positives from that race were I was finally starting to keep pace with Helen and I was pretty consistent through traffic. I had two laps that were identical and one that was a tenth off of that! I made a few small changes to the came hoping that it would help the cooling come Sunday.
I stayed at the track on Saturday night and hung out with Chris Sullivan and Mike Pieko. I went to bed “early” hoping to get some decent sleep. Sunday morning, I started in the back of the grid because they gridded us by finishing position, not time. That was a huge bummer, but what’s new, time to figure it out. I probably had to pass 8 cars before I could probably get a decent lap. All the issues of the season finally turned. I was on pole for our class and was the fourth quickest car in our group. Helen is a beast in traffic, so I knew that I needed to get a good start. Well, I should have used the pace setter mentality a bit better. We started in the back again and I had the last place SM car in front of me. He had his bottle and blanket because he was napping on the start. Helen actually crossed the start line before me because of it. That’s exactly what I don’t need, but then it got worse. There was a SM sandwich right in front of me which created the American Gladiators gauntlet. I had to pick the right lane, so I waited for things to clear and went to the inside. I could see Helen out of the corner of my eye and I knew that she had a run. It was like Fast ‘n the Furious when JaRule yells “Noooooooo, Moniiicaaa” except this one’s name was Helen. A few corners later, they throw out a double yellow. Hopps is coming up quick, so I am signaling him to slow, but he doesn’t. I could tell he didn’t notice the next flag station going onto the back straight. So, I about witnessed him give Helen the T-bone at the end of the back straight. I wasn’t too pleased about it, so when we got on the front straight, I pulled up next to him and waved as I passed him. That’s technically a pass under yellow as well, so I got repositioned to last in class. He got disqualified, but he also broke his transmission. So, we were down to three for race 3. The positives out of race two were that I hung close and picked up 13 positions in the few green flag laps that we had.
Race three was us starting from the back again and I was starting P2 in class. When they dropped the green, I went outside and Helen stayed inside. We split the SM field, but when we got into T1, she made contact with Ryan Roberson, who then got into Chris Williams, so I checked up. At that point, it would have taken a miracle for me to reel that gap in, but the random miss that I had at the beginning of Road America came back. I came in, went over the scales to be safe, and then the car died in the paddock. We pushed the car onto the trailer and I headed home with three P3s on the weekend. 2015 and Autobahn weren’t the best to me.
The last race weekend of the year was at Mid Ohio. Mid Ohio was the track that really got “it” started for me when Brandy and I went to an IndyCar race there in 2007. I had the whole family coming out from my parents to her mom, so it was going to be exciting. It looked like rain on Saturday and I’ve never raced at Mid Ohio, but I’d been there for a day in the rain. If you haven’t been to Mid Ohio in the rain, you need to know one thing, sealer. That sealer is slick and it’s everywhere. It was pretty much dry for practice, so I just went out for a couple laps at 4/10ths on the rain tires. For qualifying, it was still dry, but with the new distributor, the car felt like a dog. So, I skipped quals since there were only three of us and if the car is down on power, I’m not doing any better than P3 anyway. Starting P3 in class would put me on the inside of China Beach, so that’s not too bad.
Coming into the weekend, I had the Midwest H2 championship wrapped up. But, I needed to finish both races to clinch the Great Lakes championship as well. Since they were doing the awards banquet on Saturday night, they were squeezing two races in on Saturday which would be our last points races of the season.
When it came time for the drivers’ meeting, the grid that was posted showed HC doing a standing start. A STANDING START, I’ve never done one of those, heck, I’ve never launched a car! Lol. This should be interesting, especially in the wet. Chris Adams and I, that’s right #TeamAdams, shared a few laughs about this upcoming start.
Once we are out on track, you got a good idea on how slick that it was. It was pouring buckets like Steph Curry from behind the line. We take our place on the front straight and we sat there FOREVER! It was tough because you had to be ready because that flag could go up at any moment. The flag comes up and it goes down. Surprisingly, my start wasn’t too bad, but Jeremy was spinning tires not going anywhere (remember this for later). I go into T1 in P2 right behind Helen. She stays pretty much true to the normal line and right as I think “how is she doing that”, the car goes out from under her. She is flat spinning right in front of me. So, once I’m by, Jeremy already has a run and blows my doors off on the run up to the Keyhole. Once we are on the back straight, we are presented a double yellow. Since we did a standing start, we are WAY behind. Once we get back around to T1, Jeremy picks the pace up and I thought that I better pick the pace up. Right as I thought that, he pushed right off the Keyhole, and got stuck in the sand. Due to that, we stayed under yellow for a few more laps. Helen was behind me, so I knew that once it went green that I had to GO. I saw the flag early and went, but I had a Miata pinch me at the kink on the back straight. I eventually saw me and moved over; luckily I didn’t lose much ground. I still knew that I needed to push, no pun intended, which I did. I had to keep a gap and cars between us because, as I said before, she’s a beast in traffic. I picked up six positions on that lap which gave me enough of a gap to come home in P1 in class. To me was my true first win because no one was disqualified and no one DNFd. The other huge positive out of it was as tough as Mid Ohio is in the rain and how tough it is to pass there in general, I went from P39 to P23 overall in just the basically three, green laps that we had!
Later that day, race 2 wasn’t much of a race at all. In the very brief time that we were green, the track was WAY worse than it was earlier in the day. They did the grid by lap times, so Jeremy was P1, I was P2, and Helen was starting P3. Remember Jeremy’s start earlier that I mentioned. Well, I’m now starting where he was and Helen pulled up behind me. Well, I got crazy wheel spin, so I went to second gear with the same result. Once I finally got traction, I ran the car deep into T1. I got up next to him, but when I came back across the sealant, I was a plow truck! He got a decent gap going up into the Keyhole. Again, I ran the car up into the Keyhole and I got on his bumper. I figured that I’d turn in and see if I could get a run on him. That was a terrible idea because I went nowhere but straight to the exit curb with zero grip. He pulled a huge gap and now Helen has a nasty run on me. So, I get to the inside and protect it as I go by the kink. The rain is nuts, you can barely see anything behind you because of the spray. If you are behind someone, obviously, you can’t see much in front of you. Well, I didn’t know where she went, but apparently she went straight off into China Beach. At the time, I thought she was on my inside in a blind spot, that I’ve never seen, because I couldn’t see her. I hustled the car into Madness and about went off. That’s when they brought out the double yellow and as we were about to enter Thunder Valley, Jeremy flat spun off onto the inside. I went by and knew to take it easy as we caught up to the pack. While doing that, they brought out the black flag. We sat in the pits for awhile, they brought us out, and we ran a lap under yellow to take the checkered flag. I got two P1s at Mid Ohio, in the rain, in front of my family. I don’t think it gets any better than that, “high to my family at home!” I didn’t do the “fun” race on Sunday; instead I stayed at the hotel and swam with the kids. That just capped off the amazing weekend at Mid Ohio!
The season was a bit of a whirlwind and I think the racing gods were testing me. I only missed one weekend which I could have made, but probably was smart not to. I had several DNFs, a few wins, but I gained a ton of knowledge. Going racing was probably one of the best ideas for me because I wasn’t bored with DEs, but racing made me work. I figured that the transition from LeMons to NASA would be pretty smooth. Not really, these NASA boys and girls HUSTLE! Not only were there some amazing drivers out there, there was tons of great people in the paddock. I made so many good relationships over the seven race weekends; I can’t wait to get back at it next year!!
as always......thank yous!
I wouldn't even be in this position if it wasn't for many people. If it wasn't for Travis Leach, I probably wouldn't have transitioned from BMX to Hondas. Jason Pantello for giving me a heck of a deal on a car that has taken me on such a great journey. People like Daryl Lai and Katman for having an internet presence to influence me to get to the track. Glen Hammer and Mike Medaris for putting hours in to get this car on the track. Travis George for the endless amount of help from the very beginning. Chris Stewart and Jay Haire for providing a playground for me to grow in. Aaron Leichty for being like my driving coach from the beginning. Adam Jabaay for a lot, including the silly idea of going racing. Tall Kyle Brontosaurus for throw beads like Spring Break on my cage. Mikey from ProFunction for all the tuning and support. Tons of people in the paddock that keep me laughing over the weekend. Spencer Anderson for being that inspiration to keep pushing. I'm forgetting a ton, I'm sorry! My family for all the support. Of course, Brandy for filling my dad shoes while I'm gone, I know it's tough. Bailynn, it's awesome to see you excited when I bring home trophies, but I guess they do end up on your dresser. Bryson, to see your excitement to get in the race car grounds me and I can't wait to see you wheel it! If you read all this, thanks for coming along in this journey.
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