Following are the thoughts, insights and perspectives of the 2006 ARRC event from friends, family, and team members...feel free to send us anything you'd like to add!
Tim Rogers, ace crew
Jeff Lawton, Kakashi Racing #34 Saturn
Jeremy Billiel, ace Saturn crew chief and ITS Competitor
Joe Diminno, #01 Sentra SE-R
Dave Gran, crew and ITB Competitor, and author of "Go Ahead, Take the Wheel!"
Greg's In-Car Videos (YouTube; look for the others with similar titles)
External Discussion Links:
RoadRace-autox.com: Who Will Win?
RoadRace-autox.com:: What News From the ARRC?
ImprovedTouring.com: Congrats Greg Amy!!
ImprovedTouring.com: Amy Rules ITA
ImprovedTouring.com: 2006 ARRC ITA Tech Inspection
ARRC Time is Coming
How I Spent My Time at the ARRC
Ace Crew and Driver
Let’s start back at the beginning: I had made a big decision some 10 years ago when I bought my house and had 2 purchasing criteria:
It should have garage space for 3 vehicles – Towing, Daily Driver and a Racecar as well has having some living space above.
It should be within an hour’s drive of Road Atlanta
Actually, the beginning is some 7 years prior to that in 1989 when I went to the Valvoline Runoffs at Road Atlanta as a spectator, driving my FWD Dodge Charger 2.2 and in the Showroom Stock A class, there was a Dodge Shelby CSX that had the driver’s name in the side window listed as “AMY.” I said to my best friend Steve in a proto- Glenn Quagmire voice “Cool, I drive a Dodge and there is some woman out there named Amy driving a Dodge and doing pretty well, aww-yeah…” Steve brought me back to reality by looking in the program and announcing to me that this car was driven by a certain Greg Amy from Texas - that’s pronounced Ami (“Ah-me” for the French language impaired out there.) A few years later in the 1992 Runoffs, he was in a Nissan NX2000 and finished second in a field that was dominated by that model of car. A few months later I purchased a ’93 model as a daily driver, following the “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” adage. By ‘98 the whole Internet thing had taken off and through a Nissan SR20DE mailing list, I became acquainted with the followers of B-series Nissan chassis and a few years later, Greg popped up into my extended network of on-line Nissan guys.
When Greg announced that he was going to come to compete at the 2003 ARRC, with the NX2000 hopelessly outclassed in ITS, I volunteered to crew for him as I had bought a hardtop version to turn into an IT car as well and I had some experience crewing and racing a Datsun 510 in the ITC class in years past. Greg came far from winning that year but did put up a heck of an effort and his crew chief Matt Kessler and I had fun changing out the engine that grenaded on the test day. We all got along so well that I invited Greg and Matt to stay at my house for the 2005 ARRC when the car had been correctly reclassed into ITA. That way, they could save on lodging cost and I could gain some good Racing Karma. The weekend went so well that we decided that it would be even more fun this year if we added more people to the guest list at “Tim’s Hotel for Wayward Racecar Drivers.” We added Greg’s new teammate Jeff Lawson, his crew-boy du jour Jeremy Billel, “Crazy Joe” Diminno from NJ racing his Sentra SE-R, and Kevin Hart, who I also knew from the Nissan SR20DE community coming down from TN to crew.
For me the real odyssey began on Wed. night when I went up to the track to help get the paddock area set up and drag the racers back to my house. Luckily the northeasterners got to the track 4 hours before I did thanks to their well planned out travel itinerary and my having to combat Atlanta area traffic, so all I had to do was stand around and drink beer while we waited for Kevin to show up. Unfortunately, Kevin was coming from Nashville so he had the traffic of 3 cities to deal with and ended up meeting us at my house around 10PM after the rest of us had eaten dinner. We went down to the garage and from my wannabe racecar, pulled out a motor mount and coil wire for Greg’s car as well as the intake tube to use on Joe’s car.
For the test day on Thursday I was able to wake up at my regular time, get ready, and instead of a 1.5 hour struggle to get to the office, we had a 30 min. drive to the track with a Dunkin Donuts stop added in for fun. We put Kevin in charge of Joe’s car and I floated back and forth between Joe’s and Greg’s car as needed. During the early sessions, we started to get a bit worried as Greg’s times were 3 seconds a lap slower than what he was running last year. Were the new shocks not valved right? Was the motor going soft? Did Greg forget how to drive ;-)? We timed a few other cars and realized that the track was just slow that day as all of the competition was about as “slow” as us. Joe and Jeff did a good job of progressively whittling down their lap times while heat cycling fresh rubber to be used in qualifying and the race. Matt, Kevin, Jeremy and I had fun juggling pyrometers, stopwatches, pressure gauges and torque wrenches while getting all the cars prepped between sessions and inspected after them. Greg wasn’t happy with the brakes on his NX so I loaned Kevin my road NX to go to the NAPA warehouse some 35 miles away to pick up some usually hard to find NX 2000 brake rotors around 10AM. By lunch time, we were hungry, Kevin was nowhere to be found and I couldn’t find Kevin’s phone number so we ate at the Paddock Grill. When Kevin showed up some 45 minutes later, we saw why he took longer than I thought he would: he brought a lunch and dinner’s worth of burgers, brats, hot dogs, buns and chips. He was of course hungry and proceeded to cook up enough food that we were “forced” to eat a second lunch. Kevin was therefore nominated as our official cook for the weekend. We were so pleased with his cooking that I won’t even mention that he neglected to buy ketchup that first day.
That afternoon, plans were made, designs were mentally drafted, plans were hatched and parts were crafted to put Greg’s front air dam on his car the next morning. That evening we pitched in to help Jake Gulick, who was running behind schedule due to his tow vehicle’s battery dieing that morning, corner weight his RX7. The Road Atlanta paddock isn’t exactly flat so Jake had constructed an elaborate ramp/platform on which to mount the scales. Rube Goldberg was heard to roll over in his grave during the construction and (re)alignment of this complicated device. Made from 4x4’s, 2x6’s, Pergo, shims and deck screws, this contraption was made to work with the help of all 8 people, usually with 4 or 5 persons pushing, pulling, guiding and/or steering the car while the rest directed the tedious activity while critically perched on canvas chairs in positions that ensured they were able to supervise the activity without spilling their beers. We either succeeded in getting the car weighted correctly or Jake just did a great job of driving the car the rest of the weekend (or both.)
On Friday, we seemed to have somehow forgotten about installing Greg’s airdam that morning but he went out and qualified on provisional pole anyway. Joe and Jeff were faster in the afternoon qualifying session as was most of the field except for Greg who (still sans airdam) went slower. I went out to several spots around the track to grab some video of our boys during the session. Luckily Greg’s morning session time held up for pole, Joe qualified 12th and Jeff was back in 20th of 39 cars in the race group. Our overall effort was aided this day and Saturday by local SE-R driver Brian Cembor who also took some great photos of us and the racing action. Greg’s family and wife Thea joined us at the track, converging from 3 of the 4 compass directions and bringing good spirits and well wishes. As Greg had noticed some play in the wheels of his trailer’s rear axle, Kevin, Greg and Matt changed out the wheel bearings while the rest of us supervised, drank beer and complained about the snake’s nest of extension cords strung around our paddock space.
We allowed ourselves to sleep in a little on Saturday as the race was not scheduled until 1PM at the earliest. The day had dawned with the forecast showing a chance of rain coming in from the west in the afternoon peaking with a 40% chance around…. You guessed it, right around race start time. So, our main prep other than making sure that all of the nuts and bolts were torqued on the car and the addition of a critical side view mirror to the right side of the car was to appease/fool the Rain Gods. Wet weather race tires were pulled out of the trailer, placed around the racecar and their pressures set as if we were ready to use them. Greg checked the weather radar every 10 minutes as the websites updated them via his bluetooth modem fed from his cell phone. I, on the other hand, used dial-up technology and called friends who live 50 miles west of the track and asked them if they had seen any rain….. After comparing notes, we decided that it was most likely going to be a dry race and sent Greg to go out and do what he does best: showing off Matt’s engineering and fabrication work and his own driving skill via bringing home the win, followed by a great victory celebration that was capped off by Greg falling off the door bars of his car on to the rostrum. Joe had a good run, advancing from 12th to 7th and Jeff had moved from 20th to 10th by mid-race when he spun into turn 5’s gravel trap
Then the fun began. As a reward for winning the race, we had to pull off the cylinder head so that the internals of the engine could be measured in order to prove that the motor was legal. This only took us 4 people: Matt, Kevin, Brian and myself, 3 sets of tools, one 4 minute meal break and 2 hours during which time the rain storm arrived bringing a 20 MPH wind and a 15 degree drop in air temperature. Then the measuring of the motor began and kept going and going and going. To their credit, the tech inspectors were as thorough as I would have wanted them to be if I were sitting in second place, friendly to work with and helpful in explaining exactly what they were doing. We all had a slight heart attack when the volume of the combustion chamber was announced and Matt thought that it was too small and would cause us to fail the compression ratio requirement but all ended well as we were told that everything was within specification.
We then packed everything into the trailer while trying to stay somewhat warm and dry. The good fortune of the rain was that it rinsed all of the champagne off of the car, which was beginning to make a sticky mess. We then went to dinner with all of the racers, crew and family (Greg, you are too generous,) took the final set of pictures and headed off to bed so that everyone could get an early start on the trip home in the morning, which turned out to be another adventure best told by those directly affected. As for me, I think my Racing Karma is starting to shine a little.
Kakashi Racing #34 Saturn SC
This was actually #34's second trip to the ARRC. James Walker had taken it there in 2001, ran a 1:46 and came in fourth.
We had testing on Thursday and although I was a little intimidated with Road Atlanta (nothing scarier than coming up under the bridge, not being able to see where the track goes, then flat out into Turn 12) my times kept dropping every session. I had a lot of fun watching the Hondas and Integras trying to tuck in behind me for the draft down the back straight and then I'd just pull away from them!! The Saturn's torque is incredible. We were probably doing 125-130 mph at the end of the back straight.
I ended up qualifying 19th out of 30 with a 1:48. My tires were starting to go away on me so I was a little disappointed with the results. But being that far back, I didn't think spending $800 (which would just add to my already huge credit card balance) for new tires would benefit me much...my buddy Greg qualified first (as everyone expected) in his NX2000, with my buddy Joe qualifying 10th.
At the start, there was major "checking up" going into Turn 1 which had cars all over the place. I managed to stay on the gas, get a clear run, and passed about 6 cars through One. After two laps I was in 11th place but had a Prelude and a CRX all over my tail; they both passed me at some point but I was able to get back by them on the back straight (did I mention how much I love the Saturn's torque???) With the "slightly" used tires I had some major oversteer which kept the corners very exciting. I was putting on a great drift clinic for the crowd!!!!
In lap 7 or 8, I started to run down my buddy Joe. (he said after the race that he had almost crapped his pants when he saw me in the mirrors). On lap 8, I got a good run on him coming onto the back straight but missed my shift into third!!! DOH!!!! On lap 11 we were over-taking a lapped car going into turn 5. Joe made it by him before the corner and I had to make the quick decision to either take him on the inside or tuck in behind him through the corner. I new that if I tucked in the Prelude and CRX would probably get by me. So...I dove inside, stood on the brakes and suddenly realized I was running out of room; I turned in (while still hard on the brakes) and the back end came around. I stomped on the gas but couldn't catch it. I managed to back into one of Road Atlanta's infamous gravel traps where I buried the wheels. I was pissed!! I pounded on the steering wheel for a few minutes, swore to my crew chief over the radio for a few more minutes, then had a corner worker help me out and up the bank overlooking Turn 5. After sulking for a few minutes, I realized I had the best seat in the house, would be able to watch the rest of the race and started jumping up and down cheering every time Joe and Greg went by!! Greg ended up wining and Joe came in 6th!! They got me out of the gravel (along with 30 lbs of marble sized stones embedded in tire beads, doors, sub frame, springs, etc...) in time to see Greg spraying the champagne and being interviewed. Between Greg, Joe and myself, we had about 8 crew, so it was quite the celebration in Victory Lane!!
Although I was disappointed that I didn't finish the race, knowing that I went from 19th to the possibility of 6th gave me a bit of encouragement for '07. I ended up running a 1:46 during the race (same as James did). We met our goals for the weekend: having fun, getting experience at Road Atlanta and running at the ARRC and seeing if I can run with the big dogs!! I definitely met all those goals!! Being my first year with the car and the prospect of running on new tires, I am very excited about the possibilities for next year. Our goal for the season will be a couple of podiums and hopefully a win at one of the longer tracks such as Pocono or Watkins Glen (as long as Greg doesn't show up!!) - Jeff
Ace Saturn crew chief and ITS Competitor
Jeremy’s ARRC Adventure
Being home just one day after returning from VIR, I was quite tired and rushed trying to tie up all the loose ends at work and at home. Needless to say, Tuesday quickly was upon us and I was getting antsy. Jeff called me around 9 am and was curious where I was. Apparently he was waiting in his truck and waiting to go for some time! The plan was to meet at Matt’s shop at noon to meet up with the rest of the ARRC gang. Much to our surprise, Jeff and I walked up to the now-famed NX2000 only to find Matt missing and Greg under the car working on it. Jeff and I looked at each other and immediately thought the same thing: Oh boy, this is going to be a long trip and we haven’t even left Connecticut yet! You see, Matt was in the process of building a brand new motor for the ARRC so that way there would be no excuses; since we saw Greg under the car still we assumed the engine wasn’t all the way in yet. Nope, the new engine wasn’t in at all; in fact it was still sitting on the stand next to the car.
After Dave and Melissa Gran showed up we started packing the trailers and shortly we were on the road to Atlanta. Greg, Matt, Dave and Melissa were in Greg’s E350 van towing the enclosed trailer and Jeff and I were driving the F150 towing Jeff’s ITA Saturn. Tuesday night quickly fell upon us and about half way through Pennsylvania we picked up the infamous "Crazy Joe" Diminno. After a brief fuel stop, I jumped in as the driver of Jeff’s truck and proceeded to run over the curb in a big way with the trailer. I look over at Jeff and a moment of panic set in. I could see it in Jeff’s face “Jeremy is going to wreck my truck.” At about 10 PM and 1 hour into Virginia, we made our final stop for the day; we went out to dinner and crashed fairly early at a Motel 6 in Harrisonburg, VA. At about midnight we heard Jake knocking on our door. With Jake now accounted for, we had the whole gang together.
Wednesday morning began with a quick stop at the local Waffle House, although someone forgot to tell the Grans about our breakfast plan and they were left at the hotel. Oops! After breakfast, we got on the road around 8 am and after driving about 10 hours through NASCAR country we finally arrived at our destination: Road Atlanta. After Greg worked his magic with the SCCA parking crew, we were able to cut everyone in line although we did receive many dirty looks! We began to unpack our stuff all while watching Greg attempt to guide truck and trailers. Oh the comedy!
Test day Thursday finally came with much anticipation. Jeff and Crazy Joe were Road Atlanta rookies, so the goals for the day included getting comfortable on track, getting a car setup in place for qualifying and getting an idea of what times they are running. At the end of the day Joe and Jeff were both running 1.49’s. Not bad for the first time on the track, but certainly only good for mid-pack at best. Qualifying came Friday with nerves. Jeff was noticeable frustrated as he wanted more speed. There were 2 qualifying sessions and at the end of the day Jeff was in the 48’s starting 20th and Joe got into the 47’s starting 14th?. Greg also happened to do well with a :43 and the pole. It was looking to be a good race Saturday! After watching Jake corner weight his car in the “Hey Ya’ll, watch this” moment of the weekend, we left the track to get a good night's sleep and get ready for the race.
Saturday morning came and so did the threat of rain. Greg was pacing and for sure the pressure was on to get the win. Jeff and Joe also were nervous, but ready to get out and have some fun. After Greg took a digger on the Gyro, we got all the cars setup to go and quickly 12:30 came. Greg lead the field down turn 12 nice and slow and "Green, Green, Green"! Joe made a move to the middle of the pack and cars were going 4 wide down the straightaway. Jeff stayed to the inside and made up many positions. I was timing Jeff and 1.46’s flash across my stop watch. Jeff was running 2 seconds faster than qualifying and practice. Joe was also doing very well by getting into the 46’s. After about 10 laps Jeff and Joe are in spitting distance in P10 and P11. This was excellent, since the two of them can be drafting partners down the back straight. Then to my dismay, I hear on the radio from Jeff, “I am buried in T5! Damn it! I am stuck in the gravel!” Jeff’s day was done, which left Joe, Greg, and Jake in the race. Joe consistently was setting faster laps and was able to finish in 6th place! Awesome job, Joe! Greg led start to finish, although for about 10 laps Moser was ALL over Greg’s bumper. It was unfortunate that Moser ended up loosing a hub, but at the end of the race Greg was the winner and the 2006 ARRC champion!!
After the race, Jeff and I wanted to get on the road to put some hours behind us as we had a 15-hour drive back to Connecticut in order to get to work on Monday morning. We drove 5 hours into a serious storm; the wind was so bad I thought I was going to drive into the ditch! On the border of Virginia we crashed in a Super 8 and got a good night's sleep to get back on the road in the morning. Our Sunday drive was going well and we were making good time until the call from Greg came in: Joe’s trailer bearing went bad. “How far away are we?” Jeff replies “6 hours.” You see we had a spare set of trailer bearings in our truck, but we were just too far away to turn around. So Joe and Greg and Company were stuck on the side of the road looking for trailer wheel bearings on a Sunday in North Carolina. They ended up getting a set, but none the less, Greg and the gang did not make it home until 3:30 am. Ouch! Jeff and I made it home for dinner time and off to work we went come Monday.
I would like to thank Tim Rogers for letting all of us animals stay at his house. If I were he, I would have wanted to kick us all out after 1 day, let alone 4! Thanks to Greg, Jeff, Jake, Matt, Joe and the whole gang for lots of laughs and a very successful road trip. This time next year I will be bringing my car down with the caravan so I am not left watching you all race!
#01 Sentra SE-R
Memories of the race will fade quickly. You may remember your fast lap or what place you finished but, besides that the actual race is a blur.
As far as the people and the experiences I think will last a lot longer. Greg falling off the Gyro, Greg falling out of the car on the podium, Jake's hilarious attempt to set up his car on the scales, Kevin telling Jeff to sit on his lap in the van, and just Plain ole Dickin around; Dick, Dick, Dick!
I want to thank all of you guys for making the trip a great experience Greg, Matt, Jeff, Jeremy, Tim, Brian, Kevin, Dave, Melissa, Jake, and who ever I may have forgotten (sorry).
Again I want to congratulate Greg on his win! It was a bummer Jeff ended up in the kitty litter (and yes Jeff I saw you jumpin' up and down and goin' nuts after the race). I would have loved to race him till the end. 6th place not bad for a crappy little Sentra. :) Joe
Crew and ITB Competitor
When I first started racing I heard about the ARRC and how far many people traveled to the event - I thought they were nuts! People traveled from all over to the event, even including CA and Canada. For us in Connecticut, it would be about a 17-hour tow. In 2005 we decided that would make the trek down this one time and see what it was all about, but surely that was going to be it... We rode down with Greg and Matt and had an absolute blast!
This year was a bit rough after I experienced an incident with a pesky wall and my plans to race at the ARRC were put aside. It didn’t take my wife and I long to decide that even though I wouldn’t be able to race, we would still head down for the event. My wife Melissa and I rode down in a caravan with Greg, Matt, Jeff, Jeremy, Greg, and that crazy guy Joe. Here I was originally thinking how silly it was to drive down to race in the event, and now going to make the journey to spectator?
Sure the racing is great, the track is awesome, and I’d absolutely love to win the race. The thing that continues to stand out the most about the event and draw us back are the friendships formed and overall fun time that we have. It’s now November 13th and I’ve already marked my calendar for the ARRC in 2007. Greg and Matt, get that van warmed up for us! - Dave Gran