race pose

Racers Rob Krider, from left, and Keith Kramer are joined by crew members Austin Fowler and Bryce Lindlahr.

The first race of the season was just a week away, and the Double Nickel Nine Motorsports crew had the team’s B car up on the lift.

Racers Rob Krider and Keith Kramer want to continue the success that began last season in the National Auto Sport Association Honda Challenge series. They finished the season as the Western States Champions. At the shop, their crew wrenched on the car, ensuring they have a chance to repeat last year’s success. The inaugural race of 2017 is March 18 at Willow Springs International Raceway near Rosamond, Calif. The track, north of Los Angeles, was built in 1953 and in addition to being considered the oldest permanent road course in the country was used by comedian Jay Leno to test drive a Aston Martin DB11 last year for an episode of his show, “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

Last season, DNN Motorsports, also known as Team 559, entered two cars in the championship event and took first and third in the HC4 class, piloting their highly modified Acura Integras. 

“We’ve tasted the champagne, and learned some hard lessons at the track,” Krider said.

Krider, a Fresno State journalism major turned California highway patrolman, chronicled some of those experiences in a story for gearheads4life.com, explaining that they didn’t fully understand the difficulty in crafting a full-blown race car on a DA Integra chassis, which was used on the 1990 to 1993 model. A better bet may have been using a newer DC chassis, used from 1994 to 2001, because of equipment support and parts availablility.

“We chose not to listen to people who were smarter than us,” he wrote. “Our way turned out to be the hard way.”

Since this kind of racing involves a point system, and to get points a team has to finish every lap of every race to be competitive, Krider and crew had to get a car ready for the first competition of the season. That was a year ago. Unfortunately, the custom built, “go-fast” car they intended to drive didn’t get finished in time for that first race. Instead, they took a basically “bone stock” Integra with power steering, heating and air conditioning and even cruise control intact and added a bolt-in roll cage and a few other parts “borrowed” from other race cars. 

Then on the first lap of the warm-up session before the race, Kramer lost control and got smacked by a 944 Porsche. The collision damaged a tie rod and the subsequent fix didn’t work too well. “He was lapped three times during the race,” Krider wrote.

They got better. Much better. 

Krider and Kramer started out in the racing world inauspiciously a decade ago in the $500-car road racing series the 24 Hours of LeMons and ChumpCar. The idea is to take a cheap car and race it. The practice is called “crapcan” racing.

Their beat up and weathered green Integra, used to win many of those races, sits partially abandoned on a trailer near their Del Rey garage. 

Kramer said he badgered Krider until the CHP lieutenant agreed to join forces and form a partnership of sorts that became Double Nickel Nine. The team operates out of an immaculate garage in Del Rey. Kramer is a fourth generation farmer and owns Economy Stock Feed.

“I’ve wanted to race my entire life,” Kramer said. “I grew up loving the Indy 500. I basically nagged him (Krider) until he took me racing. I turned out to be pretty good at it.

“We try to act like we’re bigger than we are.”

Krider nodded. “We try,” he said.

Size is relative in this case. Krider and Kramer have enough experience, business sense and resources between them to have put together a somewhat sophisticated race team for 2017. This past weekend at their shop, the pair were joined by Austin Fowler, 21, and Bryce Lindlahr, 22, to prep the B race car for the weekend race. Sanger Tire and J&B Farms are both sponsors.

The crew replaced the high performance brake fluid in minutes. 

“We run the Carbotech brake pads very hot,” Krider said. And while they use Pro Speed RS 683, which runs $60 a quart, it still needs to be cycled out. Pro Speed is also a sponsor. Another is Olson’s Auto Body of Sanger, which painted race car A, “the one that gets all the love.”

And that’s part of how the team makes a go of their racing gig. Everything costs money. But they have added sponsor support to offset operations. 

“We have a real passion for it,” Krider said. “We win a lot of races.”

But that doesn’t mean a big payday. “We have to have real jobs to afford this,” he said.

Brandon Broussard, owner of brewer of Tactical Ops Brewing Inc. based near the corner of Shields and Academy avenues, is another sponsor. At the shop, the Double Nickel Nine crew expertly attached the Tac-Ops logo to the hood of race car B in time for the race, then headed to the brewery to hang out and talk racing. Tac-Ops has brewed a variety in honor of the team. It’s excellent but a little potent at about 10 percent alcohol.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Broussard said. “I love racing. It’s an outlet. Rob and Keith are really good guys. And they’re both really good drivers.”

It was brew day for Broussard. He had just finished a batch of his Black Rye IPA and Recon Red and was just starting on Bunker Brown. His operation is set up in a new but somewhat nondescript commercial building but had a fairly large group sampling his creations. A truck pulled up and loaded up kegs.

Of the Double Nickel Nine brew, Broussard said, “It will make you feel good real quick.”

“That’s the good stuff,” Krider said. He wasn’t drinking. He was driving.

For the Honda Challenge class, entrants must run 1.8 liter Honda engine. In Honda parts speak, that’s a B18A1, which makes about 120 horsepower stock. The race version the Del Rey team uses is about 153 horsepower. Their engines are built by TEM Machine Shop and tuned by Performance In-Frame Tuning, both in Napa.

The cars must weigh a minimum of 2,500 pounds. Krider said he likes to cut in close and weighed in at the last race at 2,501 pounds.

“Everything matters,” he said. “We weigh the fuel we put in the car. We try to make our cars as efficient as possible. Everything we can do, we want to put the power to the wheels.”

That attention to detail extends to repairs and replacement of any component that may need to be swapped out during a race. “We know the exact tools. We’ve had to replace an entire axle during a race. And we were back on the track in 6 minutes.”

And that’s the difference a season can make.

For instance, sponsor Chandler Autosport of Centre, Ala. has fabricated specialty wiring harnesses that have none of the connectors for electronic items in a regular car. The harnesses have quick release connectors that allows them to be plugged in within seconds of installation.

The Herald plans to chronicle the race team’s experiences this season.

A side note to this story, Krider and Kramer met the team of Mike Finnegan and David Freiburger of the Hot Rod Network’s “Roadkill” TV show. Each episode is an automotive adventure of the two rescuing junked vehicles. The boys of Double Nickel Nine Motorsports bested the Roadkill team at a 24 Hours of LeMons race in Altamont back in 2008.

 To follow the team’s success this season, up-to-the minute details can be found on the website, team559.com.

 The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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