Our little racing team from Del Rey took a big road trip. We packed up our Acura Integra Honda Challenge racing cars and headed to Austin, Texas for the 2018 National Auto Sport Association (NASA) National Championships held at the Circuit of the Americas.
The locals call the track COTA, and it is home to the United States Formula One race and Moto GP.
On this particular weekend there would be no fancy European Formula One drivers and their open wheeled cars, it would be the United States National Championships where the best road racing drivers in the country converge to battle it out on the track.
Our team, Double Nickel Nine Motorsports, was taking no chances. We painstakingly went through every nut and bolt on our cars and tested them repeatedly at Buttonwillow Raceway to make sure they were ready for the big show.
We had a lot to do, as one of our cars burned to the ground just six weeks prior to the National Championships during a regional race, so it needed to be quickly repaired. In just six weeks we rebuilt the entire car (engine, wiring and suspension) and made adjustments to get it ready for the 20-turn. 3.41 mile monster of a race track called the Circuit of the Americas.
We took 32 crew members with us to Texas and were set up in Garage 18. I’ll admit we were pretty spoiled at COTA. The garage had its own men’s and women’s bathrooms, polished floors and immediate access to pit lane.
We had never had it so good at a race track; COTA truly is a first class venue. The course itself was beautifully maintained and smooth with plenty of runoff area if a driver got over his or her head. It allowed us to drive the cars at their full potential. Essentially, it meant we could drive the cars with reckless abandon — which we did.
During the qualifying session on Sept. 21, our team was looking very good. I set the fastest qualifying time and would start the Sept. 22 race on pole, and my partner at DNN Motorsports, Keith Kramer, set the second fastest time so he would start on the front row next to me. Our blue/orange/silver Acura Integras from Del Rey, Calif. would have the entire front row for the Sept. 22 qualifying race.
Everybody else in the country would have to follow us into Turn 1. The race formats at the National Championships were standing starts, using the Formula One starting lights. Five lights would appear across the top of the track. When the lights turned off, it was time to drag race down the front straight and try to thread the needle into Turn 1.
Keith and I both took a little body damage as a lot of cars tried to occupy a small space in Turn 1 during the first lap. I was able to come out relatively unscathed and win the race. Keith was not as lucky and had to settle for a fifth place and a nice dent to his driver’s door that Olson Auto Body in Sanger will have to fix.
The good news was that race finish just set the starting order for the final race of the weekend on Sept. 23 — the race that actually mattered, the National Championship.
Our pit crew worked all night on the cars ensuring the body damage we received during the qualifying race was resolved enough that we could start the race. Our chief mechanics, Stephen Young, Brandon Lindlahr, Travis Kramer, Randy Krider, Art Cortez and Bryce Lindlahr were key to our success during the weekend.
They worked on the cars with meticulous care ensuring they were fast and ready. On Sunday morning, the cars were cleaned and prepared for battle.
I started the championship race on the pole and got a great standing start. I headed into Turn 1 alone, which meant no body damage this time. Keith battled from fifth place and worked his way up to third place as we settled in for a long race.
I was able to lead flag to flag and didn’t really give the fans much to watch as I just wanted to win the race without any drama. Keith came into Turn 19 in third place on the last lap and entered Turn 20 in second place right before the checkered flag.
I won the National Championship and Keith came in second place for a 1-2 finish for team Double Nickel Nine Motorsports. Keith earned the fastest lap of the race giving him an official Honda Challenge 4 track record for the Circuit of the Americas. We had a lot to celebrate.
The crew met us at the podium with cold bottles of Double Nickel Nine IPA from Tactical Ops Brewing. The labels on the bottle have an image of our team’s Acura Integra on it, which means we drink a lot of it. At the podium any beers were consumed, champagne was sprayed and we enjoyed our moment in the spotlight at the National Championships.
For our Texas victory NASA handed out cowboy hats to the top three finishers. Pretty awesome.
We truly couldn’t do this sport without all of the help and support of our sponsors (forgive me, this list is long): J&B Farms, Olson Auto Body, Sanger Tire, Tactical Ops Brewing, Kenclaire Electrical, Economy Stock Feed, TEM Machine Shop, Performance In-Frame Tuning, Bay Ex, Let's Go Racing, Chandler Autosport, Eibach Springs, Motion Control Suspension, I/O Port Racing Supplies, Autopower, Speed Factory Racing, Racepak, ESS Fire Systems, Cadet Blues the novel, Insane Shafts, Hardrace, Hasport Motor Mounts, Unorthodox Racing, Smart Strings, Synchrotech Transmissions, Devsport, Carbotech Brakes, AEM Electronics, RS 683 Brake Fluid, Sampson Racing Communications, Phase 2 Motortrend, HA Motorsports, and C.J. Fix Bookkeeping.
If it wasn’t for these industry partners instead of racing our Integras at the National Championships, we would be racing remote controlled cars in the dirt behind our shop in Del Rey.
To celebrate all of the team’s hard work and our National Championship title, we will be having a victory party, open to the public, at 6 p.m. Oct. 5 at Tactical Ops Brewing in Clovis, 1131 Railroad Ave. The team’s race cars will be on display, and there will be food trucks and live music. To follow the team’s adventures go to our website www.team559.com or follow KriderRacing on Instagram.