The plan was to take our two Double Nickel Nine Motorsports Acura Integras from our shop in Del Rey to Buttonwillow Raceway for rounds 7 and 8 of the National Auto Sport Association Honda Challenge series and hopefully win some races.
Of course, you know what they say about making plans. In actuality the plan was going along fine at first. On July 7 during Round 7, our two cars finished first and second. It doesn’t get any better than that. The plan seemed to be working fine.
On July 8 during Round 8, the plan was still looking good. We were able to qualify for the race in the pole position, and I broke a Honda Challenge track record. All that was left to do was start the race out front, try to stay out front for 30 minutes and then head to the podium to pick up some more trophies and enjoy some Tactical Ops Brewing Double Nickel Nine IPA from Fresno. That was the plan anyway.
During the race I managed to blow the engine while battling for the lead. For the record, this was not part of the plan. But, in racing, these things happen. The technical term for the engine failing is “instant disassembly.” I’ve blown engines before, shamefully more times than I would like to admit, so I was used to a little smoke and oil smell when the engine went. Then I heard my spotter, Austin Fowler, over the radio say, “You are on fire!”
Being on fire was also not part of the plan.
I realized at that moment things were not good. I was traveling about 100 miles per hour, my car was on fire and I was strapped tightly into that burning car with a five-point Autopower racing harness. I needed to get out.
I came up with a plan. It was a brand new plan. The old plan was to win the race. The new plan was to survive the fire.
I looked for a safe place to land the burning car, hopefully on a spot off of the track where there wasn’t a lot of dry grass. I chose to park it next to a flagger station where I knew they stored fire extinguishers. As I was bringing the car in, the fire breached the interior and I could actually see it coming out from under the dashboard.
This wasn’t part of my plan.
At this point I started working quickly to remove my five-point harness, my radio plug from my helmet and my driver hydration system. I wanted out of the car fast. The smoke was getting so thick in the interior I couldn’t really see much track in front of me. I slid the car to a stop and climbed out with a purpose.
That purpose was not to burn.
The outstanding emergency crews at Buttonwillow Raceway quickly responded to my location and started putting water on the car. They red flagged the race. The fire crew was able to extinguish the fire, but unfortunately the damage was done. The entire engine compartment was destroyed. The car was a loss.
But the crazy part about the race was because they red flagged the event, they froze the finishing positions of each of the cars on track. Even with my car burned to the ground, I finished in second place. My teammate, Keith Kramer, finished in third place. It wasn’t part of the plan, but it was still a good finish.
Those finishing positions propelled DNN Motorsports into the lead for the SoCal NASA Honda Challenge Regional Championship. It also qualified us for the National Championships to be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas this September. That only leaves us about 60 days to completely rebuild the No. 38 car. But we have a plan to do that.
Luckily for us we are sponsored by some great local businesses in the Sanger area — Olson Auto Body, Sanger Tire, J & B Farms, Economy Stock Feed and Tactical Ops Brewing. Rebuilding the car won’t be easy or cheap, but we will get it done. Our plan is to take our little racing team from Del Rey and show everyone at the national championships that we are the best Honda Challenge team in the country. That’s the plan anyway.