Noob Goes to Lincoln
Editor’s note: Newbie, newb, noob, or n00b is a slang term for a novice or newcomer, or somebody inexperienced in a profession or activity.
What possesses someone to travel 1000 miles round trip to race for 6 minutes? I have asked myself this question for several years. In fact, I had registered and cancelled two years ago because the answer to this question wasn’t urgent enough to expend the time and energy to find out the answer.
This year was somehow going to be different. For one, I was in a better car for the class this year. Secondly, I had friends that weren’t going to let me back out again.
How did I get to the point of this whole endeavor making any sense at all? It started at a very young age being raised by a car guy that happened to be my dad. We were always into cars and in my early twenties we both raced Formula Fords. That’s right, my racing career started in road racing and now autocross quenches my racing bug.
I run a Miata in E Street. It is one of the slowest classes in all of autocross, but you wouldn’t know it by coming to any local event and looking at the talent pool. Late nineties Miatas aren’t expensive to buy or run, so lots of people are in the class including some of the best autocrossers in the Midwest. Truly a driver’s class in which everyone is in nearly identically prepared cars. Think of Spec Miata translated to autocross.
Anyway, 2018 has been a humbling year, but also a great learning opportunity. I have been autocrossing since 2000 and learned this year that I have a lot left to learn about going fast in parking lots around orange cones. I consistently lose to the Chicago and Milwaukee greats, but as someone said “It is probably easier to trophy at Solo Nationals than it is at a local SCCA event in E Street.” I guess this is at the heart of why I decided go to Lincoln.
The Event Itself?
Massive. 1400 people that love doing the same thing on the weekend that you do. If you love football, you cannot just decide to play in the Superbowl, but you can go to the Superbowl of autocross even if you aren’t trophy material. The size and design of the courses is something that took some getting used to, and with only three runs, it is a tall order to do your best. At most local events, the hard part is not overdriving. At Lincoln, I felt it was the opposite. The pressure of getting a good time in only three runs per course has you doing a lot of mental calculations in your head. Go for it but risk DNF on your first run? Put a “banker” (safe lap) in and find out you are 4 seconds off the pace? Lots of downtime to consider the possibilities.
My goal was to have fun and finish top third. I finished 20th of 61. No trophy though, which was fine. I did have fun. Met a ton of people that share my passion. All of my Chicago and Milwaukee friends became teammates rather than rivals. We cheered each other on. We went to dinner together. We walked 25000 steps per day on course walks together while discussing line choice. We laughed a ton.
My first Solo Nationals could probably be summed up with the story of my last run on day 2. I was sitting way out of the top 20 after day one, so my only goal on day 2 was to improve in overall position. By day two, the jitters were mostly gone and I was finally starting to DRIVE the car. I was time-wise around some local friends, Wes Jenrich and Mark Groseth, but we were all fighting to move up. The Reggaine’s and Chris Perry were talking me up between runs when I discovered that my seat belt was stuck. Chris knew how to keep me calm. He asked where my tools were. Him, Bea, and Brian went to work to free the mechanism. Meanwhile, the cars were being released for their final runs and I was minutes away from having to forfeit my last run. The seat belt was being very stubborn and simply wouldn’t come unstuck. Luckily another competitor who knows Miatas well came over and gave the gentlest little tug and the belt spun back into position. Whew! I had just enough time to calm myself and make my last run, which was the only run all weekend I was proud of and moved up 6 positions overall to just make the top 20.
Oh, the guy that saved my nationals? None other than 8-time champion jacket recipient Bart Borowski. He took the time to help another competitor and Solo Nationals noob. That is what Solo Nationals is all about — and the 6 minutes is only part of the reason to make the pilgrimage.
Chicago Region National Champions
- Champion E-Street – Bartek Borowski – 1999 Mazda Miata
- Champion Kart-Modified-Ladies – Kate Regganie – 2005 Honda
Chicago Region Trophy Winners
- 17th Place – A-Street – William Damhoff – 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
- 13th Place – D-Street – Chris Dvorak – 2016 Subaru WRX
- 3rd Place – E-Street – Chuck Matthews – 1999 Mazda Miata
- 4th Place – E-Street – Matt Waldbaum – 1999 Mazda Miata
- 6th Place – E-Street – Michael Ron – 1999 Mazda Miata
- 5th Place – G-Street – Dan Cochran – 2014 Ford Focus ST
- 8th Place – G-Street – John Azevedo – 2016 Volkswagen GTI
- 12th Place – G-Street – Bill Keese – 2013 Ford Focus ST
- 4th Place – Kart Modified – Tom Regganie – 2008 Honda CRG