If haven’t already heard, we’re participating in the 24 Hours Of Lemons this weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park in South Carolina. Our five-man team is driving a 2002 Buick Regal and, as promised, we’re keeping you updated on our progress during our race this weekend.
The race began at 11 a.m. and our first driver, Mike, stayed out on track for two hours. There were two full course cautions during the first two hours which allowed us to save fuel. At 1 p.m., we made our first driver change as the rookie, Tommy, entered the car. Despite his lack of experience, he managed to keep all four wheels on track throughout his two hour stint.
At 3 p.m. we put Andy, our third driver in the car. Just twenty minutes later, the track went silent. Red flags were waved at all of the corner stations. A serious accident occurred between turn five and six. Two cars collided, and according to race officials, one of the cars rolled over. All other cars on track were instructed to enter the pits and wait until more information was available. A helicopter took the drivers involved in the accident to a nearby hospital. We have been told that both drivers are okay.
After being delayed for approximately an hour, racing resumed at 4:20 p.m., and Andy went back out for more wheel-to-wheel action. As of 5 p.m. the Park Bench Racing team sits in 28th place overall, and 13th in B class. There are three classes – A, B, and C; the faster, more reliable cars are slotted in A class.
Rick, our fourth driver began his first outing at about 5:30 p.m. and experienced unfortunate luck less than an hour later. At 6:20 p.m., he pulled the car into the pits on a flat front driver-side tire. The rough track surface, in combination with the Buick’s appetite for rubber, resulted in a tire shredded to the cords. After a quick 10 minute stop, Rick went back out to use up the remaining fuel.
At 7:15 p.m. Austin, the fifth and final driver was sent out. The setting sun was blinding for the first 15 minutes of his drive, but quickly faded into the trees. By 8 p.m. it began getting very, very dark. Austin tried his best to learn the track before darkness fell, and managed to keep the car in contention.
At 9:20 p.m. Austin pulled the car into the pits for a tire rotation and brake change. The newer tire that replaced the flat on the driver’s side was moved to the passenger side and a new tire was mounted to the driver’s side.
A little more than 30 minutes later, Mike went out for his second stint. The team remained in 13th for quite a while. Mike stayed in the car until midnight and then the team sent the rookie back out. Tommy held his own despite having little visibility. He came out at 2 a.m and then Andy entered the car for his second stint.
At 4 a.m. the team moved into 10th in class and 21st overall. Rick jumped in and 20 minutes later the team once again progressed, into 9th in class and 20th overall. By 4:50 a.m. the trusty Buick was running 8th in class and 18th in the field.
By 6 a.m. it was time for Austin to get back in the car. Visibility was the opposite for his second outing. The first 30 minutes were darkness, but the track began to reemerge just in time for some more bad luck. This time it occurred in turn 14, just before the pit entrance. At about 7 a.m, Austin entered the final corner of the track and a caliper bolt snapped. The caliper pushed outward and wedged itself against the wheel and locked the front passenger tire. The tire, already worn, erupted in smoke and Austin was forced to wrestle it into the pits.
The brake failure resulted in the Buick needing a tow. After a short ride on a flat bed, Austin hopped out of the car and the team diagnosed the issue. After digging through a bin of spare parts, luck returned and a replacement turned up. It was put on the car along with a new wheel and tire. The fix took a little less than 30 minutes.
Austin went back out on track to use up the remaining fuel, and came in at 8:10 a.m. for a driver change. Despite the brake failure, the team remained in 18th place in the field. Mike hopped in and at 8:40 a.m. the team jumped to 16th place overall and 8th in B class.
At 9:30 a.m., Mike brought the car in and Andy went out to finish the race. After just 15 minutes, yet another tire puncture sent the Buick into the pits. After a speedy change, Andy went back out, but the time spent in the pits dropped the team to 17th overall and 9th in B class. With smooth driving and some luck, Andy made up the one lap deficit and put the team back into 16th overall and 8th in B class with an hour remaining.
That’s where the Park Bench Racing Buick would stay throughout the final 60 minutes, and the team celebrated a very respectable finish.