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Daytona 24h Marshal Spotter Guide 2017

Update January 15, 2017:

Andy Blackmore Design (spotterguides.com)  shared the news that  IMSA (imsa.com) have started adding individual team car liveries onto the official web site. So for you marshals planning to participate in the event, start studying those cars:

(click on each picture to go to the team’s page on the IMSA web site)

Prototypes:

Prototype Challenge:

GT Le Mans:

GT Daytona:

 

Post-Race Update, cars that changed/updated liveries from (correct one shown above, previous one shown below)

 

Download the official spotter guide from Andy Blackmore Design on January 24, 2017 when it officially becomes available for release:


This post will be updated as information becomes more available closer to the event, which is due to take place January 28, 2017

I thought I’d never do Daytona again based on the fiasco last time turned into… but never say never. I am seriously considering the trip down for 2017 season opener of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Series championship because of all the new machinery that is going to take part in this event.

As I’m sure everyone else is, I am eagerly awaiting the official Andy Blackmore spotter guide for this event to know exactly who will take part, but until then I will use this post to speculate on the entries as well as share news of those that have already been announced.

This season will see a brand new prototype platform, the DPi, or Daytona Prototype international. The future of what was the merger between Daytona Prototypes of the Grand Am series and the Le Mans Prototype (LMP2) of the American Le Mans era. And the future is very sexy!

Mazda was the first to unveil their DPi… and it is the main reason I’d like to volunteer this event. I want to see this car in person!

Mazda Unveils New Prototype Race Car at Los Angeles Auto Show

Cadillac was next with their DP-V.R

http://media.cadillac.com/media/us/en/cadillac/news.detail.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2016/dec/1201-dpr-vr-race-car.html

ESM Tequila Patron Team and their Nissan DPi

ESM Nissan Onroak DPi Revealed; Testing Begins

But it’s not just prototypes that are an exciting addition to the multi-class racing program that is IMSA. Several new GT programs look very exciting also. Including entries from Acura and Lexus, as well as the addition of Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, and other existing programs that are just now finding their way to IMSA.

Acura Announces Dual PWC & IMSA NSX GT3 Programme

 

This is all pretty exciting news!

I’m so excited I’m contemplating driving down to Florida again next year for this thing. Not once but twice. The Roar before the 24. And the Daytona 24 hour race. In 2016 I drove down to Florida twice. First time in my own Miata for the St. Pete & Sebring pairing and later just for fun in a VW Bug rental. And to be honest I’m really looking forward to do this trip again.

Stay tuned for updates.

 

1,000+ mile Road Trip from LaGuardia Airport in NYC to Daytona Beach, Florida in a Hertz VW Beetle

October is an awesome month to go down to Florida, and with the hurricane season travel deals it is probably the cheapest way to go. So I booked three trips to Florida in three consecutive weeks. The first trip required a little bit of driving, which I love… so I’ll share the Road Trip details in this post… perhaps they’ll save someone the trouble of considering such a thing in the future or maybe encourage others to take the trip themselves. My experience of course could be completely different from others…

A few weeks ago JetBlue announced a flash sale… fares as low as $19 bux they advertised, typically from New York to Boston or Long Beach to San Francisco in California. The ones that caught my eye were the ones I have taken advantage of many times before, NY to South Florida, my favorite destination in the world! NYC to Miami area – Ft. Lauderdale specifically were only $39 bux each way. I booked two round trips, and with the recent JetBlue flight to California I figured if I book one more leg I’ll qualify for their 5,000 mile bonus that is awarded after 3 round trip flights flown in a year. So I was on the lookout for one more leg, and I sure found it. The flight from Daytona Beach to JFK in NY was only $29 bux….  sweet! But how do I get down there? … I remembered seeing a Hertz promo for one way rentals from certain airports down to Florida for only $9.99 per day. I checked the rate from Newark to Daytona Beach and the 3 day rental came out to some $62 bux with tax included. I thought that was a steal! I quickly booked it… but continued checking other permutations and before long ended up booking another much more favorable rate from LaGuardia airport to Daytona Beach airport for only $36 bux all inclusive, and this rental was for four days! Wow!

The Hertz LaGuardia experience was pretty shitty, I started writing details about it but figured it’s not worth the time… long story short I got a bad car. The black VW Bettle I picked up had a massive mechanical rattle coming out from the rear bumper and an even stronger hum which I suspect was a broken wheel bearing. I didn’t feel safe or sane enough to put up with it for 1,000+ miles, so I went to another Hertz in New Jersey to exchange it… three times! The fuckers at Paramus HLE refused to change cars for me saying they had nothing available, which was odd. The other fuckers at Hackensack HLE where I was sent to try my luck next explained to me that they were not going to make any money on me so they were not willing to just swap the cars out but were willing to give me another car if I paid more money to them. They suggested I try Newark Airport Hertz which I did, and where the manager reluctantly switched cars for me, and even more reluctantly put me in a similar upgrade that I started out with, which was a white VW Beetle… it didn’t have the noisy rattles or hum’s, but the wheel balance was off so the steering felt like a jack hammer especially at highway speeds. But whatever, they did what they could. I wasted some toll money and more importantly several hours of my time, and was now going to hit rush hour evening traffic at every major city along the Northeast corridor.

Luckily I took the longer way around to avoid all the Mid-Atlantic tolls, and Interstate 81 was good to me. No traffic, smooth sailing and I made it to my Shenandoah Motel around 9pm so I could start out bright and early the next morning. The first day was meant to be an easy drive of 400 miles. The next day it was about 700 more to my destination in Jacksonville. I timed the trip so that I didn’t spend any more money out of pocket for food. My plan was to hit a few TGI Friday restaurants along the way, order take-out and eat while i drive since I bought a deeply discounted TGI Fridays gift card on eBay. Similarly my fuel stops had to be at ExxonMobil, Sunoco or Speedway because I purchased discounted gift cards with those brands. And everything worked out super smoothly. Along the way I even managed to stop by Statesville, North Carolina to visit Long Road Racing again to check out the 2017 MX-5 Cup cars being built.

In Jacksonville I was to meet up with a fellow MX-5 owner from Miata.net someone who I’ve chatted with several times before and who has an identical car to mine: a 2007 Copper Red GT PRHT but apparently equipped with a TrunkMonkey which mine didn’t come with 😉 It was a pretty awesome meet-up, we sampled some delicious seafood together right near my shady motel… interestingly enough when I arrived to check in there were several cop cars there and a crime scene unit investigating a Jaguar XJ with a shot out rear window. While checking in I overheard the Sheriff telling the motel manager not to call 911 when he has issues instead he gave him a list of non-emergency phone numbers… “if you have someone selling drugs out of the rooms, call these detectives” and “if you have prostitution going on, call this vice unit…” Hmmm!

Finally, after an early wake up I was on my way to the ultimate destination in Daytona Beach (well technically to Port Orange where my fellow marshal friends that were hosting me for the night had moved to). I was in no particular rush and debated whether to continue along I95 for about an hour and a half or take the more scenic route along the Atlantic Coast and A1A… which is what I ended up doing. I picked up Florida A1A in St. Augustine and went as far as I could before a few detours around the Hurricane Matthew damage from two weeks ago. That was crazy. Never seen so much garbage on the side of the roads and standing water from water damage that the hurricane caused. In Flagler Beach the whole road got washed out. It was pretty insane, considering the area didn’t even experience the full brunt of the storm. They were very lucky though that the damage was what it was.

Once in Daytona I made the obligatory stop at the Speedway for a selfie and then we went out to  a nice restaurant near the beach for dinner. It was such a wonderful time. Before you know it, it was time to fly home. I dropped off my Beetle at the Hertz in Daytona Beach International Airport and was on my short two hour flight home. Ironically JetBlue calls the DAB – NYC flight #500 I guess it has something to do with the Speedway which I could clearly see out the airport window, along with several cars driving around the oval while waiting for my delayed plane.

Awesome trip,  I am especially looking forward to two more trips down to Miami Beach area… I really want to go for a swim at South Beach, which I love! The seas were way too rough in the Daytona!

Some pix from the trip:

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I started out with this “upgrade” a 36k mile VW Bug with Cali plates and a real bad rattle coming out from the rear bumper area, along with a strong wheel bearing hum which provided an interesting sound track of base and drums for the 70 miles I had this car for.

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I have to say it did look great, had very comfortable leather seats that wrapped around you and plenty of room for storage.

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But I couldn’t wait to swap it out for something else, and after two failed attempts at HLE’s in Bergen County, New Jersey I ended up with a white VW Bug from Hertz at Newark Liberty Airport.

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It was much… sooo much, better even though it had vices of it’s own, like the badly balanced tires which made the steering wheel feel like a jack-hammer at highway speeds.

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After wasting a good three hours trying to swap cars I hit the road.

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To make up time I only ordered stuff to-go and to save money I went with Friday’s since I bought their discounted gift card on ebay.

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I have to give props to the social media team at Long Road Racing in Statesville, NC I checked in on facebook saying “drive-by wave to the best MX-5 shop on the east coast” and they invited me to stop-by.

Got a nice t-shirt just for visiting… how nice?!

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I <3 Florida!

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The white bug got incredible gas mileage, at one point showing 36.7 mpg which is even better than my Miata on the trip I took in March.

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Someone suggested I must stop at the Florida Visitor Center to sample the free orange juice… I did!

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and tried the grapefruit juice too…

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Crime scene at my Motel in Jacksonville, Florida… looked like someone either shot at them or was hooting out of the car… hmm!

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Dinner in Jacksonville, just down the road from the Motel and while checking out a Copper Red MX-5 GT PRHT from a local club there.

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Bright and early the next morning I headed further south, this time along the Atlantic Coast and Florida’s A1A

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Hurricane Matthew damage along the coast from St. Augustine all the way down to Ormond Beach, Florida

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Notice those big mounds of sand from the beach, on the other side of the road… further down tractors were moving the sand back.

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Some areas looked like they got hit while others looked untouched.

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The damage wasn’t just along the beach but further inland too.

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Finally arrived at my destination and took some obligatory selfies.

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It was too cold and too rough to go in the water, but we went to the beach nonetheless… to survey more damage in Flagler Beach.

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And of course ran across a familiar car what is my Miata doing there?

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Dinner at Charlie Horse in Ormond Beach was delicious.

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And the next morning I was back at the airport for the flight home. Interesting that only JetBlue has a true flight out of the south providing an A320 jet service to New York, while the competition from Delta and American fly smaller MD-80’s and CRJ’s to points closer to the South and especially those with NASCAR interests 🙂

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I do love how you can see the Speedway so close… especially on take off. There were some cars on the oval doing laps, clearly visible.

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I <3 Florida! I can’t wait to move and live there.

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Prepping for a 3,000* mile Road Trip: New Jersey to the Gulf Coast of Florida

After two massive International MX-5 Miata Road Trips where my car sat in the driveway in New Jersey, covered in snow. I’m about to embark on my biggest Road Trip yet… actually driving the car. This trip will be about 3,000 miles down the Eastern Seaboard starting from Northern New Jersey just outside of NYC all the way down to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Destination St. Pete followed by Sebring.

Instead of taking the most direct route down, I plan to divert a little out of the way, for two reasons… both equally important to me:

  1. to avoid the pot holes and generally bad road conditions in the Northeast, including the Beltway around Washington DC
  2. to avoid all the tolls in the Northeast along i95 corridor, which based on my last trip to Northern Virginia were around $100! bux (round trip)

This post will also serve as a check list of sorts to help me prep for the trip. Considering how tiny the Miata is with luggage space I’ll really have to optimize the room I have to bring along all the necessities which include my camping gear for Sebring. It will likely take up the most space.

The easiest things to bring along is plastic! And as the photo above shows I did stock up on almost every possible fuel gift card/gas card available. I used eBay to buy discounted gift cards for brands I knew I would encounter along the way as well as those that I could finish using back home if I didn’t get use them up on the road. Frankly I hope I don’t use up all the value of the cards while travelling because theoretically there’s far more money than the amount of fuel I will need to purchase. (3,000 miles, 30 mpg, 300 miles on tank, 3 or 4 fill ups each way, plus about 2 tanks of local use, at $25 – $30 per fill up) The cards I chose are BP – my favorite option at home, also Shell, Sunoco, Exxon-Mobil and Speedway. In addition to the 5% discount eBay offered I used the discounted eBay gift cards to purchase these gas cards so the total discount was around 10%, which is much better than nothing. Additionally BP gives me 10 cents back per gallon for every $100 I spend on fuel to be used cumulatively for a one time fill of up to 20 gallons. And Shell has a new promotion where I’ll earn 25 cents off per gallon on one fill up of 8 gallons or more, purchase. Pretty significant savings even if the current price of fuel is relatively cheap.

One last comment on fuel. As a big endurance fan the ideal of fuel windows and conservation strategy is a big deal. The fuel window will really play an important role on my trip. Because I will be somewhat pressed for time to arrive in St. Petersburg, Florida before noon on Thursday, March 10, I have to make sure I don’t waste too much time looking for a gas station off the highway. The optimal solution would be to get fuel every 300 miles or so, since that’s what my highway fuel mileage should dictate. Of course it makes more sense to get fuel cheaply in Virginia than West Virginia or South Carolina vs. Georgia. So I’ll adjust the fuel strategy a little bit to make sure I get the minimal amount of stops with the most cost effective fuel options out there. Having some play with the choice of fuel from BP, Shell, Sunoco, Speedway or Exxon-Mobil should help with this strategy. I would like to try to avoid buying fuel from a no-brand name gas station. But we’ll see I guess.

Now to the check list. As mentioned earlier the tent and other camping gear will take up most of my free space. The trunk of the Miata is already full with the RX-8 spare which I’m hoping I will not have to use, but should something happen at least I’m prepared. I plan to take the bare minimum of clothes, maybe one backpack full, but I will bring a few pairs of shoes in case it rains in Florida which it most probably will. This way I’ll have something comfortable to change into. The one thing I normally take on my trips like to Upstate New York or New England, I plan not to bring at all: food. I will avoid taking more than what I need specifically for the drive down because I can easily stock up on food and water along the way or at the destination. I’m definitely not taking any gallon jugs of water or tea which I normally take, because it’s just dead weight.

Based on my calculations the optimal way to go will be via i78 into Pennsylvania where I’ll pick up i81 all the way down through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, then i77 from North Carolina into South Carolina where I will spend the night at a motel in Columbia after about 12 hours of driving. The final stint will be an easy 8 hour drive from South Carolina to Georgia via i26 and down i95 into Florida where I’ll probably take i20 just south of Jacksonville and i75 into the Tampa Bay area, depending on the local traffic at the time. If I leave early enough I just might make registration in time to be on track on the St. Pete GP street circuit to watch PWC GT cars practice. But IF I don’t, I will definitely arrive there in time to watch them practice as a spectator and maybe even take some pictures for the blog.

Concerns for the trip aren’t many other than worrying about any road debris hitting the car while driving. Stormy weather could be an issue especially up in the mountains. Pot holes of course. As well as parking safety when I leave the car overnight at the motel in SC or while at the events in Florida. But given that I don’t typically take out extra insurance coverage when I rent cars, I should be OKAY driving my personal car this distance. Should take it easy for the trip, avoid speeding and stick to driving during the day time so I can actually see the obstacles in front of me. Should be an awesome trip!

I am very excited!

Mazda MX-5: Hello Jamie! Pit Stop in New Jersey for a North Carolina Miata Traveling to Massachusetts

Imagine you’re driving your Miata from Raleigh, North Carolina to Schrewsbury, Massachusetts; wouldn’t it be nice to make a pit stop half way to relax, grab some food and chat about marshaling? Well, that’s exactly what Jamie did while on a road trip in his 2013 Miata.

I was glad to hear he was driving through my part of the state and offered to show him a little taste of Jersey. The restaurant of choice was “White Mana” in Hackensack where I work, home of the original slider (little burgers)… long before White Castle took the idea global. White Mana is a great place to eat, chat and watch how sliders are made right in front of you.

white mana hackensack new jersey burger sliders
white mana burger sliders are made fresh, never frozen, served on potato bun cooked to order right in front of you, with diner style seating around the chef

Jamie and I met up at Vince Lombardi Service Area on the NJ Turnpike which I figured would make an easy meeting spot right on i95 before heading to Hackensack. And even there you can’t escape the reach of Motorsports with the big NASCAR official fuel sponsor – Sunoco:

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one Miata
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two Miata

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from Vince Lombardi to White Mana was just a short drive down i80 and of course every opportunity was used to take more Miata pix:

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After we were full, Jamie’s car needed a top off so we passed three BP stations before we reached the most reasonably priced one just near the Garden State Parkway entrance to send Jamie off towards Tappan Zee Bridge and avoiding the big tolls and traffic of going through New York City.

jamie in transit nc3 mx-5 miata from nc to ma 6

jamie in transit nc3 mx-5 miata from nc to ma 7

Not too bad filling up for $2.65/gallon for 93 premium where most other places were from $2.89 to $3.05 including some of those other BP gas stations we passed to get here.

After showing Jamie the way towards New England I broke off down the Palisades Interstate Parkway towards the George Washington Bridge where I remembered the neat spot to take a few beauty shots of the Miata. It’s the place where Rob Ferreti shoots some of his SuperSpeeders YouTube videos and generally a nice place to be with a beautiful view of Manhattan. The little sun shower me and Jamie drove thru was obviously far more severe at the park because most of the parking lot was flooded, which yielded some nice pix:

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All in all it was an excellent day. Anytime you get a chance to meet a fellow Miata owner and also a fellow marshal is an awesome day. Jamie runs the Starter stand, and I had an opportunity to work for/with him at last year’s Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta. Now that he’s moving up to Massachusetts, the same town where Jessie lives, I’ll probably get an opportunity to learn Start/Finish job from him at some point in the future. And in my marshaling career that is the next position I would like to learn how to volunteer. So stay tuned…

Foodie Tour of New England, Lobster Rolls in Connecticut

It is summer time. There’s a new race track I would like to volunteer my services at. The road trip takes me along some beautiful coastline in Connecticut. Connecticut is famous for fresh seafood and specifically their Lobster Rolls (with butter (hot) or mayo (cold)). I love food. I love fresh seafood. I’m not in any particular rush to get to the track as I’m leaving the day before the event and am curious to find out for myself which place sells the best lobster roll. I am about to drop more money on lunch than I did on my flight to Atlanta for Petit Le Mans, and yet somehow I’m excited. It’s after midnight and the trip will take place in just a few hours after I get some sleep, but I think some last minute planning is in order to plot a few restaurants with the “best lobster roll” search results on Google. And if I don’t write it down I’ll never remember it, so here it goes…

My plan is to visit two or three lobster shacks along the CT shoreline to sample some of their famous fresh seafood. Connecticut is not terribly far from where I live, about an hour’s drive to Stamford with no traffic, and maybe two to three hours  further to the Rhode Island border. My plan is to stop at the first place around 11am, have brunch. Then take the scenic route to the next stop about half way down and the last stop closer to the highway that will take me north to Massachusetts by New London. That’s the plan anyway, and everything is subject to change pending local conditions, weather and a bunch of other variables.

The most valuable search results on the topic came from reading a few blogs including Foodie Fatale, which has the top 5 lobster roll places in CT listed in a 2010 post that was re-published in 2013 and is apparently still relevant judging by all the replies there:  http://foodiefatale.com/lobster-lust-top-5-lobster-rolls-on-the-connecticut-shoreline-revisited/ The other blog on the same subject is Lobster Gal, who is on a quest to sample every lobster roll in New England, and beyond according to the blog title:  http://lobstergal.com/to-visit-list/connecticut/ that’s my kind of gal! And finally CTbites blog has the best warm lobster rolls in Fairfield County listed, which I’ll use again not so much for it’s material in the post but for all the replies people left in the comments section: http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/6/2/the-best-warm-lobster-rolls-on-the-connecticut-coast.html 

So out of all the recommendations I shall pick the following stops based on their location from West to East along the i95 corridor from New York to Rhode Island:

First Stop:

High Tide Gourmet Food Truck (Foxon Road (Route 80) at the East Haven and North Branford Townline, CT)  http://hightidegourmet.com/

or

Seven Seas (16 New Haven Ave, Milford, CT 06460)  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Seven-Seas-Restaurant-Pub/321580913828

Middle Stop:

Lobster Shack (7 Indian Neck Ave, Branford, CT 06405) http://lobstershackct.com/

or

Lobster Landing (152 Commerce St, Clinton, CT 06413)  https://www.facebook.com/LobsterLandingLLC

Final Stop:

Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock (80 Hamilton St, New London, CT 06320) http://www.captscotts.com/

My goal is to try at least one hot lobster roll and one cold lobster roll. Seafood is pretty light so I don’t anticipate to get too full on the first stop, although judging on how most places add fries and coleslaw to either prop up a meal or justify the $18 price tag, I’m not sure… I don’t like wasting food. At some point I also want to get some New England Clam Chowder. But I may save that for dinner up in Massachusetts as most places tend to run out of lobster meat early on in the day based on the reviews I’ve been reading.

Very excited about this trip and will report back soon, hopefully with some pictures to go with the story… for now enjoy this Red Lobster branded race car… because Race Car!