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NASA Texas CMC/AI Season Opener Recap/Write up

Adam Ginsberg

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March 14, 2004


NASA TEXAS AI/CMC Season Opener Proved to be a Fierce One!!!


The weekend of March 6 & 7 proved to be the American Iron & Camaro-Mustang Challenge season debut event of the 2004 NASA Texas region. AI & CMC cars converged on the 1.7 mile road course called Motorsport Ranch just outside the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. In addition to the racing action, many AI/CMC followers, future racers and corner-carvers also dropped by to check out the AI/CMC series.



+ 4 AI/CMC sprint races toward championship points (20-30 minutes each)

+ 1 practice session and 2 qualifying sessions (15-20 minutes each)

+ 7 total race group sessions and well over 2 hours of track time!

+ 9 American Iron cars.

+ 3 CMC cars.

+ 2 Rookies in AI and 2 Rookies in CMC.

+ 3 Camaros

+ 9 Mustangs

+ 3 Pole Position qualifiers – John George 2X (AI)…Todd Covini Race #1 (CMC)…Eric Varner Race #2 (CMC)

+ 3 winners for the weekend - Richard Dickey 4x (AI)...Todd Covini 2x (CMC)…Eric Varner 2x (CMC)

+ 2 engine failures, 2 tire failures, 2 brake failures, 1 belt failure, 1 suspension failure, 1 alternator failure, 1 wheel bearing failure and more bolts came loose on various cars than could be counted!

+ Consistent lap times were in the mid- 1:24s for AI and mid 1:27s for CMC with John George and Todd Covini being the cars to beat in their respective classes.

+ Racing incidents unfortunately became the primary issues of the weekend.


FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE brought most of the AI/CMC field to the Kwik Kar dyno facility in Richardson, Texas. As racers themselves, Kwik Kar provided excellent services at a great group discount…and they had plenty of parking for all of our trucks/trailers! From 9 AM to 3 PM, annual tech inspections including dyno pulls were completed on most of the series cars for the 2004 Texas racing season. This also provided a good opportunity for everyone to see what their competition's HP/TQ numbers were going to be. At the top of the AI Horsepower list was John George’s 5.0 Resto Mustang coming in at ~345HP / 345TQ…At the top of the AI Torque list, was Richard Dickey’s Camaro which pulled ~260HP/360TQ. Ginsberg and Covini confirmed that their CMC cars were just under the prescribed 230/300 CMC spec limits. The caravan of racers and opentrackers then battled the Dallas/Ft. Worth traffic and headed over to Motorsport Ranch. Unfortunately, our usual Friday nite “Happy-Hour-and-a-Half†testing was not available for this event due to the fact that Mazda had the entire track and facilities rented for their factory racing and marketing efforts. As such, the group unloaded their cars, reserved spaces for our other AI/CMC racers and headed out for a group dinner at the beautiful “Montana†restaurant located just behind the weekend’s AI/CMC host hotel.


SATURDAY MORNING'S PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING SESSIONS brought some of the best weather conditions we would see all weekend. Wayne Manor and John George freight-trained around the track at lap times faster than last year’s AI track record of 1:25:50 which was set by Richard Pedersen. (It was obvious the AI and CMC records would fall this weekend during these ideal track conditions.) While “freight-training†during the practice session, the Mustangs of Manor and George took a high-speed excursion off-track one after the other on fresh Toyos which brought them into the pits to survey for front splitter and undercarriage damage. John George ended up qualifying with the AI Pole position with a 1:24:01…and Manor, Bell, Dickey and Pedersen all within 9/10ths of a second of him in the 1:24 lap time range! Kevin Mixon and Mike Patterson fought engine and suspension troubles respectively and qualified behind the AI front runners. Todd Covini’s Mobil 1 Mustang took the CMC pole position with a 1:27:27 (better than the CMC track record of 1:28:07 which he set last year). Adam Ginsberg continued to sort his car out and attempt to locate an intermittent ignition problem while Eric Varner, in contrast to last year, enjoyed a trouble free race car and worked on his driving lines. This was going to be an exciting race!


SATURDAY"S RACE #1 was again scheduled to be one of NASA Texas' first standing start races, a tradition that East/West Coast AI/CMC racers, as well as FIA and World Challenge racers historically enjoy! American Iron racers represented approximately half of the 22 cars in this Group 6 race. Other series cars running with us were the Vette/Viper Challenge, Factory Five Cobra Racers, Honda Challenge and the Super Unlimited cars. Becky Laughlin’s Super Unlimited Porsche 911 Turbo was on the group’s pole position opposite the American Iron Mustang of John George for the drag race start to Turn 1 and the entrance to “Rattlesnakeâ€. The cars were gridded on the start line in staggered order, however, some miscommunication between the officials and the racers, extended the grid time and more importantly the grid spacing. At the back of the field, officials indicated all was set and they exited the track. Due to the extended grid time, Becky Laughlin’s 911 began to roll forward a bit. Unsure of when the green flag would drop, she quickly put her Porsche in reverse to get back in position and at exactly that time, without warning, the green flag caught everyone by surprise, but no-one more so than Becky Laughlin! As the V8's launched and roared toward Turn 1 (rattlesnake) with tires squealing & smoking (a real crowd pleaser) the pole position purple Porsche crept backwards! Excellent driving on everyone’s part to avoid contact in this situation. The AI racers battled nose to tail for most of the race. Richard Pedersen swung wide on cold tires in the horseshoe causing John George to check up before getting back on the gas. Consequently, Todd Covini got into the back of John George with a “love tapâ€. No positions were lost and no damage was incurred. Local racer Richard Dickey and his AI Camaro took a large lead and eventually the checkered flag. Wayne Manor was forced to pull off after 4 laps due to a failed alternator. Kevin Mixon was firing on 7 cylinders and pulled it in after 6 laps. Adam Ginsberg’s ignition troubles returned and forced him to park the Mustang after 8 laps. AI Mustangs of Mike Bell & Richard Pedersen swapped positions a number of times and Pedersen was finally able to take home 2nd place and Bell 3rd place. Mike Patterson’s Camaro fought suspension woes the entire race. He later found damaged/missing swaybar endlinks but the result for the ill-handling Camaro was a blistered new set of front Toyos (taking him out of race #2). Patterson finished 4th. John George managed to finish 5th after going off track midway thru the race during one of the four hard fought battles in the front of the pack with Richard Dickey. Todd Covini took the CMC win finishing 8th overall with Eric Varner and Adam Ginsberg taking a close 2nd and 3rd respectively in CMC.


SATURDAY RACE #2 gridded the AI/CMC cars in the finishing order from Race #1. This race would start after only 20 minutes of the Race #1 finish!!! It was the final event of the day with the race starting at almost 5 PM. For many reasons, only 16 cars came to the starting line grid showing high attrition from Race #1. With a planned rolling start, the AI/CMC grid in order was now Dickey, Pedersen, Bell, Covini, Patterson, Varner, George and Ginsberg. After the green flag dropped, John George was back up in the front pack before the end of the first lap. Again, Richard Dickey was able to hold off the field, take the win and cut the fastest AI race lap of the day with a 1:24:617. The cooler days end weather was really helping as Todd Covini set the fastest CMC time of the weekend and a new CMC track record with a 1:26:609. Not good enough for a CMC win however. Eric Varner drove a flawless race and was able to capitalize on a Covini spin in rattlesnake and take the win. Adam Ginsberg previously replaced his distributor resolving his ignition problems, however, in Race #2 had a brake caliper hang up and overheat his driver side rotor. Ginsberg finished 3rd in CMC behind Covini’s 2nd place. In AI, it was Richard Pedersen’s flawless, consistent driving which took him to another 2nd place. With Mike Bell and John George finishing 3rd and 4th.


SATURDAY NIGHT DINNER for 20 enabled most of the AI and CMC racers to recount the day’s activities and share a few margaritas together. Veteran open trackers/corner-carvers Lewis Tanner, Joe Johnson, Chad White and other family & friends joined the group for dinner. This item gets a highlight because we’re not sure if it was the dinner, the margaritas or all the racing conversation that enticed Joe Johnson to enter Sunday’s racing action in his beautiful 2000 Mustang Cobra R factory racer!


continued on part II

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SUNDAY MORNING QUALIFYING brought out a number of the competition license students and newcomers onto the grid which again comprised of ~22 cars. Bobby Archer arrived with a competition Viper among hopes and rumors that the new Lou Gigliotti World Challenge Vettes coming to NASA Texas. Unfortunately, the Vette/Viper Challenge only consisted of Bobby Archer who qualified 5 seconds faster than John George’s AI Mustang which set the pole position with a 1:23:80. John George was coming back with a fury after 2 disappointing finishes on Saturday. He was now the first AI car in the 1:23’s at MSR and his closest qualifier was Richard Dickey who was almost 2 seconds slower (but consistent with Saturday’s lap times!) Eric Varner qualified for the CMC pole position as Todd Covini and Adam Ginsberg played lead/follow during qualifying in order to bring Ginsberg’s lap times down and experience level up. Ginsberg dropped 2 seconds from Saturday’s times…and would stand to be quicker still before the end of the day.


SUNDAY'S RACE (#3) gridded George, Dickey, Pedersen, Bell, Varner, Ginsberg and Covini in that order. David Donovan introduced his complete AI Mustang into competition in his quest to obtain his competition license. Joe Johnson, intrigued by the racing action (as previously mentioned), also entered his Cobra R. Both would start at the back of the pack and without timing transponders. Due to the high number of competition license candidates on the grid for Sunday (and Saturday’s exciting standing start) rolling starts were decided to be the green flag convention for the remainder of the weekend. John George was opposite Bobby Archer on the warm-up lap. Archer slowed the group to a 1st gear crawl before rolling to the green flag. The AI freight train of George, Dickey, Pedersen and Bell battled into every turn as the Archer Viper pulled away. Due to the slow rolling start, Todd Covini’s CMC Mustang was able to pull past many of the faster qualifying lower HP cars on the inside before “Big Bend†and get a great start. Mike Patterson, who started from the back due to missing qualification, was able to do the same. Adam Ginsberg was blocked on the outside and didn’t enjoy the same advantage of moving up in the field on the first lap. As Richard Dickey and Mike Bell battled for 2nd place, John George started to pull away from the field and was appearing to be on his way to his first and well deserved win of the weekend. With only a few laps left in the race, Bobby Archer approached John George to lap the field at the exit of “Rattlesnakeâ€. The two cars allegedly made contact at the apex sending John George off track and handing over his lead to the battle between Richard Dickey and Mike Bell. In the end, Dickey was handed his 3rd win of the weekend with Bell, George, Pedersen, Patterson, Johnson and Donovan in that finishing order behind. The CMC battle between Varner and Covini heated up with many exchanges for first place. Eric Varner’s Mustang closed the lap time gap and provided side by side racing until Covini’s Mustang developed a severe vibration which ended up being a worn out hub/wheel bearing. At the checkered flag it was Varner, Covini and Ginsberg in CMC Finishing order.


SUNDAY'S RACE (#4) was gridded for a rolling start based upon finishing order of the previous Race #3. Again, this would give those that were battling for position another chance. Despite his frustration in Race #3, John George vowed to take the “high road†and only race his competitors hard, leaving the Vette/Viper Challenge driver(s) to their own race. Again, Bobby Archer slowed the field to a slow 2nd gear roll before taking the green flag. Richard Dickey and John George were glued to each other going into Turn 1. CMC’s Varner and Covini were also running neck and neck. In the initial laps, John George got into rear of Richard Dickey as they battled fiercely. On Lap 8, Mike Bell threw a serpentine belt after cutting his fastest time of the weekend of a 1:23:900. Meanwhile, John George and Richard Dickey swapped positions (and paint) while cutting their fastest times of the weekend. Talk about close…Dickey’s FTD was a 1:23:752 compared to George’s FTD of 1:23:704…a difference of .048 seconds! Unfortunately, the ultra close racing led to body damage when they came up on Becky Laughlin’s 911 who was at half speed. George’s 5.0 Resto Mustang took the Porsche wave by but Dickey’s Camaro did not see the motion, assumed she was at race-pace and subsequently clipped the right rear quarter of the purple Porsche. Dickey and George continued the battle for first place with George in the lead. Again the two got together at the exit of Big Bend, this time turning George sideways. Dickey’s Camaro contacted the Mustangs drivers door and drove on through for the win leaving John George with 2nd place and Richard Pedersen finishing 3rd. In CMC, Eric Varner and Todd Covini had almost as close a race with Varner’s FTD of 1:26:667 and Covini’s FTD of 1:26:609…a difference of .058 seconds! In the end it was Covini’s Mustang with the win and Varner finishing 2nd and Ginsberg 3rd. As for Mr. Ginsberg and the lead/follow instruction on Sunday morning…I’m happy to report Adam Ginsberg’s Mustang turned a FTD of 1:29:80...the learning curve isn’t so steep anymore! Look for Adam to take his first win very soon.


PROBATIONS: While racing incidents can occur beyond anyone’s control, body contact of any kind is highly discouraged in American Iron Racing. Overaggressive driving will not be tolerated. As a result of this weekend’s incidents and contacts the following drivers will be on probation as follows: Richard Dickey- 3 races; John George- 2 races; Todd Covini- 1 race. On track body contact of any kind with any other car within the probation period will result in penalties up to and including suspension from the series. All racers are encouraged to read NASA GCR Appendix Section 26.


In summary, most everyone involved had a blast at this NASA Texas event. Each and every AI/CMC racer experienced hardship in one way or another during the weekend, but that's racing! For every AI/CMC racecar that participated in this event, there is an equal # of cars being built. Many of those folks were on hand this weekend for a preview. The series is growing in Texas!!!



1:23:704 John George (AI) 3/7/04

1:26:609 Todd Covini (CMC) 3/6/04

* Track records only recorded from races in race trim.


HARD LUCK AWARD goes to Wayne Manor for starting another year of motorsports with engine troubles. Even after fixing his front splitter and replacing an alternator, Wayne’s woes didn’t quit until his engine did. Hurry back, Wayne!


PROFESSIONAL RACE PHOTOS were taken by Hart Photography throughout the weekend. As a participant of the event, if you would like to view your car photos on line, send an email to [email protected] with your car make, #, run group and the event date. Blair Hart will only post the cars that are requested of him. To view yours and the other race photos, go to http://www.hart-photography.com/mtrsport.html. During lunch on Sunday, most (we missed your car Wayne!) of the AI/CMC cars did a car & driver photo shoot on the track entrance road. Should be interesting to see...and should hopefully be posted by week's end!!!





1 400 Dickey (AI)

2 345 Pedersen (AI)

3 340 Bell (AI)

4 338 George (AI)

5 155 Patterson (AI)

6 70 Johnson (AI)

7 70 Mixon (AI)

8 69 Donovan (AI)

9 35 Manor (AI)

10 0 White (AI)

11 0 King (AI)


*** AI points per NASA GCR rule 22.1 and AI rule 10

100 for 1st...90 for 2nd...85 for 3rd, etc.

4 points for qualifying Pole position




1 395 Varner (CMC)

2 395 Covini (CMC)

3 380 Ginsberg (CMC)

4 0 Zazzarino (CMC)

5 0 Bishop (CMC)


***CMC points per CMC rule 9

100 for 1st...97 for 2nd...95 for 3rd, etc.

1 point for qualifying Pole position



For more information, the following websites should be able to answer any

of your licensing/rules/racing questions:







Round 2 of NASA Texas AI/CMC racing will be on April 3rd & 4th at TWS. Register now!


If you still have questions, feel free to contact myself or Adam Ginsberg at any time!



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