California: Last Track Day of the Year

Lets face it, the year 2020 for the most part has been terrible. Almost went into World War 3, Kobe passed away, economy tanked, and the Corona Virus pandemic seem to continue on with no relief in site. New laws, and social distancing, it feels like we are living in a dystopian universe. When will things go back to normal?

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Im honestly not sure when things will go back normal, where we don’t need to wear masks, venues and resturants can be at 100% capacity, or international travel will open up. But we can adapt to the situation and make the most of it. I didn’t let the 2020 hardships get to me, I still had some goals I wanted to attain, and just pushed forward. Made some sacrifices to focus on my goals for this year.

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Having recently attained my competition license, and with NASA season over this year. I was invited to track with Dog House Garage at Buttonwillow. The original plan was to track there with other drivers from Houston, Tx. Unfortunately everyone back out, but that didn’t stop me. I was going regardless, because I do it for the experience and memories. I want to improve my driver resume, and one day get paid to race.

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My friend Mike, this year, quit his job at Tesla to focus on his detailing business full time. I give him major props, fully committed with the current economy, were things are uncertain. Then recently, he bought an enclosed trailer for business to transport cars. Naturally I hit him up to transport my AE86 to California and back.

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My other friend Kevin tagged along for the journey. I was thinking of flying, but I didnt want to leave the homies. Next time, I am booking a flight, because the drive to California and back is just brutal. Nothing but endless roads, and Texas is just soo big to cross through.

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We left Wednesday morning, and about 3 hrs into the trip we heard a thud in the back of the trailer while stopping for gas. We checked on the AE86, and find out it came loose from the straps and the front bumper was damage. Mike felt very bad, but I wasn’t mad because at least it was the bumper and nothing else got damage. Bumpers are replaceable, and I can still drive with no bumper.

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I posted online to see if we can maybe get a bumper on the way to California. Well, my friend Thaison was only an hour away from the gas station, and let my borrow his mint JDM front bumper. Before, the bumpers where cheap, and now people are asking 1k plus for them. I was very thankful Thaison trusted me to use his bumper. I have to look good for the photos, rep Texas, and Natsukashi Garage.

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We then continued to head to California, and making a stop at Las Cruses, NM. We arrived at midnight, and was 30F outside. Tired, and cold but the Airbnb RV we stayed kept us warm, and slept for 5 hrs before heading back on the road.

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Day 2, we drove another 12hrs and made it to California! Averaged 6-8mpg, thankfully gas right now is about $2.50 per gallon average. The Airbnb we had didn’t have enough room to park the truck and trailer in the driveway. But thankfully, we had enough space to park in the street. The next day, we headed to Buttonwillow for the Dog House Garage event.

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First time at Buttonwillow, but I did watch some youtube videos so at least I know where Im going around the track. Not look like a total noob. A lot nice cars came out for the Dog House Garage track event. These are cars, with expensive parts but the drivers are still tracking them. Thats what I like about the track scene in California. People are actually tracking cars that are track modified for that purpose. In Texas, you see a lot of track inspired builds but most are hard parked. I get that side because you don’t want to ruin it by some off excursion at the track. But tracking a car is more legit to me, and more fun then just flexing in a parking lot.

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I met a lot great people at Dog House and the organizers were welcoming. It was a HPDE event but had a Time Attack style to it. Some of the drivers compete in time attack and out fine tuning their cars. The track has a mix of tight 2nd gear corners to blind elevation changes, to long straights with fast sweepers. The run off here is very forgiving, but you throw a lot of dust if you do go off.

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I managed a 2:14.6 at Buttonwillow. Its not the slowest, but not the fastest either. First time out and I was pleased with that time. I was 2 seconds faster then a Type R, but then again the local drivers hit sub 2 mins in their Type R too haha. I have a lot to improve as a driver, but also shows driver mod is the best mod to get faster.

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Dog House Garage provided food for the drivers, and had a raffle after lunch with nice swag give aways. Im talking, ST suspension, Sparco bags, Personal wheel, gift vouchers. This is something I need to do for the Driven and Blessed driving events back home.

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Shout out to Thaison for letting me borrow his rare expensive JDM bumper. I could have tracked with no bumper but, I wouldn’t get cool shots like this.

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After the Dog House Garage event, we dropped off the trailer and headed back into LA because the guys at VIS racing had an available bumper for my AE86. We met at 10pm at a restaurant parking lot to pick up the bumper. They knew I had a track event that day, and saved the last bumper for me. Super cool dudes, and now I have my own bumper!

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The next day I headed down to Streets of Willow for the Topak Racing Event. This was just coincidence. Jomar is one of the organizers for Topak Racing, and saw I was in California. He messaged me about the Streets of Willow event, and of course I’m always down for track days. Last time I was with Topak Racing was 3 yrs ago in the M3. It was good to be back.

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Streets of Willow is a track suited for the lower HP cars, and abrasive to the tires. I rotated the tires after my 2nd session to even out the wear better. They tend to wear faster on the driver side then in the passenger side. The flowing corners and harsh runs off is similar style to touge canyon runs in the mountains. Very Initial D like.

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The Topak Racing track event seemed to bring out the old school Toyotas and cars out. Most of them where OG corolla guys before facebook or instagram.

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This has the original CYB fenders, with a JDM 3sge head on a Camry bottom end.

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I believe the owner said it was making about 200whp on low boost. Awesome looking car.

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This track seems to give the FWD cars home advantage. I was in an intense battle with the Hondas. Its open passing in my run group, and they did pass me. I talked to drivers to find out their times today was in the sub 1 min and 30 second range.

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Unfortunately couldn’t beat that time. My predictive lap timing was showing I was -0.35 second faster but I went off course on the bowl. Ended scuffing up Thaison rare bumper.

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I felt super bad and pretty much the same way Mike felt when my bumper got smashed. Thankfully it was just scuffs on the bumper and few bent metal tabs for the lip. Still bummed, and that what happens when you keep going for the limit.

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After that off excursion I dialed it back and was more careful. I didn’t put my bumper on from VIS racing because I didn’t have the mounting tabs for it haha. I managed a 1:34.3 as my fastest time. Only 1.8 seconds slower in the M3 when I was out here 3 yrs ago.

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Since I knew I couldn’t get into the sub 30 second range, I said to myself, might as well look good for the gram. So I just drifted to last corner on the last session. If I had more time, I think I could have broke the sub 30 mark. Another reason to come back.

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As the day came to an end, I bumped into Sung Kang! He was actually at the event driving!! He came by to say hi and complimented the 86! Nice guy and signed my friend’s trailer! I was sooo star stuck, and glad I went on this trip. I hope next year, I’ll get some wins from racing, and maybe bag some sponsors. Then maybe instruct for other organizations too. 2020 is a year to remember.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Photo Credit: Kevin, and Cali Photography.

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