A Shuffle at the Top – Designer Night at the Races™ #49

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Designer Night at the Races™ #49 is a return to form as perennial front runner General Motors sweeps both the Lacks Enterprises Individual Races and the Plastic Plate Team Enduro.  But while they moved up the standings, all the way from last to 2nd, the name at the top of the table was the original winner of the first event in 2006, Ford!

IMG_5886Since 2006, the staff behind Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, LLC (AACS) has organized Designer Night at the Races™ for the automotive design industry.  16 design staff attended the first event at Dromo 1 in Orange California (sadly now closed) and the second event at Kart2Kart started an annual tradition of Competition and Camaraderie that has grown to include local Charities.  The poster above celebrates that history, and we are so thankful for the awesome work by Sarah Bajek, Steve Clifford, Chris Horning, Shannon McKeon, Brook Banham, Judith Banham and Joe Pepitone.  This is probably also a great time to send a shout out to Brian Fioritto,  a former Ford Design Staff employee who helped create the idea over a few drinks way back in 2006.  If you have enjoyed a lap or two at one of our events over the years, he is a key reason the events exist.


For the evening’s event, the 49th since the first in 2006, more than 40 design staff, sponsors and guests slugged it out through qualifying to determine the running order for the heat races.


And while the bumping was kept to a minimum, smiling faces were everywhere, from the fastest to those who were not so fast.

IMG_9225Almost every driver was fastest in the race than there were in qualifying, with Seunghee Oh of Ford managing a huge 3.216 second improvement to take the title as most improved driver over the course of the evening.



Before the traditional trophies were presented, Frank Schwartz of AACS recognized several participants for their support over the course of the last 9 years.  The “Team Captains” from every OE; Matthew Braun/Rivian, Micah Jones/GM, Adam Hubers/FCA and Chris Nichols/Ford, were called out and thanked for their efforts to communicate the event within their organizations.  Through their efforts the group donated over $300 to the Mercy Health Cancer Center.


If I may related a small story….. I always wanted to be a car designer since I came from a small town in Germany.  As I was a teenager, I idolized the artwork in magazines created by Mark Stehrenberger.   As I grew older I realized that I did not have the talent to be a designer, but instead pursued a career in engineering.  A few years ago I was in LA for the show and met Mark – turns out he is from Switzerland, less than 30 miles from where I lived, and was there at the same time I was.  Mark was kind enough to provide a few of his new books in celebration of our 50th event, and I was only too happy to pass them along to a few people who have helped grow this event.  If you are interested, you can buy the limited edition book here (there are only 250 copies).


The first race of the evening was the D-Main for racers who qualified over 28.361 second laps.  Natalie Keys of Lacks Trim Systems was on the pole but got caught up in the opening lap drama and dropped all the way back to 6th before working her way back to 4th.  Ron Copeland of AACS jumped from 5th on the grid to 3rd on the first lap, which is a position he held until the end.  Aditya Narayan of Ford moved quickly from his 2nd place qualifying position to the lead only to be caught and passed by race winner Chris Stevens, also of Ford who started 4th, then picked off the other drivers one-by-one.49D


Chris Stevens of Ford sits atop the D-Main Podium

The C-Main grid was tightly packed as the pole sitter was barely half a second faster than the 10th place qualifier.  Pole sitter Sean Coleman of Ford was passed by teammate Josh Henry on the second lap.  Josh went on to win the race by the largest margin of the evening, finishing almost 3 seconds in front of 2nd place.  Eric Spector started 5th and passed the drivers in front of him lap by lap until he ended up 2nd.  Jeff Chiu of Plastic Plate started 3rd, dropped to 4th and then moved back in to 3rd on the 6th lap to round out the podium.49C


C-Main Winner Josh Henry posing with Michelle and Erin of AACS

The B-Main race was the least eventful race of the evening as though Casey Swasenger of GM managed a pole to checkered flag domination of the race.  None of the other top 6 drivers finished in the same spot they started, but almost all of the changes happened on the opening lap.  Tome Jovanowski of FCA started 3rd and moved quickly up one position to finish 2nd.  It took Vlad Kapitanov of GM a few laps to prevail, but he eventually passed Chris Nichols of Ford on the 5th lap to finish 3rd.  Fastest lap of the race was Nicho Vardis of FCA who ran a 27.093 as he moved from 6th to 4th, just missing the podium.49B


B-Main Winner Casey Swasenger of GM

Normally the A-Main race is a snooze fest as the fastest drivers qualify well but generally run the same laps times in the race as they qualify.  This race was different.  Hot shoe Micah Jones of GM has won more A-Main races in the history of Designer Night at the Races™ than anyone else, but a poor qualifying lap pinned him back in 4th.  At the start Artur Sakarian of Ford kept the lead from pole as Graham Henckle of FCA passed Frank Schwartz of AACS for 2nd.  Micah set fast lap after fast lap as he passed Frank for 3rd early in the race, chased Graham down and passed him for 2nd on the 5th lap and eventually caught and passed Artur for the lead on the 11th lap.   Eventually Micah set the fast lap of the evening at 26.584.49A


A-Main Winner and Fastest Designer of the Night, Micah Jones of GM

For the Plastic Plate Enduro, the drivers were split into roughly equal teams of 4 to battle it out over a 45 minute Enduro, complete with pit stops and driver changes.  Karts and starting positions were randomly set and the racers got to decide among themselves when they would change positions.  The team from Rivian started 3rd and went into the lead on the first couple of corners.  They held that position until the 20th lap when they pitted and came out in 3rd.  Chrysler #3 then took over the lead until they got stopped 2 laps later.  Ford #1 took over the lead and help it until lap 37 when Rivian took over again.  GM #1 made the pass for the lead on lap 62 and held it until the end.  Chrysler #3 finished second, 15 seconds behind followed by Chrysler #2, who barely edged the Rivian team.49T


3rd Place Plastic Plate Team Enduro – Chrysler #2, Glenn Joseph, Natalie Keys, Adam Hubers, and Ralph Gilles (l to r)


2nd Place Plastic Place Team Enduro – Chrysler #3 Taylor Lanhals, Deyan Ninov, Adam Vincens, and Brian Vinson (l to r)


Plastic Plate Team Enduro Winners GM #1 – Oliver Aheimer, Micah Jones, Dillon Blanski, and Brandon Lynum (l to r)

Plastic Plate Inc. has been a sponsor of the Team Enduro since last year, and their Team Winner T-shirts are proudly worn by an exclusive club – less than a dozen racers have them.  Plastic Plate produces high quality interior trim  that feature “decorative finishes (which) optimize the look and feel of any vehicle with a “cool to the touch” quality traditionally available only with real metal.”


So at the end of the evening, Ford moves to the top of the Points Table thanks to their awesome support of the event in sending the largest number of designers.  GM moves into second thanks to winning both the Lacks Enterprises A-Main and Plastic Plate Team Enduro.  FCA moves into 3rd, Nissan drops to a tie for 4th with Rivian and Toyota Calty drops to 6th.


Thanks again to the many who fought traffic and came out to the event.  If you would like to support the Mercy Health Cancer Center, we would be very thankful – you can donate here  https://www.doranfoundation.org/DesignerNightAtTheRaces 


There are many other event pictures beside the few we have posted here.  Head over to this link to see the rest and come back tomorrow for the report on Event #50 at Kart2Kart in Sterling Heights.



About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of CarFriend.me and Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, partner in The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment and serial entrepeneur. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank started reading car magazines at the age of 8 and has spent 30+ years working inside the automotive industry. In his spare time Frank races with the Sports Car Club of America, spends time working on his numerous project cars and supports many local charities.
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