GM Takes the Lead: Designer Night at the Races #60

Editor’s note – Thanks to Eve Pickman for writing up this week of activities.  It was nice to actually spend time with everyone instead of spending my evening writing notes.

Karting at Kart2Kart – The second evening of the Spring 2017 Designer Night at the Races™ series found the group at Kart2Kart, located in Sterling Heights Michigan. Gasoline powered karts, a larger track, with longer straights and trickier corner combinations brought out some new faces, repeat offenders and more female participants. “It’s a blast!” exclaimed Jamie from Autodesk. “The joy of the speed and being so close to the ground…The older I get, the more I love it.”


In addition to a challenging course, the Sterling Heights karting venue offered a unique fund raising opportunity.  Kart2Kart graciously offered up blank trackside walls to illustrate, with Frank and his team at AACS donating $10 for every drawing posted. What a great way to show off your skills on and off the track — all part of the Designer Night at the Races motto of competition, camaraderie and charity.


IMG_1236This year’s sponsors — ABC Group, Autodesk and Lacks Enterprises helped make our three-day race series the best to date.

IMG_0269Between raffle tickets, donations and other thoughtful contributions, over $900 was raised on Tuesday night to benefit Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, in support of Pediatric Oncology Research. That was a new one day record for the event, breaking the record set the night before.  Thank you to all the generous people who joined the fight against childhood cancers. Image result for children's hospital michigan oncology

If you want to make a donation and did not have a chance to make it at the event, please click on this link and put ” Designer Night at the Races supporting Pediatric Cancer Research” in the “tell Us Your Story” box.


From the start, the racing at Kart2Kart was a different caliber. A lucky helmet signed by the 24 Hours of Le Mans Ford GT race team made appearance, as did Viper team wear and Corvette logo apparel.  As one participant observed, watch the competition warm up their tires on track…” There are those who warm up — and the rest of us.” One thing is for sure, while many of these drivers may have gone to school together and even work together, on track, the rules are different.


IMG_0989Lasting only 14 laps, the C Main race saw competitors trying to run three wide past the viewing area, some close contact and rubbing and a few spins coming out of Turn 4 and 5.  Dylan of GM took home the top honors as Rick from AACS grabbed the second spot on the podium, finishing 3.046 seconds behind the race leader; while Brydon of event sponsor ABC Group filled out the podium.


IMG_0994In the B Main race, Tyler of Nissan crossed the finish line first, in a race that saw all but one car get 15 laps in. The field was widely spaced, which helped when an unnamed driver spun coming out of turn 4, no yellow flag was thrown to slow the on-track action. The second-place finisher, Harry of GM completing his race 5.978 seconds after the B Main winner. Brock of FCA came in third, almost 12 second off the winning pace, and completing another race with 3 different manufacturers on the podium.


IMG_0998Knowing where to pass and when to push was what separated the top three finishers in the A Main race. Leading from the start, Eric of FCA, with his helmet-mounted GoPro laid down laps like a man in a hurry to get to a soccer game (or two.) Tony of FCA was 2.845 seconds off the winner, third place finisher Casey of GM took the third spot on the podium. All but two drivers in the A Main group got 16 laps in, the speed and skill level increased exponentially with every group. 


IMG_1002Event partner Plastic Plate Inc, always makes sure we add team enduro racing to the night’s activities, what some may consider the pinnacle of the evening, where innovation and strategy really came into play.   Randomly chosen, Ford had enough people to run three teams, GM and FCA each fielded two teams, Nissan, one. Some teams had very clearly defined strategies — run the two fastest drivers first and last; other teams went in height order for the fewest number of seat adjustments, while other teams used their spotters to their advantage. GM 2 followed the Doug Fehan philosophy of “don’t wreck the car;” others short stinted their slower team members and gave their fastest drivers more seat time.


IMG_0305In a heated battle, FCA 2 dropped to third place when their second leg driver spun coming out of Turn 5. Ford 3 lost momentum when a driver swap did not go as planned, FCA 1 repeated the same mistake moments later. Waiting for the next driver to be on board cost both teams valuable time; neither was able to capture a podium spot.

IMG_0348In the end, GM 2 was victorious, with FCA 2 finishing one lap down, followed closely by Ford 1.


IMG_0256In a group that included a Corvette, a Camaro, a Jaguar Type-R, Mini S, WRX, Audi S3, a Honda S2000 and a whale of a 1971 Chrysler New Yorker, the top car show honors went to a crisp white Nissan Z. The secret judge credited the eye-catching red accents for the win.


Paul of Ford was  the winner of the raffle drawing for the half day Second Gear Safety Class from the Bridgestone Winter Driving School. We wish him deep snow and much fun on his trip! Second prize winner Chris from FCA snagged the Lego Ford GT Le Mans kit, much to the audible envy of the crowd (and a slight bit of irony).


Many thanks again to our event partners — ABC Group, Autodesk and Lacks Enterprises for helping make this year’s three-day race series our best yet.


Click here for the full gallery of photo from Designer Night at the Races #60, You’ll also find photos from past events on our website. And don’t forget to sign up for our blog, t’s the best way to find out about upcoming events, like the Saturday morning Detroit area Cars, Karts & Coffee we manage for Kart2Kart. The coffee is hot, the prizes are great, the cars are too.

About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of 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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