But leaving all that aside, they were just four friends with nothing more than a $500 car and a dream of racing.
Some 90 minutes later, as the caravan pulled into the paddock area of Summit Point Motorsports Park, each of the four members of team Vicious Regress — ringleader Matt Bartlett, 43, of D.C.; his girlfriend, Barbara Hale, 42, of Alexandria; his Chinatown neighbor Max Self, 33; and Dale Cruickshank, 57, of Broadland, Va. — had to be wondering, to varying degrees, just what in the holy creation they had gotten themselves into.
Were the four of them (none of whom had ever raced a single lap, whether in a racecar or any other motorized vehicle, in their lives) actually going to take turns getting behind the wheel of their stripped-down, rave-painted, 90-horsepower, four-cylinder 1980 Chevy Monza — or what was left of it after half the roof was cut away, the interior gutted and all unnecessary parts, such as the catalytic converter and muffler, removed — and race for some 141
2 hours that weekend against another hundred or so fellow amateurs with similarly disposable cars on a real 2.2-mile racetrack with 22 turns?
It certainly appeared so.
Across this great land, on splendid weekends such as this, there are NASCAR races full of $300,000 ground-rockets, hospitality tents, jam-packed grandstands and network TV cameras.
And then there is the race our four intrepid heroes were heading to — “24 Hours of LeMons” (yes, that’s LeMons with an “o,” pronounced like the fruit), which is essentially what NASCAR would be if you stripped away all the money, the pretensions and the fans, and added copious amounts of twisted humor and spot-weld ingenuity.
This certainly seemed like a good idea when Matt hatched it as a self-admitted “midlife-crisis endeavor” back in the spring. A West Point grad who runs his own defense-consulting business in D.C., he had run out of ways to satisfy his adventure jones after trying, and completing, every Tough Mudder and Venture Quest obstacle race in the mid-Atlantic. That is until someone told him about the 24 Hours of LeMons circuit (motto: “All it takes is a beater, some buddies and lots of big lapses in judgment!”), which happened to be coming to West Virginia in June.