Kansas 2014

Kansas Results

This past year, we've gone from finishing one competition-ready car in five years to completely designing and building a new racecar in one. We now have double the number of team members, and every one of us was very proud as Knuckles made it back onto the endurance track again and again, determined to overcome the obstacles in our way. It took the dedication and perseverance of every person to achieve the results below. Great work this year, team! 

172 out of 1000 points
81st place out of 115

73.9 out of 300

30.8 out of 50

46.3 out of 75

51.9 out of 400

To the Finish!!

An epic race!

John started driving and got in a good one and a half laps before the throttle cable came loose! He got towed back to camp and we quickly put him back together and out on the track in a jiffy. After another few laps, he pulled off due to some weird noises coming from the back of the car and what seemed like a slow loss of power. In the paddocks Mikey ripped open the CVT guard and inspected it to confirm that it was just the drive belt bouncing around in it’s finger-proof cage. 

After this little examination, Carolyn Jane got in the car! She whipped 4 laps out in no time flat. The car washandling magnificently and passing cars through the technical turns. Suddenly, she lost all power in the left side of the car. She managed to finish another lap steering furiously towards the right but still slipping out of bounds around the sharp, bumpy turns where the front tires lost traction. Finally, Knuckles was hit from behind around one such curve, and pushed into a cluster of track workers who quickly pulled him off the field.

Back at the paddocks, the team assembled. CVT cover – off. Rear suspension – detached. CVT – off. Gear box – out. Gear box on table. Gear box open. Found the sheared key which had been bringing power to the left side of the vehicle. The coupler – the shaft which supplies both sides of the car with power – was also cracked almost down it’s length where the key had broke. Hm. To Work!! Mike took the coupler to be welded back together. John found key stock and started cutting a new key. 30 minutes later, we assembled it all; ground down the edges so the key fit just right; ground off the filler on the weld so it hugged the shafts just right. Gearbox, assemble!! 10 minutes till the race is over. Gearbox – back together. Gearbox – back in the car. CVT – on. CVT guard – on. Rear suspension – reattached. Start the car. It works.

Mike is driving and we ran him back to the track at full speed. He took off and made it around three turns before he hit a log pile and lost power again. No time to fix it. The white flag when up and the track cleared. But hey, we were on the track when the race ended.


Yes. After halfway through our six day weekend, we finally hit Saturday. And it hit us back.

We started a little late and missed our first call to the technical inspections by five minutes. We waited in the drizzling rain for 3 1/2 hours trying to pass tech. Somehow, our drip pan was the only thing that kept us from passing. Everything else was great! Good work last night, everybody. By the time we got our beautiful shiny tech inspection stickers, the sun was out and the dust was drying out the dirt to make it a humid, dusty, mess.

Drizzly weather for a tech inspection

Drizzly weather for a tech inspection

With our new tech sticker, we went back to our trailer to work on the brakes. We thought we had them balanced ok and ran the car out to the brake test – around 1/4 mile across a bumpy field, pushing the car because you aren’t allowed to run your car before you pass the brake inspection. Thus, when we didn’t pass the brake test, we had to shove the car all the way back to the pits, and then all the way back again once we had it fixed.  When we went back the last time, we ran. Ben, our brakes expert and the lightest driver on the team, rode and the remainder of the team took shifts pushed the car at top speed back out to the test track with only 10 minutes to spare before the test center closed for the rest of comp. But then, there we were. Ben jumped out and Mike in full safety gear hopped in in record time, and we passed! We made it. We can compete.

But four of the five dynamic events were about to close in 5 minutes. RUN!!! Now that we were allowed to drive the car across the competition center, Ben and Jane ran alongside the car to the acceleration test track. We were able to run the test twice before they closed down and we had to walk to car back to the pit, sweating and burning in the hot Kansas sun yet so happy we're able to compete in the endurance race tomorrow.

Track walk. At 5:30 there was a final meeting with the event coordinators (hooray for the volunteers!!!) and then everyone got to walk through the track for the endurance course. It doesn’t look too bad. Kansas is pretty flat after all. No creeks. No trees. Lots of jumps, telephone poles, and bulldozer dug trenches. We’ll see how we do tomorrow.

Tonight we made the very difficult decision to let the seniors race tomorrow. We wanted all of the freshmen to race – they’ve earned it. But so did the seniors. And tomorrow, Will, Mike and Jane will take their last laps as Northwestern Baja members. Let’s hope it’s awesome!!!

First day at comp

Pack up!! On Tuesday night we were up in the auto bay packing and finishing up Knuckles until midnight. We got him all prim and proper with shiny new carbon panels, numbers, and a pretty indestructible CVT guard. Hopefully the judges agree. Then we took knuckles for a little joy ride and packed him into the trailer. The solar car team lent us their 20 ft trailer which was already outfitted with tool chests and shelves, a huge step up from our tiny trailer. We borrowed their lights and generator which allowed us to bring the welder, drill press, grinders, and a bunch of other tools which last year we had to borrow from other teams. This year is a whole new game. We know what SAE is up to and we’re prepared with tools and a car that will hopefully pass tech inspection with ease.

We all arrived in Pittsburg last night between the hours of 12 and 2 AM. The drive took us over 14 hours – there might be worm holes between Chicago and Kansas. Drivers be warned. After a healthy four hours of sleep, we got back into the truck and drove to the Kansas Technology Center.  We arrived at 8 AM, but it seems most people got there way before that. The first 30 cars were already lined up for the Briggs and Stratton governor test, which means we have to wait until tomorrow to start tech. We got a great pit assignment – number 40.  We’re right on the edge of the parking lot next to a tree where we plan to hang up our hammock tomorrow.

The newly christened Solar trailer parked at our pit location

The newly christened Solar trailer parked at our pit location

Our biggest tasks today were getting the team registered, picking up all 25 of our free t-shirts, and getting through the business presentation – 50 points. The business presentation was a new event, and some of the freshmen really took charge of working out a powerpoint slide show and all of the best selling points on the car. They killed the presentation and handled the judges' questions without any problems. We’ll see how the scores come out, but I think we’re all winners here.

The afternoon was spend sleeping and playing cards before a monstrously delicious BBQ dinner. Tomorrow holds the design presentation – 200 pts – and a lot of standing in lines waiting to get through tech. Hopefully there won’t be thunder storms.

Final countdown to Kansas

Moving out! We just got approval to use the F-250, and Solar has generously allowed us to borrow their generator and trailer! Tonight we’ll be putting the final touches on Knuckles – tightening up the gearbox and getting all those finger guards to spec – before we load him into the trailer and get ready to go.

Jane and Knuckles are psyched for Kansas comp

Jane and Knuckles are psyched for Kansas comp

We’ve got a great team of 11 kids going, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the excitement of comp. You can keep up with the scoring and some of the Pittsburg events and information here.

Bon voyage!