I grew up in an automotive household steeped in car culture. The kind of place that took more stock in actually knowing how to install a posi-traction rearend, rather than having a football record for rushing at the local high school. Cars and racing are literally in my blood, since my grandpa raced circle track and my dad raced go-karts.
Because of my family’s background in racing, when I was a kid, I would play with my Hot Wheels until I fell asleep with the small toy cars still clutched in my greasy little hands. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to race cars too. It was all I thought about as a kid. I was obsessed with racing.
I spent my formative years camping at places like Laguna Seca Raceway or Portland International Raceway. I thought that’s what all kids did during their summer vacations. I loved crewing for my dad as he competed and won races. I felt proud to be part of something bigger than myself, something cool like a racing team, even if that racing team was nothing more than a 1972 Chevy van and a used go-kart.
Because my last name was Krider, and not Earnhardt, I didn’t have the same opportunities as some more established kids did to actually race cars. Instead I just learned how to work on them and continued to only dream of racing. When I turned 16, there was one very hard rule at my house, “Absolutely no street racing!” If I was caught street racing, my dad said he would take my car apart and put all the pieces in my bedroom. I believed him. So, living only 25 minutes away from a local drag strip, I took the car that was in my driveway, a 1978 El Camino, and went E.T. Bracket drag racing.
I soon found drag racing had too much waiting between adrenaline-enducing rips down the strip. I wanted to do something more, so my dad and I restored an old MGB and competed in road rallys and autocrossing. That was fun, and I learned a ton about car control in autocross competition (something I consider key in a driver’s development). However, I also learned those little British sports cars look a lot faster than they actually are, and they like to break down… a lot.
My grandma’s neighbor had seen what sort of restoration my dad and I had done to my El Camino and my MGB. She had a little Honda Civic hatchback she was the original owner of, and it was sadly sitting in her driveway needing some love. She gave me the car for free, hoping my dad and I would provide the same careful loving restoration she had seen us give other cars. What she didn’t know was that I was just going to race it instead. The University of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, where I went to school, actually had an autocross club. I spent my leisure time in college dodging cones.
I was hooked on autocross as it was the cheapest, safest, adrenaline rush you could get. After college, I finally put together a few bucks to purchase what I thought was a legit performance machine (as much as I could afford anyway). I settled on a used 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt GT. In my mind, this thing was a factory racecar because it had a round, aluminum shift-knob and red brake calipers. I had to have it. It came stock with lowering springs and a better intake for horsepower, making it an instant winner in the Stock class at SCCA solo events.
Similar to drag racing, eventually autocross had just too much waiting around for me. I wanted more track time. I wanted more adrenaline. But the leap to road racing (dedicated track car, trailer, truck, etc.) was just too much for me. I didn’t really see myself making the move to road racing because of finances. That was until the 24 Hours of LeMons was invented. As soon as I read about the event — $500 cars for 24 hours — I knew I had to do it. It seemed cheap enough. Why not? I grabbed my brother and some other autocross buddies and we all went in equally to build and race a car. My brother found a Nissan Sentra SE-R that we built into a road-race car in a matter of weeks, in an open carport at an apartment complex.
We never expected the little Sentra to survive the LeMons event. But it did, and it was fast, so I decided to take the car to NASA and run the Performance Touring F series. I attended Skip Barber’s MX-5 Cup racing school at Laguna Seca to earn my competition license and headed to NASA as a rookie. I won in the first race I competed in.
Since our Sentra had graduated to big boy racing, my autocross buddies wanted to go back to the 24 Hours of LeMons as we had unfinished business there –a victory. We scored a 1991 Acura Integra from a tow-yard and once again bolted in an Autopower rollcage. We went to Altamont Raceway (yes, the same Altamont where the Rolling Stones had a concert and their Hell’s Angels security guards killed a guy). This was the birthplace of the 24 Hours of LeMons series. Long story short, lots of passing, a blown head gasket, and when the checkered flag came out, we won the race!
After winning NASA races, LeMons races, and national autocross events, we felt like we could do anything. So that was our motto: Race Anything, Win Everything. So, we ventured out into the motorsports world and took on everything we could find. If it had wheels, we raced it. At the time, I was writing for Jalopnik and cataloged all of our racing adventures there.
We jumped into everything we could to win a race, and if we couldn’t fit, we made our kids drive for us (soap box derby and Pinewood derby). We even raced a big wheel down the crookedest road in the world, in an event called BYOBW (Bring Your Own Big Wheel). But as much fun as all that racing was, our real passion was endurance racing, so we painted our Integra and headed back to the 24 Hours of LeMons and Chumpcar. Our new theme for the car: Big Sausage Pizza Delivery. We even put a delivery light on the roof.
I wrote the RacerBoy column for Speed:Sport:Life, detailing all of the different races we had competed in, and how grassroots racers could do the same. From this media outlet, our team scored some industry support, which was immensely helpful in keeping the racing adventure going. Since we were successful in amateur endurance racing, we decided to take on the hardest race in the world, NASA’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill, with our trusty Nissan Sentra SE-R. My friend Keith Kramer, purchased a team car, and we went all-in on The 25 with a two-car team. The whole adventure was captured in the documentary film Double Down.
From racing with NASA, I ended up writing the Toolshed Engineer column for SpeedNews magazine, helping racers solve everyday problems with simple inexpensive solutions we learned from making our own mistakes. What we learned from the 25 Hours of Thunderhill was that racing is a team sport. We couldn’t have done it without an enormous amount of talented, hard-working volunteers who helped us get that elusive 25 Hour trophy. Our success at Krider Racing is only a success because of teamwork.
After The 25, we decided to try something really fast, and I found a good deal on a used 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. This car was insanely fast and tried to end my life every time I got behind the wheel. We took the Vette to time trials, hill climbs, autocrosses, Mojave Mile, and the Search for the Ultimate Street Car Invitational. The car was ludicrous-quick and it won everything we entered it in.
After the Z06 adventure, Keith and I decided to form Double Nickel Nine Motorsports and move away from the Krider Racing name. Too many people who weren’t named Krider worked hard on our team, and it seemed like all of the credit was unfairly going to only the Kriders. So, we came up with a neutral name and decided to go play with front-wheel drive Acura Integras again. This time in the Honda Challenge series. We had plenty of spare parts lying around from our LeMons and ChumpCar days. Keith built a dedicated-racing shop where DNN Motorsports would operate from.
Our first two seasons in Honda Challenge resulted in us winning the NASA Western States Championship in the HC 4 class two years in a row, something we are immensely proud of. We built a car from the ground up, learned everything we could about the series, jumped in, and in the first year walked away winners. Race Anything, Win Everything.
Obviously, I like cars. Just like any other reader of TURNology, I enjoy trying to make them faster. Welcome to “Beyond The Redline,” where each month I will provide some sort of motorsports insight, insane race stories, or other shenanigans to entertain you. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the track!
Rob Krider is the author of the novel Cadet Blues and has been published in over 30 different magazines and newspapers. He has collected so many racing trophies over the years his wife refuses to let them come into the house anymore. His new column Beyond The Redline will be monthly here at TURNology.