Welcome!

First things first, welcome!  Great to have you here and talk cars.

So a little about me.  I’m a car guy that left corporate life to start an automotive repair business with the goal of doing it better.  I want automotive repair to be a better experience and I want to deliver great car care.   Read My Why to learn more about how I got here.

Here’s what this site is about…

It’s about cars and my involvement with them.  I also sprinkle in a little about The Journey of business ownership.  The Journey was an idea that my MBA classmates and I discussed way back when we all first started out on our next (ad)ventures.  Well now I am playing catch up on telling the story.

Racing!  Motorsports has been a passion of mine since I was a young lad.  I am involved with a few different racing adventures which you can read about here: My Racing.

One frustrating aspect of being a car guy has been knowing about car events.  Some good websites have been developed over the years for shows and with Facebook it’s easier to find events.  I basically post information about local event including karting, The Painesville Speedway and SCCA events.

You can read about my past projects.  BTW, my favorite past project was our Free Boat.

Lastly, I post about car tips.  What’s funny is that when this site started posting Car Tips was the focus.  However, the other topics seem to be of more interest to the readers so there’s where my time has been spent.

Akron Sports Car Club 2019 Autocross Schedule

The Akron Sports Car Club has posted their 2019 autocross schedule and it is jam packed with events all over northern Ohio and a few dates in western PA.

According to their website, “Since 1953, the Akron Sports Car Club has been a major part of the automotive scene in the North East Ohio, hosting lots of events in the Cleveland, Akron, and Canton area.” I would suspect that these guys are one of oldest car clubs in the Neohio area.

In addition to competitive events they also posted a social schedule. What’s a close second to competing in automotive events? Getting together and talking about automotive events!

Their season starts off on April 7th at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk Ohio. Over the summer there are nine points events, a few events with other organizations, a muscle car date, and some challenge events.

See the full schedule here:

While I don’t have any plans to autocross this season, if I did I would certainly be checking out the Akron Sports Car Club!

Thompson Kart Raceway

Karting Seminar – Painesville Ohio – Let’s Go Racing

If you are interested in racing go karts, this karting seminar is a great place to start. Even if you’ve been racing for a few years attending events like this one is a great way to learn, meet other drivers, and get you ready to go racing.

This March 24th event is being put together by The Championship Kart Racing Association that races at the Thompson Kart Raceway in Thompson Ohio. Cometic Gasket is hosting the event at their facility in Painesville. It starts at 1:00 PM. Hear from local drivers and tuners about how to get into the sport and what is required. Karts will be on display to check out.

To learn more about the CKRA visit their website at : https://www.thompsonkartraceway.com/

2019 Autocross schedule MINI Cooper S Solo

2019 Neohio SCCA Autocross Schedule Released! Let’s Run!

There are a few local organizations that host autocross events and two of them have already released their 2019 autocross schedule. In this post I’ll highlight the schedule of the Neohio region of the SCCA. I’ll also post about the Akron Sports Car Club schedule very soon as they have released their 2019 autocross schedule.

Autocross events are perhaps one of the easiest ways to get into motorsports and learn about car handling and performance. What’s event better is that you can compete against others in your class as well against your own time.  These events are professionally run and there’s tons of support for those that are new to the sport.


The Neohio region of the SCCA has announced a schedule that has nine events including a test and tune type event. Test and tunes allow participants to try different set ups on their vehicle while not having to worry about their run times. It’s also a great way to knock of the rust off from winter.

Keep in mind that this schedule is tentative and could change. I recommend checking the Neohio SCCA Autocross Schedule  on a regular basis for updates and to confirm dates as the season moves along.

Neohio SCCA Autocross Schedule

April 27 (Saturday)Spring TrainingTentativeEastlake
April 28 (Sunday)Points Event #1TentativeEastlake
May 25 (Saturday)Points Event #2TentativeEastlake
June 30 (Sunday)Points Event #3TentativeEastlake
July 13 (Saturday)Points Event #4TentativeEastlake
August 4 (Sunday)Points Event #5TentativeEastlake
September 7 (Saturday)Points Event #6TentativeEastlake
September 29 (Sunday)Points Event #7TentativeEastlake
October 19 (Saturday)Points Event #8
(Season Finale!)
TentativeEastlake

Autocross Advice

Over the past couple of years I have written some posts about autocross and how to make your life a little easier…

What To Bring:  This post highlights what you should pack for an autocross event.

6 Tips For Maintaining Your Autocross Car: Keeping your autocross car in top shape is important.  This post cover six quick things to do between events.

To Mod or Not To Mod: While modifying your car can yield quick performance gains, sometimes you end up in a class where it’s tough to  compete.

If you’ve never participated in an autocross event consider getting out to one of the early season events just to check it out.  If you are new to these types of events there will be plenty of help.  From ride alongs, to course walks and instruction from seasoned autocrossers.  There’s also a great social aspect as after the event many will gather to talk about the day and how to improve for next time.

Ford Focus Auction Car – Am I Nuts?

Ford Focus Auction Car
2007 Ford Focus with 219,000 Miles!

Well, I bought a Ford Focus auction car! As much as I tried to stay away from the auctions, I couldn’t. So I ended up with with this 2007 Ford Focus ZX5 SE with 219,000 miles. It was designated as a “starts & runs” vehicle, LOL.

Whatever will I do with this vehicle? I don’t know yet!

Here’s what I do know, I have a couple of options with this vehicle. Flip it, drive it, or tune it. However, first I need to inspect the car and sort it out.

Here’s the video of picking it up

Stay tuned for what is next with this Ford Focus auction car. So many possibilities! Perhaps the $2000 Grassroots Motorsports Challenge in October?

Champcar Focus

New Video: Race Car Removal

I placed this Race Car Removal post in both The Journey and My Racing categories as it fits both parts of my blog.

As I wrote in my 2019 Racing Plans post I will not be entering 2019 with any specific plans to race.  My goal in 2019 is to focus on family and the business.  This past racing season was filled with too many distractions which lead to frustrations and a focus on the wrong things.

Not As Planned

On a recent Saturday my wife and I loaded up the race car, its spares and headed east to deliver the car to its owner so that we’d have that space cleaned up to store another vehicle or a place for a project vehicle.  Keep reading to see what is currently there.

The day didn’t go as planned.  I estimated one and a half hours to pack and load everything up.  Spot on with that estimate.  However, the car wound’t move.  Turns out that one of the recently installed axles was wrong!  I swapped out the axle.  While it didn’t take too long to do the job I had to wait for the axle to be delivered.

Champcar Focus Axle Change
Not happy about having to change the axle

“This car fought you ’til the end.  This is a reminder of why you aren’t racing next year.” – My wife

We made it to Erie and dropped off the car without much of a hassle.  However, we missed a good portion of our evening with friends due to being behind time wise, but all in all the race car removal project can be viewed as a success.  The space is cleaned up!

Removal = Focus

The reason I placed this post into the The Journey category is that my involvement in racing is two fold. 

First, I really enjoy the sport as a participant – there’s nothing better than being on track and tuning out the world.  Being at the track with friends is a blast and being able to wrench between sessions is weirdly fun for me. 

Second, I love the business side of motorsports.  Sponsorship engagement, fan activation, promotion – and everything else.  I believe that if I am involved in motorsports it will be good for business.  While I have gained some new business by being involved in racing it’s not a large referral source.

Part of The Journey is adapting and learning and then making adjustments based on lessons learned.  While it can be fun and rewarding to be involved with a race team and to have a reason to be to at the track right now just isn’t the right time.

With as busy as the shop is, my focus needs to be there.  We have so much work to do on including getting the new offices ready.  I very excited that I can now have a clear focus on my business and personal goals

Video of the Race Car Removal Project

What’s in the space now?

Painesville Speedway racecar
The Painesville Car

While I have no specific plans for the Painesville Race Car in 2019 I will prep it just in case.  It doesn’t need much.

So how can I prep this car and still not race in 2019?  While I have no specific race plans for 2019, that doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t race.  Heading out to the Painesville Speedway for a Winter Series Race or a regular season race night will be a last minute decision.   If everything in my life is where it needs to be at that moment, you might find me at the track. 

Subscribe To My YouTube Channel

So while the ChampCar Race Car is out of my life, that doesn’t mean that cars, racing and projects are 100% out of my life.  In addition to posting updates on my website, I’ll be creating short videos on YouTube as well.

Be sure to subscribe to be notified of the latest videos!  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

Seven things to do this offseason that will payoff big next season

It’s the off season, it’s time to relax right?  Wrong!  Here are my seven things to do this offseason that will payoff big next season.  The time to start them is now.

Planning

While this post is mostly geared toward those that race their car, these items will payoff big next season for anyone that is involved with car events.  There’s little doubt that if you are involved in car related activities your 2019 plan is starting to come together.  You’ve probably selected the events you’ll be at.  You’ve reviewed test day schedules and have begun to outline your 2019 racing calendar.

A successful offseason is very important to a successful race season.  Everything you do now will impact how your race season starts off and having the right plan in place is best place to start.

So what should you plan for?  Everything!

How should you plan?  Well, that depends on you.  For some it’s a clipboard and paper.  Others like to

Offseason prep
One of lists from the last race car I prepped.

use tools such as Evernote, Word, Google Tasks.  There are so many planning and task management applications out there – if you have one that works for you, use it.

The best way to start is to sit down and begin brainstorming about everything you need and want to do.  Get every idea and every item that needs to be addressed onto paper.  (We’ll use the paper model of planning going forward) Just get as many items out of your head and onto paper as you can.  You’ll organize them later.  Don’t think just about the car.  If you tow, what about the truck and trailer?  Do you need to request off of work?  Renew a membership?  Register for your events?  If you are part of a team do you need to schedule team meetings?

Your plan will change over time and it should.  Sometimes you’ll determine some items don’t need to be done and other times you’ll find that one item leads to another, so be flexible.

Having a plan also helps with delegating work.  If you are lucky enough to have people wanting to help, having a detailed plan will make it easy for you and them to see what needs done and keep everyone moving.

Tools

If you are like me, weeks will go by before you clean out the truck and tool box after the last event.  Before you get started with your plan, it’s best to get your tools organized.

I have three different tool boxes and that has made my life a little crazy.  I have two race boxes at the shop and my main tools at home.  This offseason I decided to bring everything home to sort through and organize them.  Now that we aren’t karting I can live with two tool boxes.  Sometimes I’ll work on projects at the shop and other times I’ll be working at home.  Guess what?  The tool I need is rarely where I need it when I need it.  Ugh!  Since I won’t be racing this next season I will have less issues having the right tool in the right place.

As you clean out your box and organize all of your tools write down any missing or needed tools and plan those purchases.  Think about what you didn’t have at the track and needed – add it to your list.  If something is missing, figure out who borrowed it and get it back.

Read

Whether you are campaigning the same car or even a new car, read the rule book for the next season.  Be familiar with what changes are taking place and what may have been added or removed.  Don’t be caught off guard!

Also, take time to read through the on-line forums for your race series and any racing related magazines like SportsCar and Grassroots Motorsports for ideas and insights.

Parts, Equipment & Spares

There’s a word I yell at myself when I buy something I already have, INVENTORY!  There has been too many times that I failed to check what I already had or since I didn’t have it organized enough to know that I had it already.  Take the time to go through your spare parts, your track equipment, and your supplies.  As you go through your spare parts, think about what else you might need at your events.  We got caught off guard this season by not having enough lug nuts.  Time waster!

Race Storage Tote
My Storage Tote!

For organizing my spares and pit equipment I found these black and yellow storage totes at Home Depot and they work great.  If I were to do it again, I might find something similar that has a studier top.  All of mine seemed to have developed a crack.

Having a storage and inventory system will make transporting, storing, and organizing your equipment, parts, and supplies super easy.  Plus, you are less likely to forget something or buy a duplicate of it.

I developed a checklist in Evernote to help me pack everything I need for my events.  It’s also a great way to track inventory of needed parts and supplies.

Your Car!

WARNING, the off season is shorter than you think!  So this means, get working!

Now that you have read the rule book and put your plan together it’s time to work on the car. 

If you haven’t already – perform a proper inspection on the car.  Your plan probably includes items you already knew about, but there could be issues you aren’t aware of yet.  Get the car up on jack stands , pull the wheels and begin inspecting everything. Inspection items should include brakes, steering, suspension, fluid leaks and underside damage.  Inside the car check all wiring, your safety harness, fire bottle, seat mounts and controls.  If you find something that needs to be addressed, add it to your plan. 

It’s easy to postpone work until after the holidays and then say let’s wait until next week – this will go on forever!  Follow your plan and make sure that you execute that plan.  My advice is to do something to the car weekly.  This will allow to you stay focused on your projects and allows time to research items, order parts and even round up help.

Trailer

If you use a trailer to haul your vehicle to events, the offseason is a great time to take care of required maintenance.

Check all the lights, inspect the tires and test the brakes, if equipped.  Also inspect the trailer wiring and all welds.  It seems as if once or twice a season I find a fender weld that needs to be re-welded.

If it’s an enclosed trailer, clean it out, organize it and think about how you can best utilize the space for next season to make it easiest to work at the track.

Conditioning

The offseason is a great time to start up or continue your conditioning for race season.  Depending on the type of driving you do, it’s important to have good cardio and upper body strength.  As an endurance driver, I need to be able to handle the car, the traffic, and the heat for two hours.  Running and cycling helped me prepare for these longer stints.

Cardio training is very important for race car drivers and establishing a weekly workout routine will help you condition your body for the demands of motor racing as well as help with mental focus.  Sprinkle in some weights and sit-ups to strengthen your core and you’ll be amongst the fittest in the paddock.

However, I understand that working out isn’t for everyone.  If you aren’t the athletic type, perhaps walking a few times per week and eating healthy will help you perform better in the next season.

I hope these seven things to do this offseason will payoff big for you next season.

 

Great Customer Experiences This Week – Where Did They Come From?

It’s been a while since my last post regarding The Journey This week I was reminded four times that there are still companies and individuals delivering great customer experiences.

Let me take a moment to set this up.  On Friday I had the opportunity to drive a client to his office as he was leaving his vehicle with us for the day.  He mentioned to me that he and his wife are pleased that we are now servicing their vehicles.  Specifically, he was impressed that I would take the time to drive him to his office and pick him up when his car repairs were completed.  I explained My Why to him and my vision for great car care.  This conversation reminded me of how my suppliers have really delivered this week and I wanted to share these experiences with you.

  1. Jason at W.B. Mason.  Two years ago a young man came into the shop and wanted to talk about office supplies.  I explained I use very little in terms in paper, ink and pens.  He said any order is a good order and since then I’ve probably spent $300 a year with him.  I’m guessing I am his smallest client (and maybe shortest), but anytime I call I feel like I’m his only client.  This past week I had a decision to make; purchase more toner and a drum for my laser printer or buy a new ink jet printer that would use the same ink as my other printers.  He researched how often I ordered the toner and he found that my drum was over two years old.  Turns out, it would cost me less to keep the laser printing running and the components were delivered next day.
  2. Lee Ann and the Heartland Payroll team.  My time clock broke this week (oh it’s fun to be a business owner) and it took multiple calls to their tech support to get support only to find out that there’s a $100 cable that needs to be replaced.  I was never a fan of the time clock or its software so I started to research other options.  I made a call to my Heartland Payroll contact and she walked me through their options which integrate with the Heartland Payroll service I already have which will make my life easier as I will no longer have to enter payroll, just audit it.  She was out the next day to get me signed up and two days later the service was live.  What’s really impressive is her implementation team.  I received one, simple email with EVERYTHING I needed to know to get rolling with the service.  Well done!
  3. Carol at Ohio Health Insurance.  It’s annual enrollment time for health insurance and this process can be time consuming, frustrating and confusing.  Carol has worked with me over the past few weeks to research other options.  I explained one area of the plan that is causing concern and she researched it, provided me options and information regarding it which may make it a non-issue or at least it will be better understood and less frustrating.  Further she crunched a bunch of numbers and scenarios to determine what my best option will be.  She found a way to save me some money next year while offering the same plan with same coverage for my employees.
  4. Joan at Waste Management.  I was recently socked with a overfull dumpster surcharge from Waste Management and I thought it was hardly overfull so I reached out to my contact at WM regarding it.  I received a near instant email with a picture of my dumpster on the collection day (WM has a very cool application for their driver’s and supervisors that allows them to document what they see) and a second email stating that she reversed the charges.  Then I received a phone call from her to confirm what she did.  On top of this she updated the route notes to make sure they keep the dumpster away from the building so the lids will close and she asked that I call her if we are approaching an overfull situation so she can get it handled for me.

One way to look at this is to think, of course they gave a great experience…it’s their job!  Agreed.  However, it seems more and more all people want to do is complain about the bad experiences and gloss over the great or even good ones!

I am constantly thinking about how we can deliver a great customer experience.  Do our clients view our service and business the same way I do?  What can we do better or more of? How do I best engage the team to deliver on these?  All of us must think about this topic and then deliver upon it if we want to be a competitor in the marketplace.

What are some ways that you can deliver a great customer experience?

My 2019 Racing Plans – Do I have Any?

Q: What are my 2019 racing plans?

A: I don’t have any!

Usually this time of year I am planning my off-season to prepare for the next racing season.   However, this year is a little different.  I made the decision during the 2018 racing season that in 2019 I would take a year off from racing to focus on my business and my family.  There were too many late nights and long weekends spent at the shop working on race car items.  That time and energy should have been spent on the business and hanging with the family.  So, my 2019 racing plans are…none!

Had I fully understood the time commitment I agreed to for 2018 I would have said no.  It was so much work and so much time.  While I had some awesome team members working with me – it was still a lot.  I certainly did appreciate the opportunity to be involved with the team and race at Nelson Ledges and Pitt Race in 2018 in the ChampCar series.  However, other areas of my life had to suffer.

2019 Plans

So with no racing plans for 2019 – whatever will I do?

My business continues to grow and with growth comes growing pains.  Being present is one thing, but being able to have undistracted, mental focus is important and I believe that I will now have that.  There are so many ideas that I rarely would be able to work on and see though and now I will be able to work on those.

I also promised my wife that I would not have any project cars in 2019.  Truth is, I am constantly looking for a project car ; E30 or E36 BMW, Focus SVT, or Civic EP or EG hatch are top of my list.  A promise is a promise though so for now I’ll keep looking and researching.

Helping Others

In the last month I have received three offers to be involved with some sort of racing program for 2019.  I have respectfully declined those offers.  It is very hard to say no.  I just finished the Charles Espenlaub episode of Dinner With Racers and he started out doing exactly what I’ve been doing; wrenching and transporting race cars for seat time.  While it has lead him to a successful motorsports career, not sure I can follow that same path.  Well, I could but other areas of my life require focus and commitment.

I do envision that during the 2019 race season there will be a weekend or two where I might have the opportunity to help crew and I’ve offered this to a few racing friends.  It is relaxing to know that entering the season with no commitments I will have more control of my schedule and time.   I really enjoy hanging at the track – it’s my escape.

Painesville Racing

I still have the Painesville Car (that’s the name I have for it) and I can see racing it a few times this Painesville Speedway Carseason.  The beauty of this car is that it will require very little prep.  Plus, the track is close and the racing is fun!  There’s a good chance I’ll fit a few races at the Painesville Speedway into my 2019 racing plans.

The car is currently under a tarp and only requires a few items to be ready to go.  I am hopeful that the speedway will host their winter series in 2019.  This relaxed, racing series is a perfect way to keep the juices flowing.  I ran one of the races in early 2018 and although was spun out on the first lap, had fun.

So this is usually when friends say, “I thought you said you weren’t racing in 2019.”  I have no plans to race, and there are no race dates on my 2019 calendar.

What’s Next?

After writing this I will be transporting the Ford Focus race car to Erie PA and delivering it to its owner with all of the spare parts.  This will free up some shop space and while I am not 100% what will end up in that space I have had some inquiries about winter projects from friends.  We’ll see.

I do have quite a bit of work to finish up in the front space of the shop to get the new lobby and offices ready to go.

Lastly, there’s always tons to do at the shop.

Check back for more updates!