Tag Archives: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Co-Driver: Casey Coull and the art of going sideways

Co-Driver is back with another piece written and photographed by Shawn Pierce. Pay Shawn’s Facebook page a visit to check out all of his photography.

In recent years, the once relatively unknown sport of drifting has seen tremendous gains in popularity. National races and tournaments are a regular occurrence and even here at home, local groups like Drift Spot and Drift Faction routinely hold events at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the summer months, filling the air with enough smoke to make Cheech and Chong jealous. I caught up with one of the local drift scene’s rising stars, Casey Coull, and got him to dish a little about his car, the sport, and his plans for the future.

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When did you initially get into drifting?

I started drifting back in April of 2010, but was first introduced to drifting in 2005. At the time my family and I were living in Tacoma, Washington. My older sister’s boyfriend, Victor Moore, got me into watching Initial D and I was instantly hooked. At the time, Victor had a stock black Nissan S13 hatch with 5zigen FN01RC, and to this day I can still remember the first time he drifted with me. I wound up moving to New Hampshire with my family later that year. It took five years, but eventually I found Drift Spot and was able to start drifting.

What did you do in your time away from drifting?Coull_240_04 TDC

When I first moved to NH I was a little lost because the car scene seemed totally dead. While I was still in school, drifting was put to the side and I picked up a BMX bike. The group of friends I had at the time didn’t have licenses either so we kept on pedaling. My junior year of high school is when I finally got my license.

What are you currently running?

It’s a 1992 Nissan 240SX (S13) coupe equipped with a S13 SR20 engine. It is a super basic setup with roughly 270 horsepower. You don’t need much to drift and be able to keep up with high horsepower cars. In fact, I did four one-more-times with a car that had an extra 200 hp on me! Some future goals would be to replace the S13 SR20 with a 1JZ VVTI. A stock JZ motor holds the power I will need to compete reliably. Eventually, I’d like start on a fresh new chassis and take all the things I’ve learned over the years building this car and build a new, perfect car for myself.

While Coull’s car might have a basic setup, there is nothing simplistic about its extensive upgrades and modifications. Under the hood it benefits from a host of performance parts including an aftermarket intercooler, intake, turbocharger, injectors, and fuel pump to name a scant few. His dedicated drift weapon also features completely a completely revised suspension setup, a full rollcage, and an interior barren of anything that distracts from the art of sliding about in great, smoky arcs.

Coull_240_02 TDCWhat is it about drifting that attracted you to the sport?

What I love most about drifting has to be the people. Drifting is not a competitive sport in my mind. Everyone is out there to just have fun, help each other, and make new friends. Even though we all get a little stressed out from time to time, you bet we are having the time of our lives. It is what I look forward to everyday, spend my money on, and it’s what keeps me happy.

In general, racing is expensive, how do you keep it affordable?

Well, drifting can be cheap. That is if you keep it basic and try not to be too different. Being different will cost you more in the long run. Keeping things simple will keep you on the track.

Are you sponsored or backed by anyone?

I am currently with Universal Technical Institute. In 2013 they brought me to a majority of my events. I am super stoked to be working with them again this year. I would like to pick up some tire sponsors in the future, and it would be nice to land a race team, but I have to start from the bottom and work my way up.

What are your goals for 2014 and beyond?Coull_240_11 TDC

My main focus this season is to get out to Englishtown and Lime Rock as much as possible to get lots of media coverage and hopefully catch the attention of a few sponsors. So as far as 2014 is concerned, I’m shooting for Pro AM events.

Is there anyone you would like to thank?

My family, Shawn Paradis, Russell Barcomb, Evan Tuerck, Justin Tuerck, Ryan Tuerck, Ryan Lannan, Chris Williams, Matt Cochran, Brain Mitchell, Tyler Bacon, Mike Simmons, George Osminkin, Nate Haskins, Jordan Threlfall, Dan Popowich, Jay Cyr, Kyle Landers, Matt Lavalette, Matt Gleason, Joe Ascoli, Tommy Brownell, Ryan Fothergil, Victor Moore, Pat Payne, Will Petropoulos, Tom Jewel, Ryan Woodbury, and Joe Grencho.

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Many thanks and much respect to Casey Coull for his time and effort on this piece, as well as to Shawn Pierce for his talents behind the pen and camera. You can follow all of Coull’s exploits on his website, xmgnfcntx.blogspot.com. He can also be found on Instagram (@risensun). 

Co-Driver: Track Day Lemonade

Welcome to the brand new Top Dead Center series, Co-Driver. Here, fellow gear heads have an outlet for their automotive passions, whether it’s a exciting story to tell, photos to share, or the retelling of an epic adventure. Co-Driver’s inaugural entry comes from Shawn Pierce, a talented writer and photographer and friend of TDC, who had the chance to shoot a mint track-ready BMW e36 M3 and tell its owner’s unique story. Be sure to check out the Shawn Pierce Photography Facebook page for more of Shawn’s work.

You know the old saying: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Well, when life totals your Cadillac, what would be the equivalent of making lemonade? For BMWCCA driving instructor, Laura Fallis, it is made entirely of Bavarian lemons, clad in triple black, and wears an M badge.

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On a slick, rain dampened highway in 2006, Laura was involved in an accident that sent her Cadillac ETC off to the scrap yard. While trying to avoid an oncoming car that had veered unexpectedly into her lane, she hit the brakes, swerved off the road, and wound up against a guardrail. “I hit the guardrail hard. I watched the on-coming traffic as the car was launched off its wheels,” recalled Laura. “Only one wheel rode the bottom side of the guardrail, the rest of the car was airborne. I remember the car jolting and I thought it was going to roll. As the car landed sideways in the fast lane, I’m looking at on-coming traffic again and I’m thinking: please stop.” Thankfully they did and Laura Fallis_M3_08 small TDCwalked away from the accident with just bumps, bruises, and minor whiplash. The Cadillac, however, was a wreck and Laura was left with the task of finding a new daily driver.

It was just prior to all this that the track bug had bitten Laura hard. She completed the performance driving course at Skip Barber Racing School at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, and after that she was off to the races… literally. “I always wanted to race and I found myself with the opportunity to do so,” Laura explained.

A while later, Laura found a 1997 BMW e36 M3 that would eventually fulfill both her daily driver needs and track day desires. “I happened to drive by this BMW with a for sale sign on it,” said Laura. “For some reason it captured my eye, so I turned around, never suspecting this might be the one. But it was love at first sight. I took it for a test drive and the next thing I know, I have the title in hand and I’m off to get plates to pick her up.”

Fallis_M3_25 smallLaura quickly set about making her new M3 track worthy by asking one of the Northeast’s premier BMW tuners, Turner Motorsports (TMS), to work their magic. Kevin Holmes of TMS gave the car a thorough inspection. He found that overall the car was in good shape (it had been in a minor collision at some point but repairing it was simple), and he set to work on the upgrades to make the M3 the track rat Laura wanted. The car had already been equipped with an AFE cold air intake system, so Laura decided to focus on the suspension. She installed H&R sport springs and a Bilstein sport shock and strut set. She upgraded the front and rear sway bars and added reinforcements all around. They also added a BMW shark injector engine software upgrade which provides an increase in horsepower and torque, quickens throttle response, increases the rev-limits, and removes the top speed limiter. All things you want when pushing the limits on a race track.

After purchasing the M3 she became a member of the BMW Car Club of America (BMWCCA) and began attending numerous track day events with the club. Eventually, her driving prowess got her noticed and she was asked to be an instructor for the club. “I think they felt it an asset I am female,” said Laura. “I could make students comfortable and also give them that sense of instruction that none of the other instructors could.”

Laura has owned her M3 since 2006 and has driven it nearly every single day since. It now has more than 169,000 miles on the odometer, Fallis_M3_11 small TDC109,000 of which Laura put on herself. Over the years she has made upgrades to nearly every major system in the car including further upgrades to the suspension, a new cooling system, a Borla cat back exhaust, and an upgraded transmission with a short shifter out of a BMW Z3. She estimates three to five percent of those miles were put on during track days.

When asked about her unique vanity plate (VIXEN) Laura said, “A number of years ago at a track event there were a number ice racers there. There were a couple of vehicles that had Santa’s reindeer’s names on their plates. I thought… too cool! What better plate for a chick’s M3?”

Maybe LMNADE?

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– Many thanks and much respect to Shawn Pierce for his time and effort in creating this piece.

Cars in the Wild

There is nothing like a Porsche. There are plenty of manufacturers in the same market, other cars in the same category, but no one does it like the boys from Stuttgart. Some of its competitors are better, while many others get their doors blown off, but the people who own Porsches and drive them and race them are Porsche to the core. The purest iteration of the Porsche language is embodied in the 911, the iconic sports car the company has been making since 1963. And of the innumerable variants of the glorious 911 stands the GT3 – the pure, track focused version of Porsche’s purest automobile.

The GT3 follows a pretty genius marketing plan – charge more and give customers less. Sounds sheisty, but it isn’t. The only things you get less of are weight, distraction, and time spent on each lap of your favorite race track. This particular example (doesn’t it look epic in black?) was spotted at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway two weekends ago during the 24 Hours of LeMons race. Mounted at the back of the GT3 in quintessential 911 fashion, is a 3.6-liter flat-six engine that develops 415 horsepower and manhandles the ever important dash to 60 miles per hour benchmark in 4.1 seconds. Interestingly, Road & Track Magazine recorded a 60 mph run in 3.8 seconds. Competitors and posers will be admiring the size of the GT3’s diesel rear wing all the way up to the car’s top speed of 193 mph.

But, this car isn’t focused only on outright speed – world class handling and neatly slicing a race track to ribbons are the GT3’s true calling. There are very few cars with the balanced nature, communicative feedback, and pure tenacity of a GT3 on full attack. For as much as Top Gear is the outlet TDC turns to for videos and commentary, auto-geek Chris Harris (@harrismonkey) composes some of the most insightful car reviews you can find anywhere. Check out his breakdown of the GT3 by clicking HERE.

Another great thing about Porsche is they are always creating newer and faster variants of their already bonkers cars. Recently they created the GT3 RS 4.0, a car that makes pretty much everything else a few classes up and down the social ladder wilt with terror. A colossal 4.0-liter flat-six that makes 500 horsepower has been shoehorned into the back of the 4.0, resulting in low-3 second sprints to 60 mph. The 4.0 also inherits a range of parts and technology from Porsche’s racing program which make it a barely street legal racecar. Check out another excellent Chris Harris on the GT3 RS 4.0 video HERE.

Thank you, Porsche, for making cars like the GT3 – they are the stuff of dreams!

Chasing Racing Dreams: The Penguin RoadRacing School

This edition of “Chasing Racing Dreams” features the Penguin Racing School who’s home base is at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The school was the first motorcycle roadracing school in the country and provides a wide range of instruction and riding opportunities for every level of rider. Don’t have a bike? No worries, you can rent bikes at the school (Ducatis!), and you can also rent all the gear necessary for a day at the track. Head over to The Penguin RoadRacing School’s website to learn about all the details on how to make a track day happen.

“If you can learn to ride a bike smoothly in the rain and the wet, it will translate to smooth riding in the dry.” Head Instructor Eric Wood addresses the small crowd of riders who have come to The Penguin RoadRacing School’s final day of the season, as torrents of water rush off the steel roofs of the pit road garages at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The rain is intermittent and fickle, and restless gray-white clouds boil and surge overhead. More than one beginner student peers at the sky with a furrowed brow. I feel the same anxiety: riding on the track in the rain? Is that a good idea? Wood, who’s father started the school back in 1973, addressed those concerns after a timid comment about the weather by one of the students. He explained that typically, crashes are less frequent on rainy days because everyone is aware that grip levels are low and they need to be more cautious with their riding. A reassuring answer indeed.

Photo Credit: Penguin RoadRacing School

I’m spending the day at the track to tag along with the Track Day Experience class. This class, run by champion racer and New Hampshire native Scott Greenwood, is designed for street riders looking to get a taste of track riding. While I unfortunately won’t be out tearing it up with the other students, I will be rubbing shoulders with some of the best riders in the state and sitting in on Greenwood’s classroom time. Greenwood was actually featured in the most recent edition of The Torque Tube. To read his story, click HERE.

After a short briefing in the garage, the students and I immediately head into our respective classrooms. There are three classes going on today: the Basic course, the Advanced course, and the Track Day Experience course, of which I am a part. The Basic course is for riders looking to develop their racing skills and techniques, the Advanced course builds off the Basic course’s skills, and the introductory Track Day Experience course. We gather in the Media Room in the track’s infield, which is normally occupied by journalists during a NASCAR race. There are a mix of students here today: some experienced racers, a few older riders, and some who admit to having no track riding time at all. As the rain throws one particularly nasty tantrum, one of the students asks, “Does anyone have rain tires?”

Photo Credit: Penguin RoadRacing School

Greenwood begins by covering racing fundamentals and safety with wet track conditions. He is clear, thorough and confidence inspiring as he discusses the rules and techniques for staying safe in the rain. The amount of information involved in racing, as I learn throughout the day, is vast and more than a little intimidating, but all the instructors make the ominous track conditions and volume of information easy to manage. Soon after the class starts, the tension dissipates from the classroom like the rain clouds as the blue sky tries desperately to break through.

Greenwood made an excellent analogy that helped me understand what make this sport so challenging and exciting. “In normal sports like hockey, your body can only get ‘so good.’ In racing, it’s so mental that you can always improve and grow and get better. Technology changes, bikes change, and there is always room to work on improving lap times.” Because racing isn’t static and it doesn’t entirely rely on the physical dimension, there is always room for growth.

Eric Wood said it another way. “It’s very much a thinking persons sport… there’s absolutely a physical component, and then there’s a very mental aspect to it to… you’re constantly thinking it through and analyzing what is going on… then you mix in the element of courage that you need to take in order to get better.”

Photo Credit: On TrackMedia, LLC

When classroom time is over, the students head to the garage and fire up their motorcycles. They line up on pit road and several students are assigned an instructor to follow on their first lap. This practice session lasts about 15 minutes, and is followed by another classroom session. They’ll alternate between riding and classroom time throughout the day. It’s literally painful to stand along pit road and watch the students hammer down the front straight; chills run down my spine as the heavy guttural exhaust note from Greenwood’s white Ducati Monster tears past me. The prospect of riding a motorcycle on a track as hard as prudence deems possible literally makes me salivate with excitement. As the day progresses, it’s fascinating to watch the students become more comfortable on the track. The mental demons have ceased their terrifying bombardment and are in full retreat: the students ride faster and faster, their bodies are more relaxed on the motorcycle, and their smiles continue to get wider.

“The biggest thing we like to see is smiling faces, and hearing ‘I can’t wait to come back in April,'” said Greenwood.

Photo Credit: On TrackMedia, LLC

The Penguin RoadRacing School was born from a desire to provide a place where riders could learn to become racers. Back in the ’70’s, there was little in the way of track days or programs where a street rider could come and simply ride on the track for a day. As riders’ needs changed and track days became increasingly popular, the school adapted their curriculum to meet those new needs, hence the Track Day Experience program. I asked Wood what new evolutions students could expect to see in the future from the school. “I envision the opportunity to utilize technology that’s becoming more and more readily available to add to our arsenal of tools… We’ve been experimenting a bit with GPS this year, and I’d be willing to bet that as technology evolves over the next few years, we’ll be able to provide… more individual attention that will allow us to connect to more people on a totally new level.”

Halfway through the day I go with Wood and the Advanced students for a track walk. Wood, who has won at NHMS dozens and dozens of times, knows every racing line, every braking point, when to get on the throttle, how best to position his body on the bike for the next turn –  walking with him is enlightening. I always knew there were a lot variables and things to remember about getting around a track, but Wood has this place so dialed that when he’s in turn five, he’s already setting himself up for turns six and seven. Our group’s responses to Wood’s teaching sounds like the time the repeat button got stuck on my iPod. “You do what in this turn? Oh. I never even thought of that. Wow…. You do what in this turn? Oh.”

Photo Credit: Penguin RoadRacing School

I walked away from the day deeply impressed with the level of knowledge and experience the instructors have, how well the huge amount of information was imparted to the students, and just how desperately I want to ride a motorcycle on the track. It would be far too difficult to try and explain all the concepts and topics covered during the day. Instead, go take the class and find out for yourself. “It’s a lot more than just a track day. What we focus on is the education on top of the track time and helping our students learn as much as possible so they can walk away and be a better rider,” said Wood.

“Nobody walks into this sport and goes to the front right away. This is a process, it doesn’t happen instantly for anybody… That moment when the guy comes off the track and has the look in his eye that says, ‘Hey! I get it,’ that never gets old,” said Wood. “I remember doing that and I still do that… I enjoy trying to inspire someone to be better, to learn more. You teach someone something that makes a difference for them and that earns their trust and you can then move on to the next level. If you can inspire, they can become a life long addict of the sport.”

Look for another entry on the Penguin RoadRacing School coming sometime in the spring. Next time, I’ll be on the bike!

Photo Credit: Penguin RoadRacing School

Many thanks to the Penguin Racing School for allowing me to spend the day with them. Special thanks to Scott Greenwood for being such a gracious host, and to Eric Wood for his time and for allowing me to tag along. Be sure to visit their website HERE.