Last month, Project Orange Crush was entered into the Motor State Challenge. Since we were the only Mopar in sight, we assume many of you have not heard of this event. The Motor State Challenge started out as a pro-touring event for select classic and modern muscle cars, and has since opened its doors to all makes and models. In part, this is due to the chance of participants earning a spot at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Motor State Distributing has hosted the event for 9 years now, and the three day event includes a dinner cruise, a day of racing at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan, and rounds out with an autocross at the Tire Rack Facility in Indiana. We wish we learned about this event much sooner, but glad that we had the chance to be there this year. We thoroughly enjoyed everything about the event and will be back every year with Orange Crush.
The event started mid-day Thursday in Watervliet, Michigan at the Fairfield Inn. After all 83 participants checked in, we sat down for a drivers/event meeting. They handed out packets that had itineraries for each day, rules, dinner tickets, and all the info needed for a fun and successful weekend. As we mentioned earlier, this event is unique because there is the possibility of earning a spot at Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. If you wanted to compete for the spot, you had to fill out a few forms and your car had to meet all the qualifications for Optima series.
The winner of the spot would be chosen by Motor State Distributing in the form of the Spirit of the Event award. During the meeting, we also learned that Lane Automotive was conveniently located right across the street from the hotel and they generously opened their doors for any of the drivers’ performance parts needs for the whole weekend. Plus, during the race at Gingerman Raceway, a delivery truck would be available to make the trip back and forth to Lane Automotive to help out anyone that needed parts at the track.
Once the meeting was adjourned, everyone headed out to their cars and prepared for a 60 mile cruise to Das Dutch Essenhaus restaurant in Middlebury, Indiana. There was about 30 minutes until the cruise officially started, so if you needed fuel, now was the time to fill your tank. The best part of the cruise was for the first half of the drive we had police escorting us all the way out of town. This was a first for us and was as cool as it sounds. This allowed everyone to stick together for some great pictures, there were no worries about traffic jams, and we didn’t have to stop at a single traffic light. The Berrien County Sheriff Department did a great job and we hope they will continue to escort us every year.
After cruising the backroads and making our way to Das Dutch Essenhaus, we were greeted with our own special parking area. Every Thursday evening Das Dutch Essenhaus holds a weekly car show that can potentially bring in a couple hundred or more cars to their front lawn. They were excited for us to arrive and so were many other regulars. We helped fill the giant lawns in front of the restaurant and were able to check out some other cool rides while we waited for dinner. We had several people come up to us and compliment Orange Crush.
We were surround by Chevies and stuck out like a black sheep, which we were, but surprised at the number of people that approached us telling us how they appreciated seeing a Mopar competing in the event. It was also our first event with the new graphics that M.A.D. Graphics designed on the car and know that they drew a lot of attention. After walking the grounds and checking out some of the locals cars, we headed inside for a wonderful traditional, Amish dinner. After our stomachs were full and conversing with many of our friends, we fired the car up and headed back to the hotel to get some rest.
The next morning we were up and at it at 6am. The track was a 20 minute drive and needed to pack the car with food and tools. The gates opened at 7am at Gingerman Raceway and tech inspection began shortly after. We got there early, found a spot and set up camp for the day. We unloaded the car and headed over for tech inspection. Although we were still battling some carb issues, the car passed tech with no issues. We headed back to our spot and waited for our group to be called on track. When you register, they ask for your driving experience level and place you accordingly with other participants. We are still learning and signed up as a novice driver. It was nice knowing there wouldn’t be experts in our group running us off the track.
Everyone got to participate in two 15 minute sessions in the morning and 2 more in the afternoon. If you are not familiar with Gingerman Raceway, it’s a neat track. The 2.14 mile track offers 11 challenging corners, but with a lot of run-off area in case a car gets out of control. By the end of the day, we started to learn the lines of the track and picked up a lot more speed than our first lap. Orange Crush ran better than it has all season, but still not 100%. We almost made it through all of our sessions in one piece without any catastrophic failures.
Unfortunately, we did experience some more spark and carburetor issues. The worst failure was during our last lap, and that was our header flange gasket blowing out. Luckily we made the cut off for the last delivery truck from Lane Automotive and they brought us a new gasket. Everyone ended day with a big bowl of Sherman’s ice cream which is locally made. After enjoying a big bowl ourselves, we packed up Orange Crush and headed back to the hotel.
After a long night of tinkering with the car and hanging out with new friends, we were up early again on Saturday. The Tire Rack Facility was a little further away than the raceway, and we planned on heading home after the autocross. We had a lot more stuff to pack up since we didn’t plan to return to the hotel. We arrived at the Tire Rack facility in South Bend around 8 am. We didn’t know that outside of the Tire Rack facility has their own paved tire testing track. The track would be our autocross course for the day with the addition of a few cones. We got the car unloaded and lined up in our autocross spot. We took some time to walk the track, and then joined in for the drivers meeting.
After the drivers meeting they started to send cars out on the track. Everyone got 6 chances to run the course. Unfortunately, there was some rain that some racers had to fight, but it was dry for our turn. We made our first 3 passes fairly quick. We started into our 5th lap where we started encountering some issues. In the middle of the course we lost some power, then the car’s exhaust changed pitch and started smoking. We babied it off the course and back to the trailer. Orange Crush was still running, but we didn’t want to chance something major happening by pushing it another lap. Not to mention loading a running and driving car is easier than one that doesn’t. We loaded the car up and enjoyed watching the rest of the drivers compete on the course.
Once the last car finished up, everyone headed to the event tent and waited for the results to be tallied up. You could hear multiple conversations going on of who was faster, who hit a cone, and who didn’t. They finally gathered all the results and announced the winners. They presented the winners with their awards and went into drawing for the door prizes. Its always fun to walk away from an event with some goodies, and we were lucky enough to bring home two gift certificates.
After all the door prizes were handed out we said our goodbyes and headed home. We want to give thanks to Motor State Distributing and Lane Automotive for organizing such a great event, and South Bend Region SCCA for directing and officiating the races. Also to give thanks to all of our sponsors Edelbrock, Flaming River Industries, Reilly Motorsports, American Powertrain, M.A.D. Graphics, and QA1 for helping increase the performance of Orange Crush. We are already anticipating next years event and plan to return for 2018.
Some images provided by Lane Automotive and Motor State. More photos from the event can be found here.