Speed Secrets: The Virtues of ChumpCar

By Ross Bentley

February 15, 2016

This past weekend, I competed in a Chumpcar race at Road Atlanta. It was strictly research, and I had no fun at all driving a Miata with my good friends, Colin and Jeff Braun, Naj Husain, and Ric Greene. Yup, no fun at all. It was all in the name of serious research. -Ross

My objective was to check out what racing in a Chumpcar race was like, since I'd done a World Racing League race last Fall, and I wanted to compare the two. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about these series. I wanted to make sure I was in a position to be able to give advice to drivers thinking about doing a "low budget endurance race event." See, research.
I also wanted to spend time with great friends (which is a pretty darn good reason to go racing, right?!).
But a funny thing happened in the middle of all this research: I had a blast! There's something just so satisfying about working on my braking technique, how I turn the steering wheel, carrying more momentum through a corner, committing to full throttle that fraction of a second earlier than I think the car can take, setting up a pass a few corners earlier, using a slower car as a "pick" to pass a car while keeping another car behind me....
There is so much pure enjoyment in focusing on improving, on learning to go faster!
I've been fortunate to have driven some very fast and cool cars in my career. Indy cars fit that description, as does the car Jeff Braun and I spent some time talking about between driving stints at the Chumpcar race: the Ferrari 333SP. The BMW M3 I raced in 1998, and the Lola-Nissan in which we won the 2003 Daytona race fits that description, too.

And so does the Miata we raced last weekend! See, it doesn't matter what car I'm driving, it's way fun figuring out how to go just that little bit faster.
While organizing a group of drivers to go drive the Nurburgring this June for a couple of days, I was asked what car I wanted reserved to drive. My response? "I don't care. I can have fun in anything. How about a Trabant? That would be a blast!"
I realize that I'm not "normal" (in more ways than one - as my family and friends know all too well). And I know that every driver drives and races for a different reason. For me, it's the challenge of making whatever I happen to be driving go just a little bit faster, more consistently (and most important, getting through traffic without it costing me as much as anyone else).
To me, it's not about the car. It's about improving. It's about being challenged by constantly learning and improving.
Give me a motorized lawn mower, and I'd have fun figuring out how to drive it faster.
And that's the results of my extensive research project at Road Atlanta this past Saturday. :)