But Seriously…

So, in public I’ve been having a lot of fun with this USA 500 experience.  I seem pretty happy in my walk around video of the first rollover, and I edited this second roll over video below to allow for what I think is optimum hilarity.  Most of my conversations this past week have gone something like,  ME:  “Yeah…I totally rolled the car!  TWICE!  It was epic!”   PALS:  “No way!  That’s so bad ass!”

Except, it’s not.

In fact, it’s the opposite of bad ass.  It’s really kind of pathetic.  A driver with more skill would have been able to get in the car, which I would like to remind everyone is not mine, assess the quirks, and compensate for them.  Hell a skilled driver could even USE them to an advantage, but at the very least figure them out after the first time s/he dumped the car on its side.  This video proves that I was not able to do that.

I probably cost Desert Dingo their season, not to mention the time and effort that will have to go into getting 1107 back on her wheels again.  “I’m sorry” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I’ve also lost a friend and I’m heartbroken.

But here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned from this spectacular failure:

  • If you can’t put the car EXACTLY where you want it to go, within an inch, then you’re going too fast.
  • If you have someone in your sights, then you’ve caught them.  It’s okay to hang back for a minute and pass when you’re comfortable, instead of trying to pass while you’re still all hopped up on the adrenaline of the first five miles.
  • Know every single piece of equipment in the car and think like McGyver, or at least have a co-driver who does.
  • A knife.  Have one.
  • Always be on the lookout for work around, especially when you see The Biggest, Steepest Hill That You Will Never Succeed At Summiting, Even If You Try Five Times (note:  Desert Dingo always posts a link to fly the course in Google maps.  Included are elevation changes.  Since we rarely get a chance to prerun, I think a good idea would be to fly the course and look for any crazy elevation changes, then look for work arounds.  It’s not perfect but it’s something.)
  • Decisions should be made cleanly and without hesitation.
  • Just thinking but would it be possible to get an iPhone just for the car and mount it to the dash?  We had some radio issues.  I know you wouldn’t be able to text back to pits, but we seemed to be in text range more than radio range.  At least that way you could read incoming texts.  Just thinking out loud.

Of course, it’s very easy to write a blog post and say, “Well I learned x, y, and z.  I’m good!”  It’s much more difficult to actually put it into practice.  Well be at the KC HiLites MORE/SNORE combo race in September, where I am hoping to just finish without making too many stupid mistakes.  Middle of the pack would be nice, but I’ll take a just a finish.


What the Hell Happened to the Hall???

Editor’s Note:  I was recently informed that I may not use the phrase “H@ll Ass Racing” in any post or in any announcement about my name change to Mega Monkey Motorsports™.  It seems a little overkill to me but frankly, I can’t afford to be sued.  Thank you to all my fans who have been so supportive through this transition time.  I hope this is the last change I will have to make.


I’d like to spin a tale for you.  One full of legalese, a few expenses, a bit of frustration, and a healthy dash of ignorance.  In short, a cautionary tale.

The upshot is that due to a trademark violation, I am changing the name of my team to Mega Monkey Motorsports™.  Back in February I got a phone call from a lawyer who informed me I was in violation of a trademark, but that the owner, who operates in California,  would like to meet me to work out a licensing agreement.  I was nervous, but I was going to California anyway, so Dad and I met the owner  and agreed to work out a licensing contract.   I came home thinking it would all work out.

The next week I spoke with the company and we discussed what the licensing agreement would entail.  I was not entirely satisfied with the agreement and I started doing a little research.  Big mistake.  My first stop was the US Patent and Trademark Office website.  I did a search for their trademark and there it was…and it said PENDING.  Further, it was pending in the category of Automobile Parts and Design…nothing to do with racing.  “HA!”  I thought.  They don’t even own the trademark!  I immediately registered myself as a Motorsports Team and wrote an email explaining my position to this company.  In my mind, the matter was done.

It was not.  I got an official cease and desist letter from the company.  I got an email copy of it the weekend of the Mint 400.  I saw it in my inbox and just couldn’t bring myself to open it.  I was already so stressed out with our first big race, and I knew if I opened it I would break down and I had to remain strong and positive for my team.  I let it lie until that Monday and I immediately dove into my rolodex.   I called my two lawyer friends.  I called people who I thought had lawyer friends.  Then I called those lawyers…anyone who I could get a grain of free advice from.  If you haven’t ever contacted a lawyer for a trademark violation case, a simple resolution will apparently cost upwards of $5ooo.oo.  Now that may not be a lot for a big company, but it’s a lot for me.  So I just grilled lawyer acquaintances until they begged me to stop.

I’d like to preface this next part by saying that if you find yourself in this situation,  my only advice  is to get advice.  As it turns out, trademark law is really complicated and the following applies only to my situation.  Okay?  Good.  There are a few ways a trademark can be established.  First, by common law.  This company had been using the trademark since the mid 1990s.  The fact that their official trademark was still pending didn’t really matter.  It’s the common law that trumps all.  The official trademark can only strengthen your case.  There is also the issue of confusion.  Would a consumer think that my racing activities were associated with this company?  Since this company was involved in auto and motorcycle design and custom fabrication, the answer from every lawyer I spoke with was yes.

I would like to go on the record that this entire process was nothing but professional on both sides.  This company is family owned and produces really cool custom vehicles for law enforcement, SWAT teams, and just for fun.  I was disappointed that we couldn’t come to a licensing agreement, but its called off road racing, not off road friends.  And so Mega Monkey Motorsports™ was born.

Why Mega Monkey Motorsports™?  Well, because Dirt Monkey Racing was taken!  I also toyed with Trademark Violation Racing, but when I ran it by some people that had no idea of the back story, they didn’t think it was funny.  (To me, it’s hilarious).  I paid $700 for a company to do a thorough common law, business name, internet, and trademark search.  Why not just do a google search and be done with it?  Well, a company could be out there that has no internet presence whatsoever.  Remember a google search will just turn up information that’s on the internet, and there are still plenty of folks out there who have no web presence.  Hence, $700 for a search company.  Then I paid the $500 or so for the official trademark, which is now pending.

So I am attempting to rid the internet of all evidence of THE TEAM WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED BY PENALTY OF LAW, although it’s difficult.  Google never forgets, but fortunately the company has acknowledged that.  I can only hope they start generating press of their own since  when you google “THE TEAM WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED BY PENALTY OF LAW“  I am the only thing that comes up for pages and pages (note:  not anymore.  this company has recently added a racing page to their website and it now shows up third in a google search, but then it’s all me again)  I also hope I can generate as much press as Mega Monkey Motorsports™ as I did before.  You can help by sharing this blog, tweeting about my name change, subscribing to my new YouTube channel and in general being the awesome fans that you are.  And remember, if there is one lesson to be learned from all of this it’s this:

Trademark yo’ shit.



Knowing Your Ass From Your Alternator

Even though I’ve been around air cooled Volkswagens for most of my life, I am still woefully under prepared to ever have to fix one out in the middle of the desert. I mean, I’ve been out there and watched guys replace a tie rod in a class 11, or adjust the jetting on our class 5 unlimited. I think the only two things I would trust myself to do in a pinch would be changing a tire and replacing a belt. And let me tell you, that ain’t right. I’ve got this new 2/1600 race car (see previous post) and I owe it to her and my team to build my skills.

I’ve looked at junior colleges and trade schools within commuting distance (read 100 miles) from DC and come up empty. There are plenty of places that teach automotive tech, but I haven’t found anything that focused specifically on air cooled VWs. So I started researching actual repair shops. I figured there has to be SOMEPLACE around DC that caters to, or least services old skool VWs. And finally, I found one. Metric Autohaus.

The license plate? DA 8BALL


So it came to pass that an unseasonably warm Saturday found me with Robert and his pals up at Metric. They were happy to have me hang out for the day, although I’m sure stunning good looks didn’t have anything to do with it. I walked into a large, 2 part garage with VWs in varied states of repair crowding the space. Ghias, Bugs, Vans, and my favorite, Things! He even had a water cooled VW in the corner.

ZOMG Thing!

Have you ever been to one of those shops where everyone is cool? Well this is that shop. It’s not open all the time, and Robert is hoping to turn the place around by renting space to individual wrenchers, turning it into a VW co-op, if you will. The shop has a large parking lot that will one day become the site of air cooled VW meetups and hopefully the starting point for many a summer road rally.

Need a carburator?

So, what exactly do I hope to get by hanging out there? I just want to learn more. My first day there I helped put on a bumper and observed some creative welding and problem solving. I also put my design skills to use, offering up my suggestions for interior and convertible top colors to a gentleman restoring his Superbeetle. In the future I hope to be able to tear down and engine and put it back together. Robert says he has a Type 1 engine that was in a flood and has no hope of ever working again, so I should be able to doink around with that one.

What I Learned at Autocross, Part Deux

A few weeks ago I stated my goals for the next autocross event:  “The next event is mid-May, where we’ll get 8 runs instead of 4.  My goal is to stay on course, to get faster every run, and to not be in the middle.” 

Well, I took the Miata out to Blue Crab studium yesterday, and although the times have not been posted yet, I can safely say that I did not meet my goal to stay on course.  In fact, I was off course on all four runs.  Yes.  All.  Four.  Runs.  Instructor Eric rode with me on the first run, where I missed two gates.  I thought I knew where I had missed, and although I corrected the first missed gate on the following runs,  I never hit the second missed gate.  Honestly, I thought the cones were marking the outer wall, which isn’t an excuse, but at least I wasn’t driving towards the cone and thinking, “AH!!!  Which way to do I go?”  No, instead I ignored it all together. 

But really, that’s not the problem, and here’s where the lesson comes in.  It seems I am a bit of a self-indulgent nincompoop.  As soon as I missed a gate, that was it.  I proceeded to express every single emotion I had as I was having it, which meant that I was not focused on what I was doing.  All I could do was think about how stupid I was, how dare I miss that gate, why can’t I get it right….all talk that is not conducive to… well…anything. 

What’s interesting is that I don’t seem to do that when driving in the dirt.  Out in the desert I am very focused, very intent.  The mistakes just roll off my back as I concentrate on the road ahead and  the terrain around me.  I do, however, get bogged down in my negative emotions in real life, and while I’ve known in my head that its counter productive, it hasn’t been until autocross that I’ve realized that in my heart. 

My brain has got to change, and so I am amending my goals.  At my next autocross,  I will be focused.  When I make a mistake I will not dwell on it for the duration of the run.  Mistakes will be water under the bridge and I will not self destruct.  I think that focusing on these goals will ultimately lead to faster times, staying on course, and a higher sense of self worth.

Autocross…the cheapest therapy you can find.


What I Learned at Autocross

You might think this post will be about how I learned to walk the course ahead of time, or  to look ahead and plan to be on the front of back side of a cone, or even how to use  blue painters tape as makeshift numbers.  But no.  Believe it or not, autocross taught me that I lie to myself.  A lot. 

Just to get you up to speed, this is what the Sports Car Club of America says about Autocross: “It is like jumping down an elevator shaft with your hair on fire. It is you against the clock on a course defined with traffic cones. Our courses are usually six tenths to eight tenths of a mile long with 20 to 30 turns in about 60 seconds. Every course is different and you get four chances to drive your car at the limits of adhesion and defy the laws of physics to the best of your ability.”  How fast you go depends on a lot of things:  the kind of car you’ve got, what you have or have not done to said car, what kind of tires you run, and of course, driver skill. 

On the drive to the event, I decided that my goal would be to not go off course (those cones come up pretty quickly) and to improve my time with each run.  I told myself that I didn’t care where I fell in comparison to other drivers, that I would just run “my race”. 

Oh how wrong I was.

First of all, I went off course TWICE and my times went from okay (off course) to bad (on course) to pretty okay (off course again), and back to okay (on course) again.  But what really bothered me is that in my class I came in THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK!  I’d almost rather be last than be in the middle.  At least when you’re dead last you can say you’re the worst, and that’s better than saying, “I was…meh.”  

I ran novice class, which means the only equal factor was that we were all newbies.  I was bested by a 2010 VW GTI and a 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX.  I beat the 2007 Honda Accord LX (and if I didn’t I would pick up my helmet and go home), 2002 Honda S2000, and 1994 Mustang Cobra.  Part of me keeps saying, “If you’d all been in Miatas then you could compare” but the louder voice says, “MIDDLE!  Nothing else matters except MIDDLE!”

The next event is mid-May, where we’ll get 8 runs instead of 4.  My goal is to stay on course, to get faster every run, and to not be in the middle. 

You can check out pics from the event at http://tinyurl.com/63gb2bp


The Learning Curve

In an effort to rid myself of my “All Talk, Very Little Walk” persona, I recently learned how to change a tire. Yep…I’ve been off roading my entire life, I can heel-toe shift with the best of them, and have caught more air than Southwest in that baja, yet I had no idea how to change the tire. So if you’re interested in seeing how it’s done, check out the video below.