Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient – Extreme Hypermiling & Serious Karting!

This is the 3rd installment documenting the specific happenings & details of the Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient event that occurred 2 weeks ago.  We met, 3 bloggers & 3 drivers, at the Chuck Nash Auto Group dealership,  just north of San Marcos, at http://www.a1garagedoorrepairmilwaukee.com Texas.

Chuck Nash Dealership, San Marcos, TX - starting point of Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient

We were introduced to the inner workings & interesting details that set the new Chevy Volt apart.  Craig Eppling, Regional Manager of GM Communications, gave us a well-informed overview, with unique specifics when we inquired.

Craig Eppling, GM Communications Regional Manager, explaining the Volt's technolgy & inner workings - Photos by Russ Ham

As part of the welcome packet for this event, GM & the crew at Fleishman-Hillard included an actual Monroney sticker for our perusal.  I figured they’d want you to know ALL the details, so click on the image below to enlarge…

Chevy Volt Monroney sticker

In simple terms, it’s not a hybrid.  Upon initial full charge, you can drive up to 40 miles on the electric mode of propulsion, alone.  Beyond that, the 1.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine will kick in to charge the onboard lithium batteries (there are 280 small cells, not unlike laptop batteries with an eight year, 100K miles lifespan guarantee).

Racing Ready Dan studying Chevy Volt battery storage - Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient, by  DrivingTheHeartland

The general layout of the Chevy Volt is open & clean.  Teammate Jeff & I were positively impressed by the car’s spaciousness, interior layout & overall fit & finish.

Spacious, inviting Chevy Volt interior; with audio & video recording devices, Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient, by DrivingTheHeartland

The 3 teams settled into our first Chevy Volt challenge of driving efficiency.  As you can see, strategically-placed GoPro HD Hero video cams caught our interior actions & comments.  I felt like I was participating in a reality show, of sorts.

All 3 Driver/Blogger Teams (Baker-Ham, Warden-Scanlon & Umscheid-Choate) enroute in Volt - Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient, by  DrivingTheHeartland

There are all variety of onscreen menus & status displays to encourage you to drive the Chevy Volt in a “green” manner.  They were actually engaging & really helped Jeff drive the Volt most efficiently.  Part of this first challenge was a Chevy Volt themed scavenger hunt within the environs of San Marcos, TX.  Our first stop was to Dick’s Classic Garage, a rotating collection of serious 65 plus vintage classics.  They can boast a nice variety of cars previously enjoyed in the last century (from the years 1929 to 1959) – even a pristine Tucker!

Dick's Classic Garage, San Marcos, TX - featuring this 1959 Chevrolet Corvette

This was a very nice collection, but Jeff & I buzzed through in less than 5 minutes – we had a challenge to complete!  We agreed we’d like to come back & spend time at a more leisurely pace here.  It will be worth a visit back to this nicely preserved gathering of classic cars.

The Teams were to gather visual proof of at least 2 items as part of this first challenge.  The more notable items we had to find/do were the following:

  • Find a retail store with plug ins for electric vehicles
  • Another Chevy Volt
  • Volt & Team member at a place that represents Texas
  • Volt & Team member at a place that represents speed
  • Find the cheapest gas
  • Team Volt with another Chevy vehicle of the same color
  • Take a picture of a Camaro or Corvette
  • Volt & Team member with something that represents green energy
  • Team member with item/activity that “charges” you

We had about 1 hour & 20+ miles to complete the museum visit & above challenges.  The end goal of this first section of the challenge was to get to the Thunderhill Raceway, outside of Kyle, TX, before 6:30pm.  We did so & were all  successful in completing our driving/scavenger hunt challenges.  So successful, in fact, all 3 teams were tied with perfect scores!  So the deciding factor of winning this overall challenge was to do well in the NasKarts of the On Track Xperience (OTX).

OTX - On Track Xperience - Feel the NasKart Thrill at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, TX

All 3 drivers have extensive karting & other experience running the track at Thunderhill Raceway, a 3/8-mile, D-shaped banked asphalt oval track.  Chris is an OTX managing partner & driving instructor there.  Jeff participates consistently in a NasKart League & is an autocrosser. Not to be outdone, here’s visual proof of David’s experience – he won a SportMod feature race just 2 months ago!

David Umscheid - SportMod Feature Race Winner at Thunderhill Raceway, Kyle, TX - 10-SEP-2011

My previous karting experience was an impromptu 10 lap baptism, on a tight, 1/3 mile, circuitous track at Alamo Karts.  I’ll just say it wasn’t confidence inspiring.  But that experience was not at all any sort preparation for NasKarts at OTX – WOW!

OTX NasKarts waiting for us to run them ragged - Photo by Russ Ham

These miniscule single-speed karts, run with a powerful Honda engine, take you up to speeds of 65MPH, with your butt just an inch above the asphalt track.  They say it feels like 100MPH – I can concur!!!  Here’s a helmetcam screenshot of the tight, at speed racing OTX calls bump drafting.  This is not for the faint of heart.  Remember, this is at over 60 MPH!  Oh, & by the way, there’s no seatbelt or harness to hold you in place!

Proper (& brave) NasKart bump draft racing with OTX at Thunderhill Raceway - Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient, by  DrivingTheHeartland

In preparation for the speed part of this event, Jeff had previously e-mailed me the following sage piece of advice:

As far as the Karts, I race there in a league and I will definitely do all I can to help you out.  Full throttle, never let off.  That’s the rule. Don’t be afraid.  I think we will get to practice, but I am not sure.  I’ll be able to tell you the line depending on the track.  If it’s slick, it’s a high entry late apex kind of thing.  If it’s tight it is as low as you can go.  The rule for both is to never lift!   (Emphasis mine…)

Well, this advice did not assuage my concerns…

So, as they say, there’s no substitute for the real thing.  We had two 10-lap sessions.  The first session was slated for practice, the second to be the actual racing where the times counted.  I was quite apprehensive during the first session laps, not at all trusting the on-the-edge, lack of control of drifting & feeling like I was going to spin out around the banked corner.  In short, yes, I will say I was scared…but I kept on it.  Witness the my blurred, TOO high racing line result below:

That yellow blur is Racing Ready Dan at TOO high a racing line - Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient, by DrivingTheHeartland

After the first session,  Jeff came by to continue to offer the “never lift” advice.  We reviewed the proper racing line, both corners working best with a late apex, especially in the cooler, dusty/slick track conditions we were experiencing.  I felt I did a little better during this racing session.  I kept telling myself to push it down to the inside edge of the each corner, then coming out to the short straights only to realize I was breathing SO very fast.  Also, at that speed you really experience the sensation of tunnel vision.  I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that the I didn’t realize the 10 laps were over & I was still at full throttle for almost 3/4’s of the cool down lap – sorry guys!

So, Jeff & I placed in the mid-pack, earning second place, as announced by Katrina.

Katrina Steffensen, of Fleishman-Hillard, announcing our final challenge standings - Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient, by DrivingTheHeartland

This was quite a rewarding event for me as a blogger & wannabe racer.  I found out some of the depths that a racer must go to push himself beyond his perceived limitations.  I’m sure I still left a lot of room on the track to push even further.

In addition to giving me some personal racing satisfaction, the winners Chris & Russ donated their NASCAR Texas Motor Speedway races weekend prizes (2 pairs of race tix & a nice hotel stay).  Chris give up his to Aaron & myself for participating in something new.  Thank you, Chris!!!  Russ offered his for the SPOKES autocross club to raise additional funds for the Bastrop fire victims.  Also, Chris & Russ were able to enjoy a week long free rental of a Chevy Camaro & Corvette, respectively.  Here’s Russ’ blogged writeup of his Corvette experience.  In addition, Aaron did a nice writeup of this whole experience, from a more EV point of view!

Many thanks to Katrina, Vicki, Matt, & Craig – among the unsung others at Fleishman-Hillard, General Motors, Chuck Nash Auto Group & the Driving the Heartland Chevy blog.  Many of the above images were captured from the tightly edited video displayed below – thanks Rhea!  Here’s the recap: Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient video, by Driving the Heartland

This is an e-mail excerpt I sent to my fellow Team bloggers & drivers  after the event:

Although these tickets don’t include the AAA Texas 500 “real” NASCAR race on Sunday, seeing the Truck Series & Nationwide Series racing will more than suffice.  I am an admitted non-NASCAR fan, except for the Watkins Glen & Infineon Raceway NASCAR contests.  Seeing this high speed racing phenomena, in person, has a strong possibility of changing my opinion.  Also, screaming around the Thunderhill Raceway in the OTX NasKarts at over 60MPH, was WAY beyond my perceived limit of pushing myself!!!  I gained a further appreciation of what a racer has to do to win.  All of this should make for more interesting blog posts at RacingReady.com.

So, yes, I will be soon writing up about my impressions of a NASCAR weekend immersion experience.  As a teaser, my opinion has changed to a more positive position about NASCAR – seriously!  More later…

Racing Ready enjoyed the opportunity to learn about new technology, partake in different activities & make new friends.  I will say this, I was impressed by the new Chevy Volt.  Thank you Chevrolet & GM!

Dan

For more info please visit http://www.a1garagedoorrepairmilwaukee.com.