Napa’s Krider Racing took on one of the toughest races in the world, survived 25 grueling hours of door to door racing, and came out standing on the podium proudly holding their newest trophies.
The trophies, appropriately made from clocks, represented the most important element of the race that needed to be overcome — time — in the 10th Anniversary running of the National Auto Sport Association’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by the United States Air Force.
Krider Racing not only had to race against the 69 other teams on the track, they also had to race against the clock.
“The hardest part of this race is keeping both man and machine running for over 25 hours. You have to make it through sunset and sunrise and somehow keeping everything running hard and stay out on the track,” said the team’s manager, Napa City Firefighter Eli Cronbach. “Krider Racing did that, and now they have the trophies to prove it.”
The race kicked off with a low flyover from three F-18s from the USAF. Then Krider Racing, the little team that could from Napa, after overcoming little obstacles, went out and competed against professional factory backed efforts from around the world.
“The weekend wasn’t all ‘win.’ Testing and qualifying popped us some minor issues with the cars that had to be resolved,” said driver Rob Krider. “Our car chiefs, Simeon Gracy and Stephen Young, with help from the crew, fixed every little detail that came up so when the race started, the cars would run solid. Watching them pick over those cars with such care before the race began made me realize we have some great people helping us out.”
When the checkered flag flew at noon Sunday, Dec. 9, Krider Racing’s two Nissan Sentra’s went across the finish line side by side.
“Having two cars in the race was a huge challenge for the team,” said crew chief Brad Bowles. “But having them finish side by side, that was an absolutely amazing feat.”
Bowles referred to the fact that at around 10 hours into the race, Rob Krider blew up the engine in the team’s blue car.
“I was coming down the back straight and the motor let go in a big way,” he recalled. “The interior filled with smoke. I clutched it and radioed to the team, ‘I’m bringing her in, this motor is dead.’ I wasn’t out of the car six seconds and the crew was already beginning to complete a motor swap.”
The crew knew the race was a long one and, with a spare engine ready to go, they didn’t hesitate to yank out the blown engine and replace it with the new one to ensure both cars finished the race. Ryan Hackett, Isaiah Craig, Simeon Gracy, Stephen Young and Travis Bowles quickly got to work and, within five hours, the blue car was back on the track and running solid.
“These guys had a never-quit attitude and that motor swap they performed was awesome,” said Jim Krider. “Other teams in the pits were gathering around and watching our crew do their magic. It was really special to see.”
With one car down for five hours for repairs, it meant the team had to rely on the second car, the red one, to bring home a solid finish.
“As soon as the motor blew in the blue car, our strategy changed,” said driver Randy Krider. “We threw our fastest drivers and our best Toyo Tires onto the red car’s roster and put all of our efforts toward that car’s finish.”
This proved to be a winning strategy because when the checkered flag flew Krider Racing Team Red was in third place, just ahead of the factory effort from Mazda. Krider Racing earned a podium finish in the E2 class in one of the longest and hardest races in the world.
“This was huge for us,” said Rob Krider. “We went head to head against professional teams, factory-backed teams and legendary drivers, and showed everyone we could complete. Our crew was the best team out there. These guys don’t do this for a living. They volunteer their time because they love the sport and because it’s fun to go out and beat up on the big boys.”
Some of the big boys Rob was referring to are pro drivers such as Randy Pobst (World Challenge Champion), Elliott Forbes-Robinson (24 Hours of Daytona winner), Johannes Van Overbeek (Porsche driver from Le Mans) and John Morton (Trans-Am Champion). John Morton is a driver whom Rob Krider grew up idolizing; the paint scheme on the Krider Racing Nissan Sentras pay homage to Morton’s 1972 championship BRE Racing Team livery.
“It’s not every day you get the chance to compete with one of your childhood heroes — and then beat them,” said Rob Krider. “We finished ahead of Morton, driving a car with his paint scheme. It almost doesn’t seem right.”
Right or wrong, Napa’s Krider Racing did it and will always have this finish as one of its greatest racing accomplishments.
“This one was big for us,” said Jim Krider. “I want to congratulate everyone who helped out. The crew was great and all of our drivers did fantastic — Rob Krider, Randy Krider, Keith Kramer, AJ Gracy, Dave Schotz, Ken Myers and Bryan Heitkotter. These guys drove solid and fast.”
The team couldn’t have completed this event without the help of Toyo Tires, Royal Purple, AutoSport Lab’s Race Capture, Go Pro Cameras, Torque Racing Brake Fluid, I/O Port Racing Supplies, Carbotech Performance Brake Pads, G Spec Performance, Jim Wolf Technology, Pit Posse Motorsports, Sampson Racing Communications, Circuit Sports, Lightforce, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Nissan Motorsports, Economy Stockfeed, B & G Tires, Performance In-Frame Tuning, T.E.M. Machine Shop, Napa Valley Transmissions, Miracle Auto Body and Paint, Napa Valley Muffler, Bottlers Unlimited, C.J. Fix Co., Bay Area Express, and Corporate West Computer Solutions.
“There are so many people to thank for this race, which was a team effort from start to finish. But one guy gave a little more than everybody else, and that guy is Ryan Hackett,” said Rob Krider. “Ryan brought his personal 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R to the racetrack and we ended up ‘borrowing’ a few parts from it. When I say a few parts, I mean the windshield, radiator, left front spindle, rearview mirror, gas gap, fuel lines, alternator and wheels. If Ryan wasn’t kind enough — or dumb enough, depending on how you look at it — to drive his car to the event so we could pick it apart, I don’t think either of our two cars would have started the race, let alone finished it. We owe you big time, Ryan.”
Krider Racing’s effort at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill was filmed by a documentary production crew and it is being edited together to show what it takes to finish a race of this magnitude. To see updates on the film check out Krider Racing’s Facebook page.