This Corvette team is composed of a bunch of guys who have hung around together for years in the Detroit area. They've built some pretty decent race cars and they aren't afraid to test them for 24 hours. Jeff Nowicki is the builder of the SpectreWerkes/Sports Corvette and one of the top Cor-vette tuners in the world.
He is also the only Corvette tuner who currently puts his car on the line. The Mallets, John Lingenfelter, and Reeves Callaway all talk performance, but never show up when the best cars in the world compete. (Editor's note: Callaway has competed in many venues, including Le Mans in the past.) You have to give Jeff a lot of credit for running with the big dogs.
This was a hard year for SpectreWerkes, because they had to run with the factory teams. There was a 4-liter limit on the GTU cars, leaving Jeff racing with the GTO factory Vipers and Corvettes. They knew they could never win, but they wanted to finish. The problems began even before the sun went down. The serpentine belt came off a couple of times in the late afternoon, apparently caused by a problem with the idler pulley. This was no major deal, except that the resulting overheating would later contribute to much more severe problems.
Around the dinner hour, the clutch began acting strange. This meant a return to the garage area, where the team began to pull the clutch. It turned out that there was a crack in the clutch slave cylinder. They replaced it, and the optimism that is a trademark of this team returned.
Then, in the dead of the night, the head gaskets let go. Very likely, this could be blamed on the earlier overheating caused by the thrown belt episodes. Again this tired band of Corvette enthusiasts took to the task at hand. In what must have been record time the cylinder head gaskets were replaced and the SpectreWerkes Corvette was back on the track. At least they would finish. Or so they thought.
Then, as the sun came up, the "gods of racing" delivered one final blow. As John Heinricy said, "We found out something we already knew. The stock C5 driveshaft coupler can't take 550 lb-ft of torque." Re-member, this is the team that wouldn't quit, so they pulled a stock SpectreWerkes Cor-vette over to the garage entrance.
The team wanted to swap out the driveshafts and keep on going. At this point it was a purely a quest to finish. Jeff and his sponsor, Jack Cauley Chevrolet, told the team it was their decision. That was when Crew Chief Danny Kellemyer decided to pull the plug. He congratulated the crew on the incredible effort they put forth, but pointed out that it was really all over. This was a crew that had gone beyond everyone's expectations. As the reality set on this band of warriors, grown men were holding back tears. When you've spent over 20 hours in an effort to keep the dream alive, pulling the plug is not something you want to do.
Somehow I know that SpectreWerkes will be back next year. This is the team that refuses to die. These folks are willing to test themselves and their cars against the long grind of a 24-hour endurance race. While the other Corvette tuners are resting at home and sleeping in their nice, warm beds, the SpectreWerkes team has this need for speed. They have this insane urge to spend the night proving they make the best Corvette in the world. You have to believe in them.
What's Happening in Sports Car Racing?
Sports car racing has never been big in the United States. It also seems to be in a constant state of confusion, and the 2000 season is only one more example of this chaos. Essentially, we have two groups. The Daytona race was sanctioned by the Grand American Road Racing Association, often called Grand Am.