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2009 Corvette ZR1 - Habitually Running Yellows

Kyle Lemish targets fast list glory in a stock-engine ZR1.

Christopher R. Phillip Nov 17, 2011
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According to color psychology, yellow--the most attention-getting of visible light's wavelengths--can lift your spirits, stimulate your central nervous system, and even raise your metabolism. No wonder, then, that yellow pigments have been offered as regular-production colors on the Corvette for 23 of its 27 most recent model years.

In VETTE's never-ending quest to bring you the stories of the most "colorful" Corvette owners on the planet, we travel this month to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to meet a self-proclaimed "yellow-Corvette devotee."

"Since 1991, I've owned more than 20 late-model Corvettes, and they've all had one thing in common--yellow," car dealer/collector Kyle Lemish tells us. "I'm known as 'The Yellow Corvette Guy.'

"It started when I bought an '86 silver coupe when I was in college," he explains. "It wasn't long before I painted it Competition Yellow. After graduation, I bought a new '95 six-speed coupe; that one came Competition Yellow from the factory."

Lemish's lead role in his car dealership meant more yellow Corvettes would soon cross his path. "The dawn of the C5 only intensified my passion for my favorite color," he says. "Millennium Yellow convertibles were my cars of choice. They were my daily drivers."

In 2006, he bought his first Velocity Yellow C6 Z06. "I used it as my daily driver, too," he says. "As soon as I sold it, I went out and bought another one--until I had gone through four in total."

In 2008, Lemish began frequenting the Corvette Forum, home of the Z06 Quarter-Mile Fast List. The Fast List allows owners to post their best e.t.'s in five categories: Bone Stock on Stock Tires; Bone Stock except Non-Stock Tires; Bolt-Ons without Internal Engine Modification or Boost Modification; Bolt-Ons and Boost Modification without Internal Engine Modification; and Internal Engine and/or Aftermarket Power Adders (whew).

"I was interested in testing my skills at the track and making the Fast List, but I never owned a Z06 for long enough," Lemish says.

All that changed when he bought his current Corvette, an unmodified, low-mile '09 ZR1--in Velocity Yellow, of course.

"One question kept going through my mind," he says. "What could the stock ZR1 really do with a perfect track, perfect conditions, and perfect driving?"

It was time to travel to the dragstrip to find out.

The rules for the Corvette Forum's Fast List are straightforward. A Corvette owner must post a copy of his or her full timeslip, and it must include the date/time of the pass and the name of the track issuing the slip (whenever possible). The e.t. must also be plausible, probable, and credible--i.e., the timeslip must match the capabilities of the car.

But it was the Fast List's next rule--"Track times will not be corrected for weather or track altitude"--that could bend to a Corvette owner's advantage or disadvantage and affect his or her position in the rankings. That meant finding the perfect track was not just an option; it was a key to success.

"Mason-Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown, Maryland, is the nearest quarter-mile track to me, but it posed a problem," Lemish says. "It sits 562 feet above sea level, and its density altitude could hamper my goal of achieving the lowest e.t.

"After researching most of the quarter-mile tracks on the East Coast, I discovered that Maryland International Raceway (MIR) is only 87 feet above sea level and has excellent track prep," Lemish says. So off he went to the track in Mechanicsville, Maryland, and laid down a Bone Stock on Stock Tires e.t. of 11.10 seconds at 130 mph. That put him 0.2 seconds quicker than Chevy's published quarter-mile time for the LS9-powered supercar.

"I wanted to take the records in two ZR1 categories, not just one," Lemish says. "First, Bone Stock on Stock Tires, and then Bone Stock except Non-Stock Tires." In early October 2010, he rented MIR for the day. The -1,674 density altitude couldn't have been much better, and he quickly reached his first goal with a 10.74 at 133.21.

On January 6, 2011, he returned to MIR to topple the Bone Stock except Non-Stock Tires record of 10.69 seconds. To make it, he had to roll on the quickest wheel-and-tire-combo he could conjure up. He explains: "ZR1s left the factory with 25.8-inch front and 26.6-inch rear Michelin Pilot Sports [285/30ZR19 and 335/25ZR20, respectively]. I tried 345/30ZR19 Nitto NT05s on stock 19x12 Z06 rear wheels, but their 27.15-inch height was too tall for the ZR1's 2.26 First gear. By that I mean I wasn't getting close to a perfect 60-foot, and my clutch was overheating." Nonetheless, his best pass of the day was a 10.66 at 132 mph, flying past the Fast List's previous First Place by 0.03 seconds.

Vemp 1202 2009 Corvette Zr1 Habitually Running Yellows 002 5/8

He wanted better. On February 18, 2011, he rolled up to MIR's starting line again, but this time his ZR1 wore 345/30R19 Hoosier A6 racing rubber on its rear rims. "At 26.8 inches tall, they had the same effect as the Nittos," he says.

Approximately one month later, on March 25, Lemish returned to MIR with a vengeance, and with his Vette's rear riding on CCW one-piece aluminum wheels shod with 25.5x12x18 Mickey Thompson ET Street radials. Though the density altitude was only -730 feet, success was clearly in the air. "My first pass with this wheel/tire combo put me at 10.64 at 133.30, beating my previous record of 10.66," he says. At 2:56 p.m., he ran a 10.56 at 133.25, which put him in First Place on the Fast List.

So what does it take to propel a ZR1 down the 1,320 more than 0.7 seconds faster than its official time, without resorting to horsepower mods? Lemish says he's happy to share some of his low-e.t. secrets to help fellow ZR1 owners improve their track cred.

"If you run stock rear tires, set them at 22 or 23 psi. Launch at 3,500-3,600 rpm and shift at 6,500 rpm. Take the 1-2 shift a little lighter or you'll get wheel spin. If you're running drag radials, set them to 171?2-18 psi and launch at 4,600 rpm, and follow the same rules for your shifts," he says.

"After you've mastered these techniques, better stock-ZR1 times are all in the launch," he states. "Everybody tries to do a fast release of the clutch, but I slip it just a little. Also make sure to change the clutch fluid after every eight passes to help extend your clutch life."

Now that he's holding two Fast List First Places, Lemish says he's determined to get his supercar to run in the 10.40s in the Bone Stock except Non-Stock Tires category. "All I need to get there is some better air and some more seat time," he says.

But that's not all for this yellow-loving, low-e.t. Corvette junkie. "I'll probably start modding my ZR1 at that point," he confides. "A blower pulley and a dyno tune would be obvious choices."

Lemish pauses for a moment as he quickly sorts out the palette of priorities in his mind. "Then again, maybe I'll just install a set of '12 ZR1 seat covers with yellow custom leather stitch for the cabin and yellow calipers for the exterior. After all, I've heard yellow can have a positive effect on people."

Spec Sheet

'09 ZR1
Owner Kyle Lemish; Harrisonburg, VA
Block Stock LS9 aluminum
Displacement 376 ci
Compression Ratio 9.2:1
Heads Stock LS9 aluminum
Valves Stock 2.160 titanium/1.590 sodium filled
Camshaft Stock hydraulic roller
Rocker Arms Stock 1.7 ratio
Pistons Stock forged aluminum
Crankshaft Stock forged steel
Rods Stock forged titanium
Intake Manifold Stock
Throttle Body Stock
Fuel Injectors Stock
Fuel Pump Stock
Ignition Stock coil-on-plug
Engine Management Stock GM
Power Adder Stock TVS 2300 Eaton supercharger
Maximum Boost 10.5 psi
Intercooler Stock
Exhaust System Stock
Transmission TR6060 six-speed manual
Clutch Stock twin-disc
Driveshaft Stock
Front Suspension Stock
Rear Suspension Stock
RearEnd Stock 3.42:1
Front Brakes Stock with carbon rotors and six-piston calipers
Rear Brakes Stock with carbon rotors and four-piston calipers
Front Wheels HRE 546 19x10 (street), stock ZR1 19x10 (race)
Rear Wheels HRE 546 20x12 (street), CCW 18x11 (race)
Front Tires Michelin Pilot Sport 285/30ZR19
Rear Tires Michelin Pilot Sport 335/25ZR20 (street), Mickey Thompson ET Street 25.5x12x18 (race)
Fuel Octane 93
Weight 3,324 lbs
Best ET/MPH 10.56/133.25
Current Mileage 10,000
Miles Driven Weekly 20



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