Very Pointless: Lemons’ First Visit to Sonoma, 10 Years Later

By: Eric Rood Photo Credits: Murilee Martin, Nick Pon
March 4, 2020

As we roll through Lemons’ 2020 calendar, we have been looking back toward races held a decade ago in our first full season, 2010. That 21-race calendar proved a lot of things, namely that Lemons had no idea what we were doing. Not much really changes, it turns out, but mostly we want to recognize periodically that many wonderfully pointless things did, in fact, happen a decade ago.

This week, we’re looking back a decade to Lemons’ first visit to Sonoma Raceway, then called Infineon Raceway or Sears Point Raceway or something. Who the hell really remembers? Anyway, Sears Pointless 2010 remains a memorable race for so, so many reasons.

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One team figured out that a surefire way to warm the long-dead embers deep in the cockels of the Lemons Supreme Court’s heart was to theme their crapcan and themselves after Judge Phil and Judge Jonny. Yes, that Jonny.

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That kind of thematic excellence may buy you some favor during BS Inspections. However, it tends not to save teams whose bad driving can’t save itself. Many aggro Lemons teams were forced to chill out in a Haight-Ashbury-grade drum circle at Sears Pointless.

What will draw huge favored with the Lemons Supreme Court is this: A hammered, unregisterable Ford Tempo donated as a Judgemobile. This decrepit segment-bridging beigemobile became a focus of Lemons paddock mirth all weekend. It started as the platform for the Macho Man and Ghost Ride the Whip Penalties.

The Lemons Supreme Court grew bored of this, however, and soon commenced to having teams remove the doors, hood, and trunk before they could return to racing.

As it so happens, Judge Phil’s niece and nephew dropped by the race to visit. And what better opportunity could there be for corrupting America’s youth than by having children sit in the Tempo’s open trunk, shouting grade-school-playground insults at bad drivers?

And in the days of the People’s Curse, the Tempo of Judgement became one of the very last Lemons cars destroyed at the track for public spectacle. Some say that famed early Jalopnik commenter FordTempoFanatic disappeared from the internet forever as a result of this betrayal. Others say FordTempoFanatic is actually Judge Sajeev. Who says both can’t be true? In any case, RIP Tempo of Judgement. Your pointless Pointless destruction spared someone the indignity of having to drive you.

Returning to the subject of bad drivers, we frequently parrot that nobody drives worse than automotive journalists. We know this because we—Lemons staffers—have all been automotive journalists. And at Sears Pointless, Lemons staff raced in the ugliest Alfa Romeo of all time, built by famous Alfa restorer and Lemons friend Conrad Stevenson.

And guess what? The Lemons staff—former journalists, remember—set an all-time, never-to-be-topped record for black flags in a day. We lost count after about eight, but our own employees are basically responsible for the Parked-For-The-Weekend-After-Five-Black-In-A-Day rule. You’re welcome (and we don’t race nearly as often as we used to, though we still suck when we do).

In the world of (very) slightly better drivers, the VINWiki-famous Ford Capri team had turned up with their Euro Ford themed as Mad Maxel Tov.

Huey Newis and the Lose were staples of Lemons in their Fox Body Mustang long before anyone had even thought of Radwood.

The Carpet Pissers were also regular Lemons competitors in their Honda CRX. They had run an entertaining The Big Lebowski bowling theme for a couple years. For this race, they updated it as themed for Jesus Quintana, the Big Lebowski character. How timely, considering the forthcoming film about Jesus.

Deathmobile-themed Toyota MR2? Yep, we had that.

Whatever was happening here? Also great.

But thematic dominance then—and for a couple years to come—belonged to the Cannonball Bandits. The turned their Toyota Corolla FX16 into a Lemons-grade Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

I mean, just look at it. That remains one of the most spectacular things ever to happen in Lemons, and it earned them an easy Organizer’s Choice.

Similarly, Lemons Legend Mike “Spank” Spangler dredged up a parked-in-the-1980s Citroen DS. Running under the “Air Prance, Oui We Can-Can” team name, Spank and his group made the Citroen run before the race, if only just. And by “before the race,” we mean 10 minutes before tech closed on Friday. Expectations were low for Spank and the comfy French machine (which remains one of just two Citroens ever in Lemons).

Yet, the Citroen slowly made its way around the track in spite of the gas tank overrun with Reagan-era crud and the un-roadracing-like ride. It didn’t dominate, per se, but considering it hadn’t run for a quarter century until showing up at the racetrack, running nearly 300 on-track miles in a weekend earned Spank and the Air Prance flight crew their second Index of Effluency. It also served a prelude to far-crazier adventures with the DS, but we’ll get to that later this year.

The first of Spank’s cars to win Lemons top prize was his first Lemons car, an original Austin Mini. He brought it along to Sears Pointless again, where it cleaned up Class C by two laps over the Dust ‘n’ Debris Dodge Shadow.

On the subject of returning cars, the Killer Bees’ MGB had rolled over dramatically at the 2009 Thunderhill race. Chief Bee Pete Peterson had spent the intervening months with ratchet straps and a Birmingham spanner reviving the formerly clean MGB. The Killer ZomBee, as it would come to be known, still runs (as much as MG does) today. It was a favorite of our friends Hooniverse, whose voted it their Hooniversal Car of the Year in 2011.

Lemons’ first Corvette also returned to Lemons, following an auspicious debut at Phoenix eight weeks earlier. It fared slightly better, coming in 121st place. That’s a pretty decent performance, actually, among Lemons Corvettes.

Of course, mechanical carnage reigned in Lemons. The Sharks’ ghettocharged BMW E28 impressively grenaded its turbocharger.

This Newly Employed MegaLoMart (a great niche team name, we might add) Mazda RX-7 was not king of the hill. However, this kind of scene is not atypical for a rotary-powered Lemons car.

Others tried to dump their broken wares on (un)suspecting Lemons passersby in the paddock.

Team California Mille campaigned Alfa Romeos for years in Lemons, even winning a race overall with a GTV6. However, their early years of Lemons found them struggling to make their Alfas last. Their second GTV hucked a connecting rod out its fine Italian block. The combined struggles of constant Alfa reassembly earned them the Heroic Fix trophy.

On the subject of trophy winners, Fir Burger Express Delivery’s 1975 Lincoln Continental took home the Least Horrible Yank Tank trophy. What a truly remarkable sight it is to see a 23-foot-long luxury coupe on a road course. More of this, please!

Team Five and Dime won the Judges Choice with their impressively cobbled-together Datsun 510.

The Gimp Pimp Cadillac STS was the first Lemons car with hand controls. We’ve had a few of hand-controlled Lemons now, but their adherence to Lemons’ philosophy that racing is for idiots of all abilities and intelligences earned them the Grassroots Motorsports Most From the Least Award.

Eyesore Racing and their Mazda Miata—featured recently on Donut Media—won their third Lemons race overall. They’ve gone on to finish first an even 10 times with the same beat-to-hell FrankenMiata.

Class B went, narrowly, to Team Filthy and their Ford Escort ZX2. They edged out the Italian Stallions’ absolutely nuts Fiat X1/9 by a single lap in your classic ZX2 vs. X1/9 road-racing battle at Sears Pointless.

Phew. That’s a lot and we didn’t even talk about the Two-Ton Miata V12 Jaguar, the EASY 908/14, or the Peugeot 505 in the field. Alas, there will be more races to talk about from 2010 soon enough. Be sure to check out our 2020 Lemons schedule here. Read about all of the 2010 anniversary races below.

Phoenix, January 2010
Carolina Motorsports Park, February 2010
MSR Houston, February 2010

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