How to disable the steering wheel lock on a race car.

How to disable the steering wheel lock on a race car.


On our Toyota Celica we went to the trouble to drill out the security screws and remove the lock cylinder from the steering column.  Then I used a cut off wheel to shorten the locking pin until it no longer engaged the shaft.

On our Sentra Race car, however I tried a tip I overheard somewhere. I drilled a 3/8 hole in the cover on the bottom of the lock pin chamber. Something fell out. A spring maybe. After that the lock pin no longer engages when the key is removed. This was much simpler and quicker than removing the cylinder from the column.

On my Rally Jeep, I simply removed the lock plate. However this required removing the steering wheel and using a lock plate removal tool. The Sentra was by far the easiest solution to disabling the steering wheel lock.

Working the Coker Tire Challenge 2012

Every year Corky Coker of Coker Tire Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee is gracious enough to hold a fun event in September known as the Coker Tire Challenge. It starts at the Coker Tire headquarters in downtown Chattanooga and takes the drivers, navigators, Sweep crews, as well as the Checkpoint crews all over the place from Middle Tennessee to Alabama and Georgia. You just never know where the Rally Master will take you!

This year was my third year to work the Coker Tire Challenge held in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My first year was in 2008 and I returned in 2011 after working The Great Race that summer. This year was about the same, work The Great Race 2012 this past summer and then two months later work the Coker Tire Challenge.

The more I work both events the more comfortable I get being around the drivers, navigators, support crews, other volunteers and staff of Coker Tire. That has been a major plus for me to socialize with other people while building my confidence.

From Friday morning through Sunday afternoon I am busy working as a checkpoint crew person.  First thing Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning I am up before the roosters crow to get watches set using the Universal Coordinated Time using a time cube. Then for about an hour or so we are on the road heading towards our checkpoint(s) for the day. Friday we had two checkpoints, Saturday we had two with the last one being a double (cars come by in both directions) and Sunday we had just one.

It never fails that we will have at least one person stop and ask us what is going on or what is The Great Race (since our checkpoint sign says The Great Race). Every once in awhile we’ll have someone who would like to hang around and watch the cars go by as we take their times.

Friday evening after we finished our checkpoints our destination was the Mountain Valley Farm, where the Cokers reside. Since we were the first ones in (as requested by the Rally Master, John Classen) we helped with score cards, handing out Ace Stickers, and do some collating when new score cards are handed to us by the scoring crew. After we finished those duties we were invited up to the home of Corky & Teresa Coker to have dinner (catered by Sticky Fingers, yum!). It’s always a nice way to end the day especially since I was starving! Of course, I wasn’t about to climb that huge hill to get there so I went to the “bus stop” where Hal (Corky’s right hand helper/worker) drives a vintage Yellowstone Park bus. I have to give it to Hal since the bus obviously doesn’t have power steering and he obviously has to be in shape to steer that thing.


Saturday our first checkpoint was at an old abandoned store that probably closed in the early 90’s since one of the gas pumps read gas $1.19. As I recall as a “new” driver in 1993 that gas was about that price a gallon. We met a few of the locals who were rightfully curious what we were doing sitting in the parking lot with a sign across the road and a big green dot painted in the center of the road. About the time we had about 7 or 8 cars left they showed back up to enjoy watching the cars go by as I took their times.

After having lunch at the Hardee’s on 411 in Benton, we headed to our next checkpoint which was inadvertently changed so we had to move down the road. This checkpoint was an adventure and a half since I had cars coming from both directions about half way through our time there! At one time I nearly had two vehicles crossing the green dot at the same time and two more behind them… Thankfully one of the drivers slowed down a hair which allowed me to get everyone’s times. Needless to say my heart was definitely racing after that one.

Sunday’s checkpoint was by far the most peaceful one. We were situated on a windy road that ran parallel to the Tennessee River. It was mostly quiet (something I rarely have with three kids). Got through the last checkpoint with a breeze although I was quite exhausted particularly since I had to wake up at 4:50 AM to make sure I got ready and arrived at Coker Tire by 6:15 AM. Once the sweep crew and the sweep truck came by we headed towards Coker Tire. The road got narrow and slightly hairy for the sweep truck a couple of times. Very interesting to watch how the sweep truck driver handled the tight squeezes. I know I could never be that talented!

When we finally arrived back to Coker Tire headquarters reality set in that the event was over with when it was time to turn in our equipment, sign and supply box. It felt as if it had just started and suddenly ended. After enjoying a nice meal it was time to announce the winners of the 2012 Coker Tire Challenge. Most of the cars that won I was not surprised, especially when the Jason’s won-they were the Grand Champion winners of this years Great Race.

Since John and his wife Rachel had to leave quickly to get to Atlanta to fly back to Burbank, CA, Janice and I helped make sure the drivers received their score cards, ACE stickers if they made any Ace’s today and an overall score/time sheet. We managed to give all but two of the score cards out which I think is pretty good.

I enjoyed getting to interact with some of the drivers and navigators more this time around.  I know I will be more prepared to dive in to my duties as a checkpoint worker for The Great Race as well as work with the drivers and navigators. It is important to me that I get to know them and vice versa.

The highlights of the event was that I got teased by one of the cars’ drivers “Tom” would joke with me about yelling “MARK” as his vehicle crossed my checkpoint. So, I started yelling “TOM” as he crossed my checkpoints so I started getting thumbs up. Next, I made a major boo boo by calling car “69” a car when it is a truck. So at the last checkpoint of the event  I yelled “TRUCK” instead of “MARK.”  Yes, the driver Jim and his navigator got a huge kick out of it!  Then as we were heading home and on Main Street I  notice a Coker Tire badge and sunglasses laying in the middle of the road. Janice turns around and parks in the median while I get out and wait for traffic to pass through. Luckily no one ran over the sunglasses before then. I quickly picked them up got back in and read the name: Chad Caldwell and his sunglasses? Ray Ban’s! So we headed back to Coker Tire hoping to find Corky, which we did as he was locking the gates. I sure hope someone calls Chad to let him know his sunglasses were safe and sound.

I am glad I did one good deed for the event and the day!




Adventures with The Great Race Part II

Traveling with The Great Race the last two years has been a very exciting experience. You see new places and meet new people. This past summer though it was an adventure just getting to travel outside the United States into new territory.

After entering Canada from Michigan, our first checkpoint was a quaint little church way out in the country.

Our first overnight stop was in Greater Sudbury Ontario where we enjoyed delicious food from the A & W.It was also where I first tried Poutine.

From there our next overnight stop was in Barrie Ontario.

Our finish for the day was beautiful even though it was overcast, windy and chilly. The highlight of the day was that the scoring crew known as the computer nerds had to set up the scoring area at the nearby Hooters!

Traveling in Canada was definitely an adventure. Seeing the landscape, meeting the people and eating the food was an experience I will not soon forget. Sometimes I would briefly forget I was in Canada until I read the signs on the roadside or in stores. You don’t see Washroom signs here in the USA or see signs up at convenience stores that tell people they have to buy something to use the washrooms either.

Adventures with The Great Race Part I

For the second year in a row I was asked to work the Hemmings Motor News/Coker Tire/Hagerty sponsored The Great Race.  Last years Great Race I was working with the scoring crew as the runner. This year I had the privilege to work as a check point worker allowing me the opportunity to travel more of the actual route (working w/the scoring crew required us to get to the overnight stop ahead of everyone). This year’s race started in Traverse City, MI went into Canada around the Great Lakes, back into the US and ended in Dearborn, MI.

For a total of 14 days my friend Janice and I were on the road starting from home and stopping in Morristown, TN to stay  at one of the other checkpoint workers’ home on our way to Detroit, MI, to the airport to meet the other checkpoint worker and get the rental car. Our next overnight stay was originally going to be Findlay, Ohio but since it was still quite daylight we went further north to Toledo, Ohio mainly because I remembered that is where the Jeeps are made 🙂

After getting settled in to our hotel in Toledo, my friend Janice and I headed out to find the new Jeep factory where the big JEEP letters were as well as locate where the Jeep factory that made the Cherokees once stood. We were able to find both which made the stay in Toledo that much sweeter.

Traverse City, MI was our next overnight stay, actually it would be where we stayed from Wednesday night until Saturday morning. For the most part it was enjoyable, minus the whole traffic congestion issue. Sault Ste. Marie, MI was our next overnight destination. The town was wonderful as they embraced us being there. While waiting in line to get a brat, I met a family from the northern Michigan area. They obviously could tell my accent was from the South. Of course me opening my mouth up and pronouncing Petosky WAY off had them all snickering. In fact one of them said from now on they would pronounce it like I did!  It was great just getting to know other people.

I was definitely anxious about going into Canada. It would be my first time there and a dream come true. Of course it was once again raining so trying take pictures was nearly impossible. The best picture I got was at the border where it said Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Canada. Crossing the border was no where near what I thought it would be like. I guess with everything that has went on since 9/11 I expected officers with big guns and German Shepherds. Not so much.

Janice and I were chosen as the first checkpoint which was set up at an old primitive church way out in the country. Apparently the minister found out about the Great Race coming through so she cancelled the Sunday service, invited the congregation from the church as well as another one to come out and watch the vintage cars go by. At least 50 people were there and the excitement was incredible. The ladies of the church were so generous to the two of us-feeding us delicious muffins and tea. We had some amazing conversations with some of the people there. The most special thing they did was take the three Great Race programs and the hat we gave to the minister and held an auction. Right then and there they raised $112! Janice and I assumed they would take the money and put it towards improvements on the church. Instead the minister went over to Janice and handed her the cash to donate to the Autism Foundation that was created in part by Rex Gardner, one of the drivers participating in the Great Race.

After we finished up at the church we headed to our next overnight stop which was in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. While in Canada I made the goal I would find Poutine, which I found at the A & W. While the gravy obviously tasted as if it came from a can, it was really good. Sometimes now I wish we had a restaurant nearby that served Poutine as I don’t think I could even try to make it myself.


2011 Crow Mountain Hill Climb

2011 Crow Mountain Hill Climb

This weekend was I worked the seventh running of the Crow Mountain Hill Climb. I worked as I always have as Course Marshal. The race is held near Hollywood Alabama on a crooked section of County road 33.

My job is to make sure the course is staffed and ready to run. I also respond to any incidents and help clear any damaged cars from the course.

This year, I loaded up my fire extinguishers, tools and tow straps. I mounted my flashing light and siren on the roof of my Jeep.

We camped in the big hay field at the base of the mountain. It got unexpectedly cold during the night. I have always brought my Carhart coat in the past but I completely forgot to pack it this year. I was really missing it about 1am on Saturday.

did take a walk in the field however and enjoy the beautiful array of stars. Being well away from city lights the stars seemed much brighter than at home. The milky way looked like a huge cloud in the sky.

At 6:30 am I gathered up some pylons from the equipment trailer and carried my road closed sign to the top of the hill. I made it back down in time for the workers meeting which was more about putting people into their correct positions that training this year.

It seemed to take longer than usual tot get every body in place and all the equipment distributed around to the various corners. Janice and Jennifer ended up monitoring start and traffic in and out of side road 111.

I made sure the road was secured at the top with a Jackson County Deputy monitoring it and took up a position just past the finish. I could see turns 11 and twelve from there.

I had relatively little to do. I just monitored the radio net and confirmed that the road was in fact still secure between each set of runs. There were only a couple of red flag incidents neither of which required me to respond. And we have no unexpected visitors coming in from the woods this year either.

Saturday was a long day with racing continuing right up to the 5 pm closing time. The races seemed to be enjoying the hill and getting plenty of runs. The local FM radio broadcast was missing this year so I did not keep up with times.

The organizers had a nice pizza dinner and I won a nice shirt in the worker prize drawing. I lay down in the tent intending to get up and join the bon fire. However, I fell asleep and stayed that way until morning.

Sunday morning was just as cool. I think it was 39 degrees. We got the workers in place much quicker and had the course ready to race before eight. However, the Fire Trucks and Wreckers decided to wait to come based on their experience from the day before. So we all waited on them to show up.

I got to make a fun run up the hill as the big trucks were getting into place. Unfortunately I was past the timing lights when I started so I did not get a time. It was still fun to run the Jeep up the mountain knowing the road was closed and I could use all of it.

Again the day ran without incident. The drivers got as many runs as they wanted. In fact they were all out of tires fuel or energy by 2:30pm. We shut down early due to lack of cars wanting to run.

We cleaned up the course quickly and headed down the mountain. We gathered up the tent and camping supplies and said our goodbyes It was good to see folks that I see only once a year.