BMW E61 5355xi Dinan

I showed up at a race track. Broke an axle, and wasn’t even racing. Awesome.

I should probably have left out that last part, but this story is not about me; it’s about what happened after I broke the axle. No, I was okay; I was traveling roughly 1.4 miles per hour in the 7-11 parking lot at 6:45 a.m., so it was definitely low-risk. No, this story is about the side of the BMW CCA we don’t see listed in the “Club Benefits” section. It’s one that you can’t really explain when someone asks,“Why should I join?” But this is not a sales pitch. Most of the people reading this are already CCA members, and many of them have similar stories.

Ideally, however, theirs were not inspired by a broken axle.

So there I was, six hours away from home on a Saturday with a funky vibration in my 5 Series Touring, with the personal mechanical wherewithal of—well, probably about in line with my pet pug (okay, it’s my daughter’s pug, but it still has no mechanical skills).

This story is about friends and BMW CCA members rallying to help me out.

The good news is that while I was worrying about what was wrong with the car—a concern level that had me sweating a little more than the weather would suggest—I was in Monterey for the SVRA Trans-Am Speed Tour at Laguna Seca, populated by probably 200 of the finest mechanics this side of the Atlantic.

The paddock, especially here outside of Ken Blasko and Rial Barnett’s truck, was often as awe-inspiring as the on-track activity.

I coaxed the car timidly up the hill at the track and down into the paddock, and docked it next to Rial Barnett’s race truck and tent, where a row of eight race-bred 2002s (all staring at my Touring over those raised clamshell hood eyebrows with that, “What are you doing here?” look). I messaged long-time friend, CCA member, Monterey resident, and auto-shop owner Mike Burger a “Duuuude, sorry to bother you this early, but if I end up needing to, can I moor my busted-up car at your shop until Monday and see if you can fix it?” message.

Over at the Mark Francis tent, Carl Nelson, Kaelin Thompson, and Owen Nelson work on the Sam Smith car (also, no broken axle).

Burger called me immediately, not only confirming that resource, but also saying, “You know Carl Nelson [of La Jolla Independent], Andy Wong, Sam Smith, and all of those guys are there, right? Let’s see if someone over there can help out.” He started calling them while I scampered through the paddock looking for their tent.

Now, it is always awesome to see that crew, but things were definitely in Race Mode there, so instead of diverting their attention from the 2002s in their compound, I ate their bacon. That’s not a simile: Andy was cooking up a storm, so I was That Guy and ate most of their eggs and bacon, temporarily allaying my car concerns. It was also great to see other CCA members there like Jan, Alex and Daniel Echeverri, Steve Kupper (founder of BMW 2002 FAQ), Thomas Jones, and Jeff Hecox—all extremely cool Golden Gate Chapter members.

Rial Barnett did not break an axle at Laguna Seca, and he got the podium in two races!

After watching Rial Barnett (@bsedan.racing) race in his cool Hot Wheels/Eibach 2002, I went back to Barnett’s tent, minutes before his next race, and interrupted him to ask if someone from his tent—like maybe Ken Blasko’s race-prep guys—might be able to take a peek at the car. Right when they said yes, Burger was calling to check in on me.

So here we are: We have race teams who are there for many things other than feeding Kyle and fixing his car. We have my car with some curious damage that you already know is a broken axle because I gave away the punch line in the first sentence. We have Kyle who can’t figure it out himself (not proud). We have bacon. (Make that we had bacon.) And we have me still pretty nervous about how I’m going to get home, let alone getting home on time Sunday evening.

Sin City BMW member Scott Budshaw determines that the Touring’s ailment is indeed a broken axle.

Two hours later, Blasko asks one of the techs helping the team to see what’s up with my wagon. Mind you, the team has eight cars it’s servicing for the races, and by this point of the weekend, while they might not have been busting axles in the 7-11 parking lot, some of those cars are in need of some attention (like an engine, in one case). Over comes technician and all-around cool guy Scott Budshaw, Las Vegas resident and Sin City BMW CCA Chapter member—whom I met the last time I did a road trip in this same wagon when I drove it to Vegas and took it to Sin City BMW, where he works, so that it wouldn’t be stuck in Las Vegas forever (thank you, Chris Willett!).

This was when I was less nervous, but still nervous.

Moments later, Budshaw is under my wagon and soon shouts, “Oh, wow!” Then he adds, “You have a broken axle!” Oh, good: confirmation.

We get Burger on the phone, they confer, and right there, on a Saturday, Burger orders the parts. We call a tow truck and got the car flat-bedded (now a verb—and an all-too-frequent one for me) to Burger’s shop, where it awaits Monday morning. (A big thank you goes to Michael McCarthy, Barnett’s truck driver, for following me down there and helping out, too!)

Success at the shop!

At 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Burger messages with the “Where are you right now?” check-in, followed by the wonderful “Get your bags packed, I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” So, an obvious big thank you to Mike Burger and to Bryan Cleary at his shop, Matteson’s Auto Repair.

Mike Burger sits in his own Touring outside his shop.

For most of the six-hour drive south from Monterey, I keep thinking how what could have been a mess for me ended up being a marginally expensive but still fantastic example of what the BMW CCA does—or, rather, what the BMW CCA is.

It facilitates and accelerates friendships.

It’s like a built-in vouching and vote of social approval with an overriding “I’ve got your back” mentality.

I’ve appreciated this aspect of membership countless times (yay, Nick Wood in Atlanta!), and I’m confident that many of you have, too. No one did any of this because I was a CCA member, or because they were. But so many people were there, lending a hand, offering ideas, jacks, time, bacon, parts, suggestions (like “Don’t break your axle”), and camaraderie that it added an incredibly rewarding spirit of family to an always-cool weekend at the track.

I look forward to experiencing this spirit again soon. But next time I’m taking a different car.—Kyle van Hoften

[Photos courtesy Kyle van Hoften.]

Comments

NEWSLETTER

©2021 BimmerLife™

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?