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Athlete of the Week
BY BROOKE ROBERTSON

Date: 05/29/2008

Complete with a silver duck as a hood ornament, a painted skull across the hood, and a bloody dummy named "Danika" occupying the passenger's seat, a Death Proof-themed black Acura--driven by Sun humor columnist Rob Krider--squealed across the finish line to take first place in the 24 Hours of LeMons race May 10 and 11 at Altamont Motorsports Park in Tracy.



PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTINE GASKINS
The 24 Hours of LeMons is a wacky automobile race in which teams race $500 cars--costumed to perfection--for 24 hours. It's right up Krider's alley: humor mixed with some serious car racing.

"I'm the most focused in my life when I'm in the car," Krider said.

When he races, day-to-day worries like his son doing well on his math test dissipate, leaving his concentration focused solely on engine RPMs and braking zones.


The Krider Racing Team was sponsored by Kuhtz Diehl Insurance, ST Suspensions, Circuit Sports, HP 234, Bay Ex, Figstone Graphics, and Factory Tire. Krider's comrades were Steve Kuhtz, Rob Diehl, Keith Kramer, and team mechanic and Rob's brother Randy Krider, whom Rob said won the race for them. Randy coached the drivers, letting them know when to avoid other cars and when to pass. Despite some required sibling banter, Rob said that he trusted Randy 100 percent: "If my brother says it's clear, I go."

That trust was especially important during the last stretch of the race, which fell upon Rob to complete.

When Rob finally passed the checkered flags and stepped out of the car after what he described as a three-hour-and-45-minute adrenaline rush, he couldn't contain himself. He immediately climbed on top of Death Proof and jumped up and down, caving in the roof.

"I basically just lost it," he admitted.

Part of the elation came from the unbelievable odds his team surpassed to win the race. The Krider team was one of 90 contestants, compared to the usual 30 or 40.

"To win against as many people as we did was incredible," Krider said. "We had a better chance of going to Vegas and putting $1,000 on the 13 at the roulette table."

Unfortunately, the lighthearted race was marred by tragedy when driver Court Summerfield died in an on-track accident about five hours in.

Although the California Highway Patrol determined that the accident wasn't caused by mechanical failure or unsafe conditions, and that Summerfield was unconscious before the crash, his death left many participants shaken. At one point, Rob was uncertain whether the race would continue.

"The whole LeMons thing is really wacky, and it's not very funny anymore when someone dies," Rob said.

After the accident, Rob said that his team's once-humorous theme took an unfortunate interpretation. The last thing any of the promoters wanted was for the Death Proof car to win the race, but, as Rob explained, "Irony will always win." Out of respect for Summerfield, the Krider team decided to paint blue and orange stripes--the colors of Summerfield's car--on the Acura's fenders for the final day of competition.

Rob and the rest of the Krider team donated their winnings--$1,500 paid in nickels--to Summerfield's family. Anyone interested in making a donation to Summerfield's family can visit www.24hoursoflemons.com.


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