In 2013, a group of friends began devising a way to build a race car so that they could compete in the ChumpCar World Series, which was rebranded as the ChampCar Endurance Series in late 2017.
Last Saturday, after five years of participating in the series, Hickory-based Next Level Solutions (NLS) Racing earned its first ChampCar victory. The team consisting of crew chief Cliff Beisler and drivers Cory Brown, Corey Danley, Jeremy Boyce and Dan Koehler took the checkered flag to cap a 14-hour race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Brown, who also revealed that the win was dedicated to the memory of his late father-in-law — and crew chief Cliff Beisler’s father, Chris Beisler — who died of cancer last October. According to Brown, the team promised him it would win a race for him one day to thank him for all of his support.
“We’ve spent the last five years trying to get that first-place win and we finally got it,” said Brown. “We didn’t think we were gonna have it at the beginning, we had a lot of issues with the motor, ended up 10 laps down from the field. But we just pushed through and we were determined to at least get a top-three finish if not win the race, and we did it, so we were real happy with ourselves.”
The format of a ChampCar race is different from that of a NASCAR event, consisting of a certain number of hours rather than a set amount of laps. Race lengths range from 7-24 hours, and teams are required to include at least two drivers (more for longer events). Each driver must complete at least one hour in the car, but no stint can exceed two hours and there is a minimum one hour of rest required after driving. Pit stops where fuel is added to the car must be at least five minutes in length to ensure safe refueling.
“The ChampCar Endurance Series is for your everyday guy that’s always wanted to race, and if you can dream it and you can build it, you can race it — that’s basically their slogan,” said Brown, who is currently the electrical supervisor for the City of Hickory. “You can take any car you want, you can put all the safety equipment in it that ChampCar requires and you can go out there and race it.
“Whether you’re a first-place car or you’re last place, you’re just out there for the fun of racing,” he added. “You get to get out there and run some wheel-to-wheel racing with other competitors, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Raised in Bowie, Maryland, Brown said fellow Bowie natives Cliff Beisler and Danley grew up running go-karts and loving the sport of racing. Eventually, they decided to move to Hickory in order to attend the Bobby Isaac Motor Sports Program at Catawba Valley Community College. Today, Beisler and Danley are master technicians in Hickory.
As for Brown, he and his wife along with Beisler’s parents later decided to move to Hickory after visiting them at CVCC on several occasions. In addition, Boyce also graduated from the Bobby Isaac Motor Sports Program at CVCC — where he met Beisler and Danley — while Koehler graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is the only team member who doesn’t currently live in Hickory, instead residing in nearby Lincoln County.
“This group of guys, they’re more than just a group of guys to all of us. We’re family,” said Brown. “My brother-in-law is the crew chief, and Corey, he’s been best friends with Cliff since they were like 10 years old. And I’ve known them since they were teenagers, so we’ve all been together, we’re like family, and that’s really what it is. It’s just a big family for us.”
After covering over 400 laps during the 14-hour race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NLS Racing returns to the track for a 24-hour event Aug. 8-9 at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia.
“We’ve got a few engine issues to still figure out that we didn’t quite get figured out at the Charlotte race, but we’re very optimistic we’ll have that figured out before the 24-hour race in August, so we’re really looking forward to that,” said Brown. “A 24-hour race is a totally different beast in itself, you’ve got that car on the track for 24 hours straight and you’re constantly changing drivers and race conditions change throughout the night.
“You’ve got guys that are going to take naps in between their stints just to get some rest, you’ve got other guys that are staying up that are working in the pits doing the pit stops, being there in case there’s any kind of unscheduled pit stops where the car has to come in,” he continued. “So that’s a challenge in itself just to say that you’ve finished a 24-hour race, let alone win it. … Even if we don’t come in first, we’re just happy that we can finish a 24-hour race.”