LMC Professor Luis Zuniga achieves success at Lemon Race

Team Nopar came out victorious

Aliyah Ramirez, Staff Writer

With more than a year of preparation before the 24-hour Lemon Race at the Sonoma Speedway Dec. 3 and 4, Professor Luis Zuniga and his team of musicians, called Nopar, were ready to take their car on the track. Zuniga had three goals in mind: not be last, not have their car break down, and make it to the checkered flag on both days of the race weekend. All goals were accomplished. 

Celebrating the holidays during the December race, team Nopar dressed as a marching band and took their instruments on track to play holiday songs for the drivers and judges. Dubbed the “musicians’ car,” they won the judges’ choice award for their festive performances. 

When competing in the lemon race, points aren’t earned only from securing the top speed but also from completing the most laps. Of the 140 lemon cars participating in the race, team Nopar completed a total of 220 laps and finished 65th. In the rookie category of 35, the team finished 12th. 

On race day,  Zuniga knew the competition his team and car, Tromblown, would have to face; however, the weather was unpredictable. The rain troubled even the fastest cars on the track during the first race.

“You can imagine in a race where you are racing lemon cars, the rain will make things that much worse,” said Zuniga. “And that actually worked to our advantage because we were a slower car. This means that because of the rain, a lot of other people have to go slow, or slower than they would normally go.”

Despite the races’ pressing obstacles, Zuniga’s team-which shares an interest in music and racing-believed their ability to work well both on and off the track is their friendship. When entering the race, aside from competing, the team entered the race to have fun without the pressure of placing first or being the best.   

“I think music and this racecar are just things that we have that are very palpable, that are common but it seems like we also get along really well,” said Zuniga. “We’ll never get to that point of stress. We were always reminding each other we’re doing this for fun.”

Lemon races are full of fast speeds and challenging turns. Intimidation from other drivers on the track can be a reality check for rookie racers. Yet, Nopar team members went from musicians to racecar drivers, which was a challenge they overcame.  

“It could be a pretty intimidating experience,” said Zuniga. “To see some of my musician friends get out of their comfort zone, and jump into a racetrack and see them excel. It’s exciting to see them do well.” 

Satisfied by their race results at the Sonoma Speedway, team Nopar does not plan on retiring their car, quite yet. Tromblown will be back on track at the Thunderhill Raceway Park on May 27 and 28. As the team prepares to make their car even faster for the next race, Zuniga describes his mindset going into new races—similar to race car driver Mario Andretti, “if everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”