Professor Luis Zuniga aims for gold

Team Nopar will put their car to the test in the upcoming Lemon Race.


Photo courtesy of Luis Zuniga

Members of Luis Zuniga’s race team, Team Nopar which included music students David Poe, Matt Parfit, Peter Gaylord and Mark Lawrence, paint the car in time for the race.

Aliyah Ramirez, Staff Writer

With a passion for music, orchestra and band director Luis Zuniga has been teaching at LMC for seven years, but his interest in cars drove him to compete in the upcoming 24-hour Lemon Race. To be a part of the race does not have to come at a high expense, as racers spend no more than $500 on a car and prepare it for a 24-hour race around the track.

Along with the many music classes Zuniga teaches, he got involved in LMC’s Automotive Technology Program to learn more about cars. Motivated by automotive professor Earl Ortiz, Zuniga finished the program in 2022 with an associate of applied science in automotive service technology while working as a full-time faculty member. 

“I basically just found whatever automotive classes were available during the periods when I didn’t teach,” said Zuniga. “Now, obviously, being a full-time faculty there were not a lot of empty spaces.”

Participating in the program for many years helped expand Zuniga’s interest in cars. The program taught him a multitude of skills in automatic and manual transmission, engine technology and more to incorporate in his preparations for the race. 

To take on the challenge, a racer has to follow three simple steps of picking a race, team and car. Zuniga and his team of musicians, called Nopar, were motivated to race as they believed their work in music and their automotive interest played an essential role in preparation. 

“Whatever it is that you’re doing in music, or in automotive, you do something with your hands,” explained Zuniga. “There’s this dexterity that needs to exist in the connection between knowledge and your mind and your hands.” 

Zuniga formed a team with musicians David Poe, Matt Parfit, Peter Gaylord and Mark Lawrence, and together they have undergone more than a year of work to make a car ready for a 24-hour race. On race day, the first weekend of December, each member will take at least 45 minutes on track and rotate throughout the Sonoma Raceway in hopes to take their car to the finish line.

To find a car with a $500 purchase limit can be hard, but Zuniga and his team bought a 1989 Dodge Colt online and named it Tromblown. Incorporating many improvements from brakes, cooling, safety systems and more, it took a team effort to turn the commuter car into a race car. 

“We’ve focused on little tweaks and reducing our chances of killing ourselves,” said Parfit. “Most tasks go better with a beer, laughing is constant, but we’re starting to get slightly jittery as the race weekend draws closer.” 

It can be difficult to take an ordinary car and expect the best results. According to the race company, 24 hours of Lemons, the race will be like no other as rookie racers participate in “endurance racing for $500 cars.” 

To be the fastest car on track takes immense preparation, and with hard work anyone can become a racer. With more than a year of hard work, Zunigas’ team will see if Tromblown has what it takes to win their first race.

Team Nopar will be competing at the Sonoma Speedway at 29355 Arnold Dr. on Dec. 3 and 4 along with a group performance. If you are interested in attending the Sonoma Speedway please purchase a weekend ticket that runs at $30 per person and for more information visit the 24 hours of lemon website.