The folks at FM3 Performance Marketing have put together an annual five-day road trip/autocross event called Cars and Cones. Think of it as Hot Rod’s Drag Week, but for cars that do more than just go straight. The event is limited to 100 vehicles and sells out each year. The cars that showed up for 2018 were some of the cleanest, baddest, and fastest vehicles in North America.
Event organizer Jimi Day, who many of you know from the Optima Search For the Ultimate Street Car events, says that Cars and Cones isn’t just about racing, it’s about hanging out with like-minded car folks. “Although some competition may take place, the emphasis is on driving your vehicle. Each day there is an easy 100 to 200-mile drive through some of the most scenic routes in the country. Those participants who want to, can then take some laps at the autocross course and then go to a hosted dinner at a special venue with more opportunity for fun and relaxed camaraderie.”
Jimi Day also explained that the autocross/road trip is much more than a rolling car show with some hot laps each day. “The FM3 Road Trip is a charity event, geared to help folks in our industry in need. Each year, we choose a deserving charity or person to receive the benefits. This year, our choice was Aaron Oberle, a long-time enthusiast and influencer, well known for his 65 Chevelle project. Aaron was diagnosed almost a year ago with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. To date, his family has amassed over $1 million in medical expenses. Although insurance is covering most of them, it doesn’t cover it all.”
Jimi is extremely proud of the charity, and rightfully so, as this year the Road Trip Gang — totaling roughly 220 people — donated $31,500 to the charity. During the three year history of the FM3 Road Trip, folks have donated more than $67,000 to industry individuals in need. Not too shabby, and they logged over 4,000 autocross laps with smiles on their faces while doing it.
The event wouldn’t be possible without some of the sponsors coming from the aftermarket industry. Bill Fowler from Baer Brakes Systems loves being a part of the event. “As a sponsor, Baer helps support the event with a large cash donation and really nice prizes for the paid participants. Rising country music star James Otto, has become the musical voice of Cars and Cones, providing free concerts at each stop and driving participant engagement and enjoyment.”
The event does have rules to follow. For instance, any cone that is struck in the autocross will be a 2-second penalty. Additionally, participants must use a single set of 200 treadwear tires for the entire event, with no tire changing between race sites allowed. Each day has around 200 miles of highway to traverse, with five hours of autocross and limitless runs, which means tire management during the week-long event is key to success. Going all out to try to earn the top spot on the autocross leaderboard may mean you wipe out your tires before the week is over.
If you do manage to top the autocross leaderboard at any of the five sites, instead of a trophy, you will be putting money inside the FM3 Road Trip Charity Cup. The podium works as follows: Winner donation $50, Runner-up donation $35, Third Place donation $15.
This is for a good cause, so good drivers need to get their wallets out. My favorite rule in the FM3 Cars and Cones Road Trip event is as follows: “Any participant that is deemed too competitive, whiney, or to be of a general complaining nature; or trailers their vehicle, polishes it excessively, or sits in a lawn chair during the autocross, may be publicly shamed or ridiculed.” Smart rule, NASCAR should think about adopting that one.
Sponsors of the event gave out products to competitors and raffled off prizes to help with the charity. Companies like Baer Brakes Systems, Ridetech, H&S Insurance Services, Forgeline, No Limit Engineering, Detroit Speed, and Fuel Curve. This event allows aftermarket equipment manufactures to prove their products work in the environment Cars and Cones provides. Competitors were even able to tour Forgeline’s plant during the event.
Each evening hosted a dinner for competitors to hang out with each other, bench race, and share road stories. The event took the group through some great venues including Charlotte Motor Speedway and ultimately ended with the finale at the Goodguys North Carolina Nationals in Raleigh.
The event started on Sunday, April 22, 2018, at Ridetech in Jasper, Indiana, and ended many, many miles and cones later on Friday, April 27, 2018, at the Goodguys event in Raleigh. As teams had mechanical issues, other competitors jumped in to help ensure everyone finished the road trip and got as many autocross runs as possible.
Any vehicle can compete as long as it is driven by a licensed operator, has seatbelts, registration, insurance, throttle spring return, battery hold down, good brake pedal pressure, all of its lug nuts, and loose items removed from the interior on the autocross course. A simple driver helmet is all the protective equipment the driver needs to play.
So, check the FM3 website and watch for the 2019 dates. Get ready to shine up your ride, pick up some new donuts, and be ready for Cars and Cones next year. Looks like a blast.
All Photos By: Kaleb Kelly