The 2008 Race Report

 The March Meet, Famoso Raceway 3/7-9, 2008

As it turned out, this was to be our first real test of the methanol injection system, as we didn’t have the opportunity to get it dialed in previously. The test ‘N’ tune we went to prior to this got us sort of ball parked and we picked it up from there.

At least this time we got to make several full passes and learned more as well as coming away with more questions. The biggest question is learning to deal with the oil control problems. The methanol foams the oil and it wants to bubble out of the breather tank. And then we had the wrong heat range spark plugs and they were getting burned and causing a little detonation on some passes, ad costing us a possible win in round three.

I have never seen Bakersfield so packed. It was literally standing room only on Saturday afternoon when the fuel cars were running. And wading our way to the lanes from the top end of the track where we were pitted took at least 5 minutes. Crazy stuff. Too many golf carts, kids on scooters and spectators not looking where they were going.

There were six VWs all together, three beetles, three Ghias. The Beetles were Troy & John Palmer, Mike Ognibene (sp) with the Italy 1 Gasser and a green beetle we didn't know. (Vega tailights, street tires). The Ghias were Jim Gillum, Hans Huber's L/Gas ghia and us. We all got three runs except for Jim (late to my own funeral) Gillum who didn't get there in time for round one qualifying Friday Morning. We were struggling a bit with the methanol injection set-up the first couple of runs, but stood 'er up on the header in run one (Very exciting!) and burned a couple plugs Friday night on run number two. The track photographer got some cool photos of the wheel stand and I bought some big prints right on the spot.

Troy smoked the clutch on his first qualifying run, but had it changed out barely in time for round two of qualifying. All was good for them after that.

For Saturdays time run, we richened it up a bit and ran a solid 11.69 at 112. The Mph was a little down so I went another step richer for round one of eliminations and dialed soft at 11.72. I draw a 65 Chevelle dialed in at 11.90, I had a .014 light to his .167, and put a wheel on him on top with a 11.81 for the win. In round two, I get a 69 Mustang dialed in at 10.95. It was getting warmer so dialed back to a 11.78. I have a .057 light to his .055, and I run 11.80 on my 11.78 dial to his losing 11.01. Third round I get a Famoso regular who doesn't play nice. He's dialed 11.55 and I keep mine at 11.78. I have a .016 light to his .013, but the blue car bogs a bit on the line and won't pull in high gear acting as if it was really lean. I shut  'er down and coasted thru while my opponent goes on for the win. Dang it. I think we had “The Stuff” to win or at the very least go lots of rounds, in what shaped up to be an eight round race in our class.

 I pulled a plug when I got back to the pits and it was burned again.  I think I have selected my plugs poorly and just have too hot a heat range. There was no apparent damage to the motor after doing a leakdown once we got home, but I really need to get the oil foaming under control.

 We exceeded our expectations for this event and I think we’ve got the MFI dialed in pretty close. Once we get the proper heat range plugs in there, perhaps we can lean it down a bit more and it should really run then! As for the overall experience, what can be said? Historic venue, historic 50th running milestone, and packed grandstands. We got a lot of positive feedback and were well received by the starting line crew, getting “thumbs up” when we came to the line. A lot of our friends were there, including Rick Tomlinson of CB Performance, John Hashim, of M&H racing tires, Ocean Street Dan, Jerry Spearn, as well as many long time race buddies from “back in the day.”  One of the other things was being in the lanes next to nitro cars! How often does that happen? It was an awesome event!

ANRA Season Opener, Famoso, April 5

This would be our first venture with the American Nostalgia Racing Association. Similar in format to other Nostalgia racing series, this one is a four race series all at Famoso. None of the event dates conflict with our PRA schedule, so this is a great opportunity to expand our program.

New this year for ANRA is the class “E/Gas”. Run on an 11.60 index with a 5 tenths pro tree start, it is similar to the 11.90 index, 4 tenths pro tree we run in the PRA under the name of Super Gas.

After a slow start to the program on Saturday morning due to an oil down, we finally got to make our first run after 11am. This would also be the first run after reconfiguring the fuel injection system to prevent the top end lean-outs we experienced during the March Meet. The run netted an 11.8x, a nice fat full power run and none of the oil control problems we had previously. With a jet change, our second run netted an 11.71 and put us in the number three spot out of eight cars.

Due to the newness of this class, the car we were paired with for first round got caught unprepared and was disqualified for not having a roll bar. I ran it flat out and ran 11.67. Getting closer to the index with every run! Next pairing was Rocky Phillips in his Mercury Comet, which incidentally, also has a four speed transmission! Rocky was cutting some really good lights and has been around for a while. He was going to be tough to get past. At the launch, I had the starting line advantage, .021 to his .065. At the stripe, I see the nose of the Comet dive, but I stayed in the throttle all the way and take the win. The result was an 11.61 for Rocky and an 11.63 for us. A nice tight race! The numbers showed Rocky would have had to run under to take the stripe due to our .04 advantage at the tree. This put us in the final round against Garrett Crisp in his satin black early Nova. I knew he had run a right on the money 11.60 in round one, so I knew he would be just as tough as Rocky. At the tree, I went red by .007 seconds, while Garrett was good with a .083 for the win, then he ran an 11.15! Looks like Garret has “Plenty in the Bank.”

This was followed by a BBQ put on by Butch Headrick and Crew of the ANRA.

This is a really good bunch to race with and we are looking forward to our association. As of now, we are second place for the series!

Fontucky and the Bug In, April 6

Initially deciding not to attend, we had decided late Saturday afternoon that since the car was running well, we should go to the Bug In after all. We were looking at a two hour tow home, or a three hour tow to So Cal. We made a call to Allen & Sue Wiess who once again graciously offered us a place to stay. We arrived at about 11:30 that evening. We were up at 5am the next morning to the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the Wiess’ kitchen. Both Allen and his son Matt were also going to be making runs this day. Allen was doing some testing runs on a fresh motor to prepare for Phoenix. Matt was going for the trophy!

I’ve not kept it a secret about how I feel about Fontana. After being treated shabbily there in the past, along with the less than ideal conditions were a couple of the factors for us not wanting to go in the first place. This time was different. All of the track personnel we encountered were very nice and pleasant mannered. But the track was still crappy!

With the same tune-up we had at Famoso, the car just didn’t want to behave there. A tire-spinning 11.86 for the first pass (after sitting in the lanes for almost two hours due to numerous oil-downs), and following that up with a 12.29, trying a leaner jet.

With the leaner jet not working, I went back to what I had in the first run, and dialed in with an 11.90. I drew Troy Palmer first round. I like racing Troy….in the late rounds. In round one, it meant that only one of had a chance to be around for those late rounds. This time it was Troy’s turn as I went red and he strapped a .007 RT on me! That would have been extremely hard to get inside of anyway. So that ended our day at Fontucky.

Both Cindy and I were glad we decided to come. All of our friends from the VW world were there and as always it is really good to see them. It was especially good to see some of our friends from far away places. Richie Webb from the UK, Terry Gaudet from eastern Canada, Greg Stogren from not so eastern Canada, Cesar from Mexico, and many others.

So, now we prepare for the first PRA race of the season in Arizona.

See ya there!

Phoenix BUGORAMA, April 13

The Big Tow

This event is this year’s “Big Tow” for us with a 1300 mile round trip. In years past, we would do it all in one day, but not his time. Once again, Allen & Sue Weiss offered us their hospitality which we welcomed. We arrived there at around 5pm Friday evening. It was dinner and drinks at Roscoe’s that night. Good stuff!

We set off for the other half of the trip out Saturday morning and the trip was incident free, although we did seem to play leapfrog with a trio of California Highway patrolmen between Palm Springs and the California/Arizona border. We typically keep our speed close to the speed limit anyway, so not much to be concerned with there.

The conditions would be warm this day and would be a good indicator of what we could expect with the methanol injection system later this year. Fortunately, the winds were tolerable this time around. Also fortunate, the track conditions seemed to be much better that last year and we were hooking pretty hard.

Click here to see photos by Volksarama)

Bothered by the car’s performance the week prior at Fontana, we decided to run the first pass all-out and got an11.66 @ 113 and change on the time-slip. We had the same set-up as we had at Famoso when we were running 11.60s and at Fontana when the best we could do was 11.86. I reckon it was the track after all at Fontana.

Now we could focus on hitting our 11.90 index. Our second run netted an 11.97 and this would stand as our best for qualifying, putting us in the number 8 slot, as our third run was 11.98.

Since Troy Palmer had qualified at 11.96, he was in the number 7 slot, and with a 14 car field, we were once again paired for first round, just in Fontana. This time, I would be returning the favor by putting Troy on the trailer like he had done to me last week! In a close race, we had the advantage at the tree by .05 second and took it at the stripe, 11.94 to Troy’s 11.91.

Next up was Good Ol’ Marcus Palmquist. Marcus has game these days! In a virtual dead heat at the tree, our .066 to Marcus’ .061, and both of us surging back and forth at the stripe, Marcus’ last little nudge got there ahead of ours, with his 11.907 to our 11.912. This was probably one of the tightest races until the final round when Marcus faced off against Johnny “9 Grand” Scheurger, losing in a double breakout 11.86 to Johnny’s 11.87.

If this is an indicator of how it’s going to be this year, we have our work cut out for us in our quest for “The Brass Ring!”

Famoso Dragfest, May 3-4

A "Vintage" Event

Billed as being a '60s style event, this one delivered the goods! Side by side Wheelstanders, a jet truck, AA fuel Altered going through the traps with the front wheels dancing off the ground, across the line burnouts in all classes with a back-up girl contest, a live band that was a Johnny Cash tribute deal, and a drive in movie theatre set up at the back of the staging lanes on Saturday night. And yes, there was racing too!

For us it would be a run in E/Gas, which is run on an 11.60 index and a pro tree. Right at the start, we were waiting for our call to the lanes, which never came. Instead we heard "E/Gas, Suit up!" So we had to make a mad dash to the lanes to make a "just in time" run of 11.79 at 116. The run was soft on bottom, strong on top. I had recently reconfigured the fuel system once again, to iron out some kinks on the fuel injection system, so this run was a "baseline run." With a jet change, run number two came in at 11.65 and stood for the number one slot, although the top speed dropped to 112 and change. Since I went fatter on the overall fuel curve, this tell me it might be time to start using the high speed bypass to bring the top back.

We were pretty tired after being up before 4am and a full day at the track, so we didn't stay for the Johnny Cash concert and the drive-in movie thing. John Hashim, who showed up Sunday wearing Ernie Hashims white M&H Racemasters uniform from the 1960s (the actual uniform including the white bush hat, not a copy!), said it was a lot of fun. We'll plan better next time to make sure we can take that in.

We had one more qualifying run on Sunday morning. I was not happy with the resulting 11.72. Even though we had everyone covered on reaction times, I was afraid I would be leaving too much on the table for someone to fender race me at the stripe. I decided to risk a change in tune-up. I advanced the timing a few degrees. This would prove to be a mistake. The result was a loss of performance all the way through the range. Even though I had my first round guy tree'd by over a tenth, I watched helplessly as he drove away at the top end for the win. At least I now know that it doesn't like what I did. Since there was nothing on the line except for pride (and a little money!), no harm was done. I really wanted to do well here, and the first round loss stung.

However, it was a really fun event to do and we made a few more friends and made believers out of many more. The car attracted a lot of attention outside of our little VW fishbowl and that is a good thing!

A few refinements to some recent changes and we'll be good to go for Sacramento Bugorama!

Sacramento Bugorama, May 25-26

Rain for the Memorial Day Bugorama? It couldn’t be! With temps typically closer to the 90 degree mark, it seems impossible that the event would get rained out. Yet on the way up from Clovis, 170 miles to the south, it rained virtually the entire way up, stopping once we got with a few miles of the track. The event got started at 5pm as promised and there wasn’t a single stoppage of action due to rain. The bonus was temps in the low 70s and dipping into the 50s at night and periods of “below sea level” atmospheric conditions, which made for good times and good times!

Our experience started of in typical fashion, arriving three hours before the gates opened and engaging in what we call “social hour(s).” This is one of the few times during these events where we can relax and chat with all of our friends before getting down to business.

Because of the change in schedule to have two qualifying runs on Saturday and one on Sunday, I was initially just going to wait for the first session at 6pm. But we were ready to go when racing began at 5pm so we went up to get a shake out run. I didn’t run it full out as I wanted to get a baseline for where we needed to be for the 11.90 index. After a couple tweaks to the fuel system after our last outing, the Blue car responded nicely with it’s best 1/8 mile number since making the conversion and ran 12 flat after throttling back to hit the index.

On the first round of qualifying, I was going to make the run the same way as our first test run as conditions had improved a little. My son Mark advised to run it just a little bit harder, so I agreed and told him that I would say “I told you so” if the run would be too quick.

It was, at 11.86! I said “I told you so” and we had a good laugh about it.

Round two of qualifying came at 7:30pm and that run came in at 11.98. Better than that, the 1/8 mile time matched to best the car has EVER done at 7.23! I reckon that it liked what I did with the fuel system this time.

After our last runs, it was off to dinner and drinks with Ken & Sue Jevec, Allen Wiess our son Mark and his wife Sara, Darren “K-Roc” Krewenchuk and Tom Hansen. The very best of times!

Sunday dawned with absolutely magnificent conditions! Things seemed to be in place for a good showing with the Blue Car and confidence was high. I guess I should have known better. When things start going too smoothly, something jumps us and bites us in the butt.

On qualifying run #3, I noticed a wee bit of clutch slippage going into high gear and dismissed it, thinking it wouldn’t affect us that much. If it had slowly degraded or remained consistent at that level of slippage, we would have been fine.

It did not.

Our first round draw was long time SG racer Rick Oliver in the “Transplant Racing” red Karmann Ghia. I had red lit against Rick in Vegas at the season finale last year, and yes, I wanted some payback.

As it turned out, I had the advantage over Rick on the tree by a healthy margin, but then, a little slip of the clutch in second gear…. Followed by a total cutting loose on the 2-3 shift. As the engine RPM zinged up to 8500, I backed out hoping for it to lock and be able to get back into it, but it was completely gone. I watched Ol’ Rick drive away for the win and our day was done.

Good friends Johhny “Locktite” Schuerger and Marcus Palmquist were repeat finalists and this time, Marcus broke through for his first win in SG. Way to go Marcus!

Those two fellers have a stranglehold on the points lead and will be very, very difficult to unseat. I will do my level best to do just that! There are two targets to shoot at now!

Upon pulling the motor for inspection, what I found was a little disturbing, but explains why the clutch went away so rapidly. Five of the six studs holding the pressure plate on were broken off at the flywheel. The question is why? Heat cycling? Metal fatigue? I don’t know. What I do know is that they are the standard 8.8 grade 8mm studs and that size and grade have served well. Add to that, this particular pressure plate is a fairly light pressure piece.  But then we all know that there is never a problem till it’s a problem for the first time. The solution will be to convert it to 3/8” grade 8 studs. I’ll also have to spot face the stud holes on the J&G pressure plate as a few of them are beat up a little and they all need to be at the same level.

I also disassembled the motor for mid-season bearing inspection and found the rod bearings to be in perfect condition. This was also the first teardown since converting to the center thrust with modified BMW bearings. Because the thrust surfaces on the bearing were cut down to the steel backing, there was some wear on the thrust surface of the crank. I'll have to figure out what to do about that down the road. Perhaps some aluminum inserts for the thrust rather than running the crank against the steel surface of the cut down bearing. I'd rather the aluminum pieces be the sacrificial part and not the crank. But for now, after having the crank mag checked and having the thrust ground, the thrust clearance is still well within tolerable levels, so it goes back together with the existing main bearings.

With our typical mid season maintenance, we’ll be good to go by our next engagement at Famoso on June 21st for the second installment in the ANRA series. We’ll be protecting and trying to improve upon our second place position in that series.

We hope to entice a few of our index racing buddies out to join us. It’s a lot of fun putting the hurt to the V8 boys!

ANRA Spring Nationals, June 21, Famoso Raceway

The weather forecast called for hot temps at 104 to 106°. We were wishing that was true. What we encountered were temps over 110, peaking at 112 for a couple hours. That, my friends, is danged unpleasant on a sea of asphalt. Unpleasant as it was, we got through it. All for the love of racing.

We came into the second race of the American Nostalgia Racing Association in second place in E/Gas class competition. The car ran really good in it’s last outing at the Bugorama in Sacramento on Memorial Day weekend, carding several passes in the 7.20s at the eighth mile marker. The quarter mile times were throttled back to hit the 11.90 index, but the half-track time indicated 11.40 ET potential for the full trip. As such, I was pretty confident that we could hit the 11.60 index even in the heat. However, the extreme heat was a part of the equation I didn’t factor in. I figured we’d race sometime this summer in 100° + days, but certainly not 112.

On the first of two qualifiers, the car carded an 11.82 at 111mph, nosing over on top. Right then I knew my fuel delivery issues were not fully resolved. When setting up the pressurized fuel inlet system for the mechanical injection, I had elected not to heed the advice of the technician at Kinsler Fuel injection, using a size smaller #6 main feed line than the #8 he recommnded because the #6 was already in the car. That decision bit me. In nominal conditions it’s fine, but in the extreme heat, fuel delivery to the surge tank couldn’t keep up with demand and the motor was starving for fuel on top. That will be corrected.

In eliminations, I drew an early Nova who I knew was able to run the number. I figured our day was done. With a very big advantage at the tree, my 11.96 just nipped his 11.85 by .003 seconds. I was actually surprised to see my win light come on!

In round two, I drew a big black ‘70 Chevelle that was only a little closer to the index than I was. With a .068 to .210 advantage, my 11.85 easily held off his 11.75.
In the semi-finals, there were three cars left. A blue 69 Mustang, and Rocky Phillips in his 70 Maverick four speed car. By virtue of qualifying position, Rocky got the bye run into the final and Mr Mustang and I squared off to determine who would run Rocky in the final.

My performance disadvantage finally caught up to me. Mr Mustang was able to fender race me to the stripe and even had me on the tree by .03 seconds. This is gonna be someone to look out for. He’s a good racer and took a small stripe, running 11.90 to my 11.91. I think Rocky is going to be my “huckleberry” in this series. With his win this time, he moved into the points lead, while we stayed at number two, one round behind.

Aside from the heat, it was a fun event. Dave Bendig who races in the PRA series with us in Super Gas also joined in this time, but suffered some gremlins all weekend. He’s still shaking out his overall combo and will be on track soon.

The next race in the this series will be in late August and be at night. I'm really looking forward to that one and we hope we can get a few more of our VW friends out there. For now, it seems the Blue Car is gaining respect among our domestic car friends.

Fontana DragIn, July 20

Maybe it ain’t so bad after all.

OK, I’ll admit it. I guess I have been a wee bit critical in my stated opinions about Fontana. First impressions are difficult for me to put aside. Perhaps it’s a character flaw. We were treated harshly there at the first couple of events we went to. The track personnel acted like they were doing us a huge favor by allowing us to “play in their sandlot” and let us know in no uncertain terms that they were in charge and would rather not be inconvenienced with our presence. Coupled with wind and blowing dust, I formed an opinion and stubbornly stuck to it. I just didn’t want to race there, period.

However, the last couple of outings have been almost…..pleasant. The (new?) crew at Fontana have treated us very well and that goes a long way toward keeping us coming back. The track itself is still unpredictable at best, making it very difficult to get the combo tuned in. This event, Clyde Berg’s 2008 “DragIn” was no different in that regard. We had wildly varying results on every run. Our reaction times were very good, and we had enough “stuff” to run the number, (barely), but short times and middle times were all over the place. But to quote an over-used cliché, “It is what it is.”

I had made some minor changes to the fuel delivery system after experiencing some problems at the last ANRA race at Famoso. We’re still struggling with getting adequate fuel delivery to a little (by comparison) four cylinder engine. It doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a deal, but I guess the configuration I have put together makes it so. I was hoping to have those issues resolved, but I still had a little “spike” in the AFR readings in the middle of the RPM range. With that, I needed to run it richer than normal to keep it from leaning out. This contributed to inconsistent runs as well as the track surface itself.

Since the car could run the number, even being far from its performance potential, we tried to focus on what we could to make the best of the day. Reaction times, and hitting the 11.90 index were really all that mattered. Our first qualifier was all-out, pedal to the metal, and netted an 11.87 with a .06 RT. Not bad. Run number two actually felt better, but the time slip showed worse numbers with the exception of the reaction time. That was .02. Our final qualifying run was 11.95 and put us number four in the field. We were pretty happy with that.

Joel Mohr was our round one opponent. I think Joel and I have only raced each other twice before and we’re one and one. We are now two and one as we took the win when Joel couldn’t run the number.

In round two we were paired with good buddy Scott Bakken. Scott is one of those guys I love being paired with in qualifying and in the late rounds. I like it because we are good friends. We each like to see the other do well and we are usually door to door in performance. Last time we ran, Scott tree’d me pretty good. This time it was my turn to tree Scott, but it didn’t do me any good as I missed the shift to second gear, and Scott went on to the round win.

Disappointed in our early exit? Yes. But there’s no sense in beating myself up over it. I know we had the “stuff.” We’ve had “The Stuff” all year. What we have not had is luck. We were on the losing end a “squeeker” in Phoenix in round two, we had a clutch failure in Sac in round one, and now a “Shiftee” malfunction in Fontana. (Nothing wrong with the shifter, it was all the "Shiftee's" fault!). At all these events, reaction times and overall car performance has been there. Luck has just not been on our side.

Marcus Palmquist went on to another win and he is now ten rounds out in front of us. We can’t catch him even if he doesn’t come to the last two races and we win both, as there are only eight rounds of racing left. In fact, only a couple guys stand a chance. John Schuerger is not far behind, and Daniel Kurtzman mathematically has a chance, albeit a very slim chance. As for us, a top five finish is within reach and that is the goal.

Photo by Derek Campbell,

Check out all the cool stuff on Dereks website,

Next up, ANRA race number three. This is where we are doing well and we have a chance to go all the way! 

ANRA Cool August Nights, August 23, Famoso Raceway

I've really been looking forward to this race. Back in the 80s, Famoso ran it's summer bracket programs at night to beat the summertime heat. This event was a throwback to those days. The front gates opened at 4:30pm and the first rounds of qualifying were set to begin at 7:00pm. By the time we made our first run, it was just about sunset and conditions were great.

Once again, we were entered in E/Gas, on an 11.60 index and sitting in the number two position in points. We were hoping for a decent showing to protect our #2 position in points. Since the car's performance has been erratic lately as I have been trying different fuel supply schemes, I was hoping that we had the configuration right this time. My hopes were realized in 11.44 seconds after carrying a huge wheelie all the way through first gear, dragging the muffler and emitting a shower of sparks!

That first run put to rest my fears and it was our best run ever at Famoso, and second best ET ever. While it didn't put us in good position in qualifying, it did tell us that we had "Plenty In The Bank." Round two of qualfying put us in the number five position with some throttling back in high gear to try to hit the number.

First round came at close to midnight. We drew Paul Gonzales in his 64 Impala, the number 2 qualifier. I knew he could cut a good light and run the number, but even trying to stay within my game, and the increased visual accuity of the tree at night, I went .000 on reaction time, and took the win in a double break-out race.

In round two, perhaps a little rattled by the perfect reaction time I had the previous round, I was pretty late on the tree at .181, but my opponent Bud Tickel, in his early Chevy Nova, was even worse. He took the stripe but ran under the 11.60 index, handing us the win. By this time our "Huckleberry," and #1 in points, Rocky Phillips, had lost to a Chevelle who ran a .014 RT and a right on the index 11.60 and took Rocky out.

The worst case scenario at this point was that Rocky and I would be tied for the points lead, should I lose to the Chevelle. With some down time, I was able to spend some and get my head straight so I could go out and do what I do.

With a .006 second starting line advantage, and knowing the guy could run well under the index, I pushed him all the way to the stripe, forcing him to run under. I ran under as well, but by less. I knew instantly when my win light came on and I knew I was going to fast. The victory was ours! I got a congratulatory hug from the gal at the time slip booth. She was happy that we had won because she said the Blue Car was her favorite! What can I say? Chicks dig the Blue Car!

Cindy was jumping for joy when she arrived to tow my back to the pits. Since ANRA does a photo shoot of the winners, we towed back up to the lanes and put the car in the "Winners Circle" for the photos and trophy presentation. We had to wait for a little while for the rest of the program to conclude, so we watched those runs in the company of John Hashim of M&H tires. he told me I was hitting the header pretty hard on those wheelies, and sure enough, I had a loose pipe and a header leak!

While we were waiting between runs, John shared some track temp and tire temp data with us. He had been observing my burnout procedure and told me I was doing well. And then a stink bug running across the pavement caught Johns eye and he just had to get that bug's temperature! As it turned out, the stink bug was the same temp as the pavement. Goes to show what we will do to keep ourselves amused while we 4am in the morning!

The win was sweet. It was sweet because it was at my "home track." It was sweet because we finally put a check mark in the "W" column and because it put us in the points lead. It was sweet because it was among and against the V8 boys. They are a tough crowd!

And it is now us with the target on our back.

Sacramento Bugorama, August 31, 2008

The crew of Bugorama, the fans, show car crowd and racers could not have asked for a better weekend weatherwise. With Friday temps over the century mark, the cool delta breezes kicked up and dropped tems to just over 90 on Saturday and 80 on Sunday. Absolutely perfect! Promoter Bob Hole told me they paid extra for that!

Coming off of a win at Famoso just the weekend before and with the car running really well, we had some confidence heading into Bugorama. Since we had run it pretty much all out at Famoso, I elected not to do a full pass before qualifying over Cindy's objections. I think there were also some wheelie expectations after our exhibit the weekend prior. However, the track wasn't quite as grippy as Famoso and the wheelies were controlled to just a few inches. Oh well. At least my header didn't take another beating!

After setting up base camp, we visited with friends and fellow racers while we waited for the 5pm call to the lanes. There was a lot on the line for a couple of the Super Gas racers. Points leader Marcus Palmquist wanted to protect and extend his lead to "seal the deal," while John Schuerger wanted to close the 60 point gap. For those of us too far back to have a shot, our goal was to climb in the standings the best we could.

Our first run, which was not a qualifier but just a TnT run, netted a tire spinning 11.77 running how I typically do to hit 11.90. Looking at the ET slip, the 1/8th mile time showed 7.22. An all time best. Seems we need to shorten it up even more. Round one of qualifying came at 6pm and already temps were starting to drop. Our first official qualfier was 12.19. A good safe number, but we would need to tighten that up. With only 14 cars showing up, there was no danger of not qualifying, but a better position nets more points and gives lane choice. Round two got us an 11.97. Still safe and still room to improve. We also improved to 7.20 in the 1/8th. This equates out to about 11.37 in the quarter, and trying to hit 11.90 with a car that runs in the 11.30s is not very easy! That wrapped up the evenings runs, and then it was off to dinner with Ken & Susy Jevec, Allen & Sue Wiess, my son Mark and his wife Sarah, and our friend John Hashim. The best of times! While in the restaurant, fellow Super Gas racer Patrick Friel, and former DRKC champ Lee Bushaw and crew came in. After a time, a food fight was narrowly averted!

Sunday morning arrived with a 15mph breeze and very cool. We had one more qualifying shot before eliminations, and this one would be too quick at 11.87. So, we were set in the number 8 position.

A few days before the race, we announced that we would put a $50 cash bonus to the #12 qualifier. Just a little something to make thing more fun. It was funny we chose that number, which was totally random. The number twelve qualifier turned out to be Rick Oliver who was celebrating 12 years since his liver transplant and he had put up a $112 bounty on himself awarded to whoever beat him in eliminations. That turned out to be Scott Bakken.

Our round one guy was our good friend John Schuerger. Dang. I knew he wanted to advance to close the gap on Marcus who had gone out in round one. I didn't want to be one standing in his way, but there I was. I'm not the kind of guy who will take a dive to help a friend. I want to win too. And that's what I did. John missed a shift, and I throttled back to the win. As it turned out, I almost didn't throttle back enough, running a really close 11.90 on the 11.90 index!

Our round two guy was Patrick Friel. A newcomer to Super Gas, Patrick is a DRKC veteran and was there competing back when we were in DRKC. With almost a tenth advantage at the tree, the win was ours, 11.92 to his 12.06. During that run I reset our personal best 1/8th mile time again at 7.16. I reckon I have the bugs worked out of the injection system now! (calculates to 11.31 for the quarter)

In the semi finals we were once again paired with our good friend Scott Bakken. I had lost to Scott at Fontana when I missed the shift to second gear. Scott and I were door to door all the way and approaching the stripe, I knew we were going way too fast. I couldn't scrub off speed fast enough and it was a double breakout, my 11.72 to Scott's 11.74. Being the least amount under the index gave Scott the win.

With our day finished, and being quite happy with our results, we went on to watch our friends in their final round matches. Scott would be up against 2007 SG Champ Troy Palmer. Troy's team had suffered a staging lane accident which resulted in a damaged front fender just before the semi's. It apparently was more of a distraction to his opponent, Rich Grise, who redlit away his chances. Scott went on to win the event and improved his overall points position to third, while we improved from 8th to 6th. A top five finish is what we are working for and we are two rounds away. Allen Wiess also had a runner up finish in Super Comp, putting him back into the points lead.

Vegas is up next and we have historically done very well there. Last year we red lit in round one, but we won there the previous two years. Hopefully, Lady Luck will be my co-pilot once again.

Las Vegas Bugorama, Oct 5, 2008

A Win is a Win, Even When it's a Bit Ugly!

Las Vegas Bugorama. The last stop on the PRA tour for 2008 and certainly one to be remembered. Our weekend started on Thursday night, October 2nd with a “midnight run” to Vegas. Leaving after work and on the road from Clovis at just before 5pm, we rolled through the night to arrive in town at just before 1am. I prefer doing the drive at night rather than fight with Friday morning traffic coming into town. Less traffic, less stress.
The first activity of the weekend was a tour of the Hoover Dam facility. We’ve been coming to the Vegas race every year for nine years now, and this was our first visit to the dam site. Even though it was built more than 70 years ago, all I can say is "Dammed Impressive!" The humor started right away with “dam this and dam that” when the ticketeer said “Here’s your Dam ticket!” Lots of thumbs up and complimentary comments when we were towing the car over the dam.
On Saturday, we went downtown and toured the Secret Garden of Seigfried and Roy, where there were some new white tiger kittens, and in the Dolphin pools there were some baby dolphins born right there at the facility. Pretty cool stuff. The rest of the day was spent hangin’ out with friends, Allen and Sue Wiess, Ken and Susy Jevec, and Darren and Trista Krewenchuk who were down from Vancouver. We had intended to go out to the track Saturday night to do some testing, but decided we’d rather goof off instead. I figured I’d regret that decision.
After some wind and rain during the night, race day was bright, calm and beautiful. We got into the track pretty early, and was the first in line at tech. Here’s when we encountered the beginning of what would be a troublesome day for getting the program run. Nobody was given the standard NHRA style tech card and the inspectors knew not what to do. Apparently they simply took everyone’s BugIn driver card and did no tech inspections. The waived me off without even looking at the car. I have to assume they did the same to everyone. It became immediately apparent that some people put cars on the track that shouldn’t have as several people spilled oil on the track in rapid succession, (every three or four cars it seemed) causing delay after delay. We made round one of qualifying at 11am, and round two at 2pm and a lot of waiting around in between.
Finally the program got underway, and we were limited only two rounds of qualifying. After the second round, we were atop in the field in the numero uno position with a 12.17 on the 12.11 index and winners of the CompuTronix Top Qualifier prize.
The number one position also got us the bye in a field of 13 cars. I was gonna run the car hard, but it went sideways on the launch for the second time, and with yanking the steering wheel hard, my body shifted out of position and I missed the shift to second and aborted the run. Since it was the second time the car exhibited this characteristic that day, I made a shock and a pre load adjustment on the rear suspension. In round two, I was to face either my friend Johnny Scheurger, number two in the series, or points leader Marcus Palmquist. This round would be pivotal to decide the season championship. With Johnny trailing by 57 points, he needed this round win to stop Marcus and close the gap. It was not to be for Johnny, as the car just wouldn’t run the number, and Marcus clinched the championship with that win. That put Marcus up against us in round two. After an erratic start due to a bit of driver error, (our .191 RT to Marcus' .077) we still pulled out the win, besting Marcus’ 12.3X to our winning 12.2x. I was lucky to get that win.
Monte Foster was our next guy. I shook off “screwing the pooch” on the last round and I was focused on my job. After I staged, Monte rolled in, brought the rpm up, and then rolled right through the beams, triggering the red light. A gift. I was ready, but it was still a gift.
The last two men standing were Daniel Kurtzman and myself. Daniel has been doing really well this season and was fifth in the standings coming into this event. With a virtual dead even start, with Daniel having a slight .003 second advantage, I put half a fender on him and lit the win light, 12.46 to his 12.48. Other than earning the bye, as my friend Rick Sadler pointed out when I explained that the win was ugly, the final round was the only one that was really earned, even if Daniel was significantly off the pace. However, since Drag Racing is a game of mistakes, my opponent’s mistakes in round two were greater, and in round three, his mechanical failure cost him the round before the tree even came down.
A win is still a win, even if it IS a bit ugly! And with that win, we may have achieved our goal of a top five finish. Preliminary reckoning figures we’ve squeeked by our buddy Scott Bakken to move into fifth place. Whatever the case, that wraps up the PRA season in the west. In three weeks, we go back to Famoso to conclude the ANRA series where we are leading. I still have a little something on tap for my V8 buddies!

ANRA Season Final, Oct 25-26, Famoso Raceway

We have historically gone to Irwindale Drag Day this weekend in October, but since Drag Day was the same weekend as the ANRA Finals where we were leading in our class, we had to miss it. I have to admit that there was some degree of apprehension heading in the American Nostalgia Racing Association Season Final. It was due in large part to our lead position in the season point standings, ahead of Rocky Phillips in E/Gas (11.60 index) by a mere one round. I guess I should have been satisfied with a guaranteed second place at the very worst, since we could not be caught by the third place and below guys. But I wanted the Big Prize in our first season in this venue.
Things weren’t really going our way right from the start. Maybe when we found out we were on the event t-shirt, it became the "Kiss of Death" sorta like sports figures on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I kinda figured something was not quite right after a couple of runs as I couldn’t get the reaction times to come around. I typically have to pull back a bit since ANRA E/Gas runs on a .5 pro tree rather than the .4 we run on in VW-PRA competition, but I had to do all the stuff I normally have to do on the quicker tree just to bring it down into the .04 range. Then I missed the shift to second gear in the second qualifying run and I was getting a bit rattled.
I reckon it just wasn’t our race. Maybe I sabotaged the whole thing because I wanted it really bad, or maybe it was just the way it was.
We still ended up qualifying in the number 3 slot with an 11.62 on the 11.60 index, and I had no more shifting trouble, but the car felt really soft on the launch, not lifting the front wheels at all.
There was pretty much nothing to be done mechanically that I could do at the track, so I just figured what would be, would be.
I was hoping to pair up with Rocky in early rounds so we could decide it for ourselves “mano a mano.” However, we ended up on opposite sides of the ladder, and as such, we wouldn’t see him until the final should we survive that far.
I drew a young fella named Jarred Tickel in an early Chevy Nova for round one. His stats for qualifying indicated he was all over the place on reaction times. Still, I’ve had hard-learned lessons about underestimating my opponent!
The car was running crisp and clean, but the clutch felt strange. Weeks before I had changed from the four puck disc I normally run to a six puck due to the unavailability of the four puck. It felt different at the VW PRA Vegas race three weeks before but I figured it would be OK for the slower tree. Jarred and I were the first pair out. We staged, the tree came down and I let ‘er fly. The car seemed to remain motionless then lazily moved out with the engine RPM high, the clutch slipping badly. I managed to reel Jarred in at the stripe and got there first, but ran 11.53 to Jarred’s right on the money 11.60. Jarred’s sizable starting line advantage was played out at the stripe.
We were now spectators. But man, did that sting. Jarred definitely earned the win and rightfully so. It stung mostly because I didn’t come prepared to win. I had plenty of time to fix the clutch in the three weeks between our Vegas race and this event, but figured it would be OK for this. Another hard lesson.
Rocky had won his first round pairing, so we were now tied in the standings. He then went on to win his second race of the season, and with that the season championship in E/Gas. Way to go Rocky! You were really on your game for this final race and really deserved the win. Rocky and his “posse” are genuine good guys that I can include among a select group of people that I call friends!
We’ve had a really good time in ANRA competition this year and are really looking forward to running with ANRA again in 2009. The people are great and we are making new friends at every event. Everyone has made us feel like we belong, even though we have a different approach to racing.

2007 Race Reports