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2011 Race Reports

2011 March Meet Race Report
Sunday’s eliminations may have been “winded” out (30-40 mph gusts with 80mph forecasted for later), but good times were still on tap. John & Troy Palmer, Richie Webb, Jo Clifford and us were able to secure an easy to find “corner lot” for the 53rd running of the historic March Meet.

Troy’s friend Danny, (sorry, didn’t get the last name) was our chef for the weekend, and let me tell you, the man knows how to cook meat with very rudimentary utensils! Friday night, he brings out a burner stand and on top of that he placed a “wok” made out of a plow disc! In this unique vessel, he fried up pork short ribs or “Carnitas” using pork fat for the frying medium. Along with that, there were all kinds of fixins’ for making tacos or just eatin’ ‘em with your fingers. Everyone overindulged. It was incredible.
Saturday night’s feast was just as unique. Danny pulls out an empty 55 gallon drum that had some air holes in the bottom and some steel rods poking horizontally through the top. In this drum, he put down some wood and lit that up. On top of that he put in some damp wood that gave off a lot of smoke. He hung a bunch of tri-tip roasts from the rods, put the lid on the drum, and let it do it’s thing. Smoked tri-tip, redneck style! Let me tell you something. I’ve had tri-tip cooked lots of different ways in lots of different situations, and THIS tri-ip, cooked in an old 55 drum, and shared with good friends on a sea of asphalt, surrounded by hot rods of all different configurations, ranks among the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. Danny efforts truly made the weekend for everyone. Thanks Danny!

Attendance was a bit down. I think mostly because of the ominous weather reports. But there was still plenty of action on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, we got our first and only run of the day at about 9:30am. The sun was out, and the conditions were incredible. Troy was in the 11.70 zone, we were at 11.60 and Jo ran 12.20. She was a little disappointed that she didn’t get an 11 second timeslip, but we all assured her that she would before the weekend was out.

We then used the rest of the day to shop the swap meet, watch nitro qualifying, and taking in the entire March Meet experience. Danny’s Carnitas dinner put a cap on the day, and after dark, we all went on “walkabout” in the nitro pits hoping to get a face full of nitro when those guys do test firing to be ready for the next day.

What we found in the pits almost defies description. Mounted to a small trailer on a stand was a fully outfitted blown hemi running on nitro. Not a little “Cackler,” but a 426 style hemi, BIG supercharger, Brad Anderson heads, twin magnetos….in other words, a “Big Show” style nitro motor! At the business end was biggest dang margarita mixer you have ever seen. Three containers of about 5 gallons each, and Ron Capps at the controls.

On Saturday Morning, the “HotRod” class (us) were once again up first. I ran 11.52, Troy 11.78 and Jo was rewarded with her official 11 second time slip showing an 11.91! She was very happy!

The rest of the day we watched more nitro qualifying, then the first rounds of nitro eliminations. Just about all the qualifiers were solidly in the 5 second zone and the track was holding everything they could throw at it. The new concrete surface is smooth as glass, and the Famoso crew did an incredible job with the prep.

We were scheduled to run our first round of eliminations that night, and I was really hoping we’d get it off. However a few delays pushed things back and they finally announced we would do eliminations on Sunday morning. I was really hoping for Saturday night since the weather outlook for Sunday looked very bad.
With that announcement, the drinking lamp was lit, and we overindulged on Danny’s tri-tip. It was also Cindy's birthday and a lot of people stopped by to wish her a happy birthday! It was pretty cool!

After the meal, I said that no matter what happens on Sunday, it’s still been an incredible experience, and I was so happy to share it with my friends! It just doesn't get much better.

As it turned out, the winds kicked up at night and the gusts were reported to be in the 70mph range. Dozen of twisted canopies littered the pits and Manufacturers Midway took a pretty big hit. As such, the balance of the event is postponed till next weekend.

Even so, it was still a fun weekend! We wish you coulda been there!

ANRA April 10
And now, the "Official" WKR ANRA Race Report, April 10, 2011

Since we were unable to attend the make-up date for the weather-delayed March Meet, Cindy and I were really looking forward to the ANRA Season Opener. Seeing our racing friends again from that series was really good. The weather was great, and everyone we saw had smiles on their faces. One could tell from just looking around that everyone was happy to be out racing at Historic Famoso Raceway!

And on Sunday afternoon, Cindy and I got the news that we had become grandparents! My oldest son Mark, who drives the Blue Car at PRA events and his wife Sara, became proud parents of a 7lb 7 ounce baby girl at 12:30 Sunday!

E/Gas class in which we compete has become very popular at ANRA events. We had 19 entries this time, and I know that at least three regulars were missing. Even with that many, it’s an all run field. Five rounds with byes in every round except round two.
Our first run of qualifying was a little lazy. I had removed the 8000rpm chip from the two-step and replaced with a 7500rpm chip. The thinking was that with the .5 tenths Pro Tree, we wouldn’t need to leave so hard. Well, it just kinda lazied it’s way off the line, running an 11.78 with a .08 reaction time. The top speed was there at 116 and change, so I knew it was jetted close. Then when I stopped to think about it, the high speed leanout on the Hilborn injection begins to kick in at 7500 rpm. It was pig rich when I dumped the clutch!

For round two of qualifying, I changed the chip back to the 8000rpm chip and presto! I went .014 red and ran 11.55. The third session was cancelled due to downtime on the track, so we would just have to be satisfied with that.
At the season opener, ANRA hosts the racers to a tri tip BBQ with all the fixin’s! This is when they award trophies for the last seasons champions.

In E/Gas, my “Huckleberry” and series nemesis, and who also happens to be one of my good friends, Rocky Phillips was the E/Gas champ and received the “Butchy” trophy. Much like the Wally, the trophy has a personage of the series founder (and all around good guy) Butch Headrick. It’s a highly coveted prize that I hope to win one year! (The VW PRA had talked about doing something similar, a “Billy” in honor of the series founder Bill Taylor, a few years ago, but never followed through on it. I really wish they had). The BBQ feast and awards presentation was a good time, laughing and joking with friends.

For Sunday’s eliminations in round one, I was paired up with Richard Lillo in his early Ford Ranchero. Richard has been an ANRA regular, but this was his first foray into E/Gas.  I had made a suspension adjustment to calm things down a little so I would not go red (hopefully) and when the tree lit up, we had a very slight reaction time advantage over Richard, .031 to .040. For a while, I thought he was gonna get me as he was out in front till about 1000 feet. The Blue car was gaining rapidly at that point, and I started throttling back to just keep a wheel out in front. I got the stripe, although a little more that I wanted, but still got the win, running an 11.62 to Richard’s 11.69. A win margin of .075.

For round two, I was paired with newcomer Jeff Kleeman in his  late 60s Chevy Nova. I guess I musta been amped up on caffeine by this time. I made sure to stage as shallow as possible, but still came up red ….by only .004 second. I was pretty upset about that. Jeff’s RT was .183 and all he could muster was 11.79. In theory, it coulda been an easy win. I didn’t need to push so hard. I reckon I need to lay off the Starbucks “Red Eye” on race day!  Anyway, there’s no sense beating myself up too bad much about it. I guess I just need to loosen ‘er up a little more and not try to cut it so tightly.

As it turned out, Rocky was out too that round, running under the index. In fact, all the previous season’s points leaders were out in early rounds. Could this be a “Changing of the Guard” so to speak?

Not if I have anything to say about it!

Next up, Bug In at Fontucky. See y’all at the races!

BugIn, Fontana
Ah Fontana! The memories it conjures up are sometimes pleasant, and other times, very UNpleasant.  My friend Lance Gregory had pointed out in a forum post about confusion at the gate, and he was spot on, although we only have one glaring incident to report.  It was one BugIn staff members shouting profanity laced commands to those coming in the gate. I know it can be a stressful job, but there’s no need to be that way. The Speedway Staff were absolutely great!! The conditions….well, those just can’t be controlled by man. Yeah, so it was windy. So the race was shortened to eighth mile. It was a good call and the racing was still good.

We rolled into Southern California the day before, and once again, our good friends Allen & Sue Wiess were our gracious hosts. Upon our arrival, we all went over to Jim “Sarge” Edmiston’s house for a little get together with some of the past and present DKP guys and some “pot luck” goodies. That evening, Allen & Sue cooked up some Carne Asada, and we enjoyed the company of our good friends including Ken Jevec and the Bakkens. It was very nice!

On race day, we had elected to run Quick 32. Yes, it is an expensive class to run. But with a full field, the payoff is impressive. I for one was disappointed in the actual number who paid up. There were 15 or so in qualifying. Only eight brave enough to risk $100. A couple of newcomers I have yet to meet, as well as some of the familiar warriors. If some people ever wonder why there are those that seem to frequently get the magazine coverage, why some get help from the industry, and always seem to be in the late rounds, it’s because we realize that rewards can only come with some risk. And that’s all I got to say about THAT!

As for us, the Blue Car was running OK. Not it’s best numbers nor anywhere near it. Fontana just seems to be that way. We run about a tenth and a half to two tenths slower there than anywhere besides Vegas. And there was a crossing headwind. The traction was good for us, and the Blue Car was yanking the front end pretty high on just about every run. Troy Palmer seemed to be struggling in the traction department though, so it wasn’t good for everyone.

On our three qualifiers, we ran 7.53 (eighth mile) on the first go-around. (I had leaned it out in an attempt to get a little something in the bad air. It didn’t like that at all). After going back to my baseline fuel set-up, it went 7.42 and then 7.52 in the last session. Oh well. It is what it is.
With eight cars in contention, it would be a three round race. My first round match-up was racing buddy Rich Grise. Rich is always a threat and I have the greatest respect for him. As such, one must be on their game when Rich is in the other lane. This day, it was my turn and I got the win light. In round two, and with four cars left, it was Mike Sheldon and Troy Palmer matched up, and we were up against Jeff Sheen.

After that round was over, it was a certainty that someone named Mike in a blue car was going to win! Once again, as has been the case at a few Bug-Ins, Drag Days, and PRA events, it was a “Mike & Mike” final. What was unusual about this particular time was that Mike was dialed in a little slower than me. 7.60 to 7.49, and with only .004 of a second difference in reaction times, advantage to Mike Sheldon, he was out on me just about the entire way. He gave it a few whomps on and off the throttle, while my foot was glued like lead to the floor. Mike Sheldon takes the stripe! Oops. Too much! Mike is under by .08. I am under by .04. When I see the win light on my side, I already knew it was a double break-out and I did a “Yeah!” with a fist pump!

I really don’t know where the Mike Vs Mike tally stands, but it’s always fun to race him and I really try to give him everything I have. He is one of racers that is one of the best there is.  To be counted among the best, one must race with and against the best! Thanks for a good run Mike, Jeff and Rich!

ANRA, June 4-5
Paul Miller and I were the lone VWs at this event. Paul went 11.50 and 11.42 on a fresh motor this the two qualifying sessions we were there for. Lookin' good there Paul!

Paul has built a VERY slick clutch management set-up that will work with a cable operated clutch linkage, no electrical gizmos, and operates in low gear only. I'll let him explain it, or better yet, he can just start taking orders for it!

We went 11.42 at just under 120 on the first run, with a .023 light, and on run #2, we had a .011 light but missed the shift to second. It's been happening more and more, and I wasn't quite sure if was me or the trans. I am now totally convinced that the second gear synchro has given up after two and a half seasons, totaling 174 runs. Nothing lasts forever and I am still amazed that I got the life I did out of it.

Well, I guess amazed is a strong word. I "SHOULD BE" amazed, but I've become complacent!

I SHOULDA had it in to Rancho for a freshening during the off season. But they build such a bulletproof trans, I guess I'm guilty of expecting three seasons for a guesstimated 250 runs!

Thanks Rancho. Pretty damned impressive!

WCHRA June 25
Paul Miller and I were the only VW guys there, both in the 11.60 index E/Gas class since Paul decided to give it a go. This particular race was daytime qualifying and night time eliminations, the entire event done in one day. It was pleasantly warm, with a nice breeze and once the sun went down, it was incredible! It's really too bad more the west coast VW crowd doesn't take advantage of this venue. It's really great racing!

We came with a freshened tranny thanks to Mike Herbert and crew at Rancho, and I had slipped in a new set of rod bearings and fixed some minor issues while it was apart.

In round one of qualifying, we came out on top with an 11.63 and a .007RT. The funny thing was that it shifted so effortlessly that I backed out of the throttle after the 1-2 shift not sure if it actually went in or not! It did, and the little bobble early in the run put us enough over the 11.60 index.

In round two, I got the run against long time racing buddy and former NHRA bracket champion Mark Simonian in his ‘69 Camaro. Mark had decided to give E/Gas a go, since switching engines and not having quite enough umph to make it in the highly competitive 10.60 D/Gas class. I paced Mark all the way down and ended up with an 11.612, which was once again good enough for the number 1 qualifying spot.
With 11 cars, the number 1 spot earned us a bye in round one of eliminations. I ran it all the way out and posted an 11.605.

Just about all of the current points leaders exited in round one, it was a good opportunity to try make up some ground.
In round two, we faced young gun Jacob King in his '69 Corvette. We had lost to him in round one of the last race when I missed the shift, so I was looking to set things straight.
I did everything I could do, but Jacob came out on top again. He had a .010 light to my .013, and I took the stripe only to run further under than he did, 11.51 to 11.53.

I can't really complain. It was a very tight race and if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't do it any different. Based on my ET on my bye run, I wasn't about to dump it and give up the stripe. Jacob was actually pitted right next to us so I congratulated him on a job well done. Looking over the run stats, it was probably the closest run out of all the eliminations!
I was really wanting to get by him, because my buddy Mark, who went to win the event (both E/gas AND sportsman!) was to be my semi final round opponent, and that woulda been a cool, cool deal!

The next WCHRA event is July 23rd. I really hope some of you guys can kick off your high heels and join us! It truly is great racing!

Big thanks to Rancho for getting our trans turned around for us. A new set of synchros and a 1-2 shift fork was all it needed, everything checking out good. Also thanks to Rick at CB performance, and Don at Pauter Machine for the help with some engine bits. We really appreciate you!

WCHRA July 23
It was hot. Not bad hot, but still hot. Just under 100° and the track temps were about 140° during the daytime qualifying sessions. The Famoso crew made it happen though. It was hookin’!
This was the third event in the WCHRA series, and attendance in all categories was a little light. We only had 6 cars in our chosen class, E/Gas.

Things started out OK for us. I told Cindy that I’d just go out and run an 11.600 right off the bat to get it over with. I only missed by .005, running an 11.595. Too bad it was on the wrong side of the 11.60 index! Also on the wrong side was my reaction time, which was .024 red! Still we were in the ballpark. With qualifying getting cut to two hits on these one day format races, I had one more hit to get it right.

I made some adjustments to calm the car down to slow the RT down a little and went up to the lanes when we got our call. When I started the motor in the lanes before the second run, it sounded funny. Sorta like the throttle bodies were out of balance. I pulled into the burnout area anyway. The Burnout sounded OK, so I rolled up to stage. Then I see the starter in the front window motioning me to shut it off. I was leaking fuel. Damn!

They pushed me back and we attempted to fix it in time to make a run, but we didn’t make it. So we’d have to live with our one and only hit.

I ended up being the number five qualifier out of the six, and would face 2010 season Champ Tony DeAzevedo in his ’69 Camaro. If things came the way I hoped, it would work out in my favor in points. My friend Mark Simonian was to face current point leader Matt. Mark is a very good driver and it seemed to be a “no-brainer” that he would win the round. I just needed to get past Tony and everything would work out as well as I could have hoped for!

Two big monkey-wrenches in my Big Plan.
 
First, I was right behind Mark in the BO area, and saw Matt’s win light come on. I heard later that Mark’s wife said, “WTF just happened?”

Second, our screw up on our second qualifying attempt came back and bit me. I didn’t soften the launch enough. That extra run might have been the difference. I went .002 red against Tony, handing him the round. Double damn! Looking at the slip, Tony had a .007 RT against me, so even if I had been on the good side of the tree, it woulda been a run right down to the wire!

Things are getting to be a lot tougher in WCHRA’s E/Gas this year. Several drivers, including us, are posting double zero reaction times. The days when a .02 or .03 light might go a few rounds seem to be a thing of the past, and pressure is there to shave that tree razor thin!

WCHRA August  6- No happy Ending for Team White Knuckle Ride
For us, this was the fourth race in the West Coast Hot Rod Association series. It was a very important event of a couple levels. This was the first time that the VW PRA was invited out to race along side with this series. I think they were well received and they put on a good show. There were those that chose not to come, which would have made an already impressive showing even more so.
This event was important for us individually because it was a double points race. The pressure was on to do well and try to come from behind and close a four round gap to the class leaders in points.
All year and even some of last year at these .5 pro tree races, I’ve been having difficulty calming the car down enough to avoid redlight starts. At the last WCHRA race, I lost in round one with a -.002 RL. This time, I added a weight bar in the nose to slow the rate of rise in the hopes of keeping the front wheels in contact with the ground for that fraction of a second longer. After all, we’re only talking a few thousandths of a second here. I had gotten results doing this before by using a hunk of chain. So I fabbed up a mounting bar to add weight and we went to the Friday night TnT before the WCHRA event to dial it in.
Very first run without weight, I went .002 red. OK. There’s a baseline. Next run with 10 pounds added, I went .021 green. That’s good. I took five pounds out and went .041 green. Of course the track didn’t have the “good prep”  and seemd to be losing it as the night went on,  these results were only a guideline.
On the final run, with no weight, I went .004 green. What was troubling is that the car’s best ET all night was 11.64. We hoped that the ETs would come around with some good track prep for the actual race.
We got to the track early and were pleased to see a bunch of the VW crowd already there. We hung out and visited with Scott Bakken, the Barretts, and a few others while we waited for the gates to open.
Once inside, the bulk of the VW crowd were pitted closer to the staging lanes in a special area that had been designated for them. We had elected to stay farther down where we had set up the night before. Our spot had easy access in and out, while the VW area was fairly congested.
Our good friends Allen and Sue Wiess joined us, and Paul Miller was there as well. My son Mark was with us too and that is always good! Allen was there to take a stab at D/Gas, while Paul is in E/Gas regular in WCHRA along with us.
Racing got underway at 4pm on Saturday. Although it was pretty warm at around 97° the conditions were not the worst they could have been. Density altitude was around 3000 feet.
Our first run netted a -.010 RL and an 11.65 ET. Good enough for third in qualifying.
One great thing about the WCHRA is that the program is run like clockwork, and as long as nobody crashes or does a significant fluid dump on the track, there is not much down time. Our call for second round of qualifying came sooner than I hoped. The sun was still well above the horizon and the temp were still up there. But just as we got to the lanes, someone spilled oil on the track and we were down for about 30 minutes.
That 30 minutes made a big difference to a lot of people. I was hoping to close in on the 11.60 index to get those Number 1 qualifier bonus points, so I was happy to wait. Our second qualifier ended up being -.005 red….with 11.48 for the ET. I wondered where THAT came from since it hadn’t run any better than an 11.64 even since Friday night.
Back at the pits, The Wiess’ and us went up to watch the second round of PRA qualifying along with the WCHRA heads up classes.
With that complete, we got to the business of cookin’ up some food! Cindy and Sue had brought all the preparations for some finger lickin’ good Carne Asada, and there was plenty to go around. We invited Scott and Betty Bakken, Ron and Kevin Barrett and a few others to share the feast. Great times! Although the temptation was there, we all laid off the beer since we still had some work to do out on the track. There would be time enough for beer later!
Our group was among the first to get the call. We were matched up with Jacob King again! Jacob, although very young, has proven himself to be a stout competitor, so I knew I had to be “on.”
I had a little over 20 pounds added to the nose including a completely full fuel cell and added weight over my last run. I was pretty confident that would do the job, and a little concerned it would be too much weight.
We did our thing at the line like we’ve done hundreds of time before, and rolled in to stage. Ambers flash, and in the blink of an eye, Jacobs win light comes on. Red again. The time slip said -.002 red…..again.
With as much trouble as I’ve been having with this problem, I reckon my fuse had reached its end. I cursed loudly, threw my jacket on the ground and attempted to walk it off.  Even by the time Mark and Cindy had arrived to tow me back I was in a silent rage. Once back at the pits, I grabbed a beer and went off to be alone.
Normally, I’m pretty “philosophical” about a loss, even though it may sting a little. This time I just didn’t have it in me. At that moment, I felt as if the wind had been sucked out of my sails. I know it sounds a little extreme for a simple redlight light loss, but that’s where I was at mentally. I think I would have preferred to blow the motor or something so I’d have a viable excuse.
At any rate, that pretty much ended any hope for a decent finish in the series this year, and with the same red light scenarios playing out in the ANRA series, we are out of contention for both series.
And with that, we will run the two remaining PRA races in California with Mark at the wheel, and that will be it. This whole thing is about having fun. And while we ARE having fun hanging out with our friends, the racing has ceased to fun, and it’s completely my fault for making it so. So, I reckon a “time-out” is needed so I can get my head together.

ANRA, August 26-27
Progress, But I Still Haven't Figured Out Where I Left My Mojo

All year I've been struggling with the redlight blues. In fact the only two races I've won a round in this year was Hot Vws Drag Day in March, where we went to the semi's and the Bug-In at Fontana in April. We won there, but not a single round since. Both of those were .4 tenths pro tree races. The rest have been on a .5 tenths pro tree, and that's where we have been having a difficult time.

At the ANRA season opener, 004 red in round one. At the May WCHRA and June ANRA, out in first round due to missed shifts. Culprit was a bent shift fork. Fixed in short order thanks to Mike Herbert at Rancho. The next WCHRA event, I get a bye in round one for being the number one qualifier, but in round two, a green light but on the losing end of a very close double break-out. At the next two WCHRA events, a first round .002 red in BOTH! Talk about frustrating!

We then go to a Friday night TnT event last week so my son Mark can get some tune-up runs before the Bugorama event in Sacramento on Labor Day weekend. He goes .020 and change on a 4 tenths tree. So, it' working good there. But for the 5 tenths tree, it's been difficult calming the car down enough.

A this event, the first two qualifiers I was trying to sneak up on the perfect mix of clutch pedal travel/ratio, front tire pressure and stage position. We started things off with a .007 red. Then, a.025 red.

Dammit!

So this last qualifying run, I topped off the fuel cell, put my sunglasses on, and adjusted the clutch to slip more and FINALLY, a clutch slipping run of 11.60 and a GREEN light! Kind of late at .080, but at least it was green. I think I was more excited about finally cutting a green light than I was about running right on the index. Well, almost right on the index. It was an 11.602. Unfortunately another guy had run an 11.601, so mine was only good for second position.

It figures.

In the morning, I wanted to be a bit closer, so I shed the shades and left everything else alone, also figuring (hoping) I would amped up a little and do a little better than .08 on the tree since it was an elimination round.

My opponent is driving a mid 80s Dodge pickup. Big slicks, big hood scoop, big motor. I go through my normal routine, stage shallow, and when all stage lights are lit, I mat the throttle. Flash of ambers and I let 'er go. I'm thinkin' "Cool. I went green." I focus on making the shifts and then look around to see where my guy was. I'm out on him by about a full car length, so I start feathering back on the throttle. He closes in. By about 100 feet to go, I'm thinkin' about that "balls to the wall" 11.60 run the night before. I figure I'm good, so I roll back into it and keep him about a half car back.

We go across the finish line, and I KNOW I've got it, but what the hell! No win light! So I figured I ran under a little. What I didn't figure was running .12 under. Yup, 11.48 to his 11.54. Disappointed and confused about where that extra oomph came from, we figured at least it looks like we got a reasonable handle on the redlight thing, having cut a .032 light on that run. So, we'll build on that, and figure out the other thing later.

Next up, Sacramento Bugorama. The boy will be driving and I will be second string pit b!tch! But between now and the final WCHRA event the week after that, I'll be turning everything inside out, looking for my missing mojo! If you happen to find it or know where it went, please let me know so I can go fetch it back!

 

Apocolypto, WCHRA Sept

It all started out pleasant enough. We went down on Friday night to the TnT session before the race to try and work out some launch bugs. On the way down, a few drops of rain fell…With scattered clouds, I don’t think anyone took it seriously.

When we got there, we unloaded, went through tech, then got everything ready and waited for the call.

We lined up in the pro tree lane and my first run found me paired with a rookified driver in a tube chassied AMX. It looked serious enough, but he rolled in and lit both prestage and stage beams before I had even lit any. He was immediately up on the two-step. So, I kind just took my time, lit the first prestage bulb, and just as I was about to lite the second bulb, he rolls thru. Being the kind and considerate guy I am, I waited. They backed him up, he staged again, then I went all the way in. He left before the tree was activated, so it kinda screwed my reaction time up. I ran it out and posted an 11.55.

After that, they ran a few nitro cars down the track. Man I love nitro cars at night! But it does take a long time to run a few cars, and it was a couple hours by the time we got our next shot.

The next run was pretty much where I wanted it, with a .054 RT and an 11.50 ET.

Then it started to rain.

The announcer said to stick around, they were just going to run the program a little later, but I had what I needed, so we packed it in for the night.

On Race Day, skies were a bit dark and it was sprinkling. We noticed that the score board on the right lane wasn’t working. As it turned out, the score board had been hit by lightning over night and it fried the wiring! This was just a little taste of what was to come.

The sprinkles didn’t last long, and the program commenced on schedule.

I had made some launch setting adjustments before our first qualifier, and that resulted in .005 red on the tree and a soft 11.76 ET. I reverted back to what I had the night before, and proceeded to “Screw the Pooch” at the tree and went .076 red, but got a little closer to the 11.60 index with an 11.65.

Meanwhile, fellow VW racer and WCHRA regular Paul Miller puts down an 11.600 to take the number one spot! Nice job Paul. He collected the $50 bonus for being the number 1 qualifier, as well as earning the first round bye due the odd number of cars.

For the next couple hours, we went up to the stands to watch some heads up and nitro car action. First round of eliminations was to commence at 6pm.

We finally get the call to the lanes, and I’m paired with an early 70s Vega. All I’m hoping for is a green light start, just to make a race out of it. We roll onto the line like we’ve done hundreds of time before. We both stage, a flash of ambers and we’re off! The blue car’s clutch had a lot of slip, helping me go green. By half track, we’re wheel to wheel, jockeying for position, and I’m confident!

Then with out warning at about 1000 feet, the blue car shudders and the motor shuts itself off. I look in the rearview and there’s no smoke, but I pull ‘er over to the side and bring ‘er to a stop. The track guy rolls up on his quad, and I told him it just shut off. He said” Yep, it’s blown. You got oil spray out of the decklid vents.”

Damn.

He pulls us off track and said we didn’t put any oil on the track. I said “I have a catch tray.” He thanked me profusely, saying “It’s guys like you that make my job easier,” and he said he wished everyone had a containment devise. That felt good.

The knowledge we were done racing for the foreseeable future did not feel good.

Then it started to rain. Then there was lightning. It was dancing all around the track. Over us, all around us. We were over at Paul Millers pit area talking and Mark and I both swore it struck a power pole a couple hundred yards from where we stood. Then the winds came. Canopies flying everywhere. Blowing dust, grit and stinging rain. Mark and I ran back to our pit to find Cindy and our pit neighbor holding on to our canopy. Together, we pulled it down, folded it up and got it put away. The setting sun was like a giant red disc with black clouds partially obscuring it.

It was like hellfire and brimstone. End of days.


As thing started to calm down, Mark and I made our way to the concession area, to have a beer. While waiting out the storm there, a lady asked me if I thought it would blow over. “Yeah, it will! Eventually.”

After waiting around for a while, it seemed to me that the program could not continue, so we decided to call it a night. We later heard that no more cars went down the track, and action would resume Sunday at 11am.

Paul Miller called me later to tell me he had lost against one of my racing buddies from the V8 world, Mark Simonian. Mark is a former National Bracket Champion, and he is very tough to get around.

Sunday morning back at home, I start getting into the teardown to access the damage. I feared the worst, that everything between the heads would be toast. But the motor still turned with a wrench fairly easily. Poking a flashlight into the hole in the top of the case, I could see the rods were still intact. A glimmer of hope that not was lost!

Once the rest of the motor was apart, there was no apparent damage to the heads or valves. The #4 lifter and lifter boss of the case were gone and the camshaft was broken in half. One connecting rod was pretty badly damaged from debris, and the crank has a few dings on the counterweights. The scavange side of the stage and a half Autocraft pump ingested some debris and that is toast. (dammit! I just replaced that too!)

So, the next steps are to have the crank and rods checked out. I have a couple good spare rods, so we should be good there. If the crank checks out OK, then the rebuild won’t be too hurtful. If the crank turns out NOT to be salvageable…..then I guess it knocks us back a few pegs. All things considered, 2011 has not been a great year for us. We had a win at Bug-In in April, and that was really great. The rest of the time has been frustrating at times dealing with my inability to get consistent green light starts. I’ve only been past first round twice, and I’ve gone red in every other round except of two. It’s always been just a few thousandths of a second red too. .004, .010, .002 twice in a row…very frustrating.

At any rate, our season is done, and the March Meet will be upon us before we know it. And all this year, I’d been thinking I wouldn’t be done any major work over the off season. I reckon that’s what I get fer thinkin’!


See you at the races!

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