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Danny's Corner

How NOT to Bracket Race

by Danny White (9/97)

There are always articles out there in other publications and on the web on how to bracket race. This article will be just the opposite. The subject of this story will be on ways NOT to run Super Pro, a.k.a. the saga of 'In the Red Racing.' Until the early 1990s my brother, father, and I had raced in Pro Eliminator with moderate success in a homebuilt 1971 Camaro. The need for speed then overcame our better judgment so we decided to go Super Pro racing. The car we found had been drag racing longer than I had been alive and had been disassembled recently. It was a 1968 Camaro called the Inch Worm and owned by Bill Teafatiller of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Ken Smith of Burkburnett, Texas, before him. Bill and his wife had told us the car had been racing as early as 1969 in Wichita Falls. Bill's claim to fame now is that his son in law Jesse James, Jr., is co-owner of Eagle Motorsports in Tyler, Texas, and driver of his ex-Rickie Smith Pro Stocker. The only stipulation the Teafatillers had in our buying the remains of the Inch Worm was that we couldn't use the name, to which my father replied, "You don't have to worry about that."

Bill had gotten the first Inch Worm to go a 9.20 with a Jeg's Chassis. The replacement, with an all-tube mild steel chassis, went 8.30s with a bigger motor to go with the trick Reher-Morrison heads from the first Inch Worm. The second '68 Camaro Inch Worm car ended up being sold to Ken Thomas and he put in a blown AA/A Pontiac engine from Rick Hord (switched over to alcohol by Dennis Piranio). The best Ken ran was a scary three wheel, chassis twisting 7.52 at Hallsville. Ken wisely sold the car to an outlaw match racer from Waco, Texas. But back to us buying the remains of this Super Gas/Super Street Camaro: we paid four hundred dollars for the frame, rear clip, doors and the remains of the aluminum interior and Lexan windows. The first thing we did was to take the dings out of the rear clip and rebend the wheel wells that had warped due to overuse and neglect. They had been painted purple and had faded over the years so we stripped them with paint remover. The car was so ugly that when its first owner Ken Smith raced it at Green Valley, I would think to myself, "There's that 'butt ugly' car again." I'll be danged if we didn't end up with it in our garage.

We would buy the front end at a later date from Bill Teafatiller after it was damaged in a top end accident. The second Inch Worm had the linkage hang open on the hood scoop and ran off the end of Paris Drag Strip through a barbed wire fence. The front end was bent up badly but we had it repaired easily. The ironic part was that we had to remove two more Inch Worms off the side of the fenders after the first car had them painted on the doors. We used the bent up and battered aluminum interior as a template for new panels we had fabricated. The guy who fabricated the pieces was Bill Chapman. Luckily for us, Bill opened a chassis shop when we bought the car so we didn't have to go a long way or pay a great deal for a chassis builder. Bill Chapman ironically would move to Baytown, Texas, and make DragList.com in the Weekend Warrior Trans Am. Bill also would build Jim Brock's Pro Mod Beretta, Ted Hamlin's Quick 8 Corvette, and would rebuild the chassis for Clayton Pool's Wild Child Dry Camaro. The only employee Bill had was Todd Bevis, who had worked for Jerry Haas but wanted to move back to Texas. Todd Bevis now runs his own shop in Tyler and built David Nickens' new Pro Stocker along with several Comp eliminator cars.

We installed the aluminum ourselves along with new Lexan. We left the Jeg's spoiler on only because of the shape of body underneath -- it really didn't provide any useful downforce. The shifter mount we used was far from a custom designed piece. It consisted of two pieces of angle iron welded on a steel base my father found in a junk pile at his job. We had the transmission built by Dave's Racing Transmissions (I can't remember his last name right now). Dave is good enough that when Edmond and Scotty Richardson were sponsored by TCI, Dave still assembled their transmissions until TCI put a stop to it. The engine was a 402 Chevrolet big block we had built for our Pro Eliminator Camaro but never ran like it should have. The rear end was a Ford 9 inch, narrowed by former econo-dragster racer Wayne Stinson. We used Mark Williams spools and axles because of their reputation of not breaking as much as other brands. By the time we were finished, the car had parts from seven different chassis shops. The shops that had contributed to the rebuilding of the Camaro were Jeg's, the Alston dealer in Wichita Falls, Bill Chapman, Craig McCorkle, Chassis Engineering, Alston, and Wayne Stinson.

We bought wheels to fit the car from current Super Modified racer Greg Williams. The Center Line Pro Stock Wheels also had tires on them; we would replace those later. Ricky Don Roach of Talco, Texas, sprayed the car Fire Engine Red. We joked to Bill Teafatiller we would call the car 'Red Wiggler' but decided on 'In The Red Racing' because of our financial status and our love of red automobiles. The total cost of building the car before hitting the race track was a decent seventy-five hundred dollars excluding our year and a half of personal labor. The biggest mistake we made in racing Super Pro is that we were one of the last to run without a delay box. The reason we didn't run a delay box was because we felt that the box was ruining bracket racing for average spectator and racer. That is the reason to this day I watch very little Super Pro racing except for the last few rounds because I also do the track reporting at Paris Drag Strip. The only electronic device we had on the car was the trans brake, without the essential rev limiter for the 5500 rpm TCI torque converter. We found out how essential the rev limiter was after the three times my brother Tony broke the converter because the vanes started laying over while staging the car.

We figured the car would be able to run at least an elapsed time of 9.17 on Paris' fifth mile. The reason we came up with that figure was because of the 850 pound weight difference between the '68 Camaro and the more stock '71 Camaro. The best time for the '71 Camaro had been a 10.17. The first time we ran the '68 Camaro was in testing on a non race day with no one but the track owner present. The first pass down the actual race track was a flashback to the sixties -- we smoked the tires all the way down the track. The reason for the smoke was a slick track and 13 pounds of air pressure in the 15 inch slicks! Jerry Bob Stephens, Paris Drag Strip's owner, could only shake his head in disbelief. We ran the car a couple more times with less air pressure and better results. The day was cut short when the tractor tube we used went flat on one of the rear slicks. The first race was a week later. The car was ready and the driver was ready, but was RACING ready for what we were about to inflict on it? My opinion would be 'no' because instead of calling our team 'In The Red Racing' it should have been the 'Murphy's Law Shaker' or something like that.

The first pass with the elapsed time clocks was the 9.17 we thought it could run. From there on it was downhill. The conversion for a 9.17 would be a 10.87 run in the quarter mile. The car would not run better than 9.20 again in the five months we ran that engine. The engine was not very good and my father said he would never build another 396/402 because they were crap. The night Tony ventilated the engine through rather aggressive driving was a blessing in disguise. The run was pretty normal, except right when my brother hit the shift point at 6500 RPM, a connecting rod came out. Engine parts went everywhere -- onto both lanes of the track, over both guardrails, and into the stands. A large part landed near a spectator who retrieved it fresh out the engine, burning his hand. He gave the part back to us saying, "Damn! That was hot!" Unfortunately, Bill Engvall wasn't there to give him a sign.

The next engine we rebuilt was an LS-7 displacing 468 cubic inches. We bought it from Super Gas/Street racer Johnny Exum. This engine was what Tony was looking for -- something with power. The extra power led to long, Pro Stock-style burnouts averaging 150 to 200 feet every time. My job would be to back him up and make sure he lined up in his tracks. The long burnouts were fine until the 'no brake' incident. My brother was racing Ken Thomas, who was driving the ex-Rose & Braksator dragster. Both cars did side by side 250 foot Super Pro burnouts. But there was a problem -- Tony didn't have any brakes -- a situation he had failed to tell the rest of us. The car coasted to a stop at the 500 foot mark with Ken Thomas' car bouncing to a stop 100 behind us. I ran out to the 200 foot mark knowing something wasn't right. My brother backed up, jumped the car into first gear, and staged with the trans brake. Tony ran a 115 mile an hour car with no brakes to a win, then stopped the car using 1700 feet of shutdown area and then some. He finally told us of the problem after he got back to the pits, so my dad had to work on getting some brakes before the next round. About two weeks later, Paris outlawed across the starting line burnouts -- I wonder to this day if my brother had something do with it.

Experts say everything has to be precise to the thousandth for modern Super Pro cars to run right. We found out one night what being off by five hundredths can do to the car. We were racing the car in a time trial when both u-joints came out and the driveshaft flew 20 feet into the air! The cause was that the shortened driveshaft was out of round by five hundredths of an inch. The effect was a bent up floorboard, and a transmission case that was gone except where the transmission bolted onto the block. The innards of the transmission were hanging visually from the bottom of the car. We took the transmission remains back to Dave's, where they reassembled the leftovers for a ridiculously low price. A new driveshaft was custom built by Jerry Edwards, another part time chassis builder.

Several other people contributed to our race car. People like Charlie Porter, who has a Bill Chapman built 1968 Camaro similar to ours. Charlie told us how to set the chassis properly and how to get rid of the twisting, the trademark of the Inch Worm. Jim Cimmaroli is a C/SA '69 Nova racer who sold us a 454 crankshaft and gave us priceless tuning tips. Another racer we got ideas from was Billy Hughes. I didn't know Billy at the time, but we got construction ideas by seriously looking over his '68 Camaro while at a Hallsville Division 4 race. We thought he must have known something right because he reached the finals there two years in a row. Billy also recently became a father for the first time with the birth of his son William. My congratulations go out to Billy and his wife Mary Helen. We didn't set the world on fire while racing Super Pro. We reached the semifinals about five times in two years. We can pass on one word of wisdom when it comes to spending money on a Super Pro car: don't cut corners. It'll come back to haunt you and you'll end up spending more money in the long run.

We also never got to run the car in Super Street at a Division 4 race, something we still regret. We parked the car finally due to the rising expenses in running it and lack of time to run it correctly. Several people offered to form partnerships with us; the best offer came from Mike Robbins of Idabel, Oklahoma. Mike had a killer small block in a 3700 pound 1969 Camaro that ran 10.70 quarter mile times. Those parlay into 9.70s in our chassis. We should have taken that offer because of our affinity with small blocks and the fact that Mike is a really nice racer and used car dealer. We sold the '68 Camaro to Lonnie Layton; he raced it for two years. Shaun Bishop purchased the car from Lonnie and raced it for a year. The car was severely damaged at infamous Paris Drag Strip but was raced for half a year in that condition. Brad Bolton, the current owner, traded for the car and has redone it beautifully. Brad put in new windows, new fenders, a cowl induction hood, and painted it red with black stripes. The car's stock appearance matches his 1967 Camaro street car, which he races also.

I normally would not do a story on bracket racing; that's not what Draglist.com.com is about. My ex sister-in-law Melanie gave me the inspiration to do this story even though I didn't want to at first. Bill Pratt also said it would be a good idea, so I went with it. I decided to focus on what we did wrong as well as what we did right because nothing ever goes perfect and never will! Until next time, this is Danny, signing off. 

Danny 
ddgw@valornet.com

 

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