2011 CEDAR FALLS NIGHT OF FIRE
I haven't written one of these in a while. For a number of years I wrote a “what I did last weekend” story. I don't intend them to be race report, just some things that happened in my racing weekend. I have been so busy trying to build the car and get the whole deal up and running that I have been a slacker in typing these up.
We were at the DRO race in Cedar Falls Iowa for the annual Night of Fire event. This is one of the most well attended races in the entire mid-west. As in past years, nearly 5-pm on Saturday night and there is a line to get into the track. If you want to see nearly every class of racing and exhibition vehicles in one place this is the place to be.
Most everyone is aware Norm Wellman and I put a new car, and team together for the 2011 season. We are Iowa's only Nostalgia Nitro funnycar. The name of the team is Sin City. We built a 1979 Vette and recruited my friend Jerry Newman as a tuning consultant. This affiliated us with Doc Halladay so now we are effectively part of an active 4-car team. You can always find us at the races, just look for Doc Halladay and Brian Stewart’s tractor trailer rig that haul the Telstar and Showtime funnycars. Somewhere near that rig you will find a 70-Chevy ½ ton pick-up and an open trailer, that is us.
The plan was to have the car loaded and be ready to go on Thursday night. Then leave at 7AM on Friday morning to head out. We there is a saying about the “best laid plans of mice and men.” Kelly has been towing the trailer to the races with his truck. Since he has a late model diesel, it gets better mileage than our own gas powered dually. However it developed a brake problem around 8pm on Thursday night. Greg Green was towing up with the golf cart on a trailer from Kansas City early on Friday morning. That made the new plan; to swap trailers, and use his Ford diesel and get the show on the road. Kelly would follow along when the parts shops opened up and he was back running again.
I kept working on the car, did I mention we are still building the car and racing it as we go? Well after doing the rod bearings I was going over things before I put the tin back on the chassis. I am suddenly blinded by the brilliance of the idea to move the heater valve lever over a little bit. It works fine the way it is, but is scraping the paint on the chassis. So as I put a little tweak on the bracket, it snaped off the chassis tube. How wonderful, I have no tig welder at home. I have no truck to tow the car over to Scott Gaulter's race shop or Mark Kinser's machine shop to have the tab tig welded back on. So again, there is a delay leaving town to go racing.
At around 8-8:30 AM Greg and Jordan arrived. We loaded the car and went to Mark's shop where he was waiting on us to weld the tab on before we leave town. The good news is the car rolls into and out of the trailer really easy. The bad news is I have yet to find time to get the winch mounted in the trailer. It has been on the list every week, but hasn't made it to the accomplished stage yet.
I am a “have it ready to race when you get to the track” kinda guy. So far this season, not exactly would be the best way to describe it. We wanted to change head gaskets for this event. Doc was bringing them to the track for me. Now this means I have to take the car there with the top end apart. It really isn't a big deal, but just doesn't fit with my world order.
When we installed the head gaskets, it was discovered the exhaust pushrods are now too long. Dale Suhr with the Orange Crate to the rescue. He called in an employee to meet him at his shop. They shortened them along with my spares. The Friday qualifier was canceled by mother nature who served up a huge thunder storm. That meant we had the evening free to eat dinner for a change. Norm brought steaks from his home town of Manchester. We talked Doc into his usual job of grill master and fed a bunch of the guys while we watched it storm from under the semi trailers awning.
Saturday morning dawned nice and clear. We were at the track at 8AM and Dale was there with our pushrods. Once they were installed, everything was perfect. Due to the storms all night the one qualifying round was pushed back until early afternoon. We were in the left lane, with Brian Stewart driving the Showtime in the right. 2-Corvettes to start the program, right on. Both car did nice long burnouts. I have to scoot down in the seat to see the staging lights on the tree. I try to start my staging procedure first so I don't hang up anyone we are racing. I love the way Rooman mounted the body, in my opinion it has the perfect stance so this minor inconvenience during staging is no biggie.
At the step I can feel the car isn't pulling. We have been having trouble with the car putting out 3-5-7 cylinders at the hit. As it goes down the track it takes a lot of steering to keep it in the groove due to the rain storms. Between the tire spin and 2-cylinders being out it qualifies us #3 in the field.
The head gasket change picked up cylinder #7, but 3 & 5 are still out early.
Back in the pits we decide to keep going after the nozzles, and up the % of Nitro. I am glad there are no % limits in our class. Scott Gaulter, owner of the Nitro Madness altered came over to see how we are doing. After we discuss the cylinder problem, he offers use of a spare set of plug wires and cap. We didn't think that was the issue, but we did use his parts just to be sure that wasn't it.
First round I have my friend John Hale from Texas. It also happens that we bought our chassis from him. One little side note, this chassis is the first funnycar I ever drove. It came from Virgil Hartman who had me drive for him at Reynolds, Ga a few years ago. We picked up 3-tenths, but still had 3 & 5 out at the step. Since it was a short field, we got re-installed by running the quickest losing ET.
We went after the % again, and nozzled it as well. In this 2nd round I raced a team car, Anthony Bronge's 69 Camaro. I know it hauls the mail and has run well into the 5's numerous times. We both had nice smokey burnouts, staged together. Our car picked up a little, but I was watching him pull away when our car spun the tires. I grabbed the brake, pedaled it and buried my foot back in it. I couldn't believe it but we ran him down as he had some issue that kept him out of the 5's on this run.
Cedar Falls is Norm's home track. There are a ton of friends and family here atching. Now we are going into the final against our friends Paul Romine, Mike Cavalieri, Bull and the rest of the Man O War team. Now if you have been alive the last 2-years you know this car is the class of the Midwest funnycars. It has also been running 5.80's in this heat all day long. We didn't have an answer for those ET's.
The plan is to go up, run our deal and make him out run us. That part of the plan worked perfectly as that is exactly what he did. Since we had another shot at the track we again nozzled those cylinders, and poured the Nitro right out of the can. I made sure no part of the label was used, but we added the can to our 95% that was in the tank.
During the turnaround something had happened and our battery pack didn't get a full charge. I mentioned to Mike we may need to borrow his pack to start after he is done. He said, you guys start first. If you have any issues use ours then we will start. Our car fired right off. I watched out of the corner of my eye for his body to go down so we could do side by side burnouts. I noticed it wasn't going down, so I just sat there with the clutch in waiting for him. I would have sat there until we ran out of fuel if necessary to make it a race in the final.
If you don't think that a 496 cubic inch Hemi on the can at night is a near religious experience, I can't help you.
I heard Paul's car come to life so we both proceeded to smoke in the starting line. While I was backing up I could see our header flames reflecting off the white track walls. While I waited for Mikee to do his last minute adjustments I pulled on the heater valve and the flames really grew on our car.
When his body went down, off went the heater valve and it was time to get it on. Paul and I both staged together, we left nearly together only to have our car spin the tires hard about 300 feet out. It spun so hard, and I could see Paul pulling away so I just stayed off the throttle and headed on down track.
This was only the 8th run on our car. To say I have been happy with how things are going would be an understatement. So far it has made the call each time to the line. It has gone down the track, and not hurt itself. I realize we haven't run up to potential yet, but having it all in one piece to work on making it faster has been a very nice thing for our new team.
After the race was over all the cars were towed out onto the race track and the fans were invited down to mingle and inspect the cars and teams close up. We were out there for more than an hour talking with the fans, signing autographs just having a good time hanging out.
I hope you enjoyed reading my “What I Did Last Weekend” story.