The 2000 Keystone Nationals was one of those races where you learn the
value of your crew and fellow racers. As the car was being prepared for the
first qualifying pass on Friday, we were all holding our heads high with
great expectations. Unfortunately, I made an incorrect jet change and at the
1000-foot mark, the engine torched a hole out the front of the head and
block. I shut the car off as soon as I felt the engine nose over but it was
too late. A big flash of flame under the body and a lot of smoke gave us a
coasting 5.96 at only 214 mph.
We rushed the car back to the pits and the War Horse crew quickly removed
the blower, manifold, and cylinder head to survey the damage and to decide
what had to be done. Team Torch wanted an arm and a leg to weld the small
hole in the block. It didn't look like it would be worth it to repair the
block at the track although we had spare heads and other parts in the
trailer. Then Super Comp racer John Di Bartolomeo took a look at the damaged
area and told me that if I cleaned the area he had a welder in his trailer
and that he could fix it.
After he filled the hole with weld, I took the car back to my pit area
and spent about two hours grinding and making sure the deck was square and
level. Scott and Robbie then went to work checking the rest of the rods,
pistons, and bearings. While they did that, Mike cleaned one of the spare
heads. Tim and I finished cleaning the rest of the parts and we commenced
reassembling the top of the motor. At about 11:00, we pushed the car back
into the trailer. The last qualifying session was at 10:00 a.m. and when I
left the starting line, little did I know or expect what it would run.
With the front wheels in the air until almost the 330-foot mark, I
thought it was a decent pass but WOW -- 5.80 @ 240 mph! Only one person has
ever been faster with a Roots blower and that is Jim Lape who recorded a
5.76 at the IHRA race the weekend before at Epping, NH. (Jim failed to back
it up for a national record). The best part is we only had to change one
bearing after the run. For the first round, we were paired up with Jay
Payne. Even a .476 to a .568 holeshot wasn't enough to get the win. The War
Horse shook and skated to a 5.88 but Jay ran a 5.73 to sneak by in the
lights. What do you gotta do?
But the run wouldn't have been possible without a little help from some
great friends and fellow racers. Thanks everyone and watch for us at the
President's Cup. The IHRA world record is a 5.85 and with the performance
we are showing it could be an exciting weekend!