Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Green and Growing

 I guess it's about time I update this blog a bit. A lot of things have changed since my last post. The first change was my new job at Greg Lair Buick GMC. I am now the Parts And Service director, I love this new position and even though it has many challenges it also gives me the opportunity to better serve our valued friends. It has taken me a while to get my arms around this new job but it's coming around. I owe a big Thank You to Greg Lair for giving me this opportunity. And another to Rex Brewer for helping me daily. I want to thank all of our crew for pulling together and putting our customer First! We have the best service department in the area and they are the reason. And lets see ---something else happened hmmm. Oh yea after 48 years I have finally taken the plunge, Judy and I are engaged! I don't know what has taken me so long but Im so happy to know that I get to spend the rest of my life with this beautiful women. We are getting married on May 26th, so we have had a lot going on with that, even though Judy thinks I haven't.We are also in the process of looking for a new house and we have twin grand babies on the way. It may seem as though things are moving a little fast in my life,but I have put all of this off for a long time so I've got ground to make up.
    But That's not all that has changed around here!!!  We have sadly retired our trustworthy Pontiac Grand Am. That was a great car and probably had us spoiled. Greg and I have drug that car up and down many,many miles of highway and made a lot of 6 second 200 plus mph runs. We have been number one qualifier many times, won the Cajun Nationals and several divisional events. Yeah, that was a great car.
  BUT NOW we have a new Jerry Haas Race Cars built 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. 

      This car is the very first General Motors and NHRA approved Pro Stock car in the world. No kidding.
     This is the car that was taken to the wind tunnel at General Motors. After receiving General Motors and NHRA approval the car was taken to Five Star industries who manufactured the body and templates were made of this car. From now forward, all NHRA Pro Stock bodies will have to fit these templates. That part is really cool. The downside of this is being the first of a brand new design and the growing pains that come with that. I will tell you a lot more about this later. This whole process has been kinda dramatic in a way. We have been ready to build a new car for about a year or so but the only bodies available for GM was the Pontiac GXP. The GXP makes a beautiful race car and it was awfully tempting, but Pontiac being discontinued would mean that NHRA would need a new GM Pro Stock car and that would make the GXP dated very quickly.
 So Greg decided to wait for the new GM body and although nobody knew for sure what body they would use, exit polls showed the best bet would be the Camaro. So we waited. And we waited. And for the longest time there was no real news about a new GM body. There were tons of rumors in the pits and on the internet.
There was talk about GM waiting until 2014 for a redesigned Camaro. I heard it was going to be the Malibu,then the Caprice,oh I even heard they were going to make a Chevelle. Then for a two months or so there was a lot of chatter about a Cadillac CTS Pro Stock car, cool thought but no new car. Then came the news that someone was building a Camaro body that was going to be approved by NHRA. But when Greg talked to Jerry Haas about it, Jerry told him to hold tight, that something was coming. This all gets kind of dramatic but interesting. Greg has had two "Haas cars" and Jerry builds a very nice car. His car work very well and the detail is amazing. So Greg is going to have "Haas" build his new car. There are several quality chassis builders
around the country, a lot of very talented fabricators and racers. But just like in anything else there are the "Big Three".  Jerry Haas Race Cars, Jerry Bickel Race Cars and Rick Jones (RJ Race Cars).
The Camaro body we were hearing about were from Jerry Bickel. And people started talking about building new Camaros. But Haas kept telling Greg just hold on but that's about all he will he would say. He was pretty secretive about it. So some time goes on and we see an ad for a Camaro body from Rick Jones made by Five Star Industries. Five Star makes a very high quality body and would be the preferred body to have. But this was a Pro Mod body not Pro Stock. Pro Mod bodies are stretched to fit a longer wheel base and most of them lose the identity of the car they represent. Some people love them but I prefer the look of a legal Pro Stock car. But still no news on another Pro Stock body other than the "Bickel Body" which really wasn't exactly what Greg was looking for. That body for lack of better words just wasn't very pretty. We were hoping that wasn't the car we were getting. But people kept ordering those cars, even our friends from Louisiana, Roy and Keith Raftery ordered a new Bickel Camaro. This is when it got interesting. Greg called Jerry Haas again to see if there was anything new. Jerry swore Greg to secrecy and finally told him that Five Star was working on a Pro Stock Camaro. But we keep hearing that the Bickel car is going to be approved.
Haas said "That car ain't gonna make it". Just be cool and it will happen. But the rumors kept flying, "the Bickel car is approved" he has the letter from NHRA and the stickers in his desk. Haas would just say "that ain't happening". He said "that car didn't do good in the wind tunnel and GM really wasn't excited about it and that the Five Star body was getting close to ready. That day finally came the body was ready and Haas would have it in a couple days. So now the build will start not knowing if this will be the "Approved" body or would it be the "Bickel Body"????  But the build"s go on. Greg's car at Haas's shop and the Raftery's at Bickels shop and all of the back and forth about which body would be the approved body.  All through this process the Five Star body was "hush hush". Finally Jerry sent Greg some pictures but swore him not to show anyone but that was then.

 Believe it or not but at one time these pictures were a HUGE secret. No joke....
 It was a fun process and it made the winter go by faster. The big day came and this car was loaded and taken to Michigan for wind tunnel testing and for GM brass to see. A day or two later Haas called Greg and told him it went very well but that's all he would say. Then he told Greg it wasn't "official" but . Then the word was "APPROVED"! It's Official Greg Lair has the very first and so far only NHRA approved Chevrolet Camaro Pro Stocker.   That's sorta cool, I think. It really was funny because of the secrecy. But Jerry did tell us he knew it was good when he saw the faces of the Chevrolet brass. He could tell they liked it. Greg asked about the wind tunnel numbers. And of course he says, I can't tell you that those are property of General Motors, let's just say they were real good.  I reckon so.

 Well anyway there has been a lot of stuff go on this winter.  A lot of new things to get used to. My new job,my new wife, new house coming,two grandkids coming and a new car to sort out . My friend Todd always says "Your either Green and Growing or ripe and rotten".

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Definitely more lucky than good

 Let's go to Dallas.  As I recall,, those were the first words Greg said when he saw me Thursday morning and that was about 10:30.   This isn't such a big deal except I had been told the day before that we weren't  going.   We had just returned from Houston on Sunday night, and Dallas was mentioned only once and not with any conviction. You see, we had 49 runs on our engine.  Our engine builder doesn't like for us to put over 60 runs on our connecting rods, so we are a bit careful which races we choose to run. We know that we want to run at the NHRA division 4 Lucas Oil points race.  At the conclusion of that race we are pulling the engine out and it's going  for a freshen up.    Normally we do this over the winter, but last year we had a mid-season lifter failure, so some work was done then and got us off schedule. 

The first clue of the lifter failure!

Anyway,  we need to be careful of how many runs we put on the engine, so we probably should skip this race in Crandall (Dallas). So on Monday, " We ain't goin".  Tuesday," well maybe we should, we're not getting any younger.  At our age any race we miss might not get made up."  Wednesday, "We ain't goin." and finally Thursday,  "Lets go to Dallas."   "We can cut the clutch when we get there".   This spur of the moment stuff isn't to bad for me or Greg, we stay on the ready anyway,  but the people around us have no clue.  They don't know when or where we are going, but neither do we,  so they have to plan accordingly.   I really appreciate Judy for her patience and understanding.  I want to thank Chuck Dannheim for being  at the dealership to take care of everything.  He makes it possible for me to do this, and he never knows if he get's to go to lunch or should pack one.  He has a great attitude about it, and I never thank him enough.  We couldn't do this without the people at the dealership. Thanks, y'all are the best!
 If we're gonna roll by 6:00  I better get started.
  I've gotta fill the fresh water tank on the motorhome. It has a 200 gallon fresh water tank, but only a 65 gallon gray water tank.  As my friend Earl Folse would say "There go a problem".  But that problem is a series of stories all it's own.  Ha!   I also have to check the air in all the tires,( 16 of them)  make a grocery list and send Marshi to the store.  That's someone else that I owe a long overdue thank you.  Marshi has always taken care of me and Greg.  I expect she would take care of Greg, but she has always gone out of her way to make sure I had what I wanted.  Greg probably doesn't want to know what she has spent on Diet dr pepper and ribeye steaks. Oh yeah, she spoils us!  She always buys the best for us, and makes our life easier.  Thank you Marshi , we love you.
 .   Oh yeah I forgot, Gene Johnson will be with us for this trip, Gene has been racing with Greg longer than anyone. Well, Gene and Hager. These guys all went to high school together and are still close friends.  I think that's cool!
  So, we got all of our stuff together and ready to go.  First stop, Mexican food in Claude, Excellent!
  After dinner it's off to Decatur for fuel. 
"I love to hear the steel belts humming on the asphalt."

We got to Decatur and there was no "cheap gas" it was just the" cheap-ist " we have seen.  What are you gonna do?  We had to have fuel. The price doesn't matter as much when you just feel lucky to be there.
 The track is only 100 miles from Decatur, so we start thinking about where to stop for the night.   Preferably by an Ihop so we can eat breakfast.  A lot of times they are right next to a walmart so there should be some parking.    Weeelll, I know where one is , a Walmart parking lot with an Ihop and it's only ten miles from the track.   We can have crepes in the morning.    And besides all that we can get through Dallas at night and miss some morning traffic.  There could be some on this route: hwy 114 to 183 to I35E to I30 to I45 to 175.  No problem.  ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD!  Yeah, road construction ahead and on both sides.  Ya know those concrete barrier walls the string out to form a lane ? The ones with walls on both sides?  And I,m sure your familiar with the way they move these walls in real , real, real ,,,, real tight and then put in a lot of curves and chicane's and a few large bumps and dips in the curves.  And you think your gonna scrape the side of your car sometimes?   Try it with this.....

I mean to tell ya, it was TIGHT going through that construction.  I guess nothing scares Greg.  I,m sashaying through all of that and he never blinks.  Even though I've been telling him for about 3 months that I need to go have my eyes checked because I don't see good at night.  He has "nerves of steel".  Gene on the other hand, not so much.  He didn't say anything, so I know he was seized up.  I was the most surprised that we made it through without a scratch.  Now, with that over, where is that Ihop?  Well there's the walmart, but that Ihop sign say's DENNY'S.  Oh No.  Crepes we ain't, sorry boy's.  You shouldn't listen to me anyway.  

We had a great room at the Walmart parking lot Hotel and Suites.

Well we survived Denny's ok.   We got to the track and took our place in line.  This racetrack is only about 4 or 5 years old and is a magnificent facility.  All concrete.  And I mean"all" concrete.  From the waterbox to the timeshack, concrete. Pits, staging lanes,even spectator parking, concrete.  Somebody spent some serious "jack" on this joint.  I've been to a lot of race tracks in my days and this place is NICE!!!  Jimmy Dickey once told Greg, "If you need to take your dog to pee at this place, you'll have to take him out the gate".  He wasn't kidding.

And checkout these dragstrip bathrooms....                     

This is an I.H.R.A. division 4 points race or pro-am. It is a two day event with a separate race each day.  We don't run a lot of these nowadays, but this one is to close and the track to nice to pass up. It doesn't matter where we go, if its Dallas or Buds Creek Maryland, we will see some very dear friends. That maybe the best thing about this "car hobby". The people we meet.  It seems to me that friends made at the races are friends for life.  It was a "social network" long before Facebook.  
  The track held a test and tune session on Friday.  We had planned on making a couple of runs then.  But that wind that day was relentless.  All the talk in the pits was about running in that wind.  These cars are FAST and they are light.  They do not like the wind. 50 mile an hour winds + 200 plus mph + a couple of big ole parachutes.   Not today.  So I got to do some visitation.

That's Larry and Sarah Smith.  Larry raced on the "Liquid Quarter Mile" for quite a few years before coming over to the cars. Larry looks a little sea sick in this picture.  We have been racing with them for quite a few years now.  Good racers, you know they will always bring a good package,  you better be up for it. Good people. 
Now, up to the staging lanes for our tech inspection.

With that done we are ready for qualifying in the morning.  There will be two qualifying runs in the morning and then first round will be about 2:00 pm.

Time for some sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day.
We have installed engine block and oil heaters on our engine.  So when I woke Saturday morning, I started my little routine. Make coffee, get dressed, put away my bedding and go out and plug the bitch in. It's my morning ritual.  Get my cup of coffee, go out to the trailer,open the doors, put down my coffee, walk to the back of the trailer and open the access door and grab the end of the extension cord and start walking back to the front of the trailer.  This cord is on one of those retractable reels that click as you pull the cord.  So there I go,click click click click.  All the way to the end of the cord, walk to the trailer door, stop drink some coffee.  Put the coffee back down and walk into the trailer.  Tell the car  "good morning baby girl" and reach down and slip her oil pump belt off.  Get the cordless drill and "spin the oil up".  Then plug the block and oil heaters in. Tell her she's a good girl and walk back to my coffee.  Every morning.  I sometimes wonder if the people beside us are sitting in their motorhomes drinking coffee , looking out the window saying , here he comes, and getting a little laugh.  
On our first qualifying run the car launched very well, wheels up and in the middle with a 1.025 60 ft time. All looked well until the top of second gear.  Then tire spin set in and the car "got up on the tires" and started wallowing all over the track. Greg had no choice but to push in the clutch and coast through. No sense wreckin it. We will just go back and take some clutch out. We'll be alright.  So we did, we looked at our "data" and decided to pull a few grams of weight off the clutch.  We are trying to "slide" the clutch to control our "wheel speed"  (tire spin ).  
We got a call from Shea Lair while we were in the staging lanes awaiting our second qualifying pass.  She had driven out to the track to see Greg run.  She also brought some special guests.

Dr. and Mrs. Bruce Mickey.

Dr. Mickey was Brian's surgeon through all of Brian's surgery's.  Brian made a deep impression on him.  But Brian made a deep impression on everyone he met.  It was an honor to have them as our guests.  I hope they enjoyed it and I think they did.  Shea has been around the races a lot, so she took them and showed them around.  And in these pictures Shea and Greg explained how it all works.
The second qualifying pass was really no better than the first.  Great launch, in the middle  1.02 60 ft and the "up on the tire" moving all over the place.  The only difference  was, this time Greg took his life in his own hands and stayed with it a lot longer than he probably should have.  He still had to lift early, but ran a 6.68 at only 196 mph.  That 6.68 is a pretty good number but should have been at about 208 mph.  So we knew we had left "something on the table" but we have to control that tire spin to be able to eat it. Still though, that was good for the #1 Qualifier spot.  We will just have to go back and take some more clutch out and try to find that sweet spot. We need enough clutch to get off the starting line like we are, but also light enough to control the tire spin down track. 
We were the #1 qualifier at this same race last year with this run.

Now it's time for the first elimination round.  In the staging lanes we are trying to decide what to "dial".  We always have an idea what the car will run, but it's always nice to get some clean qualifying runs to dial off of.  We didn't get one of  those "clean" ones this time, so it's time to roll the fuzzy dice and pick a number.  Racers spend  thousands of dollars for weather stations, to help predict their dial-in.  Most of them have paging systems so the get updates from their weather analyzers while their in the staging lanes.  Changes in humidity, air temperature, barometric pressure,vapor pressure,oxygen content,grains of water in the atmosphere and wind speed all greatly effect the performance of these cars.  If you don't calculate these factors into your "dial" ,then, you are just rolling the dice.  We do monitor all of these things, then we get up to the lanes and break out the dice.  Hmmm.  That's just our program.  Just don't trust all them fancy gadgets I guess.  You know what they say about old dogs.
We decide on a 6.66 for our dial. We knew we could run quicker if the car "hooked up" all the way down the track, but so far it had not shown us that so we had to be conservative.  I know what your thinking about that number, but, it's fitting, because this car HAS been a beast so far this weekend. Once again, great launch, tire spin starts and Greg is forced to lift.  But the guy in the other lane runs down there and "breaks out" (runs quicker than his dial-in) and is disqualified.  We move on to round two.
Before the second round we made a four link adjustment to try to help with the tire spin and also took out more clutch.  This time the car great again and really picked up the front end and carried it.  I'm tellin ya, it was cool, until.  You guessed it, more tire spin, clutch it and coast through.  The guy in the other lane? He redlit (left to early).  So we are on to round three.  Wow, what luck. We went back and took some more clutch out.  Damn this tire spin, what is up with that?
Third round was almost a mirror image of the rest. Tire spin, clutch it and coast through.  The guy in the other lane?  He had some kind of  parts malfunction on the starting line and had to shut off.  We win again. On to round 4.  Damn, we're good! lol.  We took even more grams of weight off the clutch. We can't seem to slip this clutch.
Round 4:  We finally took to much weight off and this time the car shook the tires violently as soon as Greg let the clutch out and the car was going nowhere fast.  The guy in the other lane ?  I can't remember what happened to him, but, the result was.  WE WIN!  Were in the final.  What is going on here?  Not pretty but, we'll take it.  
We added some clutch for the final, but had the same result.  Violent tire shake.  This time the luck ran out and we lost.  But who would have thought?  We have not made a full pass under power since we got here and we are the runner-up.  When it's your day, Its your day!

We we as surprised as anybody.  Very cool.

Day 2- Race 2:

Sunday morning everyone was given one time trial.  This is very helpful to us, seeing how we haven't made it down the track yet.  But unfortunately we still did not have a handle on it.  Instant tire shake, clutch it and coast. We seem to be lost in the clutch can.  I have always heard of this, but we normally don't experience that problem.  But we are now.  We added some weight to the clutch and went up for round one.  Again, same thing, shake,clutch-it and coast.  But once again we win.  What in the world is going on here?  Second round our opponent is Bob Gulitti.  Bob is one tough out.  You had better be on your game for that team.  I told Gene "it looks like the lucky streak is over".  As Greg and Bob were staging Bob had a problem and rolled the lights and went red.  We win again.  Our dial-in was still 6.66 and as I was walking off of the starting line some guy said to me "whatever you do, do NOT change that dial-in.
Round three:
Our opponent is our real good friend Jimmy Dickey.  We have been racing with Jimmy for over 20 years.  We can fill a book with Jimmy Dickey stories.  Those of you who know him know that is the honest truth. 

Jimmy Dickey.
If you know him you love him.  And nobody enjoys drag racing more.  And he does it by himself.  He drags that car all over the place by himself and races it by himself.  And he is always coming around offering to help anyone else.  This is one good man.  I'm blessed that I have been able to call him my friend.

But now he is in the other lane,so scrap all that stuff I said for about 6 seconds.  Jimmy comes to win.  Don't doubt that!  We put all the weight back on the clutch for this run, that tire shake has to go away.  And that was what the car wanted.  It left like a rocket and Jimmy's car did not.  He had some weird stuff going on over there that was not conducive to" running the number ".  Our run was not pretty either.  Back to the great launch and tire spin in second gear.  But Greg "pedaled it" and got it down through there for the win.  We're in the semi-finals and still have not been down under full power.  AMAZING!  But when we get back to the pits, we discover that our wheelie bar has broken and can't be fixed there.  And it's not safe to run the car.  So that ended our lucky run.  We couldn't make the call for round 4.  But what a lucky weekend.  I'm not proud of the way we did it.  But, these rounds are tough to win and you had better take them any way they come.
But we still have a problem with our setup and we have got to do some serious research on a solution.

Poor Gene always gets stuck "packin the chutes". He got off easy this trip.  This picture is the one and only time we got the parachutes out all weekend. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Procrastination? Yeah, I've heard of that.

I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post.  Time has really flown.  But that's no excuse.  I've  got to post more often.  I apologize.  Now I've got some catching up to do.  In the last month we have been to Houston and back,then to Dallas and back, and then to Houston again.  Running up and down Hwy 287, and the Autobahn or as we call it. " I-45"! That interstate flows pretty fast and can be kinda fun,even in a Freightliner motorhome. We finally started this season in Houston "Baytown" officially. So that's where I'll start.
  Tuesday, March 1st :  I'm in the shop, getting things ready to go.  This rig hasn't been out of the shop since November,so I'm checking everything one last time.  Filling the water tank, checking inspection sticker (expired),license tags,tires etc..  Make a grocery list.  Check for plates,cups towels and all that other domestic stuff you have to have.  Then, back out to the trailer,just to straighten up a bit, put all the tools away and put stuff away in the trailer attic.  To get my stuff up to the attic I'll use the lift.  Going down with the lift, all was good. I started back up and , Hmm, this thing sounds kinda weak, I hope the batt- oh no! Oh crap it is.  I HATE BATTERIES!!!!!   I just checked the water in these batteries a couple  of weeks ago, they were fine.  Well, they Ain't fine now.  This normally would not be a big deal, but these batteries are under a cabinet, way back in a dark corner. You have to crawl completely under this counter with no room to spare, I'm tellin ya it's tight.  I told them how I felt," exactly how I felt ".  And then crawled myself up under there and got those "witches" out.

                         There they are...    JUST look at em!
                   I know they're just little helpless chunks of plastic and lead.  But I loath these things and there are
                seven more of these #$@!$ things in this rig.

Anyway,  I owe a thanks to Brandon Bass.  He is a technician in our shop and he charged them up,tested them and said they were good and I had better look for another problem.

                                       Thanks Brandon.

 Turns out, it was the battery charger that had gone bad, that was easy. Back in business! We got everything loaded up.

                          And we're ready to roll!

 On this trip it will be Greg and I and Dale Davis.  I'm glad Dale is going, it's always nice to have a third hand and Dale has been with us several times and he knows our program ,which  makes things much more fun.
 We get in the truck and go a whole 10 miles and it's time to eat.  Taco's Garcia on the way out of town. Excellent!!!

 When we came out of the restaurant our friend Brent was waiting by the motorhome.  He said "when I saw a rig like this parked illegally in front of a Mexican food restaurant I knew it was y'all."

  Then we go over to a trailer repair shop to let the repair man access the damage from a previous encounter with a gas pump.  Yes, that's correct.  That's another story I will save for later. Now we're finally going down the road.  We get to Decatur,this is one of our "cheap gas" stops.  A penny saved is a penny earned I guess.

                                   This was a bargain unfortunately.      
 We got our fuel,some bread,a few bags of ice and no onion. Swell.  Another great thing about Dale Davis I forgot to mention is, He will drive the bus! 

                                               He are cool.

 I usually take the late night to wee hours in the morning shift.  You don't see a lot of the scenery that way but you can really knock down some miles at night.  Just put on the Ipod and roll, I love it.  I started
driving somewhere south of Corsicana and ended at the Cracker barrel in Baytown.  Cracker Barrel restaurants  have R.V. parking in the back, which is very nice about 3:30 AM.  Get a little sleep and roll out for breakfast.

                         And we made a deal with our waitress for an onion.

                                      Now, we can have hot dogs.  Can't have hot dogs without fresh chopped onion. Now all that we have left to do is fuel again and a truck wash, then to the track.  We get to the track and get our credentials, the staff takes us to our parking spot, we open the trailer and geeze, I guess the ride was not  so smooth after all.

                                     Not a scratch. Wheew!!!

                           Now it's time to go through tech, we have to pass tech at each race. They just make sure your safety equipment is certified and up to date.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Now just a little routine stuff like calibrating our O2 sensors and balancing our new tires.
  And filling Judy's new cooler.  Which came with two rules, no sitting on the cooler and no standing on the cooler.  The funny part is that this cooler cost  $150.00.  Those of you who know Greg know that's funny!  That's real funny.

                                                                That's a nice 'en!

With all of the domestic's and car maintenance taken care of  it's time for some dinner and a good nights sleep.Qualifying starts in the morning.
   Top Sportsman is the class that we are competing in, this class is a qualified field (some classes are all run), but ours is a qualified field.  Only 32 cars will be in the race on Sunday,  the quickest 32 cars after qualifying.
The race is actually a "bracket" race  or "dial-in" race.  We have to predict the elapsed time the car is going to run and write that number on the car, that is our dial-in.  This is done to make a level playing field.  In sportsman racing this is necessary to give each competitor a chance to win.  Most of these guy's are just working people, some are small business owners and this is their hobby.  Without handicap or dial racing only the richest would win and the rest would be forced to quit.  Unlike the professional racers,  there is not a lot of corporate sponsorship for these cars.  It's  backpocket sponsorship for most of these guys.  So like it or not shoepolish (dial-in) racing is necessary. Heads- up racing is definitely more exciting to watch but cost prohibitive to most.  You wouldn't enjoy golf if you were paired with Phil Mickelson and expected to win.
 The announcement is made for Top Sportsman to report to the staging lanes for our first qualifying run.
  I took this picture in the staging lanes Friday morning, the camaro there is Earl Folse,  we have been racing with Earl for quite a few years now and is a very good friend of mine.  I also see Bert Prejean in front of him,he has also been a great friend to Greg and I.  That's Bert in the black t-shirt and red pants leaning on the golf cart, huffing on Hedi. The people we race with are like family, we all love the same thing and love to share that passion with each other.  Great folks, Good friends!
  It's time to qualify and we have drawn the left lane for our first run.  During the burnout I was thinking that the engine did not sound great, but sometimes they don't sound as good as other times.  To late to do anything anyway.  Greg staged the car, the tree came down and boom he is gone, the car is in the middle of the groove which is good but does not make it's usual move in third gear.  Usually the car really busts a big move in third gear,  sometimes I think it may" hyperspace " but not this time.  I thought we may have been light on the clutch but Greg said the clutch felt fine.  We tow back to the trailer to check things out.  We downloaded the run from our onboard data recorder and see that cylinder #3 was not firing.  We checked the plug wire,rocker arm and pushrod and found no problems.  Then we changed the spark plug on that cylinder and that fixed it.  I have always heard of bad spark plugs but this is the first one I have actually seen  myself.
So the first run was not very good, 7.05 @ 195 mph . Not good, but in the show.  We should run a lot better the next pass.  On the second pass the engine was hitting on all eight and sounded great.  We were in the right lane this time and when Greg let the clutch out the front end came way up and the car made a move for the center line, he had to lift and abort that run.  So no improvement.  Well there's always tomorrow.  Tomorrow came with excessive wind, cold and rain.  Did I mention blowing cold rain. Nasty!  Most people stayed in their motorhomes all day.  All racing was scrapped for that day,  which means qualifying is over and the fields were set.  Not good for us since we wasted  the two runs yesterday.  So now the delima.  Do we just dial off of our records?  Yeah we keep records.  Or screw the bad plug back in and dial off of yesterdays first run?
Hmmm, I ponder.  After a lot of point- counterpoint discussion we decide to try to dial with the bad plug installed.   Engine builders close your eyes and ears.  But we tried it and we were not successful.  Busted first round.  The agony of defeat.  Sure weather played a role, but we were all dealt the same hand.
So we loaded up the truck and headed home so we can do it again next week.  Remember what I told you before "That's  why they call it "Drag Racing".  This time it wound up being a drag.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Acts of Nature Beyond Anyones Control"

  Hopefully,  you're wondering "What Happened With Phoenix"..  I'll probably make a short story long, but here's what went down.
  Like I said in my last post, we were waiting on our clutch and ONE rear tire, we received ONE tire three days earlier.  I think the other one must have ridden with Judy.  Now I know not everybody out there is a gearhead, but it would be a sure bet that those two big ole Goodyear slicks might just be a "PAIR".  But I guess not, when it comes to freight companies. We were suppose to leave Wednesday February 16th, no later than noon. Yeah, noon at the latest,the very latest. Its only 750 miles, but we need to be at the gate Thursday morning. And we have to stop for fuel a couple of times,get the motorhome and trailer washed and add in a couple of stops for mexican food. And that's not even figuring in any unknowns, like a blown tire or such. A blown tire on the trailer, although unwanted, is not as bad as it would be on the motorhome. We carry spares for the trailer and can fix them on the side of the road.  The motorhome is another story, you have to call a road service and that usually takes a while.  Anyway we are suppose to get the tire and clutch on Tuesday, that will be fine.  Tuesday comes, no clutch, no tire.  Ok,ok,  we mean, you will have them both on Wednesday.  Wednesday @ 2:30 pm ,we get the clutch,no tire,must be on another truck you should get it by 5:00 pm.  Did I say something about noon ? Hmm. Trying to track the tire though the freight  company was futile, The only information I got was," Due to acts of nature beyond our control ".  Geez, the snow was a week ago.   Well anyway, we got the clutch set up and installed , and got the car all put back together, we are just waiting on the tire. So we look like this.

   The received and signed for by side.  OR Hollywood side.

               And this!

The "Due to acts of nature beyond our control" side.

  While all of this waiting was going on, we have been looking at the weather forecast  for Phoenix and things are not looking all that conducive to drag racing.  They were calling for rain on Friday evening, lasting through Saturday and into Sunday, with high winds and blowing mud-pies, with snow in the higher elevations for a nice safe trip home.  
  This is something we sometimes wrestle with before a race, "The weather forecast".  These race cars do not appreciate high winds, especially cross winds and they won't come out in the rain.  We love being at the racetrack.  But sitting in the motorhome for two or three days waiting out the weather is not a lot of fun.  Coupled with the fact, you lose qualifying runs that are cancelled due to weather.  After a 3 to 4 month layoff, we need all of the runs we can get.  This is starting to sound like a bad way to start our season.  The weather report did not improve, it only got worse and the tire was a no-show.  So about 6:00 pm we decide to scrap the mission.  Someone is trying to tell us not to go.  This is no way to start off this year.  Houston is in two weeks,  lets just get ready for that.
  Well, we did the right thing for a change.  The weather in Phoenix was awful all weekend. They did have to cut out Qualifying runs and sat around in their motorhomes and trailers for two days. The wind did blow hard, and the rain made some nice mud-pies.  Wind and rain in the desert is nasty.  Im glad we didn't go. They did finally get to run the race on Monday,  the top sportsman final was at 7:30 pm.   Been there, done that!  Later in the season when you are in the groove, you can "afford" to lose a run or two.    But at the first race, you are still looking for "Murphy" to show his hand, and we need those runs.
 Over the past 20 years, we have dealt with all  sorts of weather, rain,snow,wind,hail and even tornadoes.(lucky for us we didn't know it at the time)!  I remember a time in Cordova,Ill.  The wind blew so hard the porta-potties were blowing around the pits. (Speaking of mud-pies).  We have been rained out almost as much as we have been out of gas.  I spent two weeks in Bristol,Tn. one time.  The race got rained out and rescheduled for the next weekend.  Greg and Steve Hughes flew home to work and I stayed with our stuff and secured a better pit spot.  Wow, tough job, but somebody gets to do it.  We have been rained out in Norwalk,Ohio 1400 miles from home.  We sat in the rain in Rockingham,N.C. all day, hoping the rain would stop or slow down enough to take our awning down and load our stuff.  Im glad  we waited, So we could do all of that in the rain and the dark!  Once  in Darlington,S.C.  1420 miles from home, a little cloud came up and it rained for just a while.  It didn't seem like a big deal.  All of the sudden the track announcer says, "We are gonna call this thing off and just run it next weekend, see ya then".  Ah, yeah ,sure, see ya.  I can't think of all of the rain we have dealt with at the track, there has been a lot.  Sometimes  they cancel the race.  Sometimes we spent three or four days working around the rain, running when the weather will allow. (Like they did in Phoenix.).
  I want to congratulate our friend Ray Martin (alaskan 
  We are now looking forward to Houston Raceway Park - March 3rd --March 6th.  Here are a couple of pictures of the car at Houston.

We will be there Thursday, with all four tires on the ground,well sometimes all four.Barring any "Acts Of Nature Beyond Our Control".