“Now what?” and “What if?”
Hello again. Thanks for clicking on the Dead-On editorial this month. This month will not be a column about controversy or who is doing something wrong and what I feel needs to be changed in our sport. Rather, it is a little insight about myself and my racing. I get emails from time to time that ask if I still race and I get thanks for bringing up subjects that are important to racers across the country. I am glad Jeff lets me write “Dead-On” as I see fit. From time to time I think it is helpful if you know where I am coming from. This month you might get a little better idea of how important my racing is to me.
Life is about family and even a race trip is no exception. Since we are headed to Michigan we decided to add some miles to the trip and take my wife Barb’s parents and her sister with us so they could see her brother and his new grandson. Five people in a Class C motorhome should test your patience, but the trip has been great. As I write this month’s column I am in the process of towing the new “Back-2-Basics III” dragster to its first race. As a matter of fact it is the first time it will go down a track.
I never really thought I would use a $50,000-to-win race to check out our new car but stuff happens and it happened to us last weekend. We broke a rod in the Project 4-Link 572” Mopar. That is the first real catastrophic engine damage I have dealt with in the 30 years I have raced. I have had a few bearings go away, a few rocker arms break but never an 8” hole in the side of the block, damaged head and a real mess in the engine.
I do want to mention one thing here that I hope all of you guys that race will pay attention to. My son was driving the dragster on that run and just past the finish line the engine let go. A 5” piece of block, 6” piece of steel connecting rod, all the water and a bunch of oil poured out the side of the block in an instant. He was running 7200 RPM and 170 mph when it happened and it could have been a disaster if the oil and jagged parts got under the rear tires or, worst yet, cut down a slick.
Thanks to the engine diaper we chose to run we didn’t leave one drip or one part on the track. He slowed to a safe stop and he is here and the car is intact to race another day. I highly recommend getting an engine diaper on all race cars. They used to be a pretty expensive part but now you can get them for under $200. It is quite possible that it saved Andy from being in a wreck and possible injury and the car is A-OK (except for a mortally wounded 572” Mopar.)
I have been very lucky to have never had to deal with the empty feeling of blowing up an engine in the middle of the season. It wasn’t really depressing as the engine had served me well for seven seasons. It did leave me asking “NOW WHAT” and “WHAT IF.” Now what am I going to do for the rest of the summer and what if I had done something different, would the engine still be together?
The “NOW WHAT” part is going to be pretty easy to handle as we are 99% done with our new dragster, “Back-2-Basics III.” It looks like S&W Chassis built us a great chassis and Andy’s detail work finishing it up has been excellent (good thing he kept me away from most of it as I have a tendency to hurry up too much right at the end). The big question mark in the new car is the engine. New internal combination, all sorts of problems getting the Edelbrock Victor 440 to work with the valvetrain, and I have it in the trailer headed for the biggest race we will probably attend in ’07 without so much as 10 minutes on the engine and zero runs on the chassis. Crazy? Probably!
This is where the “WHAT IF” comes in to play. I have about two pages of notes of things to check, watch for and possibly adjust after I get there. Most guys think it is crazy to take an untried car to one of these races (I pretty much agree with that thought process by the way), but I have always gone by the old saying, “You can’t win it if you don’t enter it!” There are probably some of you that have done something like this and it may not have been about bracket racing. It could be anything; home repair projects, vehicle repairs or about anything where you just have to trust you built the project the best you could and it is time to find out.
I feel that we did a great job getting the chassis prepared. There are some new prototype things on the car that I hope will work out. We have the Computech’s new DataMaxx LCD dash and data-logger. This will be the first time I have ever raced without a regular tachometer and a bunch of regular style gauges. Everything is digital and all readings are recorded and can be played back. A full tech feature on the Data-Maxx will be in DRO next month.
We are taking a lot of untried stuff with us. The new TOYO rear tires, the engine package is a big question right now, the converter is different, and we are trying a 3.90 gear and a front-mounted fuel tank rather than behind the seat. There are also some things on the car I am familiar with like the Terminator fuel injection, Meziere cooling system and the same shifter I use in the other dragster.
This is the type of thing that makes me feel young again, really. The excitement and challenge of making something new work the first time out. What do I expect? Nothing less than to be in the finals of the $50,000-to-win finals of the World Super Pro Challenge! When I expect any less than that I will probably retire from racing and just sit around and watch racing on TV!