Sudden Impact Racing Update: 04/10/2005

We were finally able to chisel enough snow and ice away from the rig to get back out on the road and down to Atco Raceway for the first Sony/PCRichard.com National Open Series event of 2005.

There weren't any huge changes to our racing programs over the winter, since everything worked so well last year. We put "The Grinch" back into Ray's '02 Camaro, his original Reher-Morrison 565 that he's had since 2001 that was freshened up by Tom Boucher. The Select Performance transmission and converter that were in the car had less than 30 runs on them at the end of last year, so they stayed right in the car when we swapped "Grinch II" out. Of course we put the 8's on the window, thanks to Bruce Deveau for that.

The '67 Camaro had the 532" motor freshened back up at its' creator, Boucher's Racing Engines. We needed to replace all 8 of the titanium exhaust valves, as the tips were starting to mushroom. Tom sent them back to Manley and they blamed it on the lash caps. The same lash caps that we'd run for years on Steel valves without a problem. We also sent the converter back to ATI for a freshen-up, since it had been a few years. Everything looked ok inside there and we got that back to put inside the Select Powerglide. We also had the driveshaft rebalanced to try and take car of a slight harmonic vibration the car had when it was spinning the tire on the top end or over bumps.

The major change for Sudden Impact I came in the form of new wheels and front brakes. We put Weld Alumastar 2.0's on the front of the car, complimented by a new pair of Alumastar's on the back as well and some new Goodyear 14.5x32 rubber. Since you can see the front brakes through the wheels, we removed the Wilwood front brake kit and changed it out for a Aerospace Components kit. The kit went on without too much aggravation and the billet aluminum caliper looks great behind the new wheels. Bruce Deveau also hooked us up with a set of 12's for the windows to finish the car off.

We had been planning to get down to Atco on the two prior weekends to do a little bracket racing and for a couple of NESGA races last weekend, but rainy forecasts kept us home.

Since there was a test session on Thursday we left Acton, MA at around 2:30 on Wednesday and rolled into Atco seven hours later. Thursday morning we got everything unloaded and set up and I took the '67 Camaro for a spin around the pits and did a bunch of 30 MPH or so stops to break in the front brakes.

At 10:30 I brought the car up for the first pass of the year. I thought about making an easy pass to wear the brakes in a little bit, but the shutdown area at Atco is so long that I didn't have to worry about that. I just put a guess of 2.5 seconds in the throttle stop timer, and was rewarded with a 10.974 @ 148.17. Everything seemed great on the pass; it had 80 lbs of oil pressure on the finish line at 7350 RPM and around 12 inches of vacuum.

The best part about it was how absolutely smooth it was. The old front wheels had been on the car since 1987 and the rear wheels since 1992. Let's just say they had a little runout. Between the new wheels and the driveshaft, the car's as smooth as a Cadillac going down the track.

We brought Ray's car up around 11:45 for his first run of the season. I used some stop numbers from last year since his motors are within one or two horsepower.

He hit the tree pretty good, going -.004, had the same 60' that he was having here in October, and by the 1000' number it looked like the car was on a 9.896. That's when the fun stopped.

At 8.7 seconds, the motor picked up a huge internal vibration and Ray clicked it off. George Smith lent me his 4-wheeler, since ours was at home, and Larry Willard lent us a two rope and we towed the car back to start taking it apart. After getting the nose off, we pulled the diaper off, and there were no holes in the block or the oil pan, although it certainly felt like it broke a rod. Sitting in the diaper however was the head of one of the converter bolts, and looking up, all the heads were sheared off the converter bolts.

We took the valve covers off to see what it looked like up top. The number 7 and 8 cylinders had some excessive lash, and looking down into the lifter valley it was easy to see why. Where #7 and #8 lifters go into the block, there simply was no more block and the lifters were sitting up in the valley. We drained the oil out, and the couple gallons of coolant came out through the drain plug first, not a good sign either.

Looking at the data recorder, everything was perfectly normal. It had 66 lbs of oil pressure when it expired, and it had 66 lbs of oil pressure three seconds after it expired. Looking at all eight EGTs, there were no real signs of anything being wrong. The temperature on #8 dropped a tenth of a second before the other cylinders, no a huge deal. The vacuum was normal, the fuel pressure was normal, everything was normal. This is why we just think it was a freak parts failure.

Because the converter bolts were sheared off, we took the transmission and converter out and gave them back to Ed Alessi from Select Performance so that they could check them out from the shock. When we took the transmission out, I found the cam plug twisted up between the block and the flexplate. Looking further, the camshaft was hanging out the back of the block and up against the flexplate also, which is what sheared the heads of the converter bolts off.

We put the spare transmission and converter back in the car, which are fresh, so that will be one less thing to do this week. When we get home, we will unload his car into the shop, and put "Grinch II" back in until we get this one fixed. As soon as the motor's out of the car, we'll bring it up to Tom Boucher so he can take it apart and see if he can figure out what failed first.

So down to one car for the weekend, I made two more laps. I used last year's ratio and set up for a 10.90 and was rewarded with a 10.905 @ 148.44 with an .016 light. The third run I was .015 and 10.934 @ 148.51. I went up there with the intention of speeding the car up one since the sun had come out and was heating the track up, but while I was sitting in the water box a cloud came out and I slowed the car down one. If I'd stuck with my plan, It would've run a 10.914.

It rained pretty hard on Friday night, so we got off to a late start on Friday. The 13 MPH tailwind we had on Thursday flipped around to a 6 MPH headwind, effectively gaining a 19 MPH headwind from Thursday's data. I set the car up on a 10.85 to compensate for the wind and was .003 and 10.926 at 146.96. It was windy. The second run I set the car up for a mid 10.88 and was .018, 10.884 at 147.46.

Friday afternoon I had my chassis recertified and then "ETI", extended tech inspection done. In the process I managed to burn the transbrake solenoid up, by leaving the backup switch on. Drivers, sheesh. Jerry Pierce lent me his spare solenoid and we put that in before we put the car away on Friday night. We swapped the shims over from the original solenoid so everything should have been the same.

On Saturday we were scheduled for two more time runs. The headwind was still there, but we gained over .2 on the barometer and the vapor pressure had gone down a tenth plus. I set the car up on an .88, but the wind must've died down when I ran because the car went 10.843 @ 148.05. The weird thing was that I was -.013 red with the same delay that I had the day before.

I added .013 to the box for the next time trial and set the car up on a 10.87 so that I could practice some top end driving. Expecting a light that was close to .000, I was surprised at the .034 on the scoreboard. I didn't feel late, but oh well. The car was on a 10.875, but I cut the stripe down to .003 and ran 10.923 @ 135.97.

They gave us a third run since they had plenty of time left over so I planned on doing more finish line racing and set it up on a 10.88. Between me being .049 on the tree, again a surprise, and Jeff Livezey being on a 10.85 in the other lane, I didn't get to do any womping and just ran it through to a 10.879 @ 146.74.

So I was headed into eliminations on Sunday lost on my delay settings, but with a car that was very dialable, possibly the most dialable car I'd ever had. Given "The Curse" that I had going at Atco, that didn't make me feel overly confident. Just to remind you, I'd lost first round at every NHRA event at Atco dating back to 2002.

First round I drew three time National Event winner Tommy DePascale and his "Split Decision" Vega Wagon in the random pairing. I left the extra .013 in the box from what I was red on that time trial, simply because if you're red, you have zero chance.

I set the car up on a 10.880, factoring for the lack of wind in the morning and the plan was, if it looked like I was late, to get there, make him dump and try and stay with him to get over .90.

When I let go of the button and my stage lights turned off first, indicating that I had the better light, I had to revise that plan slightly. Now I know that I'm going to get there, so I just want to make it tight, but not too tight and give it back.

I got down the other end, started womping, and had it at probably .008 or so when he dumped, feeding me another hundredth. I went with him, but didn't dump as hard as I would've if my light was worse, or we were even. The result? We both went 10.904, the difference being my not-so-great .026 to his .044 reaction times.

Finally, the curse was broken! Oddly enough, the whole losing streak at Atco started back in '02 against Tommy De. So maybe I won't be dreading the October event here after all.

Second round I was paired up with Valley regular Kevin Billets. I decided to take the .013 out of the box because I couldn't be late all day. I thought I hit it pretty good and still came up .023, luckily for me, he was a little behind at .035. I set the car up on a 10.903 because I had a little over 20 MPH on him, and down the big end he dumped a little early, so I just coasted across to a 10.968 @ 132 to his 10.99 @ 121. I was getting the stripe, no matter if he left his foot in it, so all that did was affect the ET. Looking at the incrementals, I was on a 10.905, right where I wanted it.

Third round I was paired with Dodge Dart of Bill Nycz. I knew he was in the upper 120's for speed, so I didn't want to hold too much, so factoring wind and track I had the car set up on a 10.890. When we left, his stage bulb turned out first, going .021 to my .035. Seeing this, it was looking like I was getting to the stripe by less than a hundredth, so I decided to dump and hope he was under, but he wasn't. He was 10.916 to my 10.906, getting .004 of stripe for the win.

I made the right call, as the car was on a 10.893, but it's kind of like standing on 13 in blackjack against the dealer's 6, only to have him flip over a 5 and hit a face card to beat you. Bottom line was, if my light was with him, it would've been a walk in the park, but for some reason, since I changed solenoids, my lights looked like a shotgun blast on a graph. Maybe it's just me, kicking some rust off, but it's strange that I was hitting it so well on Thursday and Friday and couldn't even get close after that.

So the theme of this update was broken. From a broken motor, to a broken transbrake solenoid, to a broken curse, that was a fairly regular pattern.

So with a little hard work this week, we'll be at Maple Grove on Friday for a test session before their first National Open of the year and hopefully we'll have better results. We have a new carburetor from Don Garbinski that were going to try on Dad's motor after 2 runs at Atco that we'll try this weekend at Maple instead.

Thanks for reading, and I have to send out congratulations to Jason Kenny for winning Super Rod (9.90) at the IHRA National event in San Antonio, TX a few weeks back and to Jim and Jay Blake, Dave Ray, and the rest of the "Follow a Dream" Alcohol Funny car team for their big NHRA National event win in Houston, TX over the weekend.