Sudden Impact Racing Update: 11/15/2005

You are now reading the first update from the Super Gas WORLD CHAMPION Sudden Impact Racing team. I had to type it because I still don't believe it. Maybe if I see it a few more times, I will. At any rate, this is going to be a long one, so hit print and bring it with you to "the office" if you know what I mean.

When we got home from Chicago on Monday night, Ray and I decided to play hooky from work on Tuesday (don't let the boss know) and did what we planned; putting the now freshened "faster" 565 back into dad's car along with the fresh Select transmission and converter. We weren't leaving anything to chance.

After working a full day Wednesday we headed down to Atco Raceway in New Jersey, despite a poor weather forecast for the weekend. We really wanted to get some runs in on this motor and break it in. Thursday's weather was all right, Ray making 4 runs, and going 9.890 @ 168 right out of the box. I made three on Thursday as well, mostly just to get delay settings.

On Friday we got 1 time run in around 2:00 PM between the raindrops and a falling barometer. Friday night, we were invited to the Kenny's annual Canadian Thanksgiving along with the Dorrs, Lepages, Mackies and Rosses. The food was fantastic, and we all stayed mostly dry and warm under the big awning. It's probably a good thing that it's an annual occurrence or we'd all be looking for jeans of a larger size.

Saturday morning we woke up to rain, and more rain, and an announcement over the PA that the race was postponed until October 21-22, the same weekend as the Vegas National. Now we had a decision to make. We could hang around a few weeks and race the Atco Divisional and skip the Vegas National, then haul across the country in a couple of days for the Vegas points meet. The upside to this is that dad would most likely win the Jeg's All-Stars birth for next season. The downside would be that we'd be leaving one National event on the table, and we might need it to better our points score.

On the way home we decided that we'd get home pack up and leave Monday night after work to head down to Dallas, TX for the Division 4 race there. By running it, we were giving George Smith the All-Stars, but we would run the maximum number of races we could claim points at. We decided that going after the world championship was more important at this point.

We got to Dallas on Wednesday afternoon and joined the Kennys, who had left right from Atco. Wednesday night we went out to eat at some country Italian place that I forgot the name of. The food was good and so was the wait staff.

There was a test and tune on Thursday and it only cost $25 to run it. Imagine that! The divisional only cost $140 to enter as well, as opposed to the normal $155 in Division 1. Dad and I felt almost guilty about making four runs each at that price. We got over it, though. In addition to the test and tune, we also got 5 time runs, three on Friday and two on Saturday before first round on Sunday morning. Dad's car was cooperating pretty well and mine was all over the map. I think that the jetting on my car was just on the edge here, because it ran fast in the cooler morning air and slowed way up when the air dropped a few hundred feet in the afternoon.

By the time we got to first round, there was a couple of oil downs, pushing us back to about 11:00 AM. Since it was now 86 degrees out, and pretty much everyone was slow, I set my car up real fast, thinking I'd be on a 9.88 and could just finish off the rest of what I was holding with my left foot. I think someone forgot to tell my car that it was supposed to be slow, because I was on a low 9.84. I caught my opponent, got on the brakes, and killed a bunch, running 9.868, however, he was fast too and since I only had an .003 advantage on the tree and took more than .003 stripe, his win light came on. If I'd even had an idea that I was going to be that fast, I would've fed him as much stripe as possible, but when you think you're on a 9.88 and you're really playing with a 9.84, things seem different.

When I got back to the trailer, I made a quick adjustment to the number that was being paged to Ray for his throttle stop and got up to the line just in time to see him squaring off against Gary Free, who had just runner-up'd the National event at Dallas the week before. Free's car bobbled when it went into the throttle stop, leaving him hung out at a 10.01, and Ray was able to take the win easily with a 9.960 at only 154. The car was on a 9.905.

Now, here was the situation. If you remember, Steve Cohen had passed Ray by a 5 points a few weeks back at the Bowling Green, KY make-up race. With Ray replacing a second round loss, if he were to win the second round here in Dallas, he'd go back around Steve by 5 points and take the lead back. He was laddered up with the '95 Beretta of Division 4 racer Eric Piepke. The suspense didn't have to wait long as Eric went -.009 red, giving Ray a free ride back into the points lead.

Now that Ray was earning points, we wanted to earn as many as possible, but 1998 National Champion Jimmy Lewis had other ideas in the third round. Jimmy had Ray by .014 on the tree and took a tight .004 stripe for the 9.93 to 9.92 win when Ray's car lost .012 and 60' that we weren't expecting it to. We couldn't feel too bad about the loss, though, because we had gotten the World points lead back. We may have been a sitting duck, only leading by 5 points and having to replace a 4th round loss nationally and a 3rd round loss divisionally, but at least we were the duck.

The Kennys and us packed up quickly on Sunday and started the caravan towards Las Vegas. We arrived at Vegas on Tuesday morning after about a 20-hour day of driving on Monday that got us all the way to Henderson, NV through thunder, lightning, heavy rain and even hail at one point. Near the end of that day we had to wait about 10 minutes for them to open back up Route 95 in California. It had been closed due to flooding. There was still some water going across the road, but it wasn't that deep. The dirt was everywhere though, which got the rigs pretty filthy.

When we rolled into town the first stop we made was at a Blue Beacon truck wash, in the pouring rain. The nice thing about how hard it was raining is that we got the best rinse job ever on the way to the track. No water spots from that wash!

Al and Jason got their cherry Dodge Dakota rental and we went into town to have some lunch, get haircuts, go gamble a little and have some dinner. We were in Vegas and we got a little piece of all of it, stopping at the new Wynn, the Stratosphere (which I'm pretty sure I almost own at this point), and the MGM Grand.

On Wednesday we parked and teched the cars in. We actually got a really good parking spot, just off the end of the Pro Stock pits, around the 1000' mark on the track. We weren't too far away from our friend Steve Cultrera and the Slammer's team, either.

We also serviced both cars because after the pile of runs we put on in Dallas and the handful in Atco they needed it. I also took some jet size away from my car, to see if I could make it more consistent, especially at this altitude. I was going to bump the timing up as well, but figured I'd only change one thing to see how it worked and learn a little bit for next year as well.

We got three time runs on Thursday, at 10:00AM, 1:15PM, and 4:00PM. If you remember from last year the index is adjusted because of the track's physical elevation to 10.07, instead of 9.90. The first run is always a complete guess, but I was .016 and 10.048, not too far off. Dad was .000 perfect on the tree, but he second-guessed the stop number I told him to put in. He went back and looked at last year's data, decided he wanted more time and ran 10.119. If he had put my number in the box, he would've run 10.079 so we really weren't too far off. He followed it up with a pair of 10.081's and I ran 10.072 and 10.069 to close the day out.

First round of Super Gas was Friday morning around 9:00 AM. I went up first, and drew Division 5 racer Dave Slatten. I was .010 to his .027 on the tree and was set up a little fast. When it looked like he was going to get the stripe by .001 or .002, I drove it deep and dumped, turning my 10.054 into a 10.065, which was closer to 10.07 than his 10.037 to turn my win light on. A few minutes later, Dad faced off with Division 7 racer Ginger Welfringer and her Olds Cutlass. Dad was .001 better on the tree and on the top end his 10.080 was able to push her under the dial at a 10.048 for the win.

Second round was Saturday morning. Dad was laddered up with the '77 Vega Wagon of Doug Crumlich. Doug was .004 better on the tree, but Ray survived a double breakout 10.062 to 10.018. A minute later, I squared off with Greg Ventura, who won this event in Super Comp the prior year. Greg flinched a little on the starting line and came up -.031 red on the tree, giving me the easy win. I was .007 and 10.056 on my freebie.

Third round was an hour later. I faced off with D1 Racer Regis Lepage. I was .014 on the tree and 10.077 on the top end for the win. Dad got laddered up with the 1960 Austin Healey roadster of Dan DiVita. Dad was .016 on the tree, but still .010 behind DeVita's .006. On the top end, Dad's car slowed up and all it had was a 10.111. DeVita was able to get under that, running 10.10 for the win.

I had fourth round an hour later and was matched up with the '57 Chevy of Sheldon Gecker. I surprisingly turned the red light on, going -.007 red. That was my best hit of the weekend by .014, of course, so I didn't really expect it. It would've been an easy round, too, with Sheldon being .022 on the tree and running 10.117 flat out.

The good news was that Jason Kenny was still in Super Comp with his Dan Page dragster going into Sunday's eliminations. Jason made it all the way to the 8th round final, before falling to Matt Constant. Great job Jason!

In other good news, they ran the makeup for the Atco Divisional that weekend as well as a points meet in Reynolds, GA. In Reynolds, Steve Cohen didn't manage to go enough rounds to get back around Dad, meaning that he was out of races and now out of the championship hunt. In Atco, none of the other Super Gas racers managed to pass Dad or I in the Divisional points standings, meaning that Ray and I would finish first and second in Division 1 Super Gas. The only thing left to figure out was the order.

Sunday night we packed our bags, locked everything up and headed into town for a few days. We all had rooms at the Monte Carlo, so we spent the week exploring Vegas and trying to come up with new and creative ways to give money away.

After a whirlwind couple of days in town, we were pretty much Vegas-ed out, so it was back to the track on Thursday for a test and tune. Remember the very economically friendly test and tune at Dallas? Well, things were a little different in Vegas. $75 got you two runs in sessions. If the staff hadn't stalled so much between pairs, everyone could've probably got 4 runs in without a problem. If you had a problem on one of your runs and wanted a third run, you could go out to the gate, spend another $75 and buy another test and tune card. So, it cost $37.50 per run in Vegas as opposed to the $6.25 per run in Dallas. The $75 wouldn't have been so bad, if we'd got two more runs. Good thing we didn't need them.

Basically we used the test and tune just to check and see what delay box settings we were going to need for this very important divisional. Turns out that we needed the same delay at the points meet there that we did at the national event the previous week. I put .021 in my box, which should've been .000 according to my red light in the fourth round the prior week. I was .010 and .011 and ran 10.051 and 10.087. Good enough. Dad ran 10.081 and 10.101 on his 2 runs.

We got two time runs before first round as well, one on Friday morning, and the other on Saturday morning. On the first time run I was .012, 10.085 @ 155 while Ray was .028, 10.079. Ray followed that up with a .014, 10.043 while I put up a stellar .001 package going .000 and 10.071. That .000 was the same hit that I had when I went red against Gecker 4th round of the National event.

First round was around 4:30 Saturday afternoon. I went up early to make sure we put enough cars between Dad and I. I drew Division Seven racer Doug Bracey and his '40 Willys pickup. I don't know if he had a problem, but he took well over a minute between the time he did his burnout and the time he lit his prestage light. He should've taken a little more time, because he went -.008 red. I was set up for a low teen light, came up .017 and ran 10.047 for the win. Dad ran near the back of the round and caught a big break when he was able to survive despite a stellar .089 reaction time.

Second round I ran the guy who won Super Gas the weekend before, Robert Coleman. I was .013 to his .029 on the tree, and just plain did a horrible job on the finish line. I know he dumped and fed me some extra, but I went down there and took .027, even at 144 MPH. I wanted my car to be on a 10.05, and it was on a 10.025. I killed to a 10.063, but he was over at 10.074. The most disappointing thing about that was that I had a chance to knock out a guy that was in the championship chase, but came up short in a really winnable race. It also eliminated any realistic hopes I had of putting a single digit (Top 10 in the world) number on my car.

Ray continued on, making it to the fourth round, before falling to Kenny Yeoman, in a 10.05 to 10.06 double breakout affair. By making it to fourth round, Ray was able to add another 10 points to his points total, making it harder for anyone to catch him. So we went into Pomona in with three other racers still mathematically alive for the World Championship. Rick Beckstrom and Robert Coleman had to win the race, and Mark Buehring had to make it to the final in order to pass Ray in Points. However, if Ray made it to the fifth round at Pomona, then it didn't matter what the other racers did.

We made the trip over from Vegas to Pomona on Monday. It was a nice calm uneventful trip. We parked the next day, getting our "usual" spots up against the fence in the shutdown area, really good spots, despite being three-quarters of a mile away from the starting line. We went with our friend Grant to a small party up at Ken Meadows house in Yorba Linda. What a place he and his wife Cheryl have. Thanks to them and Grant for their hospitality.

We teched the cars in on Wednesday and got two time runs Thursday. Ray ran 9.930 and 9.944 at 167 MPH, going .004 and .017 on the tree. I was 9.877 and 9.908 at 159 MPH, with -.004 and a miss of .028 on the tree. We got one more time run on Friday morning, Dad getting closer to the number, going 9.929, which I was happy with my .011, 9.905 run.

First round was Saturday morning, and I had Division 7 SG Champion Gerald Turczyn, Jr. If you remember, Dad beat him first round of the Jeg's All Stars Race in Joliet earlier in the season. When we left, I was .001 behind on the tree, .016 to .017 so that was pretty good, but Gerald was nowhere to be found. I drove it to the 1000' cone then swapped feet for a easy 10.080 at 126 MPH for the win. It turns out that Gerald had some converter problems on the run. It also turns out that I was on a 9.898, as well.

Dad had a couple different kinds of luck first round. The good luck was that his opponent was very fast, breaking out by a couple tenths. After he went through the finish line, I saw a very small puff of smoke come out from Dad's car. I turned to Brian who was standing next to me on the starting line and said "Dad just popped the motor..." He didn't believe me, until we got down to the end of the shutdown area, where dad was waiting with a blown up motor. After a quick tow back behind the Kenny's golf cart, we got the car back to the pits and got to work.

We had quite the crew helping us, too, the Kennys, Lepages, Chick and Janet Ross who came out to attend Frank Hawley's school on Tuesday, and Keith Gibbons. We took the "slow" motor out of the trailer, put it in the car, along with a fresh Select torque converter in case the other one got damaged when the motor broke. A little under two hours later, the fresh bullet was in the car and running. Thanks to everyone for all their help with the thrash.

We had a bunch of time still before second round, since they didn't run that until almost 7PM. Dad ran first and had to run one of the other guys in the championship chase, Mark Buehring. I put dad's car on about a 9.85 based on all the data I had on this motor. Apparently this motor didn't get the memo of it being a little slower than the other one. Ray was .003 and Mark was .008 on the tree. Best I can tell, Ray was on about a 9.70. In fact he was half a mile per hour faster at the 1/8th with this motor than the "faster" one, which was now broke. Ray drove it to the 1000' and got on the brakes, but was still way under with a 9.77 @ 151 MPH. Mark took the easy win with a 9.95.

My run against Loreen Johnson was very strange. First of all I was -.023 red. Then my 60' was .030 slow and I ran 9.939. Something happened with the timing system. I don't know what. It thought that I left the line .03 before I actually did. But if we leaned anything from the Steve Johnson U.S. Nationals final is that even if they have indisputable video evidence otherwise, NHRA thinks their timing system is infallible. So rather then go up to the tower, show them the timeslip evidence and have them tell me that it must've been a problem with my car, I just hit the cooler. Loreen had a good run, going .009 and 9.896. Would a .007, 9.909 been good enough to beat it? Would she have killed those .004? That's what I had to live with all winter.

So going into third round of SG, Mark Buehring and Rick Beckstrom were still in competition for the championship. They ran third round after the second round of the pro cars. Rick Beckstrom was first up and fell to Larry Bradshaw when Rick was slow. The last pair featured Mark Buehring taking on fellow Division 4 racer and all-around good guy Lonnie Grim driving Craig Anderson's Circus Motorsports '63 Vette Roadster. Denise was down watching near the starting line. Brian, Katie, Larry Nichols, and I were watching from the top end stands. Ray was in the staging lanes with Al Kenny. When the win light came on in Lonnie's lane, the group in the top end stands went crazy, Mom started celebrating, and Dad calmly turned to Al, who was in his dragster, and said, "I think I just won it." Al quipped back "What... That's it?" I think Ray was more relieved than anything that it was over. He was the champ: The 2005 NHRA Super Gas World Champion.

We all met back at the pit spot, had a few celebratory beverages (even though Brian, Katie, Larry, and I had been drinking basically since 11AM to try and calm our nerves). We hung around and watched the rest of the race, then all of us went out for a celebratory dinner at the Sports Bar in Diamond Bar. They treated us very well there, especially after someone mentioned that Ray was the "World Champion". After that we dropped some people off at the track and headed over to Yorba Linda to another bar to have a few more "cocktails" with Grant and the Meadows.

Monday morning Ray, Brian and I had to get up early and head over to Carducci's Tux Shop to get fitted and get tuxes because we were going to the banquet later on that night. What a guy that Carducci is. We went back to the track, grabbed a quick snack, and then got ready to head out towards Palm Springs for the banquets.

It was a couple our drive from Pomona down to The Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage. We needed to make the commute since there was no place for all of us to put our rigs down there with the exception of a truck stop at the exit and none of us felt comfortable leaving our rigs unattended at a truck stop for five or six hours.

When we got to the Westin, we all went in and grabbed some lunch, since we knew we wouldn't be eating again until the POWERade banquet later that night. We finished up lunch, then headed over towards the hall where they were having the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Banquet. They had a nice reception outside with drinks and snacks first then we went in for he banquet.

I will say that the Lucas banquet was one of the more enjoyable banquets I've ever been to, in terms of content and speed. They had nice video tributes to each of the classes and winners, everyone made their speeches and picked up their Championship Wallys and the whole ceremony probably didn't last more than an hour. It was really nicely done. Later on they sent us a VHS copy of it, too. Congrats to Steve Torrence (TAD), Bob Newberry (TAFC), Jeff Taylor (Comp), Hugh Meeks (SS), Peter Biondo (STK), and Gary Stinnett (SC) on their championship seasons also.

When that ceremony was done we headed across the way to the POWERade banquet. Bob Frey did a great job as the host of the banquet. Ray and the other Champions got their 10 seconds of fame, being introduced and walking out on the big stage. That was pretty cool to see. The ceremony was really long, but still fun to watch. It was also nice to see the professional drivers away from the track, with their families and having a good time. After it was all over, we hopped in the car and headed back to Pomona for the night.

Tuesday morning we finished getting everything loaded and hooked up and rolled out of town around noon to head towards cooler weather. With the weather in Southern California, I can see why Brian likes it there. It gets harder and harder to leave every time we go there.

We traveled with Al and Jason Kenny until Nashville when they branched off to head to see Samantha and Shane and also for a visit to Nitroplate. We rolled in the driveway on Friday night, giving us the whole weekend to recover before heading back to the real world on Monday morning.

Well thanks for reading, and I hope our 2005 season was as entertaining for you to follow as it was for us to live. Let's hope for continued success in 2006!