Sudden Impact Racing Update: 11/19/2004

This edition of the Sudden Impact Racing Update comes to you from the road on the way home from a pretty successful western swing. This will be a long one as it pretty much incorporates a good five weeks on the road.

The trip started by traveling down the coast from Acton, Mass to Atco, New Jersey for the final Division 1 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Event of the 2004 season.

Mom, Dad and I got to the track on Wednesday night in time to watch the Red Sox rip the pride right out of the Yankees, coming back from being down 0-3 in the series to win it 4-3. Ah, there is justice in the world.

On Thursday, Ray and I both made three passes in our cars to get some data for the important weekend. Both of us ended on good throttle stop runs, and I decided to make one more run to see if I could break the '67 Camaro into the 8-second range.

Fellow Super Street racer John Maggiulli, Sr. and I both ran our cars flat out against one another, since they were pretty close in terms of ET performance. The run was actually pretty close, with him .01 ahead at 60' and .037 ahead at the 330' mark. That's when the power of the Boucher's 532 kicked in, dragging all 3050 lbs to within .03 at the 1/8th mile and then .002 in front at the 990' mark.

Trying to break into the 8's for the first time with the car, I legged it through... to a 9.005 @ 151.95. Maybe next year. John ran 9.055 at 146.50, showing how inefficient our '67 Camaro is when it comes to running flat out, having about 5.5 miles per hour on him, but only .05 of ET. We'll see what we can do about that this winter.

I also made 3 laps in Jason Kenny's Corvette Roadster, getting some hits in before the Las Vegas National the following week. The first run was a flat out 8.36 @ 162 followed by a couple of throttle stop runs trying to get it close to 8.90.

On Friday's time runs, I had a couple of good hits on the tree (.008 and .014) and ran 10.91 and 10.87 when it picked up a couple in 60'. Dad's runs we good as well, running 9.908 out of the box on his daytime run and 9.87 on the night run.

Friday night we had great meal with the Dorrs, Kennys, Ernie Kendall and Shane Carr. Atco was the last time we'd see the Dorrs and Ernie this year so it was good to spend a last meal with them.

Since this was a two-day event due to the rescheduling of it by two weeks, first round was Saturday morning. I had a tough draw in Steve Feller, but a draw I wanted. Steve was right behind me, in third place in points so putting him out would be a good thing.

The run didn't go as planned, however, because after 3 or 4 "whomps" and dragging the brake, his win light still turned on, as I broke out at 10.886 to his 10.90, despite my .019 to .030 starting line advantage. The curse of Bambino may have been lifted, but the curse of Atco continued for me when I lost in the first round of an NHRA race there for the 5th straight time.

Dad doesn't have a curse problem at Atco, fortunately. First round he got by Scott Reinford and his "The Moose" Corvette with a 9.937 at only 160 MPH, instead of the 169 he'd been running in time trials.

Second round he survived a double breakout by three one-thousandths of a second, 9.890 to 9.887 against former division champion Chuck Rothermel and his ex-WJ Pontiac Grand Am. That set up a third round match-up with the always-tough Jim Fordyce and his Chevy Lumina. This race was over before it began when Jim turned on the red light. Ray ran the car through to a 9.905, showing that we were pretty dialed.

This set up a 4th round rendezvous with Oscar Olt. There was a bunch riding on this round, but we didn't let Ray know. If Ray could turn the win light on this round, he would pass Tommy Stalba for the Division 1 Super Gas Championship. If not the chase went on to Las Vegas.

And by two one-thousandths of a second, the title chase moved onto Las Vegas. That was the margin that Ray went red by. He clicked the car off early and coasted through to a 11.66 at 108 MPH on that run to Oscars .010 9.897 run. Ray did manage to pick up 10 points on Stalba, moving up to 394 points to Stalba's 400 points.

In terms of my points situation, I was bumped down to third, but the good news for me was that Feller lost in round two and Carl Juliano and Ray Balian didn't go far enough to put the championship out of reach just yet.

We loaded everything up on Saturday night and got it all ready for the long drive west. Mom got a ride home with friends Chick and Janet Ross as she was flying out to Las Vegas on Sunday of the National. On Sunday, Jason Kenny was still in the Dutch Classic that was started at Maple Grove. He made it all the way to the finals, losing to John Maggiulli, Jr. Great job Jason! Regis Lepage was also runner-up in Super Gas, which clinched the National Open Series Championship for him. Great Job Regis!

For the record, Dad and I both finished in the Top 10 of the Open Series again this year. Dad finished 7th in Super Gas, after being the Open Series Champion in 2003, and I finished 5th in Super Street for the second straight year.

We left Atco at about 3:00 PM on Sunday with Alan, Carol, and Jason Kenny and started the cross-country drive. We didn't even get 5 minutes from the track and one of the compartment doors on our motorhome decided to open up. So, a roll of duct tape and a bungee cord later, we had it shut again. Great start.

We got a few hours on Sunday, pulling into a Flying J for Fuel and to Sleep late that night. It was pretty key to get started on Sunday, instead of Monday to get there, that's for sure. Thanks to the guys from D1 and Atco for making the Divisional a two-day race.

At some point during the trip we got a bad load of fuel. All of us did. We think it was in Sullivan, Missouri, but we're really not sure. Al's Motorhome was the first to succumb to the lack of fuel it was getting as he could barely get up the hills. We changed the fuel filter that was easy to get to, and while it helped a little, the problem was still there. He also had another issue of the "Traction Control" light being on, so thinking that was the problem, we grabbed what we needed out of Al's trailer so that Jason could run by himself in Vegas if need be and Jason and us headed on down the road while Al limped along to find a service station to check out what was wrong with his coach.

We drove a few hours down the road, pulled into a Flying J to fuel up and have some dinner. We got word from Al that his coach was all set. There was a second fuel filter on it that was mounted way up by the engine block that was plugged almost solid. The filter had supposedly been changed every time his motorhome was serviced, but it still had the paint over spray on it from when they painted the chassis. I think that someone will have some explaining to do when he gets home.

When we left the Flying J, our motorhome didn't have the power or boost that it used to, and suddenly we were the ones that were slowing way down on the hills. At least that gave Al a chance to catch up. Once Al had caught up, we pulled into a truck stop and while he was fuelling up, Ray changed both fuel filters on our motorhome and the problem was fixed.

We drove until the wee hours of the morning to make up for some lost time and spent the night in a rest area in Arizona, near Flagstaff. When we woke up the next morning, Jason's truck wouldn't start. Once we changed both fuel filters on that, it started right up. Damn bad fuel. On a side note, they had gotten snow in Flagstaff the day before, so we got to see a snowbank in the rest area. Here I was thinking that we were going west to avoid snow.

Wednesday was a VERY windy day. It was so windy that a nice 50 MPH or so gust decided to get under the awning on the slide of our motorhome and lift it out of it's locks, unraveling the awning.

We quickly pulled over onto an off ramp, grabbed some ladders out of Al and Jason's trailer and fixed the awning. We also duct taped the lock so that it couldn't open again. Thanks to Lee Zane for stopping and checking on us when we were parked on the side of the road, too.

Duct tape seemed to be a theme on the trip out, now with a compartment door duct taped shut, the duct tape on the awning, and some duct tape holding the CB antenna to the glass so that we didn't lose this one going down the road, like we did it's predecessor somewhere on Day 2.

The rest of the trip was rather uneventful and we rolled into Las Vegas Motor Speedway at about 4:00 PM on Wednesday after spending an hour or so at a Blue Beacon having the road grime washed off the rig. Considering when we left, that's not horrible time getting across the country.

My brother Brian drove up from Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon and got to the track in time for us to watch the Boston Red Sox finish off the St. Louis Cardinals and win the World Series. Unless you're from Boston, you have no idea how strange that sounds.

We teched the cars in Thursday morning, since there was a slight drizzle when we got there on Wednesday. Since there was no Super Gas in Las Vegas, all four of us were running Super Comp. Al and Jason were running their dragsters, Ray was running his Camaro, and I was driving Jason's black Corvette.

We ended up with three time trials, two on Thursday and one on Friday morning. Because Las Vegas is an altitude track, the Super Comp index is adjusted to 9.05 instead of 8.90. On Ray's three time trials, he was .008, .011, and .014 on the tree and ran 8.862 (oops), 9.047, and 9.007 at 169 MPH.

Friday afternoon, Ray raced Arizona racer Chris Lindsay in the first round. Ray had an .021 advantage on the tree and forced Lindsay under the dial for a 9.08 to 9.029 win. I lined up with Division 5 racer Todd McCann first round and used an 017 reaction time to push him under the dial.

On Saturday morning's second round, Ray was paired with Division 6 racer Arlyn Staiger and his 2003 Mustang Roadster. Ray had a great .009 light to Staiger's .034 and was on a 9.061, but dumped to a 9.07 for the win when the Mustang only went 9.09. I raced Las Vegas racer Bill Koski and watched him catch me, and drive by. I dumped and he was under the 9.05, meaning that my 9.10 at 148 MPH was enough to get the job done. I was actually on a 9.06 or 9.07; I just killed a bunch letting him go.

Third round was after the pros were done on Saturday. Ray had to race Washington State racer Howard Johnson, the number eight finisher in Division 6 last year. Ray grabbed a huge advantage on the tree, over six hundredths. On the big end, Ray still couldn't catch Johnson. The reason being that Howard was 8.99 to Ray's two-over 9.07 for the win. I ran against Division 5 racer Jim Schultz, from Kansas. I was .019 on the tree and took .010 stripe to run 9.07 for the win.

Fourth round was pretty much the last thing down the track on Saturday night at 7:45 PM. Ray raced against Division 7 racer Jim Momjian from California. Both drivers were a little late, but Ray's .031 was still .009 better than Momjian's .040. On the big end, Ray took .013 stripe, but lost a double breakout by .004, 9.038 to Momjian's 9.042. My fourth round match up was against the big speed car of Division 6 racer Moe Trujillo. We were pretty close on the tree, with my .007 being a little bit better than is .011. Having the round before to dial off of was key, and the car was on a 9.054. When he caught me, I dumped a few thousandths to a 9.057 and he was under at a 9.026.

Winning that round on Saturday night gave me a 5th round bye run on Sunday. It was a good thing I had a bye run, as I was a little slow, running 9.076 with an .012 light.

In the Sixth Round I faced Division 5 racer Jim Gottsch. He strapped a .002 reaction time on me and had enough to get there so my .023 and would've been 9.05, wasn't enough to win the round. As soon as he caught me, I dumped to a 9.069, but his 9.071 was enough to beat me.

Of the 200 Super Comp racers that ran first round at Vegas, I made it down to the final seven cars, not a bad way to start the Western Swing. I have to thank the Al, Jason, and Carol Kenny for all they did for me, and making it possible. I had a blast driving that car, and now the problem is I want one. Great.

Mom had flown in Sunday afternoon, so we met her, loaded everything up and then watched the finals. After the crowds had left, we headed into town to the Flamingo where we had reservations for Sunday-Wednesday nights. The Kennys were just down the street at the Monte Carlo. We spent the next several days trying to give the casinos money and some of them kept giving it back plus some, which really didn't hurt our feelings any. I played a lot of Blackjack with Al and Jason, and hit up some slot machines in between.

Brian headed home on Wednesday morning so that he could get a couple days of rehearsal in with his band, Roughed Up Folk.

Getting back to the Divisional points situation, while I was going rounds in the Corvette Roadster in Super Comp, Ray Balian had gone down to Gainesville and won the Division 2 points meet there, locking the Division championship up. Prior to that, I would've needed to get to fifth round to win the division. So the best I could possibly finish would be second, and I just needed to get to 4th round to do that. Ray's situation was simple. Since he was replacing a third round loss and he was less than a round behind Stalba, if he wanted to win the Division, he needed to get to 4th round.

It was back to the track on Thursday for $60 test and tune, which consisted of only 2 runs. I tested the '67 Camaro to get some hits on the tree and get used to trying to run the 11.09 altitude adjusted Super Street index. My first hit I was .025 on the tree and 11.058 at 143.60. I pulled .020 out of the box after conferring with everyone else and finding out that they were slow on the tree as well. My second hit I was .009 and 11.102 at 143.40. Dad's first run was a throwaway run, so the only usable run we got out of the test session for him was a 9.981 @ 164.35.

The classes that were going eight rounds (Super Comp and Super Gas) got in two time runs on Friday. Dad ran 10.094 and 10.064 on the 10.07 Super Gas index. Super Street only got 1 time run on Friday, and I was .005 on the tree and on the fast side at 11.063 at 145 MPH.

My second time trial was first thing Saturday morning. I was .011 on the tree and on the way down the track, I had a 20 MPH headwind kick up and the car slowed to an 11.180 at only 141.58 MPH. Since I was that slow and down 4 MPH from my run on Friday, I had the hood off the car, and was getting ready to pull the valve covers and start checking springs when Division 6 Champion Jeff Jackson stopped by to ask me if I was ridiculously slow, also. He told me that a bunch of people were very slow that round. Thanks Jeff.

And to all the D1 Super Street racers that know me, yes I was the last car down the track in both time trial sessions.

Ray drove like a champ in round one of Super Gas. He was .003 on the tree to his opponent's .007 then proceeded to take .005 stripe for a 10.143 to 10.144 win at 155 MPH. It looked like the car would've been on a 10.075 if he'd run it out, so an .008 package isn't too bad in round one.

On Sunday morning's first round, I ran against my Division 7 counterpart, Dennis Paz. I say he's my counterpart because my competition number is 1873 and his is 7873. He won the Division 7 Super Street Championship in 2002 when I won the Division 1 Super Street Championship. Weird, huh? He also finished second in the Division 7 points last year, so needless to say, it wasn't an easy first round draw. It did become easier when I grabbed an .026 starting line advantage, though. I started wheeling just past the 1000' mark, since I was set-up a bunch fast because I didn't want to run 11.18 again first round. He dumped me pretty good at the stripe, but I was dead-on 11.097 on the 11.09 index for the win.

Shortly after first round of Super Street, the rains came in and washed out the rest of Sunday, forcing them to finish the race on Monday. It didn't really bother us too much, because we needed to kill a day or two anyhow.

On Monday morning, Dad had a tough draw in the second round in Ray Connolly, father of Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly and a multi-time National Event winner in his own right. Ray had an .017 reaction time to Connolly's .025 and had the stripe tightened pretty good when Connolly dumped to a dead-on 10.073 to Ray's .002 under 10.068. So by going .002 red at Atco and by breaking out by .002 here in Las Vegas, Ray finished second in Division 1 Super Gas, his best finish, yet.

My second round opponent was Billy King, a local racer from Henderson, NV. He went -.004 red to my .010 and I legged it through to a 11.108. He only got to the stripe first by .002, so even if he was .000 on the tree, I still would've won the round.

Third round I had to race the El Camino of Tom Lindemann, last year's number 9 finisher in Division 7. We were both .015 on the tree, and I knocked some out of the finish line, taking .010 stripe for the 11.107 to 11.117 win. The car looked to be on an 11.07. By winning this round, I was able to pass Carl Juliano for second in the Division 1 Points standings, meaning that both Dad and I finished second this year. The only thing better than that would've been for both of us to finish first. We'll have to work on that for next year.

In the fourth round, I matched up with the See's Candies Firebird of Stephanie Warn, last year's number four finisher in Division 7. She's a big speed car, like me, perhaps 1 MPH faster. I had an .021 advantage off the line, and when my stop turned off, I went flying by her. I drove it to the 1000' mark and got on the brakes and ran 11.141 at 130.35 for the win. She coasted through at a troubled 12.865 @ 96 MPH.

In the fifth round, I was paired up with Larry Burnitzki, a Super Gas racer who had dropped down to SST at Vegas. I whacked the tree pretty good at .006 to his .025, and I knew it going by the tree. Going down track however, I wasn't getting there. I ripped him pretty good on the big end, going 11.113 to his breakout 11.065.

This gave me the semi-final bye into the final round. I paid close attention to the pair in front of me, how they staged, speed, etc to figure out how the final was going to be. I didn't really pay too much attention to my tree, going .044, and the car also lost some 60' slowing to an 11.113 at 144.72 MPH.

At 9:06 PM on Monday night, I had to run Chandler, Arizona racer Mike Decarolis in my third divisional final of the season. I lost lane choice and was in the left lane for the first time all race. I focused on the tree this time and was .012 to his .015. I couldn't tell who left first. After losing a couple in 60' the round before, I sped the car up to make sure I could get there in the final. The 60' repeated from the bye run, so it looks like I would've been on a high 11.09. I got down the big end and gave it two womps and got on the brake when he dumped to take .009 stripe and turn the win light on with an 11.113 to 11.119.

This win was very special for me because the whole family was there. The last time that happened was Dad's first divisional win in 2001. The win improved me to 2 wins in 6 divisional finals, and that's way better than the 0 for 4 record I had after Numidia. I hurried through contingency, got my check, we did a quick winner's circle celebration and loaded up and went into town for dinner to celebrate.

Mom, Dad, Brian, Al and Jason Kenny, Tom Stalba, Shane Carr, and I had a good meal at New York, New York before heading back to the track for the night.

Brian headed back to LA first thing Tuesday morning so he could get a few rehearsals in before Pomona. We finished tying things down, went over to the circle track and dumped the motorhome and filled it with fresh water. After Al and Jason did their dumping and filling, we were on the road to Pomona from Vegas.

The 5 hour drive was much more uneventful than the 47 hour one that preceded it. We got to the track at 4:45 on Tuesday afternoon, just in time to get parked before the gates closed at 5:00 PM.

Al went and got his rental car and we went to dinner out at a Sports bar in Diamond Bar. After a good meal, we went back to the track and called it a night while he went to the Airport to pick up Carol.

At Pomona, both Dad and I were running in Super Gas, since there was no Super Street there. We got three time runs in all at Pomona, two on Thursday and one on Friday morning. I think Pomona had the slowest tree that we've ever run on. I was .034, 9.986 @ 148.84 on my first run, .012, 9.871 @ 149.56 on my second run and .010 9.913 @ 149.51 on my last one in the '67 Camaro.

Dad's first run he didn't get down the track, on the second run ran 9.926 @ 167.03 and was .009 9.905 @ 167.49 on his last run to show my .023 package up by .009. Got all that?

First round I ran the yellow S-10 Truck of Mike Giordano. He'd been .065+ on the tree on both his time runs. However, against me, he was .016 to my .021, not a horrible difference, but the first time I'd been left on since I lost 6th round of Super Comp at Vegas. I had the car dialed pretty conservatively, at 9.908, in case it picked up some 60' from the time trial earlier in the day. It picked up a hundredth from earlier and it multiplied a little on the way down. On the stripe, it looked like I was getting there in front of his wheel by .002 or .003 so I left my foot in it. I guess that his truck takes the beam with the nose because he got there first my .005 and I chased him through on an identical 9.889 to 9.889 double breakout loss. If I'd looked at his nose and dumped even a thousandth, I would've won that round. Tough way to end the season, but lesson learned. To make things worse, he went back to horrible on the tree and 9.96 flat out in round two. Ouch.

Dad ran up against the Monza of Division 7 racer Lonnie Wilburn in the first round. Dad was holding .073 on the way by the tree, .015 to .088. Dad coasted by on the top end to a 9.923 at only 159 MPH. The car looked to be on a 9.905.

Friday afternoon, family friend Larry Nichols, singer in Roughed Up Folk, came out to the track to spend the weekend, along with Brian's girlfriend Katie. It was good to see both of them, and Larry seems to be a good luck charm for Ray, as every time he's come to the track, Ray's won.

Another friend showed up on Saturday morning, Curt Averett, son of one of Ray's good friends back home, Steve Averett, who was in Indy with is this year. It was really good to see and hang out with Curt, since we hadn't seen him in a good 4 or 5 years. Curt hung around for Sunday as well.

On Saturday morning, Ray was paired with the Valvoline '27 T Roadster of Jerry Denton. Dad had a hundredth advantage on the tree and hung on for a 9.913 to 9.904 holeshot win by .001.

This gave us all day to look forward to the next round, which was run after both sessions of professional qualifying done. Looking at the ladder, Ray had to run some Division 1 guy from Canada named Jason Kenny in "Smokey" the Corvette Roadster.

The match up went as billed, Ray being just .005 better on the tree. Both drivers dumped on the finish line, and Ray took the 9.924 to 9.947 win. If both had left their foots in it, Ray would've won by .002.

Because of curfew restrictions, fourth round was pushed off until Sunday afternoon. Let me set the stage. By dad making it to 4th round he had moved up to 11th place in the National Super Gas points standings. His opponent for 4th round was Hot Rod Fuller, the current #10 driver. If Dad wins the round, his bumps into the top 10 and knocks Fuller out. If Dad loses the round, that's where both drivers stay at the end of the year.

Just before 2:00 on Sunday afternoon the two squared off. The weather had changed a bunch from the day before so we were the first pair out behind the bye run so that no one could notice any trends. Fuller had an .010 advantage on the tree, but Dad had enough to get there on the top end and took the win, 9.935 to Fuller's 9.947 by .002, solidifying Ray's first ever Top 10 finish in the World Points.

We didn't have too much time to celebrate, because a little over a half hour later, Ray had to face Ken Mostwich and his Corvette Roadster. Both driver's were a little late on the tree, Ray's .057 to Ken's .040, and both ran right on the index on the top end. Ray ran 9.903, which wasn't enough to beat Ken's perfect 9.900.

We had a quick celebration at the track and then loaded stuff up, after draining the water out of the '67 Camaro and Dad's car, so that in case we got caught in cold weather, we didn't do any damage to the cars.

Because Larry's girlfriend was on her way back from the airport and didn't have a key to get into Larry and Brian's place, Larry, Brian, Katie and Mom had to take off. Mom was flying out of Burbank Airport, right around the corner from Brian on Tuesday, so she got to go see Brian's place and go out to dinner with him, Katie, Larry, and Sal.

Al, Carol, Dad and I went out to Outback down in Claremont, CA for dinner to celebrate the end of the season.

Monday morning at about 10:00 AM or so we rolled out of Pomona, CA and onto Interstate 10 to head home. We decided to go I-10 after Al was watching the weather channel and saw that there was some snow up in Flagstaff, AZ. It's kind of longer to go down through New Mexico and by the Mexico border and into Texas, but it's definitely warmer with much less snow.

On Wednesday, Al's motorhome was making some noise from the rear differential so Jason and us went ahead up to road to a Flying J for fuel and lunch while he stopped to have it checked out. After a couple hours, we headed on down the road on our own after saying bye to Jay.

Right now we're on schedule to roll in the driveway at about 4:30 PM on Friday, after 3,275 miles of driving home from Pomona.

That's all for this update. Once I have a chance to recover, I'll most likely do a season recap and fill you all in on our plans for next season.

Thanks for reading the longest update ever. Maybe next time I should break it up. But then again, what else did you have to do this weekend, or on a Monday for some of you...