Drag Week Blog 2007

(This blog was originally posted on the FE Forum in September 2007)

On the Road to Drag Week 2007, September 8, 2007

The wild thrash ended today at about 3:00 PM, and Joel and I got on the road to Cordova, to start Drag Week 2007. Here's a photo of me and Joel in front of the Mach 1, just getting ready to hit the road:

DW07 Day1

One downer this year is that my pal Steve, who rode with me during Drag Week 2005, and ran his 67 Chevelle in Drag Week 2006, isn't able to attend this year. He has his hat in the ring for a promotion at work, and they have scheduled his interview for this coming Thursday, so he had to opt out of Drag Week this year. Certainly the right decision, but disappointing for Steve, and me too. Joel and I will do our best without him.

The days leading up to today were filled with unexpected problems and solutions. Last night, for example, I took the car out for a shakedown cruise, and it seemed to be running hot. Back at the house, I found that my electric fans were working intermittently. After an hour and a half of diagnostics, I finally figured out that the socket for one of my fan relays had an intermittent connection. When the connection went out, all the power to the electric fans would try to go through the other relay, wired in parallel. The load would be too much, and after 20 seconds or so the circuit breaker on that relay would trip, shutting off the fans. Then, it would automatically reset in about a minute, and the cycle would repeat itself. So, instead of getting up and starting to pack the trailer this morning, I ran off to NAPA to get another relay wiring harness, and then replaced it on the car. On top of all the other things I had to do to get ready (make new locking bars for the trailer, set up the parachute, mount the nitrous bottle, fix the window net mounting, etc. etc.), it seemed like a small miracle that we were finally ready for the road at 3:00, even though I'd hoped to be on the road by noon.

As opposed to 2005, the trip down this year was NOT uneventful. On my way back from racing at Rock Falls two weeks ago, I'd noticed that my supercharger was whining a little more than usual. At home, I found that the rubber hose that I'd fabricated (from some radiator hoses) that is used to duct the bypass air from the bypass valve back to the supercharger inlet was partially blown off. Since the bypass valve will bypass air while running at cruise speeds, I figured that the hose being open was the source of the extra whine. I talked to my Ford engineer friend about this (he is a boosted engines specialist at Ford and has quite a bit of drag racing experience), and he told me if the hose was blowing off, I should remove it altogether. He said the reason the hose was blowing off was that it was restricting the air bleed from the valve at a high speed shutdown, and that this was good way to throw the blower belt. Since I'd broken a blower belt recently, I thought that perhaps this was the cause, so I removed the hose.

This was done during the two week thrash on the car that ended today. When I fired the engine up on Thursday evening, I noticed the blower whine was louder than I remembered it, and I attributed it to the complete lack of a hose on the bypass valve. I wasn't too concerned about the blower, because it was only four weeks old; I'd purchased it recently because the previous blower had a very small nick in one of the blades. Those blades spin at 65,000 RPM, and any imperfection has the potential to cause a fracture, and feed the blade into the engine. So, I bought a new supercharger, and decided to bring the old one with me to Drag Week as a spare.

Good thing I did that. The blower on the engine whined away all the way down into Iowa from Minneapolis. On our second stop for gas, I was surprised to see a little trail of oil on the top of the driver's side fender. I popped the hood, and sure enough it looked like the supercharger was leaking oil out the front seal! Ruh-roh...

We continued on for another 100 miles, with the blower still whining away, and then all of the sudden, with 50 miles to go to the hotel, the noise started getting much louder. I got off on the next exit, and could hardly keep the car running at the top of the ramp. The engine was vibrating so much I could feel it through the steering wheel.

We found a BP station and pulled into the side of the building under some lights. A look under the hood did not immediately reveal the problem, so we decided to remove the blower belt and spin the blower by hand. Removing the belt on my car is a non-trivial job, especially when the engine is hot, but after 20 minutes we got it off. One spin of the blower told the tale; the front bearing felt like it had gravel in it. Scratch one supercharger.

I was quite worried at that point that perhaps some of the impeller blades had broken off and found their way into the engine. However, after pulling the top off the inlet air box, it looked like the impeller was intact.

Joel and I were now faced with either replacing the blower in the parking lot of the BP, or trying to run the car down the road with the blower disconnected. On the dyno, my blower-only carb had performed very poorly when the supercharger was not hooked up; it would hardly idle at all. We decided to try running it without the belt anyway, and much to my surprise, the car ran pretty well. It puffed some black smoke on startup, but idled reasonably well, and ran down the road with no problem. The only problem I noticed was that it tended to load up a little when we finally got to the hotel, probably because it was idling for an extended period.

Needless to say, it was with a sense of relief that we drove uneventfully for the last 50 miles, and got to the hotel shortly after 10:00. We pulled in, and the first car I saw was Steve Hoch's Corvette. I'm running the Power Adder Big Block class this year; Steve ran that class last year, and ran an 8.87 at Cordova before he broke at the next track. Steve is a very nice guy, but I was kind of hoping he wouldn't show up this year, because I knew he'd be hard to beat. Oh well, there was his car...

Joel and I grabbed our bags and headed into the hotel, and bumped into Steve in the lobby. We started talking, and I told him I was going to be in his class this year. He laughed and said that actually, he was racing in the Naturally Aspirated Big Block class this year instead! I told him I was relieved that he wasn't going to be kicking my ass in BB/PA this year LOL! Apparently, Steve hit some kind of a wall with his engine, and repeated attempts to use his full nitrous hit and get into the eights consistently resulted in repeated damage to the #2 piston. So, he has sworn off the nitrous this year, and will be competing with Bill Fowler and the other BB/NA guys.

After we got checked in, we took the car to the car wash across the street from the hotel and got it cleaned up in preparation for the test and tune day tomorrow. I'll be replacing the blower at the track tomorrow, and I think I may play it safe, and run without the belt between tracks. The car ran down the road just fine this way, and if the second blower goes, all I've got is the nitrous.

I'll try to post another update tomorrow night - Jay

Drag Week 2007 Test and Tune, Cordova Drag Park, September 9 2007

It's 3:30 AM and I need sleep, so I don't have time to write much. Today's highlights:

- Got to the track, registered for DW07, swapped superchargers and discovered that the impeller on the broken blower had indeed fragged, leaving a bunch of shrapnel in the carb. The engine undoubtedly ate some.

- First pass was at 3:00 PM, and ran great until 1000', then the car died. Back in the pits found that the blower tubing had come undone, venting all boost. Car ran nice and straight, and still went 10.14 at a slowing 110 MPH.

- Reconnected the blower tubing in the pits, made another pass, ran 9.61 at 143. White smoke coming out of the back of the car on deceleration, and on the return road had no first gear in the Powerglide.

- General consensus among the racers was that I'd lost the band. Querying other Drag Week guys and some locals, we found a high performance race shop about 15 miles away. Called, and they said they could help. Drove the car there and got on their lift at 6:00. By 9:00 had the trans out, by 10:00 had it apart and found a toasted band and drum, by midnight the trans was back together with new parts, and at 2:45 Joel and I drove out of there with first gear restored.

An eventful day, and I'll try to post pics of the supercharger shrapnel and the Powerglide carnage tomorrow night - Jay

Drag Week 2007, Day 1, Cordova Drag Park, September 10, 2007

Day 1 of Drag Week 2007 is in the books, and for me so far it has been a strenuous exercise. Please allow me to backtrack to yesterday, test and tune day, to recount all the grisly details.

You may recall from my previous post that we lost the front bearing on the blower about fifty miles from Cordova on Saturday night. Joel and I had removed the belt and run the rest of the way to the hotel unsupercharged, and I had been pretty happy with how the car performed without the blower hooked up. Sunday morning we were up bright and early, ready to go to the test and tune, swap in the spare blower, and make some passes.

We drove the 10 miles or so to the track from our hotel, and arrived about 8:00. After registration for the event, I got busy tearing the damaged supercharger out of the car in order to replace it. But when I pulled the air cleaner assembly and hat off the carb, I got a very nasty surprise:

DW07 Day2 001

That little hunk of aluminum in the booster venturi is NOT supposed to be there. It was obviously a piece of the supercharger's impeller. Next I looked straight down the throat of the carb, and was shocked to see a whole bunch more of the stuff sitting on top of the secondary throttle plates. Lucky I kept my foot out of it for the last 50 miles to Cordova! Here's a photo of the shrapnel I poured out of the carb when I removed it from the engine:

DW07 Day2 003

It was indisputable now that the engine had ingested a large volume of shrapel. Yet, it appeared to be running just fine. I decided that I'd better do a thorough check of the motor, so I pulled all the plugs and the valve covers, and took my time examining the inside of the intake manifold. The intake was clean, and the valvetrain looked fine, with all the last adjustments just as I'd previously set them. The only indication of any problem was with the #4 plug, whose gap had closed up from .035 to about .020.

Back at the BP station on Saturday night, after pulling the blower belt I had removed the top of the supercharger's inlet box to take a look at the impeller blades. Everything had looked fine. When I pulled the blower now, I saw the problem. The Vortech V7-YSi blower has two sets of impeller blades, in a double row configuration. With the blower laying on the ground, it was clear that while the outside row was undamaged, the inside row was chopped up pretty good. The impeller blades on the outside row were the only ones I could see by looking into the top of the inlet box when the blower was on the car.

Feeling like I'd dodged a bullet, I replaced the blower with my undamaged older unit, and reassembled the car. When I started it up, everything seemed fine, and the new blower was very quiet as compared with the previous one. By this time it was around noon, and I finally was able to get into the tech line. The deadline for getting through tech to qualify for Drag Week was 2:00 PM on Sunday, so I'd made it with a couple of hours to spare.

Preparing for tech, I had a temporary NHRA drivers license since I hadn't received my permanent one in the mail yet. The chute was on the car, I'd changed the window net mounting location and also the submarine strap mounting location per instructions from the tech guy at Rock Falls two weeks ago. I'd never gone through tech with the car in this configuration before, and with just a temporary NHRA license I was afraid that the tech people might flag me for something that I'd done wrong on the chute or whatever. As it turned out, when the tech guy showed up he hardly looked at anything, not even my NHRA license! He just took a quick look at the car, checked my helmet and belt dates, and wrote 8.50 on the tech card. That number was important, because Hot Rod won't accept any times faster than the lowest ET shown on the tech card from Cordova.

From tech we went to the Hot Rod check in, where they did their own "street legal" tech. Here they were going to check for headlights, brake lights, turn signals, horn, and wipers. While waiting in line I snapped this photo of a nice 63 Galaxie and my car together:

DW07 Day2 005

Unfortunately the Gal didn't have an FE, but it did have a 514" 385 series engine in it, and from what the owner said it ran pretty good, mid 11s I think.

After waiting in line for an hour, I finally got through the Hot Rod tech. I got a chance to talk a little with David Freiburger while he was checking over my car. Joel knows David as well, from his involvement with the F.A.S.T. class, so it was fun for all of us to get caught up.

By now it was after 1:00, and the test and tune was underway, so back in the pits I got ready to make a pass with the car. This was going to be the acid test; did I really do any damage with the blower explosion? How would the car run? What affect would the change to the 3.50 gears have? How would my A/F be after jetting the carb down?

Only one way to find out, so I went up for a pass. The line wasn't too long, and before I pulled into the burnout box I made sure that my LM-1 was recording so that I got good A/F data. Immediately upon launching the car, I knew that going to the 3.50 gears had been the right choice. The car still spun on the line, but much less than it ever had before, and more importantly it stayed straight. As it turned out my 60' time for this run was about 1.54. Down the track I ran it to the 6200 RPM shift point, did my 1-2 shift and held my breath. Previously the car had tended to break the tires loose on this shift; not anymore. The car shifted clean and stayed straight, and I knew I was in the middle of a good pass. Then, at about 1000 feet - the car just quit pulling. It felt like I'd run out of fuel or something! I backed out of the throttle and coasted past the finish line. On the return road the car acted normally, and the slip said 10.14 @ 110 MPH. I pulled into the pits wondering what could have gone wrong. When I popped the hood, I was relieved to see that the blower duct tubing had come loose. Apparently I had forgotten to tighten one of the band clamps on the rubber coupling hose going into the hat. No wonder the car quit pulling.

I tightened up the clamp and let the car cool. I downloaded the log from my LM-1, but the data didn't make any sense. It didn't even appear that the pass was recorded properly, so I didn't get any A/F information. That was disappointing; I had really wanted to monitor that. I cleared the LM-1 memory, figuring I would just have to try again.

It was about 3:00 when I strapped back into the car to try again. This time, the leave was even better, and I ran a 1.51 60'. The car shifted clean and stayed hooked at the shift, and I was able to stay in it all the way to the finish line. I was very pleased with the pass, and couldn't wait to see the time slip. But, on the return road, when I went to put the car in first, I had no movement. What now?? I put it in second, and second seemed to be fine, so I rolled up to the shack to get my slip. 9.61 at 143 MPH! That was more like it. But what was the deal with the transmission?

Back in the pits, I pulled the transmission dipstick and smelled the fluid. Sure enough, it was burned. This was NOT good news. I don't know my way around automatic transmissions at all, and the fact that the fluid was burned meant that it probably wasn't something simple like linkage. After the blower carnage I'd already had to deal with, this was really getting me down. I began to wonder whether I would have to withdraw from the race. If that transmission had to come out of the car, I was certain that there was no way to get it fixed in time.

Some of the Drag Week regulars that I've gotten to know from previous years came by to help out. Bill Fowler, Brian Rock, Chad Reynolds, Steve Hoch, and several others offered assistance. The general consensus was that the Powerglide had burned up the band, because reverse and second were working fine. We went to see the TCI guy in the Comp Cams trailer, and he confirmed the diagnosis. The trans would have to come out to be fixed.

At this point I was considering either trailering the car back to Minneapolis, or trying to drive it all the way home in second gear and second overdrive. Some of the Drag Week guys were trying to pick me up, offering to help with the work on the transmission and to get it apart and fix it once it was on the ground, but I had no spare parts for it (and neither did the TCI guy), and getting the transmission out of the car involves removing some header tubes and the collectors, among other nasty jobs. One of the guys told Joel that the tower had the number of a local shop that might be able to help, so Joel went off to check on that. Chad Reynolds thought that maybe if we tightened up the band and changed the fluid that I might be able to limp through the week, so he and I crawled under the car to look for the adjustment. Unfortunately, we couldn't even see it, with the exhaust and the neutral safety switch in the way.

We had just crawled out from under the car when Joel returned with some startling news. He had gotten in contact with the local shop, an outfit called Layne Automotive and Speed, in Fulton IL (For you guys who asked, I'll post more details on this shop later). They were located about ten miles from the track. He had spoken with Anthony Layne there. Anthony said to bring the car out; he had all the high performance Powerglide parts in stock, and if we helped he could fix the car that night!

Boy, what a stroke of luck to run into that outfit! The guys all helped me throw the pit stuff in the trailer, and we parked the trailer on the grounds at Cordova. Joel and I headed for Layne Automotive. When we got there, I was pretty impressed. Two other Drag Week cars were already there in two of the bays, and there was a dragster in a third bay and a local race car in a fourth! Obviously I'd come to the right place.

We met Anthony and he was in the middle of eating dinner, walking around the shop with a plate in his hand. He said that as soon as he was done, he'd pull out a nice old GTX that was in one of the bays, and we could pull the Mach 1 in and get to work. While we were waiting I downloaded the LM-1 log. I still wasn't getting good data, but I found the problem; it was a loose connector, and so the A/F results were intermittent. From what I could tell, the car was running pretty lean on the last pass, around 13 – 14 to 1. I decided that if I got the car fixed and I was going to make a pass or two on Monday, I'd jet up and see what happened.

After a fifteen minute wait, we pulled the Mach 1 into the bay, put it up on the lift, and got to work. Anthony was spreading his time between several other jobs going on in the shop, so Joel and I started pulling the car apart. Another local racer named Rich stopped by; apparently all the guys in Anthony's shop are Chevy guys, but Rich is a Ford guy so he was particularly interested in my car. He runs a 79 Mercury Zephyr at the track, and I think he said it was a 385 series engine with a Powerglide in it. He told us that Anthony works on a lot of racing Powerglides, so this boosted my confidence quite a bit. Layne Automotive and Speed sponsors Rich's car, so he stops over to help out when they are really busy sometimes, and after a while he offered to go home and change, and come back to help work on my car!

By nine o'clock, with Rich's help, we had the transmission out of the car and began to tear it down. This turned out to be an arduous process, because of the adapter used to mate the FE bellhousing to the Powerglide. The bolts in the adapter had to be heated with a torch to dissolve the red Loctite holding them in place before they would come out. They were allen head bolts, and the allen head wrench broke off in one of the bolts that was particularly tight, causing more trouble. I put in several calls to BradFORD from the shop, because he'd been the last one working on the transmission and he knew the ins and outs of the adapter system. Finally the adapter came free, and the transmission came apart. Sure enough, the band was toast, but so was the drum that it clamps around; the drum was all scored up. I figured I was done, but Anthony said he had a drum there, so everything was OK.

Anthony went completely through the transmission, putting it back together with the new parts. After checking everything, the best guess for the cause of the failure was that the band adjustment had been too tight. I had never touched the band adjustment, and neither had BradFORD when he had worked on it, so I have a bone to pick with Performance Automatics over that one. But, in any case, the trans was finally back together and ready to go back in the car at midnight. Here's a photo of the shop at Layne Automotive, with the Mach 1 on the lift, the trans on the bench in the background, and the other cars in the shop:

DW07 Day2 010

Re-assembly seemed to go pretty fast, but it was still 2:30 AM before we filled the transmission with fluid, and started the car to warm it up. After topping off the fluid, we went for a test drive and everything seemed OK. At 3:00 AM I settled up with Anthony for what I thought was a very fair price, and Joel and I headed for the hotel after an exhausting day.

The alarm on Monday morning went off too early! There was a mandatory driver's meeting at the track at 9:00 that we had to be there for, so we checked out of the hotel at about 8:15 and drove to the track. The driver's meeting was kind of fun; I was one of about 25 guys who got a Drag Week "Repeat Offender" T-shirt, for making the event all three years. Freiburger also announced the number of cars in each class, and it turned out that there were four cars in my class. The heavy hitter looked to be a 70 or 71 Chevelle with a big block and nitrous; the guy said it was a "bottom 9" car, and I knew I would have some trouble competing with that. Freiburger went over the rules of the event, and then turned us loose to race.

I was not in a big hurry to get down the track, so I decided to take my time getting the car ready. I pulled the carb and jetted up one size in the front and back, and did a thorough check out of the car. Finally satisfied that everything was OK, I went out for my first pass around 11:00 AM. The weather looked threatening off to the west by this time, and I didn't want to wait any longer.

The burnout and launch felt pretty good, and Joel said I lifted the driver's side front tire at the launch. The car went nice and straight, but at the 1000 foot point or so suddenly the shaker scoop popped up! I backed out of the throttle for an instant, but then got back on it anyway, because I didn't think the scoop was going anywhere, but nevertheless it was kind of a surprise. The pass was a 9.63 at 140 MPH, so I put that one in my wallet for safekeeping, and back in the pits I downloaded the A/F numbers. The data looked good finally, and the A/F looked like 12.3:1 to 12.5:1, which is still kind of lean for a supercharged motor.

Looking at the scoop situation, I found the problem pretty quickly. The shaker scoop has three attachment bolts, two in the back and one in the front. In order to save my stock shaker assembly, I had replaced the aircleaner top that the shaker bolts to with an aftermarket fiberglass reproduction. The front bolt had just pulled through the fiberglass, allowing the front of the scoop to lift. I stuck a fender washer on the bolt, and went out for another pass.

This time I didn't have any trouble with the scoop, and the leave was pretty good, with a 1.47 short time. However, at 1000 feet again the engine popped or backfired for some reason, then continued running normally, I went 9.65 at 141.5 MPH. Maybe the engine did the same thing on the previous pass, and that contributed to the scoop coming up??

The weather was now beginning to look rather threatening, so instead of trying to make another pass, Joel and I got packed up and ready to go. I pulled the blower belt off the engine to minimize wear and tear, and prevent another blower catastrophe likeI'd experienced earlier. I turned in my 9.63 time slip at the tower, and found out that the guy in the white Chevelle in my class had gone 8.58!! Also found out that one of the other guys in my class had changed to naturally aspirated, so we were down to three. The third guy is one of the original Drag Week crowd, and he's running a Caprice with nitrous, I think, but only going 11.60 or something. So, at this point I'm firmly entrenched in second place, with little hope of catching the Chevelle unless he breaks or hurts the motor or something.

Joel and I got on the road at about 2:00, saying goodby to several guys who had come to wish us well, including Bob Hasty and Tommy Aebly. It was starting to rain at this point, but it was only 185 miles to the next track, so I figured we could make it by 5:30 or so. Driving along through some fairly scenic roads, I was reminded of how much I love to drive this car cross country. Sure it's loud, and it smells like exhaust, but the view over the shaker hood is always a thrill, and with the FE burbling along happily under the flat black hood, cruising down the road is just a joy. At the end of the week I'll have had my fill of this for a while, but for now, the ride between tracks is just as much fun as the track time itself.

Towards the end of the drive, we hit a lot of congested roads, many with lower speed limits, and rush hour traffic in Rockford IL, so by the time we ran past the track and made it to the hotel it was 7:30. The car behaved beautifully through it all, so with luck the problems of Saturday and Sunday are behind me for good. Here's the photo at the checkpoint for the first leg:

DW07 Day1 check

After arriving at the hotel, Joel and I grabbed dinner at a local restaurant, and after that the sleep deprivation from the previous night hit us and we crashed by 10:30. Naturally, I was up at 5:00 this morning, wide awake, which is why I'm writing and posting this now. Today I plan to jet up again, and will probably lose some MPH in the process, but I'll feel safer with A/F in the 11.5 – 12 range. Then I'm going to add in some timing and maybe use my boost cooler to see if I can improve the times. My strategy at this point it to "test and tune" the car each day, trying to improve the times as I go through the week. If the Chevelle breaks, maybe I'll win, but I'm not counting on it because the car looked pretty solid. So, I'll just keep trying to better my times from track to track. If everything goes well today, tomorrow I'll start with a little nitrous…

Drag Week 2007, Day 2, Great Lakes Dragaway, September 11, 2007

Great day today at Drag Week, highlighted by a certain amount of drama in my class. My chances have improved as a result, and it will make Wednesday's race at Wisconsin International Raceway very interesting indeed.

After finally getting a good nights sleep last night, Joel and I headed for Great Lakes Dragaway this morning around 8:15. Freiburger had mentioned at the driver's meeting that the track would not open at 8:00, and when we arrived, sure enough there was a line of Drag Week cars at the gates, waiting to be let in. They started going through the gate at around 8:45, but we were nearly last in line, so we didn't get into the track until after 9:00. In the lanes before the track opened I got a chance to talk to the guy in the Chevelle who was leading the class. He turned out to be a very nice guy, very energetic, fun to talk to and very knowledgeable. I think he's from Rockford IL, and has raced at Great Lakes many times before, so I asked him about the track. He said to be careful of the shut down area, because it was kind of short. We wished each other luck and headed through the gates.

Once inside, I found a pit space and got out of the car to start getting ready. Right away, a familiar face came up - it was Matt King, formerly of Hot Rod! Matt had ridden with me in the Mach 1 during DW05, from National Trail to Martin, Michigan. It was great to see him again, and we spent a few minutes getting caught up. Matt left the magazine a while back, and is now working for Harley Davidson in Milwaukee, so it was a pretty quick trip for him to come down to the track. Over the next hour or so a bunch of FE Forum members came by and introduced themselves, and it was great to meet those guys as well.

I wasn't in a big hurry to get the car on the track, so I tried to be very deliberate in my preparations today. Joel and I checked the car over pretty thorougly, checking suspension bolts and mounts among other things. I also pulled the carb and jetted up from yesterdays numbers, by 1 jet size in both the primaries and secondaries. I was trying to get the A/F numbers down into the sub 12 range; I had been at 12.5 on Day 1 in Cordova. After an hour or so of fussing with the car, I was ready for tech and to make a pass.

As I pulled up to the staging lanes, I found that the track has kind of an odd uphill burnout box, but it didn't pose any problems. Joel was up there ready to take some pictures of the car on the launch, and Rob Kinnan from Hot Rod was also there snapping photos. I did a long burnout, which has seemed to work best for me with these tires, and then pulled to the line for the launch.

When the lights came down the car felt very strong off the line, and I was duly impressed with the hook of the track. I stayed in first a little after the shift light flashed at 6200, and then shifted to second but still hit the shift light RPM long before the traps. No popping or backfiring on this run. I was ready for the shut down and laid on the brakes right after the finish line. The guy in the Chevelle had been right; it was very short, and the last few hundred feet were downhill, so that was a little scary. But, I got the car stopped all right, made the turn at the end of the track and went back up the pit road to pick up my slip.

On the pit road, I thought I heard the car making a funny noise. Please bear in mind that after the supercharger and transmission troubles I've had, I am now officially paranoid about something else going wrong. Yesterday on the road from the track, I had begun to hear a knocking sound from the right side of the engine compartment. Joel couldn't hear it, but I could, or at least I thought I could. I figured that it might be an exhaust leak, because when we'd done the trans replacement on Sunday night we'd removed the two back header tubes, and on reassembly there had been no sensor safe high temp RTV available, so I had just clamped the tubes on the heads. I don't use header gaskets on this car for space reasons, so the back two tubes were potentially leaking.

Now on the return road, I heard a different noise, tinnier and higher pitched. I listened very carefully as I drove slowly back on the return road, but with my helmet on it was difficult to hear very well. At the shack I got my time slip, and didn't even look at it. I took my helmet off and drove back to the pits, listening carefully, but now the noise was gone. I sat with the engine running back in the pits for several seconds, listening for it to return, but heard nothing. I shut the engine off as Joel and several other people gathered around the car, with big smiles on their faces. The slip! I finally looked at it. 1.46 sixty foot, 117 MPH in the eighth, and a 9.44 at 146 in the quarter mile! Wow, I was not expecting that! I got out of the car and Joel said he had a photo of the car doing a wheelie at the starting line. Funny that the launch hadn't really felt any different than the several previous launches, but sure enough, the car pulled the front wheels:

DW07 wheelie

I asked Joel if he had heard any funny noises when I pulled back into the pits, and he said no. Later I figured out that what I'd heard was probably the noise from the open headers reflecting off the stands or wall along the track as I drove down the return road. But I was still a little spooked by the whole thing.

Next, Jack Miller came up with some very interesting news. Jack, by the way, ran an 8.51 today, which I think will put him in first place in the Power Adder Pro Street class after today. Jack told me that the guy in the Chevelle had just made a pass, and had some kind of major problem. The car coasted to a 12 second ET, and they had called for a tow vehicle to get the car back to the pits.

A network of spies that I didn't even know I had immediately formed up to assess the damage to the Chevelle. Fifteen minutes later word came back that the car was up on jackstands in the pits, and the driver and passenger were working furiously to pull the transmission out of the car. Apparently he had blown the Turbo 400, and was going to try to get a replacement. It was about 10:30 in the morning, and the track was staying open until 2:30 that afternoon, to compensate for the late start.

Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of being in first place by default! Given the problems I'd had with the car earlier in the week, I wasn't sure that I wanted to even run it any more today. Why risk breaking it if the lead car was hurt? But it was definitely not certain that the Chevelle would not run again that day; the transmission had come out of the car in only a half hour, so if he was able to get another trans by 1:00 or so, I figured he could be running again. I decided to think it over for a while.

In the meantime I downloaded the LM-1 log, and found that my A/F was still sitting at about 12.5:1! After thinking about this for a few minutes, I concluded that it was weather related. After the rain last night, a high pressure system had moved in, but the temperatures at the track were still very cool, probably below 60 when I made my pass. So, even though I jetted up, with the cooler dense air the A/F remained about the same. We are expecting the same kind of weather tomorrow at WIR, so I made a note to myself to jet up again prior to any more runs today, or tomorrow.

I decided to grab lunch at the track concession stand, and watch the racing for awhile. Nothing was happening at the moment with the Chevelle, and I hadn't decided yet whether to make another pass. I saw a bunch of cars go down the track, including the black first generation Camaro that is the overall leader, in the unlimited class. He ran a 7.64! Saw lots of daily driver cars run, along with a Buick that had blown the head gasket, and came to the line with one head OFF the car, just so he could roll through the green light to stay in the race. He will get an automatic 20 second mark for that "pass", but he gets the chance to fix his car and race again tomorrow.

On the way back from the stands, I ran into the Chevelle guy. He was talking to the people in the ticket shack. Apparently, when he'd had his car towed back from the end of the track they'd gone right by the ticket shack without stopping, and now the people in the shack had lost his time slip! It was looking like he wouldn't even get to take his 12 second slip, and would have to settle for one of the 20 second slips given for an incomplete run. He told me he was pretty discouraged, and sounded like he'd given up. I offered him some encouragement, and he headed back to his pits. A few minutes later he came by and shook my hand, sounding like he'd given up for sure. I began to think that maybe I'd be in first place after today as a result.

Back at my car, I tried to decide whether to run again. The 12.5:1 A/F number had kind of screwed up my plans. I had originally planned to run some timing experiments after I'd confirmed that the jet change had reduced the A/F ratio. Since it hadn't, I was going to have to jet up if I wanted to run again, and confirm that the A/F was correct before adding timing. I definitely did not want to add any timing to the car until I had the air fuel ratio correct.

After thinking this through, I realized that this would mean at least three more passes if I were to be successful with the timing: one pass to check for A/F, one pass to add a little timing and look for changes in MPH, and a third pass to add the boost cooler, and compare that with the change to the timing alone. I decided that I didn't want to run three more passes today, so I turned in my time slip and got directions to the next track.

Before I started packing up the car, I decided to walk over to see how Steve Hoch in the Corvette was doing. He was getting packed up himself, and said he'd run another 9.90 pass today. He was in first place in the NA/BB class. He told me that the guy in the Chevelle had come to him looking for transmission parts, and that he'd told him, "Hell, if I break the transmission, I'm going home! I didn't bring any spares." We both had a good laugh over that.

Steve's pit was right across the street from the Chevelle guy's pit, and as I stood there watching at 1:15, a pickup backed up to the Chevelle, and out of the box came another transmission! The Chevelle guy had found a transmission, and instantly he and three other guys were thrashing away under the car, trying to get it installed. I figured for sure they would make it, given how fast they got the other one out. I headed back to my pit area to get the Mach 1 ready for the road. Joel was there and we watched the Chevelle's pit area as we changed tires, put on the header caps, pulled the blower belt, and added the air cleaner. Just about 2:00, the Chevelle came off the jack stands, and a couple of minutes later it rolled into the staging lanes. We all left the work on the Mach 1 and went up to the stands to watch.

The car did a strong burnout, but when it launched it only got about 20 feet before it popped and hesitated. Then it lurched and went forward again, trailing white smoke behind it, but it wasn't running as strong as it had been. Through the lights it went, recording a 10.012 ET. That was good enough to maintain first place in the class, but not by much. My two day average now stands at about 9.53, and the Chevelle's two day average is now 9.35.

On the way back to the Mach 1, the Chevelle guy ran by, saying he'd blown the other transmission too, and that he had a long night ahead of him. Kind of sounded like he was going to go back home and put another transmission in the car. I wished him luck, and I hope he's back tomorrow. I just hope he's not running 8.60s again LOL!

Joel and I finished up getting the car ready to go and hooking on the trailer, then I started the car and we spent some time listening to the engine. The noise I heard on the return road was not there, but the funny knocking sound I'd heard on the road yesterday had returned, and with the hood up and his head under the hood, Joel could hear it now too. We weren't sure what it was, but it could certainly be an exhaust leak, or maybe a rattle of a header pipe hitting a chassis component, or it could even be a rod knock (gulp!). In any case, sitting still worrying about it wouldn't do any good, so off down the road we went.

The route this time had two checkpoints, and took us through some very nice scenic Wisconsin countryside. The directions from Hot Rod this year are slightly better than the first two years, but there are still typos and mistakes in the directions that add confusion and could potentially make you miss turns or exits. Joel and I have made a few wrong turns, but we are working through the routes as best we can. The two checkpoints are shown in the photos below:

DW07 Day2 Check1 DW07 Day2 Check2

A funeral home! Tonya Turck from the Hot Rod staff told me not to "stay too long" at the funeral home stop LOL! On the road we encountered Denny Terczich, who is leading the unlimited class in the black Camaro, changing a flat M/T ET street tire at the side of the road. We stopped and offered to help, but he said he had the situation under control, so we went along our way. We ran across Jack Miller in his 68 Mustang a few times during the drive, and of course several other Drag Week competitors, and finally pulled into the WIR track at around 6:00. From there we went on to the hotel.

The strange knocking sound that I'd heard on the drive yesterday was still there again on the drive today, but it hadn't changed any. I'd been watching my oil pressure gauge like a hawk, and it had absolutely not changed in any way over the last 350 miles and the 9.44 pass. At the hotel, we decided to change the oil in the car, just so that we could have a look at it. Royce B. from the FE forum met us at the hotel, and we asked him to run off and find us a covered drain pan so that we could drain the oil and save it for a safe disposal at the track. Royce had been at the track today, and was also planning to be there tomorrow at WIR.

In the parking lot of the hotel there was a storm sewer drain at one end of our parking space; Joel suggested we just pull the front end of the car over the grate and drain the oil into there LOL! I told him that if we tried that, I'd just drop the freaking drain plug into the storm drain, and then we'd really be up the crick. Royce had gone off to find a drain pan, and I decided to use the waiting time to jet the carb up one size on both ends. Just as I was finishing, Royce came back with the pan, so we changed the oil and filter. The oil looked just fine. Given the stability of the oil pressure readings and the look of the oil, I feel pretty confident that the knocking sound we are hearing is either exhaust or a mechanical interference between one of the header pipes and the chassis, neither of which concerns me too much at this point.

Royce took Joel and I to dinner after that, at the local steak house. Joel didn't know that Royce was going to buy, and ordered two shrimp appetizers just for himself, in addition to dinner! So we got to give him a hard time about being an upper crust Hemi guy. Yesterday when it was raining, Joel whipped out one of those fold up umbrellas for the 30 foot walk from the car into the Advance Auto store, so I called him Mary Poppins. We've been having a pretty good time picking on each other this week.

In any case, we'll be up early to hit the track tomorrow, and see what the day brings. I try to post another update tomorrow night - Jay

Drag Week 2007, Day 3, Wisconsin International Raceway, September 12, 2007

Day 3 of Drag Week 2007 is in the books, and it was an interesting affair. Joel and I were up early, hoping to get to the track and get in some runs in a timely manner. We left the hotel around 7:45 for the quick trip to the track, but about halfway there, sitting at a stop light, I started to see some smoke coming out from under the right side of the car. Uh-oh... I ducked into the BP station at the intersection, and got out of the car to find a puddle of transmission fluid under the right front fender. The brand new transmission cooler had sprung a leak! This was the second time in the last three weeks that this had happened! I resigned myself to my fate, and began to disconnect the cooler so I could bypass it. Joel went into the BP station to get some ATF to replace what had leaked out. It was a 20 minute delay, and then we were on our way, but now I had to figure out a way to replace the cooler before the drive later today, because I didn't dare do any extensive driving without a cooler in place.

We rolled into Wisconsin International Raceway around 8:30, and stopped at the tech shack on the way in. They asked if the car had been teched at the previous tracks. I said yes, so they just waved me through. So far tech has not been a big deal at Drag Week. We found a spot to pit in the middle of the infield, and getting out of the car I saw my competitor's Chevelle down a few cars. Apparently he had made it to the track. I talked to him a little later, and he said he got in the hotel at four in the morning. Of course, I'd done the same thing a few days earlier, so he didn't get any sympathy from me LOL! We had both heard that the track was a little bumpy, so the question of how the cars would hook was a big concern, and we discussed that for a while. Finally I wished him luck, and headed back to the car to start getting ready to race.

First thing I did was remove the leaky trans cooler, because I didn't want it oiling up the track. Here's a picture of the offending device:

DW07 leaker

It was leaking in the same spot as the other one, near the bottom of side tank. Later today I heard some transmission line pressure numbers of 240 psi in racing transmissions like my Powerglide, and the cooler is only rated for 300 psi, so maybe I'm just overtaxing this cooler. But I had two smaller ones, of the same brand, on the car for over a year with no problems, so I'm thinking that maybe they had some kind of production problem resulting in the two leakers that I've had recently. In any case, I'll address this after Drag Week.

Joel and I continued to get the car ready to go, when Jack Miller stopped over. He asked if I had any spare T&D rockers; apparently he had broken one the night before! I was really surprised to hear this, because they are generally considered to be one of the best rockers out there for the FE. Fortunately I did have some spares, and I dug a couple out for Jack. Then I took a photo of his broken rocker arm:

DW07 T&D Broke

Finally I was about ready to make a pass. Joel was going to go up to watch a few races in the stands, and then come down to the staging lanes when I got there, to clue me in on which lane was hooking the best. Several FE forum members were in attendance, including Royce Brechler, who had also been to the track on Tuesday. As I was starting to get suited up, one of the guys there, Cody, pointed out some dripping ATF under the bottom of the right front fender. I crawled underneath to wipe it off with a paper towel, and discovered that the cooler had leaked transmission fluid onto the right side brake! On the way into the track I'd noticed a slight pull to the left when I had applied the brakes. Now I knew why, and I sure didn't want to run with a slippery brake, so I got busy cleaning up the rest of the fluid under the car, then pulling the wheel and dousing the rotor, caliper, and pads with a can of Brakleen. After I had them cleaned up to my satisfaction, I also cleaned up inside the wheel.

While this was going on, I heard the Chevelle make its way to the staging lanes. I was watching the scoreboard from the pits when he made his pass, and he ran a 9.01. I doubted that I would go that fast, but my plan for the day was to try the nitrous for the first time, so I figured that if I could run another 9.40 to start, with the nitrous on the second pass I might be able to hold my own against that time. Joel came back from the stands and said that although the right lane had a nastier dip in it than the left lane, he thought that there was less wheelspin going on in that lane, so he suggested I run in the right. I strapped into the car and drove off onto the pit roads. On the way to the staging lanes, I tried the brakes a few times, and the car seemed to stop pretty straight, so I figured that I'd fixed the brake pull problem.

Up in the lanes I lined up against Matt Zampino and his 70 El Camino. We sat there for ten minutes while a bunch of the daily driver cars went, and then they called us. I did the customary large burnout, and then launched on the green. The car seemed to hook pretty well at first, but 30 feet out it seemed to start losing traction, and I was steering the car down the track to keep it straight, bouncing up and down because of the track's uneven surface. At the top end I felt like the run had been pretty good, but when I crossed the finish line things started to unravel. As soon as I hit the brakes, the rear of the car started to come around on the left side! I steered into the skid, and drifted into the left lane; fortunately Matt's car is a 12 second car, so I was way ahead of him when that happened. I eased off the brakes and got the car pointed straight again, and then used up all of the shutdown area, including a short uphill section, to get the car stopped.

On the way back to the timing shack to get my slip, I decided that one pass was enough at this track! Traction had been marginal, and I had no idea what had caused that little skid after the finish line, but in any case I wasn't going to take any chances with another run. Later in the afternoon, after watching a bunch of other cars go, I noticed that nearly all the fast cars were running in the left lane, so maybe the right lane was just slippery or something. But, in any case, I was done racing for the day.

The time slip came as a complete surprise. I was figuring a 9.50 something, but the car went 9.32 at 147 MPH! Sixty foot time was the best ever at 1.449, and for the first time I dipped into the fives for the eighth mile, with a 5.997 at 118 MPH. The only performance change I'd made to the car was to jet up one number in both halves of the carb. The LM-1 data showed that even with this change, the A/F numbers were still in the 12.3 – 12.4 range, so if the weather at Cedar Falls is similar to how it has been in Wisconsin, I may jet up again for tomorrow's race.

Back in the pits, I began to start thinking about how I would solve the transmission cooling problem. Cody was a big help, locating a race shop about a mile away from the track that had a B&M style transmission cooler. After we got packed up and ready to go, we followed him to the place, where I purchased the cooler. The store owner also gave us directions to a shop with fittings to adapt the cooler to the AN fittings in my car, so again Cody led us over there where I purchased the fittings. Then it was back to the track to install the cooler. Most of the racers were gone now, but Jack Miller and his friend Eugene were still there, working on their cars. Eugene had had a power steering hose let go, so he had gone out to get a replacement, and returned to install it on the car. Jack had the plugs out of his car and was doing a compression check. Apparently the engine wasn't acting right, and Jack thought that it might be the computer, but he wanted to rule out any physical damage with the compression check. He also told me that he'd broken a second rocker arm! I was really surprised to hear that, but the T&Ds are aluminum rockers, and Jack has had them for a few years, so its possible that they are starting to fatigue and fail at this point. Jack told me that he has ordered another set of the rockers for delivery to the track tomorrow.

Joel and I got busy installing the oil cooler. We Mickey-Moused the mounting system with some tie wraps, since the mounts for the old cooler wouldn't work. But the lines and fittings went together perfectly, and we had no leaks. After checking with Jack and Eugene to make sure they didn't need any assistance, we took off on the route to Dubuque, Iowa. Just as we were leaving, Jack announced that the compression in all cylinders looked good, so I'll expect to see him at the track tomorrow.

It took us about four hours to drive the route to Dubuque. We ended up going through downtown Madison Wisconsin, and then into Iowa via a very scenic highway. It was beautiful country. Hot Rod had picked out two checkpoints for us along the way:

DW07 Day3 Check1 DW07 Day3 Check2

A cow fountain? How bizarre. As we were leaving the cow fountain check point, the white Chevelle showed up, and I got his picture:

DW07 Chevelle

We rolled into our hotel around 8:00 and had dinner at a local restaurant. We have to be up early, because we still have about a two hour drive in front of us to Cedar Falls tomorrow, and the track opens at 9:00. Tomorrow could be a big day, because the track at Cedar Falls is very good, and I'm looking forward to trying out the nitrous. More tomorrow night – Jay

Drag Week 2007, Day 4, Cedar Falls Raceway, September 13 2007

Joel and I were up early this morning, heading out for the 130 mile trip to Cedar Falls Raceway. On the way out of town we stopped to get gas, and also to wash the car, because on the return road of WIR I had run slightly off the pavement into a mud puddle, and the driver's side of the car was covered with mud. After the wash, we ran down the road for 60 miles or so to the third checkpoint on this leg (the other two had been last night). Here's a photo:

DW07 Day3 Check3

The remaining miles to CFR passed uneventfully, but the cruise through the Iowa farm country was beautiful, with the exception of the pig farm we passed. The smell practically made your eyes water! How people can be pig farmers is beyond me.

We made it into the track at around 9:15, and were surprised that most of the competitors were already there. The track was scheduled to start running at 10:00 and end at 3:00, so I felt like we had plenty of time. As a result, and because I was going to test out the nitrous today, I decided to take a little extra time preparing the car, to pull the valve covers and check the lash, and also to pull all the plugs and check and regap them if necessary. We rolled into the pit area and found that there was a small group of people that rushed out in front of us and bowed down, paying homage to the Mach 1! Turned out that it was my friend BradFORD, my Y-block pal JC, and several others that I know who had come to watch the race.

Joel and I started getting the car ready. While he worked on the tires, interior, and headers, I worked on getting the top end of the engine apart so that we could check things out. After about an hour everything was opened up. The valve lash settings all looked pretty good, and the plugs looked good too, although I decided to replace one of them because the electrode was getting a little worn.

Looking around, we noticed that the white Chevelle hadn't arrived yet. I figured he would make it, but everyone else thought he might have broken down. About half an hour later there he was, rolling into the pits and getting ready to race.

As I was buttoning up the top end of the FE, Joel suggested that he take a quick look under the car. I thought that was a good idea, and asked him to wiggle the U-joints to check them for any slop.

A moment later, from under the car, I heard an "Uh-oh". Crap, what now?? Joel said, "You've got a broken shock mount!" I crawled under the car and sure enough, the Cal-Trak plate shock mounting ear on the driver's side of the car was broken clean off, and the shock was just hanging there. Further inspection revealed that the aluminum 3/4" lowering block on that side of the car had actually split in two across the center hole that lines up with the stud through the middle of the leaf spring, and the front half of the lowering block was gone! The spring perch was supported only from the middle to the rear end, the whole front end of the spring perch was hanging out in the air!

Well, now we had a real problem. It was already 11:00, and I had to find a way to get this fixed in a hurry. I decided to finish up the work under the hood while Joel took the lower plate under the leaf spring off, along with what was left of the lowering block. Joel finished first, and ran off to find some people at the track who might know of a nearby welding or fabrication shop. A couple of the other guys also went off to see what they could find out. Joel was back in 15 minutes with the good news that four miles down the road in Janesville, there was a welding shop right on the main street. I was just finishing up the air cleaner installation, and only had the shaker scoop to go, and just at that moment my old Drag Week friend Paul showed up. Paul has been at all three Drag Week events, and runs a purple late model Mustang Cobra. This year he supercharged it for Drag Week, and is running in the daily driver class. He asked what was going on, and I told him about my shock mount problems. He offered to give me a lift down to the welding shop, which was a big deal, because I can accept help from other Drag Week competitors, but not from my friends who show up at the track to watch. I grabbed the pieces and after mentioning to Joel to keep an eye on the Chevelle, Paul and I headed for his car.

We found the welding shop easily, and walked in there about five minutes before noon. The welder was fixing to leave for lunch, but he agreed to stick around and help me out. He ground and welded the ear back on the Cal-Track plate, then cut a little gusset to give more support and welded that on there too. Then, we measured the remains of the lowering block, and he cut a new one out of steel, and drilled the hole in the middle. But the old block had a pin in it, for going into the hole of the spring perch welded on the axle housing. The pin had disappeared along with the front half of the lowering block, so I didn't know what size pin to weld in the hole. I took a guess and told him 5/8", so he cut a short piece of 5/8" steel rod and welded it in place.

While he was working on these pieces, I began to think a little more about my episode at WIR yesterday. I thought it was entirely possible that the shock mount and lowering block had broken on the road prior to the race at WIR, when the rear suspension had bottomed out over a bump or something like that. Or, it could have actually broken on the starting line, or at the end of the track, but in any case I was pretty sure that I had found the root cause of the car's behavior at the track yesterday. With no shock on the driver's side, and a bumpy track besides, the car would have bounced up and down along the track, increasing and decreasing traction, and causing handling problems. I felt pretty good that we were going to get this issue fixed.

My cell phone rang, interrupting my speculation on this topic; it was Joel. "Jay, the white whale just ran an 8.66", he said. "His pass looked really good, and his car seems to be working pretty well. I think you're going to be shooting for personal bests today, instead of playing catch up to the Chevelle." The call was a little deflating; it looked pretty much like my chances of winning were nearly gone. Nevertheless, I sure was having fun, despite the problems with the car. If I had to settle for second place, and could run some pretty fast times, it would still be a very successful week.

(Quick aside: Joel had begun referring to the Chevelle as the "white whale", because he really didn't like the looks of the car. I thought that was kind of funny. However, then he began to refer to me as Ahab, because I was chasing the white whale! That was not so funny. Since Joel didn't want to be left at the track, he quit doing that.)

The guy at the welding shop was done, so I paid him forty bucks and we were out of there. Back at the track, I found that I had guessed wrong both on the diameter of the steel pin welded into the lowering block, and also on the length. I was able to cut the pin off to the correct length with a hacksaw, but for reducing the diameter of the pin all I had was a file! I clamped it to the trailer and started filing. Joel took off through the pits to find someone with an angle grinder. Ten minutes later he was back with the grinder, but it needed to be plugged in; it wasn't battery operated. I grabbed the block and the grinder and went over to the concession stand. I walked into the men's room, and sure enough there was an outlet on the wall. I plugged in the grinder and began grinding on the pin while the guys at the urinals almost pissed themselves turning around to see what was going on. After a couple of minutes of work I had the diameter reduced, so I crawled back under the car and bolted it together.

Finally, we were about ready to go. It was after 1:00 PM, but the track was open until 3:00, so I figured I'd have time for a baseline pass and then one pass to test out the nitrous. I warmed up the car and got into my gear, then we filled the tank with four gallons of 118 and I headed out to the staging lanes. I was the only one there, so they waved me right into the burnout box. I did a big smoky burnout, then launched the car. The weather today at CFR was much warmer than it had been the last two days, so I was expecting to slow down a little. The car did feel a little slower, but it went straight down the track with no trouble, running a 1.47 short time, and 9.46 at 146 MPH for the quarter.

With this pass under my belt, I rolled back into the pits thinking about the nitrous. I only had a half full bottle, so I pulled the bottle out of the trunk and took it over to the Comp Cams trailer to have it filled. They promised it back to me in about 20 minutes. I went back to the car to give it a quick check over; everything looked good. Joel put the parachute on the back, because I figured to go over 150 MPH on the next pass. While waiting for the nitrous bottle I also downloaded the LM-1 data for the previous pass. Yesterday, with the colder air, my A/F had been running in the 12.4:1 range. Today, with no jetting changes, it was running right about 12.1:1, which is very close to where I wanted it to be. So, I felt pretty good about making the nitrous pass on this A/F tune.

Joel ran over to the Comp Cams trailer and picked up the nitrous bottle, and I installed it in the car. After turning it on and pressurizing the system, though, I realized I had forgotten about something. They freeze the nitrous bottles prior to filling them, and so the bottle was very cold. The pressure on my nitrous gauge was only 750 psi! Normally you want the nitrous pressure between 900-1200 psi for a good pass. Without any easy way to heat up the bottle, I left the trunk lid open so that the sun could help warm up the bottle.

While we were waiting for the bottle to warm up, Kyle Loftis from 1320video.com came over to install his portable camera on my roll bar. You guys have probably seen on his videos where there's a view inside the car and also a simultaneous view of the car going down the track; he wanted to get one of those video streams of my car. He installed the camera on the roll bar and strapped the recorder into the passenger seat. At about 2:45, fifteen minutes before the track closed, the nitrous pressure had risen to about 850 psi, so I figured it was close enough. Kyle turned on the camera and I rolled into the staging lanes.

My nitrous system is a 400 HP NOS Big Shot single stage plate system. Installed are the jets for a 225 HP shot. I also have an NOS nitrous controller, which allows you to slowly ramp the nitrous shot on, and also limits the total amount of the shot. For this pass I was going to start with 20% of the nitrous, and then ramp up to 50% over a period of two seconds, after I pressed the button. So, I should see about a 110 HP boost from this nitrous test.

Also, given the tenuous traction conditions I usually encounter at the launch, I didn't want to hit the button right away. I wanted to be sure that the car was well hooked and going straight down the track before I brought in the nitrous. I did the burnout, then staged and launched the car. About 3 seconds into the pass, I hit the button. I noticed the car pick up right away, but not a whole lot. The 1-2 shift probably happened before the two second nitrous buildup was completed, but the car held traction during the shift and suddenly felt much, much faster in second gear. Again the pass was nice and straight, but on the shutdown I had a problem. After releasing the nitrous button and letting off the gas, I accidentally pulled the shifter back into first! The engine revved way up, and I quickly shoved the shifter forward, but the car sounded different now as it continued to decelerate down the track. I hoped I hadn't done any serious damage.

I came up the return road to get my slip, and the guy in the timing shack said I'd dropped a belt on the track in the shutdown area. This actually made me feel a little better; I recognized that the difference in the engine sound was that the blower whistle was gone. I probably broke the belt when the engine rapidly changed speeds on the 2-1 shift. As I pulled away from the shack I looked at the slip, and was a little underwhelmed by the ET: 9.35, only a tenth or so better than I had done without the nitrous. But the MPH was a different story: 151.2! That was a hell of a mile an hour number.

Back in the pits, I shut off the car and took a look under the hood. Sure enough the blower belt was gone, and fortunately it's exit had caused no damage. After talking it over with Joel and the other guys, the general consensus was that I'd left a lot of ET on the table because of the late start of the nitrous. But, to me the big deal was that the nitrous system had worked as expected; this was the first time I'd tried it in the car, and there is always the potential for problems. I feel much more confident about it now, and I'm looking forward to exercising it a little more tomorrow at Cordova.

The last pass of the day belonged to Jack Miller. Jack was running a very close second in the Pro-Street power adder class, and had already ripped off an 8.43 earlier in the day. To retake the lead he needed an 8.35. Unfortunately, he didn't get it. His 1-2 shift resulted in the engine hitting the rev limiter, and he coasted down to the end of the track and stopped. Fifteen minutes later he was towed back to the pits, with a broken transmission. Guess what transmission Jack is running? Same as me, the dreaded Powerglide.

I handed my timing slip in at the tower, changed out of my race gear, and helped Joel finish up bringing the car back to street trim. We packed the trailer and hooked it up, and then went over to Jack's pit area to see if we could help. I gave Jack's son the name of Layne Automotive and Speed in Fulton, IL, and told him to call Anthony there. I offered to run Jack's transmission there and get it rebuilt so that he could reinstall it at Cedar Falls, and drive out of there later tonight. Unfortunately, Anthony was in Kansas City racing, but Jack was able to find a local transmission guy to help out. As we left the track, it sounded like he had a plan to get it together tonight, and I hope we'll see him at Cordova tomorrow. He is very close to the lead car, and he has the advantage of being legal down to 7.50, while the lead car can only run down to 8.50. If Jack can get the car to Cordova, one good pass could win it for him.

As we left the track I was a little nervous about how the Mach 1 would act after the mis-shift incident on the last pass, but with the header caps on and the blower belt off, the car sounded just fine on the road, and the transmission was working well, so we headed back to Cordova along Hot Rod's 175 mile route. Halfway there, we stopped to get a photo at this checkpoint, a couple of trucks on a big rock out in front of a Chevrolet dealership:

DW07 Day4 Check

Joel was too lazy to get out of the car for that photo. Just like a hemi guy...

The rest of the drive passed uneventfully, and after eating dinner at Applebees with a few other Drag Week guys, we made it back to our hotel at 9:30. No big rush to get to the track tomorrow; I plan to make one baseline pass, then probably two nitrous passes, and shoot for an eight so I can brag about my eight second street car LOL! After all, nine is fine, but eight is great!

Tomorrow night after Drag Week winds up Joel and I will be heading home to Minneapolis, so I doubt that I will have time to post the final update. I should have it done sometime Saturday. Til then - Jay

Drag Week 2007, Day 5, Cordova, September 14, 2007

Friday morning Joel and I rolled into Cordova for the last day of Drag Week 2007. On the road as we approached the gate, I looked in the pits and there was Jack Miller's car! We pulled into the pits and parked next to Jack. He looked really beat. He told us that he'd found a guy to rebuild his powerglide near the race track in Cedar Falls, so he'd pulled the transmission out and the guy had come by in his truck, picked up Jack and the transmission, and gone to his shop. They'd spent most of the night rebuilding the trans, and then Jack and his son took until 4:00 AM putting it back in the car. Finally they left the track and followed the prescribed Hot Rod route to Cordova, and had arrived at the track with no sleep about 10 minutes before us! It was a heroic Drag Week effort on Jack's part, and he was still in the race.

Joel and I got busy getting the car ready to race. I noticed that the Chevelle in first place was pitted several cars down from us, and he was getting the car ready to race also. We had done a pretty thorough check of the Mach 1 at Cedar Falls, so I wasn't planning on checking anything in detail. We did take a look at the rear suspension points that gave us some trouble yesterday, and everything looked good. After swapping on the tires, uncapping the headers and installing a new blower belt, I was ready to go run the car. About this time, I heard the track announcer call out the Chevelle coming to the starting line. I listened for the time: 8.70! Looked like he had first place locked up. Give the Chevelle guy credit, he had his share of problems this week, and fought through them for the win. I think he went through two transmissions and a rear end, but he got the job done. His car is pretty light, I think, with fiberglass front fenders, hood, and bumpers, along with no back seat and fiberglass buckets. It also looked like his rear wheelwells had been stretched a little to fit taller tires; I sure wish I could fit tires like that under the Mustang!

Joel aired up the rear tires and I rode down the staging lanes. A quick word about my drag tires: I'm running 10X28/15 Hoosier drag slicks, and on the advice of the guys at Hoosier I'm running them without tubes. This has turned out to be questionable advice. The tires held air for about a week, and then they started leaking. At this point in the race, one of the tires was leaking about 2 psi per hour. To compensate for this, Joel had been airing up the tires and putting them right at 11 psi just before I went out for each pass.

Fortunately this time there were only a couple of cars ahead of me, and I was out into the burnout box in less than five minutes. I was in the right lane, did my customary monster burnout, and staged the car. The run was nice and straight, and the leave felt particularly good. I was rewarded with a 9.349 @ 147.26 MPH, which was a very good baseline run. However, as I left the timing shack I thought I heard a new noise coming from under the hood. What now? I pulled back into the pits and took my helmet off to get a better listen to the car. Sure enough, I heard a pronounced knocking sound, and it was much louder when I got outside the car. I shut the car off for a minute until Joel came back from the stands, then started it up for him to listen. He heard it right away, and I shut the engine off again. It sounded just like a rod knock, but the oil pressure was right where it always was. Joel suggested that we jack up the car and listen from underneath. He jacked up the car and I started it while Joel listened. He waved me under the car and had me hold my hand underneath the driver's side header. Sure enough, there was a big exhaust leak there. We tracked it down to the number six header tube, and removed the oil filter to reveal the problem:

DW07 Header

The header tubes are held together with tabs and small bolts, and the tab holding the tube together for the #6 primary had broken, and the header tube had blown off! Joel and I muscled it back into position, then I drilled a hole through the two tubes and put a screw in them to hold them together. We started the car and it sounded fine again. What a relief! I'm amazed at how much an exhaust leak can sound like a rod knock.

We decided to take a break and head over to the concession stand to grab some lunch and watch some of the racing. About 12:30 I got back over to the car, and started messing with the nitrous controller, in anticipation of an 8 second ET slip. On Thursday at Cedar Falls I had hit the button pretty late in the run, probably 3-4 seconds in, and had the controller set to start the flow at 20% of the 225HP jets, and increase it to 50% over a period of two seconds. This time I reset the controller to start at 20% and increase to 80% over a period of one and a half seconds. This would give me about a 180 HP nitrous boost, and I planned to hit the button much earlier in the run this time.

Joel aired up the tires again, and I went out to the staging lanes. There were only two cars in front of me in the right staging lane, but when I got to the head of the line, the track official had everybody kill their engines. Apparently the car staged in the left lane had blown up on the line, oiling down the track in the left lane. For nearly forty minutes I waited in the staging lanes, fretting about the slowly decreasing air pressure in my tires. Then, with the track nearly ready to go, a late model Mustang came up the staging lane to my right, bypassing all the other cars in the lanes, and parked right next to me! No one was supposed to be using the outside staging lane, so I wondered what he was doing there. But apparently he intended to run, and sure enough a couple of minutes later the starter had us fire up our engines, and he directed the late model Mustang into the right lane, and me into the left.

I figured I'd just roll with this and if I had problems with this pass I'd just let off and make another. I did my burnout and lit the first pre stage light, and waited. The other Mustang was taking forever. Finally the starter waved me to stage, and I saw them pushing the other Mustang off the track. What rotten luck! But, I staged the car and tried to make the best of it.

When I launched the car I could tell right away I had a traction issue, but I managed to keep the car pretty straight and laid into the button about a second and a half out. I could really feel the nitrous hit come on, and by the 1-2 shift the car was really flying. But the traction problems had never really gone away on this run, and the car began to get more difficult to control. Finally it drifted too close to the center line, and I had to shut it down. I saw some video of the run afterwards, and it looked worse than it felt when I was in the car, but nevertheless the car had gotten pretty out of shape, and nearly crossed the center line.

I collected the time slip and saw a 9.67 at 109 MPH, but the eighth numbers were pretty impressive: 5.85 at 126.6 MPH! Short time was only a 1.51, so given the previous run with a 1.44 short time, the traction problems at the line really hurt. Seemed like I would have had my eight second ET slip if I could have stayed in it.

After I'd parked the car in the pits, I thought about making one more pass, but in the end I decided against it. The situation with the tires scared me a little; I kind of felt like I needed to get the leaks fixed and maybe add tubes to stiffen up the sidewalls a little to prevent the walking around on the top end that I'd experienced on the previous run. So, I decided to play it safe and end my racing for Drag Week there. I have to admit that I'm reasonably happy with the fairly consistent 9.40 and 9.30 ETs I've gotten out of the car since Tuesday. I think there's some more ET there from timing adjustments, which I haven't gotten to this week, and then maybe a less aggressive hit of nitrous will get me into the eights on a regular basis.

Official racing for Drag Week ended about forty five minutes later at 2:00 PM, and then the top 32 Daily Driver cars ran it off in the bracket race. Jim Neuenfeldt's Fairmont took the bracket win, with another guy driving it; Jim actually drove Kyle Loftis's Corvette in the bracket race, I think. But anyway, Jim is now a Drag Week three time winner, so congratulations to him!

At the awards ceremony, Freiburger asked the crowd what they thought about the rules, and everybody seemed to think that they were pretty good as is, myself included. He also asked what we thought of starting and finishing at Cordova, and that got a big round of applause. However, he suggested that maybe they would consider starting and ending at Cedar Falls, which I think is an outstanding idea. Cedar Falls and Cordova are both owned by the same guy, and Cedar Falls is a better track, at least in my opinion. It also sounded like Drag Week might be going south next year, rather than north like it did this year.

They handed out the awards after that, and there were a lot of good stories that went along with the awards. I was really happy to see Steve Hoch and his Corvette win the NA/BB class, even though he beat Bill Fowler to do it. He's been so close so many times, it's about time that he won. He deserved it, handily beating Bill and the rest of the field by a half second.

They called me up for the second place award in PA/BB, and Freiburger introduced me as the guy driving his all time favorite car! I was pretty flattered by that remark; I know David likes my car a lot. The plaque I got was very nice:

DW07 Plaque

After the awards ceremony Joel and I headed for the car. We were going to convoy with Grumpy and his son in their Dodge Neon for the trip back to Minneapolis. As we pulled out of the lot I was reflecting on how solid the FE had been for the entire trip. I'd had transmission and supercharger problems, but the FE had performed magnificently, eating supercharger blades without complaint and then withstanding a big over-rev at the end of the track on Thursday. As I drove out of the track the engine sounded great. About a quarter mile down the road I glanced at my gauges, and… WHAT??? The oil pressure gauge was at ZERO!! I quickly shut off the car and coasted over to the side of the road. What was going on? The engine had sounded fine. First I thought it must be the gauge, which is a mechanical one. I unscrewed the line to the back of the gauge, and started the engine. No oil came out. Uh-oh… Next I disconnected one of the big oil cooler lines at the front of the motor, and started it again. Nothing. It appeared that the oil pressure problem was real. Some of the Drag Week crowd leaving the track had stopped now to help out. Dustin Hasse was one of them, and he offered to run down the road to the Illinois Dyno Shop in Port Byron, to see if they could help out. After he left, I decided to take apart the top of the engine and pull the distributor. I marked it carefully so I could easily reinstall it, and pulled it out. Sure enough, stuck in the bottom of the shaft was the broken off piece of the oil pump driveshaft.

Well, at least we knew what the problem was. Among my spares was an oil pump and a pump driveshaft, so if I could get the car apart, I could get it fixed. Dustin called my cell phone a couple of minutes later and said the dyno shop could help, but that I needed to get the car towed there. Tom at the Dyno shop made the arrangements, so I put the top end of the engine back together and waited for the tow truck to show up.

Just as I was relieving myself in the weeds next to the road, up pulled a police car. Timing is everything LOL! The cop turned out to be a pretty good guy, and just wanted to check on the car's status and my license. He hung around with us for about 30 minutes until the tow truck came. The tow truck driver had a flatbed, but he did not have a ball on the truck for the trailer, so he decided to put the car and trailer on the flatbed together. It barely fit:

DW07 Flatbed

At the Illinois Dyno Center we met the owner Tom, who is also the local police chief. He and some of the diesel truck guys who had been entered in Drag Week were there, and they helped us push the Mach 1 into the service bay and get it up on the lift. Tom gave us full rein of the shop; he had to go home, but that was only three blocks away, so he left us his number to call in case we had any problems, and to let him know when we were ready to leave.

Joel and I got to work, and within an hour had the pan off the car. What we found was something that I had not considered before. The supercharger gets its oil from the engine, and it is returned through a –08 line to the pan. Apparently when the supercharger bearing went out, the shrapnel from the bearing fed down the oil line. We found a whole bunch of bearing cage material in the pan, plus some very sharp shards of steel, probably from the bearing race itself. When we disassembled the oil pump, we found a sliver of the steel shards that had made it through the pickup screen and jammed the pump, causing the failure. Here's some of the shrapnel:

DW07 Day5 Shrapnel

Kicking myself for not thinking of this possibility earlier, we went about cleaning up and getting ready for the reinstallation. Joel washed out the pan in the parts washer while I bolted the new pump and pump drive shaft onto the engine. While I was in there I checked all the rods by feel, and the bearing clearances all seemed pretty good. I have no idea how long I drove the car with the broken pump driveshaft; the last time I remember looking at the oil pressure gauge was on the return road after my last pass, so I was happy that the rod bearings all felt OK. We decided to reassemble the engine without the windage tray because I'll need to pull the pan again later anyway and do a more detailed inspection of the bearings. This saved us some time, and by 10:30 we had the bottom of the motor buttoned back up.

Tom came back to the shop and kept us company while we filled the engine with oil, primed the pump, and got it started. When I asked Tom how much I owed him for the use of his shop, he refused any payment. This is in spite of the fact that I had replaced my oil filter with one of his, and used five quarts of his oil! Great guy, just like the guys at Layne Automotive and Speed that helped us out on Sunday night. By 11:00 we were rolling down the road again.

I made hotel arrangements for the night because neither Joel nor I were interested in trying to drive home through the night. This morning we were up early and back on the road, and made the trip back to Minneapolis uneventfully.

I think that reading through my Drag Week 2007 posts, it may appear that the event was pretty brutal and miserable for us, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the problems with the car, Joel and I both had a great time, and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year. For me, seeing the guys who keep coming back to Drag Week every year is a really fun reunion, and the opportunity to run the car at the track every day for a week is a priceless one. I'm very happy with the consistent 9.30s that the car seems capable of running, and as a result of Drag Week I have a good foundation for making improvements to the car.

Finally, I have to say a big thanks to Joel for coming with me on the trip. Joel was a priceless asset, being an experienced racer, and he was always right in there helping out and giving good advice when I needed it. We had a great time talking it up between tracks, and we are both already making plans for next year. It sounds to me like the Drag Week bug has bit Joel pretty good, and it won't surprise me at all if he brings his own car to Drag Week next year. Along with his umbrella, his hand lotion, his three suitcases and eight sweaters, his "pharmacy in a bag", and all the other paraphernalia that it takes to sustain a Chrysler Hemi guy. Sheesh…