Drag Week Blog 2006

(This blog was originally posted on the FE Forum in September 2006)

Drag Week 2006, Saturday, September 9 2006

Drag Week 2006 kicks off this coming Monday, so today we headed to Cordova, IL from Minneapolis. Here's the now traditional photo of this year's Drag Week car in my driveway:

DW06 GT3

I'm still feeling pretty disappointed about not being able to bring my Mach 1 to this year's event. In order to soothe my feelings, I made the following window sticker for the GT:

DW06 GT1

At least they'll know where my true allegiance stands LOL!

This week, with the Mach 1 out, I focused my efforts on trying to gain some experience with my GT. I installed my G-Tech in the GT on Tuesday, and went out to the local "drag strip" to make a few passes. The G-Tech records the 0-60 MPH time for each run, and I quickly discovered that the secret to my ET will lie in the launch. Depending on how successfully I launched the car, my 0-60 times were anywhere from 3.8 to 4.4 seconds. I also ran a couple of full quarter mile passes using the G-Tech. In both cases, the launch was poor, but the results gave me a little confidence in the car. On the first pass, the 0-60 time was 4.40 seconds, and the ET was 12.31 at 120 MPH. On the second pass, the 0-60 time was 4.25 seconds, and the ET was 12.15 at 121 MPH. Notice how the improved 0-60 time translates to the same reduction in ET. Since I was able to run some 3.80 0-60 times during my testing, I'm pretty sure the car will get into the 11s if I can just learn to launch the thing. At the track, the stickier starting line ought to be a help in this regard.

Taking what is essentially a brand new car on this event seems to pose little risk, but I'm cautious by nature when it comes to this sort of thing, and I'm trying not to leave anything to chance. A few weeks ago I had noticed a rattling noise coming from the back of the GT, and this week after looking into this a little I discovered that it was clutch related. When the car is warm, and it is in neutral with the clutch pedal out, I can hear this noise. As soon as I push the clutch pedal in, the noise disappears. I was a little concerned about this, especially since I'm planning on beating on the car at the dragstrip for the next several days. After searching Ford's website in vain for any information, I stumbled across a web site dedicated to GT owners called fordgtforum.com. I must have spent 6 hours pouring through the archives of posts on this forum. After a while I stumbled across one post where the owner of a GT described a problem identical to mine, and had inquired with Ford about it. He had been told this noise was normal, so that was something of a relief.

However, this forum also contained some information that was a little disconcerting. To summarize, some of the late 2005 Ford GTs had been equipped with transaxles that had not been assembled correctly at the transaxle manufacturer (a company named Ricardo). Apparently the yokes that come out of the transaxle on each side, and connect to the axle CV joints, are held in place with two bolts. These bolts had been overtorqued at Ricardo, causing some of them to break when the cars are driven. The result of a broken bolt is that the axle just falls off the transaxle, and the car quits moving. There were at least five owner's accounts of this problem, and their cars were all in the 15xx to 17xx serial number range.

My car is #1901, so I'm a little concerned about this problem. So far I have no issues, but it kind of sounds like the failure happens without warning, so I think I'll be concerned about this for the first few days of Drag Week. Also on the fordgtforum.com web site, I found out about a few other minor problems that some GT owners have experienced, and so did a few maintenance things on the car to try to head off any issues. At this point, I think the car is as ready to go as it can be.

This morning I got the car washed, and then packed my suitcase and waited for the other guys to show up. Those of you who read last's years accounts will recall my pal Steve traveled with me in the Mach 1 during Drag Week 2005. Steve was so pumped up about drag racing after the event that he took his bone stock 1966 Chevelle, with a 283 and a Powerglide, and updated it with a 406 small block, turbo 350 trans, and a Detroit locker in the rear. His engine made 385 HP on the dyno, and about 450 with a 75 HP nitrous boost. He's been running it since the beginning of the summer, and is pulling down low 12s at the track. He has entered the car in the 12.0 daily driver class (which is also where I've entered the GT).

The other guy with us this year is my friend Brad. Brad is an auto mechanic by profession, and he handles all the stuff on my cars that I can't do myself, in particular wheel alignments and also setting up 9" rear ends when I want to make sure its done right. I met Brad over at my Y-block buddy's house back in the early 1980s. As I came up to the garage my Y-block buddy, JC, introduced him by saying "this is my friend Bradford". A scowling individual holding a beer stepped out of the shadows, and screamed ,"Bradford!! My name is NOT Bradford! My name is Brad FORD!!! Brad FORD!! When are you going to start introducing me correctly??" Naturally, being a Ford guy, I liked BradFORD right away. We had a great time that night drinking beer and telling stories about hapless brand X owners, and we have been friends ever since.

Both Brad and Steve have spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks helping me try to get the Mach 1 ready to go, and I owe them both a lot for the effort. I'm looking forward to enjoying Drag Week 2006 with these guys.

Brad and Steve showed up at my house about 12:45 this afternoon, and we got packed up and ready to go. Thank goodness Steve is coming with us; there is absolutely no room in the GT for the stuff we want to carry. My helmet is actually too big to fit into the front compartment of the GT! If Steve wasn't coming, Brad would have to carry the thing on his lap. As we were putting our suitcases and the helmet in the back seat of Steve's Chevelle, Brad suggested that we start calling Steve "Jeeves". After all, he was carrying our luggage! Steve reminded us that without him, we'd be wearing the same clothes for the next week. I don't think we'll call him Jeeves any more…

We got on the road for Cordova by about 1:15; it was a six hour drive that was mostly uneventful. Here's a photo of the two cars at a gas station in Floyd, Iowa, on the way down:

DW06 Ford GT and Chevelle

By 7:30 we were rolling into the Cordova area. After checking into the hotel, we went to try to find a place to eat, and found out that outside of McDonalds there really wasn't anything, so we backtracked into Davenport Iowa and had dinner at a Ruby Tuesdays. On the way out of the restaurant it started to rain. I don't know what the weather holds in store for tomorrow, but hopefully it will be dry enough to run the test and tune that Hot Rod has planned. I really need to get some track time on the GT before Drag Week starts…

More tomorrow – Jay

Drag Week 2006 Test & Tune, Sunday, September 10 2006

A very interesting day today at the Drag Week test and tune at Cordova Dragway Park in Cordova, IL. The weather looked pretty marginal when we got up, and it was drizzling outside when we made our way to the track. The gates were supposed to open at 10:00 AM, but we got there by 9:00 in hopes of running into some of our pals from last year's event. We were probably one of the first five or six cars there, but sure enough pretty soon some of the veterans from DW05 started to show, and I got re-acquainted with Bill Fowler and his 71-3 Mustang with an 820 HP 385 series motor, running in NA BB, Brian Rock with his 65(?) GTO running in NA SB, Dustin Hasse with a 72 Cuda running in NA SB, and several other guys. It was a lot of fun catching up with those guys and looking over the changes to everyone's cars.

Right around 10:00 they opened the gates, and we all went up to register – and then the rain came. It had been kind of drizzling most of the morning, but now it started to really come down. Everyone was kind of disappointed because of the diminishing possibility of having the test and tune, but we all got registered and headed out into the main area of the track for tech. We actually had two techs to go through, the normal tech at the track, and also the special Drag Week tech, where we were all checked for lights, blinkers, brake lights, wipers, and horn, plus registration and insurance. As you might expect, tech for me was pretty simple; the tech guy just wrote "Stock" across the whole tech card, checked the rating on my helmet, and waved me through. Up at the Hot Rod tech, I got to say hello to Rob Kinnan and David Freiburger from Hot Rod. Kinnan said the entire Hot Rod staff needed to make a pass in the GT. He is dreaming LOL!

By the time we got through tech the rain had tapered off to a drizzle again, and the track announcer was claiming that the weather radar was showing the rain moving out of the area. So, we waited around hoping for the best, and watching the cars come in. I must say that the quality of the cars that we were seeing looked overall to be a little worse this year than last year; there were a fair number of ratty cars running around, to the point where I told BradFORD we ought to have a pool to see which ones drop out first. Suddenly off a new trailer came a really good looking 68 Mustang fastback, and when it started up I head the sound of a blower under the hood. I went over to check it out, and sure enough it turned out to be Jack Miller! Jack has run his car a couple of times at the Pump Gas Drags, and his car is equipped with an FE with twin Paxton superchargers. At this year's Pump Gas Drags, Jack blew a supercharger and didn't get to compete. I was really excited to see such a quality FE car show up for Drag Week! I spent ten minutes or so talking to Jack, and took a good close look at his car. He's a very nice guy, and I hope he does well in this event.

By about noon the rain had stopped, and according to the Hot Rod staff about 60 cars had gone through tech so far. They were expecting about 170 cars to make the event, and no more cars were coming through the gates, so its clear that many of the cars will be showing up tomorrow. After registration and tech, they had loaded us up with t-shirts and stickers, and Steve wanted to burn some of the remaining pump gas out of his Chevelle before adding the race gas, so we decided to leave the track and go back to the hotel to unload. By the time we returned to Cordova, the announcer was saying that the track would be ready for racing by 3:00 or so, so we took some time to put the race tires on Steve's car, and I unloaded the GT (three minute job) and put the helmet in the drivers seat so I was ready to go.

Finally they announced the call to the staging lanes. Steve went up right away, and I decided to watch his pass from the stands to see how his traction was. On an empty nitrous bottle with only about 600 psi in it, Steve ran a 12.30 with his Chevelle. He came back to the pits and went to get his bottle refilled (Zex Nitrous is at Drag Week refilling nitrous bottles for FREE for any competitor), so I decided to make my first pass in the GT. I was hoping to be able to drive around the burnout box in order to avoid getting my tires wet, because even with a burnout the water would stay in the treads and probably hinder traction at the line. However, the way the track was configured that was not possible, so I went through the water and did a quick burnout to clean off the tires as much as possible. Up at the line, I had a lot of time to stage because the guy in the other lane was slow, so I got staged and got the RPM held very steady at 3000 RPM as the lights came down. I dumped the clutch on the last yellow and the car hopped one or two times as it took off, and then started accelerating pretty well down the track. I blew away the big block Chevelle in the other lane ( he ran a 13 something). My reaction time was pretty good at .033, and the car ran a 12.10 @ 123.97 MPH! The MPH number blew me away. Sixty foot time was 2.056, which sucks but is to be expected on street tires.

Back in the pits Steve was still working on getting the nitrous bottle filled, so I went out again. Traction felt pretty good on the previous run, so I decided to increase the starting line RPM to 3500 on this pass. Unfortunately, that didn't work out very well, with lots of wheel hop and tire spin as I left. My sixty foot time suffered, going all the way to 2.614, and the quarter mile time suffered accordingly, with a 13.07 @ 116.8 MPH. I still beat the ugly Camaro in the other lane, though LOL!

I went back to the pits, parked the car, and went up to the stands to watch some of the other cars. Jack Miller came up to run with his Mustang, and he tore off a 9.20 at 155 MPH. He had told me prior to running that he had a really conservative tune on the car, and was going to ratchet it up after a few passes on the track. Then Steve came up with a refilled nitrous bottle, and ran an 11.87 @ 113. He was really happy with that, because being able to run into the 11s is pretty important in the 12.0 class, in case you have one bad track and have to make up some time on your average.

After Steve's run I went back out to the pits to try another run in the GT. This time, I got messed up on the line, and didn't leave well, at the wrong RPM and very late. I also spun the tires again, so I was rewarded (?) with a 14.45 @ 119.21, with a horrible 3.16 60 foot time. But, again, I beat the other guy, who in this case was an old Pontiac Trans-Am.

Back on the return road I went past Jack Miller's Mustang; he had parked it there for some reason. Apparently he had run a few cars before me, and was having some problem. He returned to the pits about 20 minutes later, and started taking apart his car. I went over to see what was wrong, and Jack said he'd blown another supercharger, just like at the Pump Gas Drags! He was concerned that the motor had eaten some of the supercharger impeller, because he said that it wasn't running quite right after the pass. The pass itself was spectacular, an 8.84 at about 160, but when Jack let off he said he'd heard the noise of the supercharger failure, and shut the car down on the return road.

Jack was in the process of pulling off the bad supercharger, and also the valve covers so that he could run a compression check on the engine. I got out of his way, and went back to have a little track food and watch some more cars go down the track. There was another guy there from the Pump Gas Drags, running a dark green Nova that looked kind of like a beater, but he was running in the nines; quite a sleeper. I also saw a purple 69 Mustang coupe make a pass but have some trouble down the track. Back in the pits, I walked over to see what the trouble was and they were concerned about their axles. I lent them my battery powered impact that I'd brought for Steve to use, and they had the suspect axle out in about five minutes. Sure enough, the axle was broken off right at the splines. Apparently the rear end in this Mustang had been from a 57 Ford Wagon, and according to BradFORD the 57 28 spline axles have a groove machined in them where they are prone to breaking. Sure enough, that's exactly where this axle had broken.

There were a couple of other casualties that I saw at the test and tune, including a yellow supercharged Camaro that had made the trip last year. So, Drag Week is taking its toll already…

The track announcer gave the 15 minute warning at 5:45, so I decided to make one more pass in the GT. This time I wanted to go easier off the line that I had in the previous three runs, in hopes of keeping traction and running into the 11s. I feathered the clutch a little when the lights came down, and achieved a very nice leave. Unfortunately this resulted in the clutch continuing to slip up to about 5000 RPM in first gear, but the car was accelerating nicely this time, so I stayed in it. I was rewarded by the smell of burning clutch on the return road, and an 11.79 @ 121.22. My 60 foot was 2.01.

I felt pretty good about this pass, and came back into the pits to kind of look the car over. The clutch seemed OK after the pass, despite the smell, but I'll have to work on avoiding that over the next few days. Inspection of the car revealed that one of the sheet metal shields protecting the bottom of the CV joints on the driver's side had come loose, so BradFORD tightened that up while I was talking to some people about the car. Then, I walked over to Jack Miller's trailer to see how he was doing. Jack said that the compression check was normal, so he didn't think he hurt the engine any, and he had a spare supercharger in his trailer, so he was working on getting the broken supercharger replaced. He's still planning to run the event. Here's a couple of photos I took of Jack's car while it was down this afternoon:

DW06 Miller 1 DW06 Miller 2

We left the track around 6:00 and ran back up to Davenport Iowa to grab a bite to eat. The rain has returned now, so the weather is questionable for tomorrow, but we're looking forward to the event this week nonetheless. Tomorrow the times count, and by the end of the day we should be out of Illinois and at the hotel in Indianapolis. I'll try to post an update again tomorrow night - Jay

Drag Week 2006 Day 1, Cordova Dragway Park, Monday, September 11 2006

(I apologize in advance for this post. There was free beer at the hotel tonight.)

Drag Week 2006 kicked off today at Cordova Dragway Park in Cordova IL. When we left the hotel this morning there were light showers, kind of like yesterday, and we thought there was a good chance that the rain would let up, and we'd be able to run this afternoon. After getting to the track, we watched some of the new cars come in. Steve Hoch showed up again this year with his Corvette, that ran 9.20s last year during Drag Week, and Phil Cooper also made it with his 67 Nova that was runner up last year, running 8.60s. There was also a wicked looking 67 Camaro that was rumored to run 7s present, and the 8.50 Duster that was runner up this year at the Pump Gas Drags. Some of the 5.0 Mustang crowd also showed up this morning; I saw one twin turbo smallblock car that looked very impressive.

The driver's meeting had been scheduled for 8:30 but it was pushed back until 9:15, and by that time the rain had stopped and the track dryers were out working on the track. David Freiburger from Hot Rod hosted the driver's meeting, and kind of went over everything that he had last year, but with a few new twists related to the new classes of cars. Halfway through the driver's meeting it began to rain again pretty hard, squelching everybody's hopes for a quick return to the staging lanes. Freiburger joked that we would rename the event Drag Boat Week.

In listening to the rules of the event at the meeting, I realized that I might be in violation of the helper part of the rules. BradFORD was going to be riding shotgun with me in the GT, and Jeeves (oops, I mean Steve) was going to be carrying our luggage in his Chevelle. However, one of the key rules of Drag Week is that each vehicle has to be self supporting. While Freiburger was talking about that, I realized that I didn't really conform to that requirement with Steve carrying my luggage. After the meeting, Steve and Brad and I discussed that, and decided the ask Freiburger about it. Sure enough, he told us that this would disqualify me from the event. So, our plans have changed somewhat. Riding in the passenger seat of my GT is my suitcase and my helmet. Riding in the passenger seat of the Chevelle is BradFORD LOL! How humiliating for him.

(Last year at Drag Week, Steve and I joked that Steve was my "Drag Week Whore", because he rode in the passenger seat and did menial jobs to support my efforts at the track. So, after we made the seating changes today, Steve thanked me for giving him a Drag Week Whore for 2006. We're all just cracking up over the whole thing. It must be the beer. This week is already just a riot.)

Moving right along, we all just hung out at the track waiting for the weather to clear for the next few hours. Here's a couple of pictures at the track:

DW06 Day1a DW06 Day1b

Shortly after the driver's meeting, I ran into Jack Miller, and he seemed to be all fixed up and ready to go. I sure hope he makes the drive OK.

At the driver's meeting we had been told that it would take two hours to dry off the track if it quit raining, so we figured that they would call the event at noon if it was still raining. Sure enough, at 11:45 the PA clicked on and Hot Rod announced that Day 1 of Drag Week 2006 was a washout, and to get in line to pick up directions on the way out of the track.

We rolled out of Cordova and stopped a couple of miles down the road to get some gas (along with everybody else LOL!), and then hit the freeway to go across Illinois. The route we had been given was mostly freeway through Illinois, and then into Indiana we would start taking back roads, and hit the required checkpoint. I was going to follow Steve, so that I wouldn't have to navigate while I was driving, but given Steve's comfortable speed of 65 MPH, the simple directions, and my inability to keep the GT at the Chevelle's speed, I only lasted about 20 miles behind the Chevelle. Finally I blew past the Chevelle on the freeway, gave Brad a quick call with my apologies (so long, sucker LOL!), and went on down the road at a more "reasonable" speed. I passed a dozen or so Drag Week cars, and then none for quite a while. Most of the Drag Week cars have to stop fairly frequently for gas, but my GT gets about 21 MPG on the freeway, so I think I was probably out in front of the pack for the most part. Over the course of this trip I have really come to appreciate what a great road car the GT is; the thing just sails down the road at any speed you care to, and feels perfectly safe in sunny or rainy weather. What a great car.

Into Indiana, the directions took me off the freeway and onto some state roads, and finally onto some county roads, and into a town with a tourist center, where I had to snap the required picture. I used the disposable camera provided by Hot Rod, and also took the same photo with my digital camera:

DW06 Day1c

At the checkpoint I tried to give Steve and Brad a call for an update, but couldn't get through, so I decided not to wait and to go on ahead without them. While I was calling a couple of the Drag Week guys showed up for their checkpoint picture. I talked to one guy with an old Trans Am who said that the only car ahead of us was a Pro-Street Monte Carlo. I remembered seeing the car; it was red with a parachute, and the Mickey Thompson ET Street tires. The Trans-Am guy and I left together, and went through a very slow, bumpy section of road that lasted about 3 miles before we got back on a reasonably smooth road. We passed a bunch of houses on this road, and in one case there were a bunch of people sitting on the porch watching us go by. Hot Rod told us that we were required to take the specified route, and that there would be spies checking up on us, so I'll bet that those people were writing down the car numbers as they went by.

It had stopped raining about 30 miles outside of Cordova, and had been pretty dry since then, but now as we got back on the county road to go further into Indiana, the rain came back. The Trans Am guy and I sailed down the road at 60 MPH with no problem for about 15 miles, but then we came across the aforementioned Monte Carlo. With the ET Streets, he was limping along down a 55 MPH road at 30 MPH; those tires are no good in the rain. Anyway, we caught up to him in a town, and as we left town behind him, we had a double yellow line preventing us from passing him and going at a more reasonable speed. And, of course, right out of town was the coolest, most beautiful section of up and down hills and sweeping curves you've ever seen. I was following the Monte Carlo about three car lengths back, and it was just killing me that I had to be running down that road at 30 MPH. The double yellow line seemed to go on forever, and in my rearview mirror I could see a line of cars stacked up behind the Trans-Am, all held up by the Monte Carlo and his almost slicks.

Well, give the Monte Carlo driver credit for driving safely, because 30 MPH is probably all I would have gone in the same situation. Finally I got an opportunity to pass, and blew by him on a short straight. The remaining 30 miles into Indianapolis passed by uneventfully, and by 6:30 local time I was at the hotel. When I checked in, the hotel clerk told me that the lounge was offering free beer for all the guests until 7:30. The rest, as they say, is history.

Steve and Brad showed up at the hotel about 45 minutes later, just in time to get in on the free beer deal. Apparently they had run into Freiburger at a Marathon station while they were getting gas, and Freiburger told him that the contestants were dropping like flies. The alleged seven second Camaro didn't even make it the 11 miles from the track to the freeway before withdrawing. Another Nova ground a cam lobe flat and had to withdraw; this was the guy that ran the 15 second 57 Chevy wagon last year. Several more apparently had problems and had to quit. There's an AMC guy here who I'm betting against; his car looks pretty rough, and he was running around the track today wearing a Richard Nixon mask. Go figure. We'll see if he's around at the track tomorrow…

After the beer we walked across the street to Applebees and had a nice dinner. The local weather for tomorrow does not look promising, and it looks like a good bet that day two will also be rained out. I guess we'll find out if day two is also part of Drag Boat Week. More tomorrow – Jay

Drag Week 2006 Day 2, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Tuesday, September 12 2006

Drag Boat Week continued today at Indianapolis, with showers greeting us as we woke up this morning. We got to the track at around 8:15 and it was still raining pretty hard. By 9:00 it was down to a sprinkle, and we all began to mill around in the parking lot with the cars, rather than standing around in the tower. But the rain didn't let up until noon or so, and by then it would've been too late to get the track dry and run, so they called the event for the day.

Earlier in the morning the Hot Rod crew had been scrambling to reschedule the event. The weather forecast for Columbus on Wednesday was an 80% chance of showers, and of course no one wanted to drive there only to get rained out again. Around 10:30 Freiburger came on the PA, and said they had arranged to get Cordova again for Wednesday. Naturally everyone scrambled to get on the phone and make new hotel reservations, but I think for the most part we were all successful. The weather at Cordova is supposed to be clear, and it also looks pretty good for Martin Michigan on Thursday, so it looks like this year's Drag Week is down to three races.

Here's some photos of the parking lot at Indy today, from the top of the tower:

DW06 Day2a DW06 Day2b

Also, despite the fact that we couldn't run, they let us put our cars up at the starting line of the track and take pictures. Here's my GT on the starting line at Indy:

DW06 Day2c

Some interesting information I picked up talking to the other racers today at the track:

- Jack Miller and his supercharged FE 68 Mustang made the drive with no trouble. Here's a photo of Jack's engine compartment, with the replaced supercharger installed:

DW06 Day2d

- The purple '70 Mustang that broke an axle on Sunday at the test and tune is still in. Those guys drove 4 hours back to Wisconsin on the broken axle Sunday night, pulled the rear end and completely replaced it with a different one, and made it back by noon on Monday to Cordova to get checked in and entered in Drag Week. They also made the drive to Indy, but broke a distributor gear and had to repair it along the way. Last I heard they were fighting some kind of alternator belt or alternator problem, but they were still in. Hats off to those guys.

- Phil Cooper, last year's runner up in BB PA class to Carl Scott's winning Nova, made it to Cordova at about 10:00 AM on Monday, just in time to get teched and entered. But, he didn't make the drive today to Indy; something must have broken. He's out. Larry Larson, the guy who ran third overall last year, also blew up his motor on Friday last week, so he didn't make it to Drag Week. So, all top three finishers from last year are out.

- Steve Hoch, who was in fourth place overall last year, is entered this year in the class I was going to be in, Street Race BB PA. He has a new engine combination, but doesn't sound like he has it all worked out. He came anyway. He is one of only TWO competitors who made it into the class. I would have been the third. If both of those guys break, I'm gonna be crying in my beer over what might have been…

- There's a guy running a Ford Ranger pickup in the Pro-Street class that went into the ditch on his ET Streets on Monday night, banging up the right side of the truck. He's continuing in the race.

- Sometime during the morning Freiburger came on the PA and began to announce all the cars that had dropped out of the race. A little over 120 cars had showed up for the race at Cordova, and it sounded like between 10-15 were first days casualties. This is even before any racing!

- The purple Duster that was second in the Pump Gas Drags made it to Indianapolis, but according to the people staying in his hotel, not until about 5:00 AM this morning. He's running those big ET Streets, and I'll bet that he has to go really slow in the rain.

They officially called the race at noon, but they didn't have directions back to Cordova ready for us; they wanted us to take a different route than the one we came in on, and use a different checkpoint on the way back. By about 12:45, the directions were ready, handed out, and we all left the track to go back to the Iowa-Illinois border. I got moving out the gate pretty fast with a few other guys, and made it about 90 miles to the checkpoint in an hour and a half or so. The checkpoint was in Lafayette, Indiana, at a Putt Putt miniature golf course, with a big fiberglass elephant as one of the props. We had to take a picture of the car in front of the elephant:

DW06 Day2e

After the photo session, I stopped for gas, and the other two racers I was with stopped for lunch, so I went on ahead. Steve and BradFORD were hanging back a little farther, doing the obligatory 65 MPH with several other racers. About 10 minutes after I gassed up, the rain hit BIG time. A regular deluge, lasted about 10 minutes, and I was crawling along at 10 MPH along with all the rest of the traffic. I couldn't help thinking about those guys who were complaining about having to have windshield wipers; no way Rain-X would take care of the rain we had today. And it hit so fast, I doubt that anyone had time to get off the road to avoid it.

Finally the cloudburst passed, and I was able to resume normal speeds. However, another 20 miles, and the same thing happened, only worse. This was on a 60 MPH road, and I was again running at 10 MPH just so I could see where I was going, and watching the rear view mirror with a certain amount of trepidation in case some idiot decided to drive without being able to see. Fortunately, that didn't happen. After about 25 minutes, it eased up again, and I was able to resume normal speeds. The roads that they put us on for the trip back to Cordova were not interstates, they were in many cases two lane roads. So, even though I was running at 60-70 MPH, progress seemed pretty slow.

Nevertheless, I was way out in front of the pack, and tonight I heard from Steve and Brad what a mess their drive had been. They were bunched in with the bulk of the Drag Week racers, and when they came into Lafayette Indiana towards the checkpoint, the big rainstorm hit downtown where all the traffic lights were, and the result was instant gridlock. Steve and Brad said they took a LONG time to get through downtown to the checkpoint. When they finally got there, they got the picture, but later they heard that the owners of the Putt Putt had seen all these Drag Week cars showing up, and called the cops! So, that complicated things for the remaining racers. Steve and Brad also got hit with a big deluge three more times on their way to Cordova, and one of the cars that was following me by about 15 minutes told me that he'd been hit with pea sized hail. Glad the GT didn't have to go through that LOL! The guys running the ET Streets must be really hurting about now…

I made it into the hotel at about 6:30 tonight, and Steve and Brad followed about 7:15. We grabbed a bite at Subway, and are looking forward to some actual drag racing tomorrow. More tomorrow evening - Jay

Drag Week 2006 Day 3, Cordova, Wednesday, September 13 2006

(Note - computer problems last night prevented me from posting. Sorry for the delay)

Thankfully, Drag Boat Week seems to have ended last night, and Drag Week began this morning at Cordova. Although the weather was overcast for the most part, it was dry, and by 10:00 AM we were racing. There had been great fears of way too many cars for the track to handle, but that just didn't materialize as a concern this year. Instead of the 170 registered cars showing up, only 120 or so made it, and then after the first day 10-15 of those dropped out. So, we have about 100 cars at the track, and no one is having any problems making their runs.

Some interesting items include the fact that there is only ONE car still running in the unlimited class, and old 55 Chevy, and he is unlimited because the engine is set back pretty far in the chassis, with a straight axle under it I think. He made one run today, something like 13 flat at 105 MPH, and left for the next track! Its hysterical. He's going to win that class because he's the only car in it. Last year we had three 8 second cars duking it out, and this year the field is one 13 second car! Just goes to show that if you make an appearance, anything can happen. As it turned out, on the drive to Michigan tonight I stopped for gas, and there was the car! I had dinner with the two guys running it at the McDonalds there, and they are really nice guys, and can't believe their luck. However, they are also having some problems, fuel pump and some bracket problems I think, so its not a done deal that they will make the whole event. I'm rooting for them, though; what a coup! All the big hitters had to drop out, and they will be just hating life if these guys win the class.

The real battle is in Pro-Street, where there are between 10 and 20 contenders. Jack Miller made it back through the deluge from Indianapolis, and was at the track today. He was having problems today with his blower belts; I think he broke three of them. One of them ended up laying at the end of the track; I saw it at the end of one of my passes, and thought, "Uh-oh, that looks like one of Jack's belts!". Nevertheless, Jack ran a pretty good pass at 8.85, but his MPH was down at 143 because the belt let go around the 1000 foot mark. He was scrambling to try to find some extra belts; he's down to his last two. That car will run a low eight, I think, if Jack can make one good pass and hold it together.

The purple Duster driven by "Elvis" also managed to make it to the track today, and he ripped off a low 8 second time. I think he is the leader in the Pro-Street class, because the only other car in that class that I saw running 8s is Jack.

Steve Hoch's Corvette, who is in the Street Race BB PA class also put in a strong effort today, running an 8.88. I would have been competing against him this year; I think it would have been tough to match his effort.

The racing went very smoothly, and I managed to get a total of 15 passes in today in the GT. I think everybody was getting tired of seeing me at the starting line by the end of that LOL! Brad FORD wanted to know what my "lap times" were; in several instances, I ran down the track, came back on the return road, got the slip, and made it back through the staging lanes and up to the starting line before any other cars had gone. The GT hot laps with no trouble; temperature stays under control, and I just flip off the air conditioning before the pass, and turn it back on on the return road. Racing in luxury!

I had wanted to run an 11.80 or 11.90 today, to set myself up for running slower on the last day so that I could try to sneak in on 12.00, but it didn't work out that way. I spent a lot of passes experimenting with my launch technique, trying to figure out a way to get the car down the track without smoking the clutch, but most of the passes were in the 12.30-12.40 range during my tests. Finally, on my last pass I decided to slip the clutch on the launch, but it didn't go quite as well as it had on Sunday. I ran a 12.09 at 121 MPH this way, and of course with the clutch all heated up I was reluctant to go back and try it again right away. By the time the clutch had cooled down, I kind of felt like getting on the road anyway, because we figured it would be a long trip to Michigan. So, I handed in the 12.09 as my official pass; hope I can do a little better at US131.

Steve, on the other hand, was nearly perfect, and ran a 12.01 on his second pass! I guess he pedaled it just right. However, there were at least two other cars with 12.00x times, and several cars that were in the 11s, so its going to be a tight race in daily driver, as expected.

After turning in our slips, we got directions to the next track, and they covered a total of 360 miles, including a stretch on US 30 that appeared to be in a not so desirable neighborhood. The directions for the first two legs on Monday and Tuesday weren't too bad, but these directions for today sucked. They were not clear, and the sent the racers down a bunch of dead ends where you had to go down a road, and then turn around and come back. It was pretty phony, and reminded me of last year WAY too much. The checkpoint was at a Chicago race track; here's the photo:

DW06 Day3

I finally made it to the hotel at 11:30 local time tonight, and Steve and BradFORD came in about 25 minutes behind me. We're all sitting here in the hotel room enjoying a beer, and complaining about the weather and the directions LOL! It rained a good chunk of the way up here on the trip, so we're wondering if we might get rained out again tomorrow…

Tomorrow morning we should get the list that shows the names of all the competitors in all the classes, and what times they are running, so that will give us a clearer picture of what's really going on. More tomorrow – Jay

Drag Week 2006 Day 4, US 131 Dragway, Thursday, September 14 2006

Another entertaining day today at Drag Week 2006. The weather was overcast and the track was wet when we arrived this morning, but the rain held off and we got a chance to run the cars again today. It took the track until 11:00 AM this morning to get the track dried off and ready to go, so while we were waiting I spent some time catching up on the latest news from the other racers. Some interesting notes:

- Over 170 people registered for Drag Week 2006. A total of 128 were teched in and race ready on Monday before the deadline. As of yesterday at Cordova, only 93 were still in the race, and more have fallen out since then. Freiburger says they're "dropping like flies".

- There are 53 entries left in my class, and Steve and I are both in the group of 20 or so that probably has a shot. But there are some real ET marksmen in this group, with at least two 12.00x runs from Wednesday, plus a host of high 11 second runs that the racers are probably using as setups, so that they can run slower later.

- Steve Hoch, the guy with the Corvette in Street Race PA BB, which was the class I was going to enter, hurt his motor on the 8.88 pass he ran at Cordova, and put the car on the trailer there. This means there is only one car left in the class, a Mopar running low 10s! Which also means if I'd brought my Mach 1, I could have run with this guy and probably beaten him, even if I didn't have my NHRA license. Damn!

- Bill Fowler in his 71 Mustang convertible is leading the Street Race NA BB class, with a 10.82. He ran a 10.90 today, and is still comfortably in front. Which means that if I'd left my Mach 1 completely alone from last year, and entered again in NA BB this year, I'd have a 4 tenths lead on everybody in the class. Double Damn! On the other hand, its good to see Bill doing well, after he broke last year, and at least it is a Ford running in first place…

- Scuttlebutt has it that "Elvis", in the purple Duster, hurt his motor on his big pass yesterday, but he made it to the track this morning, and ran an 8.85 or something like that. So, he still has the lead on Jack Miller's FE Mustang as a result of his big pass on Wednesday.

- Jack ran another 8.80 pass today, at 160 MPH, but he said he lifted at the end of the track. As he left the track today, he told me he was going to let it all hang out tomorrow. Should be fun to watch…

When they called us to the lanes, I was almost completely out of gas, so I decided to make one run before adding more. Yesterday along the way, I had purchased some Rocket Brand 100 octane unleaded fuel to try out in the GT, so I thought I would do a back to back comparison with the 93 octane pump gas that I've been running all week. My first pass felt pretty good; I slipped the clutch, but not too much, and the car left reasonably well, running a 12.06 @ 121 MPH. I went back to the pits and added the four gallons of 100 octane that I'd purchased, and went back out for another pass. I must be getting the hang of launching the car, because this time my leave was even better, and I was rewarded with an 11.98 @ 118.5. The MPH number was kind of confusing, though, so I went back to make another run. This time the leave wasn't so hot, and I ran a 12.31, and the MPH was still the same at 118.5.

I went back to the pits and thought about this, and kind of figured that the engine wasn't adapting well to the higher octane fuel. Steve had already made a couple of runs, and was just coming back from a 12.20 pass, so I told him I was going to leave the track and drive the car around for a while to burn up the 100 octane gas, and put 93 octane back in it before making any more runs.

I took off up US 131 for 20 miles, then turned around and came back. Halfway back, my cell phone rang. It was Brad FORD: "Steve blew a head gasket. We need you to pick up some parts". I redirected the "parts chaser" past the track, and down the road a few miles to Plainwell MI, where I found a parts store that had head gaskets and intake gaskets for a 400 Chevrolet. I picked them up, along with some sealer, hit the gas station to put in four gallons of 93 Octane, and ran back to the track. They were just making the last call for the staging lanes, so I tossed out the parts, put on my helmet, and went out to the starting line.

Again the launch on the next pass was pretty good, but I was disappointed to see only an 11.97 @ 121. At least the MPH was back, but I had been hoping to run in the 11.80s at Martin, so that I could run a 12.0x at Cordova on Friday to hit the 12.000 average. I made one more pass, but again muffed the start, and then they closed the staging lanes, so I handed in my 11.97 as my official pass. Looks like I'll need to run 11.94 at Cordova tomorrow…

I went back down to see how Steve and BradFORD were doing. They had the left side head off, and showed me where the gasket between cylinders 6 and 7 had blown out. Nitrous is wonderful stuff, until things start to break. Anyway, they had decided to replace both head gaskets, because Brad felt that the other one was probably on the verge of failure also. I told them they were nuts; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Brad insisted though, and when we got the other gasket out it looked pretty marginal, so it was probably the right call. In any case, Brad and Steve were doing most of the work, but I pitched in scraping some gaskets, torqueing some head bolts, attaching the headers, changing the slicks out for the street tires again, etc. Bill Johnson, his wife, and his son in law made it out the track this morning, and hung around after nearly everyone had left while we worked on Steve's car. Bill pitched in to help also. Here's a couple of photos of the thrash; that's Bill Johnson at the right of the second photo. Note BradFORD's Y-block t-shirt:

DW06 Day4a DW06 Day4b

Bill and his family stayed with Steve and Brad until the work on the car was done, and they were safely on the road. We owe them all a big thanks!

By 4:00 PM, just about everyone had left the track, except for a few of us who were working on the cars. The ugly green Nova, entered by the Wheel to Wheel Racing guys, had trashed a roller lifter today, and they were still there, waiting for parts to put the car back together. Their cam is pretty messed up, but they are going to try to limp the car back to Cordova and get one good pass out of it. They are currently running in first place in the Street Race PA SB class. Also, there was a guy still there with a yellow Camaro, who was having some problem. He finally packed up and left, but on the way out of the track, Bill's wife saw the hood fly off his car! Apparently he forgot to put the hood pins in. He strapped it onto his trailer, and went out the gate hoodless. Fifteen minutes later he was back, with no oil pressure, and calling his buddies for a trailer. He's out. I also saw the black GTO convertible that made the trip last year go onto a trailer today; don't know what happened to him. Drag Week is brutal.

I was getting pretty concerned about the drive back to Cordova by this point, because we were going back through the south side of Chicago on US 30. This goes through Chicago Heights, which is NOT a good part of town. On the way through it yesterday, several young ambitious gentlemen had run along beside the GT while I was creeping along in traffic, and urged me to roll down the windows and chat with them! I did not comply, partially in fear for my life LOL! On the way through yesterday, it had been light outside. I didn't relish the prospect of running through that same stretch of town, one day later, in the dark. But, by about 4:30 both heads were back on Steve's motor, along with the headers and the valvetrain, and Steve suggested that I take off ahead of them. I needed no further urging, and was out of there by 4:40.

The mandatory checkpoint was a local airport about 120 miles from the track, and the trip was uneventful up to that point. I got out to take the picture, and found that all the Hot Rod people were sitting in the back of a truck about 50 feet away, watching all the contestants come in. I went over and said hello, and told them that Steve would be on the road soon. After chatting for a moment or two, I mentioned that I'd better get going if I wanted to avoid being carjacked in Chicago Heights. Freiburger says, "Just try to be inconspicuous". We had a good laugh at that. Inconspicuous? In a Ford GT? Here's the mandatory check point photo:

DW06 Day4c

Fortunately, my trip through Chicago Heights was uneventful, and outside of the terrible road construction that we are all having to contend with, the trip back to Cordova was uneventful. I made it in by 11:30 local time, and Steve and Brad showed up here by 1:30. So, tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day; we'll see how everybody does. I'll be driving home late tomorrow night, so my last post for Drag Week 2006 will probably be on Saturday.

Drag Week 2006 Day 5, Cordova, and Final Results, Friday, September 15 2006

After the thrash on Steve's Chevelle on Thursday afternoon and the late arrival at the hotel on Thursday night, we all slept in a little on Friday morning. After washing the car I finally made it into the track about 9:15. The weather for a change was beautiful, and you could just feel everybody's spirits were buoyed with a little sunshine and the prospect of a full day of racing.

At the track the standings were being passed out, and I was in 14th place in Daily Driver 12.0. Of course, that really didn't mean anything, because it all came down to the last track anyway. For the first time I took my two other runs from Cordova on Wednesday and Martin on Thursday, and added them up to figure what would be required to run exactly 12.00000. Turned out the number I needed was 11.939. At 9:30 they announced that the staging lanes were open, so I put on my helmet and drove down the staging lanes.

On Wednesday at Cordova, I'd had a really tough time making an 11 second run. I'd been hoping to run 11.90 something on Wednesday, but the best I could manage was a 12.09. So, needing an eleven to be competitive in the class, I was a little concerned about how the car would run at Cordova. However, yesterday at Martin I had gotten over my reluctance the slip the clutch on the starting line, and had run some pretty good times, so I decided to do the same thing here. The launch for my first pass felt pretty good; I was able to keep the revs over 4000 RPM while slipping the clutch to engage gradually for the first 50 feet or so, and the car felt strong on the launch and strong going down the track. I got an 11.79 out of that pass, which made me pretty happy, because it appeared that I was going to be able to run fast enough to at least make a stab at hitting my number. I was also pretty happy that I didn't notice any smell of burning clutch on the return road, so I went right back around to make a second pass. Again, the car felt the same on the launch, but the revs dropped down to 3400 or so, so I figured I was going a little slower. At the timing shack the lady handed me my slip, and I couldn't believe what I saw: 11.929! I was one hundredth of a second too fast! I felt encouraged that I had come close, but I couldn't turn in that time slip or the average would be below 12.00 and I'd be disqualified.

I went right back around on the return road, and ran again, but only managed a 12.06. This time I also smelled the clutch again, so I drove back to the pits to park the car and let it cool off for a while.

With street tires and a manual transmission, the GT is not exactly a consistent car, and I was still in a state of disbelief that I had come so close to running the perfect time, but just a tad too fast. I was whining about that to anyone who would listen, including forum member Tommy A, who had shown up today with some of his friends at the track. Tom also made the track on Monday for the registration and rainout, so it was good to see him get a chance to see the cars run.

Steve had shown up at the track a little after me, and he and BradFORD were getting Steve's Chevelle ready to go. After the head gasket repair the previous evening, Steve had decided to not run the nitrous, preferring just to get a naturally aspirated run in so he could successfully finish the event. He went out and ran a 12.48 I think, so he came back to the pits pretty happy with that. BradFORD, being the conscientious mechanic that he is, took a look at Steve's engine, and then announced that he had to make a test drive in Steve's car to check the repair. Of course, the test drive was going to be down the track LOL! I think Steve was really grateful for the help Brad had been at Martin for the head gasket repair, and he let Brad run the car. Brad turned a 12.57 with it, I think. Just a little slower than Steve; nice time for his first pass down the track in several years. BTW, the Drag Week bug has bitten BradFORD, and for the last three days he's been talking about bringing his 65 Galaxie to next year's event. Of course, with an FE! We'll see what happens next year...

Steve was gaining some confidence in his repair, and now the devil on his shoulder was whispering "Nitrous" in his ear, so he was starting to mull over making a nitrous pass. My clutch had been cooling for 45 minutes or so, and I thought I could safely make another few runs, so while Steve wrestled with the nitrous idea, I put the helmet back on to make a few more passes. I can't remember all the times, but they were all in the 11.90 to 12.20 range. My closest pass to what I needed was 11.977, which would get me an average of about 12.03. I knew this wouldn't be close enough for the win, or probably not even a top 5 finish, so I kept on going. But by the fifth or sixth pass this go around, the car was running consistently slower, in the 12.20 area, so I went back to the pits again to let it cool. I hadn't really smelled the clutch on any of these runs, but I could feel the heat from the engine compartment inside the car, so when I parked I opened the back hatch to cool off the engine. I imagine that the intercooler fluid was getting heated up and that was causing a loss of HP, or that the engine compartment temperatures were heating up the incoming air, or something like that. I decided that from here on out I would only make 3 passes in the car before letting it cool for a few minutes with the hatch up; I felt that would give me the best chance of getting down close to the range that I needed to be in.

Back in the pits, Steve had decided to make his nitrous run, and in the middle of my passes had run a 12.01. He was pretty happy with that, and decided to take it and call it a day. He went up to the tower to hand in the slip, and I walked over with him. We bumped into Freiburger on the way there, and I told him about my 11.929 run, and how close it had been. He said, "Well, now you know you can do it. Keep running!" After Steve had his time slip in, we went back to the concession stand for some track food, and sat in the stands for a while to watch the racing. Jack Miller came up in his 68 FE powered Mustang, and ran another 8.85. He was telling me later that no matter what he did, his car ran an 8.84 or 8.85 at every track! In the end, Jack came in second overall in the event. Great accomplishment as far as I'm concerned. Jack also won the Fastest Ford award at the awards ceremony. Jack, his wife Juanita, and his "crew" Eugene were really nice folks, and it was a real pleasure to get to know them this week during Drag Week. I hope they can make it again next year.

Another notable car was a four cylinder 79 Mustang that was running a turbo four cylinder. This guy pulled the best wheelstands of the event, hanging the front tires three or four feet in the air, and carrying them a good 150 feet down the track. The car was running small block power adder (with a significant cubic inch disadvantage, I might add), and running in the 9.40 to 9.80 range. Incredible car. He was in the same class as the ugly green Nova that broke a roller lifter at Martin, and it would have been fun to see him win. But, the guys with the Nova got the car Mickey-Moused together in Martin, limped back to Cordova on seven cylinders, made a better repair in the pits at Cordova, and despite the trashed cam lobe, ran a 9.40 on Friday to take the win. Great effort by those guys.

My car had cooled for an hour or so, so I decided to go back to make some more passes and better my 11.977 time. The car felt strong on the next pass, and I was curious about the time as I came around to the timing shack. The lady in the timing shack and I had gotten to know each other pretty well for the past week. I'd been making more passes than nearly anybody else, and she really liked my car. She was starting to tell me the time on my slip before she handed them to me. When I came around this time, she said "11.88". "Too fast", I said, and took the slip and went around again. Next pass felt the same, and when I came around to the timing shack, she said "11.93".

I said "11.93 WHAT??"


Sheesh, I just couldn't believe it! I was now 5 thousandths of a second too fast! This was even closer than the 11.929 run! As I drove back into the staging lanes to make my third pass of this set (13th pass overall), the "Check Gauges" light came on on the dash, and a glance at my fuel gauge told me I was almost empty. I made the last pass, and ran a perfect 12.000 time (not that it did me any good), and then drove out of the track and back into the town of Cordova for a few more gallons of 93 octane.

On the drive I was thinking about how Drag Week 2006 had been a series of missed opportunities for me. It was clear at this point that if I hadn't made any changes at all to my Mach 1 last year, and run it again in NA BB this year, I would have won the event again without breaking a sweat. Also, with only one guy running in the PA BB class that my Mach 1 was going to be in this year, and running a 10.62 average after the first two days, it was clear that if I'd just brought my Mach 1 to the event, I'd have been able to run faster and take the win. I wouldn't have even needed to have my NHRA license, and not having the license was one of the primary reasons why I didn't bring the Mach. And now, here I was .005 seconds too fast to make the perfect 12.0 Daily Driver time, and the one legal time I had probably wouldn't even put me in the top ten. I was just shaking my head.

The vents and radiator in the GT were doing a good job cooling off the engine and engine compartment, so by the time I returned to Cordova the car felt cool enough to run, so I went right back out to the staging lanes. First run back (#14) I muffed the start, and ran a 12.15 or something. Next pass felt much better, and the timing shack lady announced the time when I pulled up:


"11.93 WHAT??"


Damn, another close one. I went back around one more time, and this time ran an 11.965, which was a little better than the 11.977 that I'd been planning to hand in before. At least I'd improved on my average time with that one, but I knew that it still wouldn't be enough to win.

I went back to the pits and cooled down for another 30 minutes or so. By this time it was 1:40, and they had announced that Drag Week 2006 was ending at 2:00, so I figured I'd better make a few last runs and try for my number a few more times. Back around into the staging lanes, and I ran a lousy 12.23 on run #16. Went around again and ran a 12.01. On my third pass this time (#18 overall today), I got matched up with Matt Zampino and his 70 El Camino. Matt had been in my class last year at Drag Week 2005, and we'd gotten to know each other pretty well. Really a good guy, and a lot of fun at the track. Matt had broken a roller lifter at Cordova on Wednesday, gotten it repaired by 6:00 in the evening or so, gotten 50 miles down the road to Martin and broke a front spindle! The wheel came off the car, and he was out. He spent Thursday at the hotel near Cordova, found a junkyard with a new spindle, put it on the car, and was back racing on Friday as an "extra", since he was now out of the race.

Matt had been running right around 12.0 with his car, and I was all fired up to race him. I forgot all about running a specific time, and concentrated on beating Matt LOL! We had a great start, and I pulled him a little in second gear, and a little more in third, and had him by about 1.5 car lengths at the end of the track. I had a big smile on my face after that one. I pulled up to the timing shack and the lady announced my time:


"11.93 WHAT???"


Do you guys remember that 70s Kung Fu show, where the old Chinese guy said, "Grasshopper, snatch the pebble from my hand"? I snatched that time slip faster than David Carradine ever snatched that stupid pebble! I looked at the slip, and sure enough, there was the perfect time. I couldn't believe it! On my 18th run of the day, with 10 minutes left in Drag Week 2006, I had scored a perfect 12.00000 average time. Unbelievable.

I clutched the time slip like a winning lottery ticket as I drove back to the pits, and walked over to the timing tower. When I got up to the top of the tower, I asked the Hot Rod girls who were taking the time slips if anybody else had run 12 seconds even. They said, Oh yes, and started showing me some 12.004 and 12.001 average times on their spreadsheet. I clarified; "Anybody run 12.000000000000000000?". They looked at me in shock. They took the slip, put it into their spreadsheet, and sure enough a perfect 12 appeared in the average box.

I walked out of the tower with my official 12.00000 average slip from Hot Rod, and went off to find Steve and BradFORD. Ran into a bunch of last year's guys on the way, and they couldn't believe the slip either LOL! Finally I found Steve, and he was stunned. He knew I'd been chasing that number, but that of course the odds against me hitting it were pretty astronomical. We went looking for BradFORD, and when we found him, he couldn't believe it either. I think he's probably still shaking his head.

At this point, I thought it might still be possible for someone to beat me. If anybody else ran their perfect run, it could come down to a tie breaker, and that would be average MPH. My average MPH was 120, which is pretty fast for a 12.0 car, but there were some guys running a little faster than that, so I wasn't 100% sure I'd won at this point. But one thing I knew for sure was that I'd made the bracket race.

In addition to the normal competition in the 11.0 and 12.0 Daily driver classes, the top four finishers in each class were going to have a bracket race at the close of the event. Each car's dial-in was your average time for Drag Week, which meant of course that my dial was 12.0000. By now, the lanes had closed, and the announcer was encouraging everyone to hand in any last minute time slips if they wanted to be considered for the bracket race. I figured that I should make the top four easy, if nothing else. By 2:45, they started to call the bracket race cars to the lanes, and sure enough I was the first one they called.

Now, I have a confession to make. I have never run in a bracket race before in my life! I've been running my cars on the street since the late 1970s, and have been to quite a few test and tunes, but bracket racing has never appealed to me that much; I'm much more interested in tuning the combination, and running heads up against other people, than in running against a dial in. Nevertheless, here I was, so I decided to try to make the best of it. My reaction times during this week's Drag Week were all over the map, so I figured I'd lose any race on the starting line anyway, but I was looking forward to giving it a try.

They pulled me up to the starting line first, and gave me lane choice, so I figured that was a pretty good indication that I was indeed the Daily Driver 12.0 winner. I was racing a big white Caprice with a 502 BBC in it. The lights came down, and I was right on that last yellow, and much to my surprise the car left better than it had ever left before. I was kind of in shock as I grabbed second gear and continued to accelerate down the track. I grabbed third, and looked in my rear view mirror, and that Caprice was WAY back there. I thought for a second that maybe I'd redlighted, and then I remembered that if you are way out in front in a bracket race, you're supposed to hit the brakes or slow down or something at the finish line. Well, the finish line was right there, and I got off the gas, but didn't hit the brakes. I came around to the timing shack and as I drove up, the lady in the shack was smiling and shaking her head at me. Oops, I must have redlighted. "Too fast", she says, and hands me the slip. 11.74 at 109 MPH! I was in the middle of an easy 11.60 run when I let off. The car was never that fast! And I broke out by over a quarter of a second. Adding insult to injury, I had cut a .007 light! My competitor had cut a .2xx light, so I had an easy win if I'd only remembered to slow down a little sooner. Oh well, I hadn't expected to win the bracket race anyway, so I went back to the pits, parked and came back up to the stands. BradFORD said, "What the hell happened?? You slaughtered that guy on the line!". Sheesh, my fastest time ever with the GT, and it happens in the 12.0 bracket race.

In the bracket race final, Jim Neuenfeldt and his blue truck took the honors. Jim had won the Daily Driver 11.0 class, so it turned out that both he and I were winners at last year's Drag Week, and this year's. That was kind of fun, to see that Drag Week 2005 hadn't been a fluke, and that last year's drivers were still competitive this year. Jim is the guy who we told about the potential trailering of the Nova wagon last year, and when the 1320 Video guy got footage of the wagon on the trailer, Jim became last year's small block power adder winner. It was great to see him win the Daily Driver 11.0 class, which was a tough class, and also win the bracket race.

After the bracket race, everybody headed over to this covered pavilion for the awards ceremony. David Freiburger from Hot Rod hosted the awards ceremony again, and the first thing he did was give away special t-shirts to all the competitors who had participated in Drag Week last year, and this year. After I got my shirt and was walking back to my seat, Freiburger joked, "I guess we have to respect you this year because you didn't bring an FE!". I turned around and pumped three imaginary bullets into his forehead with the imaginary gun in my right hand. Everybody laughed. Freiburger is actually a pretty funny guy.

They handed out the prizes class by class, and everybody got something really nice. I won a bunch of t-shirts, the Hot Rod Jacket, $500 worth of gift certificates from Comp Cams, a Detroit Locker, a set of Mickey Thompson drag tires in the size of my choice, four cans of Rocket Brand racing gas, and a few other things. Probably more than $1500 in prizes. In my class from last year, BB NA, Bill Fowler with the 71 Mustang convertible won with a 10.80 average. Bill went out after the first day last year, with a broken roller lifter and damaged cam, and came along on the trailer for the remainder of the event. It was great to see him bounce back from that last year and win this year. Brian Rock in the 65 GTO also won; he had competed in the PA BB class last year, and of course running against three 8 second Novas he didn't really have a chance. But this year, a rules change put him in the small block category, and he beefed up the motor and took off the nitrous to win in SB NA, with an average in the 10.70s I think. Brian and Bill trailered out together from southern California, so that will be one happy drive back home for those guys.

The big winner was the guy with the purple Duster; his name is Eddie something. He's a big trash talker on the Hot Rod message boards, and he dresses like Elvis Presley so everybody calls him Elvis. He kind of rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and I was afraid he'd go off on the awards ceremony and make an idiot out of himself, but he actually gave a pretty nice speech, thanking the Hot Rod guys for putting on the event, complimenting all the competitors, and wondering if there would be anything left of his business when he got back, because he'd left his ex-wife in charge. He was one of the slowest cars on the road from track to track, but as I understand it Hot Rod followed him on two of the legs, so we know he didn't jump on the trailer. He won the prize fair and square, and you've got to respect him for that. The big prize this year was a custom electric guitar with the Hot Rod and Drag Week logos on it; I guess its fitting that Elvis won the guitar.

Drag Week 2006 wrapped up after the awards ceremony. I didn't think it was as good as last year, but the two rainouts had something to do with that, and in the end, it was still a good time. Jack Miller made it through unscathed and held the FE banner high, so that was great to see. There were 120+ competitors that signed up on the first day, and only 73 at the finish, so the attrition rate was much higher than last year. It ain't easy (unless you're driving a Ford GT LOL!), but I would highly recommend the event for anyone who has the inclination to go next year. It was a lot of fun.