A lot of people have been asking what happened with Big Red Ram at MIR — and we’ve been a little evasive about it until we knew for sure — and how it would get handled. Didn’t want to jump the gun without facts.
We now know the facts — so here’s the deal. The motor in Big Red Ram was brand new — built right next to Doug Duell’s — exactly like his. It had two hard dyno runs — and came it 7HP more than Doug’s. Matt Wright at BRC Racecraft put the motor in the car — and took the car to Chandler the Saturday Dallas and I were racing in Ennis. He said the car ran great on the three passes he made, but flatten at 6500 — so he thought it might be lean. He did check the timing again (it was 35 degrees) and checked the System1 oil filter — and it was clean.
We take the car to MIR thinking we’ll take it easy on the motor and shift at 6500 for a 9.75. However on Dallas’ first pass, he does a 9.41 shifting at 6500. It was the fastest pass of Dallas’ life — and the car never drove better. However, he felt like the car was running out of steam at 6500. We talked to the builder, and he said it wasn’t lean because he put 113 (square) jets in the carbs. I have an Aerospace A2000, and a big Aerospace filter — using AN-10 lines, so the car isn’t starving. So we make another time trial pass shifting at 6200 and he gets a 9.45. We were told to check the timing (still at 35 degrees) and shift at 6800.
Since it was the first Qualifying, we threw 60 pounds in the car and made a pass shifting at 6800. All appeared well, and the car no longer flattened out. He did a 9.53 lifting at the MPH cone — would have been dead nuts on if he’d not.
The next morning we take the cars out for a warm up cruise. Dallas drove the Coronet to the staging lanes, turned around and headed down return road at about 1500-2000 RPM. As he slowed down at the end of return road to make a U-Turn, the 35PSI oil warning light flickered on and the motor immediately stopped. Hitting the starter was obvious that there was a seize issue. So I tow him back to the pits and we put a breaker bar on the crank — won’t budge. Took the valve covers off — and all looked good there. Took the oil filter off — and gold specks everywhere. Figured we spun a bearing — and that we were hosed because it was all through the motor.
We left the track at 4:30 Sunday and drove all night to Doug Duell’s Dealership in Evansville, IN — some 750 miles away. Got there at 5AM. Doug was waiting with a pickup and trailer so we could trailer the car to his mother’s; and a loaner car for my wife and daughter to shop and do laundry. Dallas and I pulled the motor. To get the crank turned to remove the Torque Convertor bolts — we took the oil pan down and wiggled the rods for end play. 5-6 had no end play, so we loosened the cap on 6 — and the crank turned, albeit tight. We put it in a crate in the bed of Doug’s pickup, went back to the motorhome to shower, and then to dinner with Anne, Doug, and the four of us.
At 3AM this morning Dallas and I took the engine up to Indianapolis to drop off at the builder at 8am (different Time Zone). By 11 AM it was completely torn down and inspected. No sign of oiling problems or being ran lean — but the crank was scored from a crushed #6 rod bearing. No one knows how it happened. They acknowledge we did nothing wrong, and we feel like Kenny built it right — and so it might just have been a defective bearing. Who knows, It is what it is. However, the important part is that they’ll stand behind the motor, by cleaning it and reassembling it.
The crank has to first go back to Callies to be reconditioned and nitrated, so the motor won’t be ready for three weeks. It is a race motor and in most cases even if it blows up on the dyno — there’s no warranty and I was expecting the worst. That would have pissed me off, so I am pleased that they’re doing the right thing.
We’ll spend the night here at the dealership tonight as we’re dog tired, and then leave early in the morning for the race in Bowling Green. In addition to all of the help Doug has given us — he’s also letting Dallas run his Barracuda in Bowling Green. We’ll then take his car home to clean it up, and leave early for the Joliet race to get the motor, and put it back into the Coronet. So that’s the story. The motor ran like a raped ape then suddenly crapped out, most likely because of a defective part. I don’t fault the builder as Kenny has built a million race engines from when he worked for McCandless, and Russ doesn’t fault us because there are no signs of damage other than the #6 Rod bearing and crank journal. It is one of those “Shit Happens” things. While it is a bummer that Dallas couldn’t race in MIR and we have had to bust butt getting here, pull the motor, take it to Indy and then go through the reverse when it is ready to go back in — they’re doing the right and not charging me to fix the motor. Super big thanx to Doug the Thug. Good friends like him are rare.