Dave & Buster’s Excellent Adventure

Last week was NMCA’s fourth race in the point series, held at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL. My wife had just had surgery on both feet, so it was just us boyz – my Chocolate Lab Buster and me. We took “The Thug”, which is a car I’d just finished a couple of months ago and need some data on. Its first race was Bowling Green, where I broke a rocker shaft. The next race was the Hot Rod Reunion, where I only got three passes and was fighting a couple of problems. This would be its third event.

Monday morning I loaded up the stacker, and headed out Monday at about 2pm, as I wanted to avoid Houston’s traffic. I drove 300 miles to Atlanta, TX, where I parked in Walmart’s parking lot over night, and loaded up the coach’s fridge with groceries and adult beverages.

Tuesday, I had a leisure morning, leaving at 10am and driving a little less than 500 miles to Sikeston,  MO – which is the last known Walmart parking lot in that direction that I know will not give me a problem parking on the far side of their lot.

Wednesday, I again had a leisure morning and leaving at 10 am for the 350 mile drive up the middle of Illinois, known for ticketing rigs as long as mine for over length. I arrived at the staging area (the NASCAR Track across the street from Route 66) at about 4 pm. About ten years ago that would have me 3rd in line, but this year there were at least 100 racers ahead of me. Wednesday night there was a new record of over 350 racers in line for this race.

Thursday, morning in the past would have the track start moving vendors in at 10 am, and racers at 11 am. This year, to the surprise of almost all of us, they started moving us in at 8 am. We (Rollie saved spots for Doug Duell, 00Joe Ewing, the Frees Brothers and I) got to the pits at 10am and I was set up, credentials established, and car teched in by noon.

I paid the $40 (now there’s a racket!) for test and tune, and that opened at 1 pm. I wound up being the first car down the track.

I’d checked my left weight box and it was empty, and I assumed the right was also, and so I didn’t check it until after the 1st pass, where I found 58 pounds. That put me in an awkward position between the 9.50 & 9.75 index (with breakouts for NSS). I took the weight out and decided to see if I could get close to the 9.50 index by shifting at 7200 instead of 6800, where the car still felt like it was pulling.

That didn’t buy me near enough, and it appears 6800 is the right shift point.

I pulled a plug to see if I could increase timing or lean  jetting, but it appears I was where the timing and jetting should be. I had pulled one of the two batteries, and was about to pull a seat to drop 100 pounds, but Doug talked me out of that plan. Good plan Doug! So I put them back in, loaded both boxes with weight and headed to the lanes for a third Time Trial Hit.

I waited in the staging lanes for three and a half hours while I saw some cars go through twice. It pissed off a lot of racers. There were a ton of wrecks an oil downs causing chaos.

By the time I’d gone up to race after sitting for 210 minutes with the cut off switch on, and not enough of a charge on one of the batteries,  I barely got the car started –  and had only 11 volts. I backed out and only had 4 volts by the time I got back to the pits.

Friday we had two Qualifying hits. The first at 8:30am. The car did a monster wheel stand (I’ve not put wheelie bars on the car yet) and was too fast at 9.71.

We waited a long time for the second Qualifying, as there were again a lot of oil downs. I was dead nuts with a 5. That moved me to number two, behind Jeff Frees who was dead nuts with a 2.

Saturday morning at about 8:30 am we were called for our third qualifying. I thought I was set on kill to try for dead nuts with a 0 or 1, but I ran a 9.77. We did have to wait, and weather changes fast in the mornings. Also My 60′ was a little off. They were hand spraying just as we were pulling in, and didn’t give any time to dry. As a matter of fact a video shows someone spraying in back of my car as I was staged. It might have been that, but from then on my car seemed to lose a little more each pass.

Sheet after 3 hits had me stay #2

1st Round Ladder

In the first round on Saturday night  I had Geary (pronounced Gary, as it threw me off for years) Bates. Long story short, he gave me lane choice last time and I gave him lane choice this time. He wanted Left so he could use his door mirror to watch me come up on him. I’d set my car up for a 9.73 and did a 9.76 all out. Geary took a little too much stripe (14.5.’ according to “Run Completion”) and broke out with a 10.48 on 10.50.

Sunday morning Round Two was against a pretty black 67 10.0 Chevelle that I don’t recall seeing before. He came to my trailer and told me he’d been racing for decades, quit for a little while, recently started again, and had been to a couple races I been at. I offered him lane choice, and he also chose the Right Lane. This round was a gift. As my light counted down I lost focus because he’d not left before me, and I had a .109 light. I was even more confused when he’d still not left when I did. He had a .289 light. I gave it less than full throttle and just stayed a fender ahead of him for a 9.99. I couldn’t use the run as data as it was so screwed up. I didn’t even enter it.

At about noon, Round Three was against Kurt Neighbor kn his 9.50 yellow 65 Comet. He’d been both tough on the tree and running the number all weekend. I asked him what lane he wanted, willing to flip if he wanted Left, and he wanted the Right lane, which I feel is correct for the faster car. I bagged three and we had a great race (look at the package at the bottom of the below ticket) with me dragging the brake and a little lift at MPH cone .

Run completion says I cut it pretty close and almost broke out with a 9.71 had I not lifted when I did.

Since I was the number two qualifier, won my first three rounds and there were 23 racers, I won a Bye for the fourth round. It was a good thing I had the Bye. After Round Three, I attached the charger to the charging terminals on the car and started the generator. While I was doing this Jeff Frees and his entourage stopped by to congratulate me for the close race, and then Kurt stopped by. By the time they called us for Round Four, I realized I never plugged the charger in. When I started the car, I barely had 16 volts. The last time I had to start to move into burnout box, it slow cranked and I had 14 volts for my burnout. It stuttered badly after my second gear shift, and I just drove it at 4000 RPM to get off the track. I kinda was surprised it wouldn’t run with 14 volts. Anyway, I was glad it was a Bye. I hurried back to pit to put the charger on at 25 amps, and it was taking it all.

Kevin Gass was the winner of the other Semi. He came to my pit wanting the Left. By then I had made 7 of my last 8 passes in the Left lane, and wasn’t looking to switch, so we flipped. Thanks Bobby Barrick for a heads flip for me. They called us in less than a half hour and my batteries were still taking all 25 amps. I had a hair above 16 when I started the car, and a hair under when I staged. I was dead right from the hit with a 1.39 60′ and then a stutter. I never could catch Kevin.

While I wanted the win more than you can imagine, Kevin is both a great racer and a nice guy, so if I had to lose to someone…

Being an old one eye fat man racing without help, it took me until 9 pm to tear down the pit and load up the trailer. Being it was late, that I’d had a few cold adult beverages, and that I was tired — I decided to stay overnight at the track. I showered and got to bed at about 11 pm.

Monday, I was up at 5 am, had breakfast, walked Buster and pulled out into the fog at 6 am.

I drove hard and non-stop — pulling into my shop (almost 1200 miles from the track) at 11:58 pm on the same Calendar Day.

This morning , I unloaded the trailer for a major disappointment. I stopped every couple hundred miles to take a click or too out of the straps. However, I didn’t for last 300 miles because of heavy rain. Outside Lufkin I had to lock the brakes up and swerved into the next lane because of an idiot. I should have stopped and checked the car’s straps, but I didn’t.

I’ve got my bud Randy Standsbury, who painted the car, coming next week from Louisiana to fix it for me before the Norwalk race. The car will also be gone through to see where a little speed might picked up from.

Here’s a track photo from the NMCA Gallery.

Thursday and Friday was chaotic with all the oil downs setting the schedule hours late. However Saturday and Sunday went very smooth, especially for the number of cars racing. NMCA has their stuff together.

I’d like to thank my sponsors, but on this car I have none except the battery hold downs from Aerospace Components, which are pretty nice pieces and some help from Mancini Racing with an annual credit for misc parts. On this car, I paid for the new brakes, headers, fuel system, converter, and every single other part on the car. Missing a couple of years (family and car issues) hurt me in the help department.  I feel like I’m coming back with this car and the wagon, which I’m just starting to rebuild. I hope to have the rust knocked off me and the cars by the end of this year, and come back next year with a vengeance. While far from probable, with five rounds and  #2 Qualifier Points, if I was to run the table on the last two races – and the right people fell on their face – I have a chance still. Weirder stuff has happened, and it doesn’t hurt to think BIG.