We (Deb, I and our four dogs) returned from the July race in Martin, MI and then a week in Indiana having the Coach Serviced. As soon as we got home I came down with flu like symptoms. I was 2 hours away from my doctor and because of that and that I was fully vaccinated – I decided to ride it out without seeing my doctor. That turned into 8 days of bedrest.
When I did return to the shop in early August, the Thrash was on, as it was decided the upcoming road trip would last 5+ weeks. We’d first go to the Norwalk race (August 25th-28th); then a week at my wife’s old stomping grounds (Western New York) to visit her sister, high school and work friends; then to a Mopar Race in Northern Kentucky; then the Moparty in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and finally the NMCA Finals/FX Shootout/Dave Duell Classic/All Star Race (three races in one) in Indianapolis.
Short Recap of getting ready for the 5-week road trip <—Click that link
Prior to leaving, I pulled everything out of the Stacker, reorganized my spare parts bins, then loaded up the cars and golf cart.
We left the Monday (8/23/21) afternoon before the race, and spent the first night at a Walmart in Atlanta, Texas – so Deb could get groceries. Tuesday we drove to a Walmart in Shepardsville, KY (just south of Louisville) for the night. Wednesday we got to the track in the early afternoon and set up our pit. The Thug was on the lift and the transmission leak that I thought I’d fixed – wasn’t – and I had to clean it all off the Wagon, which was under it.
If you’ve been following along in the shop updates, I started having problems with the car not running as fast as it should and having consistency issues since the race in Wisconsin. It was hot and humid at that race, as it was in Martin, MI. In Martin everyone felt that my carburetor jetting was too rich (113/113) and I took a big swing jetting down the rear jets in both carbs to 113/104. It improved some with making the car a little quicker – but no consistency. I ran the car after removing a battery and the Passenger seat, which is a littler over 100 pounds. I lost to Jim Netherland by running 9.749 on my 9.75 index. After Martin, I changed the jetting to 110 square for the Norwalk race while I was going through the car in the shop.
In NMCA, you can buy 2 Time Trial hits on Thursday – and I always do. They both sucked, and I was a 1/10 or better off my 9.75 seconds Index. I ran my Valves and found #7 was way off, which was surprising as I’d run them in the shop. Friday had a morning Time Trial before qualifying started, and the car way way off – in the 9.8s with no weight. When I got back to the pits, I sprayed glass cleaner on the header tubes – as I felt like I might have a dead hole, instead of incorrect jetting. It burned off fast on all header tubed except #7. I started the car up and took temp readings off all tubes. All be #7 were 600+ degrees – while #7 was 200+ degrees. I replaced the spark plug wire, hoping that one of the new wires I’d made was bad. No such luck, as the temp was still cold on #7 tube. Ron Tiller, Bruce Lang and Brent Wheeler had come over to help – and we borrowed a compression tester to test compression. It was confirmed that I had next to no compression in #7. That was the cylinder that the Jesel rocker ate up the Intake pushrod in Atlanta and again in St. Louis. I’d replaced the Jesels (which had terrible geometry) and pushrods with TD Machine rockers and new Smith. Brothers Pushrods before the Wisconsin race. I’ll assume I bent a valve.
So my plan was to change my index to 10.0, and make 1 qualifying pass for the points of being on the ladder for the first round – then park the car. I ran Q1 and was a little too quick, putting me at the bottom of the ladder. I didn’t run Q2 later that day. I was in 5th place in the standings – 200 behind TD Holland in 4th and 30 points ahead of Doug Poskovitch in 6th. Despite the terrible year I’d been having, I wanted to be in the Top 5 for an automatic invitation to the 2022 All Star Race. On Saturday, I was convinced that I really wouldn’t damage the engine any more than it already was and so I ran Q3 and Q4, to see if I could get some qualifying points. Long story short, the car was so inconsistent that I didn’t get into the Top 10 in qualifying for points.
Sunday at 8:30am Eliminations started and I was matched against friend Ron Tiller. Ron knew that my car was wounded, but forgot that under the pressure of racing – and red lit against me. Needless to say, he was more than a little upset over making the mental error of pushing the light on a Wounded car.
Back to the Thug, which is my backup car. After running the car in Wisconsin to test the transmission rebuild, the trans started leaking again. When it was rebuilt the pump seal, pump bolt washer seals, the pump O-ring, and the pump bushing were replaced. The converter’s snout had a very light score and I used Emory paper to smooth the ridge. One of the pump bolt holes was stripped, and so it was drilled out and Helicoiled. After the transmission was back in the car – I ran the car on jack stands and it stayed dry. The next day I took off jackstands, topped off the fluid and ran the car for 10 minutes – running through the gears. For three days it stayed dry – then there was a puddle. I got the fluid hot and checked the stick. It was a little over the full mark so I drained it down to 1/2 way up the fill mark. Again, I ran the car for 10 minutes going through the gears – and again it stayed dry for 3 days – then a puddle. I moved the car to the lift and gave it a close look. It looked like it was coming from the inspection plate (not installed) area of the bellhousing. However trans fluid is magical and can climb walls, so I stuffed white paper towels inside the bellhousing, around the hose fittings, around the vent and around the base of the dipstick. Days later there was a little on the paper towel around the vent and a lot from inside the bellhousing. After talking to many friends, the consensus was that it was still over-filled. It was getting down to nut-cutting as I had to leave for the races in four days. I drained it to below the fill line (hot in neutral) this time and again ran for 10- minutes doing power brakes and running through the gears. I raised the lift and shove clean white paper towels back into the bell housing. Three days later I check and they’re still clean. So I pulled them out and set lift down to ground.
Sunday I start loading the Stacker, and The Thug goes on the lift and is loaded first. I load it and strapped it down. I return to the shop to get The Screamin’ Woody – and I spot the puddle at the lift. Nothing I could do other than lay a couple pig blankets on the lift, under the transmission, and hope enough leaked out to stop the leaking. That brings me back to setting up my pit and finding fluid all over the lift and the top of the Wagon.
So fast forward to just after the 1st round of Eliminations and waiting for the 2nd – I was about to throw in the towel and head home with two broke cars and call my end to the season. Doug Duell comes to my Trailer and says we need to drain and measure all of the fluid in the Thug’s transmission. I was convinced this was a waste of time – but Doug insisted and I gave in. We drained out 7 quarts of fluid. I had 5 quarts of sealed and 3/4 quart of unsealed fluid – so we put the 5 3/4 quarts in the car. Doug climbed in (I’m way to big to get in an out of cars in the trailer) and ran the car. I was convinced that it would leak in three or four days – but we decided to go to WNY after the race and if it leak we’d go home after the visit – if it didn’t we’d race.
In the second round of Elimination on Sunday, I lost, breaking out 9.999 on a 10.0 index
That knocked me down from 5th to 6th.
Western New York – Hell Week Really Starts Now
We spent the night on the track, and left Monday morning. As I was pulling out I found I couldn’t get the generator started, had no electronic dash display, no power to the coach at all, and no dash AC. Tracing the electrical, I found one of four 120 amp breakers tripped. It would not stay reset.
We drove the 330 miles to Deb’ sisters without anything but engine power on a very hot day. We arrived in the late afternoon and I quickly rented a car to start looking for this circuit breaker. I tried RV sellers, hardware stores, auto parts stores, boat stores etc. No luck. Back at my Outlaws I ordered one on Amazon, which claimed to be delivered the next day. I changed the address to my in-laws and clicked buy – then was told to expect 7-10 days. I searched further and found one promised 3-5 days and bought that one too. I searched on-line for anyone with 200 miles selling it – and found its made or uber-rare Unobtainium. I posted on Fascistbook my issue and received a few leads that didn’t pan out. A racing bud said he’d call his vendor in the morning and see if they’d overnight.
Since we have 4 dogs, I slept with them in the motorhome with the windows open, and my wife stayed in the house. While we were in Norwalk, she started to come down with what I had two weeks earlier, and wasn’t feeling well. The next morning I called the motorhome manufacturer and told the service manager of my dilemma. He said he wouldn’t be able to do anything quick. I told him I’d spent well over $1MILLION on three coaches with them in the last 6 years, the motorhome is in warranty, and they have to buy those by the gross. He said he’d email the parts department – which he did copying me. At 11am eastern, three hours after I called, I get an email from the parts department slow rolling me for more info (he had a photo of the damn part) and telling me it was too late to send anyway. I called an executive of the company and told her I was pissed – and she said she was on it. An hour later she tells me the part was in hand – and she would personally take it to get overnighted. Around that time my racing buddy said his vendor was out of stock but would make and send. So now I have 4 coming.
Also Tuesday, I went to lunch with my remaining high school friends. I lived in WNY for 18 months, before enlisting in 72. There were 13 guys in our group, and 9 have died. Two of the guys I enlisted with are still alive. One lives in Vegas and couldn’t come. One lives in Virginia and he came up. The third has been paralyzed for the last 20 years, he came so 3 of the 4 of us still remaining got together – maybe for the last time. We had a nice lunch – but driving home I started feeling ill again.
Wednesday, I’m feeling real sick and stay in the Motorhome. The part from the motorhome manufacturer arrives, but looked used and the flag didn’t feel right. I installed it, and it didn’t work. My racing bud calls to say that that part was ready to send and asks for my address. I tried to disassemble the original failed part to see if I could fixed, and it breaks. I pull out the generator slide out to see if I can jump start and run without the circuit breaker – as it’s hot and I have had no electricity for three days now. I noticed the the 00 gauge power cable coming out of the generator has a cut insulation and burned. It obviously was the cause of the circuit breaker tripping and not resetting. I wrap it with a dozen layers of electrical tape and reroute it so it won’t get cut again. I tried to jump start the generator – but it needed the circuit breaker to start and run. I removed one of the other three circuit breakers (I honestly don’t remember what it controlled, but I felt I could do without it more than without generator) and put it in place of the generator’s circuit breaker. I finally had air conditioning, refrigerator and TV for my four dogs and I.
Thursday morning I still feel like shit and have uncontrollable coughing into killer headaches. One of the Amazon circuit breaker arrives and installed it in the missing spot. so I cancelled the other ordered on Amazon Motorhome is now fixed.
Friday I’m real sick and stayed in bed all day.
Saturday, I’m still sick but it’s time to check to see if the Thug is leaking trans fluid. I go out to check and it was not.
Sunday, still sick – but I unstrapped both race cars and the golf cart, unload, clean the trailer, install new mats I’d bought for the floor and reloaded/strap down the cars with the Wagon on the lift this time. I thought I wad going to die doing all of that.
Monday (Labor Day) I realize I’m getting worse instead of better and coughing up all kinds of crap. At 8am I make an appointment with Urgent Care – and their first available is 6pm. At 6pm I text to check in while sitting in my car – and was told to remain there until they text me to come in. This is New York, and they’re paranoid. If you have Covid, the whole property you’re staying at is locked done for 14 days with the Health Department checking up with frequent visits for head counts. At 6:45 I’m called in and taken to an Exam Room. A nurse takes my vitals and information. I tell them I’m living in a motorhome in a Walmart parking lot. I’m told to wait for doctor. An hour later the doctor comes in, listens to my heart and lungs – and says one lung sounds horrible and I need to go to the emergency room because I might have pneumonia. I’ve had pneumonia twice – and told her Bronchitis yes – pneumonia no as I didn’t have a fever. I refused to go to Emergency Room. I had to sign paperwork saying I refused their medical advice, they did a Covid test, an EKG, and a chest X-ray. I wait another hour and she comes back and says I still need to go to ER, and I still said no. She said the chest X-ray and EKG didn’t show any significant problem. I’m given instructions to log in the following day for Covid results and a 5-day script for a steroid. I asked about an antibiotic and was told the Steroid was so strong an antibiotic wasn’t needed.
Tuesday I stay in bed and wife gets prescription. I checked my Covid results, and they were negative. I also rested Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – although one of those days I had to drive to where I could dump the tanks. I obviously decided to not go to the race in North Kentucky.
Saturday I was feeling better but not great. Still had a cough but not as bad. I’d rented a car for $1000 a week and hadn’t driven it but 50 miles in the first week. My wife had made arrangements a week earlier for us to go to the cabin of a couple high school friends on Saturday. I really didn’t want to go as I was still under the weather – but said I’d take her. We went and spent half of the day. On the long drive back, I was starting to feel a little dizzy and disconnected.
Sunday morning I needed to fill the fresh water tank of the coach. I felt real dizzy and stoned. When I stepped out of the Coach I was walking like a drunk and knew I was in trouble. About 15 years earlier the same happened to me, and while it was real bad for two weeks – I had Vertigo for almost three years. I got on the patient portal for my regular doctor back home, explained the last month, and asked for a prescription of antibiotics. Monday his nurse answered to say he needed to do a virtual visit first, but couldn’t do until 8AM Tuesday.
Tuesday, I did a virtual visit, and he said it sounded like I originally had the flu 4 weeks earlier, that I didn’t treat it like I should, that developed into bronchitis, and then an inner ear infection – most likely from my CPAP. He prescribed 10 days of a high dose of Amoxicillin twice a day. Again I pretty much rested, but felt like I was getting worse instead of better. Thursday, I again had to close up the Coach and take to dump the tanks. That was quite an adventure.
Monday, I had to make a decision if I was going to be able to race at Moparty in Bowling Green or not. I felt like I was starting to get better – but not well enough to race yet, but might by the time I got there. I turned in my rent-a-car and we left early Tuesday morning. I figured if I wasn’t good enough to drive the coach safely by the time I got to the Thruway, I turn back. What I found was that I was good by just sitting, if I didn’t turn my head too fast. Standing and walking was something else. I got to the Track Thursday, registered, and teched my car in. However, the strain of unloading the trailer and setting up the pit made me sick. I felt I wasn’t safe to race, so I stayed in my coach.
NMCA Nats/Dave Duell Classic/FX Shootout/All Star Race
We left the track Monday morning and because we had 2 days to kill, we only drove to the Walmart in Shepardsville, that we’d stayed at the month before. Tuesday night we drove to a Walmart in Columbus, IN, which was 2-hours from the track.
Wednesday we arrived at the track in a hard and cold rain. We parked, but stayed in the Coach.
Thursday morning I set up my pit, established credentials and teched my car in. I was feeling better, but still wobbly. At noon the track went hot for our two Time Trials. It was cold and we were all expecting great numbers. My first pass was something like a 9.88 and I was shocked. Everyone else was also slow, although not as bad as me. We chalked it up to no barometer. The second pass was equally bad. To be able to run in the FX Shootout I need to run at least 9.75. I checked everything on that car that night and couldn’t find a thing wrong. I did remove the Passenger seat to save about 60 pounds.
Friday we had two Qualifying hits and the FX Shootout. My wagon has a cast iron block 588ci with 572-13 heads and it likes to have the water temperature at 130 degrees when I do my burnout and stage at 145 degrees. The Coronet is aluminum block 588ci with 440-1 345cnc heads. The day before I was staging the Coronet at the same temperature as I do the Wagon. With the weather as cold as it was I figured the intake might need more heat so I decided to do my burnout at 150 degrees and stage at 165 degrees. I ran 9.66 in the first Qualifying, which was way too fast and had me at the bottom on the list of 78 Racers.
I made weight adjustments and ran a 9.753 in the 2nd Qualifying round, which moved me up to #3 of 78 for qualifying.
The rest of the afternoon was the FX Shootout. I went out in the 3rd round with a .001 red light and a 9.760
Saturday we were to have had 2 qualifying hits and then the All Star Shootout. It had rained during the night and one of the qualifying hits was cancelled as the track didn’t go hot until 11am. I was not able to improve my position from 3. I did however notice that the reason my 60’s were not as good as they should be was that my seat was a little far back, as I’d set the car up for my son who is a few inches taller. The car launches hard and I felt like I might be slipping down the accelerator pedal on the wheel stands and not getting WOT (Wide Open Throttle). I made a mental note to move seat up when I got the car back to the shop and to get my foot as far up the pedal as I can.
The All Star Race takes the 16 best NMCA Racers against the 16 best Victory Racers. Who that Top 16 is starts with the Top Five in points the previous year from each group. I was #6 – so I’d missed there. Then the highest 9 qualifiers from each in this year’s Dave Duell Classic. My 9.753 on a 9.75 Index got me in the race. Then the last year’s Champ from each picks a ringer not already in. The 16th is a Lucky Dog draw. The previous five years has had the NMCA the last one standing (winning). It starts out with two bags of 16 numbered Poker Chips, which the Racers draw from. That pits 16 NMCA against 16 Victory (1 races 1, 2 races 2…). I won my 1st round. As fate had it, it was even with 8 NMCA and 8 Victory remaining. NMCA lost quite a few big guns unexpectedly in the first round. I won my second round and of the 8 left there were 3 Victory and 5 NMCA racers. That meant that two NMCA racers would have to race each other. Jim Netherland and I drew the 4 and 5 chips and had to race each other. I went .003 Red and was out. Victory ultimately won their first All Star Race. Saturday night was the Driver’s Dinner.
Sunday was the Big Show. I won my first round, and that trimmed 78 to 39 Racers. I won my second round – so we were down to 20 Racers. In the 3rd round I was matched up with fellow Thug Bruce Lang I’d beat him in an earlier race, so I knew I had a chance. He’s a good racer who was in 1st place in points for Stock/Super Stock and 2nd place in NSS. It would be a heads up race as we both are 9.75 cars. I got a little anxious and red lit. The high qualifying and three rounds moved me back up to 5th place for the year, 5 points out of 4th. I had a pretty bad year – but I at least have an invitation to next year’s All Star Race.
We left the track Monday morning and got to Evansville, IN at 11am. My BFF Doug Duell is storing my wagon at his dealership until his shop is finished this month. Then the guy who works on his car will pull the engine and transmission. My tranny will ride along with a couple of Doug’s to A&A Transmission for a freshen up. The engine will go with a couple of his to his engine builder in Louisville. He’ll have the car put back together in time for me to pick up before the race in Bradenton in March. That’s a major help.
We then drove as far as a Walmart in Searcy, AR to spend Monday night, and were home Tuesday night.