But still not without drama!
For the two weeks prior to leaving, Dallas and I were both putting in very long hours (and seven day work weeks) at the shop trying to get the Texas Whale and Big Red Ram ready for Bradenton. With just a couple of days left to go, we took the Whale to the track, and while it ran great with the new motor, it had a leak from the rear main seal. With only a day still left to go before loading up — we tried to replace it with the motor in the car (not that easy on a Mopar with the huge Cross-bolted aluminum caps!) and let the sealant on the Charlies oil pan cure for 12 hours. The next day the car was still leaking. On Dallas’s car (Big Red Ram), when we went to bleed the brakes after replacing the front rotors (the car eats them up), rebuilding the calipers, and replacing the pads — we sprung a bad leak on the connection between the braided hose and the hard line. Upon inspection, it was found that the car builder we used in 2003 to build the car used braided lines from a Harley Davidson and in the connection it was female to female flares. It was a wonder that we’d had any brakes in the last ten years. Anyway that and a few other simple issues requiring parts had the time run out.
The original plan had us having the formerly black car restored as the back up and the Vitamin C torn down to be rebuilt. However the black car is three months late coming back from the paint shop due to horrible painting weather. So the Vitamin C, which hadn’t even been started in six months had an hour to be loaded into the trailer if one of us was to race. I made a couple of driveway passes and deemed it to be able to press into service — so we loaded it up and got on the road to Florida. The slicks were worn out — but Mickey Thompson assured us they had more than enough pairs of 31″ 10.5Ws on the truck that would be at the track.
The trip to Florida was pretty much uneventful — with the exception of two major accidents shutting down the freeway (on I-10 both times) making us 4 hours late getting to our stopover place in Lake City. I’ll take that over flats any day.
We arrived at the track at 1:30 Thursday and unloaded. There was a Test & Tune until 5PM so I went to Mickey Thompson with my wheels. For some reason they sold the slicks reserved for me — and their only option was 29.5′ 10.5Ws. I was pretty sure that the Vitamin C had too much gear and not enough engine — but had no other option — so 29.5s it was. It took forever to get them mounted as their machine tore up one of my wheels in the process and it had to be filed smooth. I really needed to make a couple of passes before 5PM to see where I was going to be with the car on smaller slicks. I breezed through Tech and went right to the lanes — where I banged out a 10.99 launching at 2000 and shifting at 6400. While I run the 11.0 Index — that was too close for comfort and so I ran back at 4:55 and made another pass launching at 2500 and shifting at 6700. Another 10.99 with the 60′ suffering and the motor not liking it.
Friday there was Time Trials until 1PM and then the first qualifying pass would happen at 3PM. I bumped the timing 2 degrees and made three passes without any weight trying different tire pressures, launch RPMs, and shift points. 10.99, 10.97, 10.95. When qualifying started I knew what I’d be using for tire pressure, launch and shifting — and always like to be a little slow in the first round to get in — then I push for position in the 2nd and 3rd round of qualifying. I put 68 pounds in the weight box and ran a 11.02 — which was good for 2nd out of 13. I thought I was in pretty good shape to press it for the 2nd and 3rd round on Saturday. Also on Friday we had what is forever going to be referred to as the “Fire Ant Incident” – see page 7.
On Saturday — the weather was all over the map with moisture and wind. In the second round I guessed wrong and had a 11.04 in a head wind — and dropped to 4th. I was also noticing that I was getting .020s and .030s for reaction time when I had been launching at 2500 — but I got a .101, .103 and .101 when I dropped to 2000RPM launches for a .02 better 60′. I decided I needed the .070 extra RT over the .02 in 60′ and went back to 2500 launches for the 3rd round — breaking out with a 10.997. This dropped me to 5th — and lined me up against my best bud Doug Duell in the first round — and on the top half of the ladder, which was incredibly more tough than the bottom half. I’ve been Doug’s bitch with a record of 1-3 against him — causing a bad night’s sleep Saturday night.
In the second round I had Top Qualifier D. W. Hopkins. I left two seconds before him (he’s a 9.0 car) and at the 1000′ I looked around for him and saw he’d given up so I lifted for a 11.4 in case he broke — so I wouldn’t break out. Turns out he’d red lit and I’d not checked the boards.
In the Semis — it didn’t get any easier — when I had to go against fellow Team Thug member Mike DiChicco — who had his car dialed it. He also red lit — but I had a pretty good .014 package — just the same, and feel like it would have held up.
So now I’m in the finals against 00 Joe Ewing. They don’t call him Double-O because he gets bad lights, and my only memory racing him is at the Finals in Indy 2012 — where if I beat him I would have won the Championship for 2012. I choked with an .080 light against his .040 light — so I’ve been his bitch ever since. Well I’m still his bitch as I choked on the tree again. I knew my light was bad (.100) and tried to push him into taking a breakout stripe — but he wouldn’t fall for it and hit the brakes.
Here are the numbers for that event.
The next race has us leaving tomorrow night for Saturday’s non-point race in Ennis. We’re scrambling to get both main cars in that — but nothing has been easy.