Well, season number three is in the books. How best to describe the season.....fun... frustrating...expensive! Orlando Speedworld expanded the points race season to 12 races this year, which was something we really appreciated. The six race season was just too few races. Although one race was rained out, between vacation and a broken race car, we still only made six of them. Well, we actually made nine races, but ended up being spectators at three of them. The first part failure was at the July race when Geoff was in the staging lanes for the fourth round. When it was our turn to run, the car wouldn't start. The track crew and other racer gave us a few minutes to fix the problem, but the car refused to start. Just as the other car left the starting line our car started, of course. The following week we came out for a troubleshooting and test session and determined the problem to be the MSD 6AL ignition box. The unit failed after it warmed up and started working again after it cooled off. With the next points race coming up in two weeks, and MSD not being able to guarantee we would have the box back by then, I had to buy a new one. The box was repaired at minimal cost so now I've got a spare. The box didn't make it back to us from MSD before the race, so I'm glad I went ahead and bought another. Between the box and a new coil, the cost was about $250, so I figured it could have been worse. Little did I know it was going to be worse...much worse.
At the next-to-last race of the season, on the second time trial run, the TH350 transmission bit the dust. After much consultation with those in the know, I decided to purchase a new TH400 transmission from JW Racing Transmissions. The motor in the race car is making about 600hp and that is already beyond the power level a TH350 can handle. If I had the transmission repaired, it would probably just break again. The transmission I chose is fully capable of handling anything a small block can throw at it, pass after pass. I ordered the transmission with a transbrake and the Ultra-Bell, as well as having it fully rollerized to free up a few more horsepower. Since I had a new heavy duty driveshaft made up last year, the weak link in the drivetrain is now the stock Ford 9" rear end center section. Ever since building a brand new Plymouth Volare in 1977 and following the weak link from the transmission to the rear axles to the rear end spider gears to the ring and pinion, one failure at a time, I know the frustration and added cost involved in not making the drivetrain strong all at once. So that was my justification for buying a new bullet-proof center section from Strange Engineering. In the span of about a month I had spent another $3000. I know that I could have gotten away with repairing the TH350 transmission for just over a tenth of that, and I could have left the rear end alone and it may have never failed. But I also don't want to get into a situation where we are constantly fixing something that breaks. I would rather spend the money to replace the weak links with parts I don't have to worry about. Man, you gotta love this drag racing stuff. It's like a drug.
Well anyway, I feel pretty comfortable with the running gear now, so we have decided to move up to Super Pro next year. Geoff loves how the car launches with the front wheels in the air with the transbrake, so there is no going back now. I built an adjustable two-step for launching the car, and 4000 rpm seems to be the best. Our sixty foot times are consistently in the 1.39 to 1.40 range, and once I finish the delay box, the reaction times should be competitive as well. One thing Geoff will miss next year is being the fastest car in his class. This year every race we had, the other car had the handicap and left first. Geoff's job was to chase down the other car, which is easier than being chased, because the race is unfolding in front of you instead of behind you. In fact, Geoff was never really beaten this year by another car, but instead beat himself with redlights. In the six points races that we ran, Geoff lost on a redlight six times. The fouls also corresponded to the best sixty foot time of each night also. Geoff has been cutting very good lights all year, when he's not redlighting. I guess that when the car moves real hard off the starting line, since his lights have been so close to begin with, it's inevitable a foul is going to happen. Also, as a race night goes on, the starting line gets better because there are less cars each round beating on the launch pad. Next year the starting line will be more consistent for us because the Super Pro class runs first each round, after the track is groomed between rounds. This year our class ran last.
Even though it sounds like this year has been a bummer, it really hasn't. It's still fun going to the races and our race buddies did pretty well this year and qualified for the division finals. There was also maybe a little more excitement at one race than I needed. During time trials we were matched up in the staging lanes to run alongside an Opel GT that ran nearly identical times as our car. Hey, this ought to be cool, two little cars running low tens side by side. Unfortunately, the Opel GT got out of the groove and stayed with it too long. He crossed the centerline and hit the guardrail just behind Geoff. It was very close. We don't have a rear view mirror in our car, so Geoff didn't know what was happening. That was probably better because if he had seen the other car, he may have hit the brakes and then it would have been really bad. The Opel was beat up pretty good and it ended his race day, but the safety equipment did it's job and nobody was hurt.
The Super Chevy Show at Gainesville Raceway was a lot of fun again. Geoff got to the quarter finals again this year when he, of course, redlighted. But he won $100 and we had a bunch of fun anyway. Next year we will be going to two Super Chevy Shows. The first race is in Bradenton in February and of course the Gainesville race in October. Double the fun.
The to-do list on the race car this off-season is pretty short, so we hope to be down only about six weeks. We plan on porting the heads and intake and raising the compression another point. We would like to run high 9's next year. That would put us about in the middle of the Super Pro class, performance wise. Man, running those dragsters is going to be a new experience.
Last but definitely not least, PowerAde has an NHRA fan game called 'Pick the Winners'. One week before each NHRA national event, the player picks who they think will win each pro class. I thought I would give it a try, and I ended up as the grand prize winner. Geoff and I will be going to the NHRA national event in Las Vegas in April for four days and three nights, complements of PowerAde. The prize includes air fare, room, meals and VIP tickets to the race. I've never won anything in my life, so this is awesome. Well, that's about all for now. I'll post something after the Bradenton Super Chevy Show race if not sooner.