"The season that wasn't". That is a pretty fair description of the 2006 racing season for us. At the end of last season we decided to move up to the Super Pro class, and spent gobs of money (to us), to get the car and our whole racing setup ready and hopefully reliable. Most of that plan played out perfectly. Besides the new transmission and rear end, my brother-in-law Al donated some of his old racing parts to the cause. We now have a Barry Grant 1050 Dominator, that I mounted on an Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold, and a Thorn Delay Box. These are both 1990 vintage, but work very well and saved us lots of money. The carburetor is much more responsive than our 750 and has a strong visual impact as well. The delay box is not super fancy but is very accurate and easy to use. I felt the car would be a solid performer, we just needed to get some passes on it and get the driver comfortable with the new setup.
My last post, last year, was after the Super Chevy Show but before our last race of the season, the annual Night of Fire at Orlando Speed World. For the last three seasons, since we started racing, we have been towing the car on an open trailer. That meant packing up the truck with all the tools and stuff that we take to the races, and then unpacking when we get home, usually in the wee hours of the morning, because I work on Sundays. It also means that when we are at the races, we are outside. We are usually under the EZ-up, which is great for getting out of the sun and rain, but it doesn't help much in the cold. Needless to say, the Night of Fire was run in windy, low 50º weather. Now I know that a lot of people north of here aren't going to have much sympathy for us, but man it was cold! So all that leads me to the purchase of a new Haulmark 20' enclosed trailer. I spent the next month installing a floor, workbench, toolboxes and all the things to make our racing operation a little nicer. It's packed kind of tight for traveling, but at the races we have a place to get out of the cold and when we get home from the races, I back it in, unhook it and we're done.
OK, we were ready to get some practice and start the new season in Super Pro. Every thing was going according to plan until the second points race. Geoff was doing his burnout for the second time trial when the transmission broke. Seems that our brand new 'indestructible' transmission wasn't so indestructible after all. One of the things the salesman at JW Transmission told us was, " You can't build a small-block strong enough to hurt this transmission". To their credit, they 'repaired' the tranny for free, all I had to do was remove and reinstall it. A few weeks had passed by the time we got the transmission reinstalled and out to the track again but the car was running a tenth slower than before it broke. A few factors come into play here. (1) It's Florida in the springtime and the weather is a little warmer than a few weeks ago when the transmission broke and (2) the track has changed the Traction Compound that they spray on the track. Added to the fact that (3) JW swears the transmission is like new again, we figure that the tenth we lost is not tranny related. Geoff is now noticing that the car doesn't seem to be pulling as hard in first gear as it did before, and in fact is getting worse each time we take the car out. It has gotten so bad that the shift light won't come on at 7200 rpm anymore, but if Geoff short-shifts, second gear seems to pull just fine. It feels like when the motor gets much above 6000 rpm, it starts laying down and stops pulling, which is a classic fuel-delivery symptom. After much consultation with other racers, businesses and my own troubleshooting, it is decided that that the fuel system is not delivering enough fuel to the big Dominator carb. Rather than piece together a fuel system, I bought a new Barry Grant fuel pump, regulator and filter, along with new stainless line and AN fittings. We now have a fuel system that can feed 1500 horsepower and with the fuel pressure set at 8 psi to the carburetor, it doesn't even vary 1/2 psi on a full 1/4 mile pass. But of course, the motor still won't pull 7200 rpm in first gear. Ugh!
The fun was rapidly going out of this whole racing thing. We've missed some races now because the car is running so bad and I'm not getting anywhere figuring it out. Then Geoff made a pass without using the transbrake and the car ran quicker than it ever has before. It is the transmission that is the problem! OK now that we know for certain what the problem is, maybe we can get it fixed. Out comes the transmission again and back to JW, then comes the dreaded words " We didn't find anything wrong". Great, all this work and another $60 worth of synthetic tranny fluid for nothing. Well, the transmission was now worse than before, not only was the 'dragging in first gear' (as it became known ) still there, but now the transbrake was sticking as well. Out it comes again and this time JW claims to have replaced the case. Back in and another $60 for fluid and for the first time ever, we oiled the track, with transmission fluid of course on our first pass. If there is anything I never wanted to do, it was leave oil on the track, but I guess if you associate yourself with the right company, anything's possible. This was not the end of this story though, things like this, including another shot at repairing the tranny and another 10 quarts of synthetic fluid, went on for several more weeks until I was able to get most of my money back and cut ties with that company. To this day I can still hear the owner telling me that he can't give me all my money back because he has too much into repairing this transmission! What the Hell?
So, it's Al to the rescue again. He still had his ATI Turbo 400 transmission that was in his race car. He ran it for five years in a 9 second big block Nova, freshened it up and it has been sitting in his garage for the last five years. We put his tranny in the car and immediately ran the quickest pass, with the best 60' time the car has ever run. On the first pass, no less. No dragging in first gear, no sticking transbrake, no oil blowing out of the overflow and no smoke. We are finally ready to get this season underway, problem is it's September and the season is over in two more races. Oh well, we will just use the rest of this season for practice and look ahead to 2007.
That is exactly what we did. Geoff got used to the transbrake and running faster cars again and just generally getting re-acquainted with the car. We leave at 4000 rpm with the transbrake and the front wheels come off the ground over a foot on the launch. It really is a whole different car this year. Even though we had a short racing season, I was able to get the car to run a best of 9.87 @ 136 mph with a best 60' of 1.32 seconds, so I am looking forward to next year. I will install new bearings and possibly a new cam over the 'winter' to help us reside in the 9.50 range, which should put us in the middle of the pack, ET-wise, next year. I also picked up a whole fiberglass front end at the Super Chevy Show for next to nothing. The racer was parting out his RX-7 to build a Camaro, and certainly didn't need the front end. The whole thing weighs less than our stock RX-7 hood!
Well, that's about all for now. Hopefully I won't wait a year to post again, but I just didn't have much incentive to post most of this last season. By the way, it was 48º at this year's Night of Fire but it didn't feel that bad because we were in the trailer snuggled up to 1000 watts worth of flood lights. I just knew that trailer was a good investment. Happy Racing!
P.S. We attended the NHRA SummitRacing Nationals in Las Vegas in April, complements of PowerAde. It was AWESOME! We stayed at the MGM Grand, had Top Eliminator Club tickets for the entire event, got to hang out in the Kalitta Motorsports pits and even got to stand on the starting line between two launching Top Fuel cars! That gave me newfound respect for the starting line crew. It was an experience I will never forget.