Well, our first full season of racing the Monster has come to an end, and I must say that it has exceeded my expectations. We raced in the class variously known as Pro ET or Sportsman ET. This is a bracket racing class that does not allow the use of electronic driver-aids such as Delay boxes, air shifters or transbrakes. The driver is in total control, by leaving the starting line using the footbrake and manually shifting the vehicle. This is the grassroots class of drag racing. Now I must preface 'grassroots bracket racing' by saying that this is probably the toughest form of drag racing. In 'heads-up' racing, like the pros run, the guy with the most money is usually the winner. More money buys the best parts, the best manpower, and that usually produces the fastest car. The weekend warrior such as ourselves wouldn't stand a chance in that type of drag racing. In bracket racing you must choose a 'dial-in' for your car, based on the elapsed times of your time trials. This dial-in time is used to figure a handicap when a faster car must race a slower car. To win a race, you must run as close to your dial-in as possible, without going quicker than the dial-in elapsed time, AND beat the car you are racing across the finish line. And don't forget, your opponent is trying to do the same thing you are. It's tough, it's fun, and most races are very close, decided usually by just a few hundreths of a second.
We ran in ten races at Orlando Speed World and three at Gainesville Raceway this year. Five of the races at OSW were points-meets and five were Saturday night bracket races that featured Quick 32 fields. Geoff's overall record for the year is 28 round wins and 16 losses. The reason we have 16 losses in only 13 races is because we 'bought back' in at three points races. Most tracks now allow a racer that loses in the first round, to pay a fee and re-enter competition. I hate the practice, but I do understand that the tracks must make money to stay in business. We never buy back in at regular bracket races, but if you are running for points and lose in the first round at a points meet, you pretty much have to buy back in. We also ran several 'test and tune' nights, mostly in the early part of the season, to try different things, work out the bugs and give Geoff seat time. We made a total of 127 passes down the dragstrip this year.
This year has been one of the worst on record for motorsports rain-outs and rain-delays, all over the country. Three of the five points races and four of the other races we ran in were effected by rain, and most of the others were threatened. We got home in the wee hours of the morning several times. The long delays and long days played havoc on Geoff's reaction times as well. One losing round in particular, he cut a .791 reaction time and when he got back to the pits, he said that it felt like he had cut a good light. That is definitely fatigue setting in. Even though the long nights took their toll on us, all of the racers were in the same situation, so the playing field was level. Lots of racers weren't performing up to standard. A couple of our losses came so late at night, actually so early in the morning, that we didn't even care, because we knew we could go home now.
The points races were, unfortunately, our worst showing. The first two races, we lost in the first round, bought back in and lost again in the second round. That sounds discouraging, but we really weren't upset. We knew why we had lost, whether it be a poor reaction time by Geoff, a bad choice of dial-in by me or something didn't go quite right with the car. We were both learning and working the bugs out of the car at the same time and this type of performance wasn't totally unexpected. What was unexpected though, was the transmission in my truck, our tow vehicle, breaking two days before the third points race. So we missed that race, but weren't too upset, since we hadn't even won a round of racing yet. It's not like we were on top of the points and needed to protect our lead. The fourth race started the same way, with a first round loss and a buy-back. But finally, in the second round, Geoff got his first win. The other guy red-lighted, but it was our first round win points! We lost in the third round at 1:30 in the morning, but something big had happened. Maybe some kind of karma thing or something, because Geoff hasn't lost in the first round since that mid-July night, through the rest of the year, a span of seven races! We started winning rounds the last two races and finished 33rd in the points standings, out of 200 cars. Had we not missed the 3rd race, we would have finished twenty-something, so we did exceed my expectations.
The Quick 32 races were a whole different story. In the five races we attended, Geoff went to the semi-finals twice and the final round once! We even won money! A total of $240! What's weird is that all the same people that race for points, also race these bracket races. It's not like we were racing a bunch of different racers. And it's not that a lot fewer racers attend these races, it still takes six to seven rounds to win. The biggest difference is the program seems to move along smoother and quicker. The races were always pretty much done by 11pm, without the two to three hour delays between rounds that were common at the points races. Geoff's reaction times were vastly better at the Quick 32 races and in fact improved as the race went on. In the beginning of the year we were pretty much fodder for the seasoned racers. By the end of the season I think we have gained the respect of many racers and are no longer considered an easy target. That, in itself, is a very good feeling.
We attended the Super Chevy Show race at Gainesville Raceway in October. That was a lot of fun. We booked a room for the three day event that featured a Saturday bonus race and the big race on Sunday. We went out in the second round of the first race, but Geoff had other things on his mind, as it also happened to be his 21st birthday. And here he was, in Gainesville, Florida, the college town. He and his buddy, Tommy, who came with us for the weekend, celebrated the night on the town. The headache wasn't too bad in the morning, or so he says. His driving wasn't bad in the Sunday race, as he easily won the first two rounds before going out in the third round with a .499 redlight! They say if you don't get a redlight now and then, you are not trying. Oh well, it was a fun weekend anyway. We definitely plan to attend the race again next year. Oh yeah, even though we were surrounded by a sea of Chevys and their owners, not a single cross word about the Mazda RX-7. In fact we had several compliments. I guess the 'bowtie' decals on the hood scoop really do help.
To sum up the year in a few words isn't easy, but by far the most enjoyable part of the season has been the people. The new friends we have met and the comraderie of the racers is great. The fact that we are doing this as a father and son team is great. I really enjoy being the proud, beaming dad when we go to the tower to collect Geoff's winnings for having a good night. Or having the other racers high-five us for a good round. If you have a son or daughter and want to get into a sport that both of you can really be involved in, you might want to look at drag racing.
We didn't have any breakage at all this year, the car performed very well. We did have a setscrew come loose in the electric water pump impeller, but it was an easy fix. We also had the battery die after the first time trial of a Quick 32 race. We decided not to call it quits, but instead ran to an auto parts store and bought a new Optima deep-cycle battery. We returned to the track, installed the battery and Geoff went to the final round of that race and lost a very close race to the track champion. Overall, the cars performance improved all year. Our best numbers are : Sixty foot time - 1.66, 1/8 mi - 7.71 @ 89.7mph , 1/4 mi - 12.12 @ 111.7mph. With a little more tweaking, on a good track, in real good weather, I believe the car would have broken into the elevens. But, we may never know, because it looks like we will build another motor over the 'winter'. Most of the racers think we're crazy, now that we have the car running good and consistent, but that urge to go quicker and faster won't go away. Geoff is almost bored, going through the lights at only 111 mph. So, we've already had a 4 bolt main block bored .030" over for it's new 13 to 1 forged pistons and H-beam rods, and parts are being ordered as we can afford them. The transmission will be rebuilt and a 4500 rpm stall converter added.
Here we go again!