Moneymaker September 2010

 

As I said last month I am going to start out with focusing on “the stuff’ that came with the car that I have been selling; giving this project a value I didn’t want to walk away from.
About a month or so ago I looked at some of the parts that had come with the car. I chose some of the smaller items like the carburetor, a carb base plate, aluminum water pump with electric water pump drive and a set of used SBC Comp cam lifters to sell first. I chose Ebay even though the fees are higher, its still the quickest way to turn around parts that you don’t have to get a specific amount for. Started all auctions under a dollar and netted over $300.00
After I had swapped my glide for the Th-350 in my car I put the glide from Barney (the car is purple and when you have a 2 year old and a 6 year old that’s what your purple car gets named).   Since the trans is bigger and less cost effective to ship I put it up for sale on racing junk and sold it locally for $750.00 (asking price $850).
Total from sale of parts $1160.00.   My original idea was to take funds raised from the sales of the smaller parts and transmission and assemble the two short blocks. After getting the two shortblocks to Crutchy (John Crutchfield, owner of Crutchybilt Performance) his recommendation was to sell both the short blocks as is, in pieces. The cost of machining the parts and reassembling the two shortblocks would eat up too much of the profit the two damaged shortblocks would net (even after repairs) First swap meet in our area is October 17th I’ll report back with what I get for the stuff in the next article.
Meanwhile I have been working on the combination to make it work the best for me to be successful.   At ATCO Bud and I spent some time discussing how to get the car to the next level of consistency.   It had come along way but still wasn’t transferring weight (which is the theory we are working with for best way to keep a car consistent in 60’).   Once I have the car controlling 60’ consistency, the rest of the tuning becomes simpler. After going over many options we decided to switch the car over to alcohol. I had available to me an alcohol carb (from Keith the guy I bought the car from) and the rest of the fuel system on the car was compatible. Since the heads on the lil 355 were way too big (Brodix Track Ones that have been ported very well) switching to alcohol will give it the biggest bang for the buck (the cost really was $0 due to having the carb available.) The car had been on alcohol with other combos so stuff like the lean out valve where already installed on the car.   
I made the switch to alcohol and went to a track rental on August 29th. The first pass was a 10.66 with a 60-foot of 1.54 (deep staged). If I was still on gas in the same weather @ Lebanon Valley which is already @ 600 feet, I would have run around 11.10s! By the end of the day we ran as fast as 10.60 deep and had somewhat of a baseline. Car was leaving better but still not transferring great. The following week I added a set of front springs from Santhuff I had installed in my Malibu. With this addition we achieved weight transfer and wheelies! So in review we started out going 11.22 leaving like a farm truck and got to 10.60 with a fair and consistent wheelie (about foot off the ground). ET was not the point but a side effect of getting the car to transfer weight. The updates to get us there were better starting line ratio (Th350 verses Glide), torque from switching to alcohol, and racing front springs (besides fixing the ailments that came with the car such as wrong valve springs, the cam being installed four degrees retarded and such). I didn’t spend anything to do any of these updates since I swapped, borrowed, or already owned the parts I put into the combination. If I had to buy the main three ingredients to pick up this ET the cost would have been around $1700. Compared to money I have spent on other things I think that’s pretty cost effective to get the results we’re getting.
 All this stuff I tested I made myself step back and test first on a day dedicated to getting info on how these changes really affected the combo instead of bringing the car to the next race and HOPING to get enough rounds to get an idea of how the updates worked. It cost under $1000. for all four days of testing(including all expenses), I went from messed up to a working car close to what Bud, Crutchy and myself felt could be achieved. I can’t stress enough how setting aside dedicated testing accelerated this process.
The next day after the track rental, I took the car to an eighth mile track in upper New York State called Skyveiw. Got to the third round of Pro where an eleven-thousandths package ended my day when I took eighteen-thousandths stripe and broke out. 
 The next day LVD rained out and I got a call from Mike Fitts asking if I was going to go to the bracket finals. I had not planned on it because the cost of the event is high and nothing but a final round appearance will break you even. When traveling to an event I usually look for more than one race to race. Ten minutes after I talked with Mike good friend “Dirty” Dan Bell (his wife Sue works the office@ Lebanon Valley Drag way) calls letting me know there are many spots on the team in Pro and if I want to run the bracket finals I can. I told myself this season if I didn’t get to no. 1 not to go to the bracket finals. I already have won the race and would love to again but I really want a shot at racing the Race of Champions. This year was not to be that year. 
I came up with a plan to run this event and four other tracks in one week. I would love to explain the logic behind this plan (from the racing on a budget standpoint) but I can’t except I really would be in a car everyday doing this if given the option and the week going into the Division One Bracket Finals in Delmar, DE, I had the option to be in the car everyday except Monday and Wednesday.
 
The Moneymaker was looking good thanks to some sharp graphics from Michael Beard at Staginglight.com.
 
The first stop on my weeklong trek was a trip back to Skyview Drag way to race their Inaugural Five Thousand Dollar No Box Shootout. This was also the first place I would be showing off the new Graphics Thanks to Michael Beard of Staging Light Graphics. The trip out became a story within itself starting with a call from the bride about an hour after I left wondering if I knew where her keys where. At least she felt pity on my stupidity and met up with me in Springfield, MA to get her keys. This saved about an hour and made my ETA to the room 130 AM instead of 230 AM.
The next problem was my very durable dually begins to buck as I get into the mountainous terrain past Albany on Interstate 88 in New York. My truck has 217000 plus miles and the original transmission. I was pretty sure it was about to finally let me know it had enough. I pulled over and checked the trans fluid and it was still there. So to make sure it wasn’t something like a clogged fuel filter (had this cause a similar issue a few years back) I changed it (always carry a spare fuel filter since the last incident). Got back on the hillway and the truck behaved for 10 miles and began bucking again. The next truck stop I found open (it was after eleven and the first two attempts where closed) I put diesel clean in the tank. The combination of diesel clean and the road-flattening out made the trip smoother but I know I will have to have the trans rebuilt SOON. Next morning I added some Stop slip to the transmission and made the sign of the cross and hoped we could get home at the end of the day.
The racing was a combination of good luck and fair driving got me to five cars where I red lit. While staging the car crept in deeper and I went red with the bye run to the final on the line. Some guy with a Super Stocker sponsored by some air cleaner company won the event. I think he has won a few races here or there. Congrats to Dan Fletcher making winning look easy.
The ride home went better than the one there, no more bucking from my whooped truck. Sunday morning I woke up to a text saying we were getting one time shot and right into racing@ Lebanon Valley Drag way. The day ended second round when my car went up and smoked the tires like a fuel car. 
I had been checking the oil and keeping an eye on possible oil in the water in the racecar. Monday I went to check again and a quart (or more) was missing from the radiator and appeared to be in the oil (oil level was higher). A call to Crutchy and heads came off to discover a blown head gasket. The head gaskets that were used were stock head gaskets not meant to be used with aluminum heads. I had the entire motor out after the first weekend and had checked everything but the head gaskets. Assuming things are right cost me this issue. I then spent a while getting all the parts clean and ready to be reinstalled with new head gaskets I would get @ The Speed Shop @ ATCO (McNasby’s day job and great speed shop).
I packed up Monday night including the tent that would be my accommodations @ the bracket finals, food for about a week and all the basic necessities. Got about four hours sleep and left for ATCO @ 4 AM on Tuesday morning to avoid traffic in NYC and get their in time to do the head gasket job and run Tuesday nights gamblers race. We got the job done including two oil changes to get rid of any remaining milky oil before time shots @ 5 PM. I lost first round when Steve Sisko dismissed me with a .006 light while I slept at the line.
Bud had just took off a pair of slicks with 15 passes on them and offered to sell them to me. After losing to Sisko, I put them on and took two more time shots. All seemed good.
Next day I discovered milky oil again and with Crutchy and Bud’s assistance came the conclusion it was alcohol when the cylinders got washed down while trying to get the mechanical pumped primed when I ran the car out of fuel.
Another oil change and I loaded up to head to Delmar and the Division One Bracket Finals. I was following Bud out to the race as I have many years in the past, (including the two years in a row that each of us made it to the final round). We got to US13 too late to get inside and slept outside the gate in the truck that night.
Any time Bud and I have time shots we bet a dollar on reaction time and a dollar on dial. Thursday first time shot I win the reaction time (saw Bud go red so I lowered to a spot where I wouldn’t be red, I was .029) and he ran 12 numbers off his dial but I ran 14 off of mine (10.725) only a split. Second time shot, I go red when the car creeps in and run another 10.725. I win the dial (I dialed 10.72 and would have broke out if the brakes held and I didn’t slide in two hundredths), so we split again because of my bulb. After a discussion with Bud about the brake issue (same one I had at Skyview) he and I took the car for a ride to the far side of the property and tested to see if pumping up the brakes would give the car the ability to hold at the line. This seemed to be the answer as I was able to hold the car and slide it forward (with autostart on all the time I use a controlled slide for staging deep) and stop with no more fade so I put the car away for the day.
The next day was a lot cooler and was guessing the ET to be about a tenth better than the last pass. I went up hit the tree and it was green. When the car touched down I got that feeling of “we got a major issue” when the car began to head to the wall! I turned the wheel to head back towards to the center and nothing happened so to the brakes we went to minimize the speed of the inevitable impact. When I hit the brakes the car took a harder turn taking both front tires right off the rims and sending me directly into the steel guardrail. Once I stopped moving I took off my helmet and preceded to put on the sombrero Jim Young had supplied me with earlier in the day (I figured this was going to be the last time I was on the track I might as well wear the sombrero). Then I stepped out of the car to assess the damage. At first glance the cosmetic issues where a fender, bumper, and header panel. As the US 13 staff and I went to put the car on the flat bed I discovered the culprit of the crash to be the steering knuckle had slipped off the splines on the steering box! I had to take the column out to do the head gasket and when I had reinstalled had not gotten the knuckle far enough down onto the splines to get the bolt safely into the groove on the steering box. I imagine you’re asking yourself “How could someone make such a stupid mistake (at least that’s what I asked myself)?” Having not worked on many stock set ups for steering (my Malibu has a rack and the car before that had a aftermarket set up as well), I had assumed the bolt couldn’t go in unless it was aligned in that slot. Assumptions are costly. Though I felt like a complete idiot for not making sure this was installed correctly, I can tell you the overwhelming feeling of gratitude to whatever power it may be that overlooks my well being that this separation occurred at the slow end and not the top end where things would have been much, much worse. 
 
Moneymaker, meet fence.  Fence, meet...  This wasn't in the budget.
 
By the time I got back to my pit I had more people there to help than I could ever have imagined. I was racing with team Lebanon Valley and these folks who were there had been racing with me since 1997 when I started. Other folks like Richie Garuder had not only been racing with me but also grew up in my hometown. I got back to my pits Brian Hansbury (Lebanon Valley team captain) informed me that he had asked if we could be allowed to borrow a car. I knew the rules of the race clearly stated that this is not permitted and though he was told they would consider an exception I planned that the answer would be no.  I found a car I could borrow if they had said yes from good friend James Young who brought 2 cars with him.
As we got the car up on jack stands, Crutchy called and asked what happened and informed me he was finishing up with a motor he had taken out for repairs in Cecil County’s pits and he’d be over. Not sure exactly when he got there but between him and Richie Garuder they started measuring to see what had to be done about the misalignment of the rear in the car which was about 2 inches out of square. At first assessment they felt the frame must be bent and there was nothing short of getting the car on a frame machine to fix the issues.
 
The number of people who were ready and willing to help out was overwhelming.  I can't thank these guys enough for their effort.
 
Crutchy then got Dave Coleman over to look over the mess. Dave owns Purnell Auto Body and has the two nicest small tire hot rods ya ever saw. A few measurements and some discussion and Mr. Coleman informed me that the ladder bar cross member was bent. The good news was we had a shot of adjusting the ladder bars the rear straight in the car. After a few attempts we had the rear within a thirty second of an inch of being square and centered.
As all this was going on I turned around and someone had taken my spare rims and had gotten me new front tires. I asked a couple times and all I got was “we don’t know they just showed up”. I did find out later who the tire culprit was and again Thank You to Gary Treager!
Some time during finding the frame not to be bent my team captain told me they had decided against allowing a borrowed car and when we were done they would need to re-inspect my car to OK the repairs.
Once we got the car back on the ground with the repairs needed and were ready for the tech guy, David Ley (works for Div. One), then let us know they wouldn’t consider letting the car down the track until we had an alignment done and we changed the rag joint. I informed him we had already changed the rag joint. Crutchy and a few others went over to “discuss” how they could prove with strings and tape measures that the car was straight and assured him they wouldn’t be sending me if they weren’t positive the car was straight. I began to get the idea no matter what we did they weren’t going let the car back down the track. After a couple minutes of this argument I began to clear my path to my trailer and Crutchy came to me and informed me to get the car on the trailer and get it outside the gate and wait for his call. Yep we just left the realm of reality at this point. When Crutchy calls me he informs me he just got off the phone with Jack Fisk and he called in a favor to a local store (Tire Expert) in Salisbury MD.AT 430 PM on a Friday I was on an alignment machine getting the required alignment. Before John left to meet me he got to speak with the head of tech for division one (Dave Mohn) and asked what else would be required at which point Dave Mohn told him get the alignment, change the rag joint (which we had already done, don’t you always carry a spare rag joint also), and he would sign off on letting me get a time shot as long as I didn’t miss my scheduled time shot.
I pulled back through the gates @ US 13 as they called my class to the lanes. I handed the print out from the alignment machine to my team captain, drove the car off the trailer and Brian came back to me and told me to pull into lane one or two!
In the lanes Richie Garuder (has pit crewed on circle track cars before) was still securing the fender so it wouldn’t be flopping in the breeze. 
Bob Mullaney asked me if I wanted to see if I could have a single. I told him I wasn’t scared but if the guy with the really pretty car next to me wanted me to go I would understand.
After my burnout a feeling of overwhelming gratitude hit me for all the kindness and help I had receive from the community of racers I was surrounded by. I don’t get choked up about racing often (my two girls knock me to my knees with ease) but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t choking back tears as I went to stage the car. I was 19 red (same spot I was 11 on the run earlier) and ran a high 10.60 pass right down the center of the track without a wobble. I attempted to lock-em up at the top end (after the finish line) to make sure the car would go straight on the brakes also and it did!
I brought my wounded ride back to my pit ready for the next day. Crutchy was there waiting. He says “tell me honestly, don’t lie, how did it feel?” Without even looking at him I say “It was boring” with a grin. He smiles and lets me know that’s what he wanted to hear. No kidding it went perfectly straight.
About fifteen minutes later my Team Captain comes to me to inform me he just got scolded because although Dave Mohn had ok’d us for the run Dave Ley claimed we snuck behind his back without the car being re-inspected and Bob Lang (our division director) was unhappy with us. At that point I really didn’t know what to say. We thought we had done everything they had asked. I began to think my assumption earlier that no matter what we had done they weren’t planning on letting us race was true.
Many people came up to me to congratulate me on getting the car back together, and taking that pass that Friday night.   I had a debt to those who lifted me up. The debt to me is to be paid by always being there when others need help and when I don’t see how I can continue, never to forget how I felt when I was sitting there after doing that burnout. I may fail miserably at this project of racing on a budget but I will never lose knowing how the folks that surround me believe in what I am doing and give so much to me.
On Saturday all Crutchy wanted me to do to be even with him for his hard work was to win first rd, which I did!
The night before I slept poorly so after the first rd win, I chose to sleep a while. We had five hours between rounds. I got up in plenty of time for second rd and got ready. I ended up with a tough draw second rd (Jeff Jewell) and knew execution would be important. When I left I felt I was “on time”. Being I was set up for about a .020 light (I was .024), I then began watching the race unfold and determined I could take the stripe. I began killing the .05 I was carrying around the 1000’ and by the mph cone I was still about .030 in front so I hit the brakes to tighten it up. When I did I felt the car skid (Sliding the fronts). I looked in the rear view and saw a ton of smoke. My win light was on (took .017), but I knew I would be getting a talking to for excessive braking. When the track official pulled me over he initially told me I was thrown out for smoking the fronts! “You’re kidding” I responded and he said no then told me after some more discussion (and begging on my part) that this would be my one and only warning.
 
Second round on the starting line...
 
Second round after the finish line...  It goes down hill from here.
 
Brian (the poor team captain who had gotten yelled at the night before) was watching from the top end and told me he just got called to the tower and he’d come see me after he talked with the track officials.
My initial response when I was told I had been bounced from the event was pretty hot. I have been known to have a bit of a temper (like a crazy man at times). I began the cooling off process by loading my car and taking down my tent and loading up. I then rode my bike over to see Bud and then Crutchy to thank them again for all there hard work. Someone told me that another racer had been bounced for excessive braking and four others had been warned before the two of us got bounced.
I’m sure the decision to bounce two racers instead of giving us the same warning was warranted due to the powers that be wanted to get folks to stop smoking their brakes at the finish line for safety sake. I did find the right front tire was flat spotted after that run. Then found the left front brake line to be damaged and holding pressure. I am not making any excuses for the tire smoke just coming up with why something had changed and caused these issues. I use my brakes A LOT and have never had even a warning before this incident. 
 
Wounded Barney
 
The next day I went to Cecil to complete my week of racing. Before running the car I dumped the oil because I found water missing from the radiator that was in the oil again! After discussing with Crutchy my findings we chose another oil change and a bottle of stop leak. At this point he and I assumed another blown head gasket due to the head not being flat. Run it for the day keeping water in it and fix it before the following weeks Inaugural Jim Harrington Classic @ Cecil. A couple time shots and a loss in the first round and buyback round I elected to leave the car with John to repair the issue.
On Thursday night before The Jim Harrington Classic, Crutchy discovered the water leak to be a crack in the no. 4 cylinder, which I didn’t look for after finding the stock blown head gasket.
I have always known my weakest link in any of my racing to be mechanical ability and here were two blatant examples (including the one that helped wreck the car). Once again, I have come along way but really am still very weak on larger mechanical issues. 
The budget for this month (oh yeah that) looks like this: 
Tolls $130
Diesel $450
Race fuel $340
Entry fees and buy backs $520 
Maintenance to car (oil changes, head gaskets, intake gaskets, and tires) $565.00
Total $2005.00
Winnings $250
Sales from parts that came with the project$1160.00
Total loss for the month (before repairs from accident and now damaged motor) $595.00
This next month will be a time for selling a bunch of the parts that came with the ride at local swap meets first and then Ebay or Racing Junk anything leftover.
In closing I truly hope others don’t have to learn the way I have (the hard way) but I wish you ALL the friends who would lift you up as mine do.

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