Moneymaker July 2010
Moneymaker Article No.1
In the poker world Chris Moneymaker launched the popularity of Texas Hold’em Poker by winning their main event. At the time Chris won the most coveted of events in poker, he was an amateur poker player. He learned the game of Poker from playing on line. Took the techniques he used to be successful online and applied them in the tournament. His win caught the imagination of a new crowd of on line poker enthusiast and greatly increased the popularity of the game.
Poker's version of the heroic low budget bracket racer, Chris Moneymaker.
Bracket racing sees many non-professional racers win regularly. I see bracket racing as a motor sport that can be executed by anyone with understanding and execution of driving techniques like Luke teaches here.
The project is named Moneymaker due to the reality that making money is what I must do to continue to race at this time. I would also like to give homage to the poker world where the inspiration and similarities to bracket racing seemed intertwined. I have had many conversations with friends of mine who are as passionate about bracket racing as I am where we wonder what we could do to get our sport the kind of notoriety Chris Moneymaker’s win brought to poker? I keep thinking, what if we are focusing on the racing too much and not the story of the people we race with. Tell the stories of the ones who have inspired us to be better at our version of Texas Hold’em at speed.
Along with telling my tale of working on making this project profitable I want to tell stories from the personalities I feel make our sport great. Truly the reason why I never find myself giving up when sometimes maybe I should have is more about wanting to be around to here more of our stories (success’s and failures).
I’d like to take a moment to thank Luke for the chance to do this article here on TIBR. I have been a fan of Luke’s On the Run articles from the first time I read them. Mostly I like them because I have never had close to the success he has seen, but I could always relate to the debacles. When I emailed him with the idea of me writing this project I really didn’t know if he would say yes. So thanks again for allowing me this opportunity to show the world how badly I can screw up bracket racing and still have the time of my life.
Now to the project, I am buying a high 10second low 11second car for $ 6000 (That parts done). Put the things into the car that I have found necessary to successfully bracket race the car in footbrake competition (that parts started). Compete with the car and win the money invested by others and lastly myself back. There also is some parts that came with this car I will sell after repairing them and this will help with getting some funds to pay back my two investors (more on that later). Simple right? Ok now I hear the laughter from those who know me, but truly the plan is more sound than most of my other great ideas since I started racing. Some I have failed miserably and others have been more successful than expected (I won’t say more successful than I imagined, I can imagine pretty grandly).
Here's the project: Chuck's '79 Olds Cutlass
In this first article I am going to get into the situation that led to me attempting what I am doing and why I felt buying this particular car was the right choice. I am also going to go into detail why I choose the things I focus on to make a car competitive for me. I will do my best not to turn this into nappy time for those who are new to bracket racing and checking this article out. I can say there will be a lot of entertainment available as the articles progress into testing and then racing this car. Laughing at my mistakes has been a pass time for myself and for many others since I started racing. Most people would hide the amount of stupidity I am about to disclose but truly I have never been most people. I also believe that if I hide these faults I would never learn from them (I should have a PHD with the amount of learning I have done). Truly I hope you get enjoyment of the tale as it unfolds.
I found out early on that watching was real important for me to learn in racing. In racing if your watching you’ll see the people who win and go rounds end up being the same group of guys/gals. One of the people I noticed right away when I began racing in New Jersey was Bob Mullaney. I had watched Bob from afar for a time during my early trips to Joisey (ya have to spell it like the locals say it) and introduced myself to him during one of those early outings. I always saw him going rounds if not winning during the races in The Franks Family Nova he still races today.
Bob always has great stories to tell, as do most racers with the amount of years he’s been racing (a REALLY LONG time), I think they had just started with fossil fuels when Bob started racing, (just kidding Bob). One of these tales you would here if you where around Bob was The Dollar Nova story. In 1990 Bob chose to race a slow streetcar rather than not race at all when family obligations and mortgages where the norm and racing needed to be affordable to him. Bob bought a Nova from family friends Tommie and Gene Clause. They wanted to give Bob the car but “Bucks” insisted on buying the Slant Six Powerglide powered ride. They finally agreed to sell it to him but would accept no more than a dollar. The car costing a dollar is not the most important part. The cost of running and maintaining a slow car is where the real value was.
The story becomes Joisey folklore after a decade of racing the Nova, Bob and Brian (his son AKA Shortchange) win $ 30k in the lil ole Nova including a weekend at ATCO in the now defunct Gamberdella Footbrake Bracket Race Series where Big Bucks won $5 k on Saturday and Shortchange won Sunday netting$2k.
Most folks who hear this tale dismiss it with the competition is much tougher now that wouldn’t work today. I am not so sure of that but I know I am more comfortable in a car more like the one I picked for my project than a slow street car.
Bob "Big Bucks" Mullaney etched himself into "Joisey Folklore" with the $1 Nova, pictured here.
Speaking of slow Street rides and successful racing I personally know no one more successful than Steve Stites AKA Stone Cold (why do all these guys get cool nicknames)
I met Steve @ Piedmont in 2004.He won the $20k main event of the weekend that year racing his 10 second (8th
mile) 1994 Chevy Cavalier. In the final he ran then just crowned Stock world Champion Lee Zane. Later in the day Stites and I where talking and he said “What did you think when you met first met me, you didn’t think I’d be winning this race did ya? ”MY response was “When I met you I thought you looked like Forrest Gump on crack.” I think he liked that because it made him laugh. I have been there when Stites has won other big money events and he also has won the bracket finals twice. This guy makes his living driving this car to the track and taking people out in some of the toughest footbrake fields. He is also one of the 2 promoters of “The Worlds Greatest Footbrake Race” The World Footbrake Challenge http://worldfootbrakechallenge.com
Bob and Steve represent to me what the spirit of bracket racing is. Bracket racing is meant to be inclusive allowing anyone who wants to race a chance to do so. No matter if the car is a slow street driven Cavalier or a 6 second Quarter mile monster. The idea of racing any kind of car is one of the things I believe is right about bracket racing. It brings diversity to not only the cars driven but also the personalities who drive them.
Now the situation I find myself in. After a good start to the season I was in first place in points at my local track. I break my engine when the oil pick up broke off in the third week of the season. I didn’t catch it until their where strange noises and $ 3K worth of damage done to my very durable engine. I put the engine together in 2006 with a used shortblock, parts I bought on ebay and a new set of AFR heads. I had run it since with nothing more than bearings, valve springs, lifters needing to be changed. I was really not prepared to overcome a failure of any kind because I have been in the unemployment line since the end of 2008.
I was whining to one of my longest friends in this sport after finding out about the extent of the damage and he asked me if I had some money available what would I do. I had already found another engine that was available from another racer and friend in Maryland who was looking to sell his car (which I was also interested in). So my buddy who asked me what I would do if I had the cash then made me an offer I didn’t refuse. I then contacted the seller of the car and let him know I had enough to buy his engine but had interest in the car and the other stuff he was selling with the car. He then informed me bring the cash for the engine and pick up the car and the other parts.
To sum it up I broke my motor so I bought a car, it sounded like a good idea at the time. I still think it’s a good idea but I am trying this new optimistic approach out, not sure if it will work for me yet but its got to be better than whining. Not only did I buy a car but also I did it on credit .Not something I ever expected to do or recommend especially with no job and only a crazy plan. I am very grateful to both of my friends who made this possible. Thanks guys I will look into getting us all counseling once I get back to work and can foot the bill for your sessions also. Hopefully I can get a group rate or something.
So what did I buy for $6000? The car is a 1979 Olds Cutlass with a SBC 355 engine 13.5 to 1 compression topped with Brodix track one heads that have been ported. Lower end Gm steel crank Summit stage 1 rods and Manley pistons. The parts are in a 350 4-bolt main engine block. Powerglide transmission 1.76 1st gear 5000 stall ATI converter freshened by Frank Lupo. The roll bar was installed @ S&W. The rear is a Ford 9 inch with 4.56 gear and 31 spline Currie axles. Ladder bar Qa1 coil over shocks. 30X9 Hoosier Radial on the back. Stock front suspension has lots of free travel. Besides the car I also got a 360 shortblock that needs a sleeve, one rod, resize the rest of the rods (spun bearing) and crank work. A 377 short block with a crack between water jacket and bore (still assembled). A virgin 2 bolt main 350 block. Theirs some other stuff but the main value besides the car is in the 2 shortblocks once repaired and sold.
Why this car? There are a lot of cars for sale with as messed up as the economy is. Here is the combination of reasons why I wanted this ride. The price was right (especially with the help from my two friends) the engine had 4 passes on it since fresh. Still the main reason I chose this is car because the guy who set up the chassis. His name is John Crutchfield (AKA Crutchy, another cool nickname).
I met Crutchy in 2004 while competing @ ATCO in the weekly points series. At the time he ran an ignorant leaving (Crutchy speak for a car that leaves hard) Small tire small block Regal. His ride caught my attention first because I like cars that do wheelies. Secondly (and way more importantly) his car ran for a seven-week stretch with the same dial on the car! Now some racers can accomplish this by holding more but Crutchy dials his car to run the number. I have seen guys be able to dial their stuff just not the SAME dial every week. Still irritates me when I think about it today.
Now I know some don’t believe leaving hard helps with consistency but I do. I have come to believing in this theory after having experienced the benefits of making my car more aggressive over the last five years. The guy who got me on the path of these changes is Bud McNasby.
I met Bud in late 2003 @ATCO during a gamblers race where I had gotten both my entries down to 8 cars. Bob Mullaney then took both my entries out and went on to win the race (showoff). Bud had introduced himself to me as a teacher of a bracket racing school. I was immediately interested because though I was having a good day it was not the norm for me. I had days where everything fell into place and had already found victory lane on occasion but I wanted to do this more consistently. Also I was new to deep staging and though it was working I had no idea why. The beginning of the following season I took Bud’s class and the why deep staging worked was answered along with MANY other questions I hadn’t thought of asking yet. One of the things he taught that day was why hard leaving cars especially footbrake cars where more consistent. In a nutshell if it doesn’t plant the tires it gives the car room to spin and start the run with inconsistency. The car must transfer weight while it hits the tires hard getting the front up fast and leaving it up long enough to keep from spinning. These are the same things Luke talked about earlier this year in one of the tutorials (I think these guys have a master teachers book they get their stuff from).
I found out about a year ago the copy of Crutchy’s old car was for sale. Crutchy’s old Regal and the Cutlass are set up with identical suspension, Front-end geometry and spring rates all the same as the Regal. Both cars are Ladder bar rear suspension with an upgrade to coilovers in the back to the Cutlass. I was interested because I had been working and fixing many things that made my car inconsistent over the past few seasons. One of the issues was free travel in the front. This season after loosening up the front and adding front springs that gave me more travel, I noticed the car was bending one of the spindles where the heim joint mounted to the spindle. I had to take away travel after repairing the spindle to avoid bending it again. So I lost half of the travel I had added to get the weight to transfer to the tires to keep the car hooked up. When I broke the motor I was faced with the fact that I wouldn’t be fixing the geometry correctly in my car for a while due to needing to fix the motor. The car I chose had a lot of free front travel with no issues with bump steer.
So what were the challenges I faced to make this car work like a Crutchy car? Keith Paylor the owner of the car had made changes he either thought would make the car more consistent or drivable for him. One of the first changes Keith had made was switching from a Th-350 to a Powerglide. If you want to get a car that doesn’t have a lot of torque to leave consistently every mechanical advantage should be taken. The gear ratio of a th350 being 2.56 verses a glides 1.76 is a huge help to get the car to leave hard.
The engine was also on gas and was a 355 instead of the 393 on Alky Crutchy was using in his Regal. Both of these differences take away from torque and leaving hard.
So what does a footbrake car I am going to be successful in need?
First thing I need is a car I can control the reaction time in easily. I chose to mostly use RPM to change my reaction time .I want a car to have an area (usually 400 to 600 rpm) that I can adjust my reaction time by changing the rpm up to quicken my reaction times and down to slow them down if I find red. I want the increment to be 100 rpm to be .010 on the tree. The area has usually been between 2000 and 2600 rpm that I have the most success with this kind of adjustability in the cars I have owned. When I get over 2800 rpm and higher the 100 rpm increment to change reaction time doesn’t apply anymore.
Next I want as much info as I can get to what happens when the cars temperatures change. I had a water temp, intake temp, and trans temp gauge in my old ride to help with getting an understanding of what happens when these change. The new car only had a water temp gauge. I will be adding my other gauges soon because I feel blind without the info I get from the readings from the trans and intake along with the water temps.
My ancient weather station broke earlier this year so at this time I am missing out on my own weather info. I do have a good friend I pit with who has great weather info so at least at my home track I am covered but when I begin to travel I hope to have my own weather gauges if not a predictor.
Last and as equally important make the car as consistent as possible. I will work the theory of the car leaving hard (transferring weight to the back fast by getting the front end up.) as the direction I will go to making the car consistent. The things I will be changing will either add to torque or give the new ride mechanical advantages to accomplish this.
Your author, 2004 NHRA Division 1 Champion Chuck Morris (Right) pictured with Atco Raceway owner Joe Sway.
As I said before I do really enjoy the diversity of this sport. That’s why I know there is other ways to go about being successful at bracket racing that work better for others. I am not saying the way I am gong to go about making this car work for me is the only way to go about it. Theirs many in our sport who could just get in any car and win. I want to give myself every advantage I can. This is what the changes I am making are about. The changes and how effective these changes will be is the story I will tell.
This ends the first article. I hope your not wishing you hadn’t read mostly because I had a great time writing it. Next month I will tell the tale of the first weekend of testing. There is plenty of “learning” going on due to the things I find I didn’t know that need to be fixed. I also find out my new car plays the song “dueling banjos” but will get into that next time. Truly thank you for reading and may you all have great success racing until next time, unless you’re in the other lane.