Moneymaker Season 2, Article 3

 Hello everyone (or anyone)! It’s been 10 weeks since I last reported on the progress of racing on a budget, and so far the theme of the season has been setbacks. My season began back on April 9th. From then until the first weekend in June I had managed a best of one-fourth round appearance. Mechanical issues hampered my efforts the first few weeks. Then, the loose nut behind the wheel combined with tune up mistakes, which were also the fault of the loose nut behind the wheel, took care of the rest of the shortcomings of seeing many win lights. When the Second Annual Jim Harrington Classic race was postponed (originally to be in the second week of May) I couldn’t tell you the feeling of relief that came over me. I would have some more time to sort out this mess as I was now trying to race before heading out to a big dollar event. The template I was following for my season (from “Building Your Own Empire” tutorial here on TIBR) was supposed to be: race locally, have success, and then go to money races. Neither I, nor the car, were even close for the challenges I would face at such an event. So you might wonder why I wouldn’t just stay at local events until I was ready. Simple, I had already sent in the pre-entry and really didn’t believe it was going to take this long to sort this combo out back in April.

 
·         The Setbacks
 Bud had come up with a recipe to have this project capable of going shallow. This would also help in consistency since leaving hard and running hard for the first 330 feet creates less of a chance for inconsistencies. The recipe included a tight converter, a three-speed transmission (TH-350) with a 2.75 first gear, a small roller cam, and small (relative to cubic inch) cylinder heads. All of this was to promote torque and get the car to leave hard. Up until June 10th the car was failing to meet expectations in sixty-foot performance, reaction time in the range we had expected to launch at, and, most importantly, consistency. I had written off the possibility of the car going shallow pretty early, but Bud, well… let’s just say it doesn’t set well with him when a combination he picked doesn’t meet his expectations. Bud and I had gone over and over the issue, making numerous changes including a ladder bar change (up one hole). He tried to help me tune the car over the phone and had me check a ton of junk. I went to Atco on Memorial Day Weekend and he got to see the poor car leave first hand. After Atco on Saturday I went to Englishtown on Sunday. We tried a couple more tuning attempts (focusing mostly on the carb by now) and Barney still wasn’t responding in the manner he expected. As a matter of fact, by the end of Memorial Day weekend the car looked to have bent or broken something in the suspension (it was listing badly to the right) and I was headed home to swap EVERYTHING back to my black Malibu and give up on Barney! Memorial Day weekend marked a year from when I had started this project and I wasn’t feeling much patience at that moment. After a few pep talks from the mentor McNasby (something about going to find my big boy pants kept getting thrown around) I was back on the task of getting Barney right. The suspension issue turned out to be a collapsed front coil spring.
 
"Barney" in action
 
·         A Ray of Hope
 On June 5th, I pulled into Lebanon Valley Dragway (my home track) with enough money to enter both Pro and Super, which they where guaranteeing $2,000.00 to win in each class. I had enough alcohol left to race the day, a jar with about $35.00 in change in it (enough to get diesel for the ride home) and not much else.
That week Bud had me advance the cam timing 2 degrees. He then had me to try to hit the tree shallow while staging as high as I could comfortably leave, which was 3500 rpm. The hit felt good, but the car drove straight out, and the light was a whopping .065. Back to Deep staging. The next two time shots the car stumbled BAD at the range I needed to leave at Deep staged. More squirter and fattened up the idle mixture, and off to first round with NO time shots. This is getting to be the norm. First round of Pro, more stellar driving as I cover my opponent by twenty in the tree and hit the train whistle for a nice tight .065 stripe, and break out. Back at the trailer, with steam coming out my ears, I head off to give someone, ANYONE, a beating. As I approach the back of staging for Super I see a Ford Maverick I hadn’t seen before dialed in at 10.75. Since I’m running around 10.65 to 10.72 (I know, amazing the consistency, right?) I pull alongside the Maverick expecting to make him MY VICTIM. A shuffle in the lanes, a lengthy rain delay, and I end up with another door car. Now he is a bit faster (10.18) but still not a bad pull IF I drive. When I leave I feel I missed, but as I get down track I am WAY out on him. Not to repeat my train conductor move I made in first round of pro I drop onto the brakes at 1000 feet and don’t get off ‘em till the MPH cone. I begin coasting still .064 ahead, but having killed a little more than 4 tenths I really better not be breaking out. Unbelievably, I see one of the rarer sights of my season so far… a win light! I had my opponent covered by .025 (.045 to.070 I know, mad skills with that bad ass .045 light, right?) and he had a miss, which slowed his car to a 10.62. I think to myself “Six more rounds of this and I will be all set”. Six rounds later (truly no one is more shocked by this than me) I pull into my first Super Pro Points final ever! No need for a round by round report here, as the old adage of “rather be lucky than good” is how this day went. In the final I staged somewhere between “deep deep” and “deep deep deep” (told ‘ya, mad skills) to kick the bulb a scolding red. After the semi-final I had come back without being able to shut the car off because the starter drive had stayed engaged and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t restart. My final round opponent Laurie Gagnon (who along with her husband, Jimmy, are both long time LVD family and great people) and I had agreed to split in the final and race for the trophy and the big check. After messing up the staging and seeing the red light, I was never so grateful for the split. By the way, the little Maverick and I did meet up, but not until the semis. The guy in the lil Maverick had been on fire all day, while the folks I ran into had just the most bizarre misfortune bestowed upon them for me to be at 3 cars. If I had caught the guy I thought was going to be MY victim in the first round, the .014 package he put up that round would have dispatched me with ease.
After sending off half the winnings to Keith (per our agreement, when there are winnings Keith gets paid half) I now had some funds to not only fill the truck on the way home, but go to Atco the following Friday to have Bud help tune the poor car, and go to my first big money event this season, which turns out to be Numidia Dragway’s Inaugural Bucks in the Hills event.
Before I go I need to change my flywheel and put in my spare starter. More work! The two weeks previous to this I had to change front coil springs, do the cam timing, fix a mistake made while doing the cam timing (EDITOR’S NOTE: the mistake required the removal of a cylinder head and a new valve to correct it), and general maintenance. This time I brought Barney to my buddy Pete Sancta’s shop to use his lift. The cost for such services: a set of 23-inch front-runners I had hanging around (thanks Pete). I would’ve given the tires to him anyway, but don’t tell him that! Good fortune shines on me again when we examine the flywheel and realize there was no real damage. We, meaning Pete, (as he has many years of experiencing why tools don’t belong in my hands) changed the starter and made some minor adjustments, like replacing bad shocks and pulling melted wires off the headers (you know, the normal stuff you see on a dip shits car). I leave for Atco at 4:45 AM on Friday June 10th to arrive in time to change my oil and utilize a track rental.
As its been said by so many people Atco is awesome because of great owners, a great track, and a speed shop with Bud and his really capable staff. After about 30 minutes and several different attempts to get rid of the carb stumble, Bud came to the point where he wanted me to remove the Super Sucker from the top of the dual plane intake we were attempting to use. Once we did, the carb wouldn’t fit without the spacer (it hit the 50cc accelerator pump arm), so he had me change intakes. Luckily it was 140 degrees and humid so it made changing the intake more pleasant (yes I am whining). After watching me scrape the gasket surfaces to what I thought was clean, McNasby shook his head and cleaned them the rest of the way (I thought they were clean, jeez!) After a little more tuning I got to the line for my first time shot at about 4:30 PM. I deep staged at 2400 and hit the tree… -.045 red! Yep, it left clean and went right down the track. To make sure this wasn’t driver error (I mean really do we even have to check? Of course it wouldn’t be driver error) Bud had me go back up and hit the tree again, this time leaving at 1800. The car still left clean and was .014 green! The ET is .011 quicker (from10.656 to10.645) on the second run with the 60’ .006 slower. This is starting to look like the car Bud described I would be racing this season. So now it’s time to shallow stage the purple dinosaur. Only one issue: when I got up on the RPM the front began rising taking suspension travel away, which Bud claimed would leave the car vulnerable to tire spin. I leave at 2600, clear the beams, then the tires spin a tenth (same 60 foot as Deep). The light is a .041. With the big spin the car slowed to a 10.66. Sounds like nothing but the car should be a tenth quicker when shallow. The best way for us to get the car NOT to climb as we get up on the converter will be to lower the front end. So, once I can, I will be ordering another set of front coil springs. Now that’s closer to what Bud thought this combo would work like. I was feeling pretty relieved. Between the good fortune the week before, the track rental, and now I was on my way to a big money event, I’m thinking “This is going to be a GREAT weekend!”.
·         THE ACID TEST
 I drove to Numidia that Saturday morning with little expectation of running until Sunday due to a forecast that was 50% chance of rain. Some might ask why you would drive to an event that looked like it was going to rain. If they get to racing, the Dimino family (owners of Numidia) guarantees the purse no matter the car count. So if we do have a race, this will be the place to be. Also, Sunday’s forecast was a bit more positive.
At the end of last season I got a text out of the blue from a young TIBR member named Jeff Serra, who wanted to see if he could double with me the weekend after the 2010 Bracket Finals at the Inaugural Jim Harrington Footbrake classic. Since Barney was all smashed up, and Crutchy had just found a crack in the block, Jeff and I found ourselves doubling in Keith Paylor’s racecar for the weekend. Fast forward to Numidia, and Jeff and I decided to try it again. When I pulled into the track Jeff found me and had a spot setup next to his stuff. Jeff’s weekend had already been a bit troublesome with a big hole in the oil pan and a cracked block on his fast dragster. Once we got my ride off the trailer and warmed up I began to notice an issue with the idle. As I got the hood up I saw the issue pretty quickly: the carb was just dumping fuel. Next, a look at the fuel pressure gauge showed the pressure at 12 lbs. instead of the 5 lbs it had been set at. We changed gauges just to discover it wasn’t the gauge but the regulator that had given up. After taking the regulator apart, Jeff discovered the culprit to be the diaphragm. Jeff’s family business (Total Racing Components) builds fuel systems, among other products. So after looking over my fuel system Jeff and his Grandfather Charlie (who is also the tech guy at Numidia) gave me the good news/bad news scenario. They did have a solution for this problem, which was a different brand regulator, but it was back at the shop. So for the weekend we where tied to finding a regulator that we could use. The worst part of this story is the spare regulators I have back in Connecticut (two of them). After running around and trying a few different scenarios, Jeff graciously lent his regulator from the nitrous system on his dragster since it wasn’t going to be in use this weekend due to the custom oil pan windage.
 
Yours truly & Jeff Serra working on Barney (a common theme of late)
 
We have all had days that start out as bad as this and go on to have a great weekend, but this was not one of those weekends. None of us choose to start our weekend like this but it’s a fact that happens. Time shots went pretty awful. My time shot, the car coughed and never left (float level too low and idle circuit too lean), so I started first round with no time shots (you know, the norm).
Between Jeff and me, only one win light was turned on in two days in my experiment gone awry. I lost my last round in a buyback when I forgot to put fuel in the car and had managed to empty the cell. There really is no way to describe the humiliation felt when you’re in the burnout box and your ride shuts off because you forgot to FILL it. Closest thing I could come up with was the old cartoon where the character turns into a donkey. Just call me EYORE!
·         What Did I Learn
 In drag racing learning is what happens when you’re not winning. I just about hate learning right now. The most useful stuff I learned was about the fuel system and what I need to do to make it bulletproof. None of it is expensive, but not addressing it is costly. I only get about one opportunity every five years to have a win handed to me (oh yeah I choked it up too), as I had a couple weeks back. I would rather fix issues now when I know what they are, instead of have them cost me more rounds as the season goes on because my “gift round” bag might be empty for a while.
Bud requested me to be proactive instead of reactive. This week I had begun to fix some of the wiring issues that where real glaring, and I have a few more I want to get taken care of, or else they will become the next things that fail that were preventable.
As written on TIBR.COM, getting out of my routine bites me EVERYTIME. I hadn’t doubled in a while and didn’t have any set routine this time, which contributed to forgetting to fuel up the car. It didn’t need to happen, and with a bit of due diligence, it would not have happened.
 
This comic basically sums up my season to date!
 
·         The Budget
 Setbacks have been costly. At the end of the last installment I was in the red for $8,500.00.
Splitting in the final was the first positive cash flow in 8 weeks for the project! As I write this article I am now $10,000.00 dollars in the red (rounded off). I still have “stuff” I am working on to offset the cost of the racing, but I am not making any positive cash flow to add to the racing budget yet.
   That’s it for this installment. As always, I would like to thank Luke for the opportunity to write on his site, John Crutchfield of Crutchybilt Performance, Michael Beard from Staging Light Graphics for his support and Bud McNasby for his constant assistance in the project (also this installment’s guest editor). Thank you for reading and good luck until next time!
 

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