Here we are, about a month and a half into the racing season, and I’m still trying to catch my breath. The introduction to my 2003 campaign has been a struggle. I’m not where I want to be, I’m not winning consistently, and I’m not quite settled with my combination. But they say the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing. I’m having a great time competing with and enjoying the company of my greatest friends in the world-racers.
Following a couple test sessions at home, my season kicked off at the Hub City points meet, as it has the last three years. This event and Hattiesburg in general have been good to me. We’ve won the event each of the last two seasons, and I’ve also had a few $10,000 final round appearances there. My friends Mike Fuqua and Britt Cummings rented the track Friday, so I set out Thursday after school for some more track time with my new Huntsville Engine 555. Upon arrival, I parked with my buddy Stephen (the Shu) Hughes and proceeded to unveil my HEPC signature series propane grill (okay, so I got it out of Bones’ trash dumpster--couldn‘t beat the price!).
Friday’s test session was extremely productive. After testing a number of converters for BTE, I settled in on a 10” set up that the car really seemed to like. Mike Fuqua was kind enough to let me wheel one of his cars in Top Dragster, so I entered my car in the 8.90 class. Hattiesburg once again came through for me, as I won Quick Rod in my dependable Miller Dragster. I also managed a quarterfinal finish in Fuq’s car, where I had the bright idea to bump a .503 light to .493--brilliant. Mike was real proud. Nonetheless, a win was a great way to kick off the season, and it will definitely help the pocketbook. My buddy Shu won Top Dragster in another Texas Supercars Signature Series Miller Dragster, so it was a good weekend for the business as well.
The following weekend presented a dilemma. Either drive to Shreveport for our first Division 4 IHRA points meet, or stay home for two $5,000 races at the Texas Motorplex. In typical fashion, I decide I’ll beat the system by running Dallas Saturday, then driving to Shreveport Saturday night to run the points meet on Sunday. The outing at Dallas ended with a disappointing loss in the fourth round. We actually arrived in Shreveport in time to enter the bracket race Saturday night, but I forgot to let go of the button in the semis and took it on the chin.
Sunday brought more frustration. Transmission problems plagued me and I burnt up high gear for some unknown reason in round one. To add insult to injury, my trick new grill won’t light to cook lunch--I guess you do get what you pay for (or drag out of a dumpster). Days like that suck, but my friend Kari Dollar was on hand for the weekend, and things always seem a little better with a hot chick around!
My friends Troy and Gary Williams follow us home from Shreveport to spend a few days between events soaking up the Texas sun. Did I say sun? I meant ice. The boys come to town for a few days, and we get the nastiest ice storm in local history. We make lemonade of the situation by taking my old shop truck out for a few spins (literally) in the winter weather. I haven’t laughed so hard for so long in my life. That will make an epic story for years to come, no doubt.
As the ice burnt off we made our way to San Antonio for an IHRA national event, but Mother Nature wasn’t finished with us yet. The race wass rained out and pushed to the following weekend. At this point, some friends and I make a beeline to New Orleans and I enjoy my spring break at Mardi Gras. Names and stories will remain concealed to protect the innocent, but a good time was had by all.
In the midst of our Mardi Gras adventure, Troy’s son’s appendix burst, so he hopped a flight to Florida to be with him. Everyone will be happy to know that Brandon’s recovery is now complete, and he’s back to himself again. For that weekend, however, Troy’s absence left a vacancy in the seat of one mean Top Dragster car. After a quick phone call to car owner Mike Bloomfield, I had a second entry to the event. That was about the end of the good news, however, as I goofed up the stripe first round in both cars.
On the way home I sneak into Temple Academy Dragway and manage to salvage the weekend with a Quick 16 Win and Super Pro Runner-Up. My car isn’t impressing me, but I’m driving well and that builds back a little confidence.
Next up is Odessa, Texas for another IHRA race. Without trying to offend anyone who lives in West Texas-this is an annual trip that I despise. The track has been good to me, the people are great--but West Texas is about as exciting as melting cheese. Plus, this is the worst altitude track we race at, and to be competitive I really need to change converters and lean the carburetors down. In my case this year, IHRA doesn’t adjust the Top Dragster minimum nearly enough, and I have to spray to make the bump. That was my first experience with spraying on a timer, and let me say this: If I had any money, nitrous could be VERY addictive! I sprayed a 400 hp shot for almost three seconds, and picked the car up over a half second. That’s a cool feeling! Results, on the other hand, were not so cool. I let go before the tree came on in the semis of the bracket race Saturday. Then, I made up for that by letting go a little tardy in the quarterfinals of Top Dragster on Sunday.
A day later, Kari and I are on our way to Huntsville for a stop at HEPC. The new 555 isn’t as fast as Bones and Garry hoped, so we’re taking out the “experimental” camshaft to go back to a proven combination. Yeah, it’s an inconvenience, but we knew we were taking a chance going in, and without experimentation we can’t learn. With the cam swap finished, we boogie up to Bowling Green Thursday to test before the Tenn-Tuck event. The cam change and a few minor adjustments bring the car to life, and my 2050 pound ride (with my “slightly larger than light” tail) runs 4.95 @ 140. I’m happy and impressed.
Friday I hogged the stripe in round two, and turned on a .499 red-eye in the duck race. Saturday, I shoe the Bloomfield Chevy II and tighten up the stripe to a “Cool bus” length in a third round breakout. At this rate, Mike will have a restraining order keeping me at least 10 feet from the driver’s seat of his race cars! In my car I drive well before a freak problem takes me out in the fifth round. Frustration again. Shu and Troy run in the final, which assures Kari and I a free dinner either way. Shu wins, capping a phenomenal start to his season (three $10,000 wins, a $20,000 semi, a Top Dragster Win, and a local win). Must be that new Texas Supercars Signature Series dragster!
Sunday I get to the fifth frame again before giving the stripe away with just ten cars remaining. I finally get things going well and I screw it up. I hope this isn’t the way the whole year shakes down. We drive all night, and Kari and I both make it to work and school on Monday (put a rose on my nose).
Next stop is the Mega 10’s race at Memphis, which I consider the best deal in bracket racing this season. Ray Miller watches my car work, and we make a few suspension adjustments that get the car back to the nasty form I enjoyed most of last season. Unfortunately, it didn’t much matter this weekend. My car doesn’t move .01, and my worst light is .012. That turns on the win light twice in seven attempts. Ouch! Another long ride home sitting on a thin wallet.
That brings us up to current. Now I really feel like I’ve got a good hot rod beneath me, and I’m anxious to get back out and prove that I can still do this. I’ve got a new dragster on order from Miller Race Cars, so I’m looking to sell the current car if anyone is interested. My old Nova and a couple motors are also for sale--call or e-mail me for information. Also, if there is anything I can do for you through Texas Supercars, please call us at 817-561-9606. Finally, I need to use this platform to promote my other marketing partners who help make it possible for me to compete. They’re some great folks with the best products money can buy. Please support Bill Taylor Engineering, Barry Grant Fuel Systems, Demon Carburetion, Nitrous Works, Moser Engineering, K&R Performance Engineering, Miller Race Cars, Autometer, Hedman Hedders, TD Performance Products, MSD Ignition, Mickey Thompson Tires, Huntsville Engine and Performance Center, Brodix Cylinder Heads, 76 Race Fuels, M2 Race Systems, Optima Batteries, Afco Drag Racing, Goza Racing Products, Valvoline, Pyroil, Zerex, Eagle One, Dragraceresults.com, Mr. Wendell’s TDS, Weld Wheels, Crane Cams, Dixie Race Products, and #1 Stop Products. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next month!