Eric Bowling: September Blog
3 IN A ROW!!
Hello again TIBR! Wow what a month it has been. This roller coaster installment will conclude my task and goal of chasing a points championship at Lyons Raceway Park, and dealing with the stress of yet more breakage and the enjoyment of more on track success and a graduation of sorts. Buckle up it’s gonna be a ride.
We last left off with some pretty good success at Brown County Dragway. The following weekend set us for another weekend of points racing at Lyons but first the stop would be at Speed’s Dragstrip on Friday night. My evening would be short lived at Speed’s as I have been struggling to get into a groove there this season. I would go out round 4 due to a Red light. The next day would be a big one.
Going into Saturday I was tied for the points lead at Lyons Raceway Park. This weekend would be a Double Points race along with a Mulligan event. For those of you not familiar with “Mulligans” they are basically like an additional buyback. You roll through the gates and when you pay your entry you have the option to purchase a Mulligan Card for an additional cost. These Mulligan cards can be used any time during the course of the evening anytime except for in the finals. With only 1 points race remaining after this one it would be the most important race of the season for me. As the evening began I don’t know what happened. I just didn’t feel good after Time Trials. I was all over the place at the starting line and the car wasn’t very good. First round rolled around and I was dialed pretty honest as I was up against a car a little over a second faster than me, I let go of the button and instantly begin yelling at myself and calling myself every name you could imagine as I knew I was a day late, get to the end hit the brakes hoping to break the other lane out and no luck, we were headed to the buy back booth. Luckily you still receive points after a loss and buy back at Lyons, so it was time to regroup as I still had my Mulligan card and go on to Round 2. I was able to escape through to round 3 with the other lane going red on me. I am watching the points leader win round 2 he has gained yet another point on me. Round 3 rolls around and I make a huge adjustment on my launch RPM to try to get the tree back, I let go and Finally I’m in the teens and take the win, along with my win I see the points leader go down in round 3 but he still has his Mulligan card and proceeds to the buyback shack to hand it in. So going into round 4 we are back to where we started. As the night progressed I found myself sitting in the Semi-Finals alongside Chris Walters and the person I was tied with in points. With the other points leader sitting on the bye it would be Chris and I to battle it out in the semis. We stage up let go I have a slight advantage on the tree and see him charging hard, he is on the spray I hit the brakes he hits the brakes I look up and…Damn his light is shining. We get back to the pits as we were pitted next to each other and he says to me..”Be sure and write about that one in your next column, you just graduated from the Chris Walters driving school” . As we get done laughing it off I realized I still have my Mulligan card in my pocket. So once again as the now new points leader got the bye, he is sitting one point ahead of me as I roll up for my 2nd semifinal appearance. As Chris gets the bye to final this is the big moment of the evening. I’m paired with the points leader. We stage, I let go and it was pretty close on the starting line as I would end up sliding across the finish line to take the win by .008. So once again we are sitting right where we started with us being tied for the points lead. So with the finals coming up it would pair me with Walters once again in the final. This round could be a big one as if I were to win I would receive 2 bonus points for winning the race. The finals rolled around Chris and I talked money and we headed to the lanes. As competitors the conversation of giving me the round never muttered from my mouth or his, however on the other end we heard rumblings all night about someone offering cash for rounds. Anyway back to the final, as we roll up I knew as always I would need to come up big here in the single most important round of my season. We staged I let go and waited for the red bulb to come on but never did, at that point I knew I was good, and having graduated from the “Chris Walters driving school” earlier in the night I knew he would have a hand full of bottle coming hard, as we get down to the stripe both of us looking at each other I drop then he drops hard, I look up and WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER, my win light shines. I get the ticket I’m .003 to his .020 I’m 1 over he’s dead on 3. So as the night ends and I get my check I sit 4 points ahead going into the last points race of the season. After the exciting 11 round affair the night before I decided to take the day off on Sunday.
As the next weekend rolled around I’m not gonna lie I thought about Saturday all week. I decided to roll into Speeds once again on Friday night only get ousted once again round 1 and 2. Hoping the bad luck doesn’t carry on into Saturday evening I gear up for the last points race of the year at Lyons.
When I get the car unloaded I’m feeling a bit nervous but pretty confident as the day gets started. Time Shots the car was deadly and I was feeling pretty good as well as I reeled off a .003 and a .008 reaction time for my 2 time shots. Round 1 rolls around I stage up and let go of the button look back look back and nobody is there as the lane next to me has mechanical problems I am able to coast through to take the win. Round 2 rolls around and the person in the lane next to me turns on the red bulb and on to round 3 we go. The driver in second place has also won the first 2 rounds of competition and I hear the announcer come over the PA saying that he has been awarded the bye for the best reaction of the previous round. So I had a decision to make. 1, do I go up and avoid the situation or 2, do I just wait till the end to try and end it now. Well I opted for option #2. I wanted to make sure that I was at the end of the longest line so I waited until they literally called last call to get to the lanes. I was infact the last car up and as I got out I began to count cars. Looked like it was going to workout to be me and him running it off. As the cars started going down the track it was infact going to be he and I going head to head. As we stage up I take a couple deep breaths begin to roll in and decide to stop for another second take one more deep breath and roll on in. The tree drops he’s dialed about 8 tenths slower than me so his tree drops first. His tree falls my tree falls I see the RED BULB come on……in his lane!! Then at the same time I let go and KA-BOOOM!!!! It honestly sounded like a grenade went off inside my car, the car rared up and instantly stopped it was locked up, I knew in the back of my mind I needed to somehow make it down the track under power to get the win. I gave it a bit of gas and it wouldn’t budge, so I said screw it, its already broken so I matted the gas, it broke free and I was able to limp down the track, at a 31 second 1/8th mile 14 mph points championship winning pass! I get back to the pits and the announcer doesn’t realize I’m broken and I guess was saying I was taking a parade lap to celebrate the championship. As I limped back to the pits I nosed the car toward the trailer got a couple guys to help me push it on the trailer and to the house I headed to check out the damage and do a little celebrating, what a roller coaster of events! This is the 3rd Straight Points Championship at Lyons Raceway park and the 5th in the last 6 years. What a day!
The next morning I decided to get up and pull the cover of the trusty 12 bolt only to see that it did infact look like a grenade went off inside of it.
Needless to say this gear will go on the trophy wall. So we get a new gear and get it all buttoned up to head out for the start of Labor Day Weekend. Which would be a normal week of Friday at Speed’s for a night race and Saturday and Sunday at Lyon’s for their Big Bucks weekend and Brown County on Monday for their BOX/NO BOX Combo race. Friday Night once again didn’t fare so well as the car just flat does not work there. Round 4 and headed to the house with a breakout pass. Saturday rolled around and it would be off to Lyons we go.
As I rolled in the gate I decided to double enter the No Box class and Sunday’s forecast didn’t look so hot so I figured I may as well give it a shot. As the night rolled I found myself at 8 cars with both entries left. Myself and another driver were doubled along with 4 others. My quarter final run I wound up getting beat but I can’t complain as the margin was .000 at the stripe. The very next round I drew him again with my other entry and was able to take him out with one entry remaining we are sitting in the semis. In the semifinal I’m able to bring the driver next to me along for the ride as I break him out .02 to advance to the final against one of the hottest bottom bulbers this season Danny Black. We are pitted next to eachother so we decide to split the money up a little and go on up, We stage up I let go and knew I had to be .00 something, look back and he’s nowhere then all the sudden there he is as the front tires on his gorgeous Nova look like they are about to come off of the ground at the MPH mark so I knew he was spraying the guts out of it. I hit the spot cram brakes and he rips me a couple times my win light flashes on and take a look at the ticket I’m .003 to his not so good light and we take the win. Another great night! I load the car up and head for home take a look at the radar for Sunday and figure I may as well unload it for the weekend. Sunday morning the race was cancelled due to the rain. On Monday we did ok as we got to 3 cars in an eventual break out loss.
The following weekend would another rain soaked weekend. As always here in Indiana it seems to rain quite a bit in the month of September, so Friday was a wash and Saturday at Lyons was cancelled so I decided to head to Brown County on Sunday to test the waters there before the big weekend of the NHRA Division 3 Bracket Finals. I was able to make it to the Final on Sunday as I would yet once again Break out. I was .020 on the tree knowing I was holding about .05 against a 6.70’s car he was .040 on the tree I decide to drop in a completely different place and take .020 at the stripe and break out .009. Another Final round appearance but not the outcome we would have liked to see. So off to the Bracket finals the next week in Indianapolis where we will be competing in the Race Of Champions race along with the Team Race.
If you have never experienced the Bracket Finals, I recommend you to do so at least once. If you are like me however, the waiting between rounds is dreadful. I have literally just sat down in my chair to relax from the weekend that was a total disaster at the Bracket Finals this weekend. I had really high expectations this season as I was going into the Race of Champions Race on Friday afternoon. I get to Indy around 8am on Friday morning. The first call for time shots roll around at about 9:30am. I finally get the chance to get up there and make a pass. I let go of the button and the scoreboard flashes .010 on the tree and the car goes 7.190. Everything felt great. So then the waiting starts. I made my first pass at 10:05am. The 2nd round of practice was immediately following the Race Of Champions ceremony. By the time the ceremony was over the next round of practice rolled around at around 3:35 pm. So 5 hours later I finally get a second time shot. I roll up let go, scoreboard flashes .014 and the car goes 7.228. Not bad considering it was 49 degrees when I made my first hit and it was 59 degrees when I made the 2nd. So now that practice is in the books all I have to do is wait for the first round of elims to come up. Finally, they call up the Race of Champions racers to the lanes. As I get paired with my opponent I notice he is dialed a 5.97. I think to myself I had better dial pretty honest due to the large MPH difference and the way I have been struggling against the faster cars this season. So I decide to throw a 7.23 on the car. We get called to up to race. I roll into the burnout box do my burnout and everything feels fine, We stage with a bit of a staging battle a good 30 seconds or so. Then he bumps in, I bump in I let go and BOOM! I knew it was good then I heard BANG! Then I knew it was bad as I heard a nasty clanking noise from the rear of the car and I watch my opponent cruise through the traps for the win as I limp my car down the track with yet another broken ring and pinion. I get the ticket and I was right, I was .009 to his .013 and all I could think was my day is done now how can I get it fixed.
As I get the car back to the lanes I begin making phone calls trying to find a gear for a 12 bolt, everyone has 9 inch stuff but nobody has a 12 bolt gear and here it is 7pm on Friday evening and still no gear. I go over to the other side of the facility and I see for sale a brand new 12 bolt 4.10 ring and pinion which is the exact hear I had just broken. I talk to the guy with the gear and he says oh that’s Isley’s gear, being an old buddy and fellow racer Chad Isley. I ask Chad what he wants for the gear and he says $60.00. I say I’ll take it and back to the pits I go. I get ahold of my buddy to see if he has room in his garage which has a lift in it to go change the gear and of course he says sure do come on out. So come 8:30pm Friday evening the disassembly begins. Ring and Pinion are junk once again and notice that the tubes on the ole reliable 12 bolt have got quite a bend to them. Both tubes are bent toward the front of the car with the drivers side being quite a bit more than the other side. If you recall I had just changed the gear no more than a couple weeks ago and it was a street gear as it this gear so I am a little leery but have no choice but to put another street gear in it. As we try to get the pinion depth set properly something just isn’t right one side looks great and the other just wont fall into place. After messing with it for over 2 hours we decide to take a closer look at the teeth on the gear. Turns out about 6 teeth in a row have a pretty good burr on them. We take an angle grinder to the gear and what do you know it take a whopping 10 minutes to get it set up properly. So here it is 2am Saturday morning we start buttoning the 12 bolt back up. At about 3:30am I arrive back in Indy at my hotel and lay my head down for a whopping 3 hours of sleep as time shots begin at 8am. I get out of bed and head to the track at about 8am, pull into the back of the lanes and get up there for my 1 and only time shot of the day. I let go with one eye open and one eye closed hoping things stay together and I look up score board flashes .005 and the car goes 7.280. All is good lets go racing. As the waiting once again begins 5pm rolls around and its time for round 1 of Eliminations. I pull a car that’s dialed 6.69 and it being about 12 degrees warmer than the morning pass I thought the car would slow up just a touch. I dial the car 7.30. Roll into the burnout and stage up. I let go and it didn’t feel stellar but not horrible. The car felt better off the starting line than the morning pass but I knew I had get rid of at least 1 more than expected. I look back at the 330 and give the car a quick rip as my opponent is no where to be found, get to the MPH still not there and I give it 3 quick rips and then stomp the brakes, I kill 5 mph look up and my win light does not come on but his does, I go 7.298 on a 7.30 dial and take .020 stripe. GENIUS!!! My weekend is over and back to Bloomington I go. I really wanted to go some rounds in Indy but if you ask anyone about the ET Finals they will tell you the ET Finals is one of the hardest places to get into a groove. Oh well maybe next year!
Well this concludes my racing adventures for the month with the season here in Indiana coming to the back stretch there is still quite a bit of racing to do. In my spare time my father in law and I have been getting to work on our winter project. 1991 S-10 Blazer. I am planning on running this beast next season in some top bulb stuff and if I get comfortable enough in it I may park the ole Camaro for a while to give it a well deserved suspension upgrade.
Now this is a true budget build. I will touch a little bit more on this project in upcoming columns as racing winds down. Just to give you a little info. We gave $200 bucks for the Rolling Stock Chassis which was already painted this green color, and we found a deal on the tires and wheels which are Weld Drag Stars. We paid a whopping $400 for the Slicks, rear wheels and front wheels. As soon as the Wheels were purchased my father in law Don began having some fun with the torch! So far it’s been a low low budget build so stay tuned for more info on the progress on this project in upcoming columns.
Well this brings me to a close for this months column. I hope you have enjoyed reading and column or maybe for some of you hopefully at least it helped you go to sleep. At any rate thanks for reading and I will talk to you soon.
In closing as always I’d like to thank Luke and TIBR and all the great sponsors for making this happen and none of this would be possible without my marketing partners, Mickey Thompson Tires, Ohio Crankshaft, Skaggs Transmission, Spy Optics, RaceonE85.com, Don Cain, My Wife Amy, and my #1 fan Bella. Thank again for reading and we will talk to you next month!