APD Member Spotlight Blog (May): Jason MacNeil
The introductions are complete, and now we just have to get out there and try to win. But, we need to win more than just drag races; we need to win a spot in the “look forward to reading that blog” category, which only you can award us with. I hope you can stick with me for my last column without any racing results, and enjoy a recap of last season and the preparation for this one.
What would a blog from a Maritimer be without talking about the weather first??? The stuff falling from the sky has turned from white to clear, but it is still coming down relentlessly. We had temperatures below the freezing point at night earlier this month and it seems like it’s getting colder, not warmer! Hopefully in the next couple of weeks things will turn around a bit and we can get on with the long awaited racing season. In case you’re asking yourself what a Maritimer is; we are a unique breed of Canadians who play hockey and drink beer….well, not really, we are just the people that live in the Maritime provinces(NS, NB, PEI), but most of us have taken part in these important tasks at one time or another.
Get your umbrella out!
Since the last blog things have been coming together pretty smoothly. As you can see in the first pic, I was able to get the motorhome out of storage without any issues, and only some minor maintenance to do before her first voyage. I fabricated a rack to hold up Hannah’s new car, which wouldn’t fit where we had it before and this gives us a bit more room in our already crammed trailer. The Geliget Gear Monza now has an engine back between the frame rails, and no major surprises were found during its freshen-up at A&J. I will be using the 357 hopefully for the entire season along with my spare transmission, just so it can get some use and not dry-up sitting around. The new slicks are mounted, all the planned upgrades are complete and the latest decals are in place. There is a full drum of fuel in the corner and the only thing we need now, is a race to go to. Did I mention that already??
Engine installed and “garage tested”.
New Jr. Dragster Rack
I wanted to give you some more details on my operation and what we have going on. As previously described, my “weapon” is a 1979 Chevrolet Monza that started its life as a Comp Eliminator car. The car was built in Kingston, NS by Allyn and John Armstrong of A&J Automotive who are very well known and respected in NHRA Comp Eliminator and Super Stock classes and have held records there. The car has changed a lot over the years and in its current state the car weighs 2480lbs with me on board, so I guess it will be an even 2500lbs after this winter, and I just add some weight if I need to scale at an IHRA deal. I have two engine options, the first being a 357 that puts our around 520 hp and will put me in the 9.60-9.90 range. The other option is a 406 that puts out a bit more at 640 hp that I have run 9.30’s but is probably capable of more. I run both engines in the 10.90 class and when I do it puts me at 132 mph and 140 mph give or take a couple. The transmission is a powerglide with an ATI converter and out back is a Ford 9” with a Mark Williams center and axles. It has a ladder bar suspension set-up, with adjustable shocks front and rear. I use a Biondo 450 and an electric throttle stop and shifter. Overall it is a basic bracket car, but I do try to utilize reliable equipment and replace anything before it fails. I do this with help from Geliget Gear, Rhyno’s Paint & Collision, Apple Auto Glass, Sketch-It Signs and Designs, Indy Images, G&C Concrete and TIBR.
The waiting area at A&J Automotive.
New APD Member Spotlight decals installed.
Hannah’s ride is a 2007 KCS chassis with a Craw’s ZR4 engine. This thing is a bit of an animal, as the previous owners made some late season blasts in the 7.00’s at 90mph, so we will tune it down quite a bit for her first year with the car. It is her second Jr. and she has paid for both cars herself. She spent a lot of time collecting bottles and selling things at the track to buy her first car, then she kept saving and was able to do a partial trade to get her new ride. It is currently the fastest car in Atlantic Canada, and she is proud to own it. Sketch-It Signs did a cool design for the sides, and she will be doing some advertising for G&C Concrete this season.
Hannah’s new ride…aka “The Bullet”.
Our tow vehicle for the season will be a 1997 Pace Arrow 32’ motorhome. It is an older unit but in pretty good shape and I purchased it locally last year. We did all the upgrades necessary to tow with it and so far we are enjoying it. Having young kids at the track is a lot easier with this set-up, but there are pros & cons with everything, including the 80gal gas tank bolted to the underside. The trailer is a 2010 28’ Classic Dominator that I picked up at Westside Motorcoach, near Chicago. It is a nicely built unit, and tows well.
The primary focus for this season is to follow and chase points for the ADRA Championship. The ADRA (Atlantic Drag Racing Association) is a non-profit group and their main concern is to promote drag racing and help keep racing off the streets. The ADRA points series consists of two races at each of our four tracks and the year-end points are calculated using your best five races. You must race at each track once to count all five races and points earned at each race are as follows: 20pts for showing up, 10pts per round won, and 11pts for winning the final round. There are no buy-backs and we are usually placed on a ladder from qualifying. The classes that are run at all four tracks are the same: Super-Pro (10.99 and quicker), Pro (11.00 to 13.49), Street (13.50 and slower), Bike/Sled (All Run), Jr.Dragster (All Run). Nobody usually “runs away” with the points, and it can be a good battle right to the end. The points races are contested on Sunday, and we usually have a gamblers race or special event on Saturdays.
This year will also be the first season for the newly formed “Atlantic Pro Tree Series”. It is basically a run on Saturday program using the 8.90, 9.90, 10.90 format. Their plan is to run the three classes separately, and the three winners then run off on a staggered pro tree for an extra pot. There are four of these races planned for this year and they will also count points for a season end champion. There are quite a few cars around here that fit into these classes and run a bit of NHRA/IHRA stuff. It should be a good addition to our programs and hopefully I can get back into throttle stop racing without too much grief.
The ADRA “15th Anniversary” decal
The Tap Button
This season will be my first attempt at a Tap Down button. I have toyed with the idea before, but never ended up installing it in the car. This past season I had a couple of incidents where I let go and said “Damn, I wish I had a Tap Down button”, so now I do. I have been trying to incorporate it while using the practice tree, and I think I might have a handle on it. My biggest fear, and I’m sure it will happen, is to turn a good green light, red. If it happens more than three times, I will use the curly cord for side cutter practice. As Luke suggested, I will probably start with .010 in it at first and just use it for those “Damn, I wish I had a Tap Down button” situations. Let’s see how it goes.
The new “make it better…but not red” button.
I probably have thought about this one more than anything this winter. Why the heck wasn’t I able to win the championship? I know the answers and here it goes:
- Overconfidence - I was overconfident and underestimated unfamiliar opponents on the starting line; on two occasions during the points chase I did this. I wasn’t expecting a lot from the other lane, so I would roll some in and then for some “sub-conscious” reason, I would still try to put a little of my own delay in there (a tutorial #19 no-no). The results were an embarrassing .078 to his .028 and a breakout while taking .002 of stripe during the first points race. Then mid-season I did something similar and went .065(Ouch!) to my opponent’s .004, giving him the easy win. These are not typical numbers for me, but it happens and I really need to avoid this scenario.
- The stripe taker!! - I decided last season that because of the shape of my front end (angled) and the different heights of the finish line beam at different tracks, I was sometimes taking the finish line on the brakes with the front end and off the brakes with the wheels. The solution would be a custom stripe taker, removable and neat looking. The first weekend out with it, I actually won a race by .001 and credited the win to the stripe taker. Then mid-season, I was at another track that has a bit of a dip for the burnout water. During my burnout, the burnout guy pointed under the car and gave me the universal hand signal to kill it. I got out and noticed water running out of my radiator profusely and I later came to discover that while driving through the “dip”, my super-duper, custom fabricated stripe taker hit the ground, bent up and around and poked a hole right through the radiator. I then came up with a new name for the stripe taker! This was in the second round of a points race and I was done for the day. I will re-fabricate one from a non-piercing material and trim it up a bit more for this season.
- A bad final race - It came down to the last race of the year and the guy leading the points ahead of me was only one round in front. The day started off slow with the weather and I was fighting off a cold. The call came from the tower to put a dial on your car because the first run would be qualifying and then right into eliminations. I was slow in 60’ on the qualifier and then had an easy first round but still slow in the 60’. Second round was a bit better and I was able to win at the top end. My sponsor was there for the day to watch and I really wanted to put on a good show. Bruce Howatt, the guy I am chasing in points, is also winning up to this point. If I win the next round it will be me and Bruce in the semi’s to actually run off for the championship. This would have been very cool, except for the fact that I have to win the third round and some pressure is starting to emerge. I pull up to a known competitor and a good dialer. He is usually a bit conservative on the tree, so I set up the same way. The results were a .001 difference at the line, and we are still in the game. The 60’feels a lot better and I know I might be a tad quick. He has a few mph on me and is slowly catching up toward the 1000’ mark. I’m watching and watching and he is not gaining like he should be, I look up and there’s the stripe. Off the gas, on the brakes, and now I’m shouting obscenities while taking ten feet of stripe. I managed to kill a bit, but I knew I took way too much. Why? I’m not sure, just lapse in judgement, and one of those moments that you wish you could have back. So that ended my run at the championship, but Bruce was very deserving of it and will wear the jacket for a year.
Did I learn anything from all that? Only time will tell, but it did change the way that I will be going into this season and a big part of that plan is to be more aggressive on the tree. The years that I did best, I hung it out more on the starting line, and always tried to be .50x every time. Somewhere along the line I started racing “not to lose” instead of racing “to win” like I should be.(another TIBR lesson) I will also not underestimate any new or unfamiliar competitor until I know what they are all about. Hopefully this will help avoid some of the “ass kickings” that always seem to come when you least expect it.
The infamous “Stripe Taker”
Myself and Bruce at the ADRA Awards Banquet
Thanks for reading again, I know that I’ve been picking a few different things to blog about and hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading about what I have going on. I will be testing this weekend at Greenfield Dragway, and with any luck, things will go as planned. It will then be back to Greenfield for race number one of the ADRA points series. Thanks go out to APD, Nitro Plate, J&J Engine Diapers, K&N Filters, Wiseco Performance, Milodon, Huntsville Engine & Performance, Dedenbear, the JEGS U.S. Open Bracket Championships, and of course TIBR for providing this cool program.