The Car, Trailer, and Atco Crew left Sutton Ford at 4am. This weekends crew would be Jerry (Crew Chief), Ray (Crew), Derrick (Ray’s Son, Crew), and Bud (Crew). I was enjoying a day at work while they were driving. Jerry called me late in the evening and told me they had arrived at the Host hotel in NJ and the trip went well. He sounded as if he was under the influence of the “High Life”.
I flew out of Midway on a 6am flight heading to Philly. I’m really starting to enjoy flying to the races. I arrived at the airport prepared with directions to the track in hand. For those that don’t know me well; I’m very good at getting lost when I drive east of Ohio. No disappointment there. I got lost on the way to the track. Seems the online maps are not quite up to date. The turnaround that I was used to was gone and I toured the Atco area for a while before I figured out where the track was. I met up with the crew at the track. We cruised through tech then, watched some cars go down the track. Nobody was hooking up so we waited until some faster cars started lifting the wheels on launch. Finally, some Renegade cars came up and the track looked like it was coming around. We got the car ready and went to the staging lanes. Our first pass off the trailer was a safe tune and we went an 8.70. Jerry made some adjustments and we improved to an 8.66.
After the run Jerry and I were talking and he said “We are in trouble”. I knew exactly what he was talking about without him needing to say another word. With the air density around 2000’ we should have easily went a mid fifty. We talked about when we lost the edge and it occurred after we bent the valve in the first round of eliminations at Rt 66. The piston had been hammered a bit on the top but, seemed ok when we did a compression check at the time. This was not the case so we knew we would be on the ropes here in Atco. Well this was the event for the EFI Renegade Shootout and we drew Dave Guy in the first round of the qualifying/Shootout. Dave had run an 8.68 in testing so, we figured we would be in descent shape and could give him a run for the money. Dave got me on the tree by a couple of hundredths but, he drifted toward the centerline and got out of it. We went on to win with an 8.65 and that put us second in qualifying next to Brian Mitchell. Brian ran a stout 8.54 but, turned on the red eye and was out of the Shootout. We packed up and left the track. I think we were sleeping around 11pm or so. Of course, that was all of us with the exception of Jerry. He was busy pacing the hallways thinking of a way to get us out of this mess.
The plan for the day was to run the second round without changing anything on the setup of the car. We figured we had a good chance to run with Chris VanGilder as he was having issues with his car. Our plan was to switch converters to get the car to leave harder off of the line. We ended up winning the round against Chris so we towed back to the pits and swapped the converter. It only took about an hour because we set the tools out ahead of time and each of us had assigned tasks. We finished the change in about an hour. Up comes the third round of the qualifying/Shootout. We would face Alton Clements. Alton and I always try to cut a light on each other so, we pre-staged quickly then, I fully staged quickly because, I figured he would do the same.
I was so pumped and ready to go that I got on the brake before Alton was fully staged. I backed off of the throttle when I realized this and I think I messed him up because, his car jumped forward and I got back on the throttle. He ended up barely red lighting and I ended up with a late .100 light. I’m lucky he went red because, he probably would have covered us on that light. I didn’t know he had red lighted until I looked in the side mirror after the end of the run and saw the win light in my lane. That was an awesome end to a retarded performance on my part. We won the Shootout and the $2,000 was ours! The word from Randy (Sutton HP Manager) after he was informed of the win was for us to go out and have a steak dinner. We headed out to the Lone Star near our hotel and naturally the beer was flowing. When it was my turn to order I asked the waiter for a 12 inch sirloin. We all started laughing. I really through the waiter for a loop, every time he came back to the table we laughed about it. We hit the sack about midnight except for Jerry; he was tossing and turning all night.
Sunday morning arrives and Jerry has a plan. We decided to put a small pulley on the blower and add some timing. We figured if it hooked it would haul ass. We faced Chris VanGilder again for a second time this weekend. Chris is really getting tired of racing us. We lined up and cut almost identical lights. Our car hazed the tires on the launch and chucked the blower belt near the top end of the track. Chris was right there at the top end and we only won by .027. Too close for me. In the next round we were racing Jason Geroulo and he had just run an 8.60. Jerry and I both had a bad feeling about running Jason. Jerry made a timing adjustment to keep from spinning the tires on launch and we put a seasoned belt on instead of a new one like we had in the first round. Jerry was trying to come up with a way out of our dilemma and he started looking up at the sky at what looked like rain clouds. Jerry started doing a rain dance. We were hoping no one was watching but, he kept it up. Much to our surprise it started raining. I think it rained for two to two and a half hours. All of our shoes were soaked due to the heavy downpour. We finally got the word that the event was cancelled and we started packing up. Before we left the track, I went over to Brian Mitchell and told him “I wasn’t going to give up the horse shoe until after the BG event is over”. The plan leaving the event was to meet back at the shop Tuesday evening and pull the motor so we can to get it back to 100% for the last two events.