Getting from where we are all the way to Medford, Oregon for the NHRA Division 6 season ending race is no easy task for us. It’s over an 8 hour drive from Woodinville, even longer when towing the trailer. And getting there from Pullman (where Em is these days) is even worse. The drive would be in excess of 10 hours each way, quite a bit more than makes sense for a weekend. And the flights all seem to involve a layover in Seattle or Portland for several hours.
If you add all this to the fact that the Medford race is on Friday and Saturday, and not the usual weekend schedule, and it makes for an interesting travel dilemma. But we worked it out. I schlepped the trailer down on Tuesday, so that Em’s brother Stephen and I could move him into his dorm room at Southern Oregon University on Wednesday. SOU is just 20 miles from the track, so that worked out well. Then I set up the trailer on Thursday, and picked Em up at the airport after midnight. A quick five hour nap and we were back at the track ready for our Friday test sessions.
Friday went well. We got three time runs in, and ran only two-thousandths off the number (8.898) in our last test. We were ready and armed for Saturday’s eliminations. So we left the track early, grabbed some Mexican food for dinner and hit the hay by 9:00.
Saturday dawned as a beautiful day, if you didn’t count all the smoke from the nearby forest fires. We got one test run in the morning, but we blew it. We were a bit nonchalant, and forgot to turn the CO2 bottle on, resulting in a wasted run. But that’s OK, we had great numbers from the day before, we were armed for bear.
We lined up in round one against one of the heavy hitters. Steve Williams (no relation) is a VP of K&N, the big automotive filter company, and was 8th in the world last year. But we were confident, the car was running great, Em was on her game with great lights, we had good numbers, we were ready. Until we actually ran.
For reasons we couldn’t understand, we ran a 9.01 — way off the mark. We were baffled. And the data didn’t help. For some reason, the car lost a huge amount of time to 60 feet, Em’s light was a relatively slow .037, and there was a weird blip in the RPMs right off the line. We spent an hour trying to figure it out.
Until we gave up and tried to load the car in the trailer. First gear was gone. We had blown the transmission’s planetary gears. Ugh. So we loaded up (in second gear), packed up the car for the trip home, and booked Em an early flight home.
We went to say “congrats” to Steve Williams as he lined up for second round. He said, “I was really surprised to see your car fall back so quickly in that round, I had looked at your time trial numbers and was expecting you to be right there.” How cool is that. Respect from a guy who’s competing for the national title.
That made our weekend and capped our year. Sure we’d blown a transmission, but we’ve got plenty of time to fix that. And we have accomplished so much this year: 8th in our association, well into the top 1/2 in NHRA Division 6, and we’re currently in the 35th percentile out of almost 1300 cars in the world. Not too shabby for our first full year of racing.
So even though our season ended with a whimper, we have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to next year. Look out Division 6!