Our first race of the year was in Boise, a few weeks ago, on the first weekend in May. I apologize for the long delay in posting, but things have been a little crazy.
Not only was Boise our first race of the year, it was our first entry into a major NHRA Divisional race, just adding to the butterflies. To top it all off, it was also Emily’s first time behind the wheel in eight months. To expect everything to go swimmingly would have been foolish. As such, we didn’t expect much. Good thing…
I drove the rig to Boise on Thursday, April 30th, tagging along with our good friend Ed Hauter. We met up before 6am at a nearby interstate exit and made the eight plus hour drive in a bit of a rush. Ed had a new engine in his car and was hoping to get there in time for an afternoon test session. Unfortunately, we missed the test session by a half-hour or so. But we got there without incident, set up our pits, and prepared for the next day.
Emily drove over from Pullman Thursday night and met me at the hotel (after a quick visit with her beau Mike, a Boise guy). We scurried to the track early on Friday, hoping to get in a couple of good test sessions in the books.
As you may have read from posts here, I had completely redone the car from the frame rails up. Not only did we have a completely rebuilt engine, now making about 890 horsepower (+90 over last year), but my serious case of “while we’re at it” meant we had all new electrical and electronics, a completely rebuilt transmission, new fuel pump, water pump and starter, all new plumbing, new tires, etc., etc. I even changed the way the car shifted gears. Basically everything that could make the combination different was changed. Sure, we have all new stuff, and some of the best stuff around, but it changed everything.
So we needed all the testing we could get. That was not to be. Our first pass was a bust because of a silly error. In warmup, we set the throttle stop in a kind of backward mode to test the “dead stall” (the RPMs when on the stop). We forgot to set it back. Funny thing about drag racing, going slower as you go down the track is not a good thing. So that pass, and any potential valuable info to be gained, was a bust.
Our second pass was better, Em was on her game and cut a great light, and the car seemed to run well. Too well, in fact, we ran far too fast. Our target in Boise is slower than normal (9.20 seconds vs. the normal 8.90), but we still ran well into the 8.70s. Something was wrong, the car didn’t seem to want to stay “on the stop”, but just kept going faster and faster. It was just an animal dying to run fast. Hmmm… what’s up with that?
We were also having problems with the car stalling out. It just wouldn’t idle right, and died after Em’s burnout. This problem only got worse. On the third pass, it died twice before the launch, and we got pushed off the starting line. Ugh. Talk about embarrassing. And no data… Not a great way to end our first day at our first Divisional race.
Saturday dawned with threatening weather, and the track in a hurry to get runs in before the rain came. So instead of getting the two or three more test runs in that we had hoped for, we were headed into Round 1 of eliminations. Without a good run to our credit. Ugh.
Overnight, Em and I had decided to change the carburetor jets to compensate for the thin air, hoping that this would mitigate the stalling problem. Boise’s Firebird is an interesting track, with a silly, long staging area and a 180-degree turn right behind the water box. OK, if you’re in a little car, but in a dragster, it means a two (or three) point turn. Makes for some fun, especially when the car wants to stall. We hoped our last minute changes would fix it.
We scrambled, got ready, and got up there armed for round one. We were running a little roadster, and it all went well. No stalling, so that part seemed fixed.
Unfortunately, the “going too fast” part was not fixed. Despite slowing the car down a bunch, we ran an 8.91. Super if you’re in Seattle, way too fast in Boise (against the 9.20 index). So our weekend was done. As it turns out so was most of the racing for the day. They managed to get a few more cars in before the rain, but that was about it. Sunday was a “hurry up and wait” for most teams as they finished the racing between the rain showers. For us, it was mostly pack up and go.
We learned a lot in Boise: Emily’s still darn good on the tree, the car can easily run what we want, and we still love this whole racing thing. But we left with a lot to do, and fix. That’s part of the whole racing thing too. What we have going for us are some good friends, and great resources. We solved most of our issues the next weekend, with the help and advice from those friends. But that’s for another post. Stay tuned.