Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taking a Break From The Normal Blog Routine...

So, I grabbed a few boxes from our storage building. The purpose was twofold; I wanted to find a picture so I could copy it and give one to Max and the other was to find my box of autographed baseballs that I had stowed away.

I found both. I was very disappointed that a lot of my signatures have been fading, but I honestly think I noticed this when I packed them up (thus switching a few to UV protected cubes). I also noticed that my Cal Ripken and Jim Palmer baseballs are 'toning.' Meaning, the white baseballs are starting to turn brown. I was sad about this for a little bit, then I thought that I kind of liked how the old brown auto'ed balls looked that I have seen. I'm sure hoping they end up ok and not all splotchy like they are now.

The picture I was looking for is a picture of me from 1994 crouched beside my Jr. Dragster. I raced this car for a year between my 14th and 15th birthdays.
The car was bought for my brother Adam. Dad challenged Adam and I that he would get a Jr. Dragster for whichever of us got all A's on our report card. Let me tell you, it is much harder to get all A's in 8th grade than it is if you are in 5th grade. Adam (who is 3 years younger than me) got all A's and I did not.

So, he got the car. I got to watch. I was so bitter for a long time, but little did I know that my brother would soon discover football (which paid his way through college) and would soon forget his racecar. Not before the local news channel did a story on him and his racecar. Blehh...

I'm hoping you all remember that my dad has drag raced for 34 years and was BIG TIME during this period. The dragster was painted to mirror his Pro Modified car and we would take it wherever he was racing. This got to be a problem because you had to have 2 trucks and trailers because his normal race trailer was not outfitted to handle 2 cars. We began leaving the car with the engine builder.

One Saturday, Adam had a football game, but the engine builder thought he would be there and brought the car. Seeing that Adam wasn't going to be there, the engine builder asked my dad what he wanted to do, since he had the car there and no one to drive it. Dad (I think he finally got that I was the one who really wanted to drive the thing) asked me if I wanted to try it out and of course I was almost peeing myself saying yes I'd love to.

Luckily, Dad had kept Adam's fire suit, shoes and helmet in his trailer and we had everything I needed in order to pass the safety qualifications (don't ask me how embarassing it was that I could fit into all of my brother's stuff, who was 3 years younger than me).

I had never driven anything other than a Honda three-wheeler in my life, so my cousin Eddie and Dad's crewman Bear (yeah, that's his name) took me and the car off to the spectator parking lot (a gravel lot) to get some practice in the car before the first time trials were called to the lanes.

They started me up and let me sit in the car so i could get acclimated to the pedals and the steering.

The car had a 5 HP Briggs and Stratton go-kart engine that was bored out (and utilizing PEDs) in order to bump it up to 25HP. Adam had the car up to 70 MPH on an 1/8 mile drag strip.

My first pass down the strip (Mooresville Dragway) was ok. I was looking at the front wheels instead of looking out at the strip (if that makes sense) and was all over the lane because I felt like I wasn't going straight. After the run (at approx 10.36 seconds, 65MPH), my cousin Eddie pulled me aside and told me to look beyond the front wheels and just keep the car between the lines and it will go faster.

My next pass, I had an elapsed time of 10.28 seconds at 66MPH. I improved greatly. Now, the Jr. Dragsters were really taking off at that time and there were something like 16 kids there with their own dragsters. My engine builder also had another car he worked on, so he parked us both together. It ended up that the two of us were paired together for the first round of eliminations. My partner left the line too soon (red-lighted), thus giving me a free pass to the next round, and my first ever round win. I still have the time slip from that run. I will keep that bad boy til the day I die.

I ended up finishing that race in third place. I was given a trophy for my accomplishments that day (which I still have).

I raced sporadically over the next year. I got $20 bucks for making three exhibition passes down Dunn-Benson Dragstrip (where the above picture was taken, I think). The other races, I never got past the first round of eliminations.

In what would be my final race in this car (Dad would sell it because it was becoming too much of a pain to keep up with along with his Pro Mod car), I was racing at Mooresville again. Dad was also running Pro Mod at the same race and lost in his first round of eliminations. Having finished for the day, he packed up his car and watched as I went round after round, making it to the final round of eliminations.

One of my most favorite memories is of me pushing my car to the lanes as my dad ran beside me. He stood on the starting line as I was about to try for my first win.

I was up against a kid whose dad took the whole Jr. Dragster thing maybe a little too seriously. Before the round he stopped by our trailer and told my dad that he should put a real driver in my car. Dad wasn't too happy, and neither was I, for sure.

We did our burnouts and staged the cars. I'm nervous as hell and pissed off at what this kid's dad had said (Adam and I were friends with the kid, he had just slept in a tent with us at Bristol Dragway a few weeks before). We leave the line (I with a better reaction time than he) and race toward the finish line.

Now, in this type of racing, you have to guess your time. This makes it fair for a Corvette to run against a Volkswagen. If you go faster than your predicted time, you lose. This projected times also create a handicap start so the slower car gets a 'head start.' Make sense?

My car had been going 10.28 seconds all day, so naturally, I predicted to go 10.28. My opponent (taking it much more serious than most everyone else) had a super souped up dragster that went about a second quicker than mine.

So, I get the head start and lay down a really good reaction time (for once) and am off. I have my foot planted and my little car hurtling toward the finish line. I can hear my opponent coming hard and fast. As I get to the finish line, I let off the gas so as not to exceed my predicted time....

...I got to the finish line first, but exceeded my projected time by 0.004 seconds. So, my car, having run 10.28 seconds all day runs 10.276 seconds. My opponent's dad was able to celebrate a victory over a 'lesser' driver.

My dad patted me on the back and told me I 'did pretty good.' I was able to go the the timing tower and collect a trophy for my runner-up finish (which I still have). I still sit and think about how cool it would have been to sit that kid and his dad on their ass, but if you know me, those type of things don't happen to me.

I hope you all enjoyed my story about my moment in the sun at 14 years old. I really enjoyed racing and if I could afford it, I sure would do it in a heartbeat. I'd love to pilot a Top Fuel dragster at some point in my life. I'm just about to turn 30, so I think I still have time to realize that dream.

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