Well, 2008 was another exciting trip to Bonneville. I left bright and early on Monday morning, August 11th. My traveling companion had to bail on me at 9:00 PM the night before, so I was going alone. I made it all the way to Indiana the first day. I made it to Nebraska the second day and to Laramie Wyoming the third day. I just love to stop in Laramie. I usually drive over to Wyo-Tech and eat in a resteraunt downtown called the Altitude. Great food, drink, and people. I pulled into the Wendover KOA on Thursday the 14th, a day earlier than I told them. I left my stacker trailer out at the truck stop at the entrance to the salt flats and went into town with just the coach.
I had to do some work on the coach on Friday so I kept busy waiting for everyone else to arrive. The action at the Nugget had already started for Friday and Saturday night. Gary and Rod were somewhere in Wyoming driving my pickup truck. Ronnie, Laura, Ron Jr. and Richie would be flying in on Sunday and Bruce and Holly were somewhere in the Dakota’s. Jimmy and Marcia flew in on Frday night. They wouldn’t let us out on the salt until Sunday morning, so we were in line at the gate and ready to go at O-dark-30. We got out there, grabbed a pit area and unloaded the cars to take to tech. It was a good thing we were that early as the tech line just got longer and longer all day. We breezed through tech and headed to the pits to finish setting up. We were told that we had to move as you couldn’t be on the front line unless you were from California. So we moved all of our stuff to the second row. We set everything up again and towed down to the fuel truck to fill the tank for Monday morning. When we got back to our pits, two inspectors came by to tell us that our gas cap would not pass tech, so I had to go find a new one. Luckily, the guys from Moon Eyes were a few pits down (on the front line) and they sold me a new cap. Great bunch of guys here.
Sunday morning dawned early. We were once again down in line before the gates opened waiting anxiously for our first run. We got in line early and we were right up front. I think we were actually the third car on the salt for the week. What an awesome feeling, just being here on the salt with some of the biggest names in LSR. My heart was pounding and my stomach was churning butterflys as it always does.
Off we went with Jimmy pushing me hard. I saw the first mile marker looming in the distance as I shifted into second gear. The car felt light but I kept my foot into it. I shifted a little early into third gear and found bottom. The car came out from under me before I knew what had happened and I just started spinning in circles. I just tried to keep the engine running and keep the car from tipping over as best as I could. When I stopped, the track Safety Steward had already got to me. His name was Lee Kennedy and I got to know him real well by the end of the week. Lee asked me if I was ok and then told me I would have to take the car to the pits for inspection. I told him I knew the drill from last year and I would see him later in the pits.
We noticed right away that the rear end had moved over and the left rear tire was hitting the fender. We checked all the measurements, wheelbase, toe in, side to side. We adjusted the panard bar and pulled the fender away from the tire. When we were checking the wheels and tires we noticed a bit of run out on the right front wheel. Upon investigation, we found a cracked front wheel hub. I didn’t even know where these hubs came from or what kind they were. A call to Jimmy Shine down at So-Cal Speed Shop told me they had one. Another call to my older brother Jack and I had two of them picked up. Jack flew them up to Wendover in his private airplane that afternoon. We met him and I took him to dinner and fueled his airplane as thanks. Is this connections or what?
The next day we put the two hubs on and towed to the line. I got off in the late morning for our second run of the year. I made an easy but successful pass at 207.7 MPH. Not to the record, but none the less we made it all the way to the 5 mile marker. I said it was still squirely out there but I felt we could now go and improve the run. We towed to the fuel truck to refuel and went back in line. We checked the plugs and other things in line and finally got to the front. It was mid afternoon now and we were off again. I was ginger in 1st gear, short shifted into second and brought the fuel in as gently as I could. The car seemed stable and i pushed it down. I hit the magic 7,000 RPM number and pushed the button for third. WHAM! Something real bad happened but I didn’t know what. I knew I lost something out of the car because it seemed to be in neutral. I don’t know how high the engine reved but I hoped my MSD chip protected it. I pulled off the track immediately so as not to piss of the officials again. Along comes Lee Kenedy again to tell me I had spit my drivesaft out on the track. He looked underneath and scolded me for not having a driveshaft safety loop. I told him I left the line with one. He radioed out to someone to stop the races until all the parts were found. They actually returned all my broken parts to me later. Now it might seem that my luck had finally run out, but Noooooooooo. My crew was not ready to pack it in yet. I went accross the way (to the front line again) where my friend John Beck was Pitted. He is from California you see. When I asked for a nut, another guy approached me and asked me if I needed a new driveshaft. I said yes, among other things, and he introduced me to Lee Watson. Now I find out that Lee Watson owns Inline Empire Driveline located in (you guessed it) southern California. Lee had me measure everything up and called his shop. They made one up for me and had it shipped overnight UPS to his room in Wendover. What a guy. Now my friend, Greg Sampson, just pulled a 202 MPH run in the famed She Bad II car, something he had been trying to do for four years. Instead of basking in the glory of his run, he came to my pit and bailed under my car to start welding on it. He put it all back together for me so that we could race when we got the driveshaft. We got the shaft the following day at around 2:00 PM. I put it in only to discover that the transmission was junk. Oh well. Do you think we quit here? Noooooooooooo, not my crew. It was into the trailer it went, up on the lift, and we pulled the transmission. My friend Wayne Jesel brought me his spare transmission. We actually had to pull the motor ahead to get the trans in and out but we did it. When the car was on the lift we discovered more carnage underneath. Some done from the driveshaft and some from the spin. Greg was back welding again. He ruined at least three T shirts that day. You can probably guess that me or my crew were not having too much fun at night. We were back on the salt on Thursday morning to try again.
We finally got to run in the late morning as all the impound cars and bikes from the previous day get to run 1st. I took off again feeling very aprehensive. I got into it a little hard in 1st gear and the car came around. I let up and got it straight, shifted into second. I started creeping up and it came out sideways again. I punched third gear and it seemed to straighten out. I saw the 1st mile and was still accelerating when the car just came completely around and started spinning again. By now I was pretty disgusted. Along came Lee Kennedy again with another spin sticker. He was feeling as bad as we were for our bad luck. All the way back to the pits I was questioning just what the hell we were doing wrong. When we got back to the pits we heard that several other cars had spun and that the track was shut down. I looked south and noticed a flag blowing straight west very hard. When I looked to the north, there was a wind sock blowing straight east as hard as it could. This was quite unbelievable but I felt a little better knowing there were other circumstances involved with this last spin. The car appeared to be ok this time but the track stayed closed the rest of the day. We went to the inliners party that night.
Back on the salt early Friday morning. By now we were all too tired to be excited or even have butterflys. Three more friends had arrived with the Street Rodder Road Tour. These guys drove out from Connecticut and just had to bring their cars out on the salt. You go guys.
Well here we are on the line with not much of the week left. Some of the crew had left as they had to fly home. This time it was Rich and Ron pushing me off. I took off lightly and the car was stable. I cranked it to around 6800 RPM’s and shifted it. Took it up again and punched the dreaded third gear. The car stayed straight. I took it to 7,000 and punched fourth. I went by the three and punched the button for fifth. I had the hammer down and the engine was pulling strong. When I went by the three and a half, I looked down to see I was over 6,800 RPMs which I knew was over 210 MPH. All of a sudden, the whole car lifted and set over to the right about two car widths. I was scared but held the wheel straight and focused on the four mile markers coming up. Then it happened again, only one car width this time. The wind was gusting like crazy. I was now going by the four mile mark and I looked down again to see I was going over 7,000 RPM’s. I knew I just put us in impound and was trying to make a decision as to whether I should pull out or go to the five. The engine lost RPM’s and I looked down at the temp guage. I was sick to my stomach as I noticed it buried over 250 degrees. I pulled the chute, drove off the track, and pulled out the fuel shut off. I coasted over to the return road. I had just turned 215.343 MPH at the four.
We towed down to impound and filled out the neccesary paperwork. We then proceded to check the engine out. It had two dead cylinders. #5 and #4. The exhaust valve on #5 had grown and no longer had any lash to it so it stayed open. I was able to shim the rocker assembly on that one and got it to 40#’s of compression. There was no hope for # 4 though. We put new plugs in it and test fired it. It did not pop back in the intake and didn’t seem to have a lot of blow-by, so I assumed it was another exhaust valve. I decided that I would try and run it for the backup run on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, as soon as it fired on the line that day, a big puff of smoke came out of it. I nursed it through the one but the oil was coming out everywhere. I was afraid of fire so I pulled out. We packed up and headed for home.
By the way, Lee Kennedy came over to Impound to congratulate us and he brought world renouned Top Fuel Drag Racer, Doug Herbert with him. Doug congatulated us too. Way Cool Stuff you won’t get anywhere else in the world.
Another year will come. I have a lot of people to thank for coming out and working so hard. I hope I didn’t burn them out.