Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pinks All Out Last Chance - Indy

It was one hell of a week getting prepped for this thing, and there was no guarantee at all that we were going to come away with anything except a lighter wallet, but we went, and here's how it all went down:

Friday night around 10pm we were doing some final checks after finally getting the trans back in the car. Some minor alternator belt problems had to be addressed.

My brother backed it out of the driveway and ran it around the block a couple of times, proclaimed it "good," and we celebrated our apparent success by getting some pizza and sleeping!

Friday morning bright and early at the track, Ben fills out our tech card.

We ran around the pits and visited some of the other racers and checked out their cars. This guy with the '55 asked me to help him lower and pin the flip front after we got done talking. It's one of the coolest car things I've ever been asked to do!

This guy was running a stout '69 Camaro. Clean car, too. Check out the motor below.

This was a very nice '67 Camaro that looked like a real street-fighter. I saw a "12." in his window later in the day, so he was running real respectable times for what looked like just your average show-car Camaro.
Whether you like imports or not, this Neon was running 12s with a turbo. That's impressive for any car, and this one had half the cylinders of most that were running that day.

This Turbo Coupe had slicks that looked like they were touching the fenders, so I went over to look. They were. The owner saw me looking and laughed, "They rub a little, but there ain't nothin' sharp under there, so it all works out okay!"

Big, bad Buick.......runnin' a Chevy motor. Sorry, Buick guys. It was still a tough one, if that helps ease the pain.

Never saw or heard anything else about this Camaro that day. Clean car.

Can't have a meet without Mr. Horsepower showing up.

I think this is an early Capri??? Not sure. It looked well-used. For some reason it kind of scared me. It looked...strip-wise. Saw him run it down, but didn't get a time on it. It was a handful.

Mustang running a bottle...
...and a little attitude.
Does my heart good to see an AMC product anywhere. Would have loved to have seen this on make a pass.

Now we're getting down to business. Getting lined up for the first round of time trials.

Here we have a little more of the field. They were advertising 512 spots for qualifying, and Ben slept in his car all night in anticipation of a huge turnout. Everyone, and I mean everyone there, was surprised when only about 100 cars showed up to run! We heard a lot of people stayed home because they thought it was going to be a madhouse with too many cars running around. The missed an easy chance at qualifying!

Duster in the lanes.

Here's some leftover rubber on the quarter from last week's race. Maybe we should wash this thing a little more often.

We're in the final stage of lanes, and Ben is ready to give it hell and see how she runs today.

Another Plymouth, this one with a big wedge. Probably not exactly what the factory put in these little things, no?

Ben heats up the M/Ts and prepares for his first assault.

The Red Baron is one of my favorite cars out at ORP. I love classic-era-styled hot rods.

He doesn't disappoint with a wheels-up launch! I wish I'd been out front to catch the grille end of things.

Duster tortures the tires before a pass.

Tony was having converter trouble at the meet, unfortunately, but he still gave it his best shot in his Gremlin - which is powered by a 383 Chrysler. Sure, you saw that coming, right?

Ended up talking with this guy in the lanes. He was out of Illinois, ran a stout 11.53 and made the show in his first round of eliminations.

And here we jump to the first round of eliminations! There was a bunch of standing around and goofing off in between, plus another couple of rounds of trials, which I won't bore you with, plus the part where I locked my keys in my car and had to borrow four screwdrivers and a coat hanger to get them out, but again, I won't bore you with that. Here's the meat of the matter. The heart of the story. The part where it all gets good, where all our hard work comes down to the wire. The part where Ben's heart is hammering in his chest, and my hands are shaking so much it's getting a little difficult to hold the camera.

Ben pulls up and smokes 'em good, plenty of heat to the hides for maximum stick. We're running against some guy I don't recognize, which doesn't really put me at ease in any way. It's a good match. The other car is a late 70s Malibu, looks to be a sharp car. That guy is dialed at an 11.53, and Ben is at 12.90. Ben will leave a moment earlier. It should be a close race all the way down the track. Damn. Tough!

I am nervous. I'm worried. I want this. All I've been worried about all week was getting that damn trans in the car, and now, suddenly, I WANT this win! I never care all too much about winning on your average points weekend, but I WANT my brother to bring it home on this one!

Ben stages. The other guy eases into it. Come on, ya turtle, light them bulbs!
He gets them lit. I'm looking at Ben through the viewfinder. I can't see the lights, but their motors go up. Ben revs, holds it, a split second rips by, and:

He's out of the hole! He launches like a champ! No bog, no stutter, he's gone!

Ben shoots by me and I'm still snapping, looking only at him. Right about here the Malibu in the far lane nails the throttle. (Make note of that last part.)

I squeeze off another half dozen shots for the hell of it, and then I look up, heart still racing as fast as the revs in that damn Chevelle.

Huh? Why is the win light on in Ben's lane? He's not even halfway down the track? Did something go wrong? Why....why does it look like he's going so slow? The other guy is getting past him and it's only half track! What happened?

I watch Ben go through the lights: 15.26 at 62mph? Wha-????

I'm confused, but I'm pretty sure we lost. What the hell happened there?

I go immediately to the return road to wait for Ben. We still have a shot at qualifying. There should be at least two more rounds, maybe three to make the show. I wanted to get in on the first one, but maybe we can...

Ben pulls up. He's grinning ear to ear and waving his arm out the window.

"What the hell happened?" I ask.
"We won!" he cries.
"We won?! How the hell did we win?!"
"He redlighted!"
"He DID????!!!!!"
What followed was the driver's meeting, where I stood around worriedly suspecting that we had, in fact, fallen through some mysterious Pinks Rules loophole, and had not, in fact, truly won the race. About two minutes after I took this photo, the guy calling out winners' names flipped through his cards, pulled one up, and then drawled out, "....Ben Harold?" I raised up my hands in automotive jubilance. "YES!"

Ben was happy too. After we stepped out of the meeting, I shot this one. This is the little piece of paper we stayed up hours repairing a broken transmission to get. This is the thing Ben slept all night in his car to win. This is the scrap of white printed goodness that gets us enrolled to run in Pinks All Out trials come May 29th!

We are quite happy. Rock on!

We celebrated our victory by putting the car back together so that we could drive it home. Well, it was really pretty much a necessity, since we don't have a trailer, but I include it as a sort of celebration, because we were pretty damn happy, and I didn't even really care that it looked like we stripped out yet another lug nut and another damn wheel stud. There will be time to cuss that later.

Let's go back to the victorious sweetness one more time, shall we?

It was a good day. It was a very good day.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shattered, shattered - she-do-be

Wow, it's been a year, and yet here we are again - transmission problems.

It's two nights before the Last Chance race to get a spot in Pinks All Out coming the last weekend in May. I don't know if we have a shot, but we're going to give it hell.

However, this is not what you want to see on your garage floor two nights before the event begins:

See the ring toward the lower left of the collection of parts? It's not supposed to look like that. Here's a closeup:

That's the forward bearing retainer at the bottom. We thought the throwout bearing was going bad. Not so. It was the front gear on the main shaft rubbing against the inside of the main case. The retainer should look like the piece at the top of the photo. It completely shattered to pieces all around the snout, which is lying there all forlorn and helpless. The other piece looks like one that will replace it, but it won't. It's a retainer for a three speed. Besides not physically bolting up, it's a weak casting. I'm glad it didn't fit, as we would have put it on and destroyed it likely after two or three launches.

So, now my brother is sitting in his car sleeping in line out at Raceway Park to get his spot in line for tomorrow's registration process, while tomorrow morning I will wake up bright and early and start calling around town trying to find a piece to replace this one. I guess I know now why they make billet retainers. Huh - that used to seem like overkill to me. It's not like we're doing tens, but I guess enough six-grand launches will take their toll.

If we get this together and make the show, it's going to be friggin' awesome.

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