|2008 Indianapolis US Nationals
|Aug 21-Sept 1
The 54th running of the US Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, IN doesn't start on
Wednesday the Aug 27 the day the first car goes down the track, it starts a week earlier at the NHRA
Div 3 Lucas Oil Sportsman Series race at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, KY. A lot of
racers use this race as a test-n-tune for the US Nationals and this is were my Story starts.
If you're a racer, you already know that we have made a job out of watching and predicting the
weather and we should have been the 6 o'clock weather person on the channel 10 evening news,
instead of the mechanic, fabricator, computer programmer, or what ever profession you're in and
that's what I was doing earlier in the week. Of course, the weather for Bowling Green called for temps
in the mid 90s and a chance for rain every day. Only the mentally insane or a true racer would like to sit
through this all weekend. I left Thursday night! What really sucks is that my 5 year old son, Dylan
starts kindergarten this year and I was going to miss his first day of school the week of the Nationals,
but I was able to attend his school's open house and meet his teacher on Thursday before I left. The
trip to Bowling Green was rather peaceful, no flat tires, didn't hit any animals, no strange noises, just a
nice smooth trip. If you have read any stories of past trips, you know by now it's not that easy. I rolled
into the track at about 2:00 AM EST and proceeded to find a pit spot. As I drove around, I find that this
place is completely full and I'm making circles trying to find a pit spot, like a NASCAR driver at Bristol
Motor Speedway. On my final lap in one of the turns, I hear a large pop in the rear and hope it's just the
chains on my lift bars. I finally find a spot to park in and I'm so far out, I should have just pitted at
home. You have to remember it's 2:00 AM, pitch black dark and I'm trying to be as quiet as possible
not to wake up my neighbor while I set up so I can get some sleep. The first thing I do is head to the
back to see what the noise was earlier, and as I reach the back, I see I'm missing a Tuff Tow tire, wheel,
and spindle and after some choice words, I'm walking the pits looking my wheel. For those of you that
don't know what a Tuff Tow is, it's a twin tire dolly system that is mounted to the hitch to take the load
off the back of the motorhome and now it only has one tire on it and I have to figure out how to get it to
Indy. Oh well, that can wait I need some sleep.
Friday morning, I get up and to the sound of race cars warming up, sunny sky's and figure I'd better
get moving. I finished getting camp set up, get the car ready and close to noon, I get my first time shot
and with a lucky guess at the throttle stop, I run a 8.908. WOW! I don't think it's good enough for the
shoot out, but oh well, it's a good place to start. My second time run, I try to improve on my previous
run but could only muster up a 8.911, no improvement but still a good run. It's a good thing, I didn't
put the car away because my 8.908 was good enough for the shoot out. Later that day, they put us on
a ladder and 1st round, I had Div 3 point leader Ron Finney in his Altered, funny thing, we are probably
the 2 slowest cars in the class. My chance at a shoot out win ended .009 thousands before the green
light came on, sending me to the stands for the rest of the night as a spectator.
Our schedule for Saturday was 1 time run and 1st round for Stock, Super Stock, Super Gas, and
Super Comp. I got my 3rd time run in running a 8.926, but due to some delays Super Comp's 1st
round got pushed to Sunday morning right after Super Street.
Sunday morning, we got called to the lanes and I got paired up with one of drag racing's heavy
hitters, number 3 in the world in the Super Comp, Troy Williams. Troy lit the red bulb and I advanced to
the 2nd round. Round 2 was a double break out win with Tony Helms breaking out more than I did,
even though, he had a little better reaction time than I did. After the 2nd round, the area around where I
was parked was pretty deserted and my pit was a real bear to get into, so I thought I would swing wide
and pull in from the side. BAD MOVE. When I did, I hit a big hole I didn't see, knocking my helmet off
and do you think it would have rolled out, NO, I ran over it. Now, I'm in the 3rd round without a helmet. I
had to think fast, so I went over to a good friend, Andrew Thomas and asked if he had a helmet. He
didn't but he said he would try to find me one. After a few minutes, he was back with a helmet from
Mike Ruff and I was off to the 3rd round. My 3rd round opponent, Robby Shaw helped me out when he
went red handing me another round win and after my excitement it was a good thing. The 4th round
was decided only by .004 thousands of a second when Mike Fuqua ran a 8.911 to my 8.905 but his
.020 light was the deciding factor against my .030 light. Oh so close!!
We made it through the weekend with temperatures in the mid 80s and 90s but no rain. After figuring
out what I was going to do with the Tuff Tow and getting things picked up, I was off to Indy for an all
The drive to Indy was rather event free with exception of several stops at rest areas along the way to
check the Tuff Tow. Sometime around midnight, I stopped for my first fuel stop at a Loves Travel
Station somewhere in Indiana, where I met a nice family that was heading home to Michigan from the
Bristol NASCAR race. They were race fans and asked a lot of questions and their boy even sat in the
dragster. I rolled into the track around 2:00 AM Monday morning and got pulled into the stacking area
for the most boring part of the race. Sometime around 6:00 PM Monday afternoon, they finally let me in
to my pit spot and I set up camp.
Tuesday is another day with not much to do but tech the car and wait for my family to get here. They
finally arrived that night. It is interesting to go watch the professional teams set up their pit area.
Wednesday, we had two time runs and on the first one, I was a little slow running a 8.942 at 156 mph.
On my second run, I totally screwed it up when I didn't have the throttle stop on and ran an 8.34 on the
8.90 index. Boy that makes you look real threatening.
Thursday, we had one time shot and I was getting a little closer with a 8.921 at 156 mph. Again, we're
waiting for the next day and Friday brings the 1st round.
Friday Morning, 1st round, this is the one you definitely don't want to lose. When they called the class,
I was front and center and the first pair to be pulled out. In the lane next to me was a repeat of the first
round of the shoot out in Bowling Green against Ron Finney, this isn't the way I planned on it but I still
had a job to do and I didn't want to go home a 1st round loser. At the flash of the tree, I had a couple
of thousands in the bank and carried it through pushing him out the back end when he broke out with
a 8.891 and I ran a 8.913 on the 8.900 index. Ron is a friend and fellow Div 3 competitor and I would
have rather it been someone else, but that's racing.
|The US Nationals is mostly a mental race. You're at the track for over a week and some are gone from
home for longer. There is many different obstacles to over come like different weather and track
conditions from day to day and the unforeseen problems like timing malfunctions, track oil downs and
accidents that results in delays throughout the week. On Saturday, we experienced some of these
problems that brings you from being up and ready to race to bringing you down after being sent back
to your pit or just delayed till later. On our first attempt to run Saturday, we were called to the lanes and
3 pairs before I was to be pulled into the water box, they shut us off and had us return to the pits due to
the mph block being out of alignment causing bogus times and mph's. The result of this malfunction
was the rerun of most the Super Gas cars and a hand full of Super Comp cars and return of the rest of
the class to the pits to be run later in the day. Super Gas and Super Comp was rescheduled later that
evening after the pros. As we waited in the lanes that evening, there was a accident and we once
again was sent back to the pits and rescheduled for Sunday morning.
Sunday morning bright and early we was called to the lanes and by 9:01 AM, we made it through the
2nd round beating Richard Fritsche in his white big block dragster. I over came Fritsche's perfect
reaction time when Fritsche broke out with a 8.86 to my 8.87 break out run and now we're waiting
again. You have to be mentally prepared for these long waits because, after all, the sportsman classes
are the filler classes for the professional classes and your run revolves around the schedule of the
pro's. After all of the pro's were done, we finally got the call to the lanes and I was paired with former
national champion, Sherman Adcock, Jr. I felt very confident in my chances but my stay at the US
National was about to end. As the tree lit, I had a slight advantage on the tree, but as we neared the
finish line with my head turned half way around, I saw Sherm park his car behind me hoping I would
break out and I did. I ended up running a 8.86 to Sherm's 8.89 ending our chances at the 54th running
of the Mac Tools US Nationals. By this time, it was 8:37 and we were ready to go home, so we packed
up camp and headed home.
If you have ever dreamed of running the Mac Tools US Nationals, you'd better come prepared to be
physically, mentally and mechanically challenged.