After what seemed like zero minutes of sleep, we ended up at Topeka for Day 2 of Hot Rod Drag Week 2014. And just like every other time we were around the truck, people were asking what it’s like to drive a 6 second S10 on the street. The truth is, I can’t even remember that morning. I know we stopped for caffeinated beverages, but that’s the extent of my memory. If I only knew how much worse it would get, I probably would have curled up into a ball and just cried. Drag Week sucks. Why do we keep doing this? Oh yeah, cause it’s the most awesome thing ever, while at the same time sucking worse than anything else. And I thought girls were hard to figure out. Wow.
So anyway, we roll into Topeka and waited in line to sign waivers like everyone else. Except unlike everyone else we had a vibration. Like a real vibration. I looked at Larry with the “WTF have you done?” expression, at which point he said that was the vibration he thought he felt on the return road in Tulsa. We weren’t moving and it was vibrating. That’s bad, because if we aren’t moving, but we are idling, then the only thing that can be vibrating is all the moving parts on the engine or in it. This is no bueno.
Somebody had saved us a pit spot, and then here comes Doug Cline who parked in front of us. It was one of those head down nervous but excited mornings. But also one where I was just on the edge of grumpy. Doug had run 6.84 the day before in Tulsa and we were super stoked for him to make another 6 second pass and start cementing a good average. As usual, Doug was being funny that morning, which helped, but only for a few minutes.
Larry and I dove into getting the truck ready to race. I pulled the Rick’s Fuel Tank out, we got it in the air, and then pull the front end off in preparation for all the other stuff we needed to do. Wheels and tires, hitch, doors, plugs, oil change, dash, passenger seat, uggghhhh. Oh yeah, and the vibration is still in the back of my head. Plus, I feel hung over, even though I haven’t drank anything alcoholic in days. This is not helping my mood.
Everything is going fine on the switch over, except for two things. First off the guys from Discovery Canada, as in the Discovery Channel, are on site today and tomorrow to shoot us for an upcoming show on real fast cool stuff. They are super nice dudes, who are pretty good about staying out of the way, but despite Larry’s arguments they have him pulled over to the side doing interviews. He’s in a great mood after that, so I decide to show him the oil in the truck just so he can feel even better. It’s not as bad as it could be, by a lot, but it’s not as good as it should be either. “Ruh roh Rarry!”
A complete inspection, including pulling the valvecovers to check the PAC Springs, Smith Brothers pushrods, and Jesel Rockers, showed zero problems. The valve springs checked great, and although Larry did run the valves, less than have required a lash adjustment. Meanwhile our buddy Steve Matusek, driver of the Agave Underground Aeromotive Pro Mod, was standing there giving us the “It’s fine, a lot of our stuff looks way worse than that!” thinking that were were being paranoid. He may be right, we’ll know shortly as the engine is now back and Proline getting a checkup. We checked thrust, we checked everything, but without pulling the pan there was nothing else we could look at, and pulling the oil pan on one of these is a real bitch. No thank you.
So we did what any good racer would do, and hustled out asses off so we could get into the lanes and make a hit. The lanes closed at 10:30 am for class cars, and opened for Daily Drivers at that point. Despite pulling into the end of the lanes with 2 minutes to spare, the Hot Rod officials informed us that we needed to be in the line, belted in, ready to run at 10:30 and we were not. Damn them. Someday Hot Rod will stop changing the rules on a daily basis. This was not the year. But, it’s their sand box so we play in it however we can, although I have to admit that by the end of the week they had a pretty good system rolling.
After sitting around and waiting, we finally get up to the starting line, and as has become out norm, the drama starts. The truck is running fine, pulls into the water, and after I give him the sign Larry mats the thing and it has a hard time even getting out of it’s own way. We had a similar problem at Tulsa where our communications errors had a rev limiter set that shouldn’t, but Larry backed the truck up and gave it a wing or two and we knew that wasn’t it. One more shot and the burnout was better, but not great. And when Larry pulled up to stage I was a little concerned with the time it seemed to take to get up on boost. We’d added a very small amount of boost down low, but were letting it ramp the rest in at the same rate as the day before, but with some real fuel adjustments to get more fuel into this big bastard.
When Larry let go of the button, the truck left soft. In fact, I was afraid it was going to dead hook and die, but out of shear orneriness, the damn thing kept moving. It smoked and huffed and bitched and then…the boost came on. It was still fat, or rich, but it started getting some balls about half track and ultimately ran a 6.7 second pass. We were stoked. And upset. And disappointed. And excited. And tired. And confused. And ready to put a real tune in this bitch. I was starting to feel like a guest on Oprah, cause I didn’t know whether to cry or cheer most of the week. Oh, and we’re only on Day 2.
Another hit yielded virtually the same pass, although it was cleaner down low, and ultimately we turned in a time slip for 6.70 at 218 mph. And the vibration was still there. It wasn’t worse, but it was there. There was only one rotating part we had not been able to at least visually check, even though we had made sure it was still tight and fastened to the Meziere Flexplate. That part was our ProTorque torque converter. Because Joe and the gang at ProTorque are such bad asses, they had sent us a spare converter “just in case.” So far on the trip we were measuring trans temps of 155 degrees, PULLING THE TRAILER!!!! Their stuff was working flawlessly, but since it was the only other rotating part, I called Joe. He answered with his typical “What’s up big daddy!?” When I told him about the vibration and asked if it could be the converter, he told me flat out to change it. “You have a spare! If I had to change it just to eliminate the problem, I would!” Stop jacking around and get this thing fixed was basically what he said. And so we did.
So after pulling the trans, swapping converters, changing all the other stuff back over to street trim, and dealing with TV and all that, we were almost ready to leave the track not too long after dark. But there had also been some delays as a result of some soul searching. Larry and I, without anyone else’s input, had discussed our potential engine problem. It was running fine, there were no noises, oil pressure was great, etc, etc, etc. We were trying to be as confident as possible that our Proline Racing Engine was just dandy. But, we are also smart guys who don’t have the cubic dollars required to build a new one if this one breaks real bad. That’s not a good position to be in, when you are starting to worry about your only bullet. So, we decided, with everything bolted back together, that we were going to clean up and head to the gas station. If it ran good, without vibration, we would hit the road. Otherwise, we were going to make arrangements to get back to Larry’s shop, see if we could fix things, and come out Friday or Saturday in Tulsa and put on a show. We were not willing to put the crank on the ground.
Meanwhile Jeff Stacy from Fragola, one of our great truck and BangShift sponsors, was at the track hanging out and providing light as the dark came. Scott Clark was there as well as my dad, and Scott had been off running around for snacks and ice and was trying to convince us that at this late hour we should just get a motel and leave in the morning. That soon turned into us getting on the road at least part way to Noble, and then finishing up in the morning. Not a bad idea, although I was afraid we would never make it. That’s when Scott’s greatest idea came into play. He said something about just wanting a shower, at which point Larry and I agreed. Then Larry remembers that they have showers at Topeka. Real showers! F’ing awesome!!!!!!! Next thing you know, we are all in the far building, taking over the bathrooms, and feeling like completely new men once we’d showered. It was as if we had slept for hours, that’ show much better we felt.
Off to the gas station, with a newfound energy. Everything is rocking no problem, when we look down and see that the engine temp is higher than it should be, and the voltage is way low. Crap. We coast to the gas station, pull in under a big light, and get out to start working on it, TV Crew in tow. Up on ramps, front end off, checking everything. It’s all there, it’s all plugged in. Did our Powermaster Alternator die? We have a spare, but still. Look, poke, stare, what the hell is going on here. Hmmmmm, could it be that the inside of the belt, which is supposed to have rounded teeth, is as smooth as a babies ass? Hey Larson, where is the spare?
You see, Larson’s motto is that you carry spares of anything you don’t absolutely know will survive. On the Chevy II, there are not that many spares that have to come, because it’s all been proven for years and years. On the S10, we wanted to make sure that we had EVERY possible spare. Because we had only gotten our alternator belt and pulley days before leaving, and had only then been able to mount and confirm that it worked, we had no spare. Oh shit. Calls to friends like Mike Crowe, along with the girls asking everyone at the hotel, which they were now sitting at drinking again, meant we had locals on the phone helping find a belt. Including the local O’Reilly Auto Parts manager, multiple racers, and more. No luck. Nothing the right length. What were were going to do?
And did I mention a HUGE thunderstorm was about to drop a bomb on us? We slapped the front end back on, changed Optima batteries, and decided we were going to head back to the track where garage #5 was open because Tom Bailey had blown his engine up earlier in the day and had used it to try to repair it. He wasn’t able to fix the damage, so had packed up to head home. We knew the garage was still open because Rick Johnson from GearVendors had told us to work in there instead of outside when we had to swap the torque converter. We had not used it then, but now it was sounding like a good place to get out of the rain.
It was 12:15 am, so technically day 3 of Drag Week. Larson looked at me and said, we are done. We’ll leave the truck in the garage at the race track, get a ride to go get the truck and trailer, and we’ll head to Tulsa Friday or Saturday if nothing else is wrong. He was done.
Meanwhile, while trying to be the supportive minion, I’m thinking fuck that. I’ve put rings and bearings in engines on drag week, rebuilt transmissions, rewired cars, rebuilt rearends, welded cages, shock mounts, and suspension, I am not getting beat by a stupid alternator belt. But could I convince Larry that the plan in my head was a good one, and more importantly that it would work?
What a way to start Day 3. Stupid truck. Stupid Drag Week. We hadn’t event left that track from Day 2 yet, and it was already the morning of Day 3. I wonder how this is going to turn out.
(So far, your probably wondering why it is you asked me what it was like to drive a 6 second S10 cross country? And you are probably thinking that this is absolutely no fun. You are right. Well sorta. See Drag Week is like Crack. It sucks A LOT, but those little moments make it all worth it. I’ll go into more of that later. The crack I mean.)