Justin Oney’s Drag Week 2014 Photo Journal – Day Three – Big Drama At Thunder Valley Raceway Park

Justin Oney’s Drag Week 2014 Photo Journal – Day Three – Big Drama At Thunder Valley Raceway Park

(Photos by Justin Oney) –¬†¬†Thunder Valley Raceway Park was the scene of a pivotal third day of Drag Week 2014. There was hot and heavy racing in every category, there were roughly 1,500 fans that paid to show up and they really packed the place on a Wednesday morning, and there was last minute tension and drama the likes of which we have never seen on Drag Week and we may never see again. Larry and the whole Thunder Valley crew did an awesome job prepping the surface and getting it ready for the high horsepower circus to roll into town and drop the hammer on it first thing in the morning. Coming from the vast expanse of Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas to the more comfy confines of Thunder Valley was a welcome change for competitors (and announcers) who felt like they were right in the thick of the action, not half a mile away.

As the morning progressed into the early afternoon, many competitors were making their passes and turning in their time slips, preparing to make the haul to SRCA Drag Strip in Great Bend, Kansas. There was one highly notable exception to this statement and that was Larry Larson who along with Chad Reynolds had been forced to spend the night sleeping in one of the garages at Topeka due to violent storms that came in on them while they were dealing with a couple of issues with the truck. Jeff Lutz was also experiencing his own problems, having wrecked a radiator the day before and later having torched a head while making a pass that day. With the staging lanes set to close at 2:15, everyone was wondering if Larry would make it to the track and if Lutz would make it back on the track for another shot.

Arriving like conquering heroes to the cheers of the assembled crowd, Larson and Chad rolled in with about 20 minutes to make it to the lanes. Because the truck requires some work to get into “race mode” it was all hands on deck with a squadron of original 2005 Drag Week competitors (who were racing at this event) throwing in to help the guys set a speed record for a change over. With announcers screaming about their being less than a couple minutes left to get the truck into the lanes, a group of people pushed while others actually worked on the truck to get it into position where it would be able to make a run. Meanwhile, in Camp Lutz, the torched head was at a machine shop down the road getting touched up, was shuttled back, bolted on and Jeff actually made a hit on it before time expired, a couple cars before Larry ran. With a straggling few cars ahead of Larson, the entire crowd was on pins and needles to see what the truck would be capable of in this most dramatic of moments. When it came time to make his run, Larry took a breath, closed the door and went though his normal routine.

The burnout was flawless, the spectators were literally on their feet and the online audience on the live streaming broadcast of the event spiraled past 10,000 people like a tornado. Larson staged the truck, got it on the chip and built boost, let go of the button and…..virtual silence and a truck idling down the track. A driveline failure had rendered the truck a 20-second performer and the whole place. Literally everyone in the place and probably their pets was stunned. Drag Week 2014 flipped on its head when that happened as Larry was pretty much removed from contention for the Unlimited win but he was still in the event because he made the pass. On about an hour’s sleep and emotionally wrung out, the team gathered themselves in the pits and began to put the truck back into street mode. The decision was made to finish the event (it wasn’t much of a decision, the guys weren’t going to give up under any circumstances as they had already proved), and the conversion back into street truck mode began.

The little strip in Noble, Oklahoma had played host to what was probably the single biggest paid Drag Week crowd to that point in the event’s history (which was trumped quickly) and to the most dramatic half hour in Drag Week history. It was an afternoon that anyone there will quite literally never forget.



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