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Drag Week 2015 in an AFX

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  • Drag Week 2015 in an AFX

    Hot Rod Magazine's Drag Week is a crazy event, where we all race at a drag strip, then get in our race cars, and drive to another city. We then race, and then drive to another city. Five days of racin in a row. I've gone three times before, both in my 55 Belair, and my 62 altered wheelbase Chevy II. I decided this year to drive my car to the starting race in St Louis. My son Steven agreed to go with me, and be copilot, and crew chief. The car is your typical 1960s era match racer, with a blown 427 engine, manual shift TH400 transmission, straight front axle, and not much else. The interior is stripped to the bare minimum, and I cut out as much extra weight as I could when I built it. It also features lots of 1960s technology, including old design Carter carburetors, and a Mallory dual point ignition system. No electronics here. We swap the tires for skinny slicks and front runners, and remove the mufflers and tail pipes, for each race.

    We left on Thursday morning, with the old odometer reading 4533.

    The first part of the trip was mostly uneventful, but we noticed the car was vibrating quite a bit at medium speeds, like when driving through small towns at 45 mph. Thinking about it, I figured we could add some shims to raise the pinion angle on the rear axle. We decided to try to find a hardware store in Roswell, NM, and we also wanted to find the dealership that matched the Valley Chevrolet emblem on the trunk of the car. We found the building where the dealer used to be, and there was a hardware store a couple blocks away. We bought a package of 1/4" nuts, and fit two of them on each spring, below the perch, at the front of the perch. While we were working on it, I noticed a bunch of gear oil all over the bottom of the gas tank, and the rear of the car. The fill plug I had put on the rear housing was leaking more than I thought it was. There was a parts store next to the dealership building, so we got some JB Kwik epoxy and some brake cleaner, and fixed that too. After lunch, we hit the road, and the vibration was gone, and it quit leaking. Success.

    Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:35 AM.
    My fabulous web page

    "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk

  • #2

    We stopped in Amarillo to spend the night, and met up with a local racer James, who happened to be talking to another fellow Troy, with a wild turbocharged Model A coupe. We spent an hour or so talking to Troy and James, turns out Troy is from the Phoenix area, and was on his way to his first Drag Week. He was having some pushrod issues, and asked James for info about local parts availability. We heard later that Troy spent some time modifying all the lifters in his engine, but got the oil problem fixed.

    We also noticed the pass side headlight burned out, and got a new one the next day.

    We took off in the morning, headed for Tulsa. Around lunch time, we noticed the engine was idling a big fast, and also that it wanted to ping at full throttle, which it had never done before. Checking the timing showed that the timing had advanced itself, so we reset it. I should have thought more about this at the time, but that's a later story. We arrived in Tulsa in time to do a little work on the car and wash it, and we had a great dinner and stayed at Ron's house that night.

    Next morning, Mike and Ron and Al all headed out for St Louis in Al's truck, with Mike's Henry J on the trailer, and us following. We made it to St Louis without any problems. Steven and I changed the rearend gears from the 3.00 highway setup to the 4.11 locker racing setup, and we also changed the oil in the engine.

    Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:37 AM.
    My fabulous web page

    "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


    • #3

      Sunday morning, we all headed over to the race track. The line for registration is usually really long, and even though we were kind of close to the front, it still took several hours to get to the front and get the cars checked out and signed up. One of the features of Drag Week is that they inspect the cars for proper street equipment, including a working horn. Mine decided to quit working, right there in line. After some hectic moments, a fellow racer offered to take a horn off his car, and we got it installed and working just in time. Another issue we had noticed, is that the old cable drive tach in my car was sticking when we would drive for a while at a constant speed. I figured it would be good to get a reliable tach on the car, and borrowed one from a fellow racer, and installed it while waiting in line. After registering, we stayed around and talked to fellow racers, and looked at the cars. I had also noticed that there was an oil leak on my car, the little tube that connects to the gauge was leaking near the engine. A friend Brian from Wisconsin was staying with a local gearhead Steve, and asked him to bring me a few brass fittings, which he did. I fixed that leak, and was pretty sure my car was good to go for the racing Monday morning.

      Monday we all drove our cars to the track, and after the drive meeting, we got in line to make our first run. I was planning to take it easy, shift a bit early, and make sure I didn't go too fast. I only have the safety equipment on my car to be allowed to run 10.00 seconds or slower, and I knew the car might run a 9 with the 4.11 gears, if the track conditions were really good. Of course, it turned out that they were, and I ran a 9.92. Which mean that I had to make another run, because I can't turn in a time slip that is too fast for my equipment. I ran a 10.79, and turned in that slip. When we turn in the time slip, we get the route directions and checkpoint locations, for the trip to the next race track.

      My second run was pretty late in the day, because I missed the end of our first class run session by a few minutes, so I was making us all late. I did get to wait in line with Tom Bailey, which was cool.

      Brian, Mike and I wanted to travel together. When we finally left, at our first gas stop the pump was acting up, and Steven and I didn't get going until Mike and Brian had already left.

      We got about 6 miles down the freeway, and there was a loud screech from the engine. I put it in neutral, and there was another screech and the engine stopped. I pulled over to the side of the freeway. It was just past an underpass, and about half a mile to the exit for Collinsville, where we stayed the previous two nights. Thinking the worst, we first called Ron and let him know we were stopped, and that it was a serious problem. We poked and prodded and looked things over, the blower would not turn. We removed the blower belt, and it still would not turn, but the engine would turn. That was a relief, but we still had a serious problem. I called Brian and told him what was going on, he said his friend Steve might be able to help us, and he would give him a call. We started taking things apart, removed the carbs and saw some scoring and damage in the blower, so we pulled the blower off. Steve called me, and I described the situation, and he said he'd come over and that he could rebuild the blower at his home shop. After a while, they came and got the blower, and took Steven with them to help. I stayed with the car. A highway patrol stopped, I let him know what was going on, and he said it would be ok to stay there and work on it, and he'd let dispatch know about it.

      Steven was thinking, and texted me that we might want to find a manifold to put just a single carb back on the engine, without the blower, in case w could not fix it. Around then, a fellow named Ken stopped to see if I needed help. I explained the situation, and he said there is a speed shop nearby, and got the phone number. They had an intake that would fit, and Ken offered to go buy it for me. He came back a while later with the intake, and that felt like a big least we could keep going. Around this time, Darren stopped by, and gave me a ride to the parts store, and I got a drain pan, and a longer radiator hose, so we could have all the stuff we needed to install the intake, just in case. Steven said they were still working on it, and after around 3 hours of work he said they were on their way to bring the blower back.

      By the time they got there it was pretty dark. We messed around with the blower base gasket for a while, finally deciding to leave it off, and just use sealer to install it. THis kept the blower housing from warping when we tightened it down. I think that had been a problem all along on this car, and there were also a few other things they found wrong with the blower, that we fixed this time. The belt also was damaged, so I installed my spare belt.

      Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:41 AM.
      My fabulous web page

      "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


      • #4
        Around 10:30 the car was running again, I thanked Steve profusely, and he would not take anything for all the work he did. These car guys...

        Steven and I went into town and had some Steak n Shake, and he spent some time going over the route and google maps, to make sure he knew where we were going.

        It was a long drive to Indianapolis, we got to the first checkpoint when it was really dark, and saw Rachel Gebhart there. She was waiting for Dale, who was having alternator problems, which we had heard about already from Darren. At the second checkpoint, we saw a dead Maverick. Finally, we arrived at the hotel around 6 am. Checked in, got an hour sleep and a shower, then headed to the track. I made a decent run 10.51, turned in my slip, and got under the car to check how the rearend was doing, look for leaks, etc. since we had to wait a little while before Brian's class ran their cars. I decided to just keep laying on the cardboard we have for a creeper. Steven gave me a towel to use for a pillow, and I got a few minutes of sleep. Then it was off to Wisconsin, a long drive around chicago.

        On the drive north through Indiana, the Hot Rod magazine guys saw us at a gas stop, and said they'd like to get some pictures of our cars, along with a really fast Javelin. We followed their instructions, and they hung their cameras out the window as they photographed our cars. Sometime that day, Steven drove for a little while, so I could get some sleep.

        Then when we got to the turnpike west of Chicago, we got stuck in a big traffic jam. I ended up losing my gas cap while filling up with the gas can.

        Did I mention, the hood was sealed the whole time? A new thing on Drag Week, to test your reliability. It's optional.

        Our cars were all objecting to the heat..but we finally made it out, and onto the small roads heading up to Union Grove.

        When we got there we all split up as we were staying in different hotels. Steven and I got some pizza, and then went to the hotel. I had noticed a cooling system smell, and some spots on the windshield, and we looked over the car but could not find any leaks. But a fellow racer did have an extra gas cap, so that was a relief.
        Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:48 AM.
        My fabulous web page

        "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


        • #5

          At the track, there was more evidence of a leak. It looked like a small leak, so I decided to run the car, and didn't have any trouble on the run. The stands were packed, it was really neat driving down the return road in front of so many people.

          Brian had some stop leak, so I put that in the radiator, and Mike and Ron and us headed out early, in case we had to deal with the leak.

          At a gas stop, Steven found the leak, in a tube in the radiator, so at least we knew what we were dealing with. I wasn't too worried about it after that. At lunch, we met up with Frank with his seven second Nova wagon. Someone noticed that the Hot Rod facebook page had a picture of my car on the banner! that was really neat to see. It was a picture from the highway the day before.

          When we finally got down to Cordova, we had some time to relax at the hotel. I added some more water to the radiator, and it looked like the stop leak was starting to work.

          Thursday morning was threatening rain, so we wanted to get going as soon as possible. At the gas station on the way into the track, we met two other Arizona racers, a black mustang and a teal Javelin that belongs to Tony. Tony had been having a rough week so far, his transmission case broke Monday, and a guy brought him a replacement. That burned up Tuesday, so they rebuilt it on the side of the road using the parts from the cracked one. He had got no sleep in three days.

          At the track, I ran a 10.44 which was good, and I also saw a fellow Tom that I had raced at Byron in July. He had his Studebaker there, and was watching the racing. I had time to take a few pictures, and we were able to leave at 11 am, just before the rains moved in.

          Four races down…, one to go. The end was in sight, but no way was it secure.
          Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:50 AM.
          My fabulous web page

          "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


          • #6
            At the track at Cordova, I took several pictures of other race cars.


            Tony working on his Javelin.

            Tom's Stude

            Bailey's car

            Rachel getting ready to run

            Seven second Dart

            Jay, who was right behind me in A/Gas.

            The drive back to St Louis was long, warm, but uneventful. When we got there, I talked to Brian and he got ahold of Steve, and I took them out to dinner. The least I could do.

            Friday morning is usually kind of relaxing. The racing starts late the last day since there is no drive in the afternoon. We looked over the cars, other guys in the parking lot were fixing things, and Mike did a valve adjustment just to make sure it was OK. Then he found a valve spring was broken. After some frantic searching, the fellows with the 55 Chevy that was leading Mike's class, gave him a spring, and he installed it, and we all headed over to the strip.

            We parked between Jeff Lutz's big rig (his car broke the first day so he was out of the running), and the impound area, where the fast cars are kept to make sure they are not getting any outside help. There was some fun with a rocker arm on a Chevelle, and we had fun talking to the other racers, then the racing started. I just had to run 11.90 or better to keep first place in my class. I made my run, missed 3rd, ran a 10.94. Then I noticed that the blower belt looked a bit funny. When I got back to the pits, we saw that it was missing half of it's teeth. I turned in my time slip, then we got to work on the belt, looking for another one. I got out the old belt that had some teeth torn off it, and trimmed off the torn parts. The belt looked usable, so I installed it, and it seems to work fine. We also checked the oil for the first time all week, it was a quart low, so I added a quart. I had elected to have the engine and hood sealed at registration, so all this time, the hood had not been opened. Now I got the officials to inspect the seal, so I could open the hood. There was another car with a sealed hood that ran high 9s all week, so I didn't get the award, but I think it was quite an accomplishment to do all this without opening the hood on the car.
            Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:54 AM.
            My fabulous web page

            "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


            • #7
              cool write up Jim!!

              Drag Week 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013


              • #8

                We went to the award ceremony, Mike got second in B/Gas, I got first in A/Gas. Tony got the Fastest American Motors award. Tom Bailey won the overall fastest award, as well as winning Unlimited class. He's a cool dude, with a really nice car.

                My fabulous web page

                "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


                • #9
                  Saturday morning, we changed the rear gears back to "highway mode", and headed off towards Warsaw, Kansas where my neighbor lives. The car worked fine, and we got there in the afternoon, but just after the local car show ended.

                  It felt neat to be passing a fellow Drag Week racer, while driving my car. Although they did look more comfortable!

                  Liz let me use her garage to work on the car, we pulled the distributor out, and discovered that the advance mechanism was way out of whack. I apparently didn't get the screw tight when I worked on it before the trip, and it was at maximum advance, which explains the problems we were having with timing and idle speed. We had a nice dinner, spent the night, and headed out in the morning for Kansas.

                  Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:57 AM.
                  My fabulous web page

                  "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


                  • #10

                    We decided to stop by Big Well at Greensburg, and also stopped by Doug Reh chevy where a fellow drag week racer has a dealership.

                    We spent the night in Liberal, and it was cold and foggy in the morning.

                    The tach was making some noise, so we oiled the cable. Turns out that was not the problem, but the noise went away after some wiggling of stuff.
                    Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 11:59 AM.
                    My fabulous web page

                    "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


                    • #11

                      almost ran out of gas, but we did have a few gallons in a can just in case. 160 mile range if all goes well, we got 11 mpg on the highway with the 3.00 gears. 15 gallon tank, and it took 15 gallons to fill it up at this point.

                      Scenic New Mexico

                      We heard about the storm in Arizona, and ran into it just after leaving Alamogordo, NM. We took the small roads from Lordsburg to home, driving through Douglas and Bisbee.

                      We made it! Final odometer reading...although you have to add about 75 miles, it got stuck in St Louis, but started working again when I went down the drag strip.

                      Some after pictures. The torture chamber...and the dirty engine, that performed admirably. Never took the valve covers off on the trip.

                      The back side of the radiator, the stop leak took a while to do it's thing.

                      Now it's time to get ready for Drag Weekend, starting in Tucson at the end of October. See you on the road!

                      Last edited by squirrel; September 22, 2015, 12:03 PM.
                      My fabulous web page

                      "If it don't go, chrome it!" --Stroker McGurk


                      • #12
                        What an awesome trip!! and a great write up!
                        67 Fairlane 434 ci/464 hp/488 tq-RIP
                        05 GTO torrid red/red gut, LS2, Auto (my knees hurt!)


                        • #13
                          Thanks for posting the story Jim. That looked like a numbers matching Schlitz can from the 60's too !
                          Phil / Omaha


                          • #14
                            Great write up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                            Dragweek 2012 DNF in Dallas
                            Dragweek 2013 Finished 3rd place modified N/A 10.53 @ 126
                            Dragweek 2015 Finished tough trip 10.39 @ 131
                            Fastest AMC 2013/ 2015


                            • #15
                              Nice write up and great Pictures, Squirrel. It was nice to see you again. Congrats on the win, and on making the distance without a trailer. Tricky Steve is a great guy, he helped me out too by finding a new voltage regulator and driving 30 miles one way to get it.
                              Last edited by Hemi Joel; September 22, 2015, 02:37 PM.