in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of May 28, 1999
Last day of classes at this session of Ken Lowe's Drag Race School is on the schedule today. It's another early start, as we have to bring the truck and trailer home each night and back out to Willowbank each morning. So it's up at 6:00 am, arrive at Ken's at 7:00 am (just as the sun comes up) and roll through the track gates at 8:30. Today is graduation day for the students and, if all goes well, my first time in a dragster in 33 months. Admittedly, the A/Modified Dragster is no Top Alcohol car, but with 506 cubes of alcohol-injected Chevy in a light chassis, it's guaranteed to be a "waker-upper".
Yesterday saw the students complete the first half of the driving end of the course, culminating with their 330' passes, but today sees the half-track and full passes. With a range in height of 5'4" to 6'2", the car will have to be adjusted to suit the tallest and shortest drivers, so to save time, the two passes each student makes are scheduled back-to-back. Assuming they are successful on each one that is. The morning flies by with everyone showing marked improvement and increasing confidence as they go further down track. Even the ones who seemed tentative and confused at times yesterday, have gotten up to speed in a hurry today.
What's that smell? Hmm.... barbie....snags and steaks and dagwoods... hmm. It's getting hard to concentrate as Tracey is barbecuing lunch only 10 metres away from the trailer. Finally, we can stand it no longer and rush over to dig in and enjoy. The rest of the school laps in the race car can wait... it's barbie time!
As the afternoon deepens and the last student completes his full pass, the car is turned over to those who paid for extra runs. Not surprisingly, almost everyone did. As Ken said in the first few minutes of the first day of the class: "I apologize. I'm about to ruin your lives. You'll never be the same after this course." And he was right; everyone is completely hooked now. One chap has even discussed leasing one of the school cars for open meetings next season. This is somebody who had never been down a drag strip in his life... until yesterday.
Finally, barely half an hour before sunset, my big chance comes. "Okay Bob, get those 'tools of insanity' on and get in the car." First comes a short "stand" run/test (car up on jackstands), which I pass without any trouble. Then it's time for a half-track pass. (Ken figures I can go that far right away, bypassing the 330' on my first run). His finger twirls, I push the starter button... and nothing happens. Push it again... nothing. What the heck is going on? A quick look by crewchief Dave, the trans shifted from park to low and back... and then it fires. Ease it around the trailer, slowly roll through the water, and then it's showtime.
Not wanting to abuse Ken's equipment - this is the first time I've ever driven someone else's race car - I limit the burnout to a reasonable length and then proceed to back up. Or at least a reasonable facsimilie thereof. I've already forgotten one of the first lessons of driving a transbrake car - keep the button down to keep the car in reverse. Eventually we get back to the starting line and then, after a quick last-second check by Ken (to make sure all the gauges are reading right and all the switches are on) its time to roll into stage. Pre-stage, stage, transbrake button in, throttle planted, amber, amber, amber, GREEN... time to go, Bob. Oh yeah, GREEN. At this point I remembered to release the button and the foot brake and away we went.
With the automatic shifter hooked to the powerglide, it's quickly into high gear and all too soon the half-track cones come up beside me. Off the throttle and coast down through the braking area and around the loop at the bottom end and roll to a stop. Almost too easy. Too bad the light's fading rapidly so we won't get to make another lap today, but at least I got to drive down the Willowbank track in a race car. Since it's looking very likely that I'll have to make my licensing runs in this car next Saturday, the experience was more than worthwhile. Thanks for getting me back in the swing of things again, Ken. It's really appreciated. Any chance we can hop it up a bit for next week, though?