Dover Dragway Reunion

Weekend Report

Dover  Dragway Reuinion

September 17th, 2017


We headed out Sunday for the quick trip to our home track, Lebanon Valley Dragway, for their Dover Dragway Reunion event.   The event is promoted by Dino  Lawrence, former track announcer at Dover Dragway. Our crew consisting of myself, Jeff Bradt, Ron Cocca and Jeremy Rorick were ready for a day at the drags in cool Northeastern September weather.  Well we were rudely confronted with a VERY humid and rather warm forecast for the day.  Saturday evening, I had gone to the track to park the trailer.  We were graciously invited next to Chuck Exton and his also big block Chevy powered nitro funny car. 

Sunday morning we quickly realized we would need some sort of sun shelter, as we were all downing waters as fast as we could.  Jeremy hopped on the phone to ask his wife to bring their EZ up with her when she arrived.  There was no room to put up our not so EZ-up 10x20 tent.

We had made a few changes that included a new hotter coil, different clutch set up, more ignition timing and more nitro percent.  Jeff hopped in the cockpit, Ron and Jeremy grabbed the  behemoth C&A starter.  We wheeled it over, Jeff pulled the fuel on and our 438 cubic inch big block Chevy cackled to life.  I check the timing and idle RPM.  Took note of idle pressure all while Ron and Jeremy were checking exhaust EGT’s.  Jeff tugged on the brake to verify the 200 RPM drop.  I opened the idle enrichment valve and gave it a couple of whacks.  Bwat!! Bwat! sounded OK, but not as crisp as I would think.  We shut it down and looked for any issues.  It was Chuck Exton’s crew chief Jimmy Gifford who noticed our steel braided airline close to the mag shut off switch.  With thoughts of it possibly interfering with the coil, we moved the line a bit and insulated he switch terminal.  More water…did I tell you it was hot?

We were originally slated to run at 12:30pm, but with some oil downs we were pushed back to 2pm.  I waited as long as possible to suit up in the staging lanes!  More water…  Chuck had offered to run the right lane for the first pass and we would switch for round 2. After a starting line snafu, we had to shut off after starting, we were ready to go.  Jeff manned the squirt bottle, Ron on the big C&A.  Ron’s wheels it over, Jeff gives me the nod and the Chevy comes to life.  I watch my guys disappear, glance at the oil pressure and wait for Jeremy to lower the body.  Jeff motions me up to the water box, I shift into high gear and Jeff holds me until Chuck is ready to do a side by side burnout.   At the sign, I give it a quick stab and then feather the throttle to the 330’ cone and coast to a stop.  Our stout little Chevy is cackling away with its brew of 91%. Glance at the oil pressure still 100psi. I put the tranny back in low and  I struggle a bit to get in reverse, but finally after some persuasion she goes in and I start to speed back as to not hold Chuck up.  Jeremy pops right into view and starts guiding me back.  He’s running at a pretty good clip, but he’s the youngster on our team, it’s good for him.  Behind the line I slide the shifter into forward, turn on the A/C  and creep up to the line until Jeff gives me the stop signal.  He brings me to just before the pre-stage light, sets the idle pressure, gives me 2 quick fist pumps on the hood and dis-appears to the left out of my side.  I put down the visor, prestage.  I take my foot off the clutch and stage, and wait for Chuck.  He stages and at the instant of yellow I stomp on the loud pedal and tear off down the track.  The staccato idle changed to a screaming whale of 438 cubic inches of blown nitro Chevy.  I keep an eye out the right side window, waiting for Chuck to pull ahead, nothing yet.  Glance at the tach and hit high gear, still no Chuck.  The screaming Chevy begins to burble at 800’ and being on the safe side for round 1 I lift and Chuck screams past to a 213mph run.  Then the fun starts.  He keeps pulling away as I feel my chutes tug me down, still no Chutes for Chuck and he’s still screaming down the track.  Well thankfully Lebanon has a decent shut down and Chuck’s masterful driving job left his car just inches from the gravel pit.  Hopefully all is good and I’ll get my chance to redeem myself in round 2.  We ran an uneventful 7.02 @ 140, but we’ll take a look at the plugs and hope to drive it out the back door on pass #2.

Back in the pits, Chuck is good, his car is good and we’re ready to square off again in round 2.  We have 1 ½ hours to turn it around, our 4 man crew has to hustle.  We get busy getting the body off, draining the oil, checking the filter and valves.  All the while cooling the engine and clutch down.  We refuel with a fresh batch, re-set the clutch and they’re calling us up!  Well we still have to hustle and put the body on and pack the chutes.  Chuck and his crew are pulling out.  We get the body on and start packing both chutes at the same time.  I hop in the steam suit and get in the car.  More water…

We’re towing up, I gulp some water and go over things in my mind.  We have a great crew and I’m sure we didn’t miss anything.  Well as we round the corner into the lanes, I realized that I never tightened the left side stud girdle bolts, I’m fired.  I yell to Jeff we’re done, tell Chuck to solo.  He goes why?  Can’t we remove the valve cover and tighten them up?  The line is moving, we have to hustle.  So we get the valve cover off and with the help of a couple of minor slowdowns on the track, we are back in business!

We get up to the water box and now the evening sun is just starting to set off to my left, not enough to impede vision, but it leaves a nice orange glow inside the car.  We get the startup signal and we roar to life.  We wait for Chuck to do our side by side burnouts.  We both do a little shorter burnout since both mills are still a little warm from round one.  This time no problems with reverse.  All systems go, great oil pressure and engine sounds good.  Back behind the line I shift into forward and turn on the fresh air system.  Jeff motions me forward.  He pulls me up and then sets the idle pressure.  Two quick fist bumps and he disappears as I lower my visor.  I look up and Chuck is staged! Ah crap how long has he been there?! I don’t want to get timed out, so I quick roll into the pre-stage and stage beams and as soon as I roll into stage the tree comes down and I am off like a shot.  She takes off and sounds great, no sign of him out the left window, yes!  I hit high gear just before ½ track and still no sign of Chuck.  Here comes 800’, yep starts to burble, 900’ getting worse, but still clipping along nicely.  At just about 1000’ she falls on her face enough for me and I lift.  Chuck flies by and as he passes me I quick stab the throttle, the racer in me, like I was going to chase him down.  We ran 6.92 @ only 180, and yeah I could have stayed in it, but I felt better knowing I was brining everything back in 1 piece.  We had a good day and learned a lot moving forward to next year.

I’d like to give thanks to Dino Lawrence for the invite and a great show!  Looking forward to next year!  Also many thanks my family, Deb, Alex and Justin for all their support.  My great crew, Jeff, Ron, Jeremy and his wife and kids for all their help on Sunday.  Sponsors, Gil’s Garage, Ron Cocca’s Courier Express and Rocky’s Rod Shop. We need more so if you want to support a great nostalgia nitro team with a lot of heart contact me on my email.

Also many thanks to Chuck Exton and his whole crew and support staff for their hospitality and support.  Great bunch of guys and gals!

Thanks for reading!  So long until the next weekend report.

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