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Author Topic: 1,000 miles in my hot rod VW.  (Read 687 times)
Steve D.
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Posts: 198


« on: September 12, 2020, 17:04:12 pm »

I ran Hot Rod Magazine's Drag Week in 2017 and 2019.  Generally it starts the Sunday after Labor Day, which would be tomorrow.  Since we currently exist in the dumpster fire that is 2020, Drag Week (like most of the fun things in life) was cancelled this year.  It took me a bit, but I eventually got around to doing a sort of writeup of what the trip was like.  I mainly wrote this so I would actually be able to remember what the hell happened by the time I was an old grey (older/greyer?) man, but with nothing else really going on I figured it might be something other people might find entertaining.  For better or worse, here's my recount of Hot Rod Magazine's, Drag Week 2017.

Hot Rod Drag Week 2017- Don’t look like a dick.

I had been following it for years.  Five tracks, five days, over 1,000 miles, and none of it on a trailer- this was Hot Rod Drag Week.  The last 5 years or so I watched the live feed from my living room, now it was time to get off the couch.

   It was all easy on paper: I had a 10 second street vw in the garage, all I needed to do was sign up for the event.  I did some general maintenance on the car and added a few creature comforts for the driving portions; mainly cell phone charging ports and one of those wire basket things to hold drinks and snacks.  There was no need to set the car on kill, so I turned down the nitrous and put a softer tuneup in the ecu; my ricer math said I had a car that would run 10:70’s or 80’s, maybe a 60 if the air was good.  I had 4 goals for this event:

1- Finish the event.
2- Average a 10 for the week.
3- Run a 10 every day.
4- Don’t look like a dick.

I know #4 is kind of an odd goal, but as far as I knew before this event there had only been one other aircooled Volkswagen that had ever participated in Drag Week.  It was a bone stock squareback that was entered in their bracket class, and it was slow enough that every it timed out to their 22 second default maximum elapsed time.  If I was going to do this in an aircooled vw, I wanted to make a good showing.  “Don’t look like a dick” meant don’t split the gearbox apart on day one, don’t oil down the track, and don’t crash the car.  Some people prefer the term, “make a good showing”.

   Registration day was Sunday.  This was an entire day of nothing but inspections and paperwork.  When you have 400 cars that all need to get teched in one day for class rules, safety equipment, and road legality it’s a fairly intense process.  Most of the day was spent waiting in various lines of cars, filling out forms, and applying the appropriate stickers for class identification and title sponsors for the event.  Once you had completed registration you had the option to use the rest of the day as a test & tune session at the track, which many of the over enthusiastic entrants took advantage of: I elected to watch the show.

   Day 1- Cordova International Raceway, Cordova IL
We pulled into the track early and got the car unloaded along with everything we would need for the week, all organized in a pile next to the car.  30 minutes after the driver’s meeting all trailers and tow vehicles had to be moved to the back end of the facility and locked down for the next seven days.  Other Steve set the tires and got the bottle up to temp while I got suited up and double checked everything on the laptop, then we went to the lanes.  It’s my turn next so I give the belts one last tug, fire the car, and pull out of the staging lanes.  By the time I pull into the waterbox the live feed has somewhere around 5,000 people watching from all around the world, the only thing going through my mind is goal 4: Don’t look like a dick.  Burnout, stage, right foot down, left foot up, and we’re off.  The car picks up the front wheels about six inches and I ride it out banging gears down the track.  The pass felt good, and the timeslip confirms it; 10.64 at 127mph, right where I want to be.
   I drive back to the pits and get changed out of my race suit, then run the timeslip over to the officials to get it signed off as my official entry for the day.  By the time I get back Other Steve has half the car packed up and is airing up the tires for the drive.  Everything we need for the week now has go to in the car with us: tools, spare parts, race stuff (helmet, jacket, pants, gloves, neck collar, etc.), floor jack, jackstands, laptop, both nitrous bottles, spare fuel jugs, and five days worth of luggage for two adults.  We’re not towing a trailer so it’s a fairly intricate game of Tetris to get all of this inside the car with enough room for ourselves to sit, but we get it done and take a few minutes to actually enjoy the event before we begin the drive.
   Each competitor is given a sheet with an official route that they must follow to the next track, and on that sheet are directions dictated by mileage as well as a Google Maps link for the technologically inclined to use as a means of navigation.  The drive for tonight was 267 miles with two checkpoints along the way; an old drive-in movie theater and an abandoned IGA grocery store.  The checkpoints were awesome: a virtually endless assortment of cars passing through to take the required pictures, from 14+ second daily driven bracket cars to 3000+ horsepower, six-second chassis cars.  Some local enthusiasts would just park up at the checkpoints and hang out to see all the cars come through and talk to the racers.  One of them even gave us pizza.  It was a massive overload of enthusiasm, and we paid for it.  With the gearing the car had our cruising speed was moderate, and with almost 300 miles to cover the time we spent hanging out at the checkpoints meant that it was well after dark before we finally pulled into the hotel parking lot.  We grab our luggage out of the car and head to the front desk to find out that despite our reservation, the only rooms available are single bed.  Rock, paper, scissor; floor.

   Day 2- Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison IL
We wake up early to shower, load up, and enjoy a classic hotel breakfast of various fruit, prepackaged mystery pastries, and cereal dispensed from a twist-knob parking meter type cereal dispenser.  Drive to the track, wait in line to get in, find a spot to unload all our junk and get the car ready.  This is the point in the trip where the reality of what I’ve gotten myself into starts setting in. I’m 1800 miles away from my wife and children, 300 miles away from the safety of a tow vehicle and trailer, we’re only on day 2, everything I own for the next 4 days is sitting in a pile next to my Volkswagen, and all the excitement from yesterday has left me mentally drained: I layed down on the ground next to the car and took a nap.
   I woke up to Other Steve staring concerningly at me.  He didn’t need to say anything, “I’m fine,” I said.  “Let’s go racing.”  After everything going so well the day before I’m feeling confident and we decide to get a little “aggressive” with the tune.  We get the car ready and head to the lanes.  Waterbox, burnout, stage…
   “Aggressive” may not have been the right choice.  The lights drop, I let the clutch out, and the car instantly goes wheels up.  And left.  HARD left.  I pedal it to get the front end down, steer it straight and re-stab the throttle just for it to go wheels-up left again.  I’m trying really hard to salvage this pass, and the car is trying really hard to crash; later the datalog showed I pedaled it four times before the 1-2 shift.  The car finally cooperates just enough to get the thing back in the middle-ish of the track and run through the rest of the gears.  I bring it back to the pits with a timeslip that says 11.13 at 127mph.  This isn’t what I wanted.  Goal 3 was to run a 10 every day, and this just put a big dent in that.  I could put the car back in the lanes, but watching the rest of the field at Cordova we knew that if I got back in line right now it was likely to be another 3 hours before I pulled back up onto the starting line.  To make matters worse, hurricane Irene had been pushing some nasty weather our way and the skies were getting darker by the minute; we might not have 3 hours before the rain comes.  I bite my tounge, “It’s close enough, let’s go.”
   I turn in the timeslip and grab the official route while Other Steve loads up the car.  We have 285 miles to go and almost all of it is on the highway, but there is only one checkpoint that day and it has ice cream.  The drive was pretty uneventful.  Things had started settling down into a routine, and yesterday’s tense vigilance of monitoring engine temperatures/pressures, keeping alert for odd sounds or smells had relaxed into an occasional glance at the dash.  Other Steve did a few live feeds of the drive from his phone, we waved to other Drag Week cars we passed, and when that got boring I just turned the music up.  We got to the hotel just before dark to another receptionist that was sorry to inform us that once again somebody was going to be sleeping on the floor.

   Day 3- Byron Dragway, Byron, IL
Day 3 was the same routine of wake up early, shower, grab nasty hotel breakfast and head to the track, at least this time it was only a 15 minute drive from the hotel.  This track is also home to the World Power Wheel Standing Championships, an awesome event I’d been watching for years.  The idea is simple: biggest/highest wheelie wins.  If you can flip the car over backwards onto its roof, you’re doing well.  It sounds violent and it is; the fact that they put up somewhere around $50,000 to win seems to feed the mayhem.  I had no thoughts of putting the car up on the bumper here, I just thought it was cool I could check this track off of my bucket list.
   This track also marked the halfway point for me for Drag Week, and I told myself if the car did what it needed to do I would give it some love (fresh oil, check valves, etc.).  Same routine for unpacking and prepping the car except when I went to fire it up all I got was a sad little “click”.  Battery voltage looked good and none of the usual no-start tricks worked, so I pulled the starter and checked it with the jump pack.  I couldn’t find anything wrong so I just stuck it all back together and when I hit the key this time it worked.  I went to the lanes and waited.
   I push up through the lanes and when it's my turn the car actually starts again.  A few cars in front of us have had breakages so we make the decision to go up on tire pressure- that was the wrong choice and it spun.  I ran it through the gears and it felt good, but just not what it usually had in it.  When I push in the clutch at the finish line the car nose dives and is slowing down fast.  I had to put it back in gear and throttle it to get it off the track into the grass on the side of the return road.  I climb out and check for a stuck caliper or seized wheel bearing, but everything’s fine, I just managed to activate the line lock again after the burnout so the brakes were dragging the whole pass.  The brake issue scrubbed some mph off my pass, but it still went 10.94 at 120 so I’m still happy.
   Get back to the pits and put it on jackstands, take the valvecovers off, and dump the oil.  I ran over to turn in my timing slip while Other Steve slid underneath the car to give everything a once over while I waited for the engine to cool down enough, then swapped in a new set of plugs and lashed all the valves.  By the time the last quart of oil went in we had the car packed back up and ready to go.  We strapped back into the car and I hit the key: “click”.  A few minutes later we diagnose it needs a hard start relay, but we decide it’s just easier for now to just get the car started and not turn it off until we got to the hotel.  Our plan worked beautifully and we made the 152 mile trip through two checkpoints, one fuel stop, and one detour through a McDonalds drive through for lunch- big thumbs up to the guy on the other end of the speakerbox that absolutely nailed our order over the exhaust noise of a 10 second nitrous car!
   The planets all aligned and we arrived at our hotel just before dinner, to a room that had two beds in it, with a Dairy Queen right across the street.  After dinner and ice cream I get my toolbox out and start working on the car.  I brought a relay with me, but didn’t have the right terminals to install it; fortunately other Drag Week competitors were more than happy to help.  One after another offering up whatever electrical supplies they had while they checked out the car.  The relay worked, problem solved.  Time for bed.

   Day 4- Great Lakes Dragaway, Union Grove WI
We get up and out early again to a very foggy drive to the track.  Get in, find a spot, unload the car, air down tires, heat nitrous, get in line.  The fog is heavy enough that the race officials decide to push back the start time in hopes the haze will burn off and visibility will improve, so we actually got to walk through the staging lanes and see some of the cool stuff that had been running all week.
   It takes about an hour, but finally the race director decides he can see far enough down the track to start sending cars.  The air seems good and from what we’ve seen so far the track seems to be hooking, so we decide to run the car the same as we did on our first pass in Cordova three days ago.  Strap in, fire up, waterbox, burnout, stage, green.  The car spins the tires a little but they finally hook up enough to hike the front end up a good six inches.  I bang through the gears, go through the traps and get the car slowed down and turned off the track.  A quick stop at the timing booth and another 10 second pass- 10.56 at 127.  Time to trade in the timeslip for a map, pack up the car, and head out.  Our route was a 196 mile drive that took us to an Ace Hardware in Woodstock and a pancake house in Sterling that for some reason closed at 3.
   This drive was different though, we were on the home stretch.  This route was taking us back.  Back to Cordova, back to the safety and comfort of our tow vehicle and trailer.  Things just didn’t seem to matter anymore, there was no more stress.  We had four tracks down and only one to go, I’d made three passes in the tens, and had a healthy 10.81 average for the week.  If the car barfed it’s guts out in the waterbox tomorrow morning, we would just shovel the mess back onto the trailer, strap it down and head for home.  Nobody bothered checking any of the gauges anymore, we just buzzed along in the little blue VW towards our sanctuary of hotel, bed, and sleep- one more to go.

   Day 5- Cordova International Raceway, Cordova IL
Last day, here it goes.  Up, showered, pack, load up, detour (celebratory egg McMuffins), and make the 20 mile drive to the racetrack.  We find a spot in the pits and Other Steve starts unloading the car while I put it up on jackstands.  Today is the last day, so I do my due diligence and go over the car and make sure nothing’s loose.  The plan for the day was a practical one: make one pass just like we’d been doing to get down the track and lock in my week.  Once that was done, “practical” would go out the window.  The next pass was going to be a nitrous hail mary.
   We put the car in the lanes and wait… a lot.  Drag Week had taken its toll on these cars, and the ones that had actually made it here were showing it.  Breakages, oil downs, and even a few crashes kept us waiting.  It would be over three hours before we finally rolled to the front of the lanes.  I do my usual burnout and stage the car, put it on the 2-step, and watch the lights come down.  It’s a turd.  As soon as I let the clutch out the car falls on it’s face.  I run it through first to see if it will clean out- it doesn't.  I reach back to the nitrous arming switch just hoping it somehow clicked off, it didn’t.  The car just had no power, but I legged it down the track anyway just to get a timeslip.
   The slip says 12.45 at 105.  I pull the car back into my pit space to friends congratulating, “You did it!”, thumbs up all around.  I didn’t care, I was pissed.  I plug the laptop in and check the datalog from that run, and while the car didn’t use a single molecule of nitrous oxide, the ecu still pulled all the timing out.  That explains why the car was so slow, now we needed to fix it.  The culprit was a blown fuse for the nitrous solenoids, but we have no idea why it happened now.  I replace the fuse, then start disconnecting every electrical device in the back of the car that it doesn’t need to run.  As I jump back in the car to head for the lanes I hand the fuse to Other Steve with the instructions “Find the biggest fuse they make that will fit.  If nothing else, bring me a paperclip and we’ll make one”.  As I pull into the lanes I hear an announcement over the loudspeaker that there is a racer in need of a 30amp ATM style fuse.  Other Steve had ran straight to the tower and got the announcers to put out an APB, and it worked; within minutes people were running to the side of the car offering fistfulls of fuses, asking if there was anything else they could do.
   Armed with the biggest fuse we could find (thanks again Joe Barry and his wife Michelle), we pushed up through the lanes.  It had been hours of waiting to make our first pass, and it was hours later before we got our second.  This was our last chance, the lanes were closing and there wouldn’t be enough time to get back in line for another shot.  While I waited I did the math, that last run had knocked my average down to an 11.15 for the week; that just wasn’t good enough.  It’s my turn again and I strap back into the car, fire it up, and pull back onto the track for my last attempt.  Waterbox, burnout, stage, fingers crossed, clutch out-
   The next few minutes of my life went by in a daze.  Everything was automatic; throttle down, lift/clutch/shift, repeat.  Go through the lights, shut the car down, and turn off the track.  I didn’t bother stopping to take my helmet or fire jacket off, I just wanted to get to the timing booth and know for sure.  Everything snapped back into focus when I got that last slip of paper with my car number on it- Car 238I, 10.597, 126.93mph.
   I drove back to our pits to smiles and hugs that I could actually enjoy this time.  On the outside I was ecstatic and smiling, but in reality I was on the verge of tears.  It was over.

   In the end, we had done everything we wanted to do.  We finished the event- I had driven over a thousand miles in the last 5 days to make 5 passes at 4 different dragstrips in my nitrous vw.  We averaged a 10 for the week- I ended up with a 10.77 average, which was good enough to earn me the award for Quickest Four Cylinder for Drag Week 2017.  We had ran a 10 (almost) every day- the car ran 10’s everyday except for tuesday, and even that was a low 11, so I’ll call that good enough.  We didn’t look like a dick- the car didn’t leak, stall, or breakdown the entire event.  I never needed any of the spare parts I brought, and we loaned out more tools to other racers than we used ourselves.
   Drag Week 2017 was a fantastic adventure.  We got to hang out with Australians, Finns, Canadians, Swedes, Germans, and Brits, and every one of them had the same affinity for drag racing.  By the time I got home it had been an epic road trip with my friends spanning 3 weeks, with over 6000 miles of driving taking us through 16 states.  The trip was truly a once in a lifetime experience, unless I do it again...
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Über Alles

5 tracks, 5 days, 1000+ miles.
10.77 avg. on pump fuel.
238I
leec
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2020, 20:18:06 pm »

Awesome read, thank you for posting.
Well done  Smiley
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O/FF 26
Chip
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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2020, 20:29:50 pm »

Love it Steve! Now for the 2019 report!
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Steve D.
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2020, 21:19:57 pm »

Love it Steve! Now for the 2019 report!
Haven't gotten around to that yet, but it's coming.
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Über Alles

5 tracks, 5 days, 1000+ miles.
10.77 avg. on pump fuel.
238I
RichardinNZ
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WWW
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2020, 06:40:59 am »

Thanks for putting this together.   Great reading about it.

Sent from my CLT-L09 using Tapatalk

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Richard, Auckland, New Zealand

'58 Bug; NZ assembled
Dual Carb 36hp
Eddie
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« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2020, 08:45:04 am »

Steve, very cool that you took the time to write this up.
Sounds epic…
Love dragweek, try to watch the last years..
very cool that you and richie are participating..
hope you can compete next year..
Some pictures would be cool too  Wink Grin
« Last Edit: September 13, 2020, 08:50:52 am by Eddie » Logged

Regards Edgar

" Type 4, it is a completely different engine. You have to drive one to understand! "
Steve D.
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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2020, 16:38:23 pm »

Some pictures would be cool too  Wink Grin

Coolest traffic you'll ever see on the road.
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The "concrete magnet" pass...
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« Last Edit: September 13, 2020, 16:47:23 pm by Steve D. » Logged

Über Alles

5 tracks, 5 days, 1000+ miles.
10.77 avg. on pump fuel.
238I
karl h
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« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2020, 09:07:18 am »

very cool  Cool !
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MegaRookie
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« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2020, 16:02:13 pm »

Very nice writeup, it sounds like an insane trip/week you had back then!  Shocked But really impressive results and consistent numbers!

Do you have any more pictures of the car and info on the setup?

Mark
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Steve D.
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« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2020, 00:20:08 am »

Do you have any more pictures of the car and info on the setup

The engine for 2017 was my 2800cc pumpgas motor with a nitrous kit (TF1 case, Comp Eliminators by Geers Engineering, A1 sidewinder, Megasquirt EFI w/ 50mm throttle bodies).  The car in that configuration went a best of 10.37 @ 131.5 on E85 straight from the pump at 1850lbs.  Trans was/is a 4 speed bus box by Mike Herbert, type 2 cvs.  I didn't really have any way of hauling another set of wheels/tires, so I just did the whole event on a set of front runners and Hoosier Quick Time Pros since both of them carry a D.O.T. stamp.

You have to carry all your tools/spare parts yourself, and since I didn't tow a trailer, all of this had to go inside the car:

1- floorjack
2- 10lb nitrous bottles
1- toolbox
1- box of spare parts
1- roadside bag with jackstands, brake clean, shop towels, etc.
1- jump pack/tire inflator that I modified to run my nitrous bottle heater
1- race suit bag (SFI pants, jacket, shoes, neck collar, tire gauge, etc.)
1- helmet bag
2- laptop bags (one for me, one for navigator/crew chief Other Steve)
2- bags of clothes/toiletries/general luggage (one for me, one for navigator/crew chief Other Steve)
8- quarts of oil/1 filter (planned one mid-week oil change)
2- 5 gallon spare fuel jugs (no idea of availability of e85, or gas for that matter!)
1- driver (I'm 6' 2"/200lbs)
1- navigator/crew chief Other Steve (not really any smaller!)

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This was Thursday morning- apparently the Swedish Ascona team had some fun the night before; allegedly several of them got into a "nitrous fight' in the parking lot...

This social media thing is still really new to me, let me know if there's anything in particular any of you want to know or see.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2020, 00:21:53 am by Steve D. » Logged

Über Alles

5 tracks, 5 days, 1000+ miles.
10.77 avg. on pump fuel.
238I
Fastbrit
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Keep smiling...


« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2020, 12:21:07 pm »

Great read and truly inspirational achievement! Well done Steve (and Other Steve...).   Cool
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Der Kleiner Panzers VW Club    
So it took some guy 17 years to run 0.31secs quicker and he boasts about it? A case of All Talk and...
andrewlandon67
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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2020, 20:25:46 pm »

Thanks for getting this all written down and put together for us all, it's nice reading stories like this away from FaceSuck and all of that nonsense!
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14.877 @ 88.85 mph

Dreaming of IDAs, planning on paint someday. "Walking Softly and Carrying a Big Fucking Stick" - Zach G.
JezWest
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« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2020, 20:30:38 pm »

That's a great read. Sounds like a lot of fun and a lot of work as well. Thanks for posting.
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It was nothing to do with me...
Stevemariott
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« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2020, 01:09:16 am »

Thanks for the great read!  I googled "Hot Rod Drag Week 2017 VW Bug", and this came up - I hope you don't mind me sharing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI0NaznVbpM

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Steve D.
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2020, 03:42:45 am »

I hope you don't mind me sharing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI0NaznVbpM



Not at all.  I was going to put up the link, you just treed me on the keyboard!

Speaking of reaction times, here's something to keep in mind with this event:

When you watch videos of HRDW you might notice that none of the racers seem to be able to cut a light- there is a reason for this.  None of the racing is heads up, it's all about getting the best timeslip you can turn in for the day.  That means reaction times have absolutely no effect on your results or standings, so it's much more advantageous to take your time when the tree comes down and know that you've got your launch rpm/boost/whatever exactly where you want it to be.

That said, I usually can't cut a light anyway!
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Über Alles

5 tracks, 5 days, 1000+ miles.
10.77 avg. on pump fuel.
238I
Jeff68
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« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2020, 02:40:32 am »

Steve D. That is pure Badassery! THanks for posting that story (which is very well written by the way!).
Just one question - did yu run the car on E85 while driving from track to track or just when racing?
Thanks again!
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Steve D.
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« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2020, 04:09:28 am »

Just one question - did yu run the car on E85 while driving from track to track or just when racing?

I did everything on pump E85.  It's EFI so it's really easy to swap maps to run the different fuels, but I was concerned about arriving at the track with some kind of mystery blend of E85 and gasoline.  Keeping everything one one fuel just felt like a good way to get rid of another variable.  There wasn't a ton of places to get E85 out in that part of the country, but it ended up not being a problem.
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Über Alles

5 tracks, 5 days, 1000+ miles.
10.77 avg. on pump fuel.
238I
volkskris
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« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2020, 20:21:53 pm »

Really cool story! Great footage as well  Smiley
Looking forward to hear the dragweek 2019 story
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Jeff68
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« Reply #18 on: September 17, 2020, 20:59:38 pm »

That makes sense Steve.
Also a huge Congratulations for what you've been able to do with the car! Good luck in the future and keep going!
Jeff
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brewsy
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« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2020, 10:25:58 am »

Nice one Steve.
Cheers for the good read... Cant wait for 2019 report  Wink
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Frallan
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« Reply #20 on: September 21, 2020, 15:16:17 pm »

WOW! Thanks Steve for that report with GREAT Feeling and GREAT pictures to back it up!
What an achievement.  Now looking forward to next one!

We have something pretty similar and very popular in Sweden. Basically a copy of this concept.
It really woke up the Hot Rod and racing world in Sweden.
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Steve D.
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« Reply #21 on: September 21, 2020, 19:40:30 pm »



We have something pretty similar and very popular in Sweden.

Gasoline Street Week right?  I've watched it on YouTube, it is an excellent event with some pretty crazy vehicles.
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Über Alles

5 tracks, 5 days, 1000+ miles.
10.77 avg. on pump fuel.
238I
Frallan
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« Reply #22 on: Today at 07:25:49 »



We have something pretty similar and very popular in Sweden.

Gasoline Street Week right?  I've watched it on YouTube, it is an excellent event with some pretty crazy vehicles.

https://www.streetweeksweden.se/

Yes, right on!  Same concept, same feeling, slightly shorter overall distance, 1330 km (830 miles) scheduled for 2021.
I have just been to one race event myself but followed the event both in general and some active race friends.
The feeling was like drag racing pit area in the 70´s when I started my own career. Fantastic!
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