Making Friends…or Not
Sunday arrived at 6 a.m. as I lie there on the fold-out sofa bed in the motor home staring at the ceiling. All I needed to do was cut a 0.040 light, beat my opponent across the finish line, and run on my dial in of 10.55 without breaking out. To make matters worse, the only other competitor in the A class was Calvert himself in his '64 Fairlane. If I was paired with him, it would be heads up. It seemed like there were more ways to lose than win in a race that boils down on paper to a 50/50 chance. So far, the car had done all it could to keep me safe and put in the top position. Now it was up to me.
Even though index racing requires cars to leave on a Sportsman tree and handicaps the faster car so both reach the finish line theoretically at the same time, these guys still want to have a fast car. If you line up against another car in your class, the race becomes heads-up with no breakout and no handicap. The quickest car with the best reaction time wins. This brings us back to the 0.900 under your index rule. During big national events, there is a good chance you will be on the ladder with other cars in your class. If you drive around the guy and run 1.00 under your index, you get what is called a flag. Do it again and the NHRA will review the engine family (in this case Ford 428). If the average of all the racers is 0.85 under the national index, the NHRA will add a percentage of horsepower to everyone running that engine. If you run a 1.20 under the index, there is no review. The engine family gets what is called "horsepower on Monday."
If you want to get glares from other racers with the same engine, start running an average of 0.85 under the index with lots of heads-up racing for points 1 second or more under the index. Eventually, you will move the index, and all the racers in the class will be forced to upgrade their gear to keep up. Bucks-up guys can make it hard for other racers to compete in the class in this way. And it happens. Welcome to Stock Eliminator.
Luckily, sometime during Saturday's qualifying, another car had entered the stock class, making the field 21 cars and giving me, as top qualifier, the first bye run in competition. I would receive points for staging the car, but I needed the practice of a full run. I hit the light at 0.037 and ran 10.50 at 126 mph. Things were looking up.
On the Trailer
No one had really expected me to get to Round 2 of final eliminations, but there I was. The average reaction times had dropped from 0.080–0.090s to scary 0.010–0.030s as the guys got serious. My 0.090 and 0.301 marks from Friday's time trials would be a serious problem, so I needed to repeat the 0.036–0.040 times I had practiced. Sunday is nothing like the structured time and qualifying sessions of the previous days. The rate of attrition accelerates the call for each class, making the paper copy of the schedule trivial and the clock was ticking for Round 2. In the past three hours, the temperature had crept from 89 to 99 degrees, and the DA climbed to nearly 6,900 feet. Knowing I ran a 10.508 that morning and a 10.586 at the same time yesterday, I split the difference and put the dial in at 10.55 and suited up.
The Stock Eliminator class meet and line up in the staging lanes in sort of a Walmart parking lot configuration so the cars can be paired. My competition appeared in my window to discuss lane choice. He wanted the far lane; I liked the tower lane. Since we agreed, we didn't have to use the alternative method of flipping a coin.
Strangely, the nerves had abated as I went through the starting-line ritual and lined up against my second-round opponent in an F/SA Barracuda. His dial was 11.37 against my 10.55, so I had to sit on the limiter for more than a second. It was enough to distract me, and I made the mistake of watching him leave instead of watching the light. I left late with a 0.143 against his 0.088 immediately putting me at a disadvantage at the finish line. On top of it, there was a headwind, a factor I had ignored, that slowed the car to a 10.63. The combination of the two made it impossible for me to close the gap on the Barracuda. He put me on the trailer and went on to win the Wally in Stock Eliminator that day.
Where Do I Sign Up?
If you want to have some fun in Stock Eliminator and you have a car, you need to join the NHRA and get a permanent number. If the class you want to enter has any cars in the 9s, even if it isn't yours, you will need an NHRA license for that e.t. and mph, and your car must meet the safety requirements for that class. To add classes to your license, you need to pay $20 at the tech trailer. I added a Stock number to my list of credentials. Local track rules sometimes override the official rulebook, so ask other racers about unwritten rules like last-minute dial-in changes, safety equipment, and track etiquette. And don't forget to have fun.
At this point, I had my right foot on the floor and my left foot on the brake. The brake p
Compared to the last photo, you can see that the car is loaded, but the light is still yel
This was a 0.038 light with a nice straight launch. If you can do this, shift on time, and
To slow the car down, weight is used to meet the day’s index. It’s easier and faster than
After the Round 2 loss, we noted the details in the log book and called it a day. On the f
After each run, the car is weighed by an NHRA official, and the fuel is randomly checked t