Atlanta 2021 – Race Recap

I’ve raced at all 13 of the combination NMCA/NMRA Races in Atlanta (except 2 years they it was at Zmax, which I also raced), and this race was the last, as the track will be closing. The track started out as a dirt airport runway, became a IRHA dragstrip about 50 years ago, and was bought by NHRA in 1990. A few months ago they decided they’d close the track and put it up for sale.

I’d actually thought the race was the following week, until I looked the calendar the Sunday before the race. We were at our lake house which is 100 miles from the shop. Monday morning we quickly returned to the shop and I loaded up the cars and made the motorhome/stacker ready while my wife got the groceries. Tuesday morning we left drove to the Stenner NASA rest area on the Louisiana/Mississippi border for the night. Wednesday evening we made it to the track and pitted up against the fence at the “Stripe”, between Doug Duell and Dennis Breeden.

Thursday we had an option of buying two Time Trial hits and I took that option. The car ran a 9.71 off the trailer without weight. The second hit was about the same.

Since it was going to rain Saturday, they decided to run all three Qualifying passes Friday, During my first Qualifying – I went too fast with a 9.74 on my 9.75 Index. I also (obviously) pushed the light way too hard – although it didn’t count.

In the second qualifying I loaded up on extra weight, and I lined up against Bill Boomhauer. Denny Pett took the below photo, catching us leaving at about the same time and showing great contrast between the red and black cars.

The added weight and the the piss-poor 60″ (the car did it’s all time worse 1.36) had the car on the right side of my Index at 9.80. On the subject of 60’s, in Bradenton my car was consistently doing 1.29-1.30 second 60’s. At Atlanta, NMRA also races, and for some reason they are putting a street tire class (Super Stang) right in front of us. They’re dragging up water from the burn out box and tearing up the starting line really bad. NSS is on relatively skinny slicks and all of the faster NSS cars never knew what 60′ time to expect. But I digress!

Coming back down the return road something didn’t sound quite right with the motor. I pulled the valve covers off and saw #1 Intake rocker was very loose. I took the rocker off and pulled the pushrod out, and the lifter side ball was chewed off. I was going to load up and head home – but a couple of racers talked me into investigating further. Bruce Lang helped me remove the Intake (lots of bolts) and Ron Tiller cleaned off the old gasket. After I removed the valley pan inspection plate, we all searched for the missing lash cap and pieces of pushrod with magnets. The lash cap was found and much of the pushrod – but not quite enough to run engine with confidence.

I jacked up the car and drained oil, and while Ron ran a magnet through the oil, I removed the steering linkage and oil pan. Ron and Bruce looked for (and found) more pieces and cleaned up oil pan while I searched for pieces on oil pan rail and scraped off the pan gasket.

At this point, everyone (but me and my broke car) had to leave to get their cars ready for Q3. The sky was getting dark, so I turned up the wick on my hustle to get the oil pan (I had a pan gasket) back on, the steering reconnected, lifter back into the holes, valley pan back together, new pushrod (had one of those too) slid in, intake and lid back on, rockers on and adjusted, valve covers on and lines hooked up, and new oil and filter.

I’d beat the rain and since it was expected that there would be no racing Saturday, so I drove the car around the pits to see how it ran and then let it sit to see if there were any leaks – as the next pass was expected to be the first round of Eliminations Sunday.

It did run good and passed the leak test – so I tucked her away for the night – after a loooonnnnggg day.

The Saturday morning rain didn’t come as early as expected, so we were given a 4th Qualifying hit. I improved slightly with a 9.78 pass. Again my (and many other faster racers) had a bad 60′ or I’d been closer to my 9.75.

Racing was shut down right after because of the rain. I was pleasantly surprised to see the below little Diddy about me on the NMCA web site.

Sunday, we got a late start as it took a while to dry the track. I was matched up against a J/NSS car, which is 12.25 seconds index – meaning I had to give him a 2.5 second head start. I find it hard staring at the tree for my light while hearing the other guy hitting second gear – but I managed not to go red.

I ran him down and rode the brakes to just put a fender on him for the win. The second round didn’t come until 5pm, because they were having to run both Saturday and Sunday’s races. I was lined up against Bill Boomhauer’s very sweet 65 Plymouth, running B/FX, which is 9.50 seconds

So while the announcer is busy doing everything but announce the race in the above video, I’ll post the time slip below and then explain what happened.

My weather station told be that based on the first round eight hours earlier, the weather changed to the worse, and my should run a 9.73 – if I had a good 60′. We were the first pair of NSS cars to run after the street tire class Super Stang. As I pulled into the burnout box, the track crew was laying down Gold Dust, a desperate attempt to repair an obviously torn up starting line. When the tree counted down, I felt I cut a good light (whichnI did with a .018), but my car didn’t get very high or carry the front wheels – so I knew my 60′ numbers would suck. I felt it would be impossible to breakout at that point. At the 1000′, I turned my head and saw Boomhauer was gaining on me, but not quick enough to catch me. So when I faced forward again I got on the brakes harder than normal. Boomhauer tells me that as soon as I looked forward he also got on his brakes, knowing he couldn’t catch me. I crossed the line 1st – but was shocked that the win light went on in his lane. It turns out my weather station lied to me, and had I not gotten on the brakes, I would have done 9.689 @ 139.19 mph even with the car’s shittiest ever 60′. By getting on the brakes, I actually ran 9.742 @ 130mph (shaving off 10mph) – which was 8/1000 of a second too fast – breaking out and losing.

It took me about an hour to load up and hit the trail. On I-85, they closed 4 of 5 lanes for construction, and so it took 3 hours to go 5 miles. By 10 pm I was only about 20 miles west of Atlanta, and I pulled into a Walmart Super Center in Douglasville and dropped anchor for the night. The racing was still going on, and I got to see my bud Bruce Lang win the event in both NSS and Stock live on

We left at 6 am to drive the remaining 950 miles – and arrived at my shop at about 7:30 pm.

According to Brent Wheeler’s Calc-a-lations – Bruce’s win bumped me from 3rd place to 4th. It could have been worse had I not caught the motor not sounding right, not had the right tools and parts with me, and not been able to race the two rounds I raced – so all in all I’m not too disappointed. I really need to have a good race in St. Louis.

Today I spent a good part of the day removing the head from my backup car, as I’d broke a thread chaser in a header bolt hole last month. I thought I would have to take to a machinist to get out, but I was able to file the sides of the small exposed nub, and rock it back and forth with vise grips until it deburred enough to back out. Tomorrow I’ll reassemble. Photos below.

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