OK, first, I apologize … I have been spending far too much time eating, working, playing on FaceBook and just in general neglecting this site.
The beginning of July 2009 I was bitten by the racing bug. BADLY. One Wednesday night I was bored and a buddy was headed up to New England Dragway in Epping, NH to race his Dart. If you grew up in New England, you’ve heard the radio announcer: Sundaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!! Wednesday and Friday nights are “Street Night,” which basically means … run what ya brung. Everything from old Volvo station wagons painted with a brush, to new Jags and Mercedii, diesel work trucks, snowmobiles on in-line skates, motorcycles, lots of muscle cars and tuners and one quad. It’s a riot, just even to go watch, and you don’t often get that kind of quality entertainment for only $10.
There was no way I wasn’t going back there without racing … so the next week I brought the winter car. Let’s face it, it’s easier to drive up with air conditioning and a good alignment with heated seats. She didn’t do too badly either, for a stock 2001 Acura 3.2 CL Type S with 94,000 miles on it: 15.559 seconds at 92.09 MPH in the quarter mile. Almost a month later, and that’s still my fastest time.
If a 3.2 Acura is fast, the ‘vette MUST be faster, right? Uh … no. A *lot* has changed since the 80’s. My poor car got beat by a Ford Focus driven by a teenage girl. She ran 17.499 seconds at 76.44 MPH. Whisky.Tango.Foxtrot. Yeah, I knew I had alignment problems;
I knew they’d just spent an hour cleaning anti-freeze off the track and it was like racing on ice; I knew there’s big leaks in the exhaust; I knew she’d never been tuned or timed … but for some stupid reason I didn’t expect to go that SLOW. So I parked it, hung my head in shame, and watched the rest of the night. Someone asked me if that was my car and I said “no.”
After an angry ride home, I finally got on the internet and bought the front-end parts. Talked to boyfriend, talked to buddies. Made a plan, bought parts … and over to Al’s garage we went to install a shift kit for a 350 Turbo transmission, the most common transmission Chevrolet made. The taking-apart went very well. The putting-back-together, not so much, because as it turns out, my transmission is a 350 Turbo “C” transmission: it has two wires and a solenoid in the middle, and the plate and gaskets are a slightly different shape.
Al picked up the right kit at Indy; my oldest stepson was grateful for the new/old shift kit. Eventually all went well, I can’t even believe the difference it makes. Chirps second. Better highway pickup. And, as I found out last night, faster track times: her best run was 16.599 seconds @ 86.17 MPH. I got some coaching from a fellow racer, too, although I was a little surprised when I was getting ready to stage and he ran up and said “take me for a ride!” He taught me to get the revs up around 2500 RPM and hold for the green light, then manually shift at around 5000 RPM instead of the 4000 RPM the tranny was doing. The strategy worked, that last run of the night was the fastest. AND I won my first race, too, against a newer ‘vette.
So now I’m very happy, not planning on winning, just having fun and practicing. There is something in the blood, though: my fastest reaction time off the line has been .033 … and so far, after 18 runs, it’s not beginner’s luck.