Features

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Right now I find myself in a rare situation (at least since I became a father) of having some “idle time” (pardon the pun). It’s not that I don’t have plenty of projects, it’s just that I don’t have enough time to really even start one right now. I just came in from the backyard, and I was really tempted to start digging a trench to add another sprinkler in an area that’s perpetually brown, when a quick glance at the watch brought me back to reality. With Jason having “half days” this week at school, I need to leave in a few minutes to pick him up. What I would have accomplished in my few minutes of shovel work basically would have left Jenna and the kids with a big, nasty, ugly hole right on the edge of the driveway, and it may have remained that way until after I got back from E-town, which is about 10 days longer than my wife would tolerate. Nope, for once I let prudence dictate my decision to NOT start a project (normally, laziness controls that just fine, thank you).

That hissing noise that originally took me outside was the sound of money flowing into the atmosphere. Yep, I just refilled the propane tank on the forklift, and apparently the fitting to the tank had developed a slight leak…about $22.00 worth! So, with that repaired, I’m just going to have to satisfy myself with a blog, a quick workout, and a trip to the airport to head off to Topeka.

Lest you think that I’ve been lazy lately, I’ll assure you that’s not the case. I’ll discuss the Atlanta events in a moment, but just wrap your head around my activities since then:

Man, there are rocks in them thar hills. Living on a huge chunk of granite has some serious disadvantages when it comes to digging. Having a friend named Randy Sullivan has some huge advantages when it comes to solutions!

Due to the rain delay, I did not land back home until 11:30pm Monday night. Because Jenna’s mom Cindy was visiting her father Bill back in Delaware for the past week, my lovely wife was home alone tending to the little ones (or, “Hellions” in this case). To make things easier on her, I just left the car at the airport this time (typically I either will be dropped off or, if an early morning flight, Jenna and Cindy will retrieve the car to avoid airport parking fees). Anyway, I got back home shortly after midnight, and at 8am the next morning, Mike the Entertainment Center Guy (not sure if that’s his legal name, or just my description, but you get the picture) was here to install Jenna’s new 401k TV holder (meaning that I, the Captain of Cheap, would have put the money into a retirement account…but Jenna chose differently).

Once Mike got started, I headed outside. I unloaded all the dragster body panels from the trailer (see last blog), reinstalled them on the dragster, and attempted to use the Nissan to back the trailer into its spot. When all that resulted was tiresmoke (this trailer has a Tuff-Tow device on the front, and backing up is quite a chore), I enlisted the trusty Clark (that’s “forklift” for the uninitiated) to do the job. When it ran out of propane just as the trailer was back in position, I reverted to using the Nissan to push the Clark into its proper parking position (that was easy!).

Next it was time to put the RV onto the street so Sully could unload the big backhoe/hammer combination and get it up in the yard. After a ten minute orientation and proper controls, I spent the next two and a half hours jackhammering and moving dirt…and doing my best not to run into anything or tip the big Deere over. I thought I was doing pretty good in my new position as a heavy equipment operator, until Randy showed back up and did in 25 minutes what took me 150 to accomplish!

I actually didn’t finish up with all the hammering until Wednesday, so the next phase will be bringing in a much smaller tractor to do the grading for concrete.


 1 of 5 
 
Fan Jeff Reader shot these photos from the stands, and I suppose they need no explanation.
 
I got in a decent workout (as in, “lifting weights”) before I did my cardio (as in, “mowing the lawn”), then it was time to take Jason to baseball practice. That was Tuesday! Yes, the life of a Pro drag racer is glamorous indeed.

I had mentioned that I’d let you guys know about the race in Atlanta. The good part was the company that showed up. My dad, our buddy Bo, Diane Kolb and family, and Air Force friend Bruce Stansel all decided to show up for Georgia’s rain. Also, for the first time in 23 years, the Dougherty family, who live close to the track, came out and cheered me on. So did Porsha Chalmers and her fiancée Jim, and fans/friends Pat and Jim Robinson…and it didn’t help!

Nope, I just as soon would have preferred to stay home and sleep in the way our Southern Nationals turned out. Saturday’s first qualifier we popped the windshield out when the safety shutoff device disabled the fuel system after detecting high “pan pressure”, which typically means the car has scuffed a piston, which possibly could result in a big explosion. We sometimes disconnect the pan pressure sensor for eliminations, as it is not mandatory, but we leave it activated for qualifying nearly all the time. The problem happens when the system shuts off the fuel but the throttle is still wide open (the driver can’t possibly react that quickly), causing a lean condition that can “pop” the burst panels. In this case, it split the windshield all the way down, necessitating a mild thrash to install a new unit before the last qualifying run.

Apparently the new windshield was bad luck! It appears as though our car lost a valve liner, causing an intake valve to stick in the guide, blowing the whole deal sky high (if you saw the coverage, you know what I mean).

Sometimes Jason likes to help me workout, and here little Swarzenblueeyes gives his biceps a workout. Next we’ll focus on abdominal exercises!

I stayed and helped the crew until past midnight Saturday, and they were still working when I left. Not only was it a 45 minute trip to the hotel, but they were back at the track at 7am for a LONG Sunday! If you think being a crewmember is the most bitchin job a person could have, you may want to spend one weekend with a fuel team and see how hard these folks have to work. We were in the lanes at 7pm Sunday; eight hours behind schedule due to rain, when NHRA postponed the race after the fifth pair of dragsters ran. Originally they were going to wait 15 minutes for the sun to shift enough so the right lane driver could see the Christmas Tree without staring directly into our Red Dwarf star, but by the time I hopped out of the car and took my helmet off, NHRA had decided to finish the race on Monday.

So, our tired group had spent 13 hours at the track to accomplish little more than warming our car one time. Monday we were back even earlier to try it again. I wish I could say our results were commensurate with our efforts, but it appears we ran right over some oil in the right lane and smoked the tires just after leaving the line. A very frustrating and expensive weekend, not only for us, but for several of the DSR teams. Thankfully Antron and TJ were not injured at all in their “mishaps”, so we’ll lick our wounds and head to Kansas.

Well, now that I’ve got Jason to and from school, got in another workout, and got caught up somewhat on the computer and mailings, it’s time to go add to my frequent flyer miles and hopefully add to the trophy collection.

Stay tuned, keep your pan pressure low and your outlook high, and no more explosions!


 

 
..
TwitterFacebook