Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
I don’t believe that a person can excel in motorsports or in life without genuine, honest to goodness, always got-your-back type friends. I’ve got a few in racing that I truly cherish and my fellow 5.30 class competitor, Paul Baxter, is one of them. I met him about 3 years ago when I was first getting started at the drag strip. He came up from Atlanta to test and tune one Friday night in the fall of 2008 at my home town track here in Chattanooga. At the time he was running 5.0 seconds in the 1/8th mile, and for somebody like me who had never gone faster than 6.40, it appeared as if they would have to put asbestos down on the track after words to keep it from melting from the sheer exhibition of speed. At the end of the night he came over to where I was parked, introduced himself, then proceeded to tell me what a nice car I had and encouraged me to stick with it. I became an instant fan.
In March of 2010 I was down in Montgomery, AL where the ORSCA season opener had just gotten under way. After the first round of qualifying, I was sitting on the floor of Steven’s trailer stunned by what had just happened out on the track. It was my first attempt at running the 5.30 class with a brand new engine/transmission/suspension/nitrous/everything combination that had just been completed the night before…and my car went up into SEVERE tire shake, ripped into the body panels and headed right towards the wall in mid-flight. Paul came by, and made the comment that that looked violent – I responded by saying that he should have seen it from the inside. He offered up some veteran advice and encouraged me to stick with it. I went on to have a season that FAR exceeded my expectations, while he suffered set back after set back and never really factored into the overall points standings.
Early April of this year, I was back out at my local track for the “Battle of the States” 5.30 class race, and I was struggling….2010 ended on such an incredible high note, that unfortunately there was only one direction to go, and it wasn’t a lot of fun. It just seemed like there were a lot of distractions, drama, and stuff going on that just didn’t have anything at all to do with racing…and I was discouraged to the point of considering hanging up my helmet for a while. He encouraged me to stick with it, and told me that he was going to pray for me, and that he would help me anyway that he could. I think he qualified #1 that weekend, and it was his race to win, but unfortunately he suffered an early exit.
Fast-forward to this past weekend at the Saturday night shootout 5.30 race in Reynolds, GA. Paul called me earlier in the week to make sure that I was going, and to offer my wife and me a place to sleep if we needed it. I got to the track Friday and gave him a call to see where he was. He’d had to work a little later than expected and was running late. So I saved him a spot and went on out to the track to test. Right off the trailer I ran a 5.31, and things were looking pretty good…..Paul’s situation was a little less optimistic. After getting unloaded he had a thrash on his hands with trying to get ready for qualifications. I pitched in the best I could and we both sweated it out in the blazing sun and upper 90 degree heat to make the necessary repairs needed to get him on the track. For the rest of qualifying he was never really close and ended up seeded 24th out of 25 cars. I had my struggles as well, but fared better with a 9th place position. I was fairly confident that my first round opponent would be what’s known in racing terms as a “duck” ala “sitting duck,” and that they would be ripe for being picked off.
The elimination ladder was completed and it was posted that the #9 qualifier would be racing #24, therefore Paul would be my first round opponent. I walked up to his trailer and broke the news to which he replied, “Well, I hope that whatever happens will give God the most glory.” We had one of the closest races of the night, my .003 reaction time vs. his .007, however I couldn’t run the number and Paul put up a superb 5.302 E.T. for the win. I couldn’t be upset, it was just a good ole drag race between a couple of buddies, and I was on the losing end. Paul went on to slice through the rest of the field like a hot-knife through butter, and won his first race in 4 years.
It took me a couple of days to let his words sink-in about God’s glory, and what my role in all of this is….but the best I can figure is that it’s to share this story with others about how somebody who lives with a Christian attitude has impacted me directly and a lot of other people indirectly. It’s true that racing is high-visibility and that somebody is always watching, but the true measure of a man is what they do when nobody is looking.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
So far, 2011 hasn’t been the racing season that I had hoped for. Even though we’re really only about 1/2 way through it, seems like I’ve been in a drought in a lot of ways. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve raced 4 different classes this year with the same car and it’s been tuff. The other day I tried to relate the complexity of this task to a co-worker here at Coker tire where timed, multi-staged, vintage rally car racing reigns supreme. I told him it would be the equivalent of trying to race a rally event with a different set of rules, competitors and crew members every day for the duration of the event. Suffice it to say, it’s been difficult to get a rhythm going. The real struggle has been to maintain a positive attitude and not get lost in the constant re-shuffling. Why all the jumping around you ask? 5.30 Class racing just hasn’t been as available this season, not without a lot of travel anyways, and in order to be a contender in the 5.0 class, I’ll need another stage of nitrous, and a couple of suspension upgrades, which I’d like to add in the off season. So, we’ve been trying to the best we can with what we’ve got by slowing down and running 6.0.
After spending the better part of the past year bouncing around all over the deep South, chasing Outlaw 5.30 class events, this Spring/Early summer has been a change of race pace. Without a true points style championship series in my region, we’ve had to adapt the car to the racing that is available and make the best of it.
So far, we’ve tried our hand at 5.00, 5.30 and most recently 5.50 index class races and this past weekend we got our first “W” of the season at the National Outlaw Professionals Race Series in the 5.50 class in Owingsville, KY. The NOP is an Ohio based start-up series, and little old Owingsville Dragstrip is an IHRA track located in a cow pasture about 15 minutes away from where my Mom and Dad live in the foothills of the Daniel Boone National Forrest in Morehead, KY. This scenic setting would provide the debut weekend as crew chief for my new bride Amber who made it a quick study…by successfully helping call the shots, as well as providing the extra muscle needed to help close the deal.
It sure was awesome to have my Mom and Dad there too….although I’m not so sure they really knew what was going on most of the time, I am sure that they enjoyed it as evidenced by all that cheese in the above picts. I think they’re probably just relieved that I don’t race motocross anymore and don’t have to keep life support on stand-by these days.
So two weekends ago it was a short trip up the road to Bowling Green, Ky for the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion where I met up with mi amigo Henry Gutierrez and his Texas Jungle race team for a little nostalgia nitro funny car match race action. Henry’s Texas hospitality was abundant as he made Amber and I feel right at home in the middle of his well-oiled race operation. In addition to the ’72 Camaro Jungle Jim replica funny car driven by John Capps, they’re now running a ’72 Mustang Mach 1 driven by John Smith and both cars are tuned by legendary nitro guru Paul Smith. With a gnarly looking thunderstorm bearing down on Beech Bend, the Jungle car snuck in a 6.06 pass, and the Brand-X barely got the fuse lit and off the line before rattling the tires and shutting down in the rain. Both cars were stranded at the end of the track in a deluge before being towed back to the pits…pretty epic.
Henry says that they’re working on a Vega version of the Jungle car as well as a re-vamped Camaro version of Brand-X. When it’s all said and done, that’ll be 4 nitro funny cars total – wow! He also threw out there that he’d still like for me to steer one of his nitro taxi’s at some point….one thing’s for sure, Texas Jungle has no shortage of top-shelf equipment or talent to make it happen.
Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, the Dynamo of Dixie has made big strides in the past week, and we’re still on track to be on the track at some point this season. The killer body/chassis is back from Army’s Funny Factory and will go into the body shop in the next day or two. We’re also starting to get a handle on our final engine/transmission combination after much consultation from our awesome sponsor’s; Dart, Comp, TCI, Lunati, Royal Purple, Holeshot Wheels, M&H Tires, and good friends John Dunn, (Dunn& Gone) Kerry Grams (Black Reign Motorsports) and Steven Farrow (Farrow Motorsports). More to follow on this next time…
This weekend I’ll try my hand at my 4th different Outlaw index class race of the season, as our local track is having a 6.0 class heads up race. The only thing we have to change about our set-up is everything….lol. Oh well, diversity makes for better driving, and right now I need all the seat time I can get as I prepare for the challenges ahead.
First of all, as of May 8th, I’m now a married man! My beautiful bride Amber and I decided to get it done Tennessee style, so we ran off to the mountains and eloped. We’ve been together for a little over a year, and I truly believe that our marriage is a testimony to the abundant life that God intends for all of us to have. Married life really is the good life, and nothing makes me happier than to know that I have a lifetime commitment to my sweet heart.
So after a couple of days up in the hills, it was time to come back down to reality and get on with the business of working and racing.
As of November 2010, Project 5.30’s first season was officially on the books…and magazines. Below is a link to RPM magazine which ran a three part series on the Outlaw 6.0 class to Outlaw 5.30 class metamorphosis that took place last season. The official tally was 9 races total with; 3 wins and 4 semi-final appearances. Not bad for someone who gets accused (unfairly) of putt-ing around town like an old lady in my pick-up truck…
Scroll down to “E-Tech”, and you’ll see the “It’s 5.30 Somewhere” articles written by Tommy Lee Byrd, which hit the highlights of what it took to put rubber on the road last season. Click each cover and enjoy.
So, what’s been going on this winter? So far, a lot of this…
…and a lot of funny car homework. Army Armstrong is up in frozen PA at the Funny Factory putting the final touches on our ’69 Nova, while further south the game plan is being finalized to run a big block Chevy on nitro methane. This is without a doubt, one of those situations where the more you learn…the more you realize how little you know. It’s humbling to say the least and it’s a good thing that there are good people willing to help out. Jack McInnis at Dart Machinery turned us onto Sean Belt, who has successfully run a BBC/Nitro combo and been more than willing to share tips of the trade. Also huge on the help list is Chris Douglas and Dean Harvey of Comp Cams, who selected the perfect cam/valve train combination for our unique needs.
There will be MUCH more to follow on this build…but for now just know that there’s a “It’s 4.30 Somewhere”…project in the works.
Stay warm and God Bless,
As of last weekend, my sophomore racing season is officially on the books, and what a ride it has been. For those of you that haven’t heard the information first hand (which is practically everybody) ORSCA is now officially a bust, and with it are my dreams of a championship season. It’s a shame. The premier outlaw series in the country has inexplicably pulled the plug on its last 2 races without awarding class champions. As you may recall from the last post, we were uniquely positioned for a chase at the title after winning the last race…too bad we won’t get the chance to see how it would have all played out. (more…)