The gates finally open Friday morning around 7:45am and I couldn’t wait to get in and check it out. Little did I know I was going to be pitted at the end of the track for the second race in a row. I got everything all set up with my father-in-law’s help and unloaded my car. I was all ready to make a test and tune pass on my newly untested NITTO NT555r’s. Youre probably wondering why. I have my reasons – I thought I could make them work.
I got done with Tech and proceeded to go to the lanes to make a test pass. I was a little unsure about what I should do, so I took the simplest route and left everything the same as my BFG’s. I thought it went well. I ran a 1.58 60ft and a 11.23 @ 119.56 mph right off the trailer. I was very happy about the results to say the least, considering the track conditions and heat.
Now I go through my normal between-round routine to get the car ready for the first round of qualifying. At the dual series event like this and the Super Bowl in Joliet, we have two rounds of qualifying on Friday. As I got to the lanes, some of my competitors – at least the ones that looked this time – were surprised. They we’re wondering about the Nitto’s. I was about the last car to run in the class when I ripped off my #1 qualifying pass with a 1.56 60ft and a 11.180 @ 119.87. Now that was what I was looking for when I bolted them on! I’ve had them for about 3 months, I just didn’t have any rims to put them on. My first test pass on these tires was earlier in the day, which made it all the sweeter. I ran my second qualifier trying some different things to work with the tires. It worked, but it didn’t. I still netted a 1.549 60ft and ran a 11.25 @ 119.32mph. So, we packed up and called it a day.
Saturday morning I decided to put on my BFG’s just to get a baseline between the two tires. Remember, this is now basically my tire test session. I made it up for qualifying round three and my car hooked like clockwork with a 1.550 60ft, but I decided I wanted to hit third gear a little fast and was off the clutch a little to soon. My first real gear miss shift in I don’t know how long. All was good except the 100 degree heat. I decided to skip the free test and tune and watched everyone else in the classes race – well, as much as my father-in-law and I could stand the heat. Did I tell you how hot it was? Track temperatures in the 140’s and 150’s. We got out of the track that night at a decent hour and grabbed some food and ran some go-carts. I think I got the slowest go-carts in the world that night.
Sunday morning was nice. Apparently they have a noise level law until 10am, so no morning rush and a real breakfast at the Waffle House. We arrived back at the track and I decided to put my NITTO’s back on for round one. I knew I had my guy covered ( BYE ) so I would try some more changes and put some more time on them. It was a little too aggressive and I spun the tires good. I don’t know the 60ft because my slip had .000 on it, but the car still ran an 11.42 so it was probably in the 1.70 range, which wasn’t bad for the track conditions when I compared the numbers to my competitors’ 60 foots. In the second round I had a good matchup, so I decided to go back to my much tested 1 1/2 year old BFG’s. If I had actually done some testing prior to the event, I don’t think I would have switched. I got my car cooled off and ready to go. We both staged and Johnny turned on the Red Bulb. I didn’t see it which is good, so I did my job and beat him to the stripe with a solid 11.22 @ 119.73. Now there was only one round left since we had a seven car ladder.
The final round had me up against Jay Dold. I had just come off a win against him in Joliet, so I was ready to repeat that performance. We both staged and when the lights came down, I dropped the clutch and my car hooked awesome, pulling the wheels about a foot and a half off the ground which is big air in Factory stock.
When I pulled the 1-2 gear change, I had made up the little I lost on the tree and we were nose to nose. I went for third gear and my car was moving. I pulled about a fender ahead and that’s when I thought “the win is mine if the trans holds together.” I click the 3-4 gear change and I started to pull away. I finished about a car or more ahead for my fourth win of the season, and also ran a great 11.17 @ 120.35mph in the heat. It was getting hotter as the day went on. The win was made all the better when my teammates, Ryan Hecox and Bruce Hemminger, also took the wins in Pure Street and Real Street. That was the second time we all won at the same event. We also swept Columbus in 2008. Hopefully we can have a repeat of that again in a few short weeks.