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What it’s Like to be That Guy at the Drag Strip

Firing Up: It sucks to be “that guy”

Jul 30, 2018
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Back in early May, we drove the Chevy High Performance ’71 Camaro project and a few other company project cars out to the 2018 Holley LS Fest West in Las Vegas. Weeks prior, we spent a good amount of time tying up loose ends on the car and we were looking forward to getting seat time on the autocross, road course, and dragstrip.

The 270-mile drive out to Las Vegas went flawless. The car ran great and I was feeling like we had a competitive ride that would do really well at the event.

On Friday, the first day of the event, I got a couple of shakedown laps on the autocross. After getting locked in on the course and putting in some aggressive runs, the rear of the car felt a little loose so we made a suspension adjustment and the car responded positively by knocking off one second from our time. Right on.

At this point, I was starting to get confident in the car and figured it was time to see what it would do on the dragstrip. After a tech check I was ready for a few quarter-mile blasts down the famous Strip at Las Vegas. I actually ran it there last year but had a driveline vibration so I shut it down early as to not do any damage to the car or myself.

Anxious for some straight-line action this year, I got in the staging lanes early and managed to be one of the first cars to line up. I ran in what Holley calls the Grand Champion class, which includes all the cars running in the autocross, road course, and 3S Challenge. The cars in that class must run 200 or greater treadwear street tires. That alone makes for interesting launches and not-so-interesting 60-foot times.

Finally, our class gets called to the dragstrip for time trials. After a quick burnout to clean the tires, I stage the car. At this point I realize I forgot to ask if we are running a Pro Tree or Sportsman Tree. All the amber lights come on at once. Crap! We’re running a Pro Tree! I panic and dump the clutch with the rpm way too high and instantly spin the tires. All I need is a slow reaction time so my buds can make fun of me for “sleeping” on the line. Too late. Reaction time sucked. It’s all good. I’ll just mash the pedal the rest of the way to see what the car will do on the top end and worry about e.t. on my next pass.

Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be a next pass as the engine decided to spray some fresh 5W-30 on the headers, causing a major smoke fest from about halftrack on—all without my knowledge. The only indication of something being wrong is when I saw the safety vehicles approaching the track with their emergency lights flashing. My first thought was something must be wrong with the car in the other lane. (Poor guy.) I looked over and saw nothing wrong with that car, so apparently their sights were on me.

I glance in my side-view mirror and see a huge trail of smoke. Crap! I instantly let off the throttle and pull to the side of the track as quickly as possible as to not leave oil down the middle of the track. Too late for that. The damage was done.

I am now “that guy.” You know, the guy who oiled down the track and caused a good 30 minutes of downtime. The guy who every racer in line is hating on because of said downtime. The guy who I used to think was irresponsible for not having his car in proper working order. Yep, and I’m now that guy because of a failed 10-cent rubber dipstick O-ring!

I gotta tell ya – it really sucks to be “that guy.”

I’m sure there are quite a few of you who have been that guy, or gal, due to a faulty part that costs less than a dollar. If so, I want to hear your story. Hit me up at nick.licata@motortrend.com.

You in?

Orange Krate Flatbed Tow 2/2

If you break down on the dragstrip, you’ll be provided with a free ride back to your pit stall, also known as the “ride of shame.”

Photography by Nick Licata, Taylor Kempkes

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