What a weekend for the Gotta Have Builds team! After setting some new records last month in Milan, MI, the team took Gotta Have It Race to Joliet, IL with winning the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing in mind. Read on to see how their weekend went, and how they ended up taking 3rd place overall in the SST Class!
As you might remember, we have been running Gotta Have It Race--our 2013 Mustang GT--in the NMRA’s super competitive Super Stang Class at several events this year, including NMRA competitions in Maryland and Milan, MI. For those not familiar with Super Stang, or SST for short, it is a dial your own time, bracket style class that is open to all 2005 and newer Mustangs. Every driver must choose their own dial-in time based on their qualifying runs, and then try and run that same number all weekend. Once the time is chosen, it cannot be changed at any time during the weekend, which makes it interesting to try and compensate for weather changes, etc. The class is raced on a Pro Tree, where .000 is considered a perfect light. These guys are ultra competitive, yet are one of the best groups Bill has ever had the pleasure of racing with.
To get the weekend started, Steve and Bill loaded Gotta Have it Race on to their borrowed trailer (Thanks Bob!) on Thursday morning and began their 11 hour trek to the biggest race of the regular season, The 7th Annual NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing at the Route 66 Dragway in Joliet Illinois! This is a combination event between the NMRA and NMCA, where both sanctioning bodies run their own programs side by side. The best part of the weekend is the Super Bowl races at the end, which pit the NMRA winners vs. the NMCA winners for a shot at the coveted Nitto Tire Champions Ring!
Bill and Steve arrived late Thursday and woke up early on Friday to head to the track for time trials. After a 45 minute wait, they made their way into the pits. Without seeing the facility, it’s very difficult to convey how huge the Route 66 Dragway is. To give an idea, the Gotta Have Builds team was pitted just over ½ mile from the starting line! The pits were packed, not only with the usual Ford crowd, but also with every possible make and model of muscle car you can imagine! This was gonna be fun!
The team unloaded Gotta Have it Race, then proceeded to tech inspection, which the car passed without any problems. Next, Steve and Bill headed to the lanes! Open time trials were running from 9 am until qualifying started at 3 pm. Bill and Steve were trying out a new set of 275/60-15 Mickey Thompson Drag Radials, which are 2 inches taller than the old 275/50-15 Mickey Thompson tires we had run on before. The old tires were going through the traps a little higher than Bill felt comfortable with, so he and Steve decided to make the change and see how it worked out. It was still early but the outside temperature was already close to 92 degrees, so Bill was not expecting to set any records and just wanted to make some clean, consistent runs.
For his first pass, they lowered the tire pressure to 20 psi and Bill did his usual second gear burnout, which is much easier to do thanks to the new line loc. He staged the car and left at 4000 RPMs, like he would normally do with the old tires, but this time, Gotta Have It Race bogged badly. Bill had a 1.95 60 foot, which was way off pace, and only allowed him to run a 12.48@112 MPH. He let the car cool off and tried again and ran another 12.48@112 MPH with a near identical 60 foot. He decided to try lowering the tire pressure again, and made his way back to the lanes, but was told the track was only allowing two test runs per competitor, due to the amount of cars. Instead, Bill and Steve will just have to try a few things in qualifying and see what they can do. They had four hours to kill, so they decided to do a little Historic Route 66 sightseeing while they waited for qualifying to begin.
By the time 3 pm came around and qualifying began, it was brutally hot out, and their neighbor's weather computer said it was already 99 degrees. So, for their first trial, Bill and Steve left the tire pressure right where it was, and Bill tried to leave around 5500 RPMs on this run. Unfortunately, that resulted in a spin and his worst full pass of the weekend, a 12.69@111 MPH with a 2.11 60 foot time. Bill parked the car and starting asking around for some tips on running better with his new tires. After some discussion, Bill and Steve decided to try running the tires at a much lower pressure and leaving at a higher RPM to see if it would work better. The combination of the 3750 lb race weight of our 2013, the gearing of the 6 speed, and the combination of 3:73s gears and 28 inch tires made it tricky to get everything to work right. Bill wasn't even up again until nighttime and, by then, the weather had cooled to a chilly 92 degrees. After his usual burnout, Bill staged the car a little shallower than normal and brought the RPMs up to around 5500. When the lights flashed, he popped the clutch and the car hooked harder than ever before. Unfortunately, he was not quite prepared and made a mistake that he has never made in 20 years of drag racing: The launch threw Bill back in the seat and he managed to pull the car out of first gear and into neutral, which quickly ended the run and the team's day. He was happy with how the car responded, and had another qualifying run in the morning, where the team could try again.
Bill and Steve woke up on Saturday to another scorcher, as it was 90 degrees by 7:30 am when they made their way to the track. Bill had his final qualifier at 9:00 am. They were first in the lanes, and Bill tried to duplicate last night’s launch, with no luck. He must not have had the RPMs as high as before, and he bogged again and ran a 12.52@112 MPH with a 1.91 60. The name of the game in SST is consistency, so he knew that, with a 4000-4500 RPM launch, Gotta Have It Race was going to bog, but would be pretty consistent time-wise. Steve and Bill discussed it and watched some video footage of what the car was doing, then decided that they should dial-in at 12.48 and just try and be consistent and go some rounds.
The Gotta Have It Builds team got the call to the lanes for eliminations at 2:00 pm. SST is a little different than some other classes, as the first round match-ups are random: All the cars come to the lanes and the match-ups are based on randomly drawn numbers. Once the first round is over, the winners are qualified by reaction time and the ladder is made. The Gotta Have Builds team was lucky enough to draw Al Miller, the defending SST champ and a real nice guy to boot. He and Bill wished each other luck and headed to the burnout box. Al was dialed in at 11.99 and Bill was at 12.48, meaning Al would be chasing Gotta Have It Race. Bill did his burnout, then staged the car, brought the RPMs up, and left at 4000 RPMs, like before. He got his usual bog, then the car took off. Bill felt like he had a pretty good light and could see Al coming in his mirror. At around 1200 feet, Bill was still out in front, so he lifted right at the end to make sure he did not go faster than the dial in. As he went through the traps, he looked up and had the win light! Bill just beat the defending champ and was going to the second round! He had a .083 light and ran a 12.50 on a 12.48 dial-in. Al had a .130 light, which was off for him, and ran 12.07 on his 11.99 dial-in.
The second round was not going to be held until Sunday morning, so Bill and Steve watched some racing and then called it a night. The ladder was posted, and Bill had qualified 6th and drew JD Coon, the number 1 qualifier, in the second round. Not only does JD have a nasty 10 second GT500, he and his wife, Elisa, are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. Bill and Steve had been hanging around with them for the past couple days and they all knew they would end up racing each other. JD was dialed in at 10.29, so he would be giving Bill a head start of more than 2 seconds, then would be charging hard to catch Gotta Have it Race. Once again, Bill tried to stage at 4000 RPM. When the tree dropped, he might have been a little higher, but the car bogged, just not as badly as before, then took off. Bill had the passenger mirror set up so he could see the bad black Shelby closing in. Once he looked up to gauge the finish line, Bill saw his win light was already on! He lifted his foot at the same spot as he did during the first run to try and be consistent, and ended up hitting 12.375 at only 105 MPH, by far his best run of the weekend. JD had gone -.056 red when he pushed through the beams. Bill had a .026 light, his best of the weekend. If he could keep his lights in that range, he was starting to think he might have a shot at this, with visions of Super Bowl rings starting to dance in his head!
Gotta Have It Race was now only 2 wins from being in the finals! Bill checked the ladder and lady luck was finally on the Gotta Have Builds Teams' side as they had a BYE in the ¼ finals! If you are unfamiliar with NMRA racing, that means there was no competitor opposite Gotta Have It Race on the ladder for that round, and all Bill had to do is stage and he takes the win. Bill decided to make a full run, just to stay focused. There were a lot of cameras, so Bill did try and launch a little higher and he spun, but had a .056 light and went 12.39@114 MPH, which put the Gotta Have Builds team in a good place for the semi-finals. They returned to the pit to cool the car (and the driver/crew) in preparation for the next round. However, they, literally, were only in the pit for 5 minutes when they were called for the next race. This was not good, since Gotta Have It Race didn't have any cool down time, but Steve and Bill figured their competitor didn’t either.
They knew who their opponent was before they rolled up there: It was Terry Reeves, otherwise known as Beefcake, and his mid 9 second 2011 Mustang GT. Bill knew he had to hit a good light to have a chance against the former Lightning Class champion. Beefcake had been killing the tree all day and his 2011 was deadly consistent. Bill did his usual burnout and launch, and got a little more bog than usual, but everything else felt good. Bill had a .077 light, which was not stellar amongst this group, but still pretty respectable. However, Beefcake had a .049 advantage already with his .028 light, and that was pretty much it. Bill ran a 12.59 on a 12.48 dial-in to Beefcake's 9.73 on a 9.69 dial-in. Bill and Steve's run was over, but they had no reason to hang their heads. They went all the way to the semifinal and ended up being 3rd out of 19 cars in the class! They ended up sticking around to watch the finals and now can say they ended up losing to not only the SST Class Winner, but the Superbowl Winner as well. Beefcake ran a 9.69 on a 9.69 to win the Super Bowl ring!
With their semi final finish and 6th qualifying spot, Gotta Have It Race earned quite a few points in the class as the Gotta Have Builds team heads into the NMRA Expo 2012 in Columbus, OH at the end of August. We hope to advance through several rounds there!