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Feeling Blue After Yellow Bullet Nationals
The 2014 outlaw street car equivalent of the Stanley Cup is over, that being the Yellow Bullet Nationals. It started with good promise for us being on our "home track" and running an 8.518 in the heat in testing on Friday.
But since test sessions do not count and the weather Friday night left me with more questions than Alex Trebek, actually he gives answers but you get the idea, and some other mistakes we ended up on the outside looking in on race-day. Hats off to the 32 guys that got the job done of the 75+ on the property! The bump spot was an 8.535 on an 8.50 index and our 8.541, after three rounds of qualifying, was only good for the number 35 spot. It wasn't like we brought a knife to a gunfight, but this was a field that would impress an NHRA Pro Stock fan.
I take full responsibility for over thinking a couple of things that cost us and for that I apologize to our supporters for not being in the lanes on race-day. The event unfortunately ended up getting rained out after the first round of eliminations and next year will be bigger and better than ever, and we will be back.
I made a quick exit on Sunday because Braylon was going rounds for the second consecutive day in his Junior Dragster an hour or so away at Maple Grove and I wanted to be there to support him. He lost in the second round on Saturday and in the third round on Sunday against some stiff competition as always at Maple Grove, but our friends the Brinkman family had his car dialed in after a phone call to me early on Saturday for some advice. The next stop for the Mar-Schan Motorsports Junior Dragster will be to Cecil County Dragway for two days of racing and 3 or 4 races within those two days including the chance for a Wally.
Thanks to all the companies and individuals we relied on to keep us rolling at these events: Boccella's Performance, Mickey Thompson Tires, ATI Racing, NGK, Lucas Oil, DJ Safety, and to the photographers that make us look good and my web site guru that keeps the world informed via the interweb, GDR Mark.
August 2014 Update, Driving The Junior Dragster With Senior Expectations
One thing my Step-Son Braylon doesn't like to do is lose. That is a good thing and a bad thing. Unlike team sports like basketball or hockey there are only two people to blame here for failure on the track, him and I. Well I am sure you can blame his mom or the banker and an Indian chief, oh wait, can I say that?
Anyway, most opponents can be beaten at any given time save for the few perfect run packages that happen to be out there, which do happen, but for the sake of simplicity it's just us. The way to improve on the track is off track practice on Braylon's reaction times and me studying the nuances of the single cylinder methanol gulping chunk of aluminum used for motivation of our KCS chassis / Chris McGee powered slingshot, and of course seat time.
Seat time might be the most important, because that is where you put all the rest of your efforts and ideas to the test. Since October 2013, when John Martin laid the brilliant, Nova matching, Bonsai Blue Metallic paint on the car and we first took it out to test, we have put almost 70 passes on the car.
In the last three weeks and two NHRA events contained therein, we have made 40 of those passes.
From an 8-day stay, three-race week in Bristol, Tennessee to a 3-day, three-race event at Numidia Dragway in the town of the same name in the coal regions of upstate Pennsylvania, we have honed our respective job duties together, with some decent results on a National and Divisional level.
Prior to heading to Bristol for the NHRA Junior Dragster Eastern Conference Finals at the picturesque Thunder Valley Dragway, only a day after arriving home from a month long work assignment 700 miles from home; I had "Hero Cards" made for Braylon to show our thanks to our marketing partners and help promote them and our team.
I thought it was a professional touch for an amateur team. Tim Charlet of Lumin8 Lifestyle Brands and my Webmaster GDR Mark deserve the credit for that project.
We left on July 19th and by the 20th we were racing on a track I had only previously seen on television Thunder Valley Raceway in Bristol Tennessee.
Picture a mist filled valley in the morning that burns off thanks to rising of the summer sun, where the sound of even these little engines echoes off the lush green and rocky walls on either side of the 3800' strip of asphalt and concrete laid in the middle.
By Monday night the 21st, Braylon was holding his first trophy of the year.
After weaving through 6 rounds of competition he was the runner up at the Huddleston Performance Junior Dragster Nationals in the 10-11 year old age group.
Not a bad showing for our first race on a big stage with tons of quality cars and the best of the best from the country. It still was heartbreaking for him to come so close and not seal the deal and his demeanor reflected that until he got his trophy and his first check! That always works for me too.
Tuesday was a day off for us and we worked on the car and got through tech for the upcoming NHRA national event that would begin on Friday for us. We also took a little drive and met some people that I had talked with prior to our arrival in Bristol on the phone to create relationships for next year and possible marketing partnership for the race. I want to thank Boomershine Pizza for stepping up with some great food and beverages for our family this year. Families helping families is what racing is all about, especially at our level. Best pizza and Italian food right down the road from the entry gate, hands down!
Wednesday July 23rd was the next event scheduled as a precursor to the Big Show and that was the Huddleston Performance Fun Race for ages 10-12. We got through three rounds of competition only to be stopped in the fourth on a break out pass somehow. To win that round would have put him in line for some more hardware and cash.
We took some good information away from the day and were looking forward to the following day with two time runs scheduled to begin the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday. Friday brought another round of time runs and then into first round of eliminations Friday night.
EVERYONE wants to get through the first round and be standing in the lanes on Saturday with a chance for the big trophy in the likeness of Wally Parks just like they give the pros on TV.
Fortunately for us we were still eligible for competition on Saturday, with help from Boccella's Performance, DJ Safety, NGK Spark Plugs, Clarke Industrial, Martin Painting, Lucas Oil and of course Boomershine Pizza. Unfortunately Braylon had another lesson on how to lose as gracefully as an 11-year-old can. I want to thank Puffs with Aloe for an associate sponsorship that they probably didn't even know they had with us.
At the end of the weekend he walked away with a couple trophies, a participation medal, new front wheels and a car cover paid for with winnings, plus enough left over to put some in the bank, and great memories. As of July 26th the pilot of the Mar-Schan Motorsports LLC Junior Dragster has won more than yours truly this year.
I want to congratulate Jarrod Kissinger for winning the 12-year old class and our neighbor Ben Spotts for the runner up as well as K.K. Kershner for going to the semi finals in the 10year old category. Team Maple Grove won the Team Spirit contest out of all the teams in attendance and Maple Grove Team #2 just missed the Wally trophies given to the 10-person team from a track with the most points obtained by drivers still in competition at the end of the various rounds, by only 1 point. That was a nail biter as well but an exciting addition to the event.
OK now on to me, you know the guy with "expensive hobby". We towed to Cecil County Dragway the following week for the Street Car Shootout on August 2nd. I ended up qualifying in the 10th position in the 16-car field after some starting line issues in round 1 of qualifying and driving through a wheel stand in round 2 of qualifying. That put us up against last years champion Mike Good, who we would have faced in the finals of the April race had the weather not cut the night short. I knew to beat Mike I had to be good on the tree and for me, I was! The starting line advantage still went to Mike with his .019 light to my .024 and that was all it took. The race was decided by .0028 at the end of the quarter mile or a margin of about 7" at 159 miles per hour. It was a good drag race and we made him earn it and then I had to learn to lose as gracefully as a 46-year old could. No Puffs necessary at this event but another round of anger management class could be in order.
Fast forward a whopping 5 days and it was off again to the aforementioned Numidia Dragway, another strip of sticky asphalt with its own set of atmospheric challenges up in the higher elevations. This place has a great management staff and was chosen to host The NHRA Division 1 Junior Dragster Nationals, and another chance for Braylon to hoist a Wally. The weekend started off on Friday with a Gamblers Race and a chance to get a feel for the track and the air. We were stopped in the third round of the event but this was just testing for the Divisional set for the following day, at least that's what we told ourselves.
Saturday was a beautiful day for racing. Once again the blue car marched, well not like a band or an army, but more like Abbott and Costello in Buck Privates, yeah, I'm old and watched that on Sunday afternoons, through four rounds of eliminations into the finals and the fifth round.
Anyway, it was Ground Hog Day again for Braylon when the win light came on in the lane of our friend James Paylor, selecting him as the winner of some lovely parting gifts including the coveted Wally. Congrats to James, Keith and Christina on the 10-11 year old class win and future stardom. It's a good thing we love this sport and want to win one soon.
We elected to stay Saturday night as well, and what's a night at the track without a fire and food? Thanks to the Branca family as well as the Prices and Rothenbergers and whoever else helped with the spread and especially Lisa Branca for her home made cannoli's!
Sunday was the High Rollers race, but they let us in anyway. That was supposed to be funny! Bray was racing in the 8-12 year old category and was stopped in the semi finals, but was given a portable practice tree for his efforts so he can work on his reaction times anywhere. Bob DiMino is a gracious track owner, announcer and host and I know our group appreciated his tell it like it is approach and sense of humor.
I tried to keep this short and current because there is the Summit Racing Junior Dragster Challenge as well as the biggest, baddest, street car race in the Mid Atlantic area, The Yellow Bullet Nationals at Cecil County Dragway over Labor Day weekend for the big car coming up soon and that will no doubt deserve some coverage on here as well.
Special mention goes to Brenda Williamson, Lesley May, Sharon Taylor, and Jamie Wettsain for helping us make the trip to Bristol a reality. We appreciate your support and being a part of our team.
June 2014 Wrap Up, Family, Work, Travel and Racing, not necessarily in that order
If you read the last write up you know that updates of the caliber that I like to supply don't happen overnight. Actually they do just not in a punctual manner. Obviously I haven't hired a PR firm to get them out, and to take time to get the creative juices flowing usually involves a large plate of silence and thought with a side order of guilt. Short of a few social media updates no one even knows if we still have race cars or if we sold them and ditched NHRA for FIFA, traded Christmas trees for referees, or finish lines for goal lines. Trust me that hasn't happened and I only knew what FIFA was because I saw a commercial, do you know? To each his own I guess but with the hype and interest generated we all could take a lesson from the marketing strategy.
I'm going to try to keep this short. Two teams, four events, one runner up, no wins, 20 passes, no damage, catastrophic loss or mechanical failures. Thanks for reading, see you next month! Wait, I was just kidding!
Let's roll back to May 31st actually, when we took the Kuhn Racing Junior Dragster to the Mid Atlantic Junior Dragster Nationals at Cecil County with assistance from Lucas Oil, Clarke Industrial, Boccella's Performance, NGK, DJ Safety and of course our body man John Martin who keeps us looking good. Braylon ran three different classes that day and put 8 passes on the car. We ran within an off the trailer 8.85 to an 8.92 all day on an 8.90 index. After the first pass we got the KCS chassis dialed in closer to the 8.90 and he won a round in two of the three classes. He is learning at each race and I don't want to fill his head with too much information about the ins and outs of bracket racing or he might want to change his last name to Fletcher or Biondo. I think its better that he experiences the scenarios and learn as they come up with a little coaching before each pass about his opponent and maybe a little strategy. The event was well run and we want to thank everyone involved.
Now after the event is where the fun began. The following day was a points race at Maple Grove for Braylon and coincidentally they also had an 8.50 index race as well that my car would fit into. I wanted to have the opportunity to race both cars at the same event for the exposure and the rare opportunity to try to double up in the winner's circle with Braylon at an early point in his career because the chance to race both cars together won't happen often. Our new car hauler was never designed to haul both cars plus the golf cart so on the way home from Cecil County on Saturday night I stopped at Maple Grove. I unloaded Braylon's car and good friend Tony Branca helped us by keeping an eye on the car till I could get home, load my car and get back to the track for the night. Congratulations to Tony's son Vincent for taking a win and a runner up finish in the Saturday and Sunday race at The Grove.
Sunday morning rolled around and I had the challenge of getting both cars through tech inspection and taking care of the pre race maintenance. We had no clue to the run order for the day since it was a special event, and Junior Dragster was called to the lanes first. My crew was a little late getting to the track and I didn't see them before we took the junior dragster to the lanes. The next thing we knew they were calling the 8.50 index class and my car wasn't ready. I sent a text to Rob Puller about what needed done, knowing he was on his way to help, and when Braylon was done his run I sprinted back to the golf cart, yes sprinted that was not a typo, and headed to the pit. Rob was already there along with Keith Allen and the Nova was ready to go. What a relief!
Braylon lost in the first round unfortunately but I made it to the finals and lost to one of the regular 8.50 index racers in the area, and unbeknownst to me at the time we would line up again in eliminations 6 days later as well. All in all we had a great weekend and made 16 passes total on both cars at two tracks and did a great job of representing our marketing partners. Our neighbor Marlin Spotts took Braylon's car back home for us and I got mine home as usual. I left mine in the trailer as I would be heading out of state to work for a few days the following morning. Thanks Tony, Rob, Marlin, Keith and of course Jen for her help in keeping things together.
Work in Columbus, Ohio ended late in the week and I headed home and hooked up the trailer and headed to Cecil County for the Street Car Shootout the next day. With the summer heat moving in I was having trouble running close to the 8.50 index, after our first qualifying shot netted me an 8.60. That wasn't going to cut it in the long run, but was good enough to qualify 13th out of 31 cars. The decision was made by my crew chief, Marc Schankweiler, that's me, to increase the power output of our little BMS Racing Engines small block Chevy by increasing the nitrous and fuel jet sizes in our Induction Solutions fogger system. On the second qualifier we ran an 8.495, which is just five-thousandths too fast, but we had them right where we wanted them now. I got by the first round but in the second round I was put back on the trailer by my latest arch rival Super Villain Delon Pleasants. I attempted to adjust my staging procedure to help my reaction time and things didn't come together the way I had planned. Then after some top end driving antics I "gave him the stripe" as they say, when I got off the gas for fear of going too fast for the index and he drove by me for the win. Lesson learned! Great race with lots of cars and a good time was had by all, some more than others I would imagine.
A few days after the race a truck was sent by Continental Cargo to pick up my trailer to take it back to the factory in Indiana to make some adjustments to it that were quite up to par or as ordered. The guys at the factory stepped up to the plate and made it right and went beyond the call of duty. The trailer will be home by the time you read this and we will be loading it up for the NHRA Junior Dragster Eastern Conference Finals in Bristol, Tennessee plus the Huddleston Performance and Mike Boss Fun Races the week before.
Currently I am starting my third week working in Michigan at a nuclear facility, but have had the chance to help fellow racers Andy and John Warren the last two weekends at races in Kentucky and hope to be at the NMCA/NMRA event in Joliet later this week.
I also had the chance to spend some time in my wife's home town and some time along and on the Ohio River.
I also took delivery of a new semi-custom fire suit from DJ Safety with some love thrown on the sleeves and chest of a few long time supporters to show our thanks. We are working with Tim Charlet of Lumin8 Lifestyle Brands to develop some "hero cards" for Braylon to help promote and educate the younger ones that stop by the pits to look at his car.
A little tweaking and some pictures with better resolution and we are there. If you need any marketing ideas Tim is a wealth of information.
I hope to be out of this state soon and back at track with our own cars soon and hopefully make some events mid to late July and the first couple weeks in August, just to reassure myself that a two layer fire suit is miserable in the summer and get my money's worth out of the air conditioner in the trailer. Hope to see everyone soon and stay cool!
From Hero to Zero! 8.50 Index Drag Racing -NHRA, SCSO Cecil, Jr's at The Grove
Dictionary.com defines the phrase Hero-To-Zero as an adjective "pertaining to a very sudden rise in popularity or success." I wouldn't say our program has had a lot of success and as far as popular goes I haven't been asked to sign any autographs lately so you be the judge.
We were suddenly successful at our first race of the season on April 5th at the Cecil County Streetcar Shootout. Myself and my test pilot Rob Puller ended up qualifying in the number one position when an 8.500 flashed on the scoreboard in qualifying for the 18 car 8.50 Index field.
We ran the number 16 qualifier in the first round who had entered his first 8.50 race and was learning the ropes and sorting out his combination. Rob got the win light. In the second round we won by virtue of a red light start in the other lane and in the third round we won again as our opponent had to chase us down after his late start and broke out. So it was onto the final round against last season's champion Mike Good.
Unfortunately the temperature was in the low 40s and after a crash in another class we decided it wasn't worth scratching our paint and we split the pot with Mike. We, meaning Rob, left with the points lead by virtue of the final round appearance and the low qualifier point.
Not that we were heroes because there aren't too many of those around, but follow along as I wrap up Mar-Schan Motorsports' activity from April into May and see how suddenly things turn around.
Two weeks later we took Braylon out for his 2014 debut in our 8.90 KCS Junior Dragster. We went to our home track at Maple Grove Raceway and signed him up for points to give him something to work toward instead of just random wins and losses plus the benefits of being on Team MG for future events.
We made 4 runs with a total spread of twelve hundredths of a second between them, which had me slightly pleased. There is definitely room for improvement but these little one cylinder alcohol burning chunks of cast aluminum are sometimes finicky.
We are running Fred Craws horsepower and we have plenty of it, I just have to do a better job reading the weather.
Braylon won the first round against a faster and older 7.90 driver, which was a confidence booster, but I missed the tune up in the second round and we ended up on the wrong side of a double breakout when trying to chase the other car down. The lesson Braylon took away from this race was if you aren't going to catch the other car and take the stripe first, lift off the gas and don't break out yourself. Let the other car have its 50/50 shot at missing their mark. Hopefully that will stick in his gray matter under the hair gel and blue helmet.
Two days later Braylon had his tonsils and adenoids removed along with some sinus surgery for good measure.
After two weeks of eating a diet that helped put Ben and Jerry's kids through college and losing weight I now have to add more weight to his car. I might have to get on that program myself!
The following week we loaded up our Nova and headed to Atco for the NHRA PC Richards National Open Series with enough nitrous oxide from Boccella's Performance for root canals for all of Division 1. We qualified in the #9 position out of I believe 22 cars with an 8.531. We fought a headwind on Saturday during the first round of eliminations and didn't have the extra power needed to run the number and got put in the trailer by Carey Cable Sr. and his beautiful Nova. It was our first taste of an NHRA event atmosphere and it was a well-run event. I learned some things in the tech line that were never brought to my attention before. This is a good thing because the sport is risky enough and the rules are written with the blood and pain of those that have raced before. A new fire suit from DJ Safety is being sewn up using measurements from places on my body that I didn't know a seamstress could put a cloth ruler. I can't wait for it to show up!
I elected to stay on Sunday and test for the race the following weekend at Cecil County where Rob would be back in the driver's seat. I had to put more power to the ground to be able to make consistent 8.50 passes as the weather warms up. "That's easy, just jet it up!!" That was the plan after establishing a baseline for the day with Saturday's tune up. I made a few passes to try and work the bugs out with the suspension and newfound power. The constant headwind made it impossible to judge where we were really going to be at in normal conditions, but everything was done on the mechanical end to give Rob the best car for the following weekend to help keep his points lead.
It is now May 3rd and we are definitely getting some seat time in and seeing some different venues. We are back at Cecil County for the monthly Street Car Shootout and with Rob in hot seat. On our first qualifying pass for the 8.50 index class we ended up running an 8.487, which was just a little fast. That headwind the previous weekend made it hard to dial in the car when the air was still. We added weight to the car for the second pass confident that we would end up in the mid 50s and comfortably in the field. Now this is where the "Zero" part of our cliché comes into play. Due to a mental lapse on the starting line with all the things that need to be done inside a nitrous car prior to staging Rob failed to arm the electrical system for the nitrous oxide. I am pretty sure it's something I have done myself and many others have as well. Unfortunately that was our last attempt to make the field for the race and we picked up Zero points for our efforts and slipped to 4th place in the point standings by the end of the day. We did jump over into the Pro Drag Radial class to get some more runs in and hoping for the $3000.00 payday. We qualified 2nd in a very short field but lost in the first round like we should have against the car and combination we were running against but you never know, you don't race on paper.
All in all it wasn't a bad month. The good thing is nothing got broke or scratched and we are planning our next outing this weekend with Braylon's Jr. Dragster at Maple Grove Raceway. Stop by the pit and see us or give one of our sponsors a call for their great products and services and tell them you saw their parts on our cars. Thanks for hanging in there and reading a month worth of updates. When one of us makes the big time I promise we will hire someone to get the news out quicker and with more feeling and emotion. Till then you are stuck with me! See you at the track!
Mar-Schan Motorsports - Springing Forward
It must be getting close to springtime because the grass that is visible along the edge of the melting snow is a muddy mess. A few more days, and inside the patio door, the kitchen floor will be a beautiful shade of mud. Can't wait!
Another sign of spring is the packed house at South Georgia Motorsports Park for this weekend's Lights Out V event. If watching the live feed doesn't help by wetting your appetite for racing then you have obviously inadvertently clicked on the wrong website!
It was warm enough to actually turn the heat off in the garage and open the doors while I put the recently freshened ATI Superglide back in position under the 48-year old floor of our Nova.
Thanks to JC and the gang down at ATI Performance Products it was quickly turned around, and even delivered close to home by one of their shop guys. While I was sliding around on my back it was a good time to inspect and clean the dirty side of the car including the suspension.
In the last couple of months I have had the opportunity to attend my first Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis. It was a far cry from attending PRI in the sunshine state in December but it was a great opportunity to meet new people and work on partnerships and relationships.
To be successful in racing and in life one needs to have a solid blend of both, and having a chance to see and meet the people that help you out from across the country always helps.
We are fortunate enough to have kept most of our racing partners and sponsors happy and they have acknowledged that we have their support again in 2014. I did attend trying to focus on growing our performance parts business and to that end I was successful as Mar-Schan Motorsports LLC is now an official dealer for Nickels Performance Warehouse.
Minimal changes are in order for our engine combination this season and it is out and at BMS Racing Engines for some inspection and updates. Bullet Racing Cams has tweaked the grind of our bump stick adding some lift and duration as required to be able to take advantage of the nitrous oxide we introduce to the combustion chamber.
The old grind was kind of a dual-purpose cam that would be good to cruise around in and still be fast. Well the "fast" of just a few years ago and the "fast" of today have a totally different meaning. With electronics and engine technology and tires like the Mickey Thompson ET Drag Radial Pro tire times have really changed. We still plan on starting the season in the 8.50 index class but maybe we will dabble in some X275 racing or True Street events.
The NHRA in Division 1, which we are a part of, has added three 8.50 index races to their National Open Series events this season in the North East. This will be a first for the division and we hope to put on a good show for the fans seeing it for the first time. The schedule includes adding the class to the Penske Truck Leasing Pennsylvania Dutch Classic at Maple Grove, which is an iconic event and we are stoked have an opportunity to be on the same stage as some of sportsman racing's best.
Speaking of NHRA, my stepson Braylon is a member of the NHRA Junior Drag Racing League and he is getting ready for his first full season in an 8.90 car of his own. He has been practicing in a junior dragster simulator, which is based on the cockpit and of an actual racecar. It's hooked up to a full size starting line "Christmas Tree" like the one that would signal the start of a race, and he is improving his reaction times because of it. Unfortunately it's set up in our modest living room and I want to apologize to my dogs for interrupting their favorite lines where they used to run laps. Oh and my wife and anyone who has wanted to walk around the cocktail table for the purpose of personal comfort.
We have Lucas Oil back on board with our car again for a third season and they are helping out with the lubricants that Bray needs on his car like their SAE 5W-20 Junior Dragster oil and Chain Lubricant. Several of our marketing partners have been able to cross over to both of our cars including NGK, Clark Industrial Supply, Boccella's Performance, DJ Safety, Mickey Thompson, and John Martin Painting. Maybe you see a spot or opportunity to add to your company's exposure on one or both of our cars.
One of the other changes you might notice in our pit is that the old motor home is gone and so is its fuel bill along with our old 26' trailer. A new 32' custom trailer will replace that with some creature comforts like air conditioning and a bathroom package. This will give us convenience of a pickup truck with a sizeable hauler that we can stay in.
If you are tired of hearing terms like Polar Vortex, suffer from cabin fever, all the while wondering how Hannah Montana became Miley Cyrus the "Wrecking Ball", then keep following along with us because in a little more than a month we will be racing at a track near you!
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