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AMBER ALERT - Missing: Confident Driver and Crew Chief
I hope these two are found soon. Their family wants them returned to the track, no questions asked. They were last seen at Cecil County Dragway on April 9th in the Winner's Circle standing with the Lucas Oil Racing TV junior dragster. "I just want them back so we can go rounds," said wife and mother, Jennifer.
In all seriousness the Mar-Schan Motorsports/Kuhn Racing team hasn't been in the tank, but we aren't setting the world on fire either. A round win here, a second round win there, and some first round losses, but more questions than answers.
One of the blessings of racing at Maple Grove is also a curse, the quality of the competition. There are no easy rounds and no one is a sitting duck either, but as the crew chief I don't think a GPS would help us find our way some days. I keep reminding myself this is supposed to be fun.
It's not a job, but the stress and frustration due to self-perceived underachievement sometimes get the best of all of us in our pit. Questions like should Braylon hit the practice tree instead of playing video games after school? Should he immerse himself in the written wisdom of Peter Biondo on how to "hold numbers?"
Maybe baseball was a better option as a summer sport. Ummmm...No! I keep trying to remember he is only 13 years old, but the taste of success, however sparse, has left us hungering for more and expecting it more often than not.
Since the last update at the end of April we have had four races finished and one rained out. On April 29th we lost in the second round and on April 30th we lost in the first round. If we can't win the race, which are typically five rounds long, we want to make it to at least the third round at each points event. This will keep Braylon in the top 5 or 6 in points.
I honestly don't remember how we lost at those events, but it was still better than being at work in all honesty. Win lose or draw it's always a privilege to see the pictures taken by the photographers to document the irreplaceable investment as a family we put into this sport.
After a rain out on May 13th we are brought to another "double" weekend at Maple Grove with a chance to climb the ladder on the 20th and 21st. On day 1 we weren't rock solid but we did manage to make it to round 3. We didn't win the war, but a small mental victory was had and we hoped to capitalize on that on Sunday.
Sunday dawned with clear skies and low wind for the first round of time runs. The track was on kill and with the low humidity and lack of wind we were a lot quicker than we wanted and were allowed to be. I decided to add a mere ten pounds to the car to get us closer to our 7.90 second legal time.
Conversations between runs centered on how nice the weather was, the sunshine and the good times had by the families who spent the night at the track. As we headed up to the staging lanes for our second time run the clouds had rolled in, the temperature dropped and we were staring a variable headwind in the face. In hindsight I definitely did not need to add that weight AND I should have made a carburetor jet change to compensate for the cooler temperatures albeit only four or five degrees.
As a result the car did not get up to the temperature it likes on the launch, and I am starting to figure out where the bottom of that range is unfortunately. The car hesitated. Braylon's reaction time suffered and our ET was questionable after the weight change, weather change and stumble on the start all hit us at once.
All this smacking you in the face as a driver or crew chief at once can wreak havoc on the fragile psyche of an already frustrated team. In true Maple Grove fashion for the first round we were paired up with Saturday's winner Killer KK Kershner. She strapped a .008 reaction time on us and it was over on the starting line in round 1.
Disappointment, frustration and questions all come to life in less than 8 seconds, but the reality of another race without a win lasts a little bit longer. We were sent packing early again, but I have no doubt we will get it figured out hopefully sooner than later. Fortunately it is a long season with some big races on the horizon. In less than a week we are back at Maple Grove for the Lucas Oil Regional Drag Racing Series and then another "double" points weekend right after that.
Usually in an hour or two, a hug, a pat on the back or high five in reassurance that everything will be ok from Jennifer and I snap out of it. Well sometimes anyway, but we all feel the desire to do better and make sure we can support those that believe in us week in a week out doing what we love to do.
We have the best of the best and we hope that our name and our reputation are as good as theirs someday. Don't worry, I am sure the missing driver and crew chief will reappear soon, till then say a prayer for Jennifer, on second thought even if we are found say a prayer for her anyway, she puts up with me.
See you at the track!
It Just Got Real!
After months of waiting, talking and planning the 2017 drag racing season is upon us here in the northeast after a relatively mild winter. The car has been wrapped, everything was polished, the tow vehicle and trailer were serviced, and we are ready to go! Braylon's first full season in Junior Dragster racing's quickest eighth mile class is now a reality. Braylon's expectations are high, the pressure is light and his game face is on! Our schedule includes approximately 30-35 different races in 5 different states if all goes as planned. Our season started in late March and we will run into November.
Our first day out was a test session at Cecil County on March 26th in preparation for the Mid Atlantic Junior Dragster Shootout that would take place two weeks later on the same fabled piece of asphalt and concrete. It was an unusually warm day for late March with a blustery spring wind but it felt good to be back on the track. Our goal was to find a way to slow the car down mechanically without adding as much ballast to the chassis. After making 6 passes trying various ideas I think we had a good baseline for the upcoming event and into the season. Thanks to some work by Jim Jacob in his machine shop a couple of days later some custom hardware was made and put into place on the billet Craw's Racing ZR-4 engine.
As planned the weekend of April 8-9 we again trekked down through Amish country to the County to enter 4 races in those two days. Braylon won the annual Turkey Day race just over 4 months ago on the same track so confidence was high. Unfortunately it's not always possible to just will yourself to the Winner's Circle so we had a rough start to the weekend on Saturday. It was one of those days with changing winds and temperatures and it was going to be a driver's race. At the end of the day we were snake bit in the three races entered. In the All Age Group Race we lost in the third round. In the Pro Dial Race, one of Braylon's historically better events, we lost in the second round and in the new 330' Bracket Race we lost in the very first round. Not a great first day of competition, but after some food, friends, fun and some sleep, Sunday dawned and the weather was much different. We stayed to enter the normal Cecil County points race and after 5 rounds of great driving Braylon came out on top and put the Lucas Oil Racing TV junior dragster in victory lane for the first time. It's always a good feeling to do that, but even better when we can bounce right back from a so-so day before, and it makes for a much better ride home!
The following week on the 15th we headed to Maple Grove for some testing at our home track where the competition is tough week in and week out and points are hard to come by. Braylon missed winning the 2016 championship by losing the third round of the last race and he ended up in the fourth place in points. That's how quick you can go down or up the ladder when points are tight and we wanted to get a jump on the season. We only made four runs, just enough to get some data, hit the tree, and get home in time to head out for dinner as a family.
April 22nd was the first scheduled race at The Grove and right off the bat it was the Summit Racing Junior Dragster Challenge, which is contested for a trophy known as a Wally. You will hear that mentioned several times this season because they are tough to win and highly sought after. The day started wet and ended wet just before noon when the race was cancelled and a reschedule would be necessary. We packed the trailer, locked it up and headed home in the family car with the rig poised to do battle on Sunday for the Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail ET Bracket Series Race #1.
Sunday was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine and 22 racers ready to mix it up on the track. We had a little hiccup on the first time run, then a little driver error on the second and we never really found our groove. Fortunately we escaped the first round, and as Braylon said it "I didn't deserve to win," but happiness was short lived. In the second round Braylon was a little too pumped to get a jump off the starting line and the old red light came on. Not a great start to the season but not terrible either. The good thing is the driver gave the crew chief feedback on each run about what went wrong and why. That is a positive sign showing that he is learning and connecting the dots not just pushing pedals and turning a wheel. Congrats to our neighbor and friend Benjamin Spotts and his family on the win!
I want to thank our friend Christina Ketterer for always taking great pictures of our Maple Grove racers and sharing them with us, and to Don Staib at Rising Sun Photographs for the use of some of the pictures here.
Thanks to Boccella's Performance, Lucas Oil, DJ Safety, NGK and Clark Industrial for the parts we need to make this possible. I also want to give a shout out to Craw's Racing for a great engine combination and technical support. Keep in mind if you are at the NHRA Four-Wide event in Charlotte, North Carolina this weekend don't forget to stop and see our friends at Right2Breath® for your free pulmonary screening. It might just change your life!
Next up for our team is Sunoco Race Fuels race #2 and #3 on April 29th and 30th at Maple Grove. We are hoping to gain some ground and move up some positions and try to stay in the top 5 for the season, but it's not going to be easy.
See you at the track!
Putting the Wraps on 2016 and Preparing for 2017
In the last three months we have had some good things happen as we prepare to hit the 660' again in 2017 with our new look Lucas Oil Racing TV, DJ Safety, Boccella's Performance NHRA junior dragster powered by Craw's Racing and NGK.
Before we start the season we had to officially put the wraps on 2016 at the 54th annual Maple Grove Awards Banquet on February 4th. Over 300 racers, families and sponsors were in attendance to watch the top point earners in each category cross the stage and accept their rewards. Congratulations to all the winners and champions in their respective classes. It was an honor to be there as a family to watch long time icons of the sport, Lex Dudas, Mike Lewis and Al Hanna take the stage to share memories and present awards.
Braylon received a plaque for his 4th place in points this past season and we hope to improve on that finish next season. That will be a tough order since every racer at Maple Grove has a shot at winning each race. Braylon was also nominated for the "Finish Line Magician" award for the best junior dragster finish line driver, as well as "Breakout Season" from which three drivers were nominated out of all classes. Unfortunately he didn't win either of the votes but it was surprising for Braylon to hear his name from the stage when the nominees were presented since we never told him about the voting. We still had a great night hanging out with good friends at such a well-run event. Now we know what to expect next year and hope to be invited again.
As most of you may know our team has enjoyed the support and awesome products from Lucas oil for several years now and after much persuasion they have entrusted us with responsibility of promoting their Lucas Oil Racing TV channel for 2017. Braylon's 2016 Mike Bos dragster that we raced the last few events last season and brought home two wins and a semi-final appearance, clad in basic black, now flies the awesome colors of the LORTV brand thanks to AwesomeRacecarWraps.com.
On a cold windy afternoon back in January I coordinated a photo shoot with Mark Tinari, one of the best in the business, and fortunately close to our home. We set up shop at Jacob Pattern Works on an old wooden floor with lots of character and with my father helping set things up; Mark came up with some great shots. We didn't do this just because we had spare time on a snowy Saturday, but we are always looking for ways to thank and promote the great companies that help us out. Here are a couple of my favorites. Which shot do you like the best?
One thing that I was shooting for, pun intended, was to have the car featured in National Dragster or the Jr Dragster Magazine. I lobbied both magazines and their editors but the best fit for them was in the "What's New" section of the NHRA Jr Dragster publication. As it ended up we got the lead in shot and for that I am grateful to Mark for his time, Jim Jacobs for his hospitality and the NHRA for the promotional opportunity.
We were proud to play a small part in the resurrection of Maddie Stephen's junior dragster that was heavily damaged in a tragic fire that claimed her home and left her father critically burned. In just a few months the car that was practically destroyed was brought back to life with two of our local racers Jarrod Kissinger and Ben Spotts leading the charge to find sponsors and doing the repairs at Ken's Kustom Chassis. Once the car was done it was unveiled for the first time in front of Maddie and her healing father at the Motorama in Harrisburg, Pa on February 18th. So glad to be a part of such a great racing community that helps others. We can't wait to see her in the new car at the track.
In just a little over a month the season will start with hopefully a test session in late March and the first race in early April and then its full steam ahead. Whether you are looking for performance, safety or getting your racing "fix" at home or on your mobile device please keep these companies that support racing and racers first on your contact list: Craw's Racing, DJ Safety, Lucas Oil Products, Lucas Oil Racing TV, Boccellas Performance, NGK, Clark Industrial Supply and remember you always have a Right2Breathe!
That's A Wrap - After an End of Season Roll
See you at the track!
After entering thirty races, being in eight final rounds, scoring two wins including a Wally, several semifinal appearances, and finishing 4th in points at Maple Grove Raceway, the 2016 NHRA Junior Dragster racing season has ended for Kuhn Racing.
What began back in April ended in early November with a trip to Victory Lane at the annual Turkey Day Race at Cecil County Dragway in Maryland. Getting ever more comfortable and gaining confidence in the new car Braylon snuck past four opponents to win the turkey, the trophy and give an interview. Speaking of wraps, at the end of the race the all black Mike Bos car was dropped off at Awesome Vinyl into the capable hands of Hank Smith to receive its new look for 2017. We can't wait to see it completed and we are very proud and thankful to receive increased support and recognition from one of biggest if not the biggest name in motorsports, but more on that later when Hank's work is complete, now back to the race.
Facing the reality of only one time shot due to cold weather and the early setting of the sun we guessed right and ran just .03 over our 7.90 index off the trailer. Making no changes the car ran very consistent. Even though Braylon wasn't chopping the tree down on the starting line we knew what the car was capable of and what it would run. With some finish line driving and the occasional holeshot we took home our third frozen bird in four years at this event. Ending the season with two wins and a semifinal appearance in the last three races we can't wait for next season to start to see what we can do in a full season of 7.90 racing.
I do know one thing and that is Braylon's confidence is growing at each race. One notable occasion that had me beaming was when we were discussing lane choice and the possibility of losing it.
At one time the loss of lane choice and doing something different would be the cause of a panic attack or slight meltdown deftly hidden by the helmet shield. On Sunday when faced with that scenario before one of the later rounds Braylon replied "I DON'T EVEN CARE" when I brought the subject up. He knows we have a great chassis from Mike Bos, a great engine combination from Craw's Racing that runs like a clock thanks for Lucas Oil and he is as safe as possible in an 83 mile per hour slingshot thanks to his DJ Safety gear.
As 2016 closes Jen, Braylon and I want to thank the aforementioned companies as well as Boccella's Performance who helps us out with our racing fuel needs, Clark Industrial who seems to have everything in stock for any project, and Bearing Tech Inc. who helped us in 2016 with reliable smooth ceramic bearings.
We also closed the season in a partnership with the non-profit Right2Breath organization and we hope to continue that and all these relationships in the future. We are always looking for new marketing partners that might benefit from our hard work, sportsmanship and clean operation. If you or your company has any thoughts or ideas let me know and we can discuss them at your convenience. We look forward to racing at Maple Grove again full time in 2017 and putting our skills to the test with some of the best racers the northeast! Till then...
See you at the track!
The Bucket List Is Shrinking, NHRA Wally In Hand
Henry Ward Beecher once declared, "October is nature's funeral month."
There might be a falling of leaves and temperatures around here, but there has also been the birth of Braylon's 7.90 junior drag racing program and an elevating of trophies and pulse rates. What a first couple of weeks we have had!
From having the opportunity to stand on the 2016 Mellow Yellow NHRA Drag Racing stage at a national event, to bringing home his first NHRA Summit Junior Drag Racing League Wally it's been a month to remember.
At the end of September into the first weekend of October our new car was on display at the Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway along with the other top 6 drivers in the Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail Points at seasons end. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and Braylon never got to make it down the track during the event, but he did get to meet some of his fellow DJ Safety sponsored drivers like Tom Fox Jr., John Hale, John Bojec and Scott Palmer. What a thrill to get ushered into their pits and transporters for pictures and words of advice and encouragement in life and racing. I am sure it's something he won't soon forget and we hope to have that privilege again next season.
Braylon had the opportunity to sign some of his hero cards for some young fans and we got to answer questions about the NHRA Junior Drag Racing program and the cars in general. Most onlookers wanted to know the cost to get started, the speeds and ETs attainable and where to buy one.
We also had the privilege of putting the decals on the car for our latest partner and nonprofit organization Right2Breath. Their mission is to provide education, awareness and inspiration of breathing-related conditions to those who are at a higher risk to be diagnosed or struggle with breathing related illness. It is also their goal to provide free COPD screenings at automotive events across the country like the ones being offered this coming weekend at the Hot Rod Reunion held at the Auto Club Famoso Raceway October 21st-23rd in California. If you are in the area stop out and see co-founders Joe Morrison and Tim Charlet as well as the respiratory and medical professional volunteers for your free evaluation.
We finally got back to racing a couple of weeks later at the same Maple Grove facility for their Last Hurrah event on October 15th and the Summit Racing Junior Drag Racing Challenge the following day on the 16th. With the new car and engine still relatively untested by us and not having any data for the weather conditions the whole weekend was going to be a shot in the dark, but fortunately it was close to home.
Braylon ended up qualified on Saturday in the number 3 position via his .010 reaction time and we had the breaks going for us in rounds one and two that were won on red lights against us. In the semi-finals that caught up with us as the proverbial 'live by the sword, die by the sword' bit us in the parachute as Braylon left the line two thousandths of a second too soon. At least we got some data and we covered the disappointment of once again not getting our first win at our home track by trying to convince ourselves it's all just practice for tomorrow.' Blah blah blah....
On Sunday the influx of out of town drivers was staggering as all were grasping for the opportunity to hold onto the bronze statue of Wally Parks, founder of the NHRA, at the end of the day. This is something that has eluded Braylon at all of the special events we have attended and in the two finals rounds he has been in, only to come up short.
In the first round we were fortunate again to get out alive when our opponent left a little too soon, but our car ran faster than it had all weekend and had us trying to decide if it was a fluke or the real deal. With Braylon calling the shots we decided to split the difference in our dial in time between the last pass and our history in the previous 8 runs of the weekend. Somehow we suddenly had a fast hot rod on our hands and our driver made us look like we had a clue by getting on and off the throttle for half the track and surgically tripping the finish line beams three thousandths of a second in our favor! Perennial Maple Grove junior dragster champion parent Mark Ketterer said "he drove like a champ," but there was more work to be done. The car was not happy most of the day and the crew chief was scratching his head and pacing more than usual.
In the final round Braylon was set to line up with a young racer from another track that he had a 0-2 losing record to in the last couple of seasons. We guessed that the car might repeat on the fast side again. Braylon had a new sudden confidence in his ability as a driver and he decided he wanted to test his skill on the starting line and the finish line with a heads up dial in. When the tree came down he held a decided advantage at the starting line and parlayed that to another throttle cable testing pedal fest down the final half of the track scrubbing ET and staying well above our dial in.
For the first time in 3 years the win light came on in our lane at our home track and for the first time Wally was coming home with us for winning the 12-13 year old age group! What a relief to get that monkey off all of our backs. We were glad we did it with so many of our racing family there who have shared our racing experiences with us and we were thankful for all the hugs and handshakes. It means a lot to all of us.
This is a sport where our children wear helmets and beat up on each other in opposite lanes of the track and we congratulate our friends even though it might have meant defeat for our child. In between races and rounds they are playing football or flipping water bottles, having practice tree races and playing video games, but when the tree drops the gloves are off and the learning begins. Some are students and some are the teachers each and every run. You are never too old to learn and that's what keeps us humble.
Thanks to everyone that has given us the chance to teach Braylon some life skills these last few seasons. We owe you: Lucas Oil Products, Boccella's Performance, DJ Safety, Clark Industrial Supply, Bearing Tech, Craw's Racing and Mark Tinari.
Oh yeah, we still have one or maybe two races left this season. Hang on!
See you at the track!
Preparing For the Future with Jr. Dragster 2.0
It's the end of the racing season for some and the points chases have wrapped up at most of the local tracks, but we aren't done yet because the next month or so will help set the tone for our racing future in the new car. After some promising testing at Maple Grove we headed to Cecil County the following weekend with our Craw's powered Mike Bos junior dragster, fueled by Boccella's Performance. We expect big things from this car but as with any change, I hate change by the way, it takes time to sort out the bugs and get used to the car as a driver. For instance, the new power and speed makes this car launch like a Saturn V rocket compared to the old one, which means the car's reaction time to the tree is now much quicker, so the driver's needs to react slower. The speeds at the finish line are much quicker so the split seconds needed to make decisions at the stripe as a 13-year old is now magnified, but I am confident that we will get it figured out.
Back to the Junior Bullet Nationals at Cecil County on September 10th and 11th where we battled ourselves and nature during the course of our 15 runs down the freshly scraped and prepped asphalt. Off the trailer on Saturday we ran a promising 7.901 on an index of 7.900. I walked away from the starting line shaking my head and smiling at the educated guesses we made based on our testing a week earlier. We started the weekend in the All Age Group Bracket Race and made a second round exit at the hands of a slower car. Next up was the 7.90 Index race which is heads up on a .500 Pro Tree. Normally we do pretty well in the index races, but Braylon was a little late on the tree and it was lights out even though we ran closer to the index. The third and final event of the day was the marquis $5000.00 to win Big Money Race. Not a bad payday! This time the red light ended our day, and the big check that I am sure Braylon had destined for his college fund, or a quad and some new LeBron's either one. Tomorrow would be another day and a shot at ONLY $2500.00.
The next morning we woke up and it felt like we were transported to Epping Dragway in New Hampshire overnight. We went from a high of 160 grains of water and a density altitude of approximately 2800 feet on Saturday to 77 grains of water and a DA of 1800 on Sunday morning. Not exactly mineshaft conditions, but the change had me adding 33 pounds of lead in places I didn't know were possible, to slow us down to an NHRA legal ET. Adding this much weight is an issue for the driver on the starting line, because now the car is slower off the line and reaction times suffer, so we were kind of chasing our tails but someone had to win, right?
After the time shots the day began with the National Junior Dragster Challenge race and the chance at the elusive gold man named Wally. Braylon skillfully navigated two rounds of racing driving both ends of the track like a surgeon, but his day was ended in the third round by a late reaction time. Racing wasn't over for the day because right after the Wally race was over we jumped right into first round of the money race to take home any leftover cash from the day before. We no quicker jumped in and we jumped right back out as Braylon, most likely trying to compensate for his slow reaction time earlier, was burned by a red light start again. If it was easy everyone would be doing it! Either way it wasn't a bad weekend, nothing was scratched, blown up, thrown up or harmed so that's always good!
Fast forward to the following weekend on September 18th where our crew headed off to Atco Raceway for the inaugural Craw's Racing Junior Dragster Shootout as well as their version of the National Junior Dragster Challenge Wally race. In the Craw's Shootout we lost first round but we "bought back in" to a loser's bracket, where a win would hopefully propel us back into the big race. We ended up just donating our money and were promptly knocked back down again. Not a good start to the day, but we still had the Wally race. This time we had a second round loss to the eventual winner who was taking names and numbers all day. Our day was officially over and after refreshing the abused crank case with 12 ounces of fresh Lucas Oil we packed up and headed out of New Jersey with our tails between our legs.
Unfortunately most of September was trial and error, test and tune. The end of September will be very special for us as we have been invited to the Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway by virtue of our placement in the point series at the very same track.
Our DJ Safety equipped dragster will be on display in the midway along with five of our teammate's cars for the 4-day event. The drivers are also scheduled to be making exhibition runs on Saturday and Sunday on the big stage and speaking of stages they will also be introduced prior to eliminations on Sunday, on stage during the driver introductions. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, but that's part of racing and we will make the best of what is thrown at us.
Stay tuned for some racing in October and November before we officially call it a season. See you at the track!
Chasing Points Till The Very End
Wow what a season our team had in our first real attempt at focusing on racing for a full season. I am very proud of Braylon for hanging in there with the highs and the lows we had and his growth as a driver and sportsman. We were within a round of winning the Maple Grove Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail Points series in the Junior Dragster category without even winning a race. This is a testament to our consistency and the great components from our partners and sponsors. Our consistent runner up status as discussed in our last blog entry has continued, although disappointing to not put some wins together, we went to our fifth final round in August and had two more bridesmaid trophies.
On August 6th Braylon found a way into the fifth and final round of the day at Maple Grove. We decided to test the night before the event and the car was not running right at all. Jen was ready to throw away the season, and I had some concerns, but a 9:30pm call to Fred Craw at Craw's Racing and a call back to our friend Jason Brinckman had us pointed in what seemed to be in the right direction. Race day was a good one as we made the most of our opportunities, but we lost the big trophy to another first time winner Richie Fluck. Congrats to you and your crew Richie! We ended the day picking up some valuable points and we were sitting in third place as we drove home.
The following weekend was the NHRA Division 1 (Divisional) at Mason Dixon Dragway on what was probably the hottest weekend of the season. While other local tracks were cancelling their weekend activities, hundreds of junior dragster racing kids and their families persevered in the face of stifling heat and humidity and the occasional crazy thunderstorm. Braylon entered the 12-13 year old age group class in the NHRA "Wally Race" and we decided to put the car in the 8.90 pro tree Index Race since that was the number we slowed down to due to the weather. Friday was a day of time runs before the rains came. We ended up going 5 rounds in each race and fought our way down to the last three cars in the age group race and settled begrudgingly for a semi-final finish, and in the Index Race we ended up with another runner up finish. Braylon was driving both ends of the track pretty well and hung tough through the sweat. We were still snake bit in another final but he took home some cash, Best Buy gift cards and a refrigerator pack of Mountain Dew. Congrats to Team Maple Grove for coming home with the team championship, by one point, over host, Mason Dixon.
We had a week off until the 28th when we headed to Maple Grove for the final points race with a mathematical chance to take the points championship. We started the day in third place 42 points out of first place or just four rounds of racing. We were 11 points out of second or just a little over a round. With five rounds of racing to win the final points event at Maple Grove and 10 bonus points for a win we still had chance to win it all. With the first place racer out in the first round and us with a win over another racer it was looking better. With the second place racer out in the second round and us with a win over the racer right behind us in points we were headed to the third round. If we win the round we earn a competition bye into the fourth round which would automatically take us to the fifth round finals. The points for the fourth round bye and the points for then staging in the fifth round finals would give Braylon the season championship. First we had to get by the brother of the racer in first place and whose sister we beat in the first round. Still following?? With one pass and a make or break deal, it was over when Bray was late on the tree and broke out trying to catch up. We ended the season in fourth place which shows just how tight the racing is at The Grove. We will take it. Our goal was to crack the top 10 and then we stepped that up to stay in the top 6 to have the honor of displaying our car and running in front of thousands at the NHRA Keystone Nationals in October. The shot at the season championship would have been icing on the cake, but with the help of DJ Safety, Boccellas Performance, Lucas Oil, Craws Racing and Precision Bearings we exceeded our expectations and we are honored to represent you all.
As September begins we have sold the KCS car and 8.90 combination that was Braylon's first car and we had a chance to make some test hits in our new Mike Bos Chassis Craft car motivated by a fresh Craw's Racing 7.90 bullet. With help again from Fred Craw, Chris Witkowski, Jason Brinckman and Mark Knarr we got it bolted up, solved some issues and are ready to head to Cecil County on the for the Mid-Atlantic Junior Dragster Challenge on the 10th and 11th. Off the trailer in testing the car ran 7.95 and 7.93 with Braylon cutting some real good lights and that thing rocking down track breathing fire and making lots of noise. We can't wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds and where this car takes us in the future.
I also want to thank the Lucas Oil family for already renewing their commitment to partner with us for the 2017 season. In five years of using their products in both race cars we have not experienced a lubricant related failure and our machines are always looking Slick Mist clean. Thank you guys!
We hope to have some other formal announcements in the future. Currently we are developing a plan to partner and help promote the non-profit awareness group Right2Breath at the Keystone Nationals, and hopefully beyond, as they also launch their Burnouts 4 Kids campaign focusing on making good choices and leading a drug and tobacco free life.
See you at the track!
If There Was Only A "Runner-Up Circle"
We would own that sphere of success!
At the end of the last update Braylon had the chance to stand in the Winner's Circle after coming up short to the winner of both days of our double-up weekend at Maple Grove.
The following weekend was just a single day race on July 9th again at Maple Grove for the Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail ET Bracket Race #10. We had a great day and grabbed some much needed points to catapult us up to the 3rd place position at the Grove. Braylon raced his heart out and finished the day with two perfect .000 lights in the semi-finals and in the finals but the excitement inside his helmet got a little too great when there was no opponent next to him as he approached the white stripe on the asphalt at the end of the 660'. With a certain win in his grasp as he clenched the aluminum butterfly style steering wheel our young driver was schooled in the fine art of taking just the right amount of stripe. It should have been game over at the starting line but Braylon didn't scrub enough speed or ET soon enough and we broke out with a quicker run than anticipated and. Kuhn Racing came home with the second place award again and the 3-foot trophy instead of the coveted 4-foot glistening piece of plastic and simulated marble. We were shattered but that is part of the learning curve and I can almost guarantee that won't happen again.
It wasn't a bad weekend and a great confidence builder heading into the biggest races of the season that would begin the following weekend in Bristol, Tennessee, the NHRA Eastern Conference Finals and Huddleston Performance Fun Races preceding it. Before we could leave and head south on Saturday we had the wedding of my sister Leah to attend. We loaded up the trailer, put on our Sunday best and headed to the ceremony. It was beautifully decorated and a well thought out venue that my mother and sisters did a great job of preparing and after a beverage and some family pictures I drove the next 7.5 hours in the remnants of a sweaty suit. I want to thank the Runion family for helping us set up camp when we finally arrived at the track at 1:15am. You guys are the best!
5 hours after finally laying our heads down it was time to get up and get things rolling for the Huddleston Performance Bracket Race on Sunday morning. I honestly don't remember much because it seems like so long ago, but my notes do say that we lost in the 2nd round of probably an 8-9 round race. We did a lot of spectating the rest of the day, but I was also putting into motion the final stages of the "BIG things to come down south" that I mentioned at the end of last month's update.
Monday was a test day on the track and we made four runs down through Thunder Valley trying to get used to the Christmas tree on the starting line that doesn't have a blocker on it to shield the opponent's lights from yours as the driver. We also made a few runs to see our friends from Craw's Racing down on the midway and laid eyes on some of the latest go fast toys from the various vendors. The crew from Craw's is always busy helping someone improve or repair their program even late into the night and we appreciate their support at these events.
Now back to the big surprise. If Braylon said the words Mike Bos once, he has said them a hundred times, and that was just in the month of June! For those that don't know, Mike Bos Chassis Craft was founded in 1983 and is within a stone's throw from the track in Bristol. They are well known for their bracket cars they have built over the years as well as Super Comp, Top Dragsters, Altered's, and Comp Eliminator cars, but now their bread and butter is building some of the coolest, most thought out and rolling eye candy in the form of Junior Dragsters. These hand crafted gems replicate some of the major components on today's Top Fuel Dragsters, these being the wings and the canopy over the cockpit. Braylon loved the look and reminded me of that for the last 365 days leading up to this year's event.
After talking to Jim in their shop a few weeks prior to the race I decided to move forward with turning them loose on building one that I thought my driver would like. With Jim and Mike Jr. in the shop bending, welding, sweating and bolting the pieces together, and Ben and Loren from DJ Safety getting us the critical safety components dropped shipped to the boys in Bluff City my attempt at Father Of The Year took shape. I had Braylon's name in vinyl lettering made up so they could put it on the canopy prior to it being seen, and after 48 hour of trying to avoid the Mike Bos display, Jim texted me to tell me that the car was complete and it was on site. After telling Jen that we needed to get Braylon down to the midway to look at something else, we drove by the Bos tent where a new car was now sitting front and center with the name Braylon prominently displayed in blue on the canopy.
Everything went perfect and Jen and Bray were equally surprised and some tears were shed for sure. Mr. Bos met the new driver and read the rules of the verbal contract that Braylon must abide by or the car would be coming back to him. No chores, bad grades, bad attitude etc. the car comes back to Bluff City. The hand shake sealed the deal and I have it on video as proof! Sorry Kid! Thanks to Fred Craw, Mike Bos, DJ Safety and American Express for making this possible. Here are a few pictures from that evening.
After all the dust settled down the car was taken back to their shop for safe keeping until our trip home. Tuesday we had a day off and we did some fishing with some friends. Wednesday it was back on the track for the Huddleston Performance Age Group Fun Race where we actually looked like we knew what we were doing until we were dispatched in the fourth round and left empty handed. We discussed the run on the way back to the pit to do our post-race maintenance routine.
Thank you Lucas Oil for the killer brake cleaner for the clutch and the specialized junior dragster oil that keeps us running. All these races are just a warm up for the main event. The race families travel hundreds of miles to participate in, where only the best of the best survive till the end. The Eastern Conference Finals!
Thursday over 600 drivers and crews took notes and made time runs down the tarmac to dial in their program for Friday's first round. Another time run was given on Friday morning prior to the elimination round later that afternoon. The ultimate goal is to be racing in the final round but the first hurdle is surviving Friday where half of the participants see their week end. If you are one of those you get to sleep and dream of standing in the Winner's Circle on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the Kuhn Racing Team we didn't make the cut this year, but we got to cheer on the other 18 drivers from Maple Grove that put it all on the line. After first round there were only 6 remaining, but Friday night all the kids hung out late and enjoyed the company of each other knowing they were all combatants in the same battle that week in Bristol, but all were having fun.
We said our good byes to the south with two cars in the trailer on the way home and set our sights on the following weekend at Maple Grove for races 11 and 12 of the 14 race schedule. On Saturday July 30th we made our normal two time runs and we were in the lanes for the first round when the rain came to end everyone's day.
On Sunday with weather threatening once again the decision was made to just allow one time shot and head right to eliminations. With valuable points on the line and Braylon still adjusting to "the tree" at the home track, he lit the red bulb in round one with a -.013 light. At the end of the day we slipped from 3rd to 5th with two of our closest competitors behind us both going to the finals. Congrats to Matt Witkowski for getting the job done and dominating the day!
We have two point races left at Maple Grove this month to see how everything shakes out and we have the NHRA Division 1 event at Mason Dixon in Maryland we are looking forward to as well. There is plenty of racing left but this will probably be the last month for the old car to be raced out of our camp, as we hope to debut the new car in September with the new Craw's 7.90 power plant pushing us down the track.
See you at the track!
Mar-Schan Motorsports - Kuhn Racing Seven Races Later and No Concert
I can't believe we've been through the month of June already since the last update and just a few days into July already. We hit the track seven times since then and Jen decided that she didn't want Braylon to miss out on a chance for a Wally so we ditched the spousal family time at a concert and we went to the track. Shocking I know! Seven events is a lot to cover and I know most people have better things to do than read a blog; like run a business, cut the grass or grill some burgers, so I will keep it short.
On Saturday June 4th we went to Numidia by accident. You see, I thought the Summit Junior Dragster Challenge event was scheduled for that day, but the night before, after everything was packed up, Jen looked at the schedule herself and told me it was the following weekend. I looked at the NHRA schedule on line but she looked at the actual track schedule and they were different. We elected to go up there and race anyway in preparation for the following week since we were packed. Braylon got down to the quarter finals and third round, but that's where our day ended up north.
The following Saturday we were back at Numidia again, but this time there was in fact a Wally on the line. Once again Wally went home with someone else. Braylon had a good day, but was stopped in the 4th round quarter finals, just one win short of some cash or hardware. It wouldn't be long though till he had another shot so we packed up and headed south to the house and prepared to head even further south in the morning to a new track for us, Mason Dixon Dragway in Maryland.
We charged off, two and a half hours through the wind on Sunday June 12th to Boonville, Maryland for another chance to bring the mini Wally Parks home with us. This was probably the shortest time we were ever at a track! From the time we unloaded till the time we reloaded was maybe a maximum of 75 minutes. At Mason Dixon they run the kids quick, round robin from the time runs to eliminations. We made our two time runs, got paired up with our first round opponent and were quickly dispatched when our blue slingshot couldn't "run the number" for some obscure reason. It was probably the wind gusts that can mess with a car this light. The highlight of the day was when our neighbor Danny Spotts, in his first year racing, picked up his first Wally and win in the youngest age group and his brother Ben got the runner up position in the middle age bracket. Congratulations to the Spotts family.
Back home at Maple Grove on Saturday the 18th we went a few rounds but once again that 3rd round quarter final pairing did not go our way and we were hung out to dry just before trophy time, but we did grab another 31 points to help us stay in the top 10 with the Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail race #7 looming on the horizon the following weekend.
The ups and downs of this sport are what keeps you humble and asking each other "where did that come from?"On Sunday the 26th Braylon had another rude awakening as he turned on the red light in the first round and BAM we were doing our ritual end of the day Lucas Oil change way too early.
I am going to jump into July to just cover the first two races and an all-important Double Points weekend at Maple Grove. On July 2nd and 3rd it was a beautiful weekend to race and be with our track friends and it's always nicer when it ends better than you had hoped. I would like for us to be able to win at least two rounds at each race. That means if there are 20-30 racers, which there typically are, there are less than 10 remaining if and when we lose but that keeps us in the top 10. Don't get me wrong, wins are great but super hard to come by at our home track with so many good older racers teams that push us. I was hoping to grab 60-70 points on the weekend, but we exceeded that and grabbed 94 if my math is correct. Here's how:
On Saturday the 2nd Braylon was having a good day going rounds until a -.014 in the third round on the tree, put the red light on, ending our day in the quarter finals again. I was still proud and happy to see the Craw's Racing powered dragster did not miss a beat as usual. Braylon wasn't too happy, but I told him we didn't scratch or break anything and that's always a good day at the track. Lock the doors; we will be back in the morning.
Sunday the 3rd we did our usual morning routine with tech inspection, Jen and Braylon cleaning the car and the tires, filling the fuel cell with VP M-1, and me checking the weather and computer data. We marched to the 5th and final round and after securing Braylon into the car with the awesome DJ Safety harness, Jen and I were on the starting line full of nervous anticipation. I can only image Braylon's thought process. Would he be able to block out the distractions. Will the possible realities of a defeat be swirling in his brain while trying to block out that he was racing yesterday's event winner. Just a month before he sat in this same position knowing that not too many of the younger racers can pull off the W at Maple Grove. We went "live" on social media with streaming video beginning in the staging lanes hoping to share our first win at the home track with as many as possible. In the end only one person can win. After holding our breath for 8 seconds just hoping to see that win light somehow come on in our lane at the end of the track, Jen and I found ourselves congratulating the Hoffman family as Katlynn Hoffman swept both of the weekend races. The young lady was on a mission with a string of .000 lights in qualifying both days and also in eliminations, it was going to be up to her to lose this one and she got the job done.
I want to thank Boccella's Performance for helping us out with our fuel needs for the race season, since all these runs add up. It's great to have these guys in our corner. Thanks to the Hoffmans and their team for letting Braylon in their Winner's Circle picture. Thanks to Fred Craw for providing us our bullet proof power plant we have run the last three seasons with never an issue and I am sure the Lucas Oil Junior Dragster Oil is a big part keeping it together and our chain for riding smoothly. The diesel tow vehicle now has a crank case full of the Lucas 15w40 diesel oil and stabilizer and Super Coolant in the radiator and is ready for the long tow to Bristol, Tennessee in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for BIG things to come down south!
Mar-Schan Motorsports - Kuhn Racing Points of Interest
May wasn’t a big month for Kuhn Racing but we did accomplish one of our goals for the season and that was to be in the top 10 in points at Maple Grove when the roster went in for the Eastern Conference Finals at Thunder Valley in Bristol, Tennessee.
At the beginning of the month we were in a tie for 7th place and the first race was rained out so that left us with a “Double” on the 14th and 15th. The points were going to be hard to come by because everyone wants to represent Team Maple Grove on Team #1, that being the Top 10 in points. In our first full season of racing we were on Team #2, which did awesome and last season we were down on Team #3 because of splitting the weekends with baseball and racing. This year baseball was put on hold to focus on racing and representing our sponsors.
Another perk to being on Team #1 is that Maple Grove pays the entry fee for these racers to the ECFs. Thank you Maple Grove for supporting the racers that support your track! I want to thank Clark Industrial Supply as well for helping us out with a new trailer brake controller earlier this month. The one that came in my truck just didn’t feel like it was working and when I put the Tekonsha Voyager controller in from Clark I almost went through the windshield as I dialed in the brake pressure. Thanks for keeping us safe guys!
On Saturday, the first day of the double, it was a beautiful day to be at the track. The sun was shining and it was a perfect spring day, but that’s where the good times ended. Our day ended in the first round with a -.008 red light start. That was reminiscent of the last race where we had a -.006 light to end the race day. We did get a couple of points to keep things interesting but we slipped to 10th position by the end of the day. Braylon had control of his own destiny on Sunday if he was going to keep up the pace and a first round exit would not do it.
On Sunday the weather did an about face and it was in the low 50s but felt like the mid-40s. No one could seem to get warm enough with the wind blowing across the track as well. Top that off with some sort of 12 hour deadly virus contracted by yours truly, it was not going to be a good day if we went home early, but it was one of those days where the breaks were in our favor.
In the first round we had a broken bye run, second round we had a competition bye, third round we were on the right side of a double breakout and in the fourth run our opponent turned on the red light in the other lane! You have to love those days and it seemed like in the fifth and final round somehow this would be our day and nothing could stop us from claiming the win and the four foot trophy that has eluded us so far in three years.
The problem was someone forgot to tell CJ Ketterer that he had homework to do and should have gone home or something. You see CJ had won all three previous points races at Maple Grove this season and has probably won 18-20 consecutive rounds but who’s counting. There was NO way he could win a fourth straight event, right? Wrong!
Both drivers had probably their worst lights of the day but that kept it interesting and the double breakout at the other end didn’t hurt either, but once again the win light came on in the other lane and we were snake bit. I told Braylon prior to the run that no matter what happens, today was a win and he could hold his head high.
Although he doesn’t take losing in any round lightly I think he knows that CJ is having a great year and he would just have to settle for the three foot trophy and the points for going five rounds.
At the end of the day we jumped up into a tie for third place in points and hopefully we can keep working and stay in the top 10. That would be a great achievement with all the great young racers and their families that we race against because anyone can win at any time, or at least runner up to CJ!
Next up in June are three Junior Dragster Challenge “Wally races” and two Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail points events at Maple Grove. We plan on making 4 of those 5 events if not all of them. The Crew Chief and the Chef/Safety Gear Checker/Dog Walker/Fist Bumping/Mother might attend a concert that coincides with one of the Wally races. It can’t all be about racing all the time can it? See you at the track…or the concert!
Mar-Schan Motorsports - Kuhn Racing is Back in Action
Mother Nature was finally on our side after washing out the first race on our schedule back in March, but what a difference a week makes. We went from cold, windy and snow flurries to the high 70's and sunny here in eastern Pennsylvania. We made good on our scheduling commitments the next two weeks at Maple Grove and we hit the Test & Tune on April 16th to get our feet wet again and then our Craw's powered dragster hit the Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail point's race 1 the following day and point's race 2 the following weekend on the 23rd.
Over the winter we once again freshened up our motor and clutch program with help from Craw's Racing in Mt. Laurel, NJ, installed ceramic bearings from Bearing Tech Inc., and freshened up the blue hue of the chassis with help from Van Industries in Birdsboro, Pa. Before we hit the track the crankcase was filled with 12 ounces of Lucas Oil and the fuel cell was filled with VP M1 courtesy of Boccella's Performance and I buckled Braylon up in all his DJ Safety gear so mom didn't have to worry. Now it was up to driver and crew chief to put down some numbers.
Our first pass in testing resulted in a slightly quick 8.85 on an 8.90 index. Crew Chief did some math, added 8lbs and we were rewarded with an 8.905 on the next run. Feeling on top of the world, and that this was like riding a bike, I watched the weather warm up prior to the third pass, which the motor liked, and we again run under the index but that was to be expected.
Sunday morning came around and we headed back up to The Grove for the real deal. No more testing, there were points on the line. The car was on point, the driver was still trying to find his spot on the tree, and in the first round we benefited from a broken bye run. We dialed an 8.92 and Braylon ran it out the back with an 8.915 showing on the scoreboard, right where we wanted to be. The ladder in the second round put us on a collision course with the 2014 Junior Dragster Money Trail Champion and we knew it would be a tough round. Braylon had to do his job on the tree and we needed to dial the car dead on. Unfortunately Braylon didn't have his best light of the weekend and had to run under the index to try and catch the other car and our day was done. The Kuhn Racing dragster still got further than half of the other 23 cars on the property so that is a small victory.
The following Saturday, still sunburned from the previous weekend, we again trekked the 14 miles back to the track for race #2. The morning started off wet and rainy, but by 9am the sun was starting to peak out and the track was dried and prepped by late morning. We had two qualifying attempts and neither time did the car do what I expected. There was a lot of moisture in the air so the car was a lot slower than I anticipated and it got worse as the day progressed instead of better, which I didn't expect either. To say we were firing on all cylinders would be a stretch.
In the first round we lined up with the champion from last season, there are no easy rounds at Maple Grove. Braylon was on his game on the starting line and the race was basically over at that point even though both cars ran several hundredths of a second above their dials. It wasn't pretty but it was a win. There were now 10 cars left in the lanes for round 2 and we were paired up with another older more experienced driver, but our driver left the starting line early by six-thousandths of a second. The driver in the other lane left early too, but Braylon did it first and the red light came on in our lane sending us home with another second round defeat.
We will take the points and the lessons learned and hopefully have our day soon. It's a long season and there will be many highs and lows to get through, but we will share the good and bad with you as we grow and learn. Thanks everyone for your support.
See you at the track!
Spring Has Sprung For Kuhn Racing
It's been a busy couple of months here at the house, shoveling the occasional snow fall and me spending the better part of four weeks working out of town, but it's warming up nicely, the windows are open and I pulled the Junior Dragster out of the trailer for some work today.
In another month or so we will be racing once again with a fresh bullet behind the driver, all nice and fresh from Craw's Racing.
Back in January we were hard at work getting the car ready once again for the Pioneer Pole Buildings Motorsports Racecar and Trade Show outside of Philadelphia, for display in the DJ Safety booth. I stripped the car down to the bare frame and the guys from VAN Industries in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania did a great job of giving us a fresh Candy Blue powder coat. They also put their sterling silver high heat coating on the header pipe. I am trying to get rid of all the zip ties holding the cables and wires to the frame so a call was made to a custom motorcycle shop to provide us with a bunch of polished clutch and brake cable brackets for that clean look.
While the whole car was stripped and the parts polished before I put them back on I made a call to Terry Davidson at Bearing Tech/Precision Bearings in Newberg, Oregon and I am happy to say that they are our newest marketing partner.
Terry saw the value of our program and helped us with a set of ceramic axle bearings that should end any issues with the run of the mill steel versions.
Their bearings are assembled in their shop in the USA, using only high quality parts. They don't use or sell any Chinese bearings or parts, and if they can't guarantee it they won't sell it!
Bearing Tech's custom ceramic bearings applications include motorcycles, snowmobiles, karts, quarter midgets, sprint cars, and legend cars just to name a few. Applications include: wheels, hubs, axles, bird cages, crankshafts, clutches, transmissions and engines both 2 and 4 stroke. Give them a call if you are serious about reliable, friction reducing bearings.
To add some more bling to the car I added neon strip lights under the frame in in the driver's area for that occasional photo opportunity to help make Braylon's ride stand out even more. It was reassembled on the eve of one of the worst snows storms in the area in years but I got it down to the venue. Getting it home four days later would be more of a challenge. With the help and use of the trailer from my good buddy John Martin from Martin Painting I managed to get it home but it wasn't fun. All in all we had a great weekend again visiting with our friends and partners Loren Hill and Ben Conant from DJ Safety and we want to thank them for the opportunity to showcase our supporters on another stage.
As most of you know I won't be racing this season in my car and because of that we will not have the support this year of the great folks at Mickey Thompson for the first time in almost a decade. I want to thank Carl Robinson for giving us a shot many years ago and Tommy Kundrik for keeping my car in the groove with the best tires on the planet all these years!
Thanks to all the companies that helped with my combination over the years that don't cross over to the junior market: ATI, Quick Fuel, NGK, Smith Brothers, Induction Solutions, BMS Racing Engines, M&M Competition Engines, Total Seal, Moroso, Jesel, and Aeromotive. Eventually I hope to be calling on you all soon with a new combination.
We anxiously await the start of 2016 with a lot of racing scheduled and a greater focus on the points at our home track Maple Grove. Braylon is still looking for that first Wally and maybe this will be the year, but our first challenge will be changing engine combinations a month or two into the season as he turns 13 and is eligible for the 7.90 class.
We look forward to taking that jump with the help of Craw's Racing, Boccella's Performance, Martin Painting, Bearing Tech, Clark Industrial Supply, DJ Safety, and Lucas Oil. What else could we need behind us with that team and of course mother and wife Jennifer to help with the between round maintenance and grill duties!
See you at the track and go blue!
Time For A Change
Just over a month ago I was headed to the PRI show in Indianapolis for the first time in many years without much of a direction or a plan for myself. I knew that Braylon's junior dragster program would still remain strong in 2016, but after 11 seasons with a very similar engine combination I had put the engine out of the Chevy II up for sale. I wasn't planning on any over the top marketing or making any promises or predictions about the future of the 8.50 Index machine. There are always plenty of friends and supporters of our program on hand at their respective booths and it's always nice to speak to them face to face and thank them for their support. It was one of the biggest shows and foot traffic was record breaking for the weekend and the motorsports business is looking strong for the future. That's good news for all of us.
At the show Braylon had his picture on the side of the DJ Safety booth and also his custom T-shirt design on the informational flyer from Classic Ink USA being handed out at their spot. I am glad he is getting to see that his work is paying off maybe he will realize that he has some special friends and the doors open to him if he keeps it up.
As it turns out my engine did sell in the last week and now it's time to plan for the future. I am doing some research on which way I want to go for motivation. It will need to be adaptable for my needs and possibly Braylon's in the future. I might go with the tried and true big block Chevrolet or possibly with an LS platform and we will most likely use nitrous oxide as a power adder just to keep it interesting. There are a couple of updates that I would also like to do with the car, that being a new strut front end and maybe some new floors, but time will tell. The research has already begun.
Prior to leaving for PRI we had already received a letter of renewed support from the great folks at Lucas Oil for the upcoming season even with the looming possibility that it would be a one car team. The good thing is that I will be able to focus more time with Braylon and watching him grow as a driver and sportsman. It should be an interesting season for sure as mid-year he will be able to step up to the faster 7.90 class.
We have a fresh motor back from Craw's Racing already, and Van Industries has helped us look our best with a fresh layer of Candy Blue powder coating. All the parts are polished and ready to put back together in advance of the Pioneer Pole Buildings Motorsports Racecar and Trade Show just outside of Philadelphia in a couple of weeks. The dragster will once again be in the DJ Safety booth on display as a showcase for their great safety gear for all ages, racing classes and sanctioning bodies. Some of the fastest racers on the planet rely on DJ gear to keep them safe so we know it's the best out there.
The big car will be back out and it will be better than ever but it won't be in 2016 so be patient. I think I have called many of you already, but thanks again to everyone that provided their time, knowledge and finances into that old program. It's been a learning experience in more ways than one and hopefully we can keep the doors open for future possibilities as we work on the next generation, which is what needs to be done to keep the sport growing. As always the updates will keep on coming so stay tuned because spring is right around the corner.
See you at the track!
No Rest for the Weary
Not too long ago we left Beaver Springs with an age group runner-up finish at the Beaver Blast, and it was the end of a busy but bitter sweet weekend for the Kuhn Racing Junior Dragster and driver Braylon. Baseball was finishing up and basketball would be starting soon as the leaves started to fall in the northeast but there was still one race left on the schedule, the annual Turkey Day Race at Cecil County Dragway. This is the race that two years ago Braylon got his first trophy with a runner up finish in the overall age group category and last year he won the whole event for the first win of his career. He started this season with a win at Cecil County and bookending the season with another win here would be perfect, not to mention another free turkey for the freezer to add to our collection of preserved poultry.
It was a beautiful day with the air temperatures starting out in the high 30's and rising to the low 50's. Just what our car seems to like. Cool dry air is just what the doctor prescribes for consistent ETs coming out of the business end of our Craw's Racing engine. For the first time run we were a little bit too fast to legally run in our age group. After adding some weight in the tank behind our Mickey Thompson slicks we hoped for an ET we could work with in eliminations in our second time shot. At The County they keep things moving in the junior program and the track was prepped to perfection for the up and coming racers of tomorrow.
Braylon had a great .009 reaction time on the second time run and then another in eliminations surrounded by a .045 and .047. Those weren't stellar but they were good enough to get some round wins. The car was repeating to the thousandth of a second all the way out to the 330' mark and then it was up to the driver to do what he had to do to get the win and even at the finish line, 660' later, we were still running dead on when it had to. At the end of the day, a whopping 90 minutes and 5 passes later, Braylon had won the 8-12 year old age group and lost in what was the semi-final for the overall title to our good friend Gabrielle Walleigh who had a great .002 light against us and was .000 in the finals to take the win. Great job Gabby!
Bray had a tougher time digesting the loss than he would the turkey from the 2013 event that is still on display next to the ice cream sandwiches in the former nitrous bottle chiller in the garage. He did walk away with some hardware for the younger age group win which helped lessen the sting of the loss.
This was a long season and we would like to thank our 2015 Junior Dragster Sponsors, Boccella's Performance, Lucas Oil, Craw's Racing, NGK, and DJ Safety. We also want to thank the guys that we know are there for us when needed like Martin Painting, J&B Motorsports, Clark Industrial Supply, VAN Industries and Mickey Thompson Tires. All these companies help us with both cars. Without your great products and support we couldn't have raced all season without any issues or breakage.
Braylon raced in 30 different events compiling the following record:
In 2016 we hope to make the numbers at the top of the record decrease and the ones at the bottom increase but as we move up in age we also move up in the skill level as well and we hope to be ready for the challenge.
- 1st round loss- 11
- 2nd round loss- 7
- 3rd round loss- 4
- 4th round loss- 2
- Semi-final loss- 2
- Runner Up- 2
- Win- 2
As for the 8.50 index Chevy II sitting in the shop we might be making some changes to it and next season is undecided. After 11 races with 3 first round losses, 3 second round losses, 3 semi-final losses, 1 DNQ and 1 loss by breakage, the motor is currently up for sale. If it doesn't sell we will be back at it with an increased index program at Maple Grove and the always top shelf racing at the Cecil County Street Car Shootout. If it does sell then we will most likely concentrate on Braylon's racing as he has already made a verbal commitment to forego spring baseball to make a run at the Top 10 in points at Maple Grove for 2016.
Right now the focus is on the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis that is fast approaching and to thank our marketing partners and possibly help increase their market share with the junior program next season. I hope to see all of you there.
Added to the list above that help both Braylon and I, I also want to thank the companies that helped support the big car in 2015 including ATI, Total Seal, BMS Racing Engines, Jesel and Alternate Construction Concepts. There is NO way we could be chasing the thrill of victory and be humbled by the agony of defeat without your help and belief in our programs. Thank you again and we will see you at the track!
All the best,
Marc and Braylon
Leave It To Beaver To Upset A Kuhn Racing
Beavers and 'coons have a few common traits. Both are nocturnal for the most part, provide fur for traders, and both can be nuisance animals depending on where you live or for the damage that they can cause. But for two days in October the Kuhn and Beaver Bob of racing lore were none of the above.
Braylon Kuhn and Beaver Bob of Beaver Springs Dragway got along harmoniously at times and the only time the Kuhn was a nuisance was when he was dispatching drivers in the opposite lane in competition, or when he took off on the golf cart and left us standing at the Ice Cream Social, but that's another story.
On October 10th and 11th Beaver Springs hosted the annual Beaver Blast for drivers under the age of 18 and their Junior Dragsters. A few older drivers got to participate in some other on track activities as well to keep them thawed out up on the mountain. This isn't just another ho hum junior race, but it's an event at a track that does things that no other do. Take for example two days of ATV bracket racing, the Teen Challenge Race where younger unlicensed drivers can bracket race their parent's vehicles with them riding along, the Pit Vehicle Race, the Hot Dog Race, and finally the Mom's in Juniors Race. All this crammed into two days along with the Little Beaver Race, All Ages Race, Beaver Bonanza Race and the Age Group Race, and most of it got done at a decent time on Sunday.
We left on Friday night and after a 4-hour drive in rush hour traffic and a rogue Tsunami that inundated the hamlet of Birdsboro as we drove through we finally made it where we were greeted at the gate by the Best Looking Crew of the event, the Kissinger family who escorted us to our not so reserved parking spot for the weekend. It was perfectly level with fresh cut grass and a trash can nearby. What more could you ask for? We unpacked, set up our pit and sleeping quarters, engaged in some light conversation and beverages and slipped into sleeping bags for the night and dreamt of the victories that would be had over the next 48 hours.
Saturday morning the air was crisp but warmed quickly and after a brief drivers meeting we got called to the lanes of this nostalgic venue for our first time run down the asphalt laid out between the strips of golf course quality greenery on either side. First up was the Beaver Bonanza, which was going to pay $1,500 of cold hard cash to the winner of the all ages event. With approximately 90 cars in attendance it would take 7 rounds of competition before the winner was declared. Unfortunately Kuhn only caused a slight disturbance for 2 rounds before being sent back to his den in the 3rd.
We don't currently have an ATV to race, and I don't see one in the near future being stored here at the house either, sorry Bray, and he isn't old enough to drive in TCR competition, so we had to wait till the Pit Vehicle Race later in the evening. After re-enabling the previously bypassed governor in the ol' Club Car, and a driving test on the return roads Braylon donned the helmet once again as Jen road shotgun. After winning 2 rounds of barn burning action being warmed and protected in DJ Safety's finest apparel, the two didn't make the cut into the "finals" by possessing any of the top eight reaction times from the previous round. Once again we had an upset Kuhn on the premises, but everyone was too cold to care and it was time to catch a breath for Sunday.
Sunday was going to be a big day. We started off by getting a time run prior to eliminations in the Age Group Race of which Braylon was running in the 10-12 year old division. After the second round of this race the All Ages Race was going to take place, but before that the Moms in Juniors spectacle was slated to begin, and Jen, who has never driven anything quicker than a battery powered mobility assisting grocery shopping cart on a dare back in '93, was not so eager to jump in. We convinced her that it would be a great learning experience, and she could keep all the winnings. Most of Braylon's gear fit her like a glove except for the helmet but mine “smelled like sweat” so on his went. We tried to prep her for all of the potential issues but when it came to the finesse of the burnout Braylon and I were a little worried. She didn't do too bad for a rookie and launched the car with a reaction time that had me wondering if she could pass for Bray the rest of the day. Slightly nervous and lifting early before the finish line we were rewarded with a time slip that would almost allow her in the passing lane of the turnpike at rush hour. In the first round of eliminations she was mesmerized by all the lights on the tree and her reaction time suffered but she did run it out the back at over 70mph in a losing effort but we were both proud of her for being a team player and not wrecking the car.
Braylon jumped back in his car and won the first two round of the 10-12 year old bracket and then won the first round of the All Ages race in between the other runs, but lost in the second round of that one. The big focus was on the winning the Age Group Race and then getting the chance to race for an Ironman against all the other age group winners. He won 3rd round and then the 4th and we were headed to the finals with Craw's power behind us. The sun was setting quickly and we were called back to the lanes in short order as well. We were on a roll and we wanted to get this done, but as the sun set unbeknownst to me, due to the rush to the lanes, the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the humidity rose 10% between the semi finals and the finals. Although the two cars left the line within .001 of each other, this missed observation on my part led to a poor dial in and not being able to run the number. The Beaver beat Kuhn and he wasn't happy. We left another win on the table, but we put another paragraph in the lessons learned book for next time.
All in all it was a fun time. Thankfully we had plenty of VP M-1 from Boccella's Performance because the car went down the track 15 times in two days: 2 with Jen at the wheel, 3 in qualifying and 10 in elimination rounds. It was certainly busy and entertaining and there were a lot of laughs and some tears, but that's racing. When you win it's good and when you lose it's still better than playing basketball, but hey that's just my opinion.
The season is coming to an end but I think we can get Braylon back on track a couple of times yet and I am pretty sure I am done for the year in the Nova. Thanks again to everyone that has helped us on a weekly basis with the Junior, we couldn't do it without you: Boccellas, Craw's Racing, DJ Safety, Lucas Oil, Mickey Thompson, and NGK
See you at the track!
You Can't Win If You Don't Try
Yesterday was the first day of fall, but there is still plenty of racing left. Since the last update in mid-August we have both been to several events, but unfortunately neither of us has stood in the Winner's Circle, Braylon came the closest though on August 22nd. You can't blame us for not trying though.
We went to Maple Grove for a Junior Dragster Sunoco Race Fuels Shootout and the kid was on fire. The lanes were packed and it took five rounds to decide a winner. Less than a hand full of drivers younger than 13 have taken home a win at Maple Grove in the last five years. Could this be the day to add the name Braylon to the list? We were paired up with our good buddy and neighbor and reason why we are racing, Benjamin Spotts.
Ben has been on a tear lately and was the 2014 NHRA Eastern Conference Finals Runner Up in Bristol last year in the 12-year old class. These two usually get pretty pumped to race each other, even on a test and tune night but Ben was the most pumped when the tree dropped and cruised to victory. Braylon took home his biggest trophy to date, but he honestly didn't even want to go get it. The kid wants to win and there will be more chances to come. We got home and played car swap again and loaded up the big car for the following day.
On Sunday the 23rd I took the recently polished and touched up, thanks to John Martin, Nova back to Maple Grove to roll the Mickey Thompson Tires not into the staging beams but into the car show at the Glory Days Nostalgia event. Not only was there great racing from cars built pre-1980 but the car show in which the top 25 cars as chosen by the judges would be paraded in front of the crowd at the upcoming NHRA Keystone Nationals at the same venue.
What a privilege that would be and a great chance for exposure for our great marketing partners. As soon as I was pulling into the track and saw the hardware driving through the gate in front of me I knew I should have stayed in bed. The paddock was filled with some great examples of nostalgia and I took the chance to enjoy the day and mingle with the owners of these beautiful automobiles. There is no parade for us but we had to take a shot.
On August 29th we raced at The Rumble at the Grove, which featured the Northeast Outlaw Pro Mod group plus Index racers, at of course, Maple Grove. I was sent packing in the first round, but fortunately we had Braylon's car there and we had high hopes for him since he had been doing well at his home track recently. He went one round further than me against the always-tough MG Junior Dragster racers and after the second round we were packing it up and headed home.
The following weekend from September 3rd to the 6th I took the almost half century old Chevy II out to Cecil County to a little race called the Yellow Bullet Nationals. Just like every year, this event packs in the fans and the cars. Fortunately the Friday night qualifying session put us in the number 10 spot out of 60+ cars trying to make the 32 car field, but with two qualifiers left we were sure to slip back fast if we didn't tune it up.
The weather didn't cooperate with us and the high humidity coupled with the heat meant we were going to be underpowered. The former #10 position time of 8.522 slipped all the way back to #27 before Saturday's qualifying for the big show was over, but we were happy to make the show. The bump spot was an unbelievable 8.530! 32 cars were separated by just three hundredths of a second! NHRA Pro Stock, eat your heart out!
On Sunday morning we were the first class to race in the Pro session and suddenly the weather was back in our favor and we knew it would be quick, but I didn't think that it would be an 8.47 breakout kind of quick but it was. Shaking my head after taking too much stripe and fogging up my shield talking to myself wouldn't change the outcome.
The $7,500 paid to the winner was not coming home to Douglassville. Braylon already had that money counted and wisely, in his thinking, invested in a new Junior Dragster. He was not a happy camper! We didn't scratch that paint, blow the motor, or have anything stolen from our pit so I consider that a win on many levels.
The following weekend we were once again back at Cecil County fighting the weather, this time with Braylon's car at the Mid Atlantic Junior Dragster Shootout. What was supposed to be two days of racing with as many as 4 or 5 races for him to enter was cut down to only two events. On Saturday we lost in the first round in the Age Group Race to an equally sleepy driver in the other lane, but fortunately for her she left before the car behind her was pushing her out of the way unlike Braylon. Shortly after that the rains rolled in and rain it did! We had a great day, albeit long, with our junior racing families and had some great food and conversation.
Sunday morning the sun was up and it was time to line the car up for a chance at another Wally. The car was deadly on both days but the driver was struggling a little bit to find his spot on the starting line. I can relate to that so I could feel his frustration as most racers can at one time or another. The Craw's powered dragster got put on the trailer in the second round and we made the quickest exit from a race possible to make it home to one of his weekend fall baseball games later that afternoon. There is always something to-do.
On September 19th the Chevy II was full of fuel and nitrous from Boccella's Performance and it was off to Maple Grove again for the last 8.50 Index race there for the season. We qualified in the number 3 spot out of only 6 entries, but in the second round on another hot humid day we faced our opponent from the Yellow Bullet race looking for redemption. Since it was almost fall I was hoping for better performance with cooler weather but for some reason Mother Nature didn't see me close the pool up and send a cold front to our rescue. The only way to win was to take a shot at the tree and get an early lead. I took a big swing and left way before the green, but I had seen it work on TV so why not now? At least we were close to home and patio therapy was less than 30minutes away so I made tracks to get home, unload Big Blue and load up Little Blue for the following day.
On a blustery Sunday, September 20th we took Braylon's car to Atco Dragway for the Summit Racing Junior Dragster Challenge and ANOTHER chance to win a statue of a little man. The car was running good and despite the wind pushing it around we had some consistency. In the 8-12 age groups I think there were about 13 cars and the first round bye run was had by a younger racer who threw a .008 light on the board in the final qualifying session.
Braylon got past the first round and it was on to the second where we faced a younger, less experienced driver with a lower powered motor that is more susceptible to the wind and weather. Not looking past the round at all, but maybe taking a little peak, I felt confident in our car and driver. Unknown to me was that in the lane next to us was the same young reaction time wizard who had the bye run earlier. He promptly slapped a.009 light on Braylon and ended up late on the tree, but then again most would be late compared to the little man that got the win light.
There are still some races to go and we have been tearing through some Lucas Oil, but seat time is as important as batting practice right now and we hope to get as much as we can before the snow flies.
The next race will be in early October for Braylon and I hope to be able to write about some more final round appearances next time. I want to thank all the photographers who have contributed to the web sites and tagged me in photos on Facebook that I could use for this and all of my write-ups.
See you at the track!
No Additional at the Divisional
Trophies that is! Braylon is pretty good at math so one might think that something called a "Divisional" might be a welcomed event for him. Last year at the NHRA Division 1 Junior Dragster Challenge he added some hardware to his collection and some pesos in his wallet, but this year it seemed like our problems multiplied. Let's back up a week or so first.
One week after getting back from Bristol my Boccella's Performance, BMS Racing Engine, and ATI Transmission mated 66 Nova was in action at the monthly Cecil County Streetcar Shootout on August 1st. In qualifying we uncharacteristically spun the tires on the launch. It could have been the 120-degree track temperatures or the new Mickey Thompson drag radials that I didn't somehow prep properly, but my vote is that I didn't tune for the track conditions. On the second qualifier we ran an 8.578, which was good enough for 22nd spot on the 32-car ladder.
In the first round we left the tree quicker than I could eat a Hot Pocket after a weeklong fast and got an easy win light. In the second round we faced Mike Good, I wish my last name was that cool, and fortunately my reaction times have been getting quicker, and I kept it close on the tree. Mike had a .013 advantage on the starting line and his 8.540 beat my 8.533. The margin of victory was .0065 at the stripe in his favor AGAIN, but it was a fun race to watch from my seat and it was time to pack up, get home before the neighbors fall asleep and switch cars in the trailer to the Mini Me Mobile for the following day at Maple Grove.
We made some changes to our Craws powered, DJ Safety protected junior dragster immediately after the Eastern Conference Finals, and we were trying to add to the point column under Braylon's name on the 2nd at his home track. Unfortunately we had a first round exit at the hands of a driver in her last season of racing, but worse than that Braylon's reaction times weren't there. Hey I know that feeling! Not thinking anything of it at the time, we did the weekly maintenance and headed to Numidia Dragway for the NHRA Divisional on the 7th & 8th.
At Numidia we entered the Gambler's Race on the first day and the actual NHRA Divisional and the High Rollers race on the second day. Braylon was still having trouble hitting the tree and with the help of some friends like Keith Paylor, Jason Brinckman, Dave Coleman and Al Kubicke I got schooled numerous times on the intricacies of the Shockwave Overdrive Clutch as we tried to "bring the car to him." Finally after the 4th adjustment his lights seemed to be coming around a bit. After losing first round in the Gamblers Race, the second round in the NHRA event, a third round loss in the High Rollers race was promising. I am hoping after this weekend of much needed rest for all of us and both cars he is fresh and on his game at the next points race at Maple Grove on the 22nd.
Congratulations to Maple Grove teammate Kelsey Brinckman on winning the NHRA Division 1 10-11 year old age group. After this little break we have a total of 7 events in the next 5 weekends including 4 with the junior and 3 with mine. In that stretch Braylon will enter as many as 7 or 8 different races within his events. So far he has pulled 21 tech cards and I have pulled 9. Mar-Schan Motorsports and Kuhn Racing is out at the track trying to get it done week in and week out for our sponsors and marketing partners and I hope it's making a difference.
Now I just need to get Lucas Oil to come up with a lubricant for a 47-year old spine!
See you at the track. I will be the guy hunched over eating a Hot Pocket!
2015 Racing Index and Jr. Dragster Updates
Where Did Time Go?
For those that aren't on social media, namely Facebook, you might think that we disappeared after PRI back in December. It has been a while since I have put anything new on the website or any sort of emailed correspondence in the way of a formal update. I apologize for the lack of wintertime website updates as well. Rest assured we have been busy getting the cars ready for the 2015 season and updating our Facebook pages, www.facebook.com/MarSchanMotorsports and www.facebook.com/braylonkuhnracing to keep our friends and followers informed on our status. I also starting doing freelance writing for an online publication called Engine Labs, which can be found at www.enginelabs.com. That has taken a bunch of my writing time and to date I have written six articles for the site since late last year. This gives me a chance to keep an eye out for emerging trends in the performance industry and gain some technical knowledge as well outside my little arena of racing.
We ran a "Marketing Partner Monday" from January through early April on our pages to help promote our great partners, some old and some new who help keep us on track. We featured Clark Industrial Supply, Jesel Valvetrain, NGK Spark Plugs, Boccellas Performance, BMS Racing Engines, Quick Fuel Technology, Lucas Oil, Total Seal, Mickey Thompson Tires, and DJ Safety. We welcomed back GRP Connecting Rods and thanked Craws Racing for coming on board to help with Braylon's engine program and highlighted the work Kens Kustom Chassis and Van Industries did for us also on Braylon's car. All this reached thousands of news feeds around the country and has continued to keep these company names on people's minds.
We were honored to have the Kuhn Racing Junior Dragster on display for three days at the Pioneer Pole Buildings Motorsports Expo in the DJ Safety booth. The car was well received by the predominately circle track community on hand and Braylon was on hand all three days handing out Hero Cards and answering questions. It was great to see him interact with strangers about one of his hobbies. We also won a T-shirt package from Classic Ink USA that will provide us with 36 shirts with a picture of his car on the front that we can use as promotional items this season.
My 66 Chevy II has undergone a couple of updates as well over the winter to make us more competitive in the tough 8.50 Index class. ATI Performance Products was the first stop for a freshen up of our bulletproof High Impact Powerglide transmission and the installation of one of their newest products the lightweight Wicked Quick valvebody to help us on the starting line with our reaction times. The transmission is useless if the motor isn't up to the task and with the help of Josh and Vince from BMS Racing Engines we put new bearings, Total Seal rings, a fresh cylinder hone and new GRP connecting rods inside the block to restore it's power to competitive levels.
Since it is late April we have already had both cars out in competition. We took both cars to Cecil County Dragway on April 11th and 12th for some racing and testing. Braylon competed in the Mid-Atlantic Junior Dragster Challenge by entering the Age Group Race, the All Ages Race, the Pro Dial Class on Saturday and the Cecil County points race on Sunday. He lost first round in one event, the second round in two others, but he came home with the win in the Pro Dial Class, by covering the 1/8th mile with killer consistency and times of 8.94, 8.94, 8.95 and 8.94. In one of the earlier races he had a .003 reaction time and ran dead on his dial with an 8.900. The car was running great and he picked up where he left off last year at Cecil County, with a win! Congrats Bray!
The same weekend I made a few test runs in my car in anticipation of the NHRA PC Richard.com National Open Series at Atco Dragway in New Jersey. Testing went well and I rolled into Atco on Thursday morning April 16th to park the trailer for the weekend. Friday morning was spent waiting for the rain to end and the track to be prepped for two killer days of racing on a national event level. After two time runs Friday and two time shots Saturday our Mar-Schan Motorsports Nova was at the top of the 8.50 Index qualifying sheet with an 8.504. If the weekend ended there I could have been happy, but coming home with a Wally would have been much better. Unfortunately I was stopped in the second round even though the scoreboard showed and ET of 8.507, I was a little late on the tree compared to my opponent, and my dreams of holding a Wally ended again.
I decided to stay for the Atco Dragway 8.50 Index points race on Sunday. The weather was much better than it was on Saturday and we only qualified in the number 8 position out of 12 cars with an 8.59 after short shifting to bring the front end back down so I could see the end of the track instead of clouds. I advanced to the semi finals and lost on a breakout run just five thousandths of a second too quick with an 8.495. My opponent was there for the taking and I missed the opportunity to capitalize on his slower tune up. All in all the car is running great and I am working with a new method of tuning the car for the various weather conditions we see over the course of the spring, summer and fall. I have developed some consistency on the starting line and hope to improve on that over the season as well.
The next race for the Chevy II is May 2nd at the Cecil County Streetcar Shootout and the next race for Braylon is May 9th at the first Junior Dragster points race of the year at Maple Grove. Thanks to everyone that makes it possible for us to go fast and be safe.
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