Monday, July 17, 2006

Golf Vacation: After the golf

Wow, did you guys fly all the way to Nashville just to play Greystone and then go home?

Well, no. We had our "away tournament" with our club in Primm (California/Nevada state line) on one weekend and the next weekend we were going to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion to participate in the drag races. Greg's dad owns and drives the Beach Racing car in the Nostalgia Eliminator class and Greg is on the crew. Nashville is the closest airport and we decided to make the week in between our golf vacation.

The drag racing weekend

Beach Racing is good friends with Larry Dixon, Sr., and even though he is largely a one-man show, the Beach crew is his neighbor in the pits and helps when necessary. Prior to the Kentucky race, they were in Indianapolis together for another race there. We couldn't make that one because of our golf tournament, but we met them in Bowling Green.

After playing our round at Greystone, we picked up the crew chief at the airport and the three of us met up with Greg's stepmom (and co-owner of the car) for dinner. The next morning, we all drove up to Bowling Green together in our rental SUV, which also served as the tow vehicle for the race car.

Rather than having different classes for Nostalgia Eliminator based on index, the race was set up to do staggered starts based on your chosen index OR you could just run Open Fuel and go as fast as you can. Usually, we run in the 7.60 (NE1) class, but staggered lights are difficult for a twitchy driver. Plus, I think he was just really hot to try Open Fuel.

Greg and Lou (crew chief - in the hat) waiting for the signal to start up the car.

In our first pass, the car was tuned so powerfully the tires didn't hook up right away. I forget what we ran, but it wasn't enough to qualify. The crew used the data to work out a better tune up, and we ran a 7.36 in our next pass, which was exhilarating. We were among the top qualifiers but got bumped on the last pass. There was to be one more qualifying pass to admit one more car to the show, and I think the crew felt confident that our next pass would secure that spot.

Wet blanket

Then it rained. Actually, it poured. Evidently, the track staff is familiar with such sudden downpours. The announcers told people to take cover if they could and within seconds, the staff had removed all the electronics (i.e. the tree) from the dragstrip, and all the cars out there were soaked.

Back in the pits, we didn't take the threat of the clouds seriously enough to put the car away like some of the Top Fuel cars did right next to us. Our E-Z-ups protected the cars but we had to keep pushing up on them with a broomstick as the water collected on top. The rain stopped and the staff almost had the track dry enough to race when it started up again. This time it wasn't as much of a downpour but it was enough to stop racing for the night.

Dixon in his car, preparing for a pass. Lou in the foreground.

The Cacklefest

The award winning show cars paraded out on the track for the fans while they figured out what to do about that night's planned "Cacklefest." For those who don't know, a Cacklefest is a fan-favorite exhibition in which all the famous nostalgia race cars start up and go down the track, then sit and cackle their engines in a noisy showcase of fumes. With a wet track, it was too dangerous for them to run down the track, so they were all towed or pushed to the center of the track, and fired up at once to just sit and cackle there. Dixon was piloting (cackling) the famous Howard Cams "Rattler."

Things got ugly out on the track. One of the cars peeled out (accidentally?) in reverse and smashed a man against the wall of the track. Down toward the other end, I was just on the other side of the wall and saw one of the track workers apparently seizing and choking and fall to the ground. His friends and/or co-workers came to his aid, but it was all such chaos out there. Fans continued to scream and shout for the cacklefest, either not knowing or not caring that a couple of people could be dead out there. The EMTs were on the scene pretty quickly, but it seemed like an eternity before the cacklefest finally ended. I thought they would have stopped it when things went south but they just kept cackling and cackling. After it was over, I went out on the track in the chaos to try to find our team (we got separated right before the cackling began). I went and talked to Larry for awhile and, sure enough, our crew chief showed up there. We went back to our pits under a somewhat somber veil.

We had a little barbecue back in the pits and we got word that the man who had been hit was fine. He had been on one of those "rascal" types of motorized chairs and while he was shocked, he wasn't hurt. We also heard that the man I saw in distress actually had been having a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. I never heard anything more about it. I hope he was okay.

The party's over

Now that there was to be an abbreviated race, they would eliminate the last qualifying pass and if the weather held up, the races would go on with the limited field. We were done. We set off some fireworks and ended the night in celebratory manner. Even though we weren't in, it had been a fun experience. The next day, it was back to being hot and muggy without rain and we watched some of the top fuel races, packed up the cars and our pit areas and headed back to Nashville where we stayed the night and flew home the next day.

Thanks for the memories

I got a lot of great video footage of the events. A week later, when they arrived in the RV towing the trailer with the car, I got that on film as well. Then I spent a few solid days editing the footage into a DVD I called "The Kentucky Experience." It's a fun little 30-minute flick set to music with some of the original sound - funny quips and vroom-vrooms - worked into it. It was a big hit with the team and a nice enhancement to all the still photos everyone took to memorialize the events.

Golf vacation and racing weekend - check.

Next post.


Luke Swilor said...

Sounds pretty fun to me. One day I'm going to own a car. I can't get enough.

Frank Kunkel said...

I was there also filming, got 4 dvd's of racing, including 28 mins. of all the Cacklefest. No music, just the sound of the action. $30 for about 4 hrs.
Frank Kunkel, 48 Glenashton Dr.,Stoney Creek, ON,Canada,L8G 4E9