7 seconds – Part 2

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Race Day!

It’s Saturday, March 7th, 2009 and we’re back at the SpeedWorld drag strip in Wittman, Arizona. It’s time to go racing. Being as this is my first diesel-only event I’m really not sure what to expect. Oh sure, I’ve been to some NHRA events before, but the only diesel there was in the parking lot and were hooked up to the race trailers. Here we’ve got both. Diesel trucks towing trailers loaded with, well, diesel trucks. Ok, not all of them. The crew from Texas Diesel Power just arrived with their diesel-powered Funny Car, and another crew just showed up with a diesel-powered “rat-rod”. I must admit both of those cars are so very cool, I’d love to go over and check them both out, but we have work to do.

For starters, we need to get the Sidewinder S-10 out of the trailer (again), but at least we don’t have to unload everything else like we did yesterday. Now that she’s back up on the race stands the crew fires her up. Needless to say, there’s a large crowd forming very quickly. Now, again, I’ve been to NHRA events before, and some, not all, but some of the crews there usually aren’t very happy when people start coming into the race booth. I check with the crew on their feelings on letting “civilians” come in and get a closer look. Our calibration engineer tells me that “Gale wants anybody and everybody to see this truck up close. As long as they aren’t getting in the way, you let them come on in and take a look. Let them take any pictures they like and answer any questions you can.” Well, now that’s just plain cool.

The crew is almost finished warming up the truck and I notice that several people are getting neck cramps from trying to look in without crossing some imagined line on the ground. The look on their face is one of shock when I tell them “Come on in, take a look”. Almost instantly out come the cameras. Pictures are being taken at a rate that would make any Hollywood celebrity jealous. Then, of course, here comes the flurry of questions; and some of them sound like Banks is involved in some kind of government cover-up. In less then five minutes I heard nearly a dozen theories on what kind of fuel the truck runs. I was asked everything from “are you running compressed natural gas?” to “You have to be using propane”, to “I heard you use some kind of diesel/alcohol/plutonium combination”. I can tell you point-blank the only things used in the engine are straight USLD #2 diesel fuel and nitrous oxide and nothing else. I should know, I watched these guys like a hawk all weekend. In fact, the crew from Texas Diesel Power were running low on nitrous themselves so we filled their bottle for them from our own supply. Our calibration engineer is giving us the thumbs up; all is ready, and its time to stretch the S-10’s legs a little. Driver Wes Anderson is back behind the wheel and he drives the S-10 over and gets in line. Interestingly enough the car in front of us is the Funny Car from Texas Diesel Power so he’s going first. This is going to be so cool!

The crew from Texas Diesel Power does their burnout. They stage the funny car but they seem to be having a little trouble getting their turbo to “light” properly. The green light comes up and the funny car takes off. About a third of the way down the track a loud “POP” can be heard followed by a lot of white smoke. I’m hoping everything is ok as the driver John Robinson gets over the finish line and pulls off the track. Wes is up next in the Sidewinder S-10. He does his burnout and stages the truck. I’m making a mental note to keep my jaw from dropping open again as he gets ready to launch. The green light comes up and the S-10 blasts off the line. Strangely I find myself not watching the truck but I’m looking up at the stands. There are several hundred people watching the truck rocket down the track and every one of them is on their feet. Wes crosses the finish and the tower lights up with 7.83 seconds and 176 miles per hour just as the crowd erupts in applause. Hey, I guess they liked it. In minutes Wes is pulling back into the pits and another crowd is forming.

The funny car is back in the pits so I take a little stroll over to not only introduce myself, but to see if everything is OK with their Funny Car. I must say that the guys from Texas Diesel Power are some really good people. We spend a few minutes talking about their run and all, and it seems the loud pop we heard was their intercooler boost tube popping off. Not really a big deal and they should not have any trouble getting her back up and running. It’s never fun to see somebody break on the track so it’s a relief they don’t have to put it back on the trailer. I head back over to our pit area as I see there are another dozen people standing outside trying to take a look at the race truck. Once again it’s a look of shock when I tell them “Come on in, take a look”. I’m starting to enjoy this.