7 seconds – Part 3

Gale Banks himself just arrived. As you can imagine it didn’t take long for the group of people looking at the truck to immediately start talking with Gale. I have to admit that working for Gale Banks is a little strange but in a good way. Growing up, my father, an old school hot-rodder himself would talk about him all the time. He would tell me how fast his engines were, how many world records he had, show me articles in Hot Rod magazine about him. Heck, he even had one of Gale’s early twin-turbo systems for our boat, and now I work for “the man” himself. At first, it was really intimidating even speaking with Gale, but, contrary to what some may say, he’s not arrogant nor “stuck up” and actually very easy to talk to. Right now he’s talking with the calibration engineer about what tuning to load into the S-10 next. The crew starts by changing out the nitrous jets and altering the fueling program. While Gale understands all of the changes being made backward and forwards its way beyond me. The basic explanation is that the engine can be stepped up quite a bit. The track has good traction, the wind is down, and Gale feels the engine should have no trouble being pushed a little.

It’s time for our second run of the day and Wes pulls the truck back into line. It’s time for the finals however so, rather than go down to the staging lanes we take a seat in the stands with everybody else and watch the other racers. After about 20 minutes or so we see the S-10 move up to the starting line but wait, what’s this? The rat rod is in the next lane! Cool! I’ve wanted to see this thing run all day! Both vehicles do their burnouts and stage. Something seems a little off though. I hear the S-10’s Duramax engine rev up but the starting lights aren’t moving. Several seconds go by before the light goes green and both the S-10 and the rat-rod launch off the line. The S-10 lays down another 7.83 seconds run at 177 miles per hour. That’s a new NHRDA record! We walk back over to the pit area to check the truck out.

Wes and the S-10 are back in the pits and the crew immediately takes the lid off the transmission cooler box. On a normal run, the ice that’s packed into the cooler box becomes hot water, but on the last run, it became super hot water. Gale explains to me that the auto start must have been turned off on the tree. Under normal drag racing conditions, after both cars have staged, there is a couple of the second delays before the light goes green, but this didn’t happen. That was the reason for the abnormally long staging time, and that long stage time really heated up the torque converter. The crew begins to drain out the transmission fluid and replace it. The calibration engineer is changing the nitrous jets again and he and Gale decide to really push the engine on the next run. It’s time for run number three.

All weekend I’ve been watching this race crew intently. As this is my first time seeing it in person I wanted to learn all I could, and I’ve learned a lot. These guys have been busting their rear ends since we put the tow rig in the park and they haven’t let up for two days. It’s all come down to this last run. They’ve already set a new NHRDA national record but they all, including Gale, feel they can do better. For the first time this weekend, I’m actually nervous, mostly because I’m not sure what Gale means by “really lean on the engine”. Gale Banks and I are standing in the bleachers watching Wes pull the truck up. Wes does his burnout and stages. Most of the crowd in the stands isn’t just standing up, but they’re lined up at the fence. The light goes green and the mighty Sidewinder S-10 fires off the line harder and faster then I’ve seen it all weekend. Wes crosses the finish line and pulls the parachute. The timing tower lights up with an incredible 7.77 seconds and 180 miles per hour! Yet another NHRDA record! Nearly everybody around us is now looking up at Gale and clapping. It was an awesome run.

We head back to the pits. It’s taking a little longer than before what with all of the people congratulating Gale on a new national record. You’d think he’d be used to it by now; after all, he’s been breaking national and world records longer than I’ve even been alive, but he’s still all smiles. Wes just pulled back in the pits and, he too has a smile from ear to ear. It’s been a great weekend. I was able to come out with a great group of guys, I got to hang out with some great folks at the track, I got to watch world-class race teamwork on, and race, a world-class truck, piloted by a world-class driver. I even got to hang out with one of my childhood idols, Gale Banks himself. I still can’t believe I get paid for this.