MORE INDY, BOWLING GREEN DRAMA, RUSH WILLYS, and BOBBY’S BAND. What’s NEXT?
Sep 16, 2009
Author: Bobby Martin
In our last installment we were at the starting line ready to make what turned out to be our final qualifying attempt for the U.S. Nationals. I had already made one run with Tony Bartone and we “won” 5.63 to 5.65. This means something. Frank and Dan were tuning right up there with Steve Boggs. NHRA.com said “the two middle of the field qualifiers meet (we were 8th and 9th) and if nothing changes would be a matchup for round one. But things do change, a bunch! [Martin’s] stellar 0.951 sixty foot time is parlayed into a stout 5.570 ET. Great looking pass.” Our speed was a very satisfying 259.16. Tony ran 5.608 @ 257.04 that placed him fifth. We were beside ourselves. We were just talking about a top 5 qualifier at Indy being really cool. Now we were #1! When NHRA decided to bump the last session (Indy is the only race with four TA/FC qualifying sessions), we were jubilant. Okay, so who do we have first round? Wait a minute, that’s not fair! We’re not supposed to have a top ten car in the first round. I had been watching what rookie Ken Webster had been doing since the Winternationals. Ken’s team has the resources and they were going rounds. I was definitely not getting Sunday afternoon off.
Sure enough Ken gets up there and cuts an .040 light. I must have a smooth rhythm on the starting line or something, because everybody cuts good lights against me. I was right there with an .050 and the Parkertech tuneup provided a nice, smooth 5.634 that beat Webster’s best of the weekend 5.702 by about 22 feet, or about a car length. Whew! Round one in the books.
We were all giddy about being in on Monday. After all, it’s better than we did last year, and it was a beautiful day. But things were certainly not getting any easier on the track. Round 2: Alexis DeJoria. Alexis probably has the biggest budget in TA/FC. She has Bob Newberry and a very capable crew helping her. But she was coming off that big top end ordeal at Englishtown and her car was brand new from the ground up. I met Alexis for the first time in the staging lanes prior to our run and she was cordial and pleasant. Very nice person, but I wasn’t fooled. I knew she was tough. Anyone who could jump in a Funny Car, qualify for Indy, and win first round after what she’d been through is a serious racer. You guessed it; Alexis had her best light of the weekend against me, an .028. Her car was moving before the green. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! More on this later. I had a solid .060. I was brought up “ladies first.” (Don’t tell Alexis I said that) The Parkertech/ Lane Automotive Charger charged past with a sweet 5.63 256 that covered her 5.694 by about half a car length.
Vern Moats put our new nemesis Chris Foster away, so we had Moatsy in the semis. I was looking forward to that because Vern got by me in round 1 last year when our motor quit. I had never beaten Vern. It was always something. I don’t recall ever making a decent run against him. But then his crew guy, Dave, came over and said they were broke. Now lots of guys say, “Aw shucks, we want to have a side by side race and win it fair and square.” I’ll tell you what, I’ll take a bye run into the Indy final anytime. We were feeling pretty good about things right then. I’ll tell you what, though. It was strange going up there in front of that crowd by myself. I’ve made bye runs before, but this is Indy, and EVERYBODY was watching. Gotta focus on my job and give Frank and Dan the best possible data to tune for the final. I also wanted to get a good beat on the tree, because I was either going to have Manzo or Harker in the final, and I was going to need to cut a light. Everything went real well on the run. But then in the shut down, an old gremlin returned. One parachute got tangled in the body work underneath and ripped some stuff up. Furthermore, the 5.66 ET wasn’t the killer time we were hoping for. Sharp observers will notice that on TV we had one black chute and one red until the final, when they were both black. Former Chrysler aero engineer (the guy who actually designed our Charger body) Terry Dekoninck was on hand to take charge of repairs, while we got ready for the final. While I was being interviewed for TV, I saw on a monitor that Steve beat Frank in the semis on a holeshot.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the final round at Indy. I’m not a big baseball statistician, but I remember Joe Carter. Joe has been an inspiration to me ever since he achieved what millions have dreamed of for a hundred years. He hit a home run in the ninth inning to win the World Series. I don’t remember the exact year, and I don’t even remember who they were playing. But the Toronto Blue Jays won it all that year because Joe Carter had the courage to swing for the fences in that once-in-a-lifetime situation. Many times over the years, I’ve gotten ready for a race by saying to myself that I need to drive like it’s the final round at Indy. Now, here it is! I had to do well, because it’s history. I would be living with the result for the rest of my life. I wasn’t going to red-light. But at the same time, I didn’t want to give it away by being a wimp on the starting line. Plus, there are dozens of other things you have to do right in these cars to make a good run. I let myself get more pumped that I ever have. I didn’t want to worry about being “too pumped.” This was the Indy final. It was time for “take it” mode.
I’m happy to say that even though I was in a hyper state of readiness, I was able to make the right decisions and execute well enough to get the win. When I brought the RPM’s up, (and it was the right rpm, that can be a problem in a pressure situation) the car started to tug forward. I staged the car. Steve was staged. All the staged lights were on, so this was no time to try to stop the car. The ambers could come on and I would be LATE. I swung for the fences. A .003 reaction time in the Indy final is the stuff of fantasy. Little did I know that Frank and the crew were nursing the car along in the final couple of rounds. There were some issues with the bottom end and even switching engines wouldn’t help as both of our blocks had the same issue. The cool thing is that Frank didn’t tell me about any of this because he didn’t want to distract me. That was unquestionably the right move. Even if I tried, I probably would not have been able to drive as aggressively if I knew the motor was hurt. It caused the clutch to heat up and pull me through the beams. As it turned out, Frank said that when they pulled the motor apart after the event, two main caps were broken. Not just cracked, but broken. So there you are. Frank Parker is not only a master tuner, but he’s a great personnel manager and doctor of psychology. Don Garlits said once, “You have witnessed a genuine miracle here today.” I know how Big Daddy felt. Check out the Indy TA/FC shots at www.autoimagery.com and www.leswelchphotography.com After the final, after I made the turnaround, there was a wall of cameras and microphones and reporters. I screamed “THIS SO ROCKS!” One of the greatest moments of my life.
BOWLING GREEN DRAMA
What’s all this about drama at Bowling Green? Well, I’ll tell ya, the excitement began for us before we ever got to Indy. It was round one. We qualified a mediocre sixth. BUT, it put us into a first round match with Chris Foster, a guy who was running away with the division points at our expense. If we were going to do any damage, we had to beat Chris in the first round. So we get up there and get the go signal. Foster’s car lights and he does his burnout. Ours doesn’t start. Try again, nothing. Frank pulls out a pair of clippers and “disconnects” some electronic ignition controls. Still nothing! Meantime Foster is backing up from his burnout. Finally, after a couple more attempts, the engine fires. But now Foster is ready to stage, so the starter points to the starting line. He doesn’t want me to cross the starting line on the burnout, but just go right in to stage. I’m totally fine with that. He could have shut us off! So I put it in high gear as always but do a little tiny burnout, just to get the water off the slicks. Then I stopped to think a little bit. Okay, make sure you put it back in low gear, then it should be business as usual. I wasn’t worried about not getting a burnout because I had seen guys in several different classes pull this off before. Sure enough, the Parkertech/Lane Automotive Charger charged down the track to a 5.63 to take the win. Foster shook and shut off. He was not a happy camper. He had to wait for us, but I know Frank would have waited for him. Andy Bohl beat us in the semis with a hurt motor that featured a cam he borrowed from Frank. Andy’s motor died after the burnout in the final. Mick Snyder spun the tires on his solo pass for the win. The drama continues. Of course we plan to bring you pix of both events as they become available.
THE RUSH WILLYS
Okay, what the heck is the Rush Willys? Specifically it’s Spike Sterling’s totally amazing, completely over the top blown ’33 Willy’s coupe. Spike is a long-time racer from Steubenville, Ohio. He owns a shop called “Sterling’s Auto Body” and he turns out some great work. His new car, “Rush,” is his latest, and it’s a beast. 526 cubic inches of 14-71 Littlefield blown Jim Oddy power. The chassis is by Mike Spitzer, and it’s the first such car to come out of Spitzer’s shop. It’s an absolute work of art, from the airbrushed graphics, to the powder coated frame. I can also tell you that this is one ride that’s not just all show and no go. The Rush Willys made its public debut at Gasser Magazine’s Gasser Nationals at Thompson Raceway Park September 12th and 13th. The reception we received was warm to say the least. The Gasser gurus dug the wild ’33, and a lot of folks congratulated us on our Indy win. Larry and Crista Radke joined Spike’s crew of Red, Bob, and Randy for this one. Lori was there too, and Kevin Wilhelms made a guest appearance on Sunday. The car is so new, that we’ve never done anything more than a burnout with it. The Thompson people were wonderful. They would stop the event and take 15 minutes to prep the track whenever we wanted to make a run. I did a launch, and then made an eighth mile attempt. The mighty Willys SMOKED the tires at 500 feet and I clicked it off. The 1/8th mile time: 4.70 at a coasting 120 mph. You can see the launch here. It’s only about 2 seconds of us, but you can get a sneak peak at this amazing car, and you can see and hear how hard this baby leaves. It starts at about 47 seconds into the video. This is good training for me, as it gets me thinking and driving outside the Funny Car box. This thing is a real handful! Lots of drivers take on outside projects to hone their skills. This is a really, really cool way for me to stay sharp. What are Spike’s plans for this car? Don’t know yet. There are lots of possibilities. Stay tuned for updates and more details and photos.
Okay, it’s not MY band. It’s my brother’s project. We call it the “Martin Brothers Power Machine.” It’s mainly classic hard rock and metal in a power trio format. Bruce and I have been playing together since we were little kids. And I mean “playing.” We would pretend we were big rock stars. In recent years, whenever we get together for family functions and such, we would jam, now with real gear rather than plastic toy stuff. We have an absolute blast. Well, at a recent gig in Syracuse, NY, the audience kind of dug it too. Hey, never mind that it was a private party and the crowd consisted mainly of family and friends who may have been a little biased. Anyway, there’s this way cool rock club in North Syracuse called Station 58. I went up there to see Bruce and his band “Retro Shock.” Retro Shock has done this awesome song called “Drag Race Dreamer” that’s about me. This song rocks! I need to figure out how to get this song into the public awareness. It’s really that good. Bruce and I, along with veteran drum master Jay Tierney will be on the program at Station 58 the night of Thursday, October the 8th. A lot of “Shockaholics” will be there, and some of our new fans. I’m hoping to see some race fans too for a different kind of “feel the power.” Now this is rock & roll. This is subject to change, so check back for updates. We also don’t claim to be rock gods. This is for fun. Lots of fun. But like drag racers, if you like your fun loud, then we’d love to see you at Station 58 3504 Brewerton Road in North Syracuse NY on October 8th. For Power Machine pix, click here.
Next up for us is Charlotte and Dallas. After Indy, we have a shot to improve on last year’s Top Ten finish. We we #8 in ’08. Charlotte will feature four fuel cars side-by-side. That will be history unto itself. So the Parkertech gang gets to cruise into Charlotte as the Indy champs. The tough part will be living up to that title. We’ll give it our best shot. Stay tuned for updates. Thanks for stopping by.