NORRA News

Time ran out on the Whippet with three weeks to go. I called it and we are going to race the AMC Hornet again. I have all the parts to finish the 1928 Whippet but racing the Mint 400 with 3 vehicles changed all my plans.

General Tires asked us to run the AMC at NORRA while we were out at the Mint. We agreed but little did we know that Jeff had blown the motor running it low on oil. We had three weeks to completely tear down and rebuild the engine. I had to call in a couple of favors. Dave Whitehead at Dugan Engines in Riverside agreed to bore the motor and re-ground the crank. But the rest was up to us.

Add in a couple of Saturdays by Butch, a fantastic job by Dugan’s, and welding by Stewart and Jeff is driving the car home today to put a couple of hours on the new motor.

I can’t believe people aren’t calling me daily to see if they can go out with us. One week in Baja, racing down the peninsula, good food, great people, Mexican beer, and ending up in Cabo.

You may have missed this one but no one said you have to sit out the whole game 2013.
We leave for Mexico at 4am on Saturday.

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Mint 400 Part 2

Trying to race three cars wasn’t the best idea.  We ended up going in too many directions.  Since two of the cars were in the morning race we were up early getting Derek and Jeff started then we were off to pit #2 but we also needed people at the main pit to prep the 7200 truck,  It worked out fine but some things were sacrificed.

Derek completed the race in 14th overall and 1st in class.  The class 9 prep by Doug, Stewart, and Butch paid off.  Derek drove at a conservative pace which paid off and still finished 14th.  Jeff and the AMC Hornet were off to a bad start, leaking through a bad oil cooler behind the seats.  I think they could have finished the race but would have probably finished the car.  We weren’t aware  of it but the motor was seizing.  1 ½ laps or 150 miles and they are out.  The car lived to race another day.

At noon it was time to race the 7200 truck pre-stage behind the railroad tracks.  We were set to race around 1:30 pm.  It was a side by side start.  Our truck locked up quickly by the 1st turn and we were out front by three truck lengths.  As we made the last turn to go out into the desert we hit the soft sand and our 5700 lb truck turns into a bulldozer.  540 HP going to waste in a truck that is too heavy for this part of the course.  We were passed up quickly.

Back on the hard pack we were picking up speed but something is different about the truck.  What is this? At the top of every roller there is a sharp jolt going right through our backs.  What is this?  Never mind, just man up and race.  Sort the same mentality as not asking for directions when you’re lost.

The truck is fast and we passed vehicles already while making our 5th pass in 20 miles.  We clipped one of the trucks with the front end.  It mostly filled the engine compartment with rocks because it rolled the power steering belt off the pulley and turned the belt inside out.

We needed to change the belts on a very hot engine including the alternator belt which was in the way.  It took 30-45 minutes to fix then we are back up to speed again behind a white truck at 40-50 MPH.  The truck in front of us clips a large rock and spun it under us taking out two tires only 10 minutes later.  You can see where this day is going.

Changed two tires and were off.  This was still lap one and three more to go.  The truck tops out at about 115 MPH and the adjustment Stewart made to our cooling system is working great full throttle and we are hitting 210 degrees on lap two.

Something was still wrong with our set up and my back felt it.  But I hadn’t figured it out.  The rear end lets go on lap two.  We snapped the locating arm bolt.  To fix this under load we needed to lift the rear end of the truck off the ground.  We stacked up two tires under the rear bumper and placed our jack under that to raise up the whole rear end and put in a new bolt.  We were going to drive into pit one and fix it again.  After asking everyone for parts fixed again with the right bolts and misaligned cams.

At this point Stewart was already done keeping this truck together, it’s becoming a full time job and without any finishes no one cares if we go.

We are off to the main pit to finish lap two and the rear end breaks again for the same reason.  We rolled into the main pit and got out.  We are done now, the arm is also almost through the fuel cell this time.

What did we change this race?  The compression on all four corners too loosen up the suspension and use every inch of travel we have.  It was the wrong choice for the track and both the truck and I paid the price-  my back locked up on me and I couldn’t stand up straight for two days.

Why didn’t we stop and fix this during the race??

Our next race is the NORRA 1000 in Baja.

 

 

The Mint 400 Photo Gallery


Click on the photo above for a full slideshow.

Mint 400 Part 1

I have always liked racing the Mint 400, it’s a chance to meet real off road race fans. Thousands of people came out Wednesday before the event to watch the pit crew change on Fremont St. On Thursday afternoon 10,000 fans walked down Fremont Plaza to see every race vehicle up close and to meet the drivers and crew. There was standing room only and we handed out 600 posters—what a hit with the kids. Check it out:

On Friday afternoon it was time to tech our vehicles. The AMC Hornet is center stage at the General Tire press conference where they announced that they will now be the official sponsor of the Mexican 1000 (NORRA 1000.) Jeff McCullough’s AMC is the only vintage car to race the Mint 400.

We entered tech at 9th St. and head towards the Plaza Hotel. We started pushing at 6th St. uphill. There were plenty of people to help since the Plaza was still full of people. There were vendors on both sides of the street, there must have been 80 different companies there.
It’s a lot of work getting three vehicles through the tech inspection but we finished around 4pm. But we weren’t done yet we needed to pick up race fuel at the race track 45 minutes away. Chris and Larry volunteered to pick it up.

I could write an entire story on the helmet we gave to Casey (owner of Best in the Desert) but not today. It arrived in Vegas at 8pm and the driver’s meeting was almost over. I really didn’t think it was going to make it. Derek walked in with the helmet and we took it out of the box where no one else could see. I think there were 2,000 racers at the meeting. The helmet was perfect. Eric Wilmer pulled it off. It was a totally custom helmet to commemorate the first Mint 400 to be led by Best in the Desert and Casey Folks. Eric, thanks for all your hard work. You should have seen the surprised look on Casey’s face.

Wait a minute, I almost forgot the party! Now on to the hot laps with General Tires’ VIP’s. The details on this party are a little… fuzzy. You may be able to piece together the whole night by getting each crew members’ account of the evening. It was held upstairs in the Gold Digger Bar. We spent the night with our own table overlooking Fremont Plaza with free drinks all night and off road videos playing. Last call was at 1:30am and it was time for bed.

Race Day- Started at 4am. BLM’s estimate for spectators was over 25,000 for Saturday alone.

It’s a long drive to Primm and the traffic starts as soon as we hit the dirt going to the Start. Derek and Jeff were in the first race with a 6am start in the dark.

Jeff Marciano and I got fuel for everyone. The AMC gets only 4 or 5 miles per gallon but the 9 car can run all day. We didn’t get to see the start but were getting reports back saying the track is full of large rocks like someone placed them there. But after one lap they’re gone.

Stay tuned for part 2.