At the end of the rainbow....
Through thick (rain) and thin (rain) we soldiered on to Edmonton, driving through a series of thundershowers and merely light rain at times for the last four or five hours until we arrived. We pulled through the track gates just before 9pm and felt like we were among the last arrivals at a great party. Lots and lots of cars were here already, with more pulling in steadily as we made the rounds of the pro and sportsman pits. Thanks to the Bart Family team for lending us their golf cart - it made the trek that much easier. But please remember the Clamato juice next time, eh?
Even though the event won't start until tomorrow, the pits were pleasantly full already, with room for more cars in the pro pits of course; there's always room for more in the fast categories, isn't there? With most of the teams either back at their hotels, or relaxing here with a beverage or snacks, or with their cars unloaded and covered for the night, it's difficult to do a complete inventory on who's here and who's not. We'll just have to wait until the morning when everyone comes out to play to see exactly what's happening.
According to the scuttlebut, one non-attendee in the nitro nostalgia funny car ranks will be Jack "The Sheriff" Harris, who wasn't able to cross the border. The official word is that he was carrying more nitro than Canada Border Services Agency officers were willing to allow into the country. Some wags suggested that there was more to the story than that, but we'll just leave it alone for now.
One of the first racers we ran into was old friend Jay "The Prospector" Mageau, busy relaxing with his family and crew and looking forward to a great weekend in front of his hometown crowd at Castrol Raceway. He related the trials and tribulations of getting a nitro funny car operation set up and running, not fully realizing the very steep learning curve involved in finding a safe and fast tuneup for one of those beasts.
The first two years saw much more error than trial, with several engines sacrificed in the pursuit of timeslips. Not just good timeslips, but e.t.'s of any sort, as just getting down the track in one piece became an almost futile pursuit. The toughest part of the quest was admitting that it was just too expensive to learn how to tune a nitro car from scratch without help. Finally breaking down and bringing in the legendary Roland Leong helped somewhat, until they tried going past half track under power, when another engine explosion nearly made them give up.
But out of every dark cloud comes a silver lining - at least in fairy tales - and in this one, a white knight named Steve Pleuger took a quick look at a very mangled rod bearing, said simply "Send me $700 and I'll fix your problems". A dry sump plumbing kit arrived in short order, was installed and so far at least, everyone has been living happily ever after.
This weekend might bring the tale to a dark end, or start a bright new chapter as Mageau has decided to turn up the wick (or shorten the fuse - your choice) and move past his 6.30 - 230 bests to something closer to, or into the 5-second zone at 240 +. Starting with an upgrade in fuel from the current 88% to the better burning 91 octane and lightening up the clutch a bit, they want to creep up on the harder running cars in the class. Good luck and keep the tylenol handy Jay.
Just down the road a bit was the very relaxed gang at Ed Verenka's pit area, with the car sitting in the trailer looking like it needed a week's worth of work (say that fast a few times, eh?) to be ready, Verenka and crew were relaxing with pizza and cold beverages and enjoying the camaraderie of a Thursday evening. The situation was similar in many of the pit areas, with some cars unloaded, a few being worked on and most of the trailers locked and left for the night.
With the sun sinking low in the big dark Alberta sky, the hotel and dinner beckoning, we bid adieu for the night and headed out to get some rest before the start of the big weekend. Tune in again tomorrow for the next installment of the story.
Unless we get lucky with increased bandwidth at the track's media centre this year, today's photos will have to wait until Friday evening to be posted. (PS: We ran into "issues" with the hotel's wireless internet and weren't able to post them tonight). (PPS: The photos are uploaded from the track and available for viewing).
That's it from Castrol Raceway; tomorrow we've got the first day of qualifying from the IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals