1/4 Mile Virgin
I remember being pretty nervous as my Dad and I registered for the race. I thought the odds of us getting my 15 year old ass on the starting line were slim to say the least. We were handed an entry form as we went through the track gates and did our best not to smile as we filled it out. Amazingly, there was no spot to fill in your date of birth. We didn’t even have to lie… Under age racing at Penwell Raceway!
Once we jumped through that hoop, we got the car off the trailer. It was 1955 Chevrolet with a fairly healthy SBC and a 4-speed. We did the best we could to get the car race ready by throwing on some slicks, cutting off the exhaust, and tightening up the shifter. I remember struggling with the trailer tie downs as my hands shook with anticipation. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
My nerves didn’t calm at all as I hopped in the car, fired it up, and headed towards the staging lanes. Tech inspection was simple:
“Have fun kid!”
As soon as those words came out of the inspector’s mouth I looked up to see only two cars between me and the water box. It seemingly took a couple of hours for those cars to cycle down the track. When it finally was my turn to pull in box, I eased out the clutch only to realize I hadn’t fired the motor yet. Nerves.
I couldn’t believe I actually had adults motioning for me to start my burnout. I mean, I grew up in a car house but still… It isn’t often that 15 year old kid has a grown man motioning for such a thing. Taking the opportunity at hand, I brought up the revs and dumped the clutch. It was probably the most enthusiastic burnout of my life. I held the revs at 4000 rpm all the way past the lights. Even the starter smiled.
Confident that my tires were sufficiently heated, I staged the car. My foot shook nervously on the clutch as I eased it out trying to get in as deep as possible. Once the staging lights were appropriate, I pushed the clutch back in and took a deap breath. It’s at that very moment that everything went away. I was no longer nervous, excited, scared, anything… It was all in slow motion.
I saw yellow, dumped the clutch, and stabbed the throttle. The tires spun briefly off the line and the motor bogged for what seemed like forever. When the power came, I focused my eyes on the finish line and kept the old dash mounted Sun tach in my peripheral. In 13.06 seconds, I power shifted 4-times and almost put a hole through the floorboards with intense throttle pressure.
I remember crossing the finish line and emmediately thinking we weren’t fast enough. I wanted more. Amazingly (my dad must be nuts!!!), it wasn’t a year later before I was driving a low 9-second S/G car at that very same track.
Fond memories for a lot of reasons, but looking back now I think that day is really the beginning of something that is now 11 years old. More on that tomorrow…