(24) N2K9 Day 4 & 5 – Neon Drag Racing Tournament & Convoy Home

Posted by on June 21, 2009

Well I’m finally getting caught up on documenting our vacation to Illinois. This will be the last article of the N2K9 series.

Saturday was the day many of us, including myself, had been looking forward most to: Drag Racing. We got up fairly early and headed to the lobby for a continental cup of coffee and bagels. It was raining outside, which might put a tragic halt to our drag racing plans. Other Neon folks start waking and milling around the hotel, discussing the weather forecast. We make some phone calls to Byron Dragway to see what their plans were. They let us know that the rain had just cleared up there in Byron and they were starting to dry the track for a day of drag racing. We were all excited and saddled up in our Neons and headed for Byron. I pulled the Neon on the trailer in preparation of any breakdowns at the track. We first drove the the wrong place, as we had gotten a bad address online. But after a couple phone calls and new address the GPS took us right to the track. Most of the Neons had beaten us there. I parked the Subaru in the pit area and offloaded the Neon. There was a big Subaru Shootout event with 100+ Subarus in attendance, so I was well equipped for both crowds having a Neon and a Subaru. We watched the track crew clean, dry, and prep the track surface for a good hour and a half before any racing began. We filed over to the tech inspection area to have our cars inspected and certified by the track officials, then parked them in the staging lanes in preparation for some racing.

There were 4 groups arranged for racing. The first group to go through the lights was the junior dragsters. they are miniature rail dragsters with souped up Briggs & Stratton engines with kids age 7-12 at the wheel. They only race the 1/8th mile, but run around 8 seconds flat at 75-80 miles per hour. That’s pretty darn fast for a 7 year old! Anyhow, the second group to race were the local group who were there for test ‘n tune. There was a wide variety of vehicles from 9 second old school muscle cars to jacked up diesel trucks. The Subaru group was next to race, and they were a hoot to watch. They had some pretty fast cars in attendance, and watching an all-wheel-drive car come tearing off the start is impressive.

Finally we come to the Neons. We had set up a bracket tournament. It goes like this:

You get 2 passes down the track to get an idea of what time your car runs.
After the 2 ‘time trial’ passes, you mark your car window with a ‘dial in’ time, or what you are going to try to match for the races.

My first time trial run was very interesting as it was my first time taking the car down the 1/4 mile track since it was near stock. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was racing one of the local guys with a lightly modded 1995 Nitro Yellow Green Coupe that has been gutted of most of its interior. We stage the cars, the lights drop the green…. And I launch the car about 3500 RPM which turned out to be a bit too much as I spun all the way through first gear. Shifted to second and mashed the gas only to spin some more, then I finally get out of the throttle to regain traction and move on down the track. It was pretty embarrassing, and I got beat, but it was undoubtedly a horrible run. I ran a 16.607 @ 90.79 MPH.

Second time trial run was not much better. I was lined up against a black R/T sedan Neon. I was a little more reserved on the launch as to avoid smoking the tires and possibly breaking something. I took off real slow and didn’t even chirp a tire, accelerated moderately to 15mph, then shifted to second and nailed the throttle. It felt a little faster, but I knew it wasn’t going to be too great. I finished at 16.241 @ 91.89 MPH. These trap speeds should have me in the high 14 second range, so something is definately not right here.

Now for the first race of the tournament: I decided to put a dial in time of 15.75 seconds, expecting to get a little faster this run. The idea here is, whoever runs closest to their time without going faster is the winner. (Reaction time is calculated into total ET as well) I was more concerned with figuring out why the car is running so slow than winning races. I was getting tired of putting up embarrassing mid 16 second times. This time I was racing a blue 1st gen Neon with a 35hp shot of nitrous. After consulting with my opponent who has a very similar engine setup as me, I decide to do a little camshaft tweaking by retarding my exhaust cam 3 degrees to decrease overlap and increase cam separation angle. We stage the cars, and the race begins. I get a fairly decent launch this time, not too slow but not too much spinning, The car pulls pretty hard in the higher RPMs. I barely cross the finish line just in front of the opponent, but my slow reaction time cost me the race. So I’m out of the bracket racing tournament in the first round. I did get faster though, running a 16.023 @ 89.10 MPH.

I got notified that I was one of the ‘Top 8 Fastest Neons’ (I was 7th fastest), and was eligible to compete in the head to head shootout. I know I had no chance, but it would be fun anyways! I was paired up against a modified SRT-4 Neon with a big turbo upgrade. He has been running solid 12 second passes all day, so I’m hoping he jumps the light! I’m still more concerned about tuning than racing though, as I’ve now got a passenger with me. He’s Jamie, one of the Indiana folks, and he’s going to be watching my Air/Fuel Ratio gauge as I go down the track so I can see where I need to add or pull fuel. We stage, lights drop, and we’re off. The orange SRT-4 blows my doors off, but I did get a bit faster still with a 15.690 @ 90.71 MPH. So I’m officially out of the Neon competitions.

I go sit in the grandstands with Amber and the other Neon folks and watch a good hour or so of racing. I realize that I can still run if I jump in the test & tune line. I grab Jamie for some more assistance. We drop the tire pressure from 50 psi to 23 psi so we can get more traction out of the hole, and we make some initial fuel adjustments from our last run’s readings. We line up against another Neon, stage, and take off. Its definately feeling faster, and the time ticket says 15.667 @ 90.52, a minor improvement. We did get some more good fuel data on this run though.

We roll to the staging lanes, make fuel adjustments, let the car cool down, and go at it again. This time I was racing against a Subaru. I run a 15.414 @ 91.62.

We make some more adjustments as we drive down the return road to the staging area. It’s starting to get dark, so we may not get to run again. Luckily they allowed us to make 1 more pass. Jamie jumped out and let Amber in for my last pass, and we finished the night with a 15.222 @ 91.30 MPH. Still didn’t make it into the 14’s, but we were steadily making our way there. No doubt we would have dipped well into the 14’s with more adjustments. Didn’t get this one on camera since Amber was riding, but there is a picture of the timeslip in the slideshow.

We load up the car on the trailer and head back for the hotel. We have an Indiana meeting and decide on plans to head back home. We’re all pretty tired from a long day in the sun, so we decide to get some sleep and sneak out at 5am Sunday morning.

The drive home was much nicer, as we told Donna Delphi (GPS) that tollroads were ‘forbidden’. It didn’t take us any longer to get home, in fact it was faster, smoother, and cheaper! The Subaru got 21.6 MPG towing the Neon home. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel as soon as we got in Indiana and had some breakfast. Then it was smooth sailing, with only a couple stops for the bathroom and to adjust wheel straps on the Neon. I did jinx myself though when we pulled up to the house. I said ‘Well we made it home safe and sound with no problems!’ Then as I offloaded the Neon from the dolly the front bumper snags and pops off the driver side of the car. Oh well, it won’t be tough to fix. We unpack and get ready to go back to work Monday.

Enjoy the videos and pictures!

Until next time…

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