Speed Bumps
World's Fastest Sprint Car
El Mirage
July 13th and 14th, 2013

Breathing Life Into An Idea

Damion had been camped out in Biggie's shop for weeks, drilling, grinding, sanding, wrenching, welding and breathing life into this bastard child of a sprint car. All the other cars strung around the warehouse were snickering at this weird demon seed, a sprint car that hugged the ground like a cheap rug, knobby knees instead of tires and a steel body lean as a dancer over on the avenues. But before she put her dress on, you found yourself checking out the sinewy muscle tone by Beast and many admirable body parts. Tight rear-end by Frankland with a badass seat by ButlerBuilt. She was full of B&J Gears, FK'd rod ends and MPD torque tubes and then you try to cool her off with a Saldana radiator. She was hooked up with ARP nuts and bolts and steered down a narrow path of salvation by Lee Manufacturing. Schoenfeld headers breathed fire as a Waterman Racing pumped fuel into a Shaver engine of terror and Weld Racing made the whole shit just hell on wheels. As Steve Watt's daily racing business swirled around the welding stand, Damion and Biggie conspired, weaved and wove that spirit of speed into this unlikely stunning looker. The schedule came and the schedule went. We had a weekend fling penciled in for El Mirage and just when it started looking shaky the backup arrived. Damion's longtime homeys Bruce, Wayne and Jeff flooded the shop floor and his dad Dave was suddenly everywhere. Biggie brought in Jimbo (he is on my top five hardcore list) and the die was cast. Truex Twins fled to Indiana Speed Week (who can blame them) so I grabbed a camera. The squad grabbed weapons of choice and we all jumped off that Friday night thrash cliff.

Steve Watt Has the Credentials

Midnight Friday

Saturday morning found us picking our way through the high desert, swerving to avoid a lack of sleep and the occasional vampire. We pulled up to that majestic lakebed of shimmering silt and littered dreams. Looking out, I remember Damion saying, "it's going to take a little longer and it's going to cost a little more". Next thing we were on the wagon trail, making our way across the dusty lake bottom and landing at ground zero for SCTA, the Southern California Timing Association. We told them we wanted to run a sprint car and we may as well have said we wanted to time Santa's sled. Lots of raised eyebrows and hushed conversations ensued. True friend and Bonneville veteran Ron Main guided us through the skepticism, we put the car through tech and the Demon and crew went through a rather serious orientation for rookies before we got the go for Sunday. SCTA are the gatekeepers and salvation for both El Mirage and Booneville. Hand in hand with the Bureau of Land Management they labor hard to make it safe, respect the tortoise and protect those fragile desert environments from lunatics like us. It's more formal than a Catholic mass in Latin, but God bless these dedicated souls who are saving a car culture that is also fragile. And now the Demon is on their doorstep and tapping on the church door. It sounds like distant thunder. Save the Salt.

Welcome to El Mirage

SCTA Tech Inspection Station

Sunday morning rolled in like a breeze on the mesquite. We all trundled suitcases across the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express and booked back out to the lakebed. We hustled around the car and put sponsor stickers everywhere. The car isn't quite finished, paint job will occur in a few weeks, but the sponsors are sacred. Rookies have to watch push offs for a while and then watch finishes for a while so Damion took care of that. SCTA doesn't let anyone come out and fire off a rocket. You have to prove yourself step by step and first day rookies are allowed a top speed of only 150 mph. If you exceed that, they figure you can't follow directions, you're a show off and maybe they need to reconsider your qualifications. However, if you wish to go faster than that, you need to first clear 125 mph to upgrade your license. So we set a target speed of 138 for this first day and pushed the car to the start line. We needed to warm the engine so they let us push off and take a lazy loop to the left, circling back around and shutting off again at the start line. Biggie moved the push track forward to the tail, the starter did a last safety check, Damion put the two speed transmission in first gear and bam, we're pushing and there he goes! As we angled off the track we watched as Damion picked up speed down the straightaway. He was going pretty good but he soon pulled off the straightaway to left towards the exit road well before he hit the timing zone and the finish line. We raced down the exit road to push him back to the pits and he told us he couldn't get it into 2nd gear, something wrong with the shifter.

The Demon Gets Checked Out

Good to Go

Back in the pits, Damion got his head down in the pedal area with his legs sticking in the air and figured he adjusted the shifter so we wouldn't have that problem again. We got back in the rookie lane for another push off. Another lazy loop to warm the engine and now we're getting the sign to go again. Again we push off and this time Damion takes off like a rocket. He's thundering down the straightaway but again he couldn't get it into 2nd gear so he holds back on the throttle and clocks in about 105 mph in first gear. As we pick him up on the exit road and head back to the pits, lots of spectators are clapping as we pass and giving us the thumbs up. But back in the pits there's a lot of head scratching and we figure what the hell do we need first gear for? Let's just push this thing off in second gear and go down Glory Road. We will figure out the shifter problem out back in Ventura but let's nail our target of 138 mph and get our "D" license before we go to Bonneville.

Like A Baby Seal On An Ice Floe

Biggie Takes Care With The Details

This time we had to wait for the second round of trials to finish so it was hurry up and wait. Damion killed time as best he could in the hot sun, some kind soul from the Dreamliner crew was there with an umbrella and beautiful Holly hung out and everything was as cool as cucumbers on a torch. We finally got the go, did the lazy loop and lined up push truck, car and finish line all in straight line. Biggie hit the gas, Damion had the car in second gear and we started pushing that world's fastest with a little too much strain. We didn't know it from the cab, but that sprint car's tires were not turning and as we hit 10 yards, 20 yards, thirty yards, we were burning a hole through those two American Eagle tires and they suddenly blew and it sure blew our minds when that car started spinning off to the left of us when we were expecting to see it launch in front of us! Biggie hit the brakes before we ran the damn thing over and there we were fifty yards off the start line practically crashed and looking pretty foolish. They dragged us out of there back to the pits and it was pretty depressing. We packed our shit, Damion let loose with a few choice comments and then we scattered in the wind. Trust me, there's a reason the Demon has won five of the last eight USAC/CRA races. Losing does not come easy to him.

Ready To Go

The Demon's View

Back home, we went from looking foolish to looking stupid. We had the gears reversed on this transmission we had never used before. First run, when Damion was going pretty good, he couldn't shift into second because he was actually trying to downshift into first. Second round, he couldn't shift same reason! Third and final run, we started off in what we thought was second, it was actually first and geared too low to turn the tires! Oy Vey!
We went to El Mirage to work out the bugs that actually turned out to be Africanized killer bees. We made some stupid mistakes but hey, keep it real. Damion is still bending metal and getting ready to paint the body. Steve is sweet-talking the moving parts and dumping the transmission. Mike and Tim will be back in a few days to turn on the digital. We leave for Bonneville in three weeks. Me? I'm wandering in the desert. I got my flashlight out and I'm looking for speed bumps.

Still Connected to the Mother Ship