Rapid's Weekend Story-Weekend at Virgil's (1 Viewer)

RAPID

Nitro Member
BLAST FROM THE PAST 2007

My wife Laura, my cousin Kelly, and his wife Shari, and I went to Georgia last weekend. We went there to go racing with Virgil and Karen Hartman, along with the rest of the team. Virgil was putting on an event that included Front Engine Dragsters, Altereds, and Nitro Funnycars, and even included a Jet car and a band. He called and asked if I would be interested in driving one of the Nitro cars for him. If you think I have a good reaction time in my AA/FA, you should have seen how fast I agreed to his request! The details were worked out and we were on our way.

We left Des Moines at on Thursday the 8th. We arrived in Greenville, South Carolina where Virgil lives mid-afternoon. The race shop is at his business location. Can you imagine pulling into the huge parking lot and seeing 6-funny cars sitting there being assembled. Ray Murphy’s new toter-home and 3-car stacker trailer, Virgil’s motor home and 2-car stacker trailer. His van hooked to another single car trailer, along with Virgil’s street rod. Let me tell you, KB and I were in car heaven. Laura asked who is going to drive all these cars? I said, heck, I will try all of them at least once, and narrow my favorites down from there.

Now we all like to think we have a great race shop, and some cool tools, but nothing compares to the shop, well actually multiple shops and equipment in Virgil’s joint. The first thing we did was tour of the business. Rhonda was in the main office working away. Her son Dylan was hanging with Virgil, Megan {Rhonda and Bodie’s daughter} blasted by us going 100-mph on some mission of her own.

We went back to the race shop and John “Bodie” Smith was finishing up the 69 Mach 1 Mustang. It was the car that I originally was to drive. However the new owner, Dusty, was coming in town to race it with his team. Brian Greer was mounting slicks, Virgil was running the balancer while I watched. Just as a side note, that was my last work break of the weekend! We installed the rear wheels on the Mustang to determine the amount of rear spacers to run. When we got it measured out, Virgil picked up a piece of aluminum block and went into the machine shop. He came back out with a set of wheel spacers the exact width required. Now that was cool. If you need something, don’t call around, make it yourself and save the shipping.

Laura hasn’t been married to me all this time without learning a thing or two about me around racecars. When she saw me set my Pepsi down and pick up the ratchet, she knew the drill. Shari and her went exploring for a Starbucks and seeing the local shopping scene.

I went to Ray’s trailer to put some equipment in there and ran into a gentleman you may have heard of,,,Shirl Greer,,,yes the funnycar champion of 1973

Ray, Tish, KB and I went to J Ed Horton’s chassis shop. We went there to get Richard’s 1955 Chevy Funnycar. Some of you may know, Richard bought this car and body less than 45-days ago. He re-worked the chassis, moved the engine, re-mounted the body, new tin work, built an engine, and installed the transmission and rear end. He basically built the complete car, except the body in this amount of time. That is a ton of work to accomplish in 45-days! It was great to meet J Ed, and hear some stories while we were loading the car and support equipment.

Richard was out testing the top fuel car, so it was decided that I would drive his 55 for him. We wanted him to be there to put the first run in his own car, but it didn’t look like he would be there in time. He told me he was going to try still.

When we got back to the shop and unloaded the 55 it was time to make some noise. We started up 4-nitro funnycars. Talk about Nitro overload. I was pumping it out of 55-gallon drums, 90% of the good stuff, and these cars were drinking it like water. The rest of the evening was spent loading cars and equipment. We went back to the motel around midnight.

Friday morning we arrived back at the race shop. It was decided that Ray and my group would take 3-cars and go do the display for the GMC dealership in Georgia close to the track. It was about a 5-hour drive. We arrived mid afternoon and stayed until around 7:00PM. There was a radio remote from there and quite a few people dropped in to check out the cars.

Then we loaded all three back up and moved across town to the Hooters joint. Shirl, and Brian Greer were already there and had the crowd wound up wanting to smell some Nitro. We unloaded Ray’s car and parked it by Shirl’s. There was also a neat little Hemi powered street rod with the Greers. I think we were there until around 11:00PM then reloaded Ray’s car, and sent him on to the race track. We went to the motel for a few hours of sleep.

Saturday AM we had to make some stops for a few pieces we needed on Ray’s trailer, and of course whip cream for the waffles. It was almost 10:00 AM by the time we made the ½ hour drive to the track. Silver Dollar Raceway in Reynolds, Ga is where the event was held. Virgil greeted me with a “How nice, the 2nd shift finally is here,” and a big grin. I suggested he tell the girls, especially the sick one in the front seat they were lagging,,,,wisely he choose not to try that with Laura. She came down with the same thing I had in the 2-weeks leading up to this event. Hers was coupled with a 102-degree fever. Before we left home when she said she didn’t feel well I did what any good racer would do. I said, “Take care of yourself honey. I will try to call between rounds!” As you might imagine, she had a few things to say, none of it I can print here. What she really meant was, Randy I wouldn’t miss this for the world, I am going with you no matter what. That is what I think she meant anyway. We did miss the waffle breakfast Ray promised the girls. I forgot all about breakfast when we started lining up all these funny cars in a row. I wondered off 1st thing knowing the chance probably would not come again to see some friends from the internet who were also there racing.

Saturday was non-stop prepping the cars for the runs. My friend Billy Mac drove up to see Ol’ Rapid pilot the fiberglass cave and was a ton of help. I probably should explain the fiberglass cave deal. Since my AA/FA is an open top car, I started calling the funnycars “Fiberglass Caves.” Well it goes naturally then the funnycar drivers are “Cavemen.” We have a pretty good time around the net just razzing each other back and forth. They tease me about needing sunscreen with the open car, and I tell them to be sure to charge the batteries in the lamp on their helmets, so they can see in the dark cave. It is all in good fun.

I got to warm up the 55 in the middle of the day. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to finally be in the seat again. The last time I sat behind a big old Hemi was in Oct at our last test session in Kansas City. There are a number of different things compared to my car. The biggest difference is the Crower Glide slipper clutch. I could spend a ton of time talking about it, but basically it is either in or out, except of course when you push it too far in, then it is engaged again. Got it,,,good. Now you know about as much as I did about working it. So don’t go over center and be sure to have it in neutral when we start the car,,,right. I got in the car with my face mask and ear plugs. Virgil came to start the car, and said, “Oh no,,,come on we are Nitro guys, we don’t need face masks.” He got someone to take a picture promising to put it on the net. I told him I didn’t want to miss a hand signal from him because my eyes were full of Nitro. The last thing I wanted was to do something wrong in there. He had the crowd going pretty good having fun with it. I finally told him he was in charge of starting the car; I was in charge of being able to breathe.

This is it, the big moment of sitting behind a Fuel Hemi on a big load of Nitro. Virgil gives the signal, the starter spins it over he feeds some gas from the starter bottle, and motions for the coil wire to be pulled. It is running on gas, sounds pretty smooth and quiet. With a nod of his head, I pull the fuel lever on and feed the beast that sweet nectar of the Gods! Holy crap, it went from a quiet little thing to a snarling banging beast. It hit so hard on every stroke the car is shaking; the concussion is driving every person back but Virgil who is checking things over. KB is hanging close as well as Ray. They are checking the car, but mostly watching the big grin on my mug as I test the clutch and shift the car forward and then in reverse to warm everything up. When the temp is up enough I get the hang on to the brake signal, and Virgil hit the throttle. The car is trying to jump off the pro-jacks, the body is being held down to keep from blowing off the chassis, and I am in heaven! He does it one more time, I turned the fuel off and it is fed from the gas bottle to clear the lines. It changes tone, back to the calm little billet aluminum chunk of engine, smooth as silk. After the noise the quiet is strange for few seconds then the crowd is clapping and yelling. It was a great first experience in a Nitro Funny Car.

The rest of the cars are serviced and it is time to go. KB, Billy Mac, and I are down to parachutes, and wheelie bars on the 55 as the other cars move to the staging lanes. We were hooking up the tow vehicle to the car when Richard called; he was just pulling in the gate. I went over a few things he needed to know about the car and was ready to help him run his car or do whatever else needed taken care of. I just assumed my window of opportunity to drive had closed. Sure I was disappointed, any racer would have been. Heck, I had so many cool things happen already up to this point; it would have been fine to leave it at that.

I just finished talking with Richard, and Rhonda says come-on you are driving my car. WHAT??? Let’s go, it is up in the lanes and you can drive mine. Are you ok with that? We were walking up to the lanes and we discussed the controls. She stopped, turned to me and asked again, “Are you ok with the changes?” What a cool lady, she is giving up her chance to drive, and is making sure I am ok. That tells you the caliber of people the Hartmans are. I responded, “Yes, I am ok with the last minute change. Heck Rhonda, I haven’t driven any of them. So it makes no difference to me which one I actually drive.”

We came to her car, now remember she is suited up also this is literally a last second driver change. I sat down in the car and tried to lean back, bang. I hit the cage; 2-more tries same result. Finally I lean way forward, slide back into the seat and I am able to drag my helmet past the front of the cage. Cool, now I am in a lay down style car. I reach for the steering wheel, and the guys are hooking up the fresh air system. I am real cramped and with my hands on the wheel, my arms are jammed into my sides. I reached for the chutes, ok there. I reached for the fuel lever, ok there too. I try to move the steering wheel and only can move it a little. I feel for the shifter, can’t get my hands on it at all. This isn’t good. Then they are fighting the belts to lengthen them, I try a few more times and finally come to the conclusion I just don’t fit in this car and I can’t drive it. I had the guys move, and I tried to get out. Humm, nope not that way, nope can’t do that either. I finally leaned way forward and slid out that way. Now everybody can guess how bad I wanted to drive this Nitro Funnycar. It was a hard decision to give up and get out, but I knew I couldn’t do my job in the car.

I am out of the car, helmet off, jacket off, and Laura asked what now? I said, “go get Rhonda suited up, I can’t drive her car and somebody needs to make a pass in it.” Laura and Rhonda came back and the first thing Rhonda does is to make sure I am ok. I told her the problem and said she needs to drive instead. In about a second she said, “Hey wait, there is a pad in the car for me!” She went to the car, and pulled out a thick back pad and seat pad. Now try this, you will fit now. I honestly didn’t think so, but I put my helmet back on and got into the car. Hey I made it, I was in,,,tight,,,but in. I can’t see the controls, but I can feel them. Never before could I really understand the NHRA blindfold test rule. Here it was working out for me. The steering wheel is still in the wrong place but I can move it some, so I have the guys strap me in. Heck, I was trying to go in a straight line anyway right?

I was being towed up, small problem as I didn’t know which lane I was going to. I figured just follow the truck towing me and wing it. Note to self, even following a pull vehicle, you can’t see out the side of a funny car with the body up. I ended up getting the left lane. They fired up the car, body down, shift into high, roll thru the water and whack the throttle. It went right up on the tires and danced down there. Virgil runs a throttle limiter/stop on all the cars. I felt it was getting a bit too high in the rpms so I backed off the stop a little when it was spinning good. I did a short burnout, I thought, and went to the hand brake. Did I mention I have never driven a hand brake car before? I was a little late reaching for it and rolled further down the track than I had planned. Ok, now for the big test. I have seen tons of cars do a burnout, then the driver not be able to get it into reverse and have to idle down the track. I didn’t want to look like a “No-Driving Fool” so with the car stopped; I pushed in the clutch to the neutral area, prayed and move the lever. It came out of gear but wouldn’t go into reverse. Dang, however this was something I was mostly used to as my Lencodrive in the AA/FA does this same thing. I eased the clutch just past center and the car rocked forward and it slipped into reverse. Yahoo! Big grin, now I am backing up but it was a bit too fast for my lack of ability to move the steering wheel very far. I then committed the cardinal sin in a crew chief’s eyes, I had to push the clutch back in and slow the car to allow myself extra time to work the wheel. I got back behind the line; Virgil pulled off the throttle stop, and guided me into the beams. I was on my own and sitting there in a fully loaded Nitro funnycar,,,LIFE IS GOOD!!!

I rolled into the prestage beam, then right on into the staged. I was told the track was slick and to lift if it did anything silly. I launched it and went about 150-200 feet before I allowed it to move out of the groove to the left. That resulted in tire spin right into a mild tire shake. I let off, brought it back into the groove and idled on down thru there. I got it shut of and made the return road. Now on my normal standards this was pretty lousy. I could name 4 or 5-things I had done wrong right off the bat. However when you consider 5-minutes ago I had never sat in this car, never driven a crower clutch car, and never used a hand brake before, and it was my first lap in a fuel funny car, it wasn’t crashed or blown up, I didn’t get stopped on the track unable to make the return road,,,I was ok with it. I expected more of myself, but am old enough to know it doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Prior to leaving home Laura asked, are you nervous? I replied, “No I feel good about driving. The only thing that scares me is if I disappoint Virgil,,,now that bothers me. The other stuff I am comfortable with.”

So back to the pits, I got out and discussed a few things with Virgil then he asked if I was ready to do it again? I grinned, or maybe was still grinning, and said if you will let me I am up for it.

All the cars were serviced, fueled, and back in the lanes. I also need to mention that band was playing Southern Rock while we were working away. The weather was perfect and I was driving a fuel funnycar. I was having the time of my life. KB, was going from Ray’s car to Richard’s car just working away. He was having the time of his life, working on funnycars and living the dream.

I was really ready to make the run this next pass. The car was a bit cantankerous about firing off, but Virgil got it to light, I pulled the fuel on, stuck it in high and headed for the water. I stood on it, and drove it just about 100 feet out and lifted. I got right on the brake and backed up. I kept my foot off the clutch and felt much more in control of the car rather than just along for the ride. I was still having trouble steering but nothing could be done about that. I came to a stop behind the line, and held the brake while Tish removed the limiter. While I was waiting I noticed something odd,,,hey look at the flames licking up the side of the car. Now that is cool! It was just sitting there belching fire and quivering like a race horse as I held the brake. I could feel it was reading my mind and wanted to fly. With the flames out the side windows, Virgil guided me into the prestage beam and backed out of the way. Did I mention I was racing Bodie in the Sasquatch Trans-Am. The baddest Nostalgia funnycar on the planet is lined up beside me with a Pro multi-national event winner driving it. I was pre-staged first and to tell you the truth I was planning on beating him. How do you like that for feeling cocky? I can’t fit in this car, can’t see any controls and I am planning on winning this round! I know,,goofy but I was planning it anyway. I stuck the car in high gear and staged it. Bodie came in right behind me and we both left. It felt good and was pulling hard. Again it moved to the left out of the groove and went right up into shake, enough shake to rattle my head on the cage. I lifted and eased back into the groove. I was coasting pretty good and let it get past the finish line, pushed the fuel shut off lever. I listened to the motor come up and die. I was rolling along and the engine came to life again,,,hey you are not supposed to do that I said and gave the fuel lever another push and it died again. I took the last return road and waited on the guys. I had done it, 4-days of hard work, good friends, and funnycar racing.

It was time to celebrate and relax before loading the cars and hitting the highway. Thanks to my expert planning and analysis of the geography of the Eastern United States all we had to do was leave the race track at midnight, drive 5-hours north to our hotel, stay there for 3-hours and return the rental and go to the airport. You haven’t lived until you have flogged a bunch of race cars for 3-days, then drive all night after that.

We were pretty worn out but it sure was fun anyway. Later I found out, not only did Rhonda give up her car, but Bodie offered his, and Ray Murphy offered his also. I was lucky to be hanging with such great people who wanted to make sure my dream came true one weekend in Reynolds, Ga.

Thanks to everyone involved. I hope you enjoyed my “What I did last weekend” story. I know I left off a ton of cool stuff that happened but this is all I can remember right now.

Rapid
 

Nunz

Nitro Member
Randy, I was just going to start a thread to tell everyone to read your story on Draglist.com. I gotta tell ya', sounds like you're having a little too much fun for one guy! In all seriousness, sounds like it was an awesome time. The Hartman's sound like pretty cool people, and it looks like Virgil is a driving force behind the nostalgia FC movement. Keep the stories coming!
 

BlueStangGT

Nitro Member
Sounds like a kick-ass weekend, Randy! Thanks for the great write-up, it's always a pleasure to read about your adventures. Tell Virgil we miss him around here!
 

PJ

Staff Member
Staff member
Administrator
Nitro Member
awesome, glad you were able to live the dream
 

Rollout96

Nitro Member
Thanks to everyone involved. I hope you enjoyed my “What I did last weekend” story. I know I left off a ton of cool stuff that happened but this is all I can remember right now.

Rapid

That was a FANTASTIC read Randy. Thanks for taking the time to write it. Sounds like you had a great weekend!!!!!!:) :)
 

Ian

Nitro Member
Great story! Sounds like a dream weekend. How was the fan turnout for the race?

Ian
 

next of kin

Nitro Member
I got $20 that says Laura typed as Rapid talked...:D
Anyone?? :eek:

It's all love Randy...:p
What did you have for lunch two tuesday's ago??:)
Livin the dream!!
 

.

Nitro Member
Wow that sounds so great Rapid.
Lucky dog. So when are ya going to do it again?
Any pics?
Thanx for sharing the awesome experience w/ us!
Tell Virgil we miss him here on the 'mater.
 

RAPID

Nitro Member
Thanks everyone. I tried to include as much as I could so everyone here could enjoy the feeling. I know it was a tad too long. :eek:

I sure appreciate all the kind words, it means alot. However,,,no to Laura typing, she is still running a fever and getting me to wait on her!

Hey, I do have some photos. Can we post them or do we still link to them here now?

Ian, although saying I don't know what times I ran, or exactly how big the crowd was, started a storm on another board here is what I know. I never got a look at the crowd in the stands. The only time I was up at the starting line was walking the track early before the joint opened, and inside the cave! You can't see out the side of those cars with the body up, when it goes down I was too busy learning to drive it to look over. Just to opposite of when I drive our AA/FA where I wave to the crowd as I back up from the burnout! :D

It was packed in our pits all day with people watching us service the cars.

I was told by the track owner yesterday it was the biggest single day crowd the track had ever had. I don't know the numbers, and like anyplace, except Rockingham last year at the ADRL race, there is always room for more paying customers at a race track. ;)

Here try this link.

NITROMADNESS - Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thanks again,

Rapid
 

DrRocket

Nitro Member
Cool photos, Rapid. Thanks for posting. Wow. What a dream, eh??? I'll bet you can still hear the 90% like it was yesterday.


Gee, a 55 Chev funny car that actually LOOKS like a '55 Chevy. What a concept!
 

RAPID

Nitro Member
Oh yeah,,,still grinning ear to ear over that deal!! :cool:

I didn't know I could share that photobucket deal so easy. I have quite a few pictures of the new car being built in there. :)

Rapid
 

next of kin

Nitro Member
GEEZ!! Randy, first you give us two hours of reading material... Hooked all the way threw by the way...:D
Then it's three hours of looking at pics...:p
New car looks FN awesome...;)
Great stuff all around...:)
 

d'kid

Nitro Member
Randy, looks like your great both behind a butterfly and a spray gun....
Loved the Eyecandy, and that chick about half through wasn't bad either...
 
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