May 22, 1999

One of the most enjoyable races that we run is the "Night of Fire and Thunder" at Bandimere Speedway in Denver. Each year, Bruce Kamada and the rest of the Bandimere staff assemble a great field of exhibition vehicles to compete at this event. They arrange to have 2 Top Fuelers, 2 Nitro Funny Cars, 2 Top Alcohol Dragsters, 2 Top Alcohol Funny Cars and several jet cars. When Bruce called to ask if we were interested in attending, we jumped at the chance. A show like this allows us to work on our tuneup for Denver without the pressure of having to qualify. As one of the "featured attractions", it also gives us a chance to get more attention from the spectators and provide an enjoyable atmosphere for our sponsors.

One of the trickiest things to decide when running a booked in match race is just how hard to run the car. Obviously, you have to go fast enough to put on a show and please the promoter. However, you have to be careful not to break any parts since the commitment is to make two runs. The tuneup that we put in was, we hoped, capable of 6.20 - 6.30 ET's without really being hard on the car. Later this year at the open competition events, we believe that we are capable of 6.0 - 6.1 times if we really lean on the equipment.

We were pleased to discover that we would be matched against Missouri's Randy Fleming. Randy is one of the nicest guys on the tour and is a pleasure to race with. Before we went up for the first run, we choreographed the run by agreeing to do long, smokey, side-by-side burnouts. One of the great things about the larger motors that the alky funny cars run is their ability to do much longer burnouts than the dragsters. Randy and Lyle both smoked the tires to nearly half-track and then rolled to a stop at about the 900-foot mark. By all accounts, the crowd loved it. We got backed up, staged and launched well. The newly resurfaced Bandimere surface held the power and the car went right down the track. From a driving perspective, Lyle did pretty well as his .485 reaction time was nearly a tenth of a second better than Fleming's. Unfortunately, Lyle got a little over-anxious and shifted to 2nd gear about 3 tenths of a second too soon. This probably slowed the car by about .05 seconds. At the finish line, Lyle took the win with a 6.323 at 218 mph to Fleming's ultra close 6.325 at 225 mph.

It was incredible to bring the car back down Bandimere's "lower" return road that passes directly in front of the grandstands. Normally, this road is not used for bringing the cars back, but for this show they wanted us to parade back in front of the crowd. A crowd in excess of 20,000 people stood and cheered Randy and Lyle for the incredible show they put on and the extremely close race.

Back at the trailer, the crew had already planned an abbreviated maintenance schedule. They skipped the normal clutch replacement and concentrated on checking the bearings. As everyone had hoped, the engine was "safe" enough that none of the bearings had to be replaced. Some minor nozzle adjustments were made to 3 different cylinders and the main jet was changed to compensate for the cooling temperature.

Also between runs, Lyle was able to provide VIP treatment to several guests. Several new sponsors were debuted at this event, including Pioneer Solar of Denver. Rick Hubbart was in attendance with his family and friends. In addition, Dan Himmel and Pete Garramone of the Standard 1320 internet group were able to come out as well. Lyle was able to take the time to show all of the guests interesting insights into the car's operation. Lyle was able to give quite a few of the kids the opportunity to sit in the car. Of course, the parents might not be totally thrilled when they find that a junior dragster is in their future!

The second round of the match race again featured both cars doing long, smokey half-track burnouts. Lyle again had an excellent .464 reaction time that gave him an immediate advantage off the starting line. Prior to the run, crew chief Robert Howard and Lyle agreed that the car looked like it was calm enough to warrant trying to run it farther out in low gear. Usually, when we are able to do this, it helps the ET. Lyle executed his driving to perfection, taking the car to about 8,700 rpm in low gear and then shifting to 2nd. Meanwhile, Fleming's car went into severe tire shake in 2nd gear and he was forced to abort his run. Lyle powered on through for his second straight win light of the evening with a 6.34 ET at 220 mph.

Although the trip ended on a great note, with 2 round wins and no damage to the race car, it didn't start out quite that great. During the trip up to Denver, the right front "A-arm" assembly broke as the car was being beat up by the wonderful interstate highway system. Apparently, a particularly nasty bump caused the heim joint on the A-arm to completely break. When we took a look at the car just south of Raton, NM, we discovered that the front tire was collapsed to a 30-degree angle and the chassis/oil pan was contacting the floor of the trailer. In spite of numerous calls to companies in Raton, Pueblo and Denver, we were unable to locate the correct part. When we got to the track, crewmember Harrison Inglis had located a slightly larger heim end that was available for use. Crew chief Robert Howard, Andy Johnson and Blake Johnson proceeded to effect a great in-the-field repair making the car race ready and safe.

For anyone within driving distance of Denver, we highly recommend that you make the "Night of Fire and Thunder" a part of your schedule next year. What a show!

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