They're Not Crazy. Just a Little Unwell.

By Jim Luikens

Hot Rod Magazine revolutionized the street scene a few a years ago with the introduction of the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour. For those of you that might not be familiar with it, the Power Tour is a 1500 to 2500 mile, ten day cross-country drive with a couple thousand like-minded strangers that are your new best friends by the end of the week. This is the story of Drag Week 2005, which takes that concept one step further by adding a daily dose of drag racing to the cross-country drive.

Like almost everything else in life however, there is a small hitch. You must drive your drag racing vehicle and carry everything you need to survive the week onboard your vehicle. If you can't fit what you need on board you are permitted to tow a small trailer with your necessary supplies. Towing your car itself however, is emphatically not permitted and, in fact, competitors are supplied with disposable cameras to document anyone they see violating the rules.

This year's Drag Week, the first ever, started in Kansas City, Missouri and then hit Madison, Illinois, Bowling Green, Kentucky and Columbus, Ohio before ending at IHRA's showplace track, the 12 million dollar US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan. Pretty simple, eh? Five days, five states, five drag strips. What about the 1500 plus miles that you are going to have to drive in between those tracks to keep on schedule? That's where the plot thickens.

Carl Scott's wheelstand
For this event competitors were divided into five classes: Daily Driver, Naturally Aspirated Small Block, Naturally Aspirated Big Block, Power Added Small Block and Power Added Big Block. At each stop each driver had several hours to record his best elapsed time. He then had to turn in his best time ticket before setting sail for the next day's locale. At the end of the week the driver in every class, except Daily Driver, with the lowest average elapsed time for the five days/five tracks would be declared the winner of his class.

In the Daily Driver class the winner was going to be determined by the car/driver that averaged the closest to twelve seconds (over or under) for the five tracks. Amazingly, at the end of five days, two drivers were TIED with an elapsed time average of 12.005 seconds. Think about that for a moment! Two drivers, two cars, two very different approaches, five tracks, five days and tied to the thousandth of a second after a week of racing. Brian Corrigan was declared the class winner when his 121.566 average mile an hour barely eked by Tom Fauglid's 121.090 average speed by less than a half a mile an hour.

The rest of this story will focus on the marquee class, Power Added Big Block. Seven cars answered the bell for the class on opening day at KCIR. Two fell out early (one was to return on the final day) and two others were not really in the eight-second hunt for the top spot. That meant that the class would be decided between Carl Scott, Phil Cooper and Larry Larson. Ironically all of them were driving either a 1966 or 1967 Chevy II. Despite their similarity of car model each made his power a very different way.

Carl Scott, of Woodward, Oklahoma uses a nitrous-assisted 540 CID Big Block Chevrolet engine for power in his '67 Nova and he had a very interesting week. Three weeks prior to the event he had constructed a small trailer to haul his spare parts, DOT tires, etc. from a (Sea Doo-type) watercraft trailer. His Drag Week got off to a rocky start when he left the keys to the diamond-plate toolboxes he had installed on his trailer back on the kitchen table in Oklahoma. He had to purchase a small grinder at the local Home Depot on the first day so that he could cut the pad locks on his boxes. That grinder was to play an even bigger role later in the week.

Carl Scott's pit area
On Wednesday an electrical failure allowed Carl's three-year old engine to receive too much nitrous and he severely melted several pistons in his engine. An all-day telephone thrash finally located a set of replacement pistons 90 miles away and a fellow drag weeker volunteered to make the nearly two hundred mile round trip to retrieve them. What followed was a serious engine thrash that finally ended well after midnight when the repaired engine was fired for the first time. The aforementioned grinder played an important role in this rebirth when it was pressed into service to end-gap the new piston rings.

With his Nova now running again Carl only had to cover the 325 plus miles between him and Columbus before nine am the next morning. He broke in his new engine by pushing it as hard as he dared, sometimes seeing as much as 4000 rpm on the tachometer. He arrived in Columbus only 15 minutes late and was rewarded with a standing ovation from his peers. Carl's only other problem of the week occurred at Martin when he tried a second stage of nitrous for the first time. The result wasn't pretty and Carl came back from the top end of the track on a tow rope.

Phil Coopers
Phil Cooper of Urbana, Illinois uses a nitrous-fed 457 CID Brodix Small Block to power his '66 Nova. Even though he has a small block engine he was in the big block class because of his cubic inches, a number more often seen associated with Big Blocks. He towed his goodies in a small enclosed trailer and had a fairly uneventful week until he allowed his crew member to make a pass once he had completed his runs at Martin. Hard acceleration to half track was followed by some pretty expensive sounding noises and a coasting finish. Phil didn't disassemble his engine at the track but he feared the worst as his Nova headed out the gate at the event's conclusion on a ramp truck.

That leaves the remarkable '66 Chevy II of Oak Grove, Missouri's Larry Larson. Larry made do without a trailer to support his Lenco-shifted, 1471-blown 555 CID Chevy engine for the week. He carried everything he needed, including a token spare tire inside a garbage bag, either in his fuel-cell dominated trunk or his former back seat area, which is now mostly taken up by wheel tubs. Larry is the owner of Larry Larson Race Cars and the drive line crew chief on Mike Moran's 239 mile-an-hour Pro Mod Monte Carlo so this wasn't his first drag race. He had a mostly uneventful week, recording the best elapsed time, 8.382 and the highest top speed, 163.51 mph of any competitor for the week on the last day at Martin.

Larry Larson
In the end Carl Scott's 8.581-second average et for the week won the hotly contested P.A.B.B. class with Phil Cooper a little more than a tenth of a second behind at 8.701 seconds. Despite his final day heroics Larry Larson's 8.874 average et garnered him the class' bronze medal for the week. Imagine that, less than three tenths of a second separated the three drivers at week's end.

Last year I gave out my first "Lukeys" for Excellence in Drag Racing and later this year my 2005 award winners will be announced. For right now I can tell you that Larry Larson is the first winner. When you consider that he drove a supercharged, Lenco-equipped car 1500 miles in five days without a support trailer, recorded the lowest et and highest top speed of the event and finished third overall in the toughest class, the choice is obvious. He is also the only one of the Chevy II triumvirate whose engine was still operable at the end of the event.

Congratulations to Larry but also to everyone that was a part of Drag Week 2005. Next year there will be more cars, more sponsors, more stories and, hopefully, even more fun. But there can only be one first time. The drivers that were a part of Drag Week 2005 are all winners. They helped each other survive, made new friends and recorded a lifetime of memories. To paraphrase the popular song, "They're not crazy, just a little unwell." We should all be so lucky.