by Ray Alexander
The event started for us early on Monday morning; Dinah and I were up and through LA before they woke up. We turned off of I-15 in Baker going through a section of Death Valley, then intercepted US 95 in the middle of nowhere. I needed gas badly and stopped at a gas station in Goldfield that only accepted cash. Stopped for lunch in Tonopah and was in Ely by 3 PM. Ely is at an elevation of 6400 feet and the forecast was for rain and snow.
We checked in at the Hotel Nevada, a great old hotel. I had a drink and walked to the Big Four to check on the shirts they were making with my car on it; I was disappointed in the event shirt for 2010, the artist decided that my car needed to be red, but at least it is clearly an SRT8. Jackie is on her way from Las Vegas so I wait through a couple of beers. A light rain begins to fall, then gets much heavier. Jackie shows up but no shirts. The transfers are shipping from LA today and the shirts will be made tomorrow.
About 8 PM the rain is mixed with snowflakes. An hour later it is all snow. I make a couple of trips to the car and take some pictures. The snow is coming into the side of the hotel where our room was located. This causes it to look like it is snowing much harder than it really is. I had never noticed or thought about that. Rain does not do that because the drops hitting the building above you run down the building. The next morning there was about 6 inches of snow. Do you think I have anything with me that will deal with snow?
The entire town has a power failure, but for quite some time the area across the street had power. We had to carry luggage down narrow dark stairs. We get everything down and the power comes back on but the elevator didn’t work.
We were going to drive the course a couple of times but we can’t read the mile markers. The course ends at an elevation of about 3,000’ and there was snow the entire length. I went out looking for a hand car wash and didn’t find one. I even stopped and ask three times but no one knew. The car needs to be clean to accept the event stickers.
I look in the phone book and find a place to get the car washed the next morning. Then we move to Sam’s Town, the hosting hotel for the event. Not many people arrived that I could identify as participants. Usually by 5 PM I can identify 50 cars that are going to race.
The next morning I got my sponsor stickers, car number, and the shirts with the red SRT on them. I went through technical inspection (tech) with no problem. Then go to the press conference luncheon, didn’t see much press.
I had been trying to figure out how to get GPS coordinates into my nav system. Finally got the start and finish entered. We are not going to drive in the caravan so we pull out and head for Ely. I stopped where the GPS indicates the finish to be. I think this is too far down the hill but these coordinates are on a semi-official paper. In the last 18 miles I identify 5 markers that are much easier to see than mile markers at 120 MPH. The snow has melted.
Both of our car numbers blew off on the way to Ely, and I had to make a new sticker using individual numbers. I went into registration and said, “I want 2 fours and a pile of 9s” (my car number is 499). One lady said, “I'm giving you 2 fours and 4 sixes, you figure it out.” On this one, I put duct tape around the edges.
The next day I went out on the course with some of my team, Old Fart Racing. At Big Bend my speedometer was way off but after that I got new tires and told the system to do a self-calibration. There is a speedometer check section on this road and I go through one mile at 60 MPH in 59.82 seconds. The timer that was in Texas is here and I tell him my results. In his opinion you can’t get much closer than that. Given our results at Big Bend I am feeling good about this race.
The streets in Ely have had a lot of mud on them and now any clean car that moves is no longer clean. The hookers shirts are much better than the event shirt and I got third place in their contest again.
The parade, car show and drivers meeting were uneventful with one exception. When I was pulling into the parking area for the show the official asks if I am with a group of any type. I replied that I am with Old Farts Racing. And he quipped “now that is a group of any kind.”
After the drivers meeting we offloaded our luggage for transportation through the racecourse. The Corvette does not have a barrier between the luggage space and the occupants so you can’t have anything there during the race. I am going to build a barrier. We were wearing the clothes that we were going to race in and the only other thing that we had in the hotel room was our toothbrushes.
At the desk I asked for a 5 AM wake up call and tried to cancel all other wake up calls. It came around early. A sheriff led a caravan about 30 miles to a truck stop where we pre-gridded. This has been a spirited drive in the past but this was the best ever, most of the trip was at 100 MPH. I followed a silver Corvette, #302, to grid. The safety plane flew over us at tree top level, now how safe is that?
The first 150 MPH car is off promptly at 8 AM with cars set off at 1- minute intervals after that. This goes very quickly and I got ready to go with a 3-minute margin. All 4 tires are given a visual inspection for foreign objects; a very small nail could ruin your day. Then the belt lady tightens your belts. After that you can barely breathe and the sternum belts are very uncomfortable.
Now we roll up to the line. Dinah has a stopwatch and about 20 checkpoints. I am using the stopwatch feature in the car and I have the five checks that I identified in the last 18 miles. The atomic clock rolls up to zero, we both punch our watches, and we are off. Our plan is to get ten seconds ahead then run at 120 to the narrows. Enter that at 110 then gain speed after the first two turns come out of the narrows and correct time as necessary.
For sixty miles everything is peachy, we are just over 10 seconds ahead and back the speed down to 119. Here comes the narrows, drop to 110 and Dinah’s watch quits working. I get a couple of mile markers for timing and we are right on time. Then we hit a section of rough pavement and the car tells me that active handling is engaged. I think it will go away in a few seconds but it doesn’t. There goes my second hard check. I think that it can’t get worse than it is now so I punch the reset button and my timer comes back. The reset will reset the timer to zero if held.
The mile markers are telling me I am on time. My third hard check is 7.2 miles from the finish. It shows me being slow so I speed up. Then catch a mile marker and indicates that I am fast. Another hard check indicates slow, I am so confused. I decide to go with the mile markers and I have a lot of seconds to get rid of. I can’t drop my speed below 90. I am 11 seconds ahead at the finish.
The Old Farts Racing Team made their first podium appearance in third place, no help from me. Malcolm Johnson had been undecided about this event. His son graduated during the four-day span for the event. I was surprised to see him Wednesday evening at Sam’s Town. He had driven his car up from Tucson and had a flight back that evening. Then he would fly back to Las Vegas on Friday morning pick up his car and tech in Ely. For his effort he won the 135 MPH class and was closest to correct time for all competitors. Yes, he is an Old Fart.
More Articles by Ray Alexander
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