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By Ray Alexander
The Big Bend Road Race is an international event, with hundreds of people bringing top-end cars from around the world. The first two days include registration, technical inspection, rookie qualification/training, and practice.
The race is 118 miles, 59 to Sanderson, turn around, fuel up, have lunch, and race back. Practice has been the best part of the event, but the Texas DOT has “fixed” that. The segment of U.S. 90 where practice is held can only be shut down for 20 minutes, after which accumulated traffic is allowed to pass through. For practice, you must be approved by technical inspection and have on all your race gear. Drivers are grouped by technical speed, which is determined by their target speed and safety equipment. During practice, the basic requirement is to not exceed tech speed.
The practice course is about eight miles in length just west of Sanderson. The terrain is hills to the east and flat to the west, but the road has serious curves doing an end run on a couple of hills and aligns to washes at 90 degrees for minimizing bridge length.
My tech speed is 168, and I can do most of the course near 165, even the one turn marked at 65. Race officials quickly realize the time between vehicles needs to be reduced from that of past years (60 seconds) to something like 20 seconds. On one run, there was a seasoned veteran running 140 in a 636-hp ZR1 behind me. I thought, “This is not good; he will be up my exhaust pipe before the first turn.” In front there was a C5 Corvette with a lady driver.
All the necessary items aligned in the universe, allowing us to move to the start line. The C5 leaves, and soon I am given the green flag. I catch her and see that she has good lines for executing the turns. I look in my mirror and see no other car; I back off, build some distance, and enjoy the rest of the run. Same on the return run. My car pulled enough g-force to turn on the passenger-seat-belt light, and I decided that was good enough.
The driver of the ZR1 behind me destroyed it on the next run. There was no top, no front clip, no doors, no windshield; a portion of both rear fenders remained, and that was the only way to identify it as a Corvette. Emergency personnel were on the scene within 60 seconds. The driver was standing beside the wreckage, unhurt.
Robert and Mary Armstrong, driving a 2011 Challenger, also had a problem in practice. Robert was a rookie at Silver State 2012. He wanted to make sure he had everything correct. I ran into Robert at the courthouse, and he is distressed. I asked, “What is wrong?”
“I was speeding on the practice course.”
“How fast were you going?”
“Huh? 107 is not speeding in any class.”
“I was past the shut down area and didn’t realize it.”
“Oh crap, you don’t have a leg stand on.”
There are two sets of cones on the road surface. The first has yellow flags, and the second has red flags. By now you are seeing people and vehicles. The race director pointed out that once you pass the red flags, you are off the race course and under the jurisdiction of law enforcement officers. The race director said, “If the sheriff cites you, you will not be allowed to race; if he gives you a warning you are in.”
The sheriff gave him a warning.
Any racer should know that yellow and red flags do not need to be waved, only displayed.
A fellow in the 135 class was driving a red Viper. His name was Lirel Holt. I asked him, “How are you doing?”
He replied, “I am better that anybody you know.”
That was near the mark because he won the class.
Darrell Gray was running a Hemi Orange ’08 SRT-8 Challenger in the 150 class. I have seen him here for a couple of years, but I am surprised that he is running that fast. Lirel is genuinely concerned about the Challenger being able run this course that fast. From the experience with my SRT-8 Charger, I didn’t think Darrell would have a problem.
I finally got a bet with Lirel that the Challenger would make the 150 mph average. The Challenger runs fast in both directions, despite the density altitude being much higher in the afternoon and having a head wind. What a day, racing and taking someone’s money.
Jerry Cox is among the people I hang out with at this event. He had a ’01 Viper in detonator yellow. The car looked like the only skin care it ever had was harsh dish detergent and direct sunlight.
A couple of months back, there was a picture on internet of a wrecked yellow Viper with a BBORR windshield banner. I knew that had to be Jerry’s car, but no e-mail crying over a wrecked car. At the race he confessed to wrecking it in his neighborhood and walking home. He had not removed the stopwatch from his steering wheel; the airbag propelled that into his face. The insurance company paid him almost as much as he paid for the car five years ago. He now has a black ’08 ACR Viper.
Larry Robinson usually runs the 150 class in a black Viper. This year he is trying to run a Casey Mears 2006 Dodge, still painted with the Target logos. Things were not going well; it broke during practice on Thursday. So Larry drove the Viper to third place. I have heard Larry say he has left the Viper in his trailer from one BBORR to the next.
After the race someone was ragging on him about the Viper. Larry said, “Well it’s kinda like the Texas Rangers: You send one Ranger to quell a riot. If you want to win a car race, you send one Dodge.”
I have been told that having a timing error to the plus side (fast) is better than the minus side (slow) because the fast time made target speed. In the 145 class, Brian Haskett in a 2003 Mustang was 0.015 seconds fast, while Phillip and Amy Bowser in a ’97 Porsche were exactly 0.015 slow. The win went to Brian.
I met David Cudd in 2007 at the Silver State Race; he was driving the “Hot Rod Lincoln.” It was from the era with suicide rear doors. Years later, I found this was a NASCAR car, with the Lincoln skins welded on.
He has wanted to run BBORR in the unlimited class for years, but his car wouldn’t pass tech. He enlisted help from Ricky Larson, who has a great wealth of automotive knowledge. Ricky has also navigated for David the last two years. This year, the car passed tech for unlimited. Then the car, a highly modified 2000 Corvette, started shutting down at 200 mph. Ricky was all over the web, and his phone almost went into melt down. Symptoms point to a patch cable between C5 and C6 electronics. They got the cable on Friday, and a test run yielded false positive results. The car still shut down during the race. They managed to snag third place. I will bet the car runs much better next year.
Lirel, where are you? He wants another bet to get his money back.
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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