At The Track
Teddy had never drag raced on a track before and had a steep learning curve in front of him. It's one thing to learn during a track's test-and-tune session and another to do it in front of HPP cameras for a magazine article. Add to that the fact that Teddy didn't just have to manage the accelerator pedal, he had to learn how to power shift four forward gears at full throttle through an ultra-steep 4.56 rear gear, without ever missing a gear, and you'll know why he had his work cut out for him.
For his first pass, he revved the 428 to 3,000 rpm and popped the clutch. He propelled the Firebird across the 60-foot in 1.79 seconds, and speed shifted into the next three gears. The result, a 12.24 e.t. at 111.94 mph, showed that the Firebird had promise, and so did the driver.
Increasing his launch rpm to 3,800 and power shifting through the gears for his next time on the track, Teddy brought his 60-foot time down to a 1.67 with a trap e.t. of 12.02 at 111.39 mph. "It felt great," he said, to experience the First-Gen Firebird's potential on the NHRA Summit track.
For his third time at the tree, Teddy launched at 3,500 rpm, but missed his Second gear shift and didn't complete the pass.
His tuning consisted of raising his timing from 36 to 40 degrees, and dropping his tire pressure from 13 to 12.5 psi. Of the event, Teddy said, "It was a nice track and it had great traction." Of his Firebird's reaction to the track, he recalled, "It hooked great."
Ken's been racing for 13 years, so his job was to see how well his fresh '02 Trans Am race car liked the Summit track. For his first pass, he launched at 1,600 rpm, hit the 60-foot in 1.267 seconds, and stampeded the traps at 150.11 mph for a 9.03 second e.t. He knew that it was capable of high-8s, but how would he get there? "It wasn't the engine or the tuning," Ken said. "It was the suspension. I had to adjust the shocks and keep the power-crazed Firebird from spinning."
On his second pass, he improved upon his 60-foot with a 1.257, but the Trans Am got out of the groove, and he backed off the throttle. His time reflected his decision, a 10.74 at 90.18.
The next time out, Ken broke into the 8s, an 8.95 e.t. at 151.39 mph on a 1.26 60-foot. Finally, he felt the Trans Am was acclimated to the track, but he had one last pass of the day to improve upon his e.t's. Could he do it?
Late in the afternoon, he staged for his fourth run, launched at 1,600 rpm, passed the 60-foot in 1.259 seconds, and bested his previous best run of the day with a ground-shaking 8.91 e.t. at 151.61 mph.
His engine tuning did not vary throughout the day. When asked about the event, Ken said he liked "the fact that everyone treated you well." Regarding his Trans Am's reaction to the Summit track, he recalled, "It spun until I adjusted my shocks, then it hooked."
Firebirds and Trans Ams are among the most popular Pontiacs at drag-racing events and the reasons are obvious: Great looks, relatively light weight, and a lot of attitude. No wonder both these racers drive F-bodies on the track.
Teddy showed us that every racer in the hobby had a day that he or she will remember as his or her very first time. He started with beginner's luck, and then learned that power shifting a four-speed can take plenty of practice. Nonetheless, he didn't get disappointed, and he continued perfecting his technique throughout the weekend. According to his dad, Ted, it paid off. "Teddy started speed shifting and progressed to power shifting. He was struggling with First and Second gear, due to the rpm, and had a tendency to short shift. By the time the weekend was over, he had it down and wasn't missing a gear shift at all."
Ken showed us that racers with more experience are quicker to decide where tuning is needed. For example, he focused on his race car's suspension, instead of modifying the engine tuning or driving technique. Ken knew that the key to eliminating his spinning was a simple shock adjustment and his subsequent timeslips proved it. Though his technique and tuning remained unchanged throughout the day, the shock adjustment allowed him to harness his Trans Am's true potential and reward him with two timeslips in the 8s.
The two drivers and their Pontiacs featured in this Shootout showed us that racing is a great hobby for every age bracket, because all are welcomed at the track with open arms. Besides the experience that a track outing can bring, there's also the camaraderie that can last a lifetime. Whether you plan on building your first race car or are have been racing for years and are looking for a way to go quicker, the cars and combos detailed in this Shootout will give you plenty of ideas for your project.
HPP would like to thank the management and crew at Summit Motorsports Park for their assistance in making this Shootout possible. Thanks also to Duke Jefferson, John Labuda, and Arnie Brewer, who helped make the day go much more smoothly.