Photography & Motorsports
Fourth Annual Nitto NHRA Sport Compact Spring Nationals presented by Import Tuner. Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N. J.
A 1st Round crash end's all hopes for the 2004 Championship and the 2004 Season.
Englishtown, New Jersey. One of my favorite tracks to compete at.
After hundreds of miles of torrential rain through Arkansas and Tennessee, we arrived in Englishtown to find good racing conditions.
With a track elevation of just 68 feet above sea level and reasonable expected temperatures, we anticipated good ET's at this event.
Due to inclement weather in the Dallas/Fort Worth area between Moroso and Englishtown events, we were not able to make a single test run to test a new engine and a new clutch combination. We would take a chance and test during the first round of qualifying.
Additionally, I had sufficient parts to build a brand new engine at the track on Friday evening. The reason for this was that my good friend Jesus Padilla was bringing me new rotor housings that were the same as I had used in 2003.
We assembled the major components of the engine and had it ready in the event we would need it.
That first round was not good. We managed a week 10.9 second pass. This was unacceptable.
With just an hour and a half between rounds, we had our work cut out for us. Thanks to my crew chief Anthony Bulger and crew Victor Sanchez, we extracted the damaged motor, removed parts from it and completed the assembly of the new motor.
The engine swap was completed in record time which permitted me to run the second round of qualifying.
With the new engine started up in the pits just 3 minutes prior to me making the second pass and zero break-in time, we managed to shave 4 tenths off the previous round's time.
A 10.5 second pass to put us in the #8 qualifying position.
The third round of qualifying was to be run the following morning at 10:30 am. This I thought would give us time to do a little more work and make it faster.
There would not be a 3rd round of qualifying as it was raining on Sunday Morning.
As fate would have it, the ladder was tabulated in such a way that the #1 and #2 qualifiers would be on the same side of the ladder and face each other in the second round.
We prepared the car by making only a few minor changes for the first round of eliminations.
I was up against Scott Kelley in his VW. Our qualifying time were close and I knew Scott always has great reaction times.
I recall sitting in the car while the National Anthem was playing and thinking that this was going to be a close race.
It was. Scott's ET 0.130 to my 0.139
I was ahead at the 60' and the clutch was slipping like crazy. I stayed in it and we were door to door all the way down the track.
I remember seeing "smoke" when I looked down near the shifter lever and thought it was the clutch. It turns out that it was coolant being pumped out of the engine block and all over the rear tires. The engine coolant drain plug had come out.
At the top end of the track and in the right lane, the car began to head for the center. I corrected and the next thing I see is that I'm heading straight for the wall at over 120 mph.
I will never forget the sight of that white wall approaching at a rapid speed.
Next thing I knew, I hit the wall with the right front, the hood fly's off like a Frisbee, bouncing off the wall I hit the right rear and then ended up in the middle of the track in a cloud of smoke.
First things first. GET OUT OF THE CAR..
Thanks to the strict safety rules enforced, the safety equipment and the safety safari, I emerged without a scratch or bruise.
The same can not be said for the car. The entire right side was as flat as a pancake at a 45 degree angle and the right rear all dented in.
After I was able to extract the engine and transmission, the real extent of the damage emerged. The entire front of the car was pushed over to the right 4 inches. both frame rails were buckled, the right strut tower is 9 inches behind the left strut tower, the fire wall is pushed back, the floor is kinked, both doors will not close and both right side wheel rims are bent.
In other words, this car is beyond economical repair.
This is a very sad time as this car will never compete again. I have decided not to build another RX-7. Myself along with the many fans who followed it's career will have to remember the many magazine articles and pictures, the television coverage and memory's this car generated.
I WILL NOW FOCUS ON BUILDING THE RX-8
Stay tuned for updates.
Additionally, Anthony & I will focus our efforts and limited resources in support of our good friend and fellow Mazda RX-7 racer Jesus Padilla.
I can not think of a better way to show appreciation to this fine man, who after all, helped propel me to the level I was able to compete at during the 2003 season.
We will assist him in securing the 2004 All Motor Championship. See you at the races.
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