Photography & Motorsports
Undoubtedly, this team's best performance to date and a testament to a well prepared race car!
During the 2002/03 off season, the car undertook a complete "once over".
Literally, every inch of the car was inspected following the 2002 season and
several items were addressed.
We would again learn, as we did toward the end of the 2002 season, the
tuning of the motor and gear ratios were going to be the keys to the success of
this team. While we spent a lot of time on the chassis dyno, the real tuning, we
learned, would be done at the track under load. The methanol tuning was tough as
we had little experience. However, we now have the "tools" to assist with this
critical and crucial part of the program.
In late February, we were posting some good numbers on the chassis dyno, an increase from what we had at the end of 2002. Based on all the other competitors best ET's and no 3-Rotor or 6 cylinder cars to contend with, gave us confidence going into the 2003 season. We just did not know how much?
This proved to be a good thing. The first event in March held at The Strip at Las Vegas, with only one qualifying pass, we were the only car to make a 10 second pass. To be the #1 qualifier right out of the box felt good. A 10.798 ET @ 124.05 mph. However, the rain delayed event would remove the advantage we had being prepared at the beginning of the 2003 season as we would return in August only to suffer a line lock failure and unable to stage the car properly. For us, the 10,500 RPM 2-step launch educed "creep" so it was either foul with a red light or just gas and go and hope our competition made a slow start. That didn't happen.
Next was Moroso with near perfect conditions. This would set the stage for the remainder of the season. Surprising even ourselves, we would qualify #1 the first of 5 top qualifying spots for the year, and setting the National Record with a 10.259 @ 129.92 mph. WOW. I was a happy man. We were defeated in 4 final rounds last year and now the monkey was finally off my back. Winning My very first "WALLY", what a wonderful feeling.
Back home in Texas April 12th at the Texas Motorplex, we were able to compete in the NDRA's NOPI season opener. We qualified #2 with some very consistent low 10.30's and high 10.20's. All went well during the elimination rounds and I ended up in the final against Eric Agular, the NDRA's shining star. Certainly Eric had a fast Honda that weighed 525 lbs lighter than the RX-7.
That final round was one hell of a drag race and certainly is one of my favorites. We beat Eric heads up, fair and square. THE ONLY CAR TO BEAT ERIC all year long. Is that cool or what. Coming soon, see the in-car video of this race and others.
Next on May 15th was Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ. One of my favorite tracks where the fans are awesome. Rotary nuts. The car again was awesome, Qualifying #1 again only to suffer a broken ring and pinion gear in the first round. Fortunately, the second round was a bye and we ended up loosing to Scott Mohler in the semi. I never thought we would ever break the rear end but we did.
Back to Florida, May 15th. Gainesville would be just as kind to us. Qualifying #1 again and the car being very consistent. The winning pass, RT 0.084 and 10.324 @ 127.87 against Scott. Wally #2 in the bag.
Another trip up the east coast to Atco, NJ. June 7th. Again, the car was very consistent and by now, it was very evident the hard work and preparation was paying off. Qualifying #1 again, another good RT 0.099 and 10.341 @ 124.84 to beat Scott for the 3rd time. Wally #3.
During the events about this time, we were building new engines. R&D was the focus, trying new things, some rater radical. I just knew that we had to start thinking ahead; after all, we were the guys to beat at this point. After all the testing, we still always ended up using "Old Red" the motor we started with at the beginning of the season. Thanks to my friend Jesus Padilla, I owe it to you.
At this time, the world of victory's and winning were about to come crashing down. The rules were changed mid season, totally humiliating me and shattering my sense of pride and integrity. The rug was literally ripped out from underneath my feet and there was nothing I could do. I protested fiercely without success.
The rules revision decreased the weight of the FWD cars 25 lbs and increased the RWD weight 50 lbs. This made the difference between FWD and RWD cars a whopping 500 lbs. Fair? I had never felt so helpless and made my feeling know to the NHRA officials. This is when I learned about politics in racing!
This was the only reason the performance of this team declined. Period.
July 27th would steer us back to Las Vegas to complete the rained delayed season opener under the stars. We ended up in the #2 qualifying spot but lost in the first round. The line lock failed because of a loose ground wire while attempting to stage. As a result, no burnout and I could not get up on the 2-step for the launch.
At home in Texas at the Texas Motorplex under the stars in August, I wanted to perform well for my family, friends and fans. Although qualifying #2 and loosing in the final round in a big way to Leslie Durst, even with a huge hole shot, I felt betrayed and knew this massive weight penalty would severely affect the race for the championship.
Although I enjoyed the points lead all season long, I knew the margin would begin declining fast.
The next event, August 24th was in Woodburn, OR at the Woodburn DragStrip. This was the most frustrating event of the season. Qualifying #5, the lowest all year and then being disqualified in the first round for being 5 lbs light at the scales. Nothing on the car was changed yet we were light. I still can't explain how this happened. That made for a long trip home to Texas.
Two weeks later would take us west again to Sonoma, CA and the Infineon Raceway. Although the conditions were windy, yet good, and qualifying in the #2 spot, transmission problems would end the day in the semi final.
With just two events remaining, both Scott Mohler and I went out in the semi final round. This meant the championship was bound to end up going down to the bitter end.
We were all surprised when Scott showed up at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ for the fall event with a lightened car. The Dodge camp was obviously serious. They had always posted some great MPH throughout the year. Now Scott really had me concerned.
When we arrived at the track on Friday, the conditions were the best I have ever seen for drag racing. The corrected density altitude was 8' above sea level. On Saturday I ended up qualifying #2. Leslie Durst was in the #1 spot and Scott Mohler was in the #7 spot with a blown motor. The Mopar team worked late into the night and had a new engine in for Sunday's eliminations. As luck would have it or bad luck on my part, because of the number of cars in the field, I was placed on Leslie's side of the ladder. I could not believe it. #1 qualifier against #2 in the semi final round.
Although I had a great hole shot. My RT of 0.061 to Leslie's 0.267, I lost with a 10.367 @ 128.47 to Leslie's 10.031 @ 131.68. Just too much weight to carry. Scott won the event. Down to the wire it went.
THE FINAL RACE of the season would decide the 2003 "All Motor" Championship.
October 24th. Pomona, CA in all the smoke from the wild fires. I knew I had to qualify well and was racing just one person. Scott Mohler and Team Mopar. As qualifying drew to an end in the weird smoky conditions, I was in the #3 spot and Scott in the #4 spot. Talk about being anxious and on edge
We both won our respective first rounds of eliminations. I was extremely fortunate to have escaped a near scrape against the wall when the car broke lose at the 1000' mark. That being the closest I have come to a bad accident in my short career.
The second round, I had a bye run but still turned it on trying to at least get lane choice. 10.367 @ 128.47 "missing" 5th gear, or so I thought. Not enough for lane choice.
The semi finals rolled around. First up was Scott against Leslie. I sat in my car in the water box and saw Leslie defeat Scott. The championship now rested in my hands. If I advanced to the next round, the championship would be mine.
All I had to do was outrun a really fast VW Bug belonging to Jack Sacchette .
I decided to step it up a little more. I would set the launch 2-step at 11000 rpm and shift light at 13000 rpm.
Burnout, Focus, Stage and BOOM. We were off.
I had a slim advantage on the tree. My 0.431 to Jack's 0.461. My 5th gear failed an 11.264 @ 93.45 to Jack's 10.146 @ 130.79. The championship and season was over. Loosing the Championship by 8 points was disappointing; however I feel a sense of great accomplishment and pride.
The diagnosis of the transmission revealed a broken snap ring that held the 5th gear onto the input shaft. A 35 cent part. Oh, what it might have been if only it held. That racing folks.
2004 Will be a great season for this team.
I am truly excited, optimistic and confident about competing in NHRA's 2004 Sport Compact Drag Racing Series. The NHRA rules revisions, in my opinion, will make this class the most competitive and fun to watch. I sincerely believe the 2004 "All Motor" championship will be won by; being prepared, consistent and reliable. We will have all of the above.
2003 Results Summary
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