In the Northeast, October is the time of year where trees emerge with fall foliage and cool nights and mild days hint of impending winter. But racers know this is also the perfect time to take advantage of cool (turbo-friendly) air and eke every last bit of power from their cars. These are the times when records are set. But records were not just set at the 2001 IDRC East Coast Finals in Maple Grove, Pa.-they were shattered as more than 100 racers and 5,000 spectators were treated to some of the fastest times ever set in import drag racing.
APC Street VIII
Shod with DOT street tires and full uni-body frames, eight competitors made the street field. Supras and Talon/Eclipses not only dominated the field; they were the field as this would be a showing of straight-6 power vs. AWD traction. By the semi-final round, only one Supra (Albert Diaz) was left. To make it into the finals, he would have to beat DSM racer Jeff Hill, who has been a top performer all season. Diaz took a little extra time heating his tires in the burnout box, hoping Hill might see the plumes of smoke drift over his windshield. Didn't work. Hill left him at the tree, running a 10.316 seconds at 139 mph to Diaz's 10.514 at 137mph.
Piloting his Eagle Talon, IDRC points leader John Shepherd was looking to lay the smack down on Curt Brown (also driving an Eclipse) and move into the final round against Hill. This was all about brute power for Shepherd; when the hammer fell, Shepherd was gone and Brown was left behind looking for more turbo boost. The crowd cheered in amazement as a 9.87 flashed in Shepherd's lane. Shepherd has posted 9-second times before, but never in IDRC competition and not with radial tires. Brown finished with a respectable 10.822 at 131mph, but Shepherd's record 9.987 at 146mph was too much.
The finals would match Hill against Shepherd. Hill, knowing his competition just posted a 9-second pass, knew he had to get the holeshot on Shepherd if he would even have a chance of winning, but it was Shepherd's day as both left the line at the same time. Shepherd powered past Hill and was able to post a slightly faster 9-second pass from the previous round. Shepherd finished with a 9.931 at 146mph to Jeff's 10.250 at 129mph.
It was bound to happen sooner or later, but the "year of the 9s" is over. Competitors in the Quick Class have been reaching deeper and deeper into the 9-second realm looking for that elusive 8-second pass. But it was Sean Glazar in the Quick VIII semifinal round that did it. Matched against Sav Leone and his IMPO Performance Civic, Glazar made what he called the "perfect pass." Leone in the far lane got the jump on Glazar when the light turned green, but it was all over from there. If Glazar had wings on the car, he would have taken flight by half-track. As Glazar approached the finish, the crowd in the stands was quick to their feet. When the timing board lit an 8.87, the jubilation amongst the crowd was outrageous and contagious. People knew history had been made. When asked what he did differently, Glazar replied, "The car just went straight. All the times in the past I had to wrestle the car down the track, but this time the car just went straight." Glazar finished with an official 8.875 at153mph pass, while Leone finished with a 10.224 at 118mph pass.
Second to run in the semifinal round was Mike Crawford piloting his Forward Motion Neon against Gary Gardella and his Ecko Function Honda Civic. Both competitors have been posting low 9-second passes for the last few races; the decision of who went on to the final round would come down to reaction. Crawford was the first out of the gate with an impressive .532 light, but Gardella came charging hard by the 1/8-mile. It was a close finish, but Crawford crossed the line just a few feet ahead of Gardella, finishing 9.323 at 146mph to Gardella's 9.464 at 153mph. Crawford, however, hurt his motor burning a piston and the Forward Motion crew worked furiously to make the final round.
Looking to improve upon his record-setting run, Glazar pulled up past the burnout box and into the staging lights for the money showdown in the final round. The Forward Motion team managed to replace the torched piston with another in record time, but would the motor hold up? Looking to intimidate Glazar, Crawford lit his tires up from the burnout box to the 60-foot marker, but this may have been fatal to the engine. Crawford slowly moved into the staging lights and started building boost. As he was doing this, white smoke was emanating from the nose of the car. As the light turned green, Crawford took off, but by the 60-foot marker, the engine completely let go and Crawford rolled to a stop. Glazar blasted past and zoomed to an 8.904 at 153mph, backing up his record pass while claiming class dominance and the IDRC purse money.
Toyo Tires Pro
Had you been there to watch the second round of qualifying, you would have seen history in the making and felt the electricity in the air. Matt Hartford was able to pilot the Hoyos Focus to a new Pro Class record of 7.095 at 194 mph.
The Story Behind the Number
Most people who attend these events aren't privy to the details it takes to make it to the winner's circle. And while it was an incredible thing that the Hoyos team set a new import record at the IDRC East Coast finals, what is more interesting is the story behind the number.
During Saturday's practice rounds, the Hoyos Focus hurt its motor by floating a valve and thus bending it. Fortunately the valve bent and did not break. It still meant the motor was shot without a replacement head. And that was the problem. There were no spares in the trailer. The closest useable head was in Tennessee at the shop where the car is normally housed and worked on. It was too late for overnight delivery and taking a plane flight wasn't an option either. But just when owner Nelson Hoyos was ready to throw in the towel, two crew members volunteered to drive and get the needed head if the others were willing to prepare the engine.