At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, two very sleepy drivers and a new head came rolling into the Hoyos pit area. With speedy wrenches in hand, the busted car turned into a fire-breathing monster once again, missing only the first round of qualifying. It was the second qualifying round that it all went down, though driver Matt Hartford was supposed to "take it easy" and just make a solid pass as per Nelson's urging. Hartford had other ideas in mind. One big smoky burnout later and you knew something was up. Sure enough, as the light turned green the front tires lifted past the 60-foot and the Ford took off in a fury of turbo whine. The scoreboard flashed 7.095 and the crowds went crazy.
The story doesn't end. Word has it a tiny bet was made between driver Hartford and owner Nelson. You see, that pass was on the verge of 6 seconds and 200mph and all season the Hoyos team has been striving to be the first into the elusive Summit Racing 200mph club to claim the $25,000. The details are a little fuzzy, but unconfirmed reports say the bet had something to do with unlimited drinks and go-go girls at the 2001 SEMA show. With that in mind we move to the first round of eliminations where the Hoyos team had a "bye" run and had the chance to take it easy. Visions of drunken lap dances must have been stirring in Hartford's head as he lined up at the staging lights because holding back was not an option. Once again, Hartford launched hard, but by mid-track the car stopped accelerating and just coasted through the finish line. It was another broken part.
Back in the pits, it was determined that a broken push rod would foul any plans of the 200mph club and survival was the task at hand. The solution was to run on five cylinders. To do this, the Hoyos team pulled all moving valve components from the number 6 cylinder as well as disconnecting the No. 6 fuel injector wire.
Round two of eliminations matched the wounded yellow Focus against the Mazda MX6 of Orlando Torres. The unhealthy sound of that V6 with a dead cylinder was enough to make one cringe, but Hartford was going to give it his best shot. When the light turned green, Hartford was first off the line, but the car fell flat on its face giving the opportunity to Torres to move to the finals. Torres had a serious lead on Hartford when the gremlins that had been wreaking havoc all day turned in favor of the Hoyos team. It seems an unidentified flying object crossed the finish line tripping the timers in the Hoyos lane. It was obvious Torres should have won the round, but the timer error had the Hoyos team as the winners. The rules dictate that the competitors be allowed a re-run and this was the second chance at life the Hoyos team needed.
Given a new lease on life, Hartford was quick to dump the clutch when the tree lit green for the second time and it was Torres' turn to have his car fall flat on its face. Hartford was gone, leaving Torres behind kicking himself for letting a five-cylinder car beat the pants off him.
It was really shaping up to be the Cinderella story of the day. All Hartford had to do was beat Miquel Marrero in the finals. But this would be no easy task. Trying to intimidate, Hartford lit his tires up from the burnout box until almost the 1/8-mile marker-any longer and he would have had to pull his chute. But Marrero had one thing in mind and that was to win. When the light lit green Hartford's Focus bogged off the line leaving an easy win to Marrero. Even if Hartford had another pass like the one that beat Torres, winning still would have been difficult as Marrero finished with a quick 7.950.
Should the Hoyos team have won? Probably not. But it illustrates the "never say die" attitude of import drag racers.
Apex Integration Outlaw
Huge horsepower in lightened cars with massive slicks and tubed-out rear quarters is what makes the Outlaw Class so much fun to watch. And the racers made sure they put on quite a show for their fans. Carlos Gonzalez, driving his Mazda RX-3, was looking to crush the competition as he eliminated Luis Corujo in the first round, but all hopes of going home with the money were lost in the semi-finals against Jose Escalera. Both cars left the line at the same time, with Gonzalez pulling on Jose, but by half-track there were major problems for Gonzalez. His Mazda veered out of the "groove," causing the car to pitch left and then right, crossing the centerline. Just when you thought the car was somewhat under control, the rear tires started gripping again with the nose pointed at the wall while still moving at a good clip. Gonzalez brought the car around just enough so that the front left quarter barely touched the wall, sending him to the body shop. The Maple Grove fire crew was quick to react and chased Gonzalez down, but had it not been for Gonzalez's driving skill, it could have very easily gotten ugly.
Next in the semi-final round was Carlos Montano vs. Juan Lopez. Lopez was able to get a slight edge on Montano's Mazda, but horsepower would win the round and Montano was able to come back by the 1/8-mile marker and get enough of a lead to clinch the win and move into the final round against Jose Escalera. Montano finished with an 8.552 at 156mph to Lopez's 9.016 at 143mph.
In the final round, Escalera and Montano knew it would be tight as both had posted similar times in previous rounds. As the tree turned green, Escalera got a slight edge on Montano, but mechanical problems allowed Montano to blow by Jose's 1981 Toyota Starlet by half-track and Montano took the IDRC Outlaw Class win with an 8.504 at 157mph to Escalera's slowing 10.731 at 84mph.
Racing on the East Coast is unfortunately over for the '01 season, but given the drama of the day and the records that were broken, this might have been the best event of the year. So with winter setting in and a new race season lurking just ahead, get your cars in tune for 2002. Days like this will inspire many to buy that next "go-fast" part as they try to keep their adrenaline flowing in the pursuit of power and victory.