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.
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.