The 55 Ford made it to the Y Block Shootout Finals on Saturday.
Our team started the day on Saturday even before the sun came up. My father-in-law and one of my buddies made it to Tim Horton's in Ashland, Ohio by 7:30 am to pick up the donuts and the coffee. 18 dozen donuts and 10 gallons of coffee were not cheap, but we believed it a good investment in the event and a great opportunity to meet people at the track. The Victory Tent became a hub of activity from the outset of the day's activities, and we were happy to oblige. Often, we found ourselves giving instructions to visitors and others who were new to the facility.
We brought signs like these to let folks know where to "get the goods"!
The Victory Tent was a hub of activity throughout the weekend...
Before things got out of hand, I made sure to visit the gate office to purchase a tech card and enter the Y Block Shootout. Tech inspection at a race weekend like this one is not all that difficult. The tech card contained a list of items that the official was inspecting. Such items as a coolant overflow catch can, a double-spring set up for your carburetor's linkage, brakes, simple mechanical items, etc were reviewed rather quickly and my card was signed, the Ford was given an entry number, and I was told the Ford had passed with flying colors. Of course, cars that go as fast as a 12 or 10 second quarter mile have other things the tech will look to be sure are installed. Scatter shields and drive shaft safety hoops come to mind. I do not really believe I will ever drive a car (at least the 55 Ford) that fast in the 1/4 mile so I won't be installing any of those upgrades any time soon.
The Ford was first in a long line of race cars to be inspected for safety.
After the inspection was over, I parked the Ford near our tent and waited for the call from the tower for "Y Blocks to the staging lanes." The staging lanes at Dragway 42 are quite long and large with 6 lanes across as you stage. The track staff does their best to keep things moving, and when we heard the announcement about Y Blocks we were told to get into lanes 5 and 6 as the "no box" cars were finishing up their first timed runs. Of course, the timed runs are all about practice and getting your ride dialed in so that you are confident of the 1/4 mile time to write on your windshield when the elimination rounds begin.
Even though it was my first timed run, I happened to line up with Ted Eaton and the altered T.
I fired up the 55 Ford and took off toward the staging lanes that were about a 1/4 mile away from where we set up shop. The car sounded great and it felt good like it did the day before, but I was a little anxious to make my first run because I had no idea how the engine would perform. As I crested the hill I could see a red 1957 Ford Ranchero ahead of me in lane 5. Down towards the bottom of the hill at the front of the line I could see Jim Cochran's sedan and David Church's Thunderbird making the first pair. Right behind that fast, little Tbird was Ted Eaton's altered T. I assumed that the Ranchero would just take lane 5 and line up even with Ted, letting me choose either lane. However, when the driver of the Ranchero got close to Eaton's formidable race car he changed lanes very quickly and pulled in behind Ted.
Ted Eaton and I waited for our first turn down the 1/4 mile on Saturday morning.
I chuckled a little bit and said to myself, "Let's roll!" When I pulled up beside Ted, he grinned when he noticed me, and I waved back. Since we had some time to kill before our turn I set the parking brake and got out of the car to take some pictures. Event Ted got in on the action with me - but since it is a little difficult to get in and out of his race car he elected to stay put in the cage. While we laughed about a rematch from last year, both of us had no idea that within just a few hours the both of us would indeed be matched up together in the Finals.
Ted Eaton and I snap a quick photo just before our first timed run on Saturday.
In the staging lanes, I had time to hop out of the car and take this quick photo.
For my first timed run, my coolant temp was about 170 degrees and my oil pressure was right at 50 psi at idle. I revved the engine a time or two just for fun while I watched Ted give his little T a nice burnout. Both of us pre-staged at the lights and then edged up a tick more to stage. As the lights went from yellow to green I mashed the throttle and popped the clutch like a normal, quick take off from a stop light. This was the first time had I ever put the engine under such a wide open throttle load since I had installed the Isky E4 camshaft. The front end of the car reared up and away we went. I did not feel too much tire squeal, although there was a definitive bark between 1st and 2 gear. Speaking of swapping gears, I had made sure that my OD cable was pulled out and that my rpm's for shifting were at 5,100. The little 292 wound up to 5,000 twice as I shifted into 2nd and then into 3rd. Things felt much different from last year and my last run down the drag strip. I could hear it in the engine, feel it in the car, and sense it with an increase in speed. I was so busy watching the track and the tach that I never noticed the speedometer. I will say there was a little bit of a squeak in the speedometer gearset at times on the top end of things - there was all weekend. When I replace the lens with a 150 mph face and get the fuel gauge working I will be sure to lubricate things.
On the first timed run the 55 Ford was as smooth as silk and felt much stronger than before.
After crossing the finish line I backed off the throttle and stood on the brakes. As the old Ford neared the track exit I wondered what my time and top speed were going to be. The lady at the E.T. shack handed me the slip as I rolled up to the window. 16.004 was the time! I was elated. That was more than a full second faster than last year. With virtually no carb tuning and just rolling the car out of the garage we were very close to being in the 15's. The top speed through the traps was 87.11 mph. Idling the Ford all the way back to the pit area where we were parked, you would have had to believe I was one happy guy.
My father-in-law did most of the grilling over the weekend.
Back at the pits, the smell of charcoal and meats on the grill hit my my nostrils. After the adrenaline died down and joy over the first timed run subsided, the four members of Hot Rod Reverend Ministries sat down to a hearty meal. My dad said the blessing and we all dug in. My buddy Chad Robinson kept going back and forth to the large, roll-away tool box on the platform. During one trip he came back with an unopened bag of seasoned pretzels. Evidently, the empty drawers in his tool cabinet were pulling double duty for food stuff storage!
From L to R: My Dad, Don Jessup; me; and my father-in-law, David Martin
About an hour and a half later I made my second timed run, and again I inadvertently lined up with Ted Eaton. Ted's altered T is truly a sight to behold. At well over 500 horses, that powerful Y Block puts the power down to the wheels and makes that small race car almost take flight. This go around, I had the same lane and decided to hold the engine at 2,000 rpm and pop the clutch when the lights went from yellow to green. That was a mistake. Immediately the tires spun and smoked out - I lost over a second with this foolishness. Of course, I run regular passenger car radials, and as everyone knows tires for grocery-getters are not very suitable for drag racing. As a side note, I have since been mulling over Mickey Thompson's line of drag radials. Maybe I can get a set for the rear sometime later this year. While I did hit 86 mph at the finish line, my overall E.T. was over a second slower because I was horsing around so much at the starting line. Two timed runs were what everyone made that morning so I would have to live with the results and do my best to match the 16.00 flat that I believed I could hit.
Ted Eaton's altered T at the 2022 Y Block Shootout
Waiting in the pit area for the elimination rounds to begin...
Back in the pits once again I was wishing for more opportunity to tune. I had wanted to get into some of that the previous evening during the track's test and tune, but things were so busy with the tent, meeting people, and running back and forth to the starting line that I never ran the car on Friday. Looking back, I kind of feel that with very little tuning I could have been in the 15's quite easily. I retrieved a paint marker and wrote "16.00" on the windshield and side glass so that the tower would know my dial-in.
If you are unfamiliar with how bracket racing works, for the Y Block Shootout you basically pull into the staging lanes, line up randomly with the cars in your class, and then run your race in a pair. Whoever you run against, you are certainly trying to beat them by running your dial-in (and no faster) down the track. Your reaction time in response to the lights is also included. So this is not "heads up" racing to be the first across the finish line when both cars leave at the same time. Your dial in is factored into the light system, and both vehicles end up getting the green light at staggered times so that in theory they will both cross the finish line at the same time.
Waiting in the staging lanes for the first round of eliminations...
Around 3 pm the announcement came from the tower that it was time for the Y Block-powered vehicles to enter the staging lanes. I hustled over to the 55 Ford, hopped in, and turned the key. She fired right up, and the gauges showed excellent vital signs. The coolant temperature was a little low at 120 degrees, but I knew this would change as we idled in the staging lanes. Arriving at the bottom of the hill, I noticed that the 57 Ranchero and Dave Fuszner's fast 57 sedan were already in queue. On the left in lane 5 immediately behind them was Jim Cochran in his beautiful turquoise green 55 sedan so I pulled into lane 6 on the right to go up against him in round 1. After the first pair took their trip, Jim and I pulled down to the light tree. He did a quick burnout and I let him pre-stage first. When I pre-staged, I could tell something was not quite right because I noticed his sedan creep backwards, disengaging the staging lights on his side. Once he pulled forward again, I staged and waited for the lights on my side to fall. It seemed like an eternity passed, but just before my lights started to drop to green I noticed that Jim's 55 red-lighted. When my lights went to green I was intentionally slow on reaction time, knowing that a green light and no break-out on E.T. would give me the win. I did cross the finish line at 87.33 mph - my fastest time for the Y Block shootout.
Jim Cochran's 55 Ford Mainline is just as beautiful as it is fast!
The Mainline sported a set of Mickey Thompson drag radials - I should get a pair!
Completing my 3rd run of the day, I exited the track, picked up my E.T. slip, and headed to the pits. The Ford was running very good, and although that was not the way I had wanted to win I was happy to advance to the second round.
Round 2 was announced about an hour and a half later, and as I headed to the staging lanes I wondered which car the 55 Ford would face. To my dismay, I was paired up with Harry Hutten and his 12 second 1960 Mercury! You may recall that I was with Harry at Kil-kare last summer, and of course Harry is the man who gave me a good deal on a set of ECZ-G heads earlier this year. We have a wonderful relationship, and I have much respect for this man. He has been racing that Merc for years, and very few drivers like Harry put up consistent numbers like he does from trip to trip down the strip.
Harry Hutten's 1960 Mercury Monterey sports a 312 with Mummert heads!
For this round I was in lane 6, so that meant that I was in the right lane and Harry's Merc was in the left. Pre-staging and staging went normally, and when I saw the last yellow I dropped the hammer and immediately I felt a tire spin. I backed out of it a little bit and did my best to hit that 16.00 on my windshield. I never looked up at the timing towers at the finish line during my quick trip down my lane. All along I thought I had lost that round - especially since the Mercury passed us before the finish line.
"Good race, Harry," I said, as I followed his car to exit the track. Little did I know that when I got the to shack I discovered that Harry had red-lighted as well! Back in the pits, Harry was good-natured about it and admitted he was a little bit nervous in the staging lanes. The man had no reason to be - he knows his stuff and I am pretty new to all of this. At any rate, Harry said that some of the other guys had told him how much I had improved from last year. I told him I did not know about all of that - I was just having a good time as these guys continued to show me the ropes.
Video of Round 2 in the Y Block Shootout
After being declared the winner of that round, I thought for sure that I would go up against the next guy in the semi-finals. As it turned out, there were only 3 cars left - the 57 Ranchero, Eaton's T, and my 55 Ford Fairlane. I was told that both Eaton and the driver of the Ranchero had already run their bye's and that of the 3 vehicles left in the race I was the only one who had not done so. (The previous post here on the blog includes video of the bye run.)
Since Ted won his race, it was me and him in a rematch from last year but this time it was the finals! The video below includes much more footage of the track, the 55 running down the 1/4 mile, making it to the finals, and a narrated explanation of how things went over the weekend. It is a little on the long side at over 14 minutes, but I am sure you will enjoy it. I was thankful to have been given the opportunity to serve as chaplain, run the Ford down the 1/4 mile strip, and meet so many people during the race weekend. A special treat was the privilege of spending Father's Day with my dad and my father-in-law.
Racing in the Y Block Shootout Finals!
(to be continued...)
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup