DAY FOUR: THUNDER VALLEY, TENNESSEE
DESPITE being picturesque, the Thunder Valley track’s higher elevation kept competitors on their toes for the penultimate day’s racing. Right out of the gate, Ben Neal and Mark Arblaster went head-to-head in what looked like an evenly matched bout. The Cresta got the holeshot, and while Arby looked to be running him down, a huge fireball blasted out from the bottom of the Valiant – not a good sign. The 5.3-litre LS had lunched a head gasket and done a fair bit of damage to the block in the process, putting an end to Arby’s week just a day short of the finish line. Ben had managed to run a [email protected], and that would be his best of the day.
John Faraone was maintaining a seriously impressive average ET, despite a few hiccups and several fried rotor buttons along the way. Thunder Valley was no different, and with a solid [email protected], his average of 7.76 looked good to take third place in Unlimited – if he could make it back to Atlanta in one piece.
The Chevelle had been going through the wars lately too, and after damaged front shocks hurt the car’s ability to leave the line how Harry intended, a quick trip to a local parts store yielded new shocks and some fresh 315 radials for the orange monster. An [email protected] cemented Harry’s third place in his class, with the potential to possibly jump to second on the final day if he could run the right big number.
Robby Abbott ran only one pass at Thunder Valley in order to survive the week rather than fall short, managing a slower [email protected] – perhaps due to the elevation – but otherwise had a trouble-free day. Also in the one-and-done crew, Brenton Gault ran an [email protected] while still a little rich on the tune and Brian in the LX hatch kept a good grip on third in his class with a [email protected]
Jamie and the Fox-body crew spent a few hours overnight replacing a rattly roller lifter, ensuring the mill stayed in one piece for a [email protected] at Bristol.
Outside the Australian camps, the battle for top spot was seriously heating up leading into the final day. Tom Bailey and his ’69 Camaro had a nice gap coming into Day Four, with Bryant Goldstone’s twin-turbo AMC Javelin and Dave Schroeder’s nitrous Corvette nipping at his heels. Bailey and his mechanic Steve Morris had replaced a hurt piston overnight, and despite running sixes at every other track were only able to bust out a 7.46 at Bristol, their lead over Bryant tightening to only one tenth of a second. Schroeder was a mere fourhundredths back from that by stumps, too.
With the Drag Week rodeo finally pointed away from Hurricane Florence, a mandatory 209-mile road section with two checkpoints would test the remaining strength and endurance of both drivers and vehicles on the road back to Hot-lanta for the last day.
BELOW: Ben, Alan and Woody from The Skid Factory shipped out their turbo Barra-powered Toyota Cresta (left) for their first crack at Drag Week. With the goal of low nines, a mid-nine average – not to mention trouble-free bulk road miles – was a great result for the rookie team