Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jim DeFrank & Sons Racing from Las Vegas

Photo courtesy of Bob Johnson
Over Easter weekend, I decided to join my brother, Jimmy DeFrank, in Las Vegas for one of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events. Since I have not raced with him that much in the past few years, I thought I would bring along my camera and video equipment and document the weekend.




Cool sight from Test & Tune for Camaro lovers.

Some quality time with my brother
 If you follow our blog, you know I raced back in February in the same vehicle. But pretty much, I hadn't really raced since 2009 to focus more on California Car Cover. Jimmy, is a four-time NHRA national champion and loves being at the drag strip. I said I would race with him in Las Vegas because the family would be together on Easter weekend and that the Viva Las Vegas Car Show was also in town.

Along with Jimmy and me, our good friend and championship driver, Bo Butner, came to town to race Jimmy's old Chevy Camaro. Jimmy drove that Camaro to his first two NHRA national championships and the cars runs pretty well considering it has been parked for many years. Bo is a former national champion who campaigns out of Indiana.

 The opening day of the event was a test and tune session. This gave Jimmy and I a few chances to go down the track and get a handle on the vehicle setup for the weekend. I definitely needed some practice since I was pretty rusty. The extra runs definitely worked out in the end for us.
Qualifying started on Friday morning. Stock eliminator, the class I ran in with the 1969 Camaro, is usually the first category out each day. That means we arrive at the racetrack around 7am to prep the vehicles.

Qualifying on Friday and Saturday morning went off without any major problems. There were a few chassis and engine issues for us to look at on both cars, but the vehicles ran about as well as we were expecting.
How we spend much of our time during qualifying days

Pops, crew chief Davey Allison and Jimmy discuss the elapsed time after one of my passes in the Camaro.


Jimmy warming up his Super Stock Chevy Cobalt. The Cobalt covers the 1/4 mile in less than 9 seconds at 155+ mph.
The elimination ladder had the potential to be a real test for our Chevy Camaro. In the first round, I drew a heads up race. For those of you who do not follow Stock eliminator racing, a heads up race is a first to the finish line race, instead of a handicap head start which you see most often in Stock or Super Stock racing. We would have to make the Chevy Camaro as fast as possible by changing oil, tires, cooling the engine and whatever else it took.




Fortunately, we were qualified better than our opponent and were able to run faster than him. As soon as we won the first round we found out we would have another heads up race. We were able to get by that round, but had to do a lot of work to make the Camaro run fast.
My father, Davey and I spent much of the day underneath the car changing oil. As you can see, I was not too thrilled about it.
While I was focused on the Chevy Camaro, Jimmy and Bo were preparing for their elimination rounds. Unfortunately, Bo lost in the opening round, but Jimmy made it through.


Have to keep a California Car Duster nearby at all times
Jimmy made it to the third round of eliminations with his Chevy Cobalt. This put the pressure on me to keep going and hopefully be racing late into the night.



 We had a few tough races heading into the quarter finals of the eliminator where I faced another heads up race with a very fast car driven by Scott Burton. The team and I had to everything we could to out run Scott. We got the engine as cool as possible and hopefully it would be enough for us to win.



Scott and I during the coin flip to determine lane choice before the round

I though the following photos were pretty funny. I am not sure what my brother and father were talking about so I am just guessing. 
Pops "I must ask you something very important."
Pops "How about we go to Cracker Barrel for dinner?" Jimmy: "Oh, boy!"

 We pushed the car towards the starting line to keep the engine as cool as possible. Evidently I was not made aware of the jokes being told by the crew.

I was late off the starting line, but was fortunate because Scott's car stumbled off the line and I got the victory. The round win gave us a bye run into the final round.


 
After the semi-final round we saw that we would have yet another heads up race to determine the event winner, so it was back to the pits.





I was able to win the race by outrunning our competition. It was a great day for the Jim DeFrank & Sons Racing team. The crew did a great job of having the Camaro prepared for each elimination round. I wasn't driving that great and they definitely picked up the slack.

 During credential check at the end of the racetrack, my father, brother and I all got a good laugh out of the circumstances. We had a lot of fun racing together the entire day.
The trophy
Davey, Jimmy, me, Pops and Bo.

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I don't have any plans to race additional events this season, which made the win much more special. Who knows when I will get back in the car, but at least the whole family was there for this one. Now I can definitely give my brother a hard time about not winning more often.

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-Tony