Midnight Madness
Paradise Garage

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© 1998-1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

No matter your problem, it can always be worse. Even if you're dead.

Maryland International Raceway, Budds Creek, Md.

Bracket Race: Friday, October 2, 1998

Maryland International Raceway is a major IHRA track in southern Maryland, a hefty drive for a couple of guys looking for some final timeslips before winter set in. They host a bracket race most Friday evenings, with a few hours of test-n-tune before eliminations.

My wife and I took the Paradise Garage Firebird; Josh and our friend Trager took Josh's Mustang GT. I wanted to practice my launch technique, but Josh was excited to test out his new 3.73 differential gears. How much difference could it make? I thought.

We arrived about 30 minutes after the gates opened. I put the Firebird through tech and in line immediately, but Josh had to run an errand.

MIR was incredibly crowded. To make it worse, almost all of the cars were hardcore. Josh and I were looking pretty average compared to the guys who'd spent thousands to make their cars go faster in a straight line. We figured at best we'd only get a couple of practice runs in before the real racing began.

There's one thing about racing at MIR: It's a lot of waiting. After an hour I got my first run in and soundly whipped a lightly modified Fox Mustang. It's no surprise that I faced off against a Mustang; every other car at the track was a Mustang of some kind. In fact it's a wonder that I didn't run against a Mustang every time.

I got back in line and went to find Josh. I found him near the front, certain to go in the next round of super street, without a car number! He hadn't been through tech. We sighed, we cried, we got his car out of line and around to tech. To the back of the line he went.

The Firebird lines up against the Taurus from hell.
Shortly thereafter a pro streeter lost his engine and sprayed oil all over the shutdown area. A 20 minute cleanup stretched to 90 minutes before racing resumed. Track officials announced that there would be no more time trials; put a dial-in on your car and get ready to race.

I dialed-in at 14.30 because of the cold air (mid-40s). Since Josh never got to run his car with the new gears, we had no idea what to dial him in as. We chose 15.60, accounting for the new gears and the cold air (his previous best was 15.9).

Another pro streeter lunched his motor so we had to wait some more.

When we finally got to run, I lined up against a nitrous-equipped Taurus SHO. Although my reaction time remained comically bad, in all other respects I had a near-perfect run: 14.20 at 99.8 mph! I broke my previous best by two tenths! Too bad I also broke out by a tenth, but...

...the Taurus broke out by two tenths! Since I broke out less, I won the round! I sat there in awe that I'd actually made it past the first round.

Josh lost to an early Mustang, but he didn't care. He clicked off a 15.1 at 92 mph! He beat his previous best by eight tenths. It was probably a combination of cold weather, more experience, and the new gears, so time will tell whether he can consistently run at those speeds. But for now, he was ecstatic.

I stuck around for round two, when I squared off with a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. A Thunderbird and a Firebird -- it was too good. I wanted to nail him so bad. But it was not to be. Between my still-sluggish reaction time and his near-perfect run, he put me out and sent me home. Yet it was still a close run for me, and had it been another car I might have won.

Another day...