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

Them Yanks're good fer more then jes lubster.

New England Dragway, Epping, N.H.

Test Session: Wednesday, August 18, 1999

"Twenty-five bucks?" For a test-n-tune?!

It was our first visit to New England Dragway and so far we were not impressed.

"This had better be one heck of a dragstrip," we grumbled.

The sun sets on Epping, N.H. as the Firebird hurtles down the quarter.
Not to worry. Mid-Atlantic track owners, take notes. There was no gravel to track around. There was plenty of staff to answer questions and direct traffic. The announcer was clear and engaging. The lanes were well-lit. They had soda machines. The bathrooms were sanitary. You could drive through or around the water as you preferred.

They had loaner sweatpants in case you showed up in shorts.

Okay Mid-Atlantic tracks owners, those damn Yanks are showing you up. New England Dragway is flat-out the best facility we have ever visited.

We were also surprised by the racers. We expected to get a bit of grief with our Virginia car playing at a New Hampshire track, but other than idle curiosity it was not mentioned. These racers ranged from the several LS1 owners I met, many of whom were racing for the first time, to hard-core nuts like the Cummins turbodiesel-powered Dodge with a claimed 1,000 lb-ft of torque. This guy had a burnout contest each round with a fire-throwing semi truck. It was not possible to see through the smoke.

All lit up and ready to rumble!
And the cars -- oh, the cars! Unlike the Mid-Atlantic which is overrun by Mustang after Mustang, NED attracted a wide variety of wheels. The aforementioned truck duel was a major highlight, but there was also a posse of heavy-hitting Mazda RX-7s, a V8-powered '39 Pontiac, '70s monster-cars Chrysler Cordoba and Chevy Monte Carlo, some cool wagons, a couple of enthusiastic if hopelessly outclassed Neons, and a manageable number of front-drivers with wings doubling as Paul Bunyan luggage handles.

Despite all the cool cars, somehow I still lined up against Mustangs half the time. There's just no escaping these things.

In continuing my fine tradition of making the first run either my best or worst, I missed third gear and coasted to a miserable 15-sec. finish, handing the first race to a maroon Mustang.

For the rest of the evening, though, I kept the Firebird right around 14.0. We raced a Camaro, an S10 SS, one of the Neons, an LS1-powered Camaro SS, and a couple more Fox Mustangs. No surprises -- the Mustangs were toast along with the rest of the competition except for the automatic-equipped Camaro SS.

The bigger question is, why was I only able to eke out a 13.9? This car used to run 13.7 easily. The track was good, the weather was certainly good (a New Hampshire evening has lots of horsepower in it). There was a headwind but would that alone cost us two-tenths?

Our clutch has been showing signs of abuse lately so it may be time to bite the bullet and go for a high-performance clutch.This could help the car pull harder, especially after the one-two shift where I frequently see some slipping on the tach.

Meanwhile the 60-ft times have definitely decreased by about a tenth of where they used to be. This is no doubt slowing us down as well. Perhaps the clutch is contributing to mediocre launch as well. Or perhaps the crappy Goodyear Eagle RSAs have finally had it. Hopefully by next season we'll be rolling on better rubber.

Also, hopefully the Mid-Atlantic track owners will pay a visit to New England Dragway and realize just how much they suck.