Posted in  Project MadMaxx

Beyond the Turkey: Madd Maxx Tales

Thanksgiving weekend was rapidly approaching. A four day weekend filled with nagging spouses, crying kids, visiting in-laws and other family members. In the face of all those challenges, the OneDirt crew decided to do the honorable thing. We went racing! Taking a few days to prep our Street Stock race car, we bonded as only men on a mission could do. Of course we met with obstacles along the way, but we had our share of triumphs as well. This is our story, one of laughter and tears, but it’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

In the beginning…….
Our Street Stock project car had been sitting in the corner of the shop for months after an ill advised trip to an open practice session at Victorville Auto Speedway with a cocky but inexperienced driver behind the wheel. This beyond rookie driver managed to grenade the motor in grand fashion, after a series of poor decisions by the crew and driver……but that’s another story that may be told when the people that were involved have gone on to bigger and better things. For now, it’s only important to know that Maxx had been sitting for the better part of four months. We had done some work on a new motor for the neglected beast, but it had yet to be installed. You can read about the “Rookie Proof” engine build here: Building a “Rookie Proof” Short Block

Madd Maxx's "Rookie Proof" short block.

A quick look at the calender and our dirt track crew observed the impending headaches associated with Holiday weekend. Looking to avoid the routine stresses involved, we devised a plan to get Madd Maxx ready for the season ending dirt track race at Victorville Auto Raceway. The Turkey Classic race is an annual event that draws racers from several different tracks in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. Past Turkey Classic events have created legends and Urban myths out of the local drivers and crews that have attended. Many of these stories are generated at night when the pit gate is closed and the teams that are spending the weekend camping in the pits look for a release from the competition of racing. There’s just something about camping around a 55 gallon drum turned into a wood burning stove with a crew of red necked dirt track racers that leads to the inevitable “one-upmanship”. The next thing you know, someone’s on the way to the hospital and a legend is born.

We're going racin'. Get the car ready!

As we took inventory of all the tasks that needed to happen for the dirt crew to ready for the track, it was decided that we should resolve the engine cooling issue that has plagued our street stock car from the first day we brought it home. We have struggled with cooling and took a number of “best guesses” on how to fix the problem without success. It was obvious by anyone watching, that internally, we didn’t have a clue how to handle the cooling issues on Maxx. One of our smarter crew members came up with the idea that we should ask a professional cooling company how to fix our problem. That spark of wisdom led us to Roger Rosebush at Be Cool. Roger and the guys at Be Cool took a look at what we had, shook their heads, and told us the sad truth. “That isn’t going to work.” After a collective huddle, the Be Cool gang brought some light back to our plan. “We can help you out and get you on the right track”. Roger told us. “I’ll get you the best cooling system on the market. Don’t be a fool, Be Cool.” At last, we had direction in fixing our cooling problems.

Be Cool hooked us up with a sweet dirt track radiator and some helpful tips.

Be Cool overnighted a sweet double pass radiator specifically manufactured for dirt track racing, and the largest electric fan they make for cooling. The new Be Cool radiator was a full 2 inches wider than the old Madd Maxx radiator, and almost an inch thicker. The onedirt crew set about making a new radiator mount to hold our new Be Cool radiator. Once installed, it appeared that we would be able to achieve temperatures that would rival an Arctic glacier. Once we had all the components in place, the engine was test fired and run for break in with the temperatures staying well below 200 degrees. Success at last!

No more cooling problems.

Our next step was to complete the drivetrain. Our poor racecar had a bent axle that we hadn’t noticed until we put the car on the lift and ran the drivetrain. The passenger side wheel wobbled so much that it reminded us of a wagon wheel on a Calistoga wagon. A quick call to the experts at Moser Engineering, and we had us a circle track Ford 9 inch floater rear end. Jeff Anderson and Shane St. Myers hooked us up with a full on circle track racing rear end with 31 spline axles and leaf spring mounts. Moser’s circle track package comes with aluminum floater hubs and Wilwood rotors. Our plan was to take the existing 3rd member out of the old rear end and install it in the new Moser Circle Track rear end. We ran into immediate problems however, when we tried to install the heavy duty 31 spline Moser Axles into the housing to the gears on the third member. Our old center section was set up for 28 spline axles and not the heavier duty 31 spline axles. With that old familiar “not again” feeling creeping into everyone’s minds, one of the shop dawgs got the brilliant idea to call Currie Enterprises. Currie is located in Anaheim, just a short drive from the onedirt shop.

Another secret weapon, the Moser circle track floater rear end.

The guys at Currie told us that if we got the center section over to their shop, they could get us outfitted with the right parts. We were extremely confident with Currie’s work, so we asked them to take a good look at the entire assembly. As it turned out, it was a good call to have the guys at Currie do a full “once over” the center section as the pinion bearing was not pressed in properly when the assembly was initially put together. This resulted in excessive wear in the pinion bearing support. Currie brought out a new third member case and bearings, along with a full spool, and put together a proper center section for us. With their help we were able to avoid a last minute SNAFU that could have stopped the show. Within four hours time, we were able to get the third member to Currie, have it completely checked and rebuilt, and returned to the onedirt shop for installation.

Currie helps us out in the 12th hour by overhauling our third member.

While the third member was being overhauled by Currie Enterprises, the onedirt shop dawgs were hard at work installing new leaf spring bushings and manufacturing brake lines for the new disk brake set up. Our old rear end had drum brakes which looked as if the shoes barely touched the drums. We opted to go with stock metric GM brake calipers to keep within the boundaries of the rules. Finding that the disk brake set up with floater hubs takes more room, we were forced to live with a very tight area for shock mounting. The track rules state that the shocks have to remain in the stock mounting positions, so we kept the shocks in their respective mounting holes. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this would end up derailing our effort on the last day of the race.

Welding on the brake caliper brackets.

So, with the vital components back in place, our rear end installed and our cooling problems solved, we took Thanksgiving day off with the promise to start early on Friday morning. This would give us plenty of time getting the car loaded on the trailer and all the necessary tools/consumables packed and heading for the track for Friday afternoon’s open practice session. With a final handshake and best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving, the onedirt crew went in different directions.

The Moser CT rear end installed, brakes connected, shocks and springs in place.

Friday, November 27th.

When Friday morning rolled around, two of the three committed members of the onedirt team arrived at the agreed upon time and began the final checks of the car and loading all the gear. True to normal operations, as soon as the car was loaded and the tools accounted for, Tom showed up explaining that he overslept. There were no lingering issues and we were still on track for making it to our destination in plenty of time, so we forgave Tom and heading down the highway for Victorville.

All loaded up and ready to go. Tom made it to work in time to get in this picture.

We arrived at the track with high aspirations and hopes that the ills that befell the onedirt team in previous outings were well behind us. Fat Chance! We arrived to an already crowded pit area. The only open area available was in the back forty, at least a 10 minute walk to the pit shed. We pitted next to the #25 Modified crew of Mike Hudson, a driver that we were familiar with from seasons past. Taking inventory around the pits, twenty percent of the cars were local regulars and the other eighty percent were drivers and crews from the surrounding area tracks. It was clear that we were in hostile territory.

Maxx in the pit stall. Surrounded by the enemy.

Our car was unloaded and we put our rookie driver, with his thirty laps of actual race time into the car and shoved him out on the track for some practice laps. As the track officials rotated the classes out on the track for there practice sessions, our driver would come back in to the pit stall and give us updates on the car. We would change a tire pressure here, raise a tire pressure there and shove the car back out on the track. The engine temperature was getting higher with each session and we all expressed some concerns. On one of the last runs of the evening, disaster finally struck the onedirt team.

During the engine build, we opted to go with a larger capacity oil pan than the original oil pan. We reasoned that you can never have too much oil in the reservoir and a larger oil pan would help out. What we failed to consider was that larger oil pans take up more space. While our driver was wheeling the car around on the track, the zerk fitting on the inner tie rod ends was contacting the front of the oil pan. After taking that abuse for several laps, the zerk fitting weakened the metal pan enough to puncture a hole into the front of the pan. Oil and white smoke poured form under the car and our driver was black flagged off the track.

Maxx was looking good till the black flag came out.

When Madd Maxx rolled to a stop in the pit stall, our driver gave us the bad news. We had an oil leak and the engine temp was still climbing out on the track. Expecting the worse, and figuring that we had just been snake bitten again, the onedirt crew jacked the car up and put jack stands under the frame. We drew straws to see which unfortunate crew member was going to climb under the car and assess the damage. Poetic justice prevailed as the driver drew the short straw and slid under the front of the raised race car. Within seconds our driver found the hole in the oil pan and we moved the steering through it’s full travel to determine how much the tie rod end made contact with the pan and how much clearance we needed.

The local parts distributor at the track, Bobby Thomas Motorsports, was hanging around the pit shack so we approached him with out situation. Bobby Thomas is a regular in the pit area and has years of experience with these types of racing maladies. Bobby explained that we could clearance the oil pan with a ball peen hammer where the tie rod would no longer make contact with the pan, remove the zerk fitting and plug the grease hole, clean up the area on the oil pan where the puncture was and fill it with a two part epoxy like liquid steel. Bobby made sure that we understood to get the type of epoxy that came in a four inch stick and you have to kneed it to blend the two parts together. This would be a temporary fix to get us through the weekend.

Working on the punctured oil pan. A big hammer will fix most problems.

We set about following Bobby’s instructions on the “redneck racing fix” for our punctured oil pan. We borrowed some carb cleaner from the Hudson crew pitted next to us, and the strongest member of the team began beating the oil pan to clearance the tie rod end’s movement. When we were satisfied that the tie rod would not contact the pan anymore, the area surrounding the hole in the pan was cleaned with carb cleaner and the kneaded epoxy was applied (generously) over the hole in the pan. We were retired for the evening so that the epoxy would have time to fully cure. Finally the track officials announced that the pit gates would be closed and locked so we headed out to find a decent meal and our hotel. Camping in the pits was not an option for a high class race team like us.

We drained Maxx's coolant system so that it didn't freeze overnight.

Saturday, November 28th.

The onedirt crew managed to wake up early enough to fight the daily battle of personal hygiene and grab a full measure of continental breakfast at the hotel then headed off to the track where we had left the car overnight. Prior to leaving the night before, we had drained the cooling system predicting that the night would bring freezing temperatures. This theory was confirmed when we arrived at the track and saw frozen puddles of water and every trash can in the pit area filled with burning wood surrounded by a crowd of crew members trying to stay warm.

With the sky threatening to rain, our crew managed to take car of the tasks that we needed to get done before wheel packing started. We filled the empty cooling system with water, redline water wetter and anti-freeze. Ever aware of our past cooling issues, we spent extra time making sure that the cooling system was completely filled and all air pockets were “burped” out of the system. We raised the front right side of the car to make the filling port on the radiator the highest point of the car, and started the engine allowing the water to move through the system and take any air pockets with it. Once we were satisfied that there was no air left in the system, we capped the radiator and checked the temperature. 185 degrees after 10 minutes of idling time. Perhaps our cooling problem was solved.

Fortunately, we were able to get everything done before a bone chilling squall came through the area, forcing an hour delay to the track’s race program. Feeling pretty good about our repairs, the onedirt crew loaded up in the tow vehicle and headed over to the Wendy’s fast food restaurant for a couple of square burgers wrapped in bacon. With the wives left back at home base, we felt that bacon for all three meals was in order. We were destined to get our annual quota of bacon consumed within the three days of the Turkey Classic. As if by divine direction, the rain stopped as soon as the crew had finished the manly meal, and Promoter Mike Gibson announced that the driver’s meeting was being conducted.

Driver's meeting.

Our driver had drawn heat race #1 for the Street Stocks, which meant that we would be the fourth or fifth race out on the track. After an extended wheel pack session, we brought the car back to the pit stall, double checked our tire pressures and fluid levels and sent the car to the staging area. Our driver looked like he had a case of the opening day jitters, so we left him alone with his thoughts in the car at the staging area. No pep talk needed.

Our driver, alone with his thoughts in the staging area.

Our heat race started with our car on the inside position of the second row. We knew that the track was transferring the top three finishers to the “A” main which meant that all we needed to do was hold our starting position. Alas, when the green flag dropped, our rookie driver was caught off guard and lost a couple of positions. Battling from the back of the pack, our driver made up a couple of lost spots and finished the heat in 4th place. This would put us near the front on the “B” main. All things considered, we were happy to finish and happy with our finishing position. We were still in the game.

Here is the video of the Heat Race:

Our driver fell asleep at the start and the other cars got a jump on him.

The driver brought the car into the pit stall and relayed the bad news. “The engine temp is up to 230! It won’t make it twenty laps.” We got the driver settled down and went in search of the local expert again. Bobby Thomas was over at his trailer enjoying a Turkey meal when we interrupted begging for help. Bobby looked at us, with a glob of mashed potatoes and gravy hanging off his chin, and his eyes were saying “you’ve got to be kidding me”. He put his plate down and asked what the problem was as we all started walking to our car.

Bobby looked at our cooling system and shook his head. “oh. This won’t do. This won’t work at all.” Bobby explained that electrical fans were great for asphalt tracks but for dirt, they just don’t work as well. With the plastic nose pieces on the car, the screen in front of the radiator and all the clay packed in the screen and radiator, there would not be enough air flow to cool the water in the radiator. To top it off, Bobby told us that we were crazy for not running a radiator shroud. “You need to take advantage of every inch of cooling area, not just the 20 inch circle that the electrical fan gives you”. We asked Bobby what he could do for us. “It’s gonna cost ya” he said with a smile.

Oh, no. That just won't work!

For the next three hours, Bobby and his right hand man Greg, pulled the electric fan off of the Be Cool radiator, dug up a six bladed mechanical racing fan and handmade a cooling shroud in the darkness of our cramped pit stall. The onedirt crew held flashlights and watched as our shroud was being fabricated and installed right there in the dirt.

With a little bit of skepticism still in our minds after having chased this cooling problem all season long, we cranked Maxx over and checked the new and improved air flow. A Night and Day difference! Bobby and Greg had taken our thunderstorm like air flow and turned it into Hurricane Katrina gale force winds. At 3,000 rpm, the fan was moving so much air that the person in the driver’s seat had to squint his eyes to see through the jet blast. We knew without a doubt that our cooling issues were finally solved. The sprint cars were out on the track by this time which signaled the end of our day. Back to the hotel.

Our Bobby Thomas Motorsports, custom built in the pits, cooling shroud and six bladed racing fan.

Sunday, November 29

Although we tried to sleep in, the onedirt crew was up early. We were eager to get to the track and put the car and driver out on the track. Our car was finally ready and we had a good starting position for the “B” main. This would be the day that defined our entire season and where we go in dirt track racing from here. With all that on the line, the crew headed down to the hotel kitchen for another round of continental breakfast. Before we left the hotel, there was an unfortunate bathroom incident where the hotel’s maintenance crew had to be called in. It was clearly obvious that one of the onedirt crew member’s diet was heavy with fiber. Suffice it to say, we packed and left quickly before the flooding swamped the room. How many other race teams can claim that they destroyed a hotel room like a heavy metal band?

The track officials were moving at a rapid pace when we hit the track. Everyone wanted to keep the program moving along and wrap up the weekend. There was a little discussion around the pit board about the previous evening’s main events. Seems that the All American (factory stock) class had 7 cars disqualified on the tech pad. While the discussion raged on, we went to check over our car and wait for the driver’s meeting. The starting lineups were being posted on the board and as we expected, our driver was slated to start on the outside pole in the “B” main. A prime position. It seemed as if the cards were falling our way. With 17 cars starting the race, we only needed to finish in the top eight to transfer into the “A” main. The crew expected the driver to fall back a couple of spots and maybe lose a couple more positions but hold on for a 6th place finish. More than enough to transfer to the feature event. We loaded our driver in the car and rolled Maxx out to the staging area and waited for our turn on the track. It was finally “go” time.

Madd Maxx on the outside pole for the "B" main.

We couldn’t help but get excited seeing the #29 onedirt Camaro out in front on the parade laps while the field of cars lined up waiting for the green flag. Our driver was briefed on where to expect the drop of the flag and how to approach the first set of corners. Unfortunately the car on the inside pole position started a little earlier than we expected and once again got a jump on our driver. As the field went through the first set of turns, Madd Maxx was battling for second place as the leader got a couple car lengths advantage. The next lap our driver went door handle to door handle with another car challenging for the second spot. On the third lap however, our driver drove a little deeper into turn 1 and made the car stick. This gave us second place solidly and a clear path to the leader who had almost an 8 car length advantage by this point. Our driver started putting distance between him and the third place car, who was coming under attack by the two cars behind him. By the halfway signal, our driver had 10 car lengths over the third place car and was slowly reeling the first place car in.

After an early challenge, Madd Maxx began to pull away from the third place car.

A yellow flag waved for a spin in the rear of the field which would put our driver behind a lapped car that the leader had just passed and the leader. When the green flag dropped signaling the restart, our driver was prepared this time and overtook the lapped car before the cars passed the flagstand. With only a couple of car lengths between Madd Maxx and the leader, our driver started to push the corners harder, driving deeper into the corners at each end of the track. Our driver, James Lawrence, was running the race of his life. No mistakes. With only a handful of laps to go, a chink in the armor appeared. Coming into turn four something happened, and we saw our driver pull into the infield at corner 1. With only a couple of laps to go, and running a very solid second place, our hard luck driver and crew were snake bit again.

Snake bit again. Maxx gets a push back to the pits.

Here is the video of the B-Main:

When the car made it back to the pit stall on the end of the tow truck hook, we took a closer look under the car. We were surprised to see the rear shocks bent into an “S” shape. We quickly deducted that the entire rear end had shifted so much in the corners that the driveshaft hit the bottom of the transmission shifter, knocking it out of gear. We rounded up a couple of friends in the pits and pushed our dinged up car on the trailer. When we should have felt disappointment, we loaded up feeling very optimistic and eager for the next season to start. The weekend showed us that we have a little something for the racers in the street stock class next year. It was a success and we drove back home feeling like winners.

The right rear shock tells the story.

Special thanks to:

Moser Engineering
102 Performance Drive
Portland, Indiana 47371
Fax 260-726-4159

Be Cool

Currie Enterprises
1480 North Tustin Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92807

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