An unlikely dragstrip hero, Julie took her husband Terry's coaching to heart and skillfull
Hey, wait a minute. Was this the same L88 that struggled to run 12.30s last year? Why the sudden dramatic turnaround? Terry had deliberately detuned the car by backing 8 degrees of timing out of the engine and running the optional sidepipes.
"It was going to be her first taste of racing," Terry said, "and I wanted her to learn how to launch it. At 26-28 degrees, it has no power off the line. So now I figured she's ready to handle the rest of the power."
This year, the fangs were reinstalled. Timing was set at 36 degrees. But the biggest improvement came from ditching the optional sidepipes in favor of a 2.5-inch system with Ultra-Flo mufflers. Factory exhaust manifolds are mandatory. L88s have been known to have extreme reactions to changes in the exhaust system. Often, the change is for the worse. This time it was for the better. As Friday's qualifying continued, Jimmy also bested his e.t. from last year with an 11.72...in the neighborhood but still a ways behind.
Qualifying e.t.'s are important, but many a fast qualifier has been spanked by a slightly slower veteran in the real world of quarter-mile competition, a fact not lost on Terry. "I think with some practice she'll be fine," Terry said of his star pupil, "but the problem is we don't have a lot of time for practice. I'm almost bald and today I almost pulled out the rest of my hair. She says I need patience. Tomorrow she's going against the number two qualifier-Jimmy-and he's been doing this a lot longer than she has." The Pure Stock Drags can be a tough neighborhood.
Jimmy, always a finalist, is one of the most skilled drivers we've seen. When he switched
Letting It Fly
The Pure Stock Drags has a racing format all its own. Run your best time on Friday or Saturday morning, then on Saturday afternoon you're paired against the car running closest to your times in a best-two-out-of-three, heads-up shootout. It's a simple formula that guarantees you the most competitive race possible. This clash of the titans promised to be that.
Round One. Showtime. Jimmy, one of the Pure Stock Drags' burnout kings, burned his Polyglas GTs into a near-molten state, then rolled into the staging beams. Julie, sticking with her game plan, did a dry burnout and pulled forward. The lights ticked down and they were off. The two moved as if one car. Reaction times were nearly identical: 0.13 for Jimmy; 0.11 for Julie. As they cleared the Christmas tree and moved toward midtrack, they were dead even. The 60-foot times were also virtually identical: 1.90 for Jimmy; 1.88 for Julie. It was a spectacular sight and sound to watch this pair catapulting forward with 1,000-plus combined horsepower. At the traps, Julie flashed by first, just a tenth ahead of Jimmy: 11.68 at 120.75 versus 11.79 at 120.36.
Round Two. One more like before and Julie could wrap this one up. Jimmy exploded off the line with a spectacular 0.086 reaction time and left Julie in the dust. She redlighted and casually sauntered down the track. Jimmy poured it on and speed-shifted his way to his best e.t. of the weekend: an 11.69 at 121.72. That evened it up at one apiece. That run just might have beat Julie's Round One pass. If he could run one more just like that or even quicker, he just might pull off a huge win.
Number one on the list of aces who would have to be shot down was Jimmy Johnston. Last yea
The Johnston L88 engine...