Bart from Busted Classic Garage Breaks Down His Experience at Hot Rod Drag Week 2022
By Bart Szewczyk, Busted Classic Garage
Is Hot Rod Drag Week a nightmare or the ultimate road trip?
Well, I guess you could say a little of both.
After a failed attempt to get my 1969 Chevy C-10 together for Hot Rod Drag Week 2022, I decided to take my perfectly running LS1 powered Pontiac Trans Am named “Freebird” and throw in a Stage 2 Brian Tooley Racing camshaft, dual springs, and pushrods at the last minute. After all, what do we do with perfectly running cars before a drag and drive event? We take them apart and make them less reliable, of course!
After fighting some tuning and engine sensor issues we got on the road to World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, IL. With the fuel gauge parameters never swapped in the ECM, we ran out of gas 1.5 hours away from St. Louis around 11:30 AM. Did I mention that we needed to be at the track by 1 PM?
After walking 2 miles through a corn field to get a miniscule amount of gas, we limped to the gas station off Route 66 and were about to accept defeat. But since we came all of this way, we needed to at least try!
We arrived at the venue at exactly 1 PM. We got really lucky! We made it through tech, hung out with friends, and just took it easy that night.
Drag Week Day 1 ~ World Wide Technology Raceway ~ Madison, Illinois
I finally broke into the mid 12’s in my LS powered Pontiac Trans Am. This was a long awaited moment since my previous best time (without drag radials) was a 13.01 at Tucson Dragway at Duct Tape Drags in 2021.
Once the day was coming to a close, we packed up, turned in our timeslip and headed towards Indianapolis. You can always be assured that the route and stops are going to be scenic and super epic. After a very long drive, we finally made it to our hotel for much needed rest — after completely unloading Freebird again, of course.
Drag Week Day 2 ~ Lucas Oil Raceway Park ~ Indianapolis, Indiana
I don’t know what it was with Lucas Raceway but I didn’t have any luck at this track. I ran close to a dozen runs and barely broke into the 12’s. I left hoping that Byron – my home track – would treat us better the next day. We hit our checkpoints and then cruised back to the house for the night to sleep in our own bed and unload some of the stuff we thought we’d need, but didn’t. Up until this point I was having a lot of issues with launching the car at a high RPM, so a stop was made at a local parts store to pick up some ceramic brake pads. I had high hopes that this simple install would hold down the car so that I could launch at a higher RPM.
Drag Week Day 3 ~ Byron Dragway ~ Byron, Illinois
After getting well rested at Busted Classic Garage, we hooked back up with the route and headed towards our home track Byron Dragway. This track definitely treated us better. I got 3 runs in with a 12.47 @ 111 MPH being the best so far.
The route for this day was not a long one but it took us almost to the northwestern tip of Illinois before bringing us back down to the Davenport area. At this point the long hours and miles passed were starting to wear on us, especially because my co-driver couldn’t actually drive Freebird because the driver’s seat doesn’t move!
Drag Week Day 4 ~ Cordova Dragway ~ Cordova, Illinois
Cordova Dragway, what a cool track! This was by far my favorite track of Drag Week. Cool temps, well prepped track, and I ran the fastest time in Freebird, that being a 12.31 @ 113 MPH. On my second run I started having some serious stalling issues at the line (not the first time during the trip, but the first time on the track!). There was no reason to push it and possibly blow up the motor before finishing the week, so we packed up and headed to the last track.
Every night we stopped for the night and uploaded a fresh tune to the car. Luis from Kreative Street Designz was tuning Freebird remotely all the way from Texas. This guy was a lifesaver, I couldn’t have made this trip without him. That man definitely has some patience.
The last two nights were a game changer! Staying in a hotel 2 nights in a row meant we could unload most of our stuff that we normally had to unpack at the track. Trailers are almost a must at Drag Week unless you have a wagon or truck, which we did not.
Drag Week Day 5 ~ World Wide Technology Raceway ~ Madison, Illinois
We arrived at the track with a solid plan. Let’s dump 109 octane in, lean out the tune even more and raise the shift points of the transmission. I took everything out of the car trying to lose as much weight as possible, to the point of removing the passenger seat. Hah! So with Freebird sipping on some high octane gas we hit the staging lanes….
But then the worst case scenario happened — a storm passing over Madison stopped us dead in our tracks. There was a moment where it seemed that the storm had passed, and the crew started drying off the track, the racers started drying off their cars, but it was very short lived.
Another storm cloud engulfed the raceway and that was it. After a short time they announced the cancellation of the last race.
Maybe it was meant to be. I know with the high trap speed over 113 MPH we had a chance for high 11’s. A higher RPM launch, a leaner mix, VP racing gas to hopefully keep it from detonating, and a high shifting point – which would make most 4L60’s rattle apart in a second – is all we needed.
But, we never got that chance. Maybe it’s for the better, being able to finish Drag Week and drive back home sitting in the driver’s seat rather than the seat of a tow truck.
We’ll never know… until next year.