September 15, 2002
Stanton, MI -- Upon our return from our dismal Quaker event, we quickly proved our faulty head gasket suspicions and remedied the situation. It was the opinion of industry experts that we had went to long on this set of head gaskets. Nobody to blame but myself. Copper head gaskets are cheap and they will now be replaced after every other race whether they need it or not.
It's now time to return to the birth place of the Pelech Bros. Racing "Street Legal" Drag Racing career, the historical Mid-Michigan Motorplex. And as usual, there was too much to do and not enough time to do it.
I was just hanging out on my girlfriend Karin's couch when she asked, "…when I was going to assemble the engine?"
Hah! This is a loaded question! I know the answer to this!
"Not right now… This is our time together… I'll get to it, doll..."
Oh yeah! Now that was smooth!
She then said, "Let's go."
"Where?" I asked.
"To put the engine together." "We can have our together time at the shop." She replied.
I quickly jumped at her mistake.
While I was re-assembling our ET Performance cylinder heads, Karin was scraping gaskets and washing parts. But that wasn't exactly what she had in mind… She wanted me to scrape gaskets and wash parts while she did the "more interesting" work. She reminded me how she used to re-build her own "inline-6" Jeep engines and replace transmissions on her own. I guess these menial "scrape & wash" tasks were below her skill level. "Um… Of course, Darling… Of course… I was just going to have you do that until I had the heads ready… Then, I was going to have you start assembling the short block…" She dumped the rubber gloves, un-bagged the block and crankshaft, and started dropping in the main bearings. The next thing I remember was her asking me, "…what should I torque the mains to?" Not long after that, we had the engine assembly completed.
Since the season's Super Modified championship is now out of reach for us, we could now throw caution to the wind and really go for a big number. We would start with some aggressive suspension tuning. How can you wick up the engine tune up if the suspension tune up isn't ready for it? Our crew chief, Jeff Prock of Applied Nitrous Technology and Tim Pelech, immediately ventured under the car to dial-in our four-link and shock settings.
The first round of qualifying would also be our first test of the new suspension set up and a conservative version of the new tune up. I pulled into the pre-staging beam, ran through my final pre-run checks, and rolled forward into the staging beam. I then pressed the trans-brake button and stomped the gas pedal. When the starting lights flashed and I snapped off the trans-brake button, the nitrous poured on and the car violently picked up the front tires and rocketed forward. I almost instantly aborted as the car was muscled out of the racing groove. I returned the car to our pit and we began prepping for our second qualifying shot.
The car was again hoisted up on to the jacks and more adjustments were made to the suspension in an attempt to get it to launch cleanly & go straight down the track. Prock then spent some more time examining the engine data graphs and spark plugs from the short little on-track blip. The engine looked like it was right on target and if the suspension was where it needed to be, we'd be ready for a hot run.
The burn-out was completed and Prock guided me forward to the starting beams. Shortly after, the launch was executed…
…and so was a piston.
This one was going to be ugly. The sound of the engine soured very quickly and the needle on the vacuum gauge snapped-in-half as it crashed violently against the pin. The cockpit filled with smoke and the smell off burning oil was strong in the air. This definitely wasn't the average scorched piston. We quickly towed our gunned-down victim back to the pit to begin it's autopsy and, hopefully, it's resurrection.
The post run engine data was downloaded and appeared normal. The spark plugs were pulled and the story was told. Cylinder #6 had definitely seen better days. There was no need for a leak down or compression test. The crew hurriedly began the engine removal process. About 20 minutes later, the carcass was being trollied along the a-frame and into the trailer.
The intake manifold, valve train, and head stud nuts were quickly removed. All that was left to do now was lift off the cylinder head. It was the moment of truth. Tim gave the cylinder head a solid upward jerk and then set it on the bench. Everybody leaned in for look, then winced and groaned like they had just found the source of that nasty smell inside the fridge. The #6 piston was destroyed well beyond the norm. This was clearly the work of a failure elsewhere in the system. The piston wasn't the real problem, they can easily be replaced, it was the cylinder wall. It was pretty heavily gouged and they aren't easily replaceable. Well, not at the track at least… Which now gives me an idea…
It would later turn out that the fuel injector for cylinder #6 had failed causing the catastrophic melt down in the corresponding cylinder.
Karin was particularly bummed out over the thought of destroying "her" engine. I just told her that this is the way it sometimes goes and, in racing, you should never become attached to your work. In other words, don't fall in love with a death row inmate.
We lowered the head back on to the block, loosely reassembled the motor, and turned off the operating room lights. Our patient had flat-lined and our weekend was done.
The doors were locked and we called it a night.
The next morning, the engine was strapped to the floor and all loose item were stowed in preparation of our departure.
Since I now had some additional time on my hands, I paid NMCA announcers Al Tucci and Marv Noel a visit in the tower to expound on the virtues of each of the Pelech Bros. Racing sponsors. If we can't showcase our business associates with spectacular on-track performances, I always make a point of doing it through alternative means. While in the tower, I also helped out by doing some of the race announcing so that Al and Marv could take a bit of a break.
At the end of the day, we'd point the Pelech Bros. Racing Mobile Command Center south and return to home base. Even though we hurt the engine early on, this weekend wasn't a complete loss. We were now a little closer to a new, more aggressive, base line chassis and horse-power set up. The 10th and final stop on the NMCA circuit is National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio. We'll continue to work with our combo there.
Until then, thank you for your support and we'll catch up with you again soon.
Ted & Tim Pelech
Pelech Bros. Racing