The Horsepower & Heels team entered the Fun Ford Weekend Thunder Valley Nationals with some hard work ahead of them. After a stellar performance in Norwalk, OH with a runner-up finish and the history-making initiation of Erica Ortiz into the 6 second, 200 mph clubs, the team was ready & working hard to build upon their progress. This process began promptly after their return from Ohio, pulling the motor for refreshing just 2 weeks shy of Bristol. After tearing it down and discovering no excessive wear or damage, the team opted to switch the cast crank in favor of a steel version for reliability and peace of mind.
There was still much to do as they pulled in the gates of Thunder Valley. Kevin & Dan worked on getting the driveline back together, while Erica unloaded and unpacked. Having arrived mid-afternoon on Friday, the team would not make the first call qualifying session. Teammate John Gullett would grab the pole with a 6.57. Back in the pits, the team buttoned up the car and went to the line for the 2nd session. This night session would prove to be the best conditions for performance, as the cool air and track temperature would aid the car’s performance. But as Erica cranked the car in the staging lanes, she quickly discovered that the Bruno was low on fluid and forced to back it off.
Saturday morning, the team went over the car again. Dan & Kevin changed the tires to a larger Goodyear slicks, and they made the call for 3rd round qualifying. Erica staged up, but the car moved hard right out of the gate past the 60′ mark and she was forced to abort. A broken wheelie bar and the change in tire size had the chassis tune up slightly off, so Dan adjusted it for the final session. Having not made a clean attempt, Erica knew how important the final session would be to the Sunday ladder. She entered the burnout, but something went amiss, and the throttle hung wide open as she fought to keep the car straight and in control while reaching for the power kill. After safely killing the engine, Dan backed her off, tore off the hood, and removed the culprit- a vacuum line tangled in the throttle cable. Erica quickly refired, and jumped to the starting line. Rattled, she staged and took off, but when the tires finally set down over 200 ft out, the car got loose and she lifted. This failed attempt secured her spot at the bottom of the ladder, facing #2 qualifier Chuck Samuels in eliminations.
An early morning 1/8th mile test attempt showed strong improvement, with the car making a clean, straight pass and running stronger than her previous incremental best 1/8th mile attempt. Knowing that Samuels had the performance advantage (he qualified with a 6.62), Erica knew she would have to cut a good light to try and outrun him. She staged first, and left ahead of Samuels, with a near perfect 0.008 light but it just wasn’t enough, as her new personal best of 6.85 @ 207 mph couldn’t compete with his 6.57 @ 217.
Though her early exit in eliminations was not what they had hoped for, the team is proud of their continued progress.
“We know that we come in here under-powered compared to these other cars, but we continue to improve with each outing, and even if we aren’t winning races yet, we’re proud of the advancements we’ve made thus far.” Erica says.
Erica entered the event #2 in points for the Pro 5.0 championship points chase, with John Gullett a close 3rd and Chuck Samuels in the #4 position. Her early exit may have caused her to lose some ground on the points fight, but Erica is not far out of the running. The team is working on some marketing partnerships that would enable them to finish out the remaining 2 events in the FFW season- Topeka, KS & the Dallas, TX world finals.
The Horsepower & Heels team will be back out next weekend, July 12th with the Automatic Pro Mods quick 8 event at Silver Dollar Raceway in Reynolds, GA.