Testing Fail… NASA American Iron Javelin update

After all the work done to the car over the last several months it was finally time to get it back on track for a test. First I had to renew my NASA license. After my 2015 competition license arrived in the mail I checked the Sonoma calendar for test days and signed up for the Feb. 24th morning session. I knew the car would be HELLA FAST! I mean how could it not?

Since my last outing I had:

1. Lowered the car 2″.
2. Modified the suspension to allow for some real camber adjustment.
3. Had a demon scale/alignment courtesy of Don.
4. Aero trick #1 – Front spoiler extensions.
5. Aero trick #2 – hood vents to get air out of the engine bay.

So I got the car all nut/bolted and got to the track feeling as ready as I possibly could be. As I’m pulling in I can’t believe what I’m seeing… No less than 3 ACTUAL Trans-Am cars are there for testing too!!! The #6 Penske/Donohue Javelin is there. Ken Epsman’s #15 Bud Moore Mustang is there. And one of the ‘Cuda’s is there. I’ve seen these cars a lot over the years BUT now I was going to be on track with them at the same time? In my poor man’s Trans-Am Javelin? That’s just too cool.

So I get the car unloaded and some friends start showing up. Matt was there, Doyle from my AMC club was there and a fellow NASA guy named Tom that I met on the NASA forums showed up. After getting the car situated it was time to suit up. I got out of my jeans and put on my driving suit in the paddock. I toss my jeans in the cab of the truck and close the door. A minute later I needed something from the truck so I go to open the driver’s door and it’s locked. Hmmm… walk around to the passenger door. Locked. WTF!? yep, I locked myself out of the truck… what’s still in the truck? Just my helmet, Hans device, gloves. Nothing too important… just stood there stunned for a few minutes. I guess when I was moving around changing out of my jeans the lock button on the key fob, which was in my jeans pocket, must have gotten pressed and locked the doors. When I closed the door it was already locked. Total fail. The guys and I walked around the truck like 20 times trying the door trying to think of what we could do. After 5 minutes I got an idea. Because I wanted to get something to eat from the grill I had put my wallet in my driving suit pocket. I had my phone too. I had only left my keys in my jeans because I knew I wouldn’t need them until it was time to go home. Anyway, I remembered that I’m a AAA “Premiere” member. I started doing the Premier thing when I was driving the yellow Javelin to track days. I figured it was good insurance in case I every crashed or blew up that car while at Thunderhill or Buttonwillow or something. So I call them up and after 10 minutes explaining everything they said they’d have somebody there in 45 minutes at the latest… I figured that was a conservative estimate and crossed my fingers that it would be quicker. Sure enough the guy shows up 15 minutes later. Pulls up to the car with his bag of tricks and has the door open in like 20 seconds… The whole fiasco from locking myself out to getting back in the car only took a half hour. whew… I was back in business.

I get my helmet/Hans and gloves and jump in the car. I get belted in, fire up the car and I head out to the track… the woman at pit out waves me onto the track and I’m off 🙂 I start accelerating up to the top of the hill and when I hit maybe 50 mph suddenly the whole front end of the car starts bouncing up and down really violently. I was like, are you shitting me… what the hell is that? I touch the brakes and slow down a bit till the oscillating stops and then I try giving it gas again. Same thing, as soon as I get a little speed the front end starts dancing… I try this a couple more times and it does the same thing every time I try to get going… I don’t even make a lap. I pulled off the track and pull into the hot pits. The guys meet me there and I tell them the car is totally fubar and I’m heading back to the paddock. So I pull away and start to go up the incline from the hot pits to the paddock and wham! my new front spoiler extensions hit the ground, fold under and tear up the front spoiler… MOTHER F… I get the car parked and climb out. Everyone is talking about the ripped up spoiler and I’m saying, forget that, something else is seriously wrong with this car. So everyone starts looking under the car trying to figure out what the problem is. I go to work trying to get the bent up spoiler off the car so we can see what’s up. While I’m doing that, Doyle tries to dive under the car to take a look and plows his head right into the end of the aluminum spoiler extensions. Result, nasty gash on the top of his head. So diagnosing the car is put on hold and triage begins… I had a little first aid kit I always bring to the track. I pull that out, get some gauze and some tape and patch Doyle up.

Ok, back to the car. We get the spoiler off, jack up the car and find that there’s a LOT of play in the front wheels. You can grab them at 9 and 3 and shake them side to side and there is quite a bit of movement. I get on my cell phone and call Al at Control Freak. I explain what’s going on and ask if he has any ideas. He says maybe wheel bearings. So I pull the wheels off, remove the dust caps and snug the bearings. Neither was loose so I doubt that was it. Put the wheels back on and the play is still there. We look at the font end for a while but all we can come up with is that the rack is toast and that’s where the play is coming from. So I decide to call it a day. I load up and head home totally defeated. When I get home I called Rebecca at the track and told her my sob story. I said I never even crossed start/finish, can I get my fee applied to another test. She took pity on me and said yes! So now I need to figure out what the F is wrong with the POS, get it fixed and get back out there. First race is Mar. 14/15 and I need at least one successful test day before then!

couple of pics

1974 Javelin-road race


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