The Aussies of Drag Week 2019 day two – Video

Crazy action from day two of Hot Rod Drag Week, from Cecil County Dragway

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

The first two cars in the staging lanes were the turbocharged Barra brothers – Ben Neal’s Cresta and Ben Paganoni’s Fox-body Mustang. Both had them turned up a little bit and both delivered. It was hard to know which lane to watch, as both cars rocketed out of the hole and down the quarter for dual eight-second passes. It was Ben Neal’s first eight at Drag Week, an 8.95@148mph.

“We’re pretty over the moon; it’s a Drag Week PB for the Cresta,” said Benny. “I’m not trying to give it too many herbs yet. It’s running fine, but it’s only Day Two and this is a five-day event.”

For Ben Paganoni, it was a case of another day, another PB. The new turbo Barra Fox-body build continued to impress, taking three-tenths off Monday’s time with an 8.64@160mph.

“It felt really good,” said Ben P. “It drives really well; straight as a die. My confidence is building as well. My first few laps were pretty nerve-wracking. I knew the car was going to be capable; it was just a matter of me putting it together as well.”

Harry Haig had been up all night helping the Swedish contingent fix the transmission in their stock-bodied, nitrous-assisted Opel Ascona (loosely referred to as the ‘OG Ascona’). A lack of sleep seemed to have no effect on his speed though, as he rocketed the ‘Aussie Chevelle’ to yet another PB, an 8.68@156mph.

“I don’t remember a lot of it because I’m pretty tired,” Harry said of his run.

Harry’s son Corty Haig finally got to break his Drag Week cherry and have a run in the Malibu wagon he’s sharing with Robby Abbott. After a minor blip at the start when he dropped the transbrake, Corty stuck his boot into it and got down in 11.2@120mph.

“I got off to a bit of a bad start,” said Corty. “That’s just me not knowing how to drive. I did the burnout in second gear, which is a good start, and then I didn’t rev it hard enough on the transbrake – should’ve had more rpm. This car has got its issues but if you work around them, it’s pretty good.”

Robby then took the wheel and ran another PB for the wagon, a 10.20@132mph.

“I feel it’s got at least a 10.1 in it,” said Robby. “If we can figure out an ideal rpm for the launch and shift, it might have even more. Especially if Corty is driving, because he’s about 100lb lighter than me!”

Brenton Gault made an initial pass in the ’55 Chev that resulted in a disappointing 12-second pass, but he hot-lapped back around for a second crack and was rewarded with a 10.55@125mph. But fuel pump issues continue to plague the campaign.

“It did pretty good to the 60-foot – 1.4sec – and went really good to half-track, but it nosed over at the end and we’re running out of fuel,” Brenton said. “We’ve tried to patch up the problem with the pump by getting the float level up sky-high, and we wound another 2lb of pressure into the reg and thankfully the needle and seat held it. On the startline I turn the fans and everything else off – we checked it last night and that gets another volt to the pump, so the pump should spin a little quicker. We bypassed the speed controller on the pump and ran it straight off the battery so it’s getting all the juice. That’ll be the solution for the rest of the week.”

 Ben Paganoni had already handed in his timeslip, but decided to go out for a second pass anyway. However, the Fox-body stalled mid-burnout and the team surmised that the issue was fuel related. The Barra brotherhood set to work diagnosing the problem, using a process of elimination. They had some clever people working on it – including Ben ‘Mechanical Stig’ Neal, Al ‘Turbo Yoda’ Butler and Zane Heath from Maxx Performance – and eventually figured that it was a faulty map sensor. After patching that up, the Barra brothers hit the road to New Jersey and on to Day Three.

It was a scary moment when Magnus Frost crashed his twin-turbo Opel Ascona into the wall and became airborne before landing hard over the finish line. The Swedish legend, who was running second overall after Day One, launched the car hard and looked to be on a hell of a run before he got out of shape. Swedish Ascona engine bay

Thankfully he was unhurt, but the car sure was.

“The car felt super-good and it actually went a personal best in the 330,” said Magnus. “Then it got loose, so I let off the gas, got back on it again and it turned right. I tried to steer it but I couldn’t and it crashed into the wall. I’m glad it’s a concrete wall, because otherwise I would have flipped. Of course, I’m shocked. We’ve lived and breathed this car for two years, and now it’s just gone it feels f##king terrible.”

The wheelstanding ‘Twisted ’55’ gasser is back at Drag Week for the second straight year. The blown, injected 429ci Ford-powered ’55 entertains the crowd with its insane wheels-up launches, but the choice of engine combo puts a few noses out of joint. “I’ve been called all kinds of names,” said owner Herschel Cronin, who hails from Houston, Texas. “You can put a Chevrolet in a Ford all day long, but if you put a Ford in a Chevrolet, you’re un-American!”

 The car has run 9.2s both days so far. “It’s got more in it,” Herschel said. “This is the first year we put injection on it. We had carburettors last year. I’m old-school, man, I don’t know a whole lot about this computer stuff. We need some help figuring it all out.”

This nitrous-huffing Opel Ascona is a street-racing hero in its native Sweden. Owner Robin Johannesson bought the car from his mate Magnus Frost when Magnus upgraded to the twin-turbo Pro Mod-style Ascona. The engine is a 565ci big-block with three stages of nitrous. The car has run PBs at each day of Drag Week 2019 so far.

 “At Virginia on the test day it ran 7.88, and then yesterday it went 7.76, and today 7.67@177mph,” said Robin. “It’s weird because this car shouldn’t be able to go this fast – it’s short, it’s hard to drive, and there’s not that much power in it.” It’s particularly impressive given that the team spent last night in a gas station removing the transmission to fix a seal in the front and then reinstalling it. “We got here at 5:30 this morning,” said Robin. “I’m kinda tired.”

Texan Scott Brown’s ’53 Bel Air is a high-speed tank. Weighing around 3750lb and running on 26×8.5 radials, it’s powered by a turbocharged LS2 combo and ran its first eight-second pass at Drag Week last year. Today it ran another PB of 8.69@153mph. “On paper it should have gone a little faster,” said Scott. “We started losing boost up top because of a loose dome pressure sensor.”

The car seems to have turned a corner after a couple of trying days. “It broke the intermediate shaft at the test day,” said Scott. “We bought a Hughes transmission from Facebook and the guy delivered it to us at the track and we swapped that out. But in doing that I pinched a wire that operates the dash and transmission control, so on Day One when I went to do a burnout it just died and defaulted to second gear. So, we got a 10-second pass in second gear. Last night I figured it out and this morning I fixed it. Then I loaded the original tune back in and now we’re back where we want to be.”

Another Swedish entry at Drag Week 2019 is Joel Skoglund’s Dodge Dart, a 1969 model that he has built into a ’68 tribute. “It’s registered as a ’69 but I put on the ’68 grille and tail-lights to make it look like a ’68, because that’s when the Hemi Darts came, so that’s what I wanted it to look like. I removed all the trim to make it look like a factory race car.” The Hemi was in the car when Joel bought it, but he’s completely overhauled it. “It was originally 355ci, but when I replaced the pistons I took it out another 0.10, so it’s 358 now.”

The car’s PB is a 9.25@145mph, and on Day Two it went 9.29@142mph, so Joel is reasonably happy. “I had to replace the heads four days before I shipped the car from Sweden to America, so the top end had about seven miles of driving on it before starting Drag Week. So it’s still not completely sorted out yet.”

The quickest pass of Day Two belonged to Bryant Goldstone and his twin-turbo 572ci big block-powered AMC Javelin; a 6.68@215mph. “That’s the quickest this car has gone by about five-hundredths,” said Bryant. “It’s down about 5lb of boost so we were actually slower to the eighth-mile by about 11-hundredths off our previous quickest pass, but it’s picked up a lot on the other side. We’ve been dumping the boost on the big end, which is going to hurt the mile-an-hour a bit, but not the ET, just to save the engine a little bit. So we’re happy. We wanted to go back out, but I didn’t think the track was going to have it later in the day.”

Reigning Drag Week champ Tom Bailey ran a one-and-done 6.83@205mph in the ‘Sick Seconds 2.0’ Camaro to maintain the lead in Unlimited and Outright. “It stuck the tyres so I had to pedal it to get down there,” he said. “Now we’re just doing some minor maintenance and we’ll move on.” Tom was in the burnout box ready to make his run when second-placed Magnus Frost suffered his terrifying crash in the Opel Ascona. “That was horrible to see,” he said.

At the end of Day Two, Bryant Goldstone in the Javelin has moved up into second place in the Outright standings behind Tom Bailey.

The mandated route to the next track took racers roughly 160 miles via a circuitous route across Pennsylvania and into New Jersey, which included two checkpoint stops. Racing begins at Atco Dragway, New Jersey tomorrow at 8am. Keep your eyes glued to the SM website for updates.