The next time out was more of the same-ice skating at 107.474 mph. The other entrants didn't seem to be having this kind of trouble hooking up; maybe we weren't meant to be salt heroes. I was happy to have made two passes across the salt and was ready to go see how Freckles was doing on the 150-mph course, but Chris and Tomcat had other plans. They'd heard the salt was "tightening up" and traction was getting better as the day warmed up, and reminded me they didn't come all the way here to watch me give up.
Sure enough, the salt was better. We broke convention and lowered our tire pressure, and I almost felt some semblance of control on my next run. I carded a 123.018 and got right back in line. With only two passes left, I got more aggressive. I found, as the car wandered at speed, a slight squeeze on one side of the steering wheel would somewhat return it to its original direction. This seemed to work until approaching the finish line, when that last little throttle tickle sent Li'l Zilla on a pinball path, threatening to take out cones on both sides of the course. I gently lifted and again found myself on a wild ride at the turn-off, but the payoff was a 133.745 timing slip-the fastest I'd ever been timed in this car. I'd found the groove, but we were out of time. We went back to town and had dinner with Wayne and Jeremy, who'd "hit a wall" in the 150 MPH Club. Freckles would run 148 mph and no more. The speed gods were taunting them-pretty common on the salt.
The course looked smooth and dry the next morning. I rolled to the line confident that I'd gone 130-plus once and could do it again. I left the start line aggressively, almost spun out, made an awkward recovery, and continued on, shifting smoothly and building steady speed as I approached the half-mile marker. This would be my last pass on the salt, maybe forever, so I let myself get as aggressive as I dared, plus a little more. I was coming up on the finish at just less than 5,000 rpm, when Li'l Zilla decided to drift way over to the right. My "slight squeeze" approach wasn't having any effect, so I had to get a little heavy-handed. I remember thinking, "This is where I should lift, but ..." and that's when the car settled into a 90-degree slide that seemed to pick up speed the longer it slid. Time and space had become elastic and very aural: I heard the exhaust, but also the salt spraying the aluminum floor and the Lexan windshield. I knew if the tires found something to grab, the car could begin to roll. I was strapped in as tight as possible but braced myself against the seat and 'cage, and I made sure my thumbs were free of the steering wheel, since I'd heard bad stories about that. I steered in the direction of the skid, but the car stayed sideways-for a very long time. Slowly, Li'l Zilla came around and straightened out. The turn-off was coming way too soon and I was unceremoniously ejected from the course, again. I got my bearings and headed for the timing trailer for my slip: 134.19817. I was in the club!
My next thought was of Freckles, sneaking up on 150. It had taken all I had to get into the 130 MPH Club; those guys were really looking like heroes now. Freckles beat Li'l Zilla fair and square in our Baddest Street Car contest, but I doubt those guys had as much fun getting there. Witnesses said they could see my rooster tail from the starting line, more than a mile away.
Now, it was Chris' turn to try the 130 MPH Club. He hadn't driven the car in five years, and he pretended to listen as I gave him the "don't be a hero" lecture. He carded a 115.590 on his check-out pass, and my eyebrows went up a notch. Run number 2 was a 126.882. When he fired up for his third run, we saw the throttle cable had frayed away to nothing. It looked like we were done for the day.
Chris disagreed. He demanded whatever cash Tomcat and I had-about $7-dove into the tow car, and headed for Wendover, where he finally found a Ford Taurus trans kickdown cable at a wrecking yard. We cobbled it up to get Chris back to the 130 course. He wanted to get back to where he'd left off, and, sure enough, he tore off identical numbers, right through the incrementals.
He had two chances to go 130 mph and back it up. The starting line officials knew what was at stake and held up their radios so we could hear the numbers. The run looked flawless, but we didn't hear anything. Then, finally, "Clock malfunction on that run." We all groaned. Chris came rolling back and was swamped with questions and opinions from other racers. Then, it was just the two of us. "Scotty, that was a 140.5 something. They wouldn't let me have the timing slip, but I saw it!"
We went over to the timing trailer. We pleaded. We begged. We offered a $3.47 bribe, but they wouldn't hand over the slip. Instead, they let Chris have two more tries. He delivered with a 133.990 and a 135.877. I was so proud of him and Li'l Zilla! And Tomcat. And Wayne, Jeremy, and Freckles, who ended up running 156.995 after some aero duct tape work.
It was an epic odyssey from beginning to end. And, in the end, it was Jeremy who summed it all up: "My gums got sunburned from smiling and laughing so much!" The same thing happened to Chris and me when we realized we'd gone 140 mph at half throttle! That means the Son of Godzilla will go 280 mph at full throttle, right?