Saturday was the final day of the Fireball Run, and it was also the last time we'd have to face down a track event--this time at Cordova Dragway Park in Cordova, Illinois. But we had to get there first.
We departed Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the morning, with only a couple of bonus missions in hand. First, we had to locate the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, before searching out the self-claimed "World's Largest Truck Stop" on Interstate 80, just west of the Quad Cities. That done, it was onto the drag strip challenge--in which the term "drag" had more than one meaning. Yep, we had to dress in drag and be judged on our outfits, although we weren't made to race in drag.
After the judging and lunch, it was time to hit the track. This was my first time on a true quarter-mile track, and my first time dragging a manual-transmission Camaro SS. Mindful of a warning not to destroy the track with burnouts during the safety briefing, and concerned more about the clock than the car next to me, I decided not to dump the clutch on launch, instead choosing to simply floor it from idle with the traction control set to competitive mode.
As soon as I hit the gas, the power cut out, due to the computer trying to save me from myself. I thought I had stalled the car, but the engine never died. Eventually it caught and took off, but it was too late. The run was ruined.
I had one more chance to redeem myself. This time I revved it to 2,000 RPM before dumping the clutch. I probably should've gone to 3,000-3,500 RPM, but I didn't want to smoke the tires too badly. When I dropped the clutch, there was some wheel hop, but once the car was rolling, it took off smoothly. The 1-2 shift offered up some more wheel chatter, but from there the car pulled strongly the whole quarter mile, with me shifting at about 6500 RPM. The end result--13.9 seconds at 107 miles per hour. That's not great--some car magazines have hit the low 13s with trap speeds around 110 mph--but it was good enough for a top-ten finish against some pretty hot iron. Only the best time counted, so my only penalty for the first run was embarrassment.
After the drag strip, we had one more relatively simple bonus mission, then our second-to-last mission involved collecting items for charity. Once we arrived in Galena, Illinois with a police escort, it was time for one more mission--race around town and get signatures from actors impersonating famous Civil War generals. This was done on foot. Mission accomplished, the Fireball Run was over. All that stood between us and home was dinner and the awards ceremony, plus a night in a very nice resort located just outside Galena.
We placed second in our class (sports cars) and sixth overall. While we'd hope to come home with the overall win, we were still very happy with how we placed, given the level of our competition. Fireball Run isn't just about pure speed, which explains why some very fast cars didn't win. It's about smarts, skills, and a little bit of luck, as well as lots of hard work. We fought hard, and we consistently ran near the front of the pack. It made for some intense moments, and sleep was in short supply, but in the end, it was more than worth it.