APD Member Spotlight Blog (October): Nick Shepherd

 

Well, this is the end. This will be the final blog for This is Bracket Racing and for the year. 
I wish I could say I saved the best for last, but I didn’t. In the past month my trailer has hauled 2 broken cars, neither of which were mine, a giant pile of yard debris and my Nova just one time. Nonetheless, I’ve had a fun month to write about. 
 
Racing
This is going to be the shortest racing update I’ve had. In the last weekend of September I went to Woodburn to race their National Dragster Challenge and the King of the Track, basically two races in one day. Woodburn’s King of the Track consists of the four overall point series winners. As I won the Pro (non-electronics) points series I was one of four included.
After losing early in the National Dragster Challenge, I was hoping to fare better in the King of the Track.
The first round paired me with the Electronics point winner. Utilizing every trick I had and some really good luck, I was able to put together a .017 total package and eliminate him. 
The second round (and final round since there’s only four cars), paired me against the Sportsman champion. Unfortunately, we were both pretty late on the tree with my light being worse, and I took a .010 stripe for the loss. For some reason I continue to just be terrible when racing slower cars.
I hated to end the season that way, but I do need to keep things in perspective. Losing is part of racing and I still feel I had a great season despite a missed opportunity at the end.
Halloween Classic in Boise
As you may remember, I was filling out my pre-entry form as I wrote my last blog. Well, attendance hinged on being free from work which didn’t happen. I had a few last minute issues with work and so I couldn’t leave for the Classic until Friday night. Since that would have only left one day of racing I opted to not tow the Nova the 450 miles to Boise for just once shot. I did, however, drive over to Boise with my friend Matt Kielman to just watch the racing and see friends.
Yes, it’s a long drive to just watch a race, but the Classic is a pretty special event. Its darn fun, they have good racing, trick or treating, a giant bon fire, a costume contest and a wheel stand contest which is amazing.
Attendance is over 500 cars and the trick or treating crowd is about that large also. They actually stop racing to have a trick or treat session.
Here’s the bon fire alongside the race track. Who knows what time I took this picture. It looks like Freddy Krueger is in it too.
I did actually race my pickup since it was only another $15 over my spectator entry. There’s not really any reason to even write about that though. 20 second diesels are not race cars.
The wheel stand contest was my favorite. As a spectator you have nothing to lose. As a competitor you have everything to lose, but for some reason the mix of testosterone and a cheering crowd create an environment where you just want to break your car to win.
This year’s wheel stand contest was exceptional. There are two prizes – highest and longest. My bud Steve Stuart won the longest wheelie and only tore off his rear bumper. The winner of the highest wheelie was a pretty modest looking Camaro which was dialed 7.90 (1/4 mile) earlier in the day. He had a blown big block and stood the car up so far that all four tires came off the ground. As it came down one tire grabbed first, then the other, doing a corkscrew type motion. It finally hit the ground so hard that the front tire just popped right off the wheel and created quite a spark show. 
Upon further examination, the fenders no longer fit, the roll bar didn’t fit in the firewall right, the rear valance was seriously scraped up and who knows what else.
It wasn’t all for naught though. He earned $250 for his efforts and thoroughly entertained us all. You wheel stand for glory, not money.
The fenders aren’t fitting like they used to.
Wheels make great sparklers.
 
Cracked frame on a Super Gas roadster. Unfortunately no prize for my friend John Floyd who owns this car. Good show though.
This is Wade Jaques. He’s the only other CPA I’ve ever met sitting in the grandstands of a drag race. My friend Dustin Ward (an economics major) was sitting by me and I made a lame joke about ROI (Return on Investment) at the wheel stand contest. This guy picked up on it and we began talking.  
I happen to see the reigning Super Stock national champion at the Classic, Jackie Alley. Jackie and her husband Mick are wonderful people.
Here are some of us wearing our shirts to celebrate our friend Kory Alby. Kory Alby is a great husband, father and friend and he also happens to have a mullet which is turning a little gray. Somehow after a few Coors Lights at the Team Finals, Coors Light got renamed “The Silver Mullet” after our friend Kory. Then T-shirts ensued with “Silver Mullet Racing” on them.
The drive to and from Boise is awesome. The Columbia River is present for about 3 hours and it’s beautiful. With my co-pilot Matt Kielman we made it home in 6 hours. We stopped just once for about 10 seconds to change drivers, otherwise it was straight through.
 
Winter upgrades
If you talk to any racer right now the question is “what are you going to do this winter to your car?” I haven’t firmly decided all my improvements yet. For certain I’m going to be sending my headers to Nitroplate for coating and my carburetor to APD for rebuild. 
I’m also probably going to finally get a looser, bracket oriented torque converter made specifically for my car. 
Finally, I picked up this little 250 horsepower nitrous kit that might go on. It seems if I’m going to miss the tree now and then (lately too often), it might be handy to at least represent a reaction time better than actual.
 
Goals Recap
For the final installment I need to recap the goals I established in April. To me, a good rule of thumb is a goal should have about a 50% chance of success so I never expected to meet all of them.
1)      Do not ride in the trunk of anyone’s car**
Thank goodness I accomplished this goal.
2)      Win $10,000. This is a lofty goal on the west coast, especially in bottom bulb.
I did not accomplish this. I won just over $5,000. I’m still happy with this because it really doesn’t cost me much to race. A local Woodburn event costs me $25 entry (I get a $15 off coupon as past track champ), E85 costs $3.20/gallon and my tow rig gets 18mpg and I live 25 miles from the track. I didn’t break one part this year and put over 260 laps on my car. I considered that perhaps $10,000 was too lofty, but if I would have won about four key rounds I would have accomplished this goal. As such, this was a good goal even though I didn’t accomplish it.
3)      Test my car extensively so I don’t have mechanical weaknesses when the season starts.
This never happened due to a lot of rain.
4)      Average at least a .017 reaction time.
.027 overall.
5)      Never be afraid of an opponent.
Accomplished. I was nervous more than a few times, but I never felt like an underdog.
6)      Win Woodburn Dragstrip points series.
Accomplished. In past years I’ve squeaked in for the win, this year I won by 18 rounds.
7)      Win Race of Champions. In NHRA Division 6 the Race of Champions winner goes to Pomona.
Okay, given that this is the best racers from every track in Division 6, my likelihood is far less than 50% on this one. Regardless, this will be an annual goal until it happens.
 
** At Boise’s Nightfire race last year my truck broke down on the way to the track with me and 2 friends. Jonathan Adams, then NHRA Division 6 director, stopped to give us a ride in his rented Chevy Malibu. A Chevy Malibu seats five people and altogether there were 6 of us and none of us were small people. I literally rode 10 miles in the trunk of his car to the race track.
 
Final Stats
Here are the final 2012 statistics:
WINS:

Bye
11
8%
Opponent Broke Something
1
1%
Opponent Red Light
20
15%
Opponent Break Out
8
6%
Opponent Too Slow
14
10%
Better Light (more than .010)
38
28%
Lucky
1
1%
Good Race!
8
5%
Other
0
0%
TOTAL
101
 

 
LOSSES:

I Broke
0
0%
I Red Lighted
9
7%
I Had a Worse Light (at least .010)
12
8%
Too Much Finish Line (>.015)
5
4%
Gave Finish Line Back
3
2%
Just Bad Luck (Good Race)
6
4%
I Couldn’t Run My Dial
0
0%
TOTAL
35
 

 
Round win percentage: 74%
Average green reaction time in elimination: .027. My goal was .017 and I don’t think a .027 average is really representative of my performance. In a given day I usually would together a string of good r/ts and then miss it once or twice a weekend.
Final rounds this year – 10, races won – 6
 
Thanks
Thanks to my wife April, and all my friends and family for helping me race this year.
Thanks to the participating sponsors for great products: Advanced Product Design (APD), K&N Engineering, Nitroplate, J&J Performance.
I want to thank Luke for letting me being a Member Spotlight participant this year. I had a great time sharing my experiences and I was honored to be associated with such a great site.
If you happen to be putting together your winter upgrades list, let me add one for you. Luke’s site, This is Bracket Racing, has a 3 month trial subscription for $45. Best thing I ever did for my racing. 
Happy Off-Season to all,
Nick Shepherd
 
 

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