Australian racer Steve Easton had a far more drama-filled March Meet than he expected last weekend at the wheel of the Burnin Money Nostalgia Funny Car at Bakersfield.
After some promising test runs earlier in the week, it was in the second qualifying session where things went spectacularly awry for the Queenslander.
“We had been at the race track all week and made a few 400 feet test runs with the car,” he said. “We found some really good performance and the motor was looking happy.
“On Friday I spun the tires on the first run and made a few clutch adjustments for the second run. The car hooked up and left. It was the second quickest 60 foot time we have ever had at .976.
“Just around 330 feet the engine exploded and then the body slowly started lifting up. As the body flew off over me I knew it was the end of our race. A spare body is not something a Nostalgia Funny Car team has in the trailer. It was a very surreal experience and not something I ever thought I would have to drive through.”
Once the immediate surprise of seeing the body depart was over, Easton knew he had to get the thing stopped and minimise any further damage to the chassis.
“There were quite a lot of flames coming from each side of the engine so I set off the fire bottles and tried to keep the car on the centre line of the track, mostly because that was as far away from the walls as I could get and I couldn’t see with all of the fire suppressant spraying on my visor.”
The post mortem of the car in the pits revealed the cause of the explosion.
“Once we got the car back to the pits we started diagnosing what went wrong and we found a broken connecting rod bolt. This started the chain of events, breaking two rods and sending the piston into an intake valve which ignited all of the nitro in the manifold and blower. The explosion damaged the front tree and unlatched the body.
“I am happy to say that with the support of our sponsors Lucas Oil Products, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires, TMS Titanium and Brown and Miller Racing Solutions we have already started repairing the damage and preparing the team for the next race, the 'Night of Fire and Thunder' at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, Colorado.”
As scary as the accident looks from the outside, Easton said he didn't feel in danger.
“I felt safe in the car the whole time and in my Simpson safety equipment from head to toe. It just is another example of how safe our sport really is. I would like to thank everyone involved with the car for all of their help and we are looking for companies who would like to partner up with our strong, family-based race team.”