You might notice a pattern in the types of events we have registered Orange Crush for this year; we enjoy driving it hard but safely. There is no better place to accomplish that than a road or autocross course. Normally, to take your car on a road course can be $500-plus and that’s just one day! Local autocross events are much cheaper but normally offer few runs and you have to work the event. We are grateful for events like Motor State Challenge, Midwest Musclecar Challenge and the most recent Northeast Musclecar Challenge. We are thankful for companies like BFGoodrich Tires, Baer, Maxima Oil, UMI Performance, Detroit Speed and others to sponsor events like Northeast Musclecar Challenge that allows us to race multiple days of racing for a lot less. Similar to previous events, The Northeast Musclecar Challenge took place over 3 days. Unfortunately this event was the last big racing event for Orange Crush this year. We will still attend some local autocross events but no more road courses. We had awesome weather, ate great food, and we made some new friends.
The event took place at Pittsburgh International Race Complex (known as the “Pitt Race”) in Wampum, PA. The facility and track is one of our favorites from this season. The road course is a 2.8 mile track with 19 corners that can be split into 2 separate tracks, North and South. The autocross is held in the Vehicle Dynamics Area, which totals six acres and is also used for drifting events, driving maneuver practice for police, among other auto-related functions. The majority of the facility is paved or concrete, gravel is not a common sight. They have 50 amp electric hook-ups for camping and plenty of garages on site that you can rent for the weekend. Oh, and there is a .82 mile track where you can rent go-karts that will put your local mall karts to shame. These karts can reach speeds up to 45 mph, and the track can accommodate enthusiasts who bring their own karts that reach speeds much higher than that. The facility hosts many different types of racing events, and has been a perfect place to hold the Northeast Musclecar Challenge every year.
Unlike the other events this year that has allowed all makes and models, Northeast Musclecar Challenge only allows American Made V8 vehicles. Although once again we were the only Mopar at the event, it is always a pleasure to watch other enthusiast’s thrash on their classic or modern muscle cars. However we notice that many of the competitors had Corvettes, Camaros, or other Chevy cars; a few of them chose Rams to haul their rigs. We also ran across a couple heavily modified Vipers, but they were not part of the event. One of the Vipers were the owners personal car they raced and were hanging out in her garage spot at the track. There were almost 60 cars that participated in the event and had a good split of early and late model vehicles.
Thursday morning we started the event off with a drivers meeting at 8am and then prepared for a day of road course racing. Due to time constraints, we didn’t get to run the whole track, and we were assigned to the North Track for the day. Like most events, they group us together with drivers of similar skill level into one of four groups. Each group would be called to the staging area(grid) every 15 minutes, with the 1st group starting at the top of each hour starting at 9am. We would break for lunch that the sponsors provided, and then start racing again until 5 when we would break for another sponsored dinner. Once the meeting was over they allowed us to make a couple parade laps to warm up the track and allow everyone to get acquainted.
Unfortunately, we had a few minor adjustments to make before we hit the track, so we missed out on the parade laps and our first session. We knew there would be plenty of seat time the rest of the day and wanted to make sure car was 100-percent ready. We were up late the night before changing oil, switching tires, and making other minor preparations for race day. We also needed to check our toe on our front tires, and luckily the BFGoodrich Garage was present and had a set of toe plates that we borrowed. You may have seen the BFGoodrich Garage website where they post about readers and their rides, but they also have a trailer that is towed around to different events all over the country. The trailer is equipped with ample lighting for early mornings or late nights and just about anything that you would need to fix your car during the race weekend. We were a little jealous, as this trailer is equipped better than our garage. From hand tools, chemicals and jacks, to welders and air tools, they even have a couple workers on staff to assist if you need help. Its awesome to see a company like BFGoodrich supporting the racing community in this way.
After finishing up a few things on Orange Crush we were ready to hit the track for the 10am session. All year we have fought carburetor and ignition problems. We worked very hard weeks before the event to get our Edelbrock Pro Flo3 EFI system installed before the event. We were successful in completing the install but didn’t have many road miles on the system. The system performed great so far on the street but knew 3 days of racing would give the system a real test and see how quickly Edelbrock’s self learning system would adapt. Our group was called and we headed to the grid to lineup. They sent us out on the track one at a time and as we approached the main track our adrenaline was building but still had some worry that our car wouldn’t perform. We got the green flag, pedal went to the floor and and we were racing. From the get go we had much better throttle response, more power, and we weren’t battling fowled plugs from idling in grid.
As we raced throughout the morning, the system backfired here and there, but we assumed that it was part of its learning curve. We had a bigger issue of oil spilling all over the manifold and down on our headers. After a few sessions we figured out that our cover we had around the breather tank was too restrictive and not allowing the crankcase to breathe, creating excess pressure and blowing oil out of our valve covers. We pulled the cover off and enjoyed the rest of the day racing with no oil leaking. We got back on track after lunch with a leak-free car but still had some backfiring that we could not figure out. We tried adjusting some of the parameters in the tablet that came with our Edelbrock EFI system. Nothing we changed helped at all and at one point made it worse.
Besides backfiring, Orange Crush was running a lot better than any other event. We decided to stop messing with the system and let it learn and hope for the best. We enjoyed the day racing and decided to take a closer look at the car after dinner. After the last session they called everyone to the meeting hall where they served us a wonderful pork chop dinner. After stuffing ourselves, we headed back to camp where we would try and take a closer look at the car. As we should have earlier in the day, we started by checking over all the basics. Timing, electrical connections, grounds, cap, rotor, plug and plug wires. As we were pulling our plugs to see how they looked, we noticed a couple were a little loose. We assumed that when we checked them the other night we forgot to tighten them all the way back down. It was a “duh” moment but as they say, it’s normally the little things that are the root of issues like this. They car fired up the same as before but was after dark and decided to test it out in the morning.
We camped on site which made it easy for us to wake up, cook some breakfast and prepare for a full day of autocross. The autocross course was set up by 7:30 am; we walked it until the drivers meeting at 8am. The meeting went fairly quick and track officials decided to start auto crossing earlier than planned. We were eager to get the car on the track and see if loose plugs were our issue. We made it to our designated spot and waited for our turn. Finally, it was our time to head to the start line and give it our best shot. We heard the word “Go!”, the pedal went to the floor and we were off. The course was taking most people 30-40 seconds to run, so there wasn’t a lot of time to think about the car, only enough to focus on the course and try not to get lost. Less than a minute later, our run was over, but more importantly, we didn’t have any back firing!
The rest of the day Edelbrock’s EFI ran flawlessly. We were able to take off and stop harder than ever before. There was no worry of fuel sloshing out of the carburetor, floats sticking, poor ignition signal, or any of our prior concerns. Inside the car, we were able to monitor the air fuel ratios, engine temp, fuel pressure, and multiple other metrics via the tablet that was included with the Edelbrock Pro Flo3 EFI system. For once this season we were able to relax and not have to tune anything or work on the car in-between runs. We had a great session in the morning. Then we broke for lunch that consisted of steak burgers and hot dogs. After everyone was full from lunch, we were back in the cars heading out for the afternoon session. We ran the cars until about 5pm when we broke for dinner which consisted of rib eye steaks and a couple of side dishes. After relaxing and once again, eating too much food, we walked back to our campsite and hung out with a few other racers the rest of the evening.
Saturday was the final day of the event and started off first thing in the morning. Since many racers had long drives ahead of them, we would only race until noon. Orange Crush continued to run well and we enjoyed another day of trouble-free racing. After the first couple rounds of the autocross, we saw some dark clouds moving in and decided to call it quits a little early. They kept racing and would continue in the rain unless lighting or heavy rain approached. We over-reacted and it barely sprinkled. Luckily, we only missed out on a couple of runs before it was time to eat lunch. While everyone was eating, they tallied up the times and calculated all the scores. When everyone was done eating they announced all the winners and drew for door prizes. Everyone started heading home soon after, and we followed.
We were ecstatic with the performance of our Orange Crush and have Edelbrock to thank. Orange Crush is running better than it ever has before, we got to eat some great food, and made some new friends. Its sad that our season of big events have came to an end but we are even more excited for next year. There are a few other upgrades we have planned over the winter and should have a the EFI dialed in by this time next year. We would like to thank all our sponsors that have helped Orange Crush become the car it is and all the sponsors that helped with the event. Orange Cone Racing did a great job hosting the event and will definitely be back next year. Hopefully we see more Mopars competing in the event next year, and not just used as tow vehicles.