Oddly enough, I had never in my life been to a drag strip. When I was young, there was only one that I knew of in the area, in Scribner. I never did get out there, because once I learned how to drive I had other things to do that seemed more pressing.
I’ve been threatening to take the Mercedes to a drag strip since not long after I got it. After finally getting most of the issues worked out, I decided a couple of Saturdays ago to just do it. I drove down to I-29 Dragway in Pacific Junction, IA. It’s a 1/8 mile track, which I was initially not too happy about, but honestly I think it was a good place to start out. It’s $10 to watch, $25 to race on a “Test & Tune” night, which is most Friday and Saturday nights.
I got there early and checked out some of the other people showing up while waiting for tech inspection. Once the tech shed opened up, I got in line and got my tech inspection card filled out and a number (0773T) on the windshield. I didn’t know what to expect, but the staff there were super friendly and helpful. The track manager offered to make a couple of runs with me to show me what to do, so I took him up on that. Not more than a couple minutes after finishing up with the inspection, I had my very first timeslip in my hand! I ran the eighth mile in 8.6741 seconds, and had a trap speed of 85.28 MPH. I did better, and I did worse, but over the next couple of hours I had a ton of fun and got to meet some super nice people.
I’ve still got a LOT of room for improvement, of course. My reaction time is horrible, usually over half a second. I have found that with the Merc’s big V-12, it doesn’t pay to get on the throttle too early or too much; all it does is spin the rear tires and get the traction control working hard to control wheel spin. Turning traction control off… well, I learned not to do that! Lots of noise, not much “go”. Maybe I’ll learn to better control the torque and be able to turn off some of the babysitter functions, but for now the best recipe seems to be stage, get the RPMs up to about 1200-1500 on the yellow, and when the last yellow comes on release the brake and nail the throttle wide open, and keep it there until you pass the finish line.
I soundly trounced a 5.7 Challenger — no surprise there. Almost kept up with a couple of new-ish, supercharged Camaros, including a ZL1. I don’t know whether they were just running slow or what, but for the most part the Rocket Sled can hold its own despite its enormous heft. Maybe next time I’ll take out a little weight… I didn’t even remove the spare tire, let alone the little cooler in the back seat.
All in all… it was a really fun night, and I can totally understand how it could become a real addiction. And where else will you get to see a Monza with a monster V8 crammed into it?