Livin' the Dream: Phantom Drives the OG Murder Nova at Outlaw Armageddon 4
Ok I'm back. I know I said I was going to start doing these weekly again, but you know how it goes sometimes lol. But, even though its Sunday, I decided to dig out the laptop and make this entry because it just contains too much cool not to.
Have you ever been a spectator at the track and dreamed about what it would be like to get behind of the wheel of your favorite car on the property? Wondered what all the driver of that car goes through from the time they pull out of their pit stall until they make the turn off on the return road after a pass? This weekend, at Thunder Valley Raceway Park for Outlaw Armageddon 4, I was lucky enough for this dream to become a reality.
For years, Shawn (Murder Nova) told me he was going to let me make a pass in the OG Murder Nova someday. Although I always felt he was serious and that day would eventually come, I always just laughed it off and said "fuck yeah man. I'll be ready whenever!" If this were a movie, this is the point where where it would freeze-frame and Morgan Freeman would narrate with "Phantom was in fact NOT ready for whenever" lol.
Earlier this week, Shawn and I moved the OG from Midwest Streetcars to his personal shop so we could possibly start getting it ready to do some radial racing once filming ends for this season of the show. As we were pulling out of the drive way, I'm not sure why, but the words "let me drive that thing" came out of my mouth. It was at this point that I feel like Shawn called my bluff and said "ok. when?" I honestly wasn't prepared for that reaction but for some reason I replied with "I dunno. Lets take it to Armageddon" His reply, to my surprise, "Ok, lets do it!" At this point, I feel like we were stuck in a card game where we were both bluffing but continued to raise each other anyway lol. I hadn't looked at any rules for the race, I just knew there was a small tire class and the car was on small tires and had made a couple decent licks on them recently. Well, our definition of small tire is 29.5x10.5 or smaller, which is what the car was on. Upon actually reading the rules, I discovered their definition of small tire is 28x10.5...Great. The last time we had the car on that tire was at KOTS a couple years ago and we never made it off the starting line without instantly smoking the tires. Oh well. At this point I was already geeked that I was going to get to drive the OG Murder Nova, it didn't matter what tire I had to put on it, it was going down. So, back to MWSC we went so I could start changing tires and Shawn could come up with a 4-link setup and boost curve that would hopefully get this car off the line and down the track.
Let me give you a little background on my drag racing career; While I'll been around Shawn and Chief and their cars for around a decade, I've never driven a real race car until now. Ever lol. I've only let go of transbrake button 4 times. I've never staged a turbo car. I've never had to add the element of having a parachute handle to grab if I make a fast pass. The quickest I've ever been up until this point was 6.20's in a car that maybe made 700hp. I've made thousands of passes in my street trucks on dark streets and at the track. My current truck truck makes between 750-800rwhp on the bottle. While that's a decent amount of power for a daily driver and is a blast to drive, it's nothing that could prepare me for the ride I was fixing to take.
A question I got a bunch the last few days was "surely you tested somewhere first, right?' Nope lol. The only thing I've ever done with this car is load and unload it from the trailer, drive it in and out of the shop and around the pits. The biggest question I got was "are you nervous?" I'd be lying if I said no. I wasn't nervous to get in the car and get strapped in. I wasn't nervous about doing my first burnout. I wasn't nervous that I'd forget to turn on any switches. I wasn't nervous that I wouldn't be able to stage the car and I wasn't nervous that I wouldn't let go of the transbrake button in time. All of that is a procedure that Shawn has done thousands of times and was able to explain to me in great detail. I'm really good at following directions and memorizing steps/procedures. The part that had me nervous was the unknown; What was going to happen when I let go of that big red button. Was it going to hook? Was it going to spin? If it spins, do I pedal it and try to save the pass or do I just abort? What if I'm sideways while it's spinning? Do I drive into it? Away from it? What if it hooks and as that twin turbo big block power starts coming in, I hit a slick spot on the track? Let's not forget about the fact that Armageddon is a no prep race lol. I've watched Shawn do everything up to the point of staging the car and leaving the line time and time again, that's no big deal. Hell, I even have go pro video in the car watching him drive. None of that can prepare you for what happens when the flash light comes on and it's time to actually drive the car.
Let's take a ride in the OG Murder Nova from my perspective:
First, lemme take a selfie
My first pass ever in the car. At the best no prep race in the world, Outlaw Armageddon. I just wanted to get the first lick out of the way so I could practice the burnout and staging the car. Whatever happened after that, I was cool with, whether it spun or hooked and made a pass, my cherry would be popped lol. My crew got the car iced down, tire pressure set and within 30 minutes of the staging lanes opening, I was sitting in the burnout box waiting to do my first burnout.
Boost controller on
Water pump for intercooler on
Co2 bottle on
Fire it up!
Watch Shawn direct me into the groove as I pull into the water
Put shifter in 2nd gear
Give the brake pedal 4-5 good pumps then hold
Grab line lock button
Donkey stomp the gas pedal!
Watch dash and wait to see a pound of boost or so
Let go of brake pedal and line lock
Immediately shift to third
Dump out of throttle before starting line and then roll on past a few feet
Return shifter to Neutral
Grab transbrake button to start backing up
Turn on water pump for engine
Open door because its hot AF and the cabin is full of smoke
Watch Jake's hand directions to keep me in my marks I just laid down
Fan drivers door a few times to remove remaining smoke and get a little fresh air
At this point my passenger door opens and Shawn leans in to make sure I have everything on and give me a few last words of encouragement and a fist bump while saying "you got dis baby!"
Return shifter to first gear
Look up to see Daddy Dave now in front of the car with a big smile and a wave and to get me a little straighter in the tracks and to pull me to the line
Give the brake 4-5 good pumps then hold
Donkey stomp gas pedal!
Car hits 3-step rev limiter
Look at dash to watch for 2-3psi of boost
Look up to the track
Slightly let go of brake pressure to roll up to the line like a man
Stomp brake pedal and grab transbrake button simultaneously
Release brake pedal
Let go of transbrake button!
As you can see the car spun the tires then made a left hand turn. After I got the car collected, the thought of sticking it again crossed my mind, but I realized I did exactly what I wanted to do on the first pass already and there was no sense in trying to do any hero shit. So I just cruised the rest of the way down the track and back to our pits.
There it is. The first time anyone besides Shawn has ever let go of the transbrake button of the OG Murder Nova. Even though it was an aborted pass, I still feel it was a success. Didn't forget any part of the process, peeled out like a boss, staged like a man, and didn't stuff the car into a wall lol. But, I had a goal this weekend that I at least wanted to make it off the line without smoking the tires at the hit. With the advice of Shawn, myself and one of my long time best friends, Tyler Scruggs, made a 4-link and shock adjustment while the car was cooling off. Holy crap! I'm getting the real Murder Nova experience! Slinging 4-link bars at the track is one of Shawn's specialties and I was getting to do the same thing lol.
Once we were done and the car was cooled off and iced down again, I made my way back up the staging lanes for my second attempt. Same process as before. All switches and co2 on, burnout like a boss, back up, roll in and stage like a man...at this point, in my mind, even though we made a 4-link and shock adjustment, the car was going to do the same thing it did before...spin. I was not ready for this car to even remotely hook up. When I let go of the transbrake button, the car hooked. I didn't lie to the guys so I'm not gonna lie to you all either; it scared me and I lifted. I'd never felt acceleration like that before. Not that it was super fast, but definitely more acceleration than I'd ever felt before. Not only that, but since I wasn't ready for my head to be thrown back like it was, when my head hit back of the seat, my vision became blurry from the vibrations caused by the rigidity of the chassis. Crazy weird feeling! Once I could see straight again, I went ahead and stuck it a couple more times just so I could feel some power lol
As I'm collecting data from the various data recorders in the OG, Shawn made his way back to the pits. Before he could even say anything, I hit him with the "yeahhhh...I ain't even gonna try to lie. I got scared" We had a good laugh and I apologized as I explained I could feel his disappointment in me for lifting back on the starting line as I made the rest of my way down the track. My crew got the car turned around and ready for me to try and make a third pass but unfortunately we noticed the passenger tire going low while waiting in the staging lanes. Instead of taking a chance on something happening out of my control, I drove it back to the pits and parked it for the evening. Luckily upon further inspection, I found a leaky valve core. Tightened it up and made sure the tire was going to hold air, but by that time the staging lanes were closed and it was time to go home.
Day 2 of Outlaw Armageddon means it's time for eliminations and no more solo testing. I decided to enter the Quick Performance Big Tire open class so I could get another lap under my belt.
This class allowed some of the baddest of the bad door slammers. Pretty much, if it has doors, you were invited to race this class for a chance to win $50,000! My name was in the same hat as people like Frankie Taylor, Megalodon, Mike Henson, Larry Larson, The 55, Big Chief, Murder Nova and so on and so on. I'm still not fully able to wrap my brain around that lol. I ended up drawing #2, which meant I would be the second pair of cars to go down the track..at 2pm...in Oklahoma...on small tires, against a big tire car...in my third pass ever in the car lol.
Honestly, I got a decent draw though. The guy I drew hadn't made very many laps in his car either so I felt like I might have a chance. Turns out, had I been more comfortable in the car already, I believe I could have won, or at least made a closer race. The car left decent considering the hot track conditions but was making a move towards the center so I pedal'd the car (a couple times lol) and my opponent drove away for the win.
I don't like losing. At all. But, I was living in a dream so nothing was really going to get my spirits down. As eliminations continued for the evening, some rain looked like it might be moving in so we threw a car cover on and lowered the canopies to try and keep the car and its electronics dry. Towards the end of the night, I was approached by a crew member from Daddy Daves camp asking if I wanted to get a grudge race in. When Daddy Dave asks you to grudge race, you untarp the car, ice it down and you fucking grudge race! Dave is one of the OG's that I've watched race on the streets since I've been involved in this whole thing for the last 10 years. I never imagined I'd be lined up next to someone like him in a real deal race car. While he definitely had the advantage of not only being one of the best drivers around, he's been making passes in that car for many years. Not sure if the Malibu had ever been on a 28" slick before now, but I've watched Dave make plenty of fast passes in other cars on 28's. I was definitely at a disadvantage in every way lol. The only thing I might be able to do was tree him. He is gettin kinda old and gotta be losing some reaction time lol. So that was my goal: tree Daddy Dave! And thats exactly what I did! But then something happened that I most definitely didn't expect. I didn't see him immediately afterwards! As a matter of fact, I never seen him again until the very end when I began peddling the car and he passed me right at the stripe to get the win by a half car. Of all the cars on the property he could have asked to race, it was definitely an honor for him to want to race me.
On to day 3 where I was entered in the Frankenstein Engine Development sponsored Small Tire class. It was so hot. Had to be 90+ degrees with equal humidity lol. I drew another local racing legend, John Andrade Sr., and we would be the 8th pair down the track when our class was called. By the time it was our turn, the starting line was a wreck and wore down to almost bare concrete. So much so, that the guys lined me up way out of the normal groove in hopes that it might be a little better. Unfortunately that wasn't the case and as soon as I turned loosed of the button the car went up in smoke. I pedal'd a few times but Andrade was able to do a better job of getting his Mustang to the finish line first.
What an experience! It's one I won't ever forget. I can't thank Shawn enough for this opportunity. I can't imagine the amount of stress he must haven been under this weekend. Not only was he trying compete at the highest level with the new car, but he also turned the keys over to his first love to a guy that had never driven a car of that caliber. He was cool as a fan on the outside, but I know he had to be worried sick to his stomach every time I turned loose of the button. A lot of people, including Shawn lol, asked me why I pedal'd on my passes or why I didn't drive through some of the situations I was in. I was never really scared of the car, I just had a healthy respect for what it could do to me if I tried to drive it too far beyond my abilities. I've had a few people ask if I'm going to be racing it more. I don't know. I definitely won't ever say no to getting in the drivers seat again. Even though I can get the car ready to race myself, it's still a lot of work for Shawn and that makes it tough when he's trying to focus as much energy as possible into making the new Murder Nova fast enough to run at the top wherever we show up at with it.
I'm like many of you reading this right now. I like fast cars, and I like to drive cars fast. But I had never driven a fast car. There's a HUGE difference in speeding down the highway and accelerating from a stop to the tune of 2g's +. Your favorite drivers that you watch on tv every Monday night make it look easy. And for many, it may be easy to step into a car like this and be just fine and make full hits right away. But don't get it twisted. These guys possess a talent and skill level far beyond what you can gather from watching tv or youtube videos. Even though I've been around this stuff for awhile now, I have a new found respect for what these guys go through on a daily basis at an event. And I didn't even have to go through everything they do. I didn't have thousands of fans standing at my pit begging for my autograph. I didn't have to tune the car. I didn't have family there that I had to give my attention to as well. Literally all I had to worry about was buying the right tires, getting them on the car, making sure it had fuel and ice and that the tire pressure was good, and even then, there's a list of guys I need to thank that made all that happen lol. I guess what I'm getting at with this last little bit is; Cut these guys some slack. There's so much more that goes on behind that scenes so that you can all receive a good show. It's one of the toughest balancing acts I've ever seen a group of individuals do. For the cars to perform at the highest level possible takes so much of their time. To sign all of your t-shirts and take pics is even more time. Then add on keeping their employees happy so that they perform their jobs correctly and efficiently, as well as maintaining a healthy and happy home life. Don't forget the huge financial obligations it takes to make sure these cars can even show up to the event ready to run. Seeing these guys work from my point of view is nothing short of amazing. I'm not sure how they do it all without snapping sometimes lol. Driving the car is the easy part, and as I mentioned before, it's definitely not easy.
Well, it's now almost 2am Monday morning. If you've made it this far, I appreciate your attention. I know I can ramble at times and I'm dyslexic so I forget to type words occasionally and that makes my thoughts difficult to read at times lol. Thank you to everyone who congratulated me on my driving the OG, whether it was in person or on the internet, it's greatly appreciated. Tyler Scruggs, Jake Dewey, Jake Dobbs, Nick Harris, Monkey, Chief and Jackie, thank you all for every little bit you did for me this week. Most importantly, thanks to Shawn and Erin for trusting me with something they've invested so much time and money in so I could live out a dream. Y'all are the greatest.
The videos with the cool angles are ripped from the Speed Video live feed of the event. Outlaw Armageddon 4 live feed I hope they don't get too mad. The videos aren't monetized on my youtube channel and I only uploaded them there so I could embed in this blog to help tell the story.
Here's a few pics of me racing the OG Murder Nova from various photographers at the event. If you have pics or vids, I'd love to see them to help me remember this once in a lifetime experience