As the clouds of burn out smoke fade in to the air and the 2-Step pops and Nitrous purges transition into cricket chirps and silence, TX2K17 officially comes to a close. What an event though! Multiple records were broken, literally tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cars converged on Royal Purple Raceway for “The Super Bowl of Drag Racing.” Wow, right! Then again I suppose the phrase “Everything is bigger in Texas” is appropriate at this point.
As a spectator of TX2K17, you probably did roughly the following: Buy a ticket, find some overpriced food and drinks, walk around for a bit, grab a seat in the sun and watch and listen as car after car fly by you ¼ mile at a time. At the end of which, you’ll head home and return for the next day! Not a bad way to spend a few days out of the year. However, what happens when the track goes cold for the night is where the real fun starts for a ton of local performance shops in the Houston area.
As the owner of The Shop Houston (clever name, I know), we offered our facility to teams from around the country who might need help dialing in their cars or fixing things that break to make sure they are always out there running their best every day of this event. We aren’t unique in having out of town visitors using our lifts, facility, tools, fabrication equipment and even the couches. Pretty much everything is available for these guys when they come in town.
When everyone goes home for the night is really where our work begins. From personal experience I fielded numerous phone calls, Facebook messages, smoke signals and every other form of communication you can imagine. Most of those messages start with “OMG! HELP ME!” Then the fun begins!
The Shop Houston’s TX2K17 experience started a few weeks prior to the event itself. We offered our facility and staff up to any shops or team that might need tools, supplies, lifts or anything else to keep their cars running the whole weekend. Initially, we heard things like “Thanks, we’re good for now, we’ll let you know if we need help” or “Thanks, I think we’re bringing all we’ll need.” However, life is funny and you can’t always predict what will break or what you’ll need at an event like TX2K.
On Wednesday March 15th we received our first “OMG, HELP ME!” message from Empire Performance out of Deer Park New York. They had two 1,000 HP+ Supras with slipping clutches that needed attention prior to the Thursday roll racing events. As promised, we opened up our doors and got them in on Thursday AM to pull transmissions and inspect their clutches. Fairly straightforward jobs, until we see one clutch needs to be replaced and the other needs to be shimmed. As spectators are detailing their cars and preparing to leave work to hit up a meet or head out to Baytown to see the first passes, we’re overnighting clutches and meeting some of the best people in the industry.
Friday March 16th we receive the new clutch and begin the reinstallation. Occasionally I would check various social media outlets as they posted the amazing pictures of some of the quickest and fastest cars from across the country pop up all over the place. The crowds slowly gathered to kick off the festivities and we began reinstalling our first transmission. Around lunch time, a 1,600 HP+ GTR came in with a damaged bumper from the roll race event. Anyone who was at the event on Thursday may have noticed a red GTR lose a front lip at close to 190 mph, which was the lip we were going to reattach. The trick with many of these cars, is getting them in to multiple events. In this case, we needed to fabricate a bracket to hold the lip and side skirts on to get the car back out for the drag races on Saturday and Sunday.
TX2K is now in full swing at Royal Purple Raceway, spectators are leaving work early on Friday to witness as much as possible as we receive another call. Another GTR is getting towed to us with a coolant issue and possible blown motor. We are tasked with diagnosing and possibly storing the car for the remainder of the event. No big deal. Another day of entertaining some great people, pizza and a few Corona’s (Toretto would be proud).
The first two days of TX2K come to a close and night falls. Finally we are done for the day with all cars ready to hit the track on Saturday. I told my team we will be heading up to the track Saturday to watch instead of work….finally! Just when you think you can let your guard down, a call comes in for Subaru axles at around 10:30 PM. Swapping axles the next day is too late as racing begins at 9 AM. Of course we are here to help and pull axles off of an employee car and begin the hour long drive to Royal Purple Raceway. Finally, we’re done for the night.
We are able to spectate the races on Saturday after a few hours of sleep. My team is tired but wouldn’t miss this event for anything! We share a few adult beverages, some laughs and watch the cars we worked on race for all the fans. It was a quiet day, which is good thing considering we were all propped up on Red Bull and adrenaline, until later that evening. One final cry for help!
Sunburned, tired, and hungry we are all home for the evening when an R32 GTR owner calls me around 11 PM. He was in the drag racing event and broke his transmission. Not many folks have spare RB26DETT transmissions lying around in Houston. We have one, and we’re his only chance to get back out and race on Sunday. I rally my guys to meet me at the shop and get started on a transmission swap. Like true soldiers, my team dug deep and began working around midnight. We swapped his transmission, topped off fluids, checked timing and got him on the road around 3:30 AM, ready to wow the crowds the next day.
Sunday, we rested.
If you ask the crowds what they saw, they’ll tell you they saw fast cars, records broken, huge turbochargers and had the time of their lives. If you ask we what we saw, we’d tell you broken clutches, underbody panels, welders and transmissions. We saw the sun come up a few times, and had the time of our lives as well.
I don’t think we were unique in our experience as a shop during TX2K (heck AMS swapped Gidi’s entire motor overnight), but hopefully that provides a little insight to what goes on “behind the curtain” of this event. Shout out to all the shops, the technicians and race teams who make this event possible every year. Until next year TX2K.