Drivers pull out all stops at Texas Mile

March 28, 2010 at 5 a.m.
Updated March 27, 2010 at 10:28 p.m.

Racer Ray Hoffman looks on as service techs prepare his GT Mustang  for the  race on Saturday. "We're trying to crack some records," Hoffman said.

Racer Ray Hoffman looks on as service techs prepare his GT Mustang for the race on Saturday. "We're trying to crack some records," Hoffman said.

He waited in line, ready to go for a seventh time in two days.

It was his first time participating in the Texas Mile, David Ghiselin of Port Lavaca had owned his dark blue 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 for about nine months, topping out at 163.6 mph in his runs that day. It had been running at about that speed through all of his previous runs, he said.

He said hadn't made any additions other than new back tires to the car to be a little stickier.

"I wanted to get a baseline on it, and see how it runs stock first," Ghiselin said. "I'd like to put a pro charger on it, but I'm still looking into different brands to see which one would be the best one."

Drivers from all over the country, and even from Canada and Mexico, came to race their sports cars, racers and sport motorcycles on a mile-long stretch of asphalt at the Goliad county airport just north of Berclair.

The event even includes some rare cars, said Shannon Matus, one of the event's organizers.

"We even have a VW Scirrocco, it's because it's coming from Canada," she said. "What we continue to do is expand upon the experience for our participants and spectators."

The biannual event has grown significantly since it started in 2003, Matus said, from 35 participants then to 180 pre-registered racers, 40 more on the waitlist and many more walking up.

Many of the drivers waited in line for up to in hour in multiple lines of cars that resembled toll booth during rush hour in a major city. One of those drivers, Don Smith, was waiting for his for his second run of the day.

His black Cadillac was prepared, including having most of the crevices filled with blue masking tape. It helped the car with its aerodynamics, he said. He wasn't the only one. Other drivers had striped every gap on their car with everything from black electrical tape to duct tape.

One attendant also said the tape was to keep the rocks and dirt on the ground from kicking up at high speeds.

Smith, who said his first visit to the Texas Mile was in October, said he said he "caught the bug."

"Some friends told me about it, and I got on YouTube and searched Texas Mile, and learned about it," he said. "I came down in October and said 'Wow, what a neat event.'"

After the last event, he purchased a Cadillac CTS-V and to have it improved with a laundry list of adders. He uses the car for daily transportation, and wasn't sure how it would do on the track.

"I was hoping to do 170 to 180," he said. "It's an automatic, and it's a big, heavy car. My wife drives it occasionally, and I have 15,000 miles on it."

Earlier in the day, his car ran at 172.2 mph on the mile long track and he hoped to break 180 with his next run. Smith said he wasn't going to try to avoid spinning the tires on his second run since it cost him about 3 mph on the first run.

Spectators spend time either watching cars fly past them from a safe distance from the track, or they can walk around the paddock and talk with the drivers as they prepare for the race.

"A lot of events, you have to be so removed that you never get a chance to do that," Ghiselin said. "It's nice to be able to mingle and look around and talk to people."

Many of the racers came as part of teams, complete with mechanics and a trailer in tow, and with the cars on display along a parallel strip of asphalt to the raceway for spectators. Of these was Jason Stevens, from Houston, of Joe Dirt Racing, who proudly displayed his fastest speed from three runs on Friday - 219.1 mph - in tape on his white Ford GT's windshield.

His car displayed the image of David Spade's mullet-wearing character on a Texas-shaped logo on the side of the car, and a license plate that read "Mullet." His other sports car, a Mercedes S600, has "Joe Dirt" its license plates, he said.

Stevens said he wasn't racing the second day because on that final run, the car blew a spark plug. Running it again at those speeds would probably cause the engine to crater, he said.

The car had held the standing mile record for Ford GTs after running a 226 mph here in October, he said. That record has since fallen after someone in Florida ran a 252.97 mph, Steven said.

"The car is basically stock, it comes supercharged," he said. "I've added two turbos, so it's supercharged and twin turboed. Stock, they put out 550 horsepower, and this one is putting out 1,000."

"This car is a stock engine with turbos, his is a very built race car."

One of the notable benchmarks for most of the drivers is hitting 200 mph on the track, Matus said. For many drivers, joining the 200 mph club is a major goal.

"It used to only be we might have one, now it's more and more and more," Matus said. "Our first two runs of the day were over 200, right off the bat. It's more and more about going after that 200 mark."

Friday had seen the track's record for cars fall, with driver named Tommy Bahn hitting 247.7 mph in a mid-1990s Toyota Supra, Stevens said, breaking the previous record of 246.2 mph. According to Matus, the motorcycle record fell Saturday when a bike ran 263 mph, breaking the previous track record of 259.9 mph.

Matus said that one of the best parts about putting on an event like the Texas mile is being able to see it continue to expand, and to provide a good experience for the spectators and participants is gratifying. She said one of the racers, whose car caught on fire on the track and needed assistance, told Matus he would be back in October.

"This is a passion of ours for us and our staff, because this is a passion of ours," Matus said. "To be able to see what it has become, that's amazing."

Events continue through 4 p.m. Sunday at the Goliad County Industrial Air Park.



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