1998 GS Rainouts (Nationals)

by George Nenadovich

We had watched the weather channel for a couple days and it looked like a high pressure system would move to the southeast and move the low pressure (rain) system to the south of Bowling Green. Being an optimist, I figured worst comes to worst, we would have a day of rain, maybe two, on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. We were traveling Tuesday so if it rained no loss on our part.

Met with Dennis Wheeler, Rod Kennedy, Bob Stillwell and Carla Natisin at Rod's church about 4 am for the long drive to BG. Mark Hammer and I rode in my GS350 convertible while the others towed their vehicles. Rod had an extra CB for us so everyone could chit chat on the way up which should make the trip a blast. We left a little after 4 am and headed for the rest area north of the I-275 and I-75 merge point. We met up with Jeff Cleary who was also towing his car and headed to BG. The trip was basically uneventful except for a minor pit stop for Bob to tighten a few loose lug nuts and a second stop to unlock the trailer brakes when they would not unlock after a quick brake for some construction areas along I-75.

We did listen to a few truckers on the way who were talking about our nice Chevelles, no Pontiacs, no, those are Buicks. Rod told them where we were headed and why. We did not run into any rain along the way which was a good sign. We arrived into Nashville just after it had rained so it was cool and the pavement was almost dry. I really enjoyed the drive to BG and was pleased with my car averaging about 20 mpg. Nice trip, took about 14 hours with our caravan. Not bad since we ran into a little traffic along the way.

Arrived in BG about 6 pm central time and saw Buicks everywhere. Checked into our hotel and was happy with our rooms. Went to dinner and got fired up for Wednesday. Of course watched the weather channel to see what was going to be in store. Looked iffy, but we'll see!

Awoke Wednesday, 50/50 chance of rain. I talked with Mark Hammer and he said you know what that means. I said what. He says 5 minutes of rain followed by 5 minutes of no rain. All right! Headed for breakfast and then to the track. Got there, paid for tickets and headed over to the swap area to drop off some of my excess parts at John DiCarlo and Fernando's swap space. Bill Locke also stopped by to drop off some of his excess parts. Got everything set up and parked my car by Fernando's and Bill's race cars and trailers. The staging lanes were full and the swap area was semi-full. Some racing went on for a couple hours before the rain set in and shut everything down. Good for us since the swap was the place to go to kill time and find some needed parts. Bill and Fernando came over on their quad runners and decided to sell some of their Burnout Buddies and used parts. Bill seemed to have had the rabbit's foot that day since everything he put out was drawing interest and money was changing hands. I think in the first hour he was there, he had more money in his hands than he could hold. The rest of us were just looking at each other and wondering what we were doing wrong. The rain continued off and on and it looked like the day was going to be wash and it was. Oh well, maybe tomorrow will be better.

Awoke Thursday with rain pounding on the hotel windows. Oh no, what the hell is going on? Check the weather channel and saw a lot more rain on the way. Told Mark and a few others we should head to the Corvette Assembly plant just up the road and check out the Corvette museum too. If we have time, we should also go check out the Holley carb plant. We weren' the only ones with this idea. When we got to the plant, we saw a lot of Buicks in the parking lot. The tour was supposed to start at 1 pm but didn't get going until 2 pm. It lasted 45 minutes.

Walked outside and it was still drizzling so we headed to the museum to kill some more time. Wrapped it up at 4 pm and when we walked outside the sun was shinning and few clouds were in sight. We were outta there, straight to the track. Got there and saw tire smoke rising, hear Buick engines roaring and finally thought a decent day of racing.

Checked in the swap area, no one was there. Everybody was watching the races. As darkness falls, I was expecting the lights to come on but no lights. The announcer came on the PA system and said they were going to wrap it up at 7 pm. What? (See next article)

Heard a lot of angry members talking to each other and made note of this for further review. So, we left the track to get some dinner. We were running late as I had promised Buddy Berger I would help him host the Skylark/GS resto seminar at 7 pm but did not get there until 8:30 pm. All the traffic leaving the track and dinner made us run late.

Got to the VERY nice convention center and saw some nice Buicks in the parking lot. Inside there was a Buickamino and the prototype 1970 GSX. The seminar was almost done at 9 pm so we had just entered after the Q&A session started and decided to check out the two cars. Very impressive! Got to talk to each owner and learned what it takes to have a special car.

Stayed for the next two seminars which were the Buick V-8 engine development and the TA Performance seminar on upcoming products. As we left the seminar at 11:30, guess what? More light rain!

Awoke Friday and saw no rain just lots of clouds. Headed for the track to check out the show cars and racing. They were going to race all day to make up for the lost time. Got to watch a little racing and checked out some show cars. First two hours were good and then it started to rain. I headed to the swamp, I mean swap meet to sell some more parts. When you step in the grass, clay came up to your ankles. The wet clay was slippery as grease. The clay just could not hold any more rain. We stood in our area and just watched it rain with a few short breaks here and there.

After a couple more hours of this crap, Mark and I decided we had enough of the rain and decided to head home to Florida where we knew it was clear and sunny. It was 2 pm and time to go. Had enough mud/clay for this year!

Some of our club members stuck around until Saturday to see if the weather would clear. It did somewhat but I was told it started to rain later in the day, about 5 pm, which cut the racing short. Imagine that! The event started with rain and ended with it!

Luckily for us, the really bad weather was the week before---serious hail and hail damage. A lot of cars looked like golf balls, full of dimples! All new car dealerships along Scottsville Rd had 3-4 dozen cars in each lot with missing windows, windshields and covered with dimples. I could just imagine that storm this week with all the Buicks in town. We thought, if that happens, we were going to park our cars under the overpasses, in car wash stalls or just throw the hotel mattress and box springs on the cars to protect them. Beds are a lot cheaper than paint and body work!

Who's In Charge? 1998 GS Nationals Fiasco

by George Nenadovich and others who remain unnamed

I realize that no one can predict the weather five minutes from now let alone 1-2 days ahead. Richard Lasseter, GSCA President, appointed Bennett Jones to be in charge of this major event. Bennett is an experienced promoter/coordiantor. Dallas Jones, no relation to Bennett, is the track manager. Now we know who the players are!

Okay first complaint I heard at the track in the staging lanes, in the swap area, in some local hotel parking lots was who made the call to close the track at 7 pm on Thursday. Racing had just started at 5 pm and the weather looked like it was going to hold for some time so most participants were expecting to race for some time to make up for all the lost time on Tuesday and Wednesday. When the announcer said the track will be closing at 7 pm, people got very angry. Another complaint was the track has not track jet drier. This would have dried the track much faster than letting it air/sun dry as done during the event.

What would the drier cost? Maybe $200-300 a day. We later found out that Richard made the call to close the track Thursday. How could this be? He is supposed to look out for the club's best interests. Costs may have been a concern. Let's see, turn on the lights $600, pay track staff and ambulance for extended hours, total of $1000, give or take a few dollars. This should have been paid out of the GSCA account to take care of its members. What happened was a slap in the face to most participants that I had talked to at BG and via e-mail.

The second complaint was why are we always forced to leave on Friday early, 5 pm, to make way for the oval track racers. A lot of people drive a lot of miles for this event and feel that the GSCA should pay for the track and race into the night. Per Bennett Jones in the Jan/Feb 1998 issue, page 7, Bennett states it would cost the club $5000 to buy-out the track for Friday and Saturday nights. Doesn't the club have enough money from the $120,000 it collects as dues plus event revenue of $25,000 or more? Should this be done as a contingency for bad weather?

Speaking of weather, is this the best time and place to hold this national event? This topic was discussed at several tech sessions, at the track, at the swap meet and even at hotels. It seems the weather is becoming more unpredictable during this time frame in BG. I had written a letter to Richard several years ago regarding this issue in 1994. The week before the event a tornado moved through the area and did some considerable destruction. His reply was according to the almanac this was a good time of year to hold this event. I don't know but it seems every year there is a rain out day or days. Of course this event's weather was abnormal. Just the week before the 1998 event, a serious hail storm had moved through and caused considerable damage.

At one of the tech sessions, the discussion turned to moving this event to the end of June for better weather, hopefully, and it would also allow families to attend since children will be out of school.

The third complaint was the track was charging for straw to be distributed in the swap area to compensate for all the mud/clay mess. Should the GSCA pay for this?

The fourth complaint which was voiced by many members was they seem to have no input to the GSCA. Yes, there is the phone number and address to contact the club. It seems the GSCA needs to have a member survey or anonymous survey where members can list their grievances and have them discussed openly. A lot of members feel there is no way to initiate some changes in the club. Have you ever seen a club survey/feedback form? In this age of business, customer satisfaction is a priority and should be something the club tries to attain with each member. I realize you can't please everybody but some feedback would be good to determine where the club needs to improve and what members think the club is doing right for promoting Buicks. This survey could be done on a computer read form, bubble sheet, with members evaluating particular areas of the GSCA, the Nationals and the newsletter.

The final complaint is why members never see an accounting/financial statements for the GSCA. Exactly how much of the dues go where? Is the GSCA a private company, non-profit gorganization, for-profit corporation or what? Why do some racers not receive proper payouts? Is it expensive for the club to hold this event in BG? Is it too much to buy out the track for the week? How about the track jet drier? Could this national event be held somewhere else for less money? This event brings a LOT of money to BG and should the club shop around for the best deal for the GSCA? How many cities would turn down an event of this size and several million dollars to the local economy? Should the club have more restoration/restifiaction articles? Is the GSCA too big for one person to run? Hopefully some of these questions will be addressed in an upcoming issue of the GS X-tra!

Thursday Night's Tech Session Reviews

by George Nenadovich

At the first tech session which was about Skylark/GS restoration there was a Buickamino and the 1970 prototype GSX. I was fortunate enough to talk to the creator of the Buickamino. A few years ago somebody combined a GN and El Camino which really looked nice and was wondering if someone would do an earlier version. This car was cool.

What started out as a rusty 1970 GS 455 truned into a new creation by merging some parts from a Chevy El Camino and most of the parts from the GS. He used the front clip and entire firewall from the GS and the roof, tailgate and part of the doors from the Chevy. The rear quarter panels had to be changed to Skylark since Chevy were different and the body lines had to line up with the doors and fenders. The door jambs needed to be extended 4 inches and the taillights were from a Skylark wagon. The car looked just like a GSX Buickamino. I am sure you will see this car in magazines in the very near future.

The Buick V8 performance seminar was good and we learned a lot from the host Dennis Manner. Buick had tried a turbo on big block engines in the 1960s but the transmissions could not handle the 708 ft-lbs of torque. They were more concerned with torque than performance since Buicks were heavy and could use all the torque the engine could produce to get the car moving. Dennis never thought he would see production Buick engines making the kind of horsepower he sees at the Nationals. He said the most they ever tried to get out of a 455 was 500 hp. In the mid-70s, Buick was thinking about introducing a 525 ci Buick but the gas crunch ended those plans.

As the gas crunch hit, Buick was caught unprepared. Buick had sold its entire V6 line to AMC and thought they would never produce another V6. They had to repurchase the entire set-up and get ready for V6 production. They had trucked in over 100 tractor trailers full of equipment in February and had it up and running by August. What a feat!

Buick also had several other Stages in the works but were more focused on meeting new mileage requirements for unleaded gas and cleaner EPA standards. Dennis said he did help dealer sponsored Stage cars and used that info to develop the Stage 2 engine parts. The Stage 3 engine was on the drawing board and it contained a hotter cam, pistons and headwork.

The TA Performance session was good and we learned some things from the super fast Buick class. On stage were several racers in the 8s and 9s along with Dennis Manner. The most interesting thing was Buick contacted him and wanted to know if they could help him out with some new parts. First, Buick is considering making a new 455 blocks which may be capable of 600 ci. This is just in the preliminary stages(pun intended) of discussion. Another item was new 455 timing covers and several other engines pieces. If you want to know what is in store, contact Mike at TA and let him know what you would like to see. Call him at 602-922-6808.