Team Viper West

St Louis Viper Challenge

Viper Days, Viper Challenge is going strong. Next year Viper Days will have Viper Days East Races and Viper Days West Races - with a Viper Days Final Race to determine the King of Viper Days, Viper Challenge. This year we won Viper Days in St. Louis and we're going to the Viper Days in Moroso, FL October 31st and November 1st, 1998. We will also compete in the Viper Days, Viper Challenge Finals in January.

Dan Cragin and Chris Jensen of Claude Short Dodge got our motor back together in time for the St Louis Viper Challenge. We missed the second Viper Challenge in Las Vegas while the motor was apart, but we’re back on track now. One of our Viper Club Brothers, Said AKA “ICEMAN” had his guys Jamal & Mike) drive a flatbed with our Viper to St Louis.

On June 13th we flew into St Louis, MO for Viperfest 1998, the third leg of this year’s Viper Challenge sponsored by Michelin. Our group included myself, Ron Levi, Erik Messley (EMI RACING) our fearless driver, Stephon Flenoy who is my very good friend and also helps in the pits, Dan Cragin and Chris Jensen from Claude Short Dodge the miracle working wrenches for the car and Charles from Stone Pony and Jamal and Mike from Iceman’s towing service.

On Saturday morning we went to Gateway International Raceway across the river in Illinois. Since the event was sponsored by Michelin we had to replace our sticky Goodyear slicks with BFG R1’s. We purchased the tires at the track and this was the first time Erik had driven our Coupe with R1’s.

Erik got out on the track to test our newly freshened motor, when he came back in he was pretty happy with the car’s performance and driveabiltiy. The only problem was he couldn’t go past 5,500 RPM. We found the reason for this being the Cam Sensor. When we put in the new Cam is was installed 6 degrees advanced. When we DynoTested the computer guy could only map out our fuel management up to 5,500 RPM, after that is crapped out, but Erik was still pretty pleased with the Coupe’s performance up to 5,500.

We spent the rest of the day dialing in our Penske suspension and testing different tire pressures. Some folks apparently were clocking Erik and told us he turned in the fastest laps of the day and that we were the fastest car on the staightaway.

That evening we went on a River Boat where we were served dinner and entertained by a DixieLand Band. This part of the event was sponsored by Dodge and it was really a great night. Skip and Linda Thomas are the promoters of the Viper Challenge and they do a great job. They handed out tons of raffle prizes donated by sponsors and the evening was capped off when the RiverBoat unloaded us right into a RiverBoat Casino. We decided to go back to Adams Mark and go to sleep for Sunday’s events.

On Sunday morning when I awoke, I looked outside to see it was raining. I immediately thought our day of racing was not to be and that there would not be a Viper Challenge this weekend. Well we met downstairs for breakfast, Erik was optimistic. He said he loves to run in the rain and felt that it would be to his advantage. Dan said he had been rading about the Cam sensor in the manual and he said there was a chance he had a remedy for our 5,500 RPM limit. He said that after we start the motor we could then unhook the Cam sensor and this might allow us past 5,500. He said it was worth a try.

We got to the track and it had stopped raining. The Pace car and six other cars provided by Dodge went out on the track and proceeded to run laps which helped dry the track. We put gas in the car and got ready to go out. The track was pretty dry by 10 AM and Erik fired up the Coupe, Chris then disconnected the Cam Sensor and Erik took it out. When he went by us on the straightaway he held his hand up, this meant that Dan’s theory was correct and the car was going way past 5,500 RPM now and making plenty of power.

We had lunch and then the first event of the day was a 20 minute Exhibition Race fender to fender. This was the first all Viper fender to fender race ever, we made history, we also learned some more about the Cam Sensor. Erik was on the post and Rin Mishak Jr was second. At the beginning of the race Erik and Junior changed leads a few times. Then Erik went off course. He got back on the track and when trying to make up for lost time he hit the Rev Limiter (7,000 RPM). Usually this just cuts off the electirc to the motor, but when you have the Cam Sensor disconnected the car will not fire again.

When Chris got over to where Erik had stopped, he connected the Cam Sensor back up and the motor turned over immediately, no problem. Chris asked Erik if he should remove the wire again, he said yes, so Chris did it. The wire got caught in the fanbelt and was ripped out, the car stopped. Yes we were now out of the Exhibition Race.

We got the Coupe towed back to the pits, the Viper Challenge was about to start. We figured we had about 2 hours to fix the car. As they called Erik’s name for his heat, the Coupe fired up. Yes, they had repaired the pulled wire just in time for the Challenge. Our mechanics are the best around!!

Erik pulled out of the pits and lined up in pre-grid. Chris again disconnected the Cam Sensor and Erik took off. His first hot lap of the Challenge was a 1:08.6 seconds, his second lap was faster, a 1:07.7 and his final lap was the fastest, a 1:07.4. This was the fastest overall time of the day. So we won our class, Pro-Unlimited and we won for Fastest Car. It was a great experience and we had many tense moments leading up to it to make our Win just that much better.

We’ll be out at Mid Ohio for the next Viper Challenge on August 1st and 2nd looking to defend our title.