Going Faster and Having Fun
Story and Photos by Mike Bumbeck
Chris Abbey and his partner George Goshgarian have been campaigning quick cars in the Goodguys Vintage Drag Racing Association since 1997. Together with family and friends they want to keep going faster, keep having fun, and bring to AA/Gas the competitive spirit that brought them two A/Gas Championships.
When Chris Abbey isn't driving down the drag strip you can most likely find him installing and repairing doors around his home base of Clovis, California. The roll-up door business, as Chris will be happy to tell you, "has its ups and downs". Drag racing is often the same way, but no matter what happens out at the track Chris keeps on moving.
"Monday's another day, Dude! People will be calling to fix their doors. You just go onto the next one," said Chris.
Chris and George were completely dominant in the A/Gas ranks with a carbureted '57 Chevy on gasoline against a field of blown alcohol cars. Chris had fun driving the '57 but with drag racing there is always the desire to go faster. Chris and George decided to step up into the AA/Gas ranks with the construction of a gorgeous '63 Corvette.
Jim Homier of Speed and Custom Racecars in Atlanta, Georgia started fabrication on the chassis in 2000. Jim had built the A/Gas '57 for Chris and George they knew he could handle the new project. Chris even sent Jim a digital camera so he could see the progress of the Corvette as it was built and Jim sent Chris over 1200 photographs of the meticulous fabrication as it came along.
The Corvette launches into the sixes thanks to 432 cubic inches of BAE power huffing through a Kobelco supercharger. All that power gets channeled to the ground through a Crower Triple 9" clutch and a Lenco CF2 titanium-geared five speed that spins an Inland Empire driveshaft hooked to a Chrisman-prepared rear set. To top it all off the Hairy Glass carbon fiber replica of a genuine '63 Corvette weighs just 65 pounds.
Chris loves not only to drive the car but also to share the craftsmanship with anyone who wants to take a look.
"Not that I'm bragging I just want to share," said Chris.
Additional help comes from folks far and near. Darryl Duncan from Goodyear Tire and Carl Robinson from Weld Wheels get the traction down. Bob Kearney of Kearney Manufacturing comes through with any metal or aluminum needs as well as manufacturing the blower riser of Chris' son Max's own design. David Porter of Mid-Valley distributors gets the team any nut, bolt, or fastener they need, and Greg Grott of Ano-Tech handles all anodizing finishes.
When it comes to the engine Chris does all the assembly, but Dave Torgrimson of Dave's Performance Engineering in Fresno handles any machine work. Brian Fulton is the cylinder head guru at Dave's and works the required magic on the heads. John's Custom Balancing evens out the rotating assembly and Steve Shaeffer at Silvas Oil Company supplies the fuel to make the engine run.
While the car is one thing it's the crew that makes it get down the track. The Goshgarian and Abbey crew consists of family as well as friends. George Goshgarian is crew chief - responsible for all the data logging and fuel system adjustment. Chris's wife Ann handles track director duties along with the right side of the engine between rounds.
Chris's son Max Abbey handles clutch patrol while his girlfriend Sydney Wheat helps out packing the chute and crewmember chores. When George's nephew Mark can get away from college he comes out and helps out on the crew as well.
Family friend Bob Smith not only handles the left side of the engine but is also an avid hunter, which often results in beyond the usual tri-tip or burgers on the BBQ in the pits.
"We've had bear, and antelope, and elk meat all BBQ'd at the races", said Chris.
When the car comes back into the pits from a run, its all about business. Chris and son Max jack up the car. Max works on clutch adjustment. Max and Sydney pack the chute. Bob Smith and Ann pull the valve covers off and get everything ready. Chris then comes in and runs the valves and leaves Ann and Bob to button up the top end with fresh plugs as a final step. Women seem to get a charge out of seeing Ann working along with the crew, and so does Chris.
"Women come in and take pictures of my wife. They go "look at this chick!" She's got gloves on, a racing shirt, she's changing spark plugs on a blown supercharged hemi women flip on it," said Chris.
And the effort pays off. At the 16th Nitro Nationals Nostalgia Drags in Las Vegas the team not only took home the trophy but also set low E.T. and Top Speed of the event for AA/Gas. Chris lit up the clocks with a 6.80 at 202.45 mph for a personal best and the number one qualifying slot.
While Chris and the team definitely posses the competitive spirit, they also share in the camaraderie that makes the AA/Gas class so unique. Chris subscribes to a philosophy of the now-retired AA/Gas driver Steve Woods who once said, "I want to help a guy run the best he can, and then I want to beat him." Keeping all the cars within competition of each other keeps the show going, and makes for a good show.
"If you have a six-second car against cars that are running eights and sevens then what's the point?" said Chris.
Chris and George's plan for the future is to keep racing and ultimately take home the championship in AA/Gas. Chris thinks there's even more potential in the car and with the crew he has now he knows they can unleash it. Chris also adheres to a do-it-yourself spirit as well as maintaining the required sense of humor about it all.
"One thing I'll say about the drag racing - we're all friends. It's like a big family. The Goodguys people, they're car aficionados. They're car nuts. They're weirdos. They love the metal. They respect it," said Chris.
© Competitionplus 2005