They said we were crazy when we put a stock GM Performance crate engine in the Saturday Night Buildup car. Now they're starting to wonder who's really crazy!

After running strong for a few races, we made just the kind of change a new racer might want to do once he's all settled down in the learning curve-we changed the camshaft and added a set of GM Performance Vortec heads to pump up the power on the GM crate engine.

These heads come already assembled and ready to bolt on for around $225 each. That's right, completely assembled with valves, valve springs, retainers, rocker arms, and so on. This has got to be the bargain of the decade for street stock racers, many of whom are restricted to using a cast-iron GM-built head.

Our first foray out to Perris Auto Speedway with the new heads and camshaft was less than thrilling. While hot laps went fine and the car seemed to hook up well, the right rear tire went flat afterward and put us into one of those panicky "got to get the car ready in nine minutes for the start of our heat race" modes. We didn't want to switch to our only spare tire, because it wasn't big enough to give us any stagger (we're running 86-inch-diameter tires on all three corners with a 90-inch-diameter tire on the right rear), so we begged and pleaded with the tire guy at the track to put a new tube in our tire.

We made it to the heat race on time, but the car just didn't have the same power that it did in practice. It turned out that two spark plug wires had come off. We just couldn't do much since we were down on power and finished fifth, the last spot for a direct-to-main qualifying position.

After the heat race the right rear went flat again. We later discovered that a piece of wire from the steel belts was sticking into the inside of the tire and was popping our inner tubes. Yes, we use inner tubes. People constantly tell us to go tubeless, but we've witnessed far too many times when a bent wheel couldn't hold air but the tube kept the car in the race. This time we just put on the spare. Anticipating a tighter car due to less stagger, we took the sway bar off the front of the car to try to loosen it.

We started the main event in the seventh row (in the 14th spot) and finished 12th. We later discovered that once again a spark plug wire had fallen off. Obviously, the car was too slow, but we hung in there and avoided as much carnage as possible.

Before heading back to Perris for the next race, we decided our spark plug wires were simply past their useful life span and got a new set of Live Wires from Performance Distributors. These wires come already assembled and have a protective cover to make them ultra-heat-resistant. Also, they're numbered to make life easier. In fact, the numbering helped us realize we had the No. 6 and 8 spark plug wires switched for a while. You see, we went out to hot laps at the next race and the car felt slower than the race before, plus the engine was backfiring. We scratched our heads and, while checking the condition of the plugs, realized the wires were switched. Needless to say, the car ran a lot better after we switched them back.

In our heat race we started at the back. It got worse when we got caught up a little in a first-turn spin-out. Rather than sitting in the middle of the track and waiting for a caution, our driver Bob Carpenter spun a donut and gave chase. In one of the greatest efforts we've had, he went from 13th to Third Place in only eight laps. He passed cars in the turns and in the corners; he even split between two cars for a double pass coming out of Turn 4. The car was all there. The engine was singing with an obvious increase in horsepower (we hope to dyno-test this combination and report the results next issue), and the handling was great (we had gone back to our 4 inches of stagger, but we left the sway bar off).