It has been a little while since the Mudslinger buildup project has been updated in Circle Track magazine. We've been beset by a problem that plagues all but the most dedicated racers: distractions. When the water in the block froze over the winter, the car sat 90 percent ready, but we didn't take advantage of the time available while the engine was being repaired to finish the chassis. Then, when Johnson's Machine Shop returned our motor to us good as new, it was time to get on the ball.

The season was well underway by the time we had the repaired engine back in the car and running. We were feeling pressure to avoid letting yet another season slip through our fingers. To help us out, Neil Wilson, who regularly serves as a crewchief for a Late Model team at Lancaster (South Carolina) Motor Speedway (the track we plan to race), offered to adopt our fledgling effort and oversee setting up the car.

When Neil pitched in, things really got going. Using a set of Rebco scales, our little Mustang weighed slightly over 1,950 pounds with the 8-gallon fuel cell nearly empty. Minimum legal weight is 2,350 pounds, so factoring in 180 pounds for the driver (Scott Helms and I plan to share those honors, but we weigh approximately the same), 220 pounds of lead needed to be added.

Heintz Performance supplied us with plenty of lead ingots to do the job. We slid lead weight all over the car until we got the distribution we needed. On dirt, it is difficult to get enough weight over the rear wheels of these little cars, so the lead was predictably concentrated at the rear of the car. We ended up with 45-pound bricks at each of the rear corners just in front of the rear bumper tubes. Two more 45-pounders were placed against the right side of the driveshaft tunnel where the back seat would normally be. Some 22- and 45-pound bricks were located along the left framerail alongside the driver seat. This gave us 2,144 pounds of total weight (the weights on the lead were only approximate) and the breakdowns as follows: 591 at the left front (LF), 540 at the right front (RF), 519 at the left rear (LR), and 494 at the right rear (RR).

Adding the driver's 180 pounds to the car's 2,144 totals just 2,324, which is still a little light. But the normal lap count at Lancaster is 5 hot laps, a 6-lap heat race, and 10 or 12 laps for the feature. Even if there are extended caution periods, most cars in this class do not burn more than 3 gallons for the night. So for the 5 gallons of fuel we plan to have in the fuel cell at the end of the race, adding at least 35 pounds (fuel is slightly more than 7 pounds per gallon) puts us well over the minimum.

The lead was attached to the car with big 1-inch bolts (all hardware is Grade 8) and 3-inch stainless fender washers. We drilled holes in the lead and bolted it directly to the car. Up front, the bolts were attached to the car through the floorboards. In the back, the heads of the bolts were welded to the frame.

In an effort to see what stagger measurements we could get, we inflated the tires to various pressures. We finally settled on 14 pounds for both left-side tires, 18 pounds in the RF, and 16 in the RR. That gave us diameters of 71 1/4 inches on the LF, 71 3/4 inches on the LR, and 72 inches on both the right-side tires.

Scott and I double-checked every bolt we could find on the car. We loaded up in a borrowed trailer and left for the track. Because our preparations took us to the last minute, we hadn't properly shaken down the car in a real test session. The most we had done was run the car up and down a quarter-mile stretch of a private drive to make sure everything worked properly. This is obviously not the ideal scenario, therefore we don't recommend anyone else follow our example. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of both children and fools is infectious, and neither one of us is young.

At the track, Neil went over the car one last time. In our test runs up and down the driveway, the car had been fouling plugs regularly and running rich. We went down on the jets, but that didn't help the plug problem. At the track, we went back up on the jets and changed out the 6.5 power valve to a 4.5, which helped significantly. While we were doing that, Neil noticed the engine wasn't idling down as quickly as it should, thus he suspected an air leak. After a little searching, we realized the gasket between the intake manifold and the track-mandated restrictor plate was the wrong size. Part of it had been sucked into the intake. A new gasket was installed and we were on our way.