FIREBIRD’S ALL-NEW JET TRACK DRYER



First off, we want to thank all those individuals and companies that participated in the construction of Firebird’s brand new Jet Track Dryer. Coined the "Jet Express”, this piece of equipment has been fabricated to help assist drying activities when mother nature decides to interrupt one of our major events.

As the story goes, it all started in conjunction with the Summit E.T. Finals in Kent, Washington, back in September of 2005. Both Rod Page with Boise Muffler and Firebird’s Scott New were visiting during a big rainstorm about the benefits of a track dryer. Later that evening Ron Liese with Equipment Consultants entered into the conversation regarding his involvement with the liquidation of planes, tankers, WW2 bombers, jet engines and such from the Greybull Airport in Wyoming through a company called Hawkins & Powers.

 


Between Page and Liese, this is where the original idea came to fruition. It didn’t take long for Liese to track down a completely rebuilt J-34 engine and a tandem-axle trailer. Thanks to his efforts, we were able to secure the perfect turbine engine based on what has become the industry standard for downdraft dragstrip dryers.

Special thanks goes out to a number of people who participated through this three-year endeavor. A ton of research and time was invested into making this into a first-class unit. Background information, materials and support came from people like Tim Arfons out of Ohio, Dave Barcelon with Truck Town Trailer Sales, Wayne McMurtry and Jim VanDyke with the NHRA, Jay Hullinger and Bob Lang, both NHRA division directors, Bud Hertig, Director of Emergency Services at Las Vegas Speedway, Ron Craft at Rocky Mtn. Raceways, Jim Livingston/Gene Bergstrom at Woodburn Dragstrip, Richard Smith with the Warhawk/Nitehawk Jet Funny Cars, and Roger Gustin at Autostar/Super Chevy events.

 

Not long after Ron’s brother was commissioned to travel over to and back from Wyoming with the equipment, the wheels were put into motion with one of this region’s top race car shops and fabricators—Qualafab in Meridian. Tim Ketlinski and his team went to work completely disassembling the trailer and modifying it for the engine. They custom built the infrastructure to mount the engine to the trailer along with all the decking and early fab work.

 

 

From Tim’s beautiful shop it then headed over to Lasasco in Boise for the next giant step in the process. Aaron Sasser, his dad Gale (the founder of the company) and their right-hand expert of all things “metal”—Jim, went to work on creating the custom exhaust bell. A work of art in its own right, the eighth-inch 316 stainless bell was completely handbuilt from scratch. After completing the exhaust unit, they went to work on building a custom 216 gallon aluminum fuel tank, battery box and oil containment box. The entire engine also received a complete metal-fabricated cover shaped over a carefully designed grid-structure. The work they did at Lasasco was just superb.

 

 

Thanks to Tim Wallace and his fine staff at Westside Bodyworks, the Jet Express received a professional paint job that is second to none. Utilizing the track’s Firebird Forest Green color hue, the trailer was detailed and painted from top to bottom. They also equipped the trailer with a nice set of polished aluminum wheels and wired it up with portable trailer lights.


We’d also like to pass along our appreciation to Rene at Signs Now on Orchard for lettering the cover of the Jet, in addition to the fuel tank and side of the trailer with all the companies who endorsed and worked on this major project.

The assignment to get the Jet operational was handed over to both Darin Bay and Bill Hosford. Experts with J-60 engines, which they run in their Jet Funny Cars and Dragsters, both Bay and Hosford had help from Rick Kikes who built J-34 track dryers back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Between the three experts, they successfully wired, plumbed and made the engine functional during an extended four-month stay. They also built a special box to house all the instruments and toggle switches to assist in getting it up and running. Described by Darin Bay, “when we fired it for the first-time, it ran absolutely perfect. It should be a solid performer for your track.”

Additionally, thanks to Tony Van, Firebird’s Pro Coordinator who took the Jet over to Portland and also brought it back to the raceway, making a total of four trips when all was said and done.

On behalf of the entire New family and the entire racing community, we want to pass along our sincere gratitude for everyone involved in the construction of this Jet Dryer. In all honesty, this endeavor would’ve never come to fruition if it weren’t for people like Ron Liese, Tim Ketlinski, Aaron Sasser and Tim Wallace. Each of these individuals, their staff and companies truly helped to bring this all to reality. They bent over backwards to pull this entire effort together. We are indebted to their significant commitment and pledge towards helping us have a unit like this in place when Mother Nature puts the damper on one of our major events.

As we’ve been told by a very select number of tracks that have Jet Dryers, it’s like an insurance policy. When you really need one at a major event, they are nice to have, definitely speeding up the drying process a hundred-fold. We thought you’d enjoy getting an opportunity to see what it took to pull it all together. We think most will agree, it was quite a fascinating journey.

 

 

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