By Mary Lendzion
It has been six months since Edelbrock Xtreme Street racer Tony Orts had his white-knuckle ride at the NMCA event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana, but he remembers it as though it was yesterday.
His 1968 Firebird went into a wicked wheelie that was higher than fans had ever seen the car go, and unfortunately, it turned left and went into the wall, before turning right and going into the wall again as Orts had lost his brakes and steering on initial impact.
He was able to walk away, but the left front corner, frame, door and quarter panel on his car were wadded up from the hard hits which happened about 330 feet from the starting line.
“Everything from the windshield forward needed to be repaired on the car that was all steel except for the fiberglass front bumper and aftermarket hood, and had a factory subframe in it,” said Orts. “The suspension was all bent and broken, too.”
The diehard Orts decided to make repairs before the end of last year, with help from his crew chief, “Rocket” Ron Bochenek. They wasted no time cutting the factory front-end and replacing it with a tubular chome moly front-end from Smith Racecraft, and then installing a new VFN fiberglass front clip and hood.
They also installed new suspension components from TRZ Motorsports, and within two and a half weeks, they were headed to the No Mercy event at South Georgia Motorsports Park in October with the car that was about 100 pounds lighter.
“The car ran consistent 4.70s in Ultra Street, and I went to the third round of eliminations before I screwed up,” said Orts, whose nitrous enhanced 440 cubic-inch Chevy engine from Precision Engine had not been compromised in the crash. “The new chassis is much better than the fifty-year-old chassis, and it really responds to changes. The car felt good.”
Soon after that event, Orts, a Matco Tools dealer who lives in Illinois, parked his car for winter, and worked with his engine builder, Randy Crowley of Precision Engine, on a new cast intake manifold that he hopes will offer even more horsepower. Then, he loaded his car and headed to the 18th Annual NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines in early March at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, where he qualified in the twelfth spot with a 4.80.
“I had issues in qualifying because we’re dialing in the new intake, and we were down in power and trying to figure out why,” said Orts, who relies on a Turbo 400 from Proformance Racing Transmissions to help put power down. “Then, we found out what was wrong, fixed it, went up for the first round of eliminations and I blew it by leaving before the tree was activated. I was up on the brake and told myself it was time to go, but it was definitely not time to go. It wasn’t funny then, but it’s funny now.”
Orts, who could see by going through his graphs from that pass that he had indeed taken care of the problem, loaded his car into his trailer, confident that it’s ready for the Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA Power Festival presented by HPJ Performance, May 28-31, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.
“The front of my car has not been painted after all of the work yet, and truthfully, it won’t be painted anytime soon because I spent all of my money on the repairs,” said Orts. “But my goal is to go fast at the next race, and to run in the 4.60s, and I don’t need new paint to do that.”