What are the traits that define a heads-up racer? Is it determination, wealth, talent, or a special work ethic? While some would say it's purely the need for speed, those who are in the heads-up racing game know it takes all the above.
No, we're not saying every heads-up racer is independently wealthy. But it does take a lot of money to be competitive in any sanctioned race class, especially the heads-up classes, because you have to keep spending money to stay with-and hopefully outrun-your compe-titors. Heads-up racers must have the determination to always go faster than their last pass. They also must have the money to build the car and then get to the track, which is sometimes two, maybe four days away.
A heads-up racer must have the talent to get off the Tree, bang the gears, and stay in it to win races. They must also possess a special work ethic in order to stay up all night repairing what they broke staying in it a little too long.
Of course, if you're reading this you probably have the same need for speed that heads-up racers are inflicted with. It's just that the rest of us don't have some of the characteristics we listed here to take it to a national stage.
One NMRA racer who has each of these traits-except for the wealth, that is-is Teddy Weaver. Teddy races his '88 GT in the NMRA's Pure Street class, and he started out just like the rest of us.
"I purchased [the GT] in the summer of 1996," says the Stafford, Virginia, resident. The car was stone-stock save for performance mufflers. Teddy's stepdad, Henry (who also bracket-races Fords), taught him how to powershift. "What a mistake that was," Teddy says, as he apparently scattered his share of drivetrain components while perfecting his technique.
Probably from wearing out the original engine and transmission, in 1999 Teddy and Henry worked together to build a new engine for the car using Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, an Extrude Honed Cobra intake, long-tube headers, and a C4 transmission. The car ran a best of 11.70s in that trim, and after attending the Ford Fever Classic at Maryland International the next year, Teddy was hooked on heads-up drag racing. He went on to win the event in 2002 and was runner-up in 2003 to another NMRA regular, Rich Groh.
It was after his '02 Ford Fever victory that Teddy decided to go national with his racing exploits, and the NMRA Pure Street class was a natural fit. "I hooked up with Ed Curtis to get a cam and valvetrain," Teddy says. Ed massaged the aforementioned heads and intake to get the car ready for Pure Street action prior to the '03 season. "The start wasn't great, with 11.60s at Bradenton," Teddy says, "but we went 11.20s at the next event in Georgia." Teddy and Ed knew the car needed improvement, with one such area being the short-block. That June, Ed installed a new short-block featuring lightweight components underhood.
Even with the newfound power on board, Teddy says the car wasn't hooking at all. He took it to Autofab Racecars in Maryland to check things out. It turns out the car had a bent axle tube and a twisted frame. Autofab redid the car's suspension and added a new cage with through-the-floor subframe connectors. "A quick run at Maryland International Raceway yielded a 10.92," Teddy says. "We were very happy to break the 10-second zone."
At the next NMRA race at Atco, New Jersey, the car ran a best of 10.88. Teddy bent a couple valves in the process, which he wouldn't discover until after the end of the '03 season-ending race at Bowling Green, Kentucky. But he finished Fifth in points for 2003. "A Fifth-Place finish in points in my rookie season was more than expected and was a big highlight in my life," he says.