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
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
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.
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.