Contributed by Russ Muller Photography
If you have followed Tara and Steve’s Power Tour blog (read it here) over the last few years, you’ve had the chance to get a little taste of what the Hot Rod Power Tour is like. Last year I decided that reading about it was no longer feeding my need for a killer road trip, so me and my big green Pontiac went ahead and joined them…
The journey began in Deltona, FL where I connected with my caravanning companions, Tara and Steve in her ’66 Acadian Canso and Steve’s parents in his 2014 Corvette. We drove to North Carolina, where the Power Tour officially kicked off at zMax Dragway in Concord, NC. My Day 0 began by picking up my credentials (in the rain) and spending the morning visiting the Mustang Owners Museum in Concord. Whether you’re a Ford person or not, it’s a neat collection of Mustangs and the museum is a great way to spend a few hours.
Day 1: With a weather forecast calling for rain, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I didn’t expect what I saw. Thousands of people, thousands of cars, dozens of vendors giving away cool swag, and sunshine. The weather cooperated for the entire day, and I got to watch everything from a new Jeep Cherokee Track Hawk to a stock 1948 Willys Jeep running quarter miles on the track. The Cherokee ran low 12’s, the Willys did it in just under 26 seconds. My friend Larry Powell was there with his dad Larry Sr. They were doing the Power Tour together for his Dad’s 60th birthday, and both took turns running his late-model G8 down the ¼ mile. The infamous ’55 Chevy gasser known as Blasphemi was there, and the folks from Church Boys Racing stopped by Tara’s Acadian to see some of their suspension parts in action. Day 1 set the bar pretty high for expectations of what was going to come over the next week… (more photos here)
Day 2: The first travel day took us on a series of nice two-lane roads through NC and into VA. About 30 minutes into the drive, we saw our first accident of the tour. Cole Phillips, in his beautiful 1967 Mustang, slid on a wet road into the back of a 4th gen Camaro. The Mustang suffered some damage, but he and his dad managed to repair the car enough to make it drivable so they could finish the tour (and they did). We got to our destination, Martinsville Speedway midday, with some on and off rain all afternoon. Apparently, Martinsville is famous for their hot dogs, and I watched several of my friends try them. They all agreed that it was just a hot dog. Due to a hotel reservation issue, my hotel for the evening was 60 miles away so I set off for Hillsville, VA with a plan to meet my caravan in the morning. (more photos here)
Day 3: The morning started wet in Hillsville, but the weather cooperated enough for us to enjoy an amazing drive along US 58. Known as The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Music Heritage Road, we traveled up and down through mountains with curves, switchbacks, and elevation changes that made for a spirited morning of driving. The old Pontiac got quite a workout on our way to Bristol Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, the rain caught up with us at Bristol. The weather can be fickle in the summer…
Day 4: This was our long driving day, destination Sparta, KY, and Kentucky Speedway. With sunshine (finally) and cool temperatures, we drove through the Cumberland Mountains and the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. A long stretch of interstate driving today was the only major stretch of big roads on the tour. The nice weather finally allowed me to shoot some decent photos with blue skies! Early arrivals had the opportunity to run autocross laps at the track. Naturally, I opted to skip that as my car is not famous for handling prowess…
Day 5: Destination, Lucas Oil Raceway Indy. Although we started out in the flatlands, we had another great day of driving, this time along the Indiana Scenic Byway (SR 136). Lots of curves and elevation changes, another opportunity for spirited driving. Perhaps I got a little too spirited at times, as I noticed a strange noise coming from the Pontiac after we finished the Byway run. It sounded like the inspection cover on the tranny had rattled itself loose, but I would diagnose it properly in the morning. There were cars lined up all afternoon running quarter miles at the track, and the air was filled with the beautiful smell of burning rubber all day.
Day 6: Destination Fort Wayne, IN aka Fort Rain. Shortly after leaving the hotel to meet up with my caravan, that noise I heard yesterday developed into a severe vibration as soon as I got up to highway speed. I suspected a bad u-joint, and with Tara’s help I sought out a local repair shop. There are only 3 repair shops in Pendleton, IN (population 4,235) and the biggest shop told me that he couldn’t even look at my car for several days. He was nice enough to give me the phone number of Falls Park Tire and Auto who told me to stop by. Although their shop was full, they bumped me to the head of the line and replaced the rear u-joint and had me back on the road in an hour and a half. Unfortunately, the rest of the day was a bust for me. I took the highway to Fort Rain, where we had 54-degree temperatures with rain and 30 mph winds. I stopped by the venue, bought a t-shirt, and headed for the hotel.
Day 7: The last day of the tour, destination Norwalk, OH. Our route took us right past the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, IN (museum photos here) so we stopped to see an amazing collection of these stunning classics. Rumor has it that John DeLorean was inspired by the Duesenberg to name the Grand Prix trim levels Model J (my car) and SJ when he was at Pontiac, so it was a homecoming of sorts for my car to be there…We made it to Summit Motorsports Park by 3:30, picked up out Long-Hauler awards, and kicked back to enjoy the burnout contest, quarter-mile runs, and parking lot car show. All too quickly the day ended, and the Hot Rod Power Tour came to an official close.
The journey home from Ohio can best be described as 2 days and almost 1,100 miles of interstate driving. The old Pontiac did it without any complaints, other than its appetite for fuel. By the time we got back to Deltona, FL, I had logged a little over 3,000 miles in 10 days and earned my Long-Hauler credentials. Seven cities, seven days, 3,000 miles, 300 gallons of gas, a couple quarts of oil, dozens of great stories, countless memories, and 5,000 new friends. Definitely the road trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to do it again. Due to the pandemic, the Power Tour was canceled for 2020. Maybe 2021 will be more cooperative.