DANVILLE — The 18th Annual Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals presented by Kauffman Racing Equipment, Butler Performance and Axelrod Pontiac, invade Norwalk this weekend at Summit Motorsports Park, and one area resident will defend his 2008 title. Jeff Kauffman of Danville, owner of sponsor Kauffman Racing Equipment, returns to the sight of his record-breaking performance of just a year ago.
Kauffman, who drives an alcohol-fueled rear-engine dragster, broke the world record for a Pontiac last year, racing the lane in a record-setting 6.623 seconds at 209.20 miles per hour. It broke the record of 6.77, held by Steve Barcak.
“This was absolutely awesome,” said Kauffman. “We were all pumped up. We had a crowd of people there.
“We had a decent idea that we might, but you never know until you get out there and do it. One factor that helped us was the air was good. For August, it was amazing how cool the air was and that made a big difference. It allowed us to make a little more horsepower.”
Kauffman’s 2001 Cameron Chassis dragster was powered by a 2007 MR-1 445-cubic-inch Pontiac engine, which his company built and produced 1,700 horsepower. Even with so much power, Kauffman wasn’t sure what to expect.
“Up to that point, we had done some testing here and there, but we hadn’t got a lot in,” Kauffman said. “With what we had done in testing, we were about three-hundreths of breaking the record. I broke it by five-hundreths, and then later that day, I broke it by 15-hundreths.
“The first time was great because I actually did it, but then I came back and went even faster, which was pretty cool.”
At the time, track officials thought the record would stand for a while. Just four months later, however, Dave Wilcox broke Kauffman’s mark by about .025 seconds at the Virginia Motorsports Park. Since that time, Wilcox set the record by running 6.52 seconds at 213.1 miles per hour on May 16.
“My record stood until December,” said Kauffman. “A group of guys out of Virginia broke it during the wintertime. When the snow was flying here, they had very cool, good weather. I was disappointed, but that’s just the way it works.”
Kauffman is hoping his return to Norwalk this weekend bodes well, but he is at a little disadvantage. Because his business has been booming, he hasn’t registered much time behind the wheel this year.
“Things have went pretty well, but we have been extremely busy on the business side,” said Kauffman. “That’s part of why we do go out and race. It is great advertising for us, and it brings a lot of customers to us. The racing side hasn’t been as great because we’ve been so busy. I haven’t really been out.”
He changed his car this year, though it will run the same engine. He’s hoping that with a little luck and improved performance out of his car, he can be right back where he was last year.
“I’m ready for this weekend; we’ll see how it goes,” said Kauffman. “If luck is on our side, we’ll do good. If it is not, we’ll come back another year. ... (Not having time to run) will hinder us. There is no question about that. I have a different car this year. It is the same engine, but a different car. I’m hoping to be able to throw more power at this car. That was the whole point in switching; we’re looking for a more efficient car. Being that we haven’t done any testing on this car and not being out with it, we’ve got our hopes up that we can go out and do it again. It is hard to say. It all depends on how much luck is on our side.”