Andy Closkey beside his ‘65 Chevelle.

A 1/4 mile at a time

Local shop teacher heads south for international drag shoot out.

Andy Closkey’s garage is filled with motors, from the one cylinder in what will be his daughter’s junior dragster, to the V8 he’s building for a customer.

But the most important motor now is the 388 ci V8 under the hood of his white ‘65 Chevelle.

A four barrel carburateur feeds air and 100 octane race fuel into the pistons, which compresses it until the spark plugs ignite and send the power of the explosion back through the connecting rods, through the transmission, drive shaft and rear axle and into the drag radial shod wheels which claw at the drag strip to send him down the 1,320 feet at a steady 10.37 seconds.

It’s that intimacy Closkey has with his car: he built it and he drags it.

“I’ve built everything you see there, in terms of power train,” he said.

He stripped the block down, replacing the pistons with 13:1 high compression parts, and topped it off with aluminum heads and a carburetor he built himself from pieces off ebay.

He knows exactly what it’s capable of and how to get a consistent time, which is why he’s going down to the IHRA World Championships in Memphis, Oct. 11-12.

“To win that race you have to have a very consistent car – you have to be repeatable. When the car will repeat you can count on it. You dial in a time and you can count on the car to do its job. That’s probably the biggest part of it, having a good car,” he said.

“The other part is some skill, reaction time at the starting line.”

Closkey started his year in Ashcroft, his home strip as Prince George runs a very limited season. With a season full of consistent runs, he won his division, the Mod Et category which allows for a large array of modifications but does not allow any computers to aid the driver.

With the win, he was invited to the regionals in Edmonton. It wasn’t his first run at regionals, but this time everything came together for him.

“This year it was a little bit of luck and on that day I was extremely focused – very, very focused and really ready for that. I had been thinking about it a lot and knew what I had to do. I felt like I was well prepared and had good people right there to support me,” he said.

The win guaranteed him a place in the IHRA Super Series final, but that’s about it. The logistics and the cash, the win garnered him $1,000 dollars towards gas for the trip which hardly dents the cost to trailer his car down.

After the race, with his head still spinning from the win, things started to come together.

“People came up and gave me some money, it was gas money for them trailering their car to the race, and said ‘here we want to help you with your trip.’ People have been coming up to me to help. It’s humbling. The support has been amazing,” he said.

He’s also seen support from friends, one of whom is trailering his car down for him, which was one of the main sticking points for Closkey. He’s a shop teacher at Correlieu, teaching students how to put together everything from lawnmowers to QARA race cars, and as such he can’t take off the time needed to trailer his car down to Memphis and back.

With that help, Closkey will jet down the Wednesday before the races, taking the red eye flight Wednesday night before the races, which begin on Friday, and arrive Thursday morning. His car should pull into town later that day.

The team’s on a pretty tight schedule, but Closkey’s biggest worry is his time away from the strip.

“By the time I get back in the car it will be almost a month and I’m driving really well right now,” he said.

“I kinda wish it was right away.”

His opponents, on the other hand, largely come from the south west and will be able to race until they have to compete.

Though he’ll have some family and friends there to help him and cheer him on, back at home he’ll have classes of Correlieu students cheering him on, hoping they’ll have a world champion driver as their shop teacher.

 

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