Ken Kurtz’s beast of a Pontiac Firebird is a West Coast NASA regular, because it can be seen tearing up West Coast tracks on any given weekend — except, of course, as luck would have it, during most of the Western States Championships weekend. The only the thing the Firebird was set on tearing up was its rear end when it knocked about four teeth off its ring gear Friday afternoon. This little disaster occurred after Ken already had dealt with issues from a plug wire to a manifold sensor. Things weren’t looking good.
Ken needed parts to get the Toyo Tires Proxes RS1-sponsored Firebird back onto the track to compete in SU and TTU classes. Unfortunately, nobody from the large Spec E30 field had any GM, 12-bolt, rear-end parts lying around their trailers. Ken began making what he estimated were nearly 150 phone calls to find a ring and pinion gear. Finally he found one Saturday in Hayward, Calif., and old NASA Pro RX-7 racer, Paul Cabana, volunteered to bring the parts to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. A bearing set was located in Salinas, and once all the parts arrived, it was time for Alan Blaine from Blaine Fabrication to get to work. Blaine pulled the entire rear-end out of the Firebird and took it to his shop an hour and a half away in Santa Cruz. He completed the gear change and brought the rear-end back to Monterey, arriving at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Blaine slept until 6:00 a.m. and then got to work thrashing on the Firebird to get it ready for the race.
After everything was tightened down, Ken jumped into the car and set a fast lap, earning second place in the TTU class. Unfortunately the master cylinder failed, resulting in no chance for the Firebird to be in the hunt during the Super Unlimited race. Together, Ken, as the driver, and Alan, as the mechanic, have a never-say-die attitude. If only the old Firebird would cooperate.