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Roseville man having super time in high-powered Monza

By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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The Monza was an innocent car when Chevrolet began building it. But hot-rodders do some amazing things to turn innocent cars into screamers.

Roseville resident Bob McKay has a Monza he’ll race in the Super Gas division at the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals this weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.
McKay’s 1976 Monza goes a quarter-mile in 9.9 seconds at about 145 mph. It has a 414 cubic-inch small-block engine that burns 112-octane fuel (price: roughly $8 per gallon). Interestingly, it has a sprint car crankshaft. Not surprisingly, it produces about 700 horsepower.

The real fun comes when McKay sees the green light.

“When I got my license, I was in for a big surprise,” McKay said of his first Super Gas car. “It didn’t come with directions. It went straight up in the air toward the Christmas tree. I’ve had a few white-knuckle rides. But I have it down now.”

McKay doesn’t hit the NHRA circuit full time but is a regular in the West Coast Super Gas Association. He said he attends about 15 races a year in Sacramento, Bakersfield, Redding, Fallon, Nev., and other tracks.

“I still have to go to work on Monday,” said McKay, an engineer at Kaiser in Vacaville.

McKay grew up in San Francisco. He said the family moved to Roseville five or six years ago because of the schools. Working weekends, McKay got out of racing for several years.

McKay raced an Austin Healy, a Buick Grand National and a 1963 Corvette before hopping into the Monza. He has won races but not a title — yet. He said much of the competition “has more money in their antennas for their weather stations.

“They have a lot of money,” McKay said. “I’m just a little guy, but I’m having fun because I’m keeping up with the big boys.”

Like other sportsman divisions, Super Gas has dial-in times, and the cars aren’t prepared identically. The quickest McKay can run is 9.9 seconds. Anything quicker would make McKay a loser in his race. That’s why fans often see brake lights from the cars near the finish line.

“You want to just win; you don’t want to blow his doors off,” McKay said. “I try to find out how fast my opponent is. If he runs 165 miles an hour, I know I can’t lift too far in front of the finish line. I only go maybe 145. So I watch where he is. I’m watching how fast he’s coming up. I’ll start to ease off the gas if he’s not coming up on me. It’s amazing what we do for a thousandth of a second.”