After a sleepless three-day thrash to get the Stealth Bomber in fighting shape for the 2004 Nevada Open Road Challenge (NORC), we dragged it to the Derek Daly Speed Centre Racing School of Las Vegas for mandatory qualification for NORC/Silver State first timers. Following a classroom session explaining the intricacies of the track and the correct line, we were cut loose on our own for a few laps, at which time I threw my new accessory drivebelts. I limped the overheating pursuit vehicle into the pits, broke out the tools, cobbled it back together, and proceeded with the next phase of qualifying. An instructor rode with me, was satisfied with my attempts to curb my drag racing tendencies (you're supposed to hang the tail out around corners, aren't you?), and gave us the necessary certificate stating we were indeed insane enough to run in the NORC-in a 15-year-old police car nonetheless.

After breaking our new Firestones in at the track, we went back to Sam's Town (the official hotel of the Silver State Classic) for registration and a very thorough tech inspection. Since we had taken our safety equipment to the next level, we had no trouble passing tech, and even got the hard-nosed tech inspectors to smile at the prospect of running our boxy, yet sexy, Diplomat at triple-digit speeds against the likes of C5 Corvettes, BMW M5s, late-model Camaros, a Ferrari 360 Modena, and a smattering of other exotic hardware. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? We didn't think so. We'd done our homework and were confident the car would perform as intended.

The next day, we got out of Las Vegas a bit worse for the wear and made a beeline to Ely, Nevada. Ely is a picturesque and sleepy little mining town nestled in the high desert of Nevada. at noon on Saturday, we participated in the first ever High Noon Shootout-a half-mile or mile-long acceleration contest depending on your registered speed class (touring and Grand Touring run the half-mile, while Grand Sport, Super Sport and Unlimited can run either the mile or the half-mile). This all-new event takes place on a fenced-off stretch of SR-490 and is like an extra-long drag race, but it's just you against the clock. Later in the day we attended the car show at Broadbent Park, as well as the mandatory drivers' meeting in the evening. We turned in early since we were racing even earlier. Remember, the early bird gets the worm, or is it the early worm gets eaten by the bird. We're not quite sure how that goes...

Sunday came fast and early with a staging of all the race vehicles in a truck stop parking lot. All amenities were available: coffee, food, restrooms, and race gas. From there, the various classes are called up in order and placed on the grid before the starting line. When it's your turn, you go through a final inspection of your tires, and the helpful staff makes sure you are belted in tightly-very tightly. So tightly, in fact, that you can't breath very well, but it doesn't really matter since you seem to forget to breath for the first fifteen minutes anyway, till you calm down and settle into the race. We were able to effortlessly maintain triple-digit speeds; the Diplomat cornered flatly, displayed no ill handling or stability characteristics, and was actually confidence inspiring. We finished in one piece with no mechanical trouble or scary moments. If you like a bit more than a short burst of acceleration in a straight line, than this could be the event for you. We highly recommend it. It'll be one of the best fifty minutes or less you'll ever spend. For more information, event descriptions, rules and regulations, and event schedules, log onto www.sscc.us.